I'm so conflicted on this series, but... it's not bad? I think this very much a YMMV sort of thing. As someSpace Heterosexuals 2: Rebellion 'Bog'aloo.
I'm so conflicted on this series, but... it's not bad? I think this very much a YMMV sort of thing. As someone who's been reading sci-fi from the 'grownup' section since middle school, the crossover appeal YA SF isn't quite my thing, and yet...
This review requires a preface: I am thoroughly aware that a lot of my perception of this book is, ironically, shaped by cultural premises. For one thThis review requires a preface: I am thoroughly aware that a lot of my perception of this book is, ironically, shaped by cultural premises. For one thing, American standards of scholarship are different – it would be unusual to see an American scholarly book with no list of references or index. A text lacking these acknowledgements of other research reads, to me, more like an opinion piece than true nonfiction.
With that said… fundamentally, I found there to be a kind of irony here. On the one hand, I’m fairly convinced that Carroll wrote this in good faith; that she believes in the power of cultural analysis to resolve misunderstandings; and that she’s earnest in her desire to understand different perspectives. On the other hand, there’s very little indication in this book that she actually sought out American viewpoints, and her analysis ended up feeling one-sided and shallow.
Ohhh man, WicDiv keeps getting better. I'm loving the increased complexity of the plot, the return of the gorgeous art, the shifting perspectives illuOhhh man, WicDiv keeps getting better. I'm loving the increased complexity of the plot, the return of the gorgeous art, the shifting perspectives illuminating motivations a little more... and of course, Persephone in all her rage and glory. Also, I can't help but feel that this is very much a story of its time - a story about young people who are told they're worthless who grit their teeth, flip their elders off, and set about changing the world. There's definitely something Millennial about it that resonates. ...more
After 2014’s SFWA ‘censorship’ kerfuffle, I hadn’t planned on reading any David Brin… but that wasn’t something I remembered when this book showed upAfter 2014’s SFWA ‘censorship’ kerfuffle, I hadn’t planned on reading any David Brin… but that wasn’t something I remembered when this book showed up at the library used bookstore, and I’m weak for the idea of sentient dolphins in sci fi, so… here I am.
The big ideas of this book were what intrigued me: the concept of uplift, the mystery of the Progenitors who uplifted the first other species, and the question of what the planet Kithrup had to do with anything. The problem is that, while all those big ideas are discussed, there’s just… not a lot of resolution given. Many characters are left hanging mid-plotline by the end of the book, many questions asked but not answered, and those that are given answers (like Kithrup’s history) are only shallowly explored. Overall, I left Startide Rising feeling like David Brin had made promises to his audience that he didn’t bother to keep.
One of the factors that contributed to that was the sheer number of points of view. Honestly, I couldn’t even try to count the different third-person-limited (with occasional divergences into third omniscient, to my annoyance) perspectives Brin used. This meant the cast ballooned out of control rapidly, and even at the beginning it was difficult to track everything that was going on. What’s more, some perspectives didn’t even have a bearing on the plot whatsoever: several chapters were told from the POV of an alien ally to humans, who then died a few hundred pages later without having actually done anything. I found myself comparing this approach to POV with that used by Brandon Sanderson in The Stormlight Archives - while it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I find that Sanderson’s limited main cast and brief interludes to other viewpoints worked well for me. I wish that Brin had managed something of the same grace.
The unfortunate effect of the bloated cast list was that, because no one got a lot of pagetime or introspection, I just wasn’t emotionally invested in any of them. Character deaths or noble sacrifices had no resonance, because the narrative never spent enough time with them to establish them as individuals.
I think the final straw for me, personally, was a marine biology failure. Brin somehow managed to completely confuse pygmy killer whales (Feresa attenuata) with orca whales (Orcinus orca). Now, I know this was published in the eighties and phylogenetic trees of Cetacea weren’t available at the time, but surely it’s not too difficult to look at those two species and realize they’re not even that closely related? And surely it’s not too much to expect a science fiction writer to actually bother to do some basic research into biology - for instance, the fact that mammal-eating orcas don’t vocalize while hunting.
After that colossal mistake, it was all too easy to find other logical holes in the story. The societies of the Uplift universe carefully manage planetary resources, and yet a Terran geologist has access to atomic bombs to facilitate his research; the sexual element of the human-dolphin interactions on Streaker’s crew was redolent of John Lilly’s work; Brin completely failed to explore the patron-client relationship between humans and dolphins, even when there was ample opportunity to do so.
Overall it just… it felt cluttered, incomplete, and flat. Any one or two of its plotlines could have made their own book, but together they were less than the sum of their parts. And while it’s possible that some of my questions were answered in Sundiver, after the disappointment of this book, I’m not inclined to bother reading anything else of Brin’s. ...more
Let me get something out of the way first: Rootless is a post-apocalyptic story in which the apocalypse makes very little sense. There are just too maLet me get something out of the way first: Rootless is a post-apocalyptic story in which the apocalypse makes very little sense. There are just too many moving parts in this world’s history - locusts that devoured the trees and every living thing, twenty years of darkness after which the moon was suddenly close enough to cause hundred-foot swells at the coastline, a lava-filled Rift somewhere in North America… any one of these might have made for an interesting background, but the combination of them all together verges a bit on the absurd. And while I understand Howard’s desire to tell this story from Banyan’s point of view, and not give the reader any external knowledge that the characters didn’t have, I still found myself consumed by wondering.
(Current theories about the Rift, by the way: that it’s either Yellowstone Caldera, post-eruption, which might also explain the twenty years of darkness; or that it’s the Alberta Tar Sands, set on fire Door to Hell style.)
There are other scientifically implausible things - a floating island made of trash that includes scrap metal (possibly inspired by a common misinterpretation of the Pacific Garbage Patch?), and genetic manipulation which is just… unlikely, for a variety of reasons that starts with number of chromosomes and goes on from there. To his credit, Howard doesn’t try to over-explain these things, which is the point at which scientific inaccuracies go from merely frustrating to truly annoying for me, but… they’re still there.
The thing is, though, that underneath all that there’s a really interesting story going on here. I think what draws me in most is the voice in which this book is written; it’s first-person perspective, entirely told through the eyes of Banyan the tree builder, and Howard takes full advantage of that POV. Banyan’s word choice and short, choppy sentences (liberally sprinkled with sentence fragments) are clearly deliberately designed, and give a strong sense of both him as a character and the world he lives in. He’s got no formal education, but he’s clearly smart; he’s pragmatic, but sees giving his own food away to starving kids as the only viable option. Everyone in his world is struggling just to survive, but Banyan is also struggling to be a good person, even if he never does so deliberately.
There’s also a lot going on in the worldbuilding that strikes me as commentary on the interaction between poverty and capitalism. GenTech, the corporation that grows corn for food and fuel, reminds me both of Monsanto and of many giant pharmaceutical companies; they exert a power of life and death over ordinary people, and they use it to make a profit on people’s desperation. In the relatively unstructured world of Rootless, GenTech is the closest thing to a government we see, and its dominance is so complete that at one point Banyan speculates that its name is the only word he can read.
The climax is… Banyan makes a couple of decisions that I don’t agree with. I’m glad to know that the sequels are published already, so that hopefully I can get some resolution - I’m definitely still intrigued! ...more
While I'm 100% here for Kamala Khan's journey, I do feel like this wasn't... the best introduction she could have gotten. The question of how she gotWhile I'm 100% here for Kamala Khan's journey, I do feel like this wasn't... the best introduction she could have gotten. The question of how she got her powers is clearly something the writers plan to draw out, but personally I found it weird that she didn't seem to question it significantly. As a whole, this volume felt like it was plodding along, and I can't tell if that's just my perspective, as a novel reader who isn't used to getting narratives in short installments. When it comes to serialized stories, I have and always will be a binge reader. Fortunately for me, my library has the next three volumes of Ms. Marvel - I'll put them on hold in the near future....more