The problem with a mystery is that it is rarely equaled by its solution. The mystery of Darwinia is solved in an interlude 140 pages into the novel. T...moreThe problem with a mystery is that it is rarely equaled by its solution. The mystery of Darwinia is solved in an interlude 140 pages into the novel. To put it mildly, this is not narratively satisfying. And I kind of hated this book from that point forward, though there were good moments.(less)
**spoiler alert** It's a bit of a long slog at times with all the running and narrow escapes, but remains compelling. I even put it aside for a month...more**spoiler alert** It's a bit of a long slog at times with all the running and narrow escapes, but remains compelling. I even put it aside for a month yet came back and finished it. However, I had some major reservations. The best relationship in the book, a boy and his dog, comes to a sad end when Manchee is killed off. The book "ends" on a cliffhanger. Less of a cliffhanger than simply a lack of ending. And perhaps most damning, much of the mysteries could have been revealed 200 or 300 pages earlier if Todd could read or would have let Viola read his mother's journal. Even so, it's an interesting coming of age story, and the Noise and talking animals make for a good SFnal/fantastic twist.(less)
This book has three strikes for me going in: it's the tale of an amnesiac, it alternates between first and third person, and it takes the common hard...moreThis book has three strikes for me going in: it's the tale of an amnesiac, it alternates between first and third person, and it takes the common hard sf tack of using sf-nal tech without explaining it to increase tension and to sound erudite. Worse, I stopped reading it a hundred pages in to read another book--usually the death knell for a troublesome book.
But I finished it, and it was pretty darn good.
Yes, it still has all the problems above. It's also the first book in a series or has a really unsatisfying conclusion, since many of the initial mysteries are not solved and are teased for a future sequel. And the characters at times feel more like chess pieces than persons.
But for some reason, it overcame all of its deficiencies for me and became greater than the sum of its parts. First off, there's the gonzo tech: even with Rajaniemi's physics background, I think most of it is closer to magic than science, but it's just so damn inventive and appears to make logical sense the way any good alternate reality should. (Now if he'd just thrown in a couple of the parenthetical statements by way of explanation of said tech earlier in the book rather than in the last fifty pages, it might have cured some of the early difficulty of comprehension... but then he also would have lost the glowing "hardcore" fanboy comments about the book "not holding your hand". Bah!) Though the plot tugs on the characters awfully hard at some points, they mostly feel very well rounded. And revolution! And a kick-ass mercenary woman with wings! And depth of worldbuilding! Did I mention the gonzo tech? Did I mention the revolution?
I'm lukewarm toward hard sf and I'm grumpy that the book ends with a metaphorical "to be continued", but there's a decent chance I'll read a sequel, which by me is almost glowing praise. (less)
The romance in this book is squicky: (view spoiler)[the Protag does some time-traveling to allow his not biological 11 year old niece to age up to 21...moreThe romance in this book is squicky: (view spoiler)[the Protag does some time-traveling to allow his not biological 11 year old niece to age up to 21 so he can marry her. (hide spoiler)] Petronius the Arbiter a.k.a. Pete (a cat) is the undeniable best part of the book, and some of Heinlein's cat observations are priceless. In between, there is a lot of rambling exposition about "futuristic" inventions that are an amusing peek back at a 50s future that couldn't take into account the effect of the microprocessor. That being said, some of the inventions are prescient, "Drafting Dan" is an analogue CAD program, for instance, and though we don't yet have "Hired Girl" to clean, we do have Roomba. Another fun aspect of the novel is reading from the year 2011 a novel set in 1970 and 2000, yet written in 1956. Talk about time travel confusion--Heinlein has them wearing bellbottoms in 2000, but not in 1970. The novel skates along pleasantly enough, but even though plot happens, it never seems to matter very much, and the characters never have more depth than a kiddie pool (except for Pete).(less)