All the many, many blurbs are from non-SF sources except Larry Niven. Most of them compare it to RobinsA kind gift from my mate Paul.
All the many, many blurbs are from non-SF sources except Larry Niven. Most of them compare it to Robinson Crusoe.
As usual with non-SF reviewers reading SF, the critics are blown away, and because they like it, they say it's not SF, it's better than that.
Well of course it's bloody SF. And it's decent SF but it's not world-blowing stuff. It's a good, suspenseful read.
I won't draw direct comparisons or talk about how sciencey it is - if you've read anything about this book, you know all that.
It does come over as intensely hard-sciencey -- but mainly, I think, if you're not all that familiar with the style. It's not as hardcore as it thinks it is, or as most of its readers seem to think it is. It skips some major important issues about the survival of a human on the surface of Mars: it barely mentions the fines, the tiny dust particles, and doesn't touch upon how they'd clog both machinery and the human body, or how they'd taste or smell or feel. It doesn't even mention radiation exposure. And some of the protagonist's hacks really massively strained my suspension of disbelief.
If you know the genre of plausible, scientifically-rigorous solar system exploration -- if you've read Kim Stanley Robinson, Ben Bova and Stephen Baxter and so on -- then it won't be as big a shock as it is to newbies to this style. If you're interested enough in space travel and astronomy to have read a lot about the Moon, Mars, and Saturn missions -- especially the Russian Venera missions, NASA's Mars landers and the Cassini and Huyghens probes -- then the detail about the Martian system won't overwhelm you as much as it does to someone coming from the "Harry Potter" books and Dan Brown, as I suspect many of its readers have done.
Saying that, I enjoyed it. It's got laugh-out-loud moments, as all the best thriller-type stories do. Shakespeare knew that, but too many forget it. The epistolary style is a little patchy but it mostly works well. The occasional diversions of narrative style jar slightly, and the author's inexperience shows a little - it could do with a list of dramatis personae, and tighter control of character naming, voice, more frequent switches of viewpoint to prepare the reader for them, and so on.
But saying that, it works, and well. It's extraordinarily suspenseful: a real page-turner, hard to put down. The build-up is handled well, although it peaks and ends as abruptly as an early Neal Stephenson novel. This did feel like a set-up for a sequel, but I'm not sure where it would go or how it would work.
If you loved Robinson's Mars trilogy (and /Antarctica/) as much as I did, I think you'll like it. If you're SF-literate, you'll spot the flaws more easily, but they're neither critical nor too painful.
It's good, but like all the biggest successes of the century so far, don't believe the hype. It's not great, but I recommend it all the same. I hope it introduces more readers to hard SF. ...more
Wonderful extended essay by a master of the form. Dives deep into the hows and whys of Unix, Windows and the fondly-missed BeOS, with much exegesis ofWonderful extended essay by a master of the form. Dives deep into the hows and whys of Unix, Windows and the fondly-missed BeOS, with much exegesis of Why Computers Are The Way They Are. And it's a free download. Highly recommended way to spend a few hours....more
Biggest pile of it I've read in years, in fact. Stale, derivative (worse, /knowingly/ so), with poorly-thought-out error-ridden tecAwful tedious crap.
Biggest pile of it I've read in years, in fact. Stale, derivative (worse, /knowingly/ so), with poorly-thought-out error-ridden tech (such as dial-up internet access from Antarctica) mixed with indifferently-executed Sufficiently Advanced™ alien tech: a big dumb object that they /call/ a BDO in the most crashingly-awkward move since Avatar's "unobtainium" which, it emerges, isn't dumb & which resurrects the dead as a (very poor) communications medium.
There's a mix of mysticism, cod-science, borrowed bits & bobs of tech, setting, plot & I lost count of what else. The characters are all cardboard-cutouts, populated with the same crass tokenism -- teen girl, wheelchair dude, jock space pilot, heroic mom, etc. -- as Glee. And the authors know it and think it's fun -- one character is consistently referred to as The World's Greatest Astronaut, for instance, with regular comments about his good looks.
The description is breathless, slow-paced and reads like a novelization of bad TV skiffy. It's about as coherent as Heroes was. Yes, that bad.
The authors have borrowed enough description of Space Stuff to do what they think is convincing detail. It bears as much resemblance to spaceflight as CSI does to actual police work. It's the wretched tissue-thin veneer of shininess that dominates modern Hollywood.
Please do not read this book. Do not buy it even as gift; you'll encourage 2 talentless hacks that should have stayed in the mindless media industry. I am tempted to give my copy away, as it was given to me, but then someone else might read it. Worse still, they might read it and think that SF should be like this.
Awful, terrible, trite, glib, kitsch, crappy, shallow, dull, uninsightful, clichéd, hackneyed shite. Really very bad indeed. Don't know why I finished it. A crashingly bad, stupid, shallow pastiche of /Rendezvous with Rama/ lacking any intelligence or thought, but slathered with sickening sentiment and seasoned with cryptoreligious schmaltz.
It's a crime that hacks this talentless can get writing work. Stick to doing scripts, guys. I already know better than to watch the kind of crap your studios put out....more
**spoiler alert** A classic BDO type affair with elements of Chaga, nicely limited to plausible physics (OK, more than most), with some memorably flaw**spoiler alert** A classic BDO type affair with elements of Chaga, nicely limited to plausible physics (OK, more than most), with some memorably flawed characters who grow a plausible amount. They pull off the trick of leaving the reader wondering whether something is a character hallucinating as they slowly lose their mind, or maybe it is something more, something alien. It's pacy, not overlong, balanced. 2 main viewpoint characters & the chapter heads tell you who's who. Helpful. And occasionally there's artful overlap between them. I really can't poke any big holes in it.
And while it /is/ kinda sorta space opera, it's not Banks/Reynolds/Gibson/Baxter are doing. They do classic, galaxy-spanning (or more), FTL + AI driven gosh-wow-the-future's-amazing stuff. Physics, schmysics.
Leviathan Wakes reminded me a bit more, in a way, of the Walter Jon Williams Praxis books. Of taking the position that nanotech and godlike AIs mean that all the rules are off, aces are wild, and it tends to become willy-waving bigger better faster MORE stuff. So, in response, WJW and "Corey" set themselves some rules. WJW said no nanotech, no AI -- it's not impossible, but some powerful aliens prohibit it, on pain of genocide. It keeps the scale more doable.
Corey's effort is all real speeds -- even with fusion drives, days to weeks from outer-system to inner-system. Delays and supply line issues. Tech that breaks down or wears out and takes ages to fix. Space stations that smell of farts, with terrible vat-grown food. Lethal air leaks and pissing and puking in your suit. It's almost Mundane but more fun.
It struck me as quite plausible.
And a semi-colonised solar system, with 2 habitable planets, the Belt and a few tin cans freezing out around the gas giants, where they've failed to reach the Oort or anything. More plausible than KSR's Accelerando or even Stross' equivalent. After a century, they've got infighting, politics, smaller better faster computers, but no miracle plot devices.
The big Plot Device is an alien goop that infects humans, but only in the presence of radiation (perhaps both feeding it and weakening their immune systems). That's a lot more plausible for me than anything from the Chaga to the Thistledown in Eon to Bova's nanotech Horror. It's more believable than Varley's Gaea, or Ringworld or lots of things.
And they don't really know WTF it does, only that it's nasty. It's slow, too. Takes weeks. And not very infective -- it can't get started and spread or breed outside of quite specific circumstances. It doesn't miraculously penetrate airlocks and spacesuits like lots of fictional nasties.
So what do they do, once contact's established? Drop it on Venus instead of Earth. With C22 tech we couldn't do a damned thing with Venus, but if you need the cooperation of weird alien hivemind thing in steering a BDO that's hurtling insystem, Venus is a tempting target. Lots of energy, lots of hydrocarbons, no people, no moon, nothing. It added up. It gelled, for me. Poor mad homicidal obsessed Miller gets his girl, in a radically nontraditional way. He saves the Earth, for now. There's no touching reconciliation, he dies, messily, or gets absorbed by the goop in a very terminal way that he's probably not coming back from in recognisable form.
The writing's good, the setting is not searingly original but it works, it gels, it hangs together and rings true, way way truer than the Culture, or the Xeelee or Photino Birds or whatever they're called. (I lost patience with Baxter's ramblings over a decade ago. Life forms made of dark matter my arse. Oh bugger off. DM doesn't even interact, it's not going to be forming any complex molecules.)
No transcendent civilisations or anything in sight. The alien "bomb" might have been a von Neumann type self-replicating terraforming bootstrap device for all we know.
As for the mad killer exec? I have /no/ problem with that. I really wish I did. Think that's unrealistic? Take to take off the rose-coloured worldview. Think of the colonisation of the Americas, of the Conquistadores, of the measles/smallpox-infected handouts of blankets etc. Biowar to exterminate pesky natives. Think of the Final Solution, of the Japanese treatment of the Chinese in WW2. Of Changi and the Bridge over the Kwai etc. Hell, think Israel in Palestine.
Corporations with the power of life or death? No problem. Halliwell, Blackwater, etc. Already happened.
A powerful corporation doing a very nasty experiment on a remote, relatively small, rebellious outpost of a not-yet-nation-state?
This is a part-colonised whole solar system. There are lots and lots of billions of people. Single stations or colonised asteroids or whatever would get cracked open by ballistic rocks, both accidentally and by design, more than a few times. This time, it was big, nasty, visible and in a plausible fashion, it attracted a shitload of attention, much negative. That adds up too.
And then actually, niftily, $MAD_EXEC delivers a nice little speech about acceptable losses, giving humanity nanotech and the stars, etc. -- something that I find quite plausible too, something any self-respecting billionaire (or wannabe) worth his salt would happily do: look at Gates, look at Google -- and the nasty mad killer rogue cop sees everyone's buying it, or at least that he'll get away with it, and just shoots the fucker.
That could be interpreted as, in fact, taking a rather effective and nicely-done jab at all the utopian gosh-wow any-sufficiently-advanced-technology big-screen galactic-scale space opera out there. I think they've looked at this, gone "this is make-believe B.S." and have done something a bit more believable, and just in case you didn't notice the comparison, they put in this not-very-veiled reference to killing a mad dangerous bastard who wants a for-profit company-owned Singularity based on magic alien biotech he can't control for his own benefit.
Overall, this is one of the most believable SF novels I've read in years.
From a glance at Amazon this morning, I see that later on, the Weird Venusian Menace isn't, actually, and in fact it builds a Sagan/Contact-style wormhole gateway. So they clearly let go of the semi-rigorous Real Science after a while, but hey, I'm not going to judge until I get there. But apart from that, the highest tech in it is really good automated medical facilities and small fusion reactors that don't need a huge amount of shielding. That works for me.
As a debut, this was storming. For me, better and far more realistic than The Quantum Thief, The Windup Girl, or actually even Old Man's War. And the latter 2 of them, I actually enjoyed, although in the case of Bacigalupi, I don't understand how everyone didn't scream "WHERE'S ALL THE SOLAR FFS" and throw it across the room. ...more