I really liked the premise of this book. It tells exactly the sort of story i’d love to read - queer characters being (mostly) heroic in a humane mund...moreI really liked the premise of this book. It tells exactly the sort of story i’d love to read - queer characters being (mostly) heroic in a humane mundane-space-opera setting. Light adventure fiction for breezy reading.
That said, there were far too many sex scenes for my personal taste (i’m definitely not the target audience!). Some aspects of the characters’ emotional/sexual approaches profoundly irritated me and threw me out of the story (specifically: instantaneous infatuation, implausibly ‘irresistable’ urges, casual unsafe sex, violent sexual jealousy). I’ve seen the same themes in another book by this author (The Company Man) and they bugged me there too, but i kept reading, because thankfully they’re largely segregated from a decent plot. My personal quibbles were outweighed by a well-written story with interesting secondary characters and a setting which, whilst being perhaps a bit generic, seemed fairly solidly conceived.(less)
This isn’t so much a story as a long-winded screed attempting to promote a particularly dotty brand of libertarianism. There’s some halfway-interestin...moreThis isn’t so much a story as a long-winded screed attempting to promote a particularly dotty brand of libertarianism. There’s some halfway-interesting world-building in there, undermined by the ubiquitous backstory of a historical Mary Sue ‘First Commander’ (John Galt?), who is apparently single-handedly responsible for everything, including the destruction of all governments, the invention of new spaceship drives and new kinds of aeroplane, new philosophical systems, and any other innovation under the sun. And now some of his descendents have developed godlike superpowers, which renders most of the ostensible plot moot (it’s just a series of deus ex machinas). I have limited patience for any text which seems to portray a society where everyone carries lethal weapons, and is free to use them, and does so, as a good thing. This is a horrific dystopian future, whether the author realises this or not. Arbitrarily giving your protagonists superhuman powers to make them ‘better’ than others does not prove their half-baked philosophy correct.(less)
The underlying premise is great, but this was not as good as I’d hoped. We know these authors can do better than this. There was some interesting expl...moreThe underlying premise is great, but this was not as good as I’d hoped. We know these authors can do better than this. There was some interesting exploration of what stepping could do, or the possibilities it opened up, but they weren’t all fully explored (example: an engineless airship which can step doesn’t need to be towed by a robotic dolphin; it just needs to step sideways into a world where the wind’s blowing in the right direction).
I was also a bit puzzled by the inclusion of Lobsang. The premise behind his character is fascinating, and could make a good seed for a novel in itself, but why was he in this book? You could tell a very interesting story with the premise of the stepping device alone - you don’t need to distract from it with a deus-ex-machina superpowered AI, which requires the reader to suspend disbelief in a different (and unnecessary) direction.(less)
I was initially disappointed by this, given the hype.
The opening chapters seemed to me to be quite confused in tone, in that they seemed to take a pic...moreI was initially disappointed by this, given the hype.
The opening chapters seemed to me to be quite confused in tone, in that they seemed to take a pick-and-mix approach to the fantastical elements of the source material. Every so often, something would be highlighted in an aside as something that would later be exaggerated or distorted to become an element of myth – or doubts were cast on the veracity of some folk-tale, like the myrmidons’ origins as ants. Then, a few paragraphs later, a centaur would show up, complete with horsey hindquarters.
I can cope with fantastical stories. I love fantastical stories. I also love stories which take a more ambiguous, naturalistic approach to myth, where the fantastical elements can be explained away as combinations of superstition, co-incidence, and off-screen rumour, à la Renault. What bugged me about this story was the confusion of the two; I can’t quite suspend my disbelief when the internal rules of the story’s setting don’t quite seem to be consistent. The first two-thirds of the book were a tough, slow read.
Partly, this was because I didn’t find the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus – as characters – particularly interesting. I was far more interested in the latter third of the book to see how Patroclus began acting independently, in ways Achilles seemed block-headedly incapable of understanding. I liked reading about Patroclus’s relationship with Briseis, and I’d’ve loved to see a bit more of Thetis.
I definitely enjoyed the final third of the book far more than all that had gone before. I naturally knew how the story was going to end, but I couldn’t see how the author could possibly tell that tale in a satisfying way, given the first-person perspective… I even laughed with mistaken derision at one point. But then she made it work, for me, and in retrospect the final chapters were easily the strongest.
Mixed feelings. Definitely some awesome writing in there, in various places, I just think it came apart a bit where it tried too hard to remain faithful to the more fantastical elements of the source material.(less)
I gave this book a try because the premise sounded admirably insane, and indeed, the author is certainly incredibly imaginative. It is just as crazy a...moreI gave this book a try because the premise sounded admirably insane, and indeed, the author is certainly incredibly imaginative. It is just as crazy as it sounds. The plot has as many holes as a spider’s web. The central character is meant to be a hotshot lawyer with the apparent mental age and emotional maturity of a particularly-fickle five-year-old. Do not expect consistency, coherency, or accurate spelling. Has a lively sense of fun, though.(less)
This was an enjoyable, light read. The characters were either likeable or loveable, the settings were imaginative and interesting, and the plot was en...moreThis was an enjoyable, light read. The characters were either likeable or loveable, the settings were imaginative and interesting, and the plot was engaging even despite the refreshing lack of interpersonal conflict.
I had three general criticisms. Firstly, the overall structure (or the pacing, if you want to look at it that way) seemed a little uneven. The story is ostensibly about Rogan’s journey towards a new starship and a possible love interest, but we spend a lot of time (about a quarter of the book, maybe?) on his home colony even after he’s made the decision to leave. We spend most of the rest of the book on his journey. It wrongfooted my initial assumptions about which characters i should be investing my attention in, as a reader: Rogan’s attraction towards Nathe is a crucial part of the plot, but we ultimately see hardly anything of him, and hardly ever even read about their messages to one another.
Secondly, there are some typographical errors, and occasional apostrophe abuse (it’s instead of its) and mis-spellings (confusing meters and metres, for example). The actual writing is otherwise of a very high, very readable standard, but there was one fairly glaring continuity glitch where Rogan gives two seemingly-contradictory accounts of how his discussions with Nathe began. It felt as if this book maybe just needs a touch more editing to make it perfect.
Thirdly… the author has a fantastic imagination, but seems to shy away from exploring its full potential, sometimes. The opening setting, Frostbite, is vividly portrayed as a small, isolated community. They need Rogan’s expertise, and his plans to leave clearly shock and upset many people, but ultimately almost everyone is fairly supportive. This seemed like a missed opportunity to explore the psychology, morality, and ethics of weighing up the needs of the community and the desires of the individual. Given Rogan’s preference for men, it’d also be interesting to read about what it would be like to be the ‘only gay on the planet’. That in itself would, in my view, have been a far more compelling reason for his desire to leave – echoing millions of real-life stories in a science-fictional setting – but the author sidesteps this by making Frostbite a freewheeling free-love future where most people seem fairly bisexual. It was an enjoyable exploration of a certain kind of utopianism, but i felt that there was another missed opportunity when the protagonist visits many other worlds and the culture shock is relatively minor – there was no evidence that any of the surviving human societies were less liberal.
All that said, i very much enjoyed reading it. It was pleasing to read something which relied more on the subtle wonders of exploration than the cheap ‘thrills’ of violence to keep the plot moving. I wanted to spend more time with the characters, and to learn a bit more about their world. The overall arc seemed to focus on the protagonist’s internal emotional life, the bittersweet feelings of homesickness and the fear and exhiliration of an uncertain future. ‘Angst’ would be far too strong a word, but having made a few changes in my life myself recently (albeit minor in comparison), the protagonist’s journey seemed very real to me.(less)
This is an extremely well-written book. The setting is imaginatively realised and creatively described, populated by a well-rounded cast of characters...moreThis is an extremely well-written book. The setting is imaginatively realised and creatively described, populated by a well-rounded cast of characters. Some aspects of the plot went over my head towards the end, which is my failing, not the author’s.
Why only four stars? It depicts a relentlessly bleak and violent society. The central characters do despicable things. Over the course of the book, this grew too much for my personal tastes; i’m a wimp who wants to read about fluffier futures. I’m too queasy to consider the sequel, at least for now. But if you can cope all the murders, mutilations, and decapitations, this is easily a five-star work.(less)
This was fun, towards the end, but didn’t quite go far enough for my personal tastes. Less geology and more practical advice, please! The sections on...moreThis was fun, towards the end, but didn’t quite go far enough for my personal tastes. Less geology and more practical advice, please! The sections on how to butcher various different dinosaurs were amusing, but it could’ve been even more amusing if taken somewhat further, playing with even wilder speculations. As it was, the book seemed to end just as it got going.(less)