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Starship by Brian W. Aldiss
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Dec 29, 10

Read in December, 2010, read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** I like 1950s SF, for the most part. This book was a disappointment.
It's a little uncomfortable with what it's supposed to be. It can't decide whether to be a space adventure perhaps aimed at younger readers or a moral lecture aimed at their parents.
Where it falls down is in its rambling. For the first hundred pages we follow the unlikeable protagonist as he roams the ship and there begins to be a bit of a problem with viewpoint. The character is uncertain about how large the ship is and so is the story - at some points travel between decks is something achieved by dropping through a trapdoor and at others times it takes a day's journey with packs of provisions.
Then, out of nowhere, the semi-realistic setting is shattered when a bunch of intelligent rats stroll into a scene towing a caged, telepathic rabbit they are using to extract information from prisoners. And this has no bearing on any of the rest plot, before or after, but is the first of many more WTF moments.
At one point the characters find an ancient swimming pool and, thinking back to books they've read, they decide that it must be the sea. I'm fine with that. As a reader, I like knowing more than the characters. But why make it one throw-away line? Take these sort of comedy mistakes and use them to pad out the otherwise fairly boring trudge through corridor after corridor. Otherwise they're pointless.
And they've never mentioned reading books like that before. In fact, I'm pretty sure only the priest could read earlier in the book. And later some of these characters are revealed to be from off the ship in the first place, with all of Earth's knowledge available to them.
The inconsistency and wasted opportunity becomes infuriating after a while.

Wikipedia tells me this was Aldiss' first novel. I like some of his other stuff.
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