**spoiler alert** My rating for this book shifts between a one and a three. The parts deserving of a one are, in my opinion, those to do with the brut**spoiler alert** My rating for this book shifts between a one and a three. The parts deserving of a one are, in my opinion, those to do with the brutal, arrogant colonial attitudes and actions towards the indigenous race(s) on the planet Medusa. Stilties, abos, mob, bastards are the main descriptors of the Medusan aboriginals, with barbaric, shrieking, howling used as well. When the Manticorans set up the NPA (Native Protection Agency), they in essence turn the entire planet into a reservation. Slaughter of thousands of aboriginals is viewed with repugnance by the Manticorans doing the shooting, but with no compassion. The reader doesn't ever see from the Medusans' point of view, or ever even know their word for themselves as a people. The Medusans are obligingly simple and gullible, falling for the Havenites' gifts of mekoha to their own detriment. All this took much of the savour out of the story for me.
The parts deserving of a three, in my opinion, are all the places where wit, training, and nerve pull triumph from defeat. I admire Honor and I think Cardones and Venizelos are excellent characters. One of my favourite sections of the book is Honor and crew figuring out, on deployment to Basilisk Station and being abandoned by Young, how to make Fearless able to do the work of a task force. I will probably read the next volume in the series at some point, as the "three" sections I found solid and fun. If the flaws in the first book are repeated in the second, though, I highly doubt I'll push on....more
This book is a kinetic tumble of genres: alternate history, science fiction, geographical survey, action thriller, horror, mythology. The story is ideThis book is a kinetic tumble of genres: alternate history, science fiction, geographical survey, action thriller, horror, mythology. The story is idea-driven much more than character-driven; it's the detached logic of situations that makes many sections heartwrenching. The complete strangeness of Darwinia juxtaposes the absence of Europe, direct ancestor of my literary development. Indeed, in this scenario, I would not have been born at all, as my paternal grandfather would have disappeared in 1912 at age ten. There's no rest for the reader, no place of comfort, as there is none for most of the characters. I'm glad I read (and finished) this book. It made me think; it took familiar world-pieces, tossed a number of them out, and placed the rest in very unfamiliar combinations. It charged my imagination; parts of it creeped me out. Not a comfortable read, but a worthwhile one. ...more
Reading this book was like spending far too long in an art gallery. There were many. many beautiful images, many depictions of intriguing concepts, buReading this book was like spending far too long in an art gallery. There were many. many beautiful images, many depictions of intriguing concepts, but they never came alive for me into story. There was little to no narrative tension, I found, so the reading for me was laced strongly with tedium and impatience. Right now, I'm glad the book is done. Sometimes bits from even a boring book swing back and link with ideas from other books; if so, then I'll be glad to have read Eifelheim. ...more
This story, vast in scope, is perhaps best viewed from a distance. On the galactic stage, lights pick out and follow chaotic action, swinging wildly fThis story, vast in scope, is perhaps best viewed from a distance. On the galactic stage, lights pick out and follow chaotic action, swinging wildly for the first half of the book. Alternately stretched in the attempt to understand and follow, and compressed by the huge scale, the reader can feel overwhelmed. This is in keeping with the experience of most of the characters in the book. Who am I as an individual, among trillions, where just about everything is a power greater than myself? Where do I belong, where planets can be blown up and billions live on constructed habitats? What does community mean, among different planets, religions, humanoid species?
That Consider Phlebas articulates and puts movement into these questions is a grand imaginative feat. There are flaws in the telling, however, which take away much of the potential sense of wonder. Divinity is most commonly represented as a unity, "God", and "He." Homophobia seems to be taken for granted, as it is not challenged. Banks overuses simile to the point of distraction. That, and the number of words used in action sequences, makes many of the high points tedious. "Are we done yet?" is not the question a reader probably wants to be asking while reading a battle scene. There are scenes of gruesome and ugly violence in the first half of the book which seem to have little bearing on the story. These flaws were the reason that my sigh at the end of the book was one of relief at being done, rather than one of satisfaction.
There is a beauty, a tender fragility which stays, though, as the surrounding lights dim towards the end of the story. One light is shining in the whole galaxy, shining on the group in the last chapter and scene. There is a small gasp of wonder, after all....more