Ok, I was almost able to push myself to the 50% point and I just can’t go any further. I have too many other books to read to spend any more time on tOk, I was almost able to push myself to the 50% point and I just can’t go any further. I have too many other books to read to spend any more time on this one. I’m sorry…I know, it’s apparently a classic, but for the life of me, aside from the tragic circumstances around its publication, I can’t for the life of me see why.
Ignatius Reilly is an asshole, by design I know, but even the humour he supposedly spouts is little more than chuckle-inducing for me. I don’t even believe that Ignatius is much of a medievalist…aside from a misguided love for Boethius he really doesn’t seem to know very much about the Middle Ages except in a very superficial way (his writings which we are given glimpses of are the most puerile crap imaginable). Add to that the fact that all of the other characters are completely uninteresting to me and I cannot gather sufficient reason to continue with this. His mother and Patrolman Mancuso are feckless pushovers and all of the other ‘colourful’ characters just don’t do it for me. They might work as characters in a sitcom, but that’s about all I can credit them for. Maybe I just can’t appreciate the unique Nawlins’ style, I don’t know. (Is it just me or is no one in the book able to “say” anything, everyone appears to “scream” instead…a nit, but one that annoyed me every time I noticed it.)
I’ll just have to mark this one as abandoned. Maybe some other day I will be able to take this for what it was meant to be. That day is not today. ...more
Caveat: this is not really a review, but rather a plaintive cry and is based on having read the previous book set in this universe in full (RevelationCaveat: this is not really a review, but rather a plaintive cry and is based on having read the previous book set in this universe in full (Revelation Space), an abortive attempt to read the non-series Reynolds book House of Suns, and finally the book in question up to page 236 (out of 694!)…hence no star rating.
Why won’t you let me love you Alastair Reynolds? I *need* some high quality space opera, preferably with various factions of humanity living on planets, in orbital habitats, and on space ships with varying levels of (and relationships to) technology, physical modifications, and philosophical outlook. I want star faring ships encountering bizarre eco-systems, maybe some incomprehensible precursor alien tech, and some fine shading of cyberpunk in the background. I desire a virtual tour of the variegated human cosmos as it exists in this world with a bit of a peek at the variety and wonder that it offers, obviously with a large dollop of the bad, decayed, and criminal thrown in for good measure. Also, please have it written in some decent prose. You seem to be able to provide all of this for me, Mr. Reynolds but, but…you don’t. *sigh*
I fell in love with these wonderful skiffy elements as presented in works like The Ophiuchi Hotline, Vacuum Flowers, and (the dearest of all to my heart) Schismatrix Plus. At least two of these are avowed sources for your own work Alastair…why then can’t I love you?! Why do I always find myself struggling with your books? Why do I finish them (when I do) with a vague sense of dissatisfaction? Why do your worlds seem less real, less interesting, less perceptible to my mind’s eye than those of other writers? Actually I think I may be able to pinpoint it to a few distinct areas:
First of all there…are…too…many…words. What is it with fantasy and sci-fi these days needing to push the page count beyond 400, 500, even 600 pages (let’s not even mention Peter F. Hamilton right now, ok)? Reynolds falls into this trap with verbose descriptions that manage to be both excessively wordy and complex and yet vague and difficult for me to parse into a real image. In addition while Reynolds is in no way a bad writer his prose is very, well, I guess I’d say workman-like. I’m willing to wade through high page counts and verbose descriptions, but you better have a way with words if you’re gonna force me through it. A word to the wise Alastair? An editor could really help you out with that! Compress! Refine! Streamline! This over-wordiness conjoined with lack of clarity means that even when Reynolds has a cool idea it just fails to translate (for me at least). I can’t inhabit your worlds when the words that express them keep me at arm’s length.
Secondly I have to admit that I don’t find his characters particularly interesting or well developed. They aren’t always bland (though they often are), but they tend to exhibit character more through narrative fiat than they do by action. I’m told what they’re like much more often than I’m shown it. There is also the niggling little aspect that even when they come from diametrically opposed human factions, supposedly based on completely different philosophies, technologies and even physiologies, they all seem pretty homogenous. When I hear the Conjoiners (members of a supposed hive-mind) Skade or Clavain talking neither of them really seem much different in outlook or attitude than the ‘Ultra’ Ilia Volyova or the ‘normal’ Ana Khouri. Also, isn’t Felka supposed to be a brain-damaged semi-autistic Conjoiner unable to interact with others or read social cues? Why does she talk just like everyone else and seem to have no problem at all functioning when I see her in action, despite the repeated assurances peppered throughout the text that she is a broken human being who doesn’t know how to relate?
Point three is kind of a mash up of one and two I guess: both issues seem to mean that even when Reynolds has, in theory, a really cool idea I just don’t quite believe him when I see the execution. Case in point: the Conjoiners. Aren’t these guys supposed to be a networked hive-mind? How come they all seem to have completely distinct personalities with little to no interface between them aside from the ability to talk ‘telepathically’ to each other and a need to live in close proximity? Maybe I just have a too simplistic expectation of what a hive-mind is, but I got no real sense of how personalities might shade into each other, or be completely subsumed, in such an environment. Sorry Alastair, but Swanwick did it better. Another example: the Inhibitors. They’re billed as ancient, semi-dormant, and incomprehensible aliens with a mission to destroy any and all sentient life in the galaxy. Sounds like a winner, right? All I can say is that if you want to read about the incomprehensible, and even non-sentient, coming to destroy humanity check out (view spoiler)[Blindsight or the story “Swarm” in Schismatrix Plus. (hide spoiler)]*sigh* I’m sorry I’m probably being a bit harsh here, but I just had such high expectations of you Alastair…what happened?! I know, I know, it’s not you it’s me. We want the same things…I just want you to give them to me in a way you’re not prepared to…I guess it’s just best if we part ways. I’m sorry.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book started out great. The first line, "After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper." really hooked me.This book started out great. The first line, "After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper." really hooked me. As the book continued it proved interesting, a tale narrated in the first person by a man of obvious derangement convinced of his own rationality and the fact that he is justified in any action taken towards furthering his own ends.
Cox does an excellent job of capturing the feel of a Victorian novel, and I think that may ultimately have been the problem. As the story continued for page after page I simply got too bogged down in the sheer Victorian-ness of it. Tiny details of little or no interest and constant digressions from the main plot as the narrator sees conspiracies against him in every corner and hidden meaning in every turn of phrase. Sheer number of pages or word count is not usually a huge impediment to me, but there just wasn't enough of a pay-off here for me to have any desire to continue.
Maybe someday I'll come back to this book and see if I'll find it any less of a slog, but this one was just too much for me when I first tried to tackle it....more