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Group Reads 2016 > March 2016 Group Read - Timescape

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message 1: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments This is to discuss Timescape by Gregory Benford.


message 2: by Leo (new)

Leo | 572 comments As I found out this book wasn't translated in my own language, and reading in english slows me down a lot, I started early on this one. I'm at 1/3 now and it's giving me a hard time. Not because it's badly written, not at all, but because it's a lot of pages filled with science and, eh, people, - only a little bit of sf in the book until now. I'm curious how you all like that so please catch up soon!


message 3: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 896 comments This has been on my to-read list for a long time, because my library doesn't have it. So, I'm glad to get this nudge to finally get it.


Powder River Rose (powderriverrose) I'm reading Brave New World right now and when I finish I will join in the discussion. Looking forward to reading the posts on this.


message 5: by David (new)

David | 3 comments I read this last year. I thought it was slow to start, however, it was worth the read at the end. The technology side was interesting and provided a bit of tension. I enjoyed most of the characters, but others seemed shallow and a distraction to the plot.


Powder River Rose (powderriverrose) I've not read it before so I will be listening to it as well as participating in the discussion.


message 7: by Leo (new)

Leo | 572 comments Thats funny: "PKD's new book" 'The man in the high castle' is mentioned in the story


message 8: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments I've started reading this now and having only seen the cover from the photo here (no picture on my Kindle) it's not at all what I was expecting. The premise is an interesting one but it's true there are a lot of characters. I've just read the section where a scientist's mother comes to meet his girlfriend. It's kind of weird, as in some places the book is hard science and in others almost "soap opera". I'm trying to work out what demographic it's aimed at. Saying that it's still very readable.


message 9: by Leo (new)

Leo | 572 comments I'm at 90% now. I agree with David that the story got definitely more interesting. It's easy reading too. But it is a strange book. I've got the idea that I'm reading 3 or 4 types of novels in one.


message 10: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments Leo wrote: "I'm at 90% now. I agree with David that the story got definitely more interesting. It's easy reading too. But it is a strange book. I've got the idea that I'm reading 3 or 4 types of novels in one."

I agree it's a real mix of novels and i'm not really enjoying all the personal relationships. It's quite distracting and not particularly interesting although I guess it's trying to make the book appeal to a wider audience. I don't like the way all the women are portrayed in the novel either which seems quite stereotyped which is quite surprising as it was written in 1980.


message 11: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 896 comments I've just started.


message 12: by CS (new)

CS Barron I have the book from the public library and I want to read it. My reading time has been curtailed because I've been watching more Golden State Warriors games. :-)


message 13: by Leo (new)

Leo | 572 comments Jo wrote: " I don't like the way all the women are portrayed in the novel either which seems quite stereotyped which is quite surprising as it was written in 1980."
True, the story is told from the perspective of only men, apparently Benford thinks science is a man's world only and the women are there for less serious business. Except for Penny the women don't play a significant role - and with Ian Peterson walking around it becomes hilarious now and then. I'm afraid though that the author was very serious.


message 14: by CS (new)

CS Barron I'm just past the halfway point, and disturbed by the sexism in this book. I am not entertained at all. However I am continuing with this book to see how the author resolves the issues he presents.


message 15: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 896 comments I'm a little past the one quarter point. I haven't really noticed the sexism, but the story certainly is moving along slowly.


message 16: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments I've finished now and gave it 3 stars but if I could have given it 2.5 I would have. There were some good ideas but the characters were quite stereotyped so it became annoying. When you read the reviews of the book at the time it is commended for being hard sci-fi with a more social aspect i.e you can see the characters lives etc. The problem is that for me that part of the book just didn't work, it just seemed out of place. Saying that it might just be that i'm a traditionalist and I like my SF to be SF :-)


message 17: by CS (new)

CS Barron Jo wrote: "I've finished now and gave it 3 stars but if I could have given it 2.5 I would have..."

You're more generous than I am, Jo. I rated the book one star in my review.

No offense to the person who nominated this book. I had heard about this book and I was curious to read it. If you don't try something, you don't know about it. Thanks for your nomination.

I don't understand what the specialness of "hard sci-fi" is supposed to be. I've always assumed that sci-fi contains as much accurate scientific knowledge as possible, then tries to extrapolate logically from there. I'm currently 2/3 of the way through The Martian by Andy Weir. The author has plenty of scientific detail, even manual-like detail, about how to construct a habitat on Mars with stone knives and bearskins. :-) But his very human, well-written story takes precedence. So far this book has been excellent. I started it late last night for bedtime reading, and I wouldn't put it down for hours. I hope to finish it today.

My review of Timescape
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 18: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments CS wrote: "Jo wrote: "You're more generous than I am, Jo. I rated the book one star in my review. "

I have only ever given two books one star and I hated both and put them both straight in the bin when I finished. I liked some of the ideas in this book which is what got it the 3 stars rather than 2 although I did hesitate.

I like hard sci-fi, the problem is not all sci-fi contains accurate scientific knowledge. There are a lot of books classified as sci-fi which are more adventure/detective stories set in space and unless well written these are not the kind of books I choose. I enjoy the ones that make you think, is this really possible? The Martian is a good example and an excellent book.


message 19: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 896 comments I'm about halfway through. It's v e r y slow. I think my library loan will expire before I finish it.

I didn't read this evening. Instead I watched Gravity on television. It's good. I recommend it.

I confess, CS. I'm the culprit who nominated Timescape. It won the Nebula award and some others and it's on several recommended reading lists. It has a 3.71 rating on goodreads, which isn't terrible. So, who knew?

I'm not finding it to awful, but it doesn't move right along, does it?


message 20: by CS (new)

CS Barron Buck wrote: "I'm the culprit who nominated Timescape. It won the Nebula award and some others and it's on several recommended reading lists..."

This book has a reputation from the awards, so I had heard about it also. I think Gregory Benford's passions are science and the scientist's life. It wouldn't surprise me if that perspective struck a chord with the award committees. GB is far less astute about personalities, feelings, relationships, humanity...the fodder for good novels. OK, I'll stop ranting now. :-))

I did finish The Martian and it restored my faith that hard sci-fi can be engrossing, humane, and wonderful to read.


message 21: by Leo (last edited Mar 21, 2016 02:56AM) (new)

Leo | 572 comments I gave it 3 stars (2,5). Liked some aspects of the book but I thought it needed more focus. Anyone read some other book of this author?


message 22: by Jo (new)

Jo | 1092 comments I read Foundation's Fear some time ago and seem to remember it being OK. This is part of the second Foundation trilogy which was written by authors other than Asimov. I'm not really sure you can judge an author by them trying to write like somebody else.


message 23: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 896 comments It does seem to wander about aimlessly quite a bit. Why all the dinners and socializing? Those things just add to the length of the book, but don't advance the story at all. Benford's editor fell down on the job. I'm okay with the "science and scientists" part of the story, I just wish there weren't so much meandering.

I've always been perplexed by Schrodinger's cat and I have trouble grasping the concept of quantum theory. I'm intrigued by the what-if-you-killed-your-own-grandfather-before-you-were-born paradox of time travel. Benford seems to have connected the two, but I can't imagine that he can resolve them.


message 24: by CS (last edited Mar 22, 2016 01:56PM) (new)

CS Barron Buck wrote: "...I've always been perplexed by Schrodinger's cat and I have trouble grasping the concept of quantum theory. I'm intrigued by the what-if-you-killed-your-own-grandfather-before-you-were-born paradox of time travel..."

I don't want to spoil this book for you, since you haven't finished it. But it's handy that we read this book after The Lathe of Heaven.

I'm certainly no expert in quantum physics, and I don't even care about it. However, when I read Art and Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light by Leonard Schlain, (chapter 9, "Einstein/Space, Time and Light") I totally understood Schlain's example of the train traveling at the speed of light.

"...at [the speed of light] the present incorporates all of the past and all of the future so that all time exists in one still moment of now..." (Schlain, Quill/Morrow (1993), page 123)

So as I understand it, at the speed of light (and the tachyon) one does not perceive a past or future in reality, only an expanded present. That's what I thought GB meant by "timescape," i.e., time as a landscape, and I proceeded from there.

In his book Schlain tracked how various art movements presaged developments in physics. The visionary quality of artists hinted of new ways to view and explain reality in physics. I found this book readable, considering its subject. For sure I wouldn't have read any single book on physics. The fact that this book is also about art kept me interested.

Re: killing your grandfather before you were born (a gruesome example of nerd-y imagination).
Think about The Lathe of Heaven.


message 25: by Leo (last edited Mar 22, 2016 08:48AM) (new)

Leo | 572 comments If you like puzzling with time and space then try Robert Sheckley's Dimension of Miracles. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6.... I laughed my socks off.


message 26: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 896 comments Timescape had been on my to-read list for a long time - it's on so many SF lists, but my library didn't have it. so, when it became our March read, I asked my library to acquire the ebook and they did. It was so unenthralling to read that I made very slow progress. Finally my two week library loan expired last night. I had requested a renewal, but others had holds on it. I was about two-thirds of the way through it. No great loss - I'm almost relieved not to have to continue. Now I can get on to something more satisfying. I doubt that I'll ever finish it.


message 27: by Buck (last edited Mar 27, 2016 05:13PM) (new)

Buck (spectru) | 896 comments I did finish it, after all. If you don't close a book on your kindle after its loan expires, you can keep reading it.

The final third went much faster than the first two thirds. There is an afterword about Timescape being a marriage of science and literature. Bleh. It is good science fiction mixed married to extraneous literary rambling. This book would have benefited from a good editor who could have removed a hundred or two pages.


message 28: by Buck (last edited Mar 27, 2016 05:36PM) (new)

Buck (spectru) | 896 comments CS wrote: "I don't want to spoil this book for you, since you haven't finished it. But it's handy that we read this book after The Lathe of Heaven. "

Of comparison to Le Guin- The Disposessed is perhaps more to the point, with physicist Shevek's study of simultaneity, the precursor to the development of the ansible.


message 29: by CS (new)

CS Barron Buck wrote: "Of comparison to Le Guin- The Disposessed is perhaps more to the point, with physicist Shevek's study of simultaneity... "

I was referring to Benford's resolution of the "future's" effect on the "past." His resolution depended on the simultaneity of time, and also on the creation of alternate universes. Benford shows us an alternate universe that springs from Gordon's actions after receiving the message. In the new probable universe, the world is saved, Gordon wins the Enrico Fermi prize, and JFK is not killed. But the people in 1998 who originally sent the message are not affected by the new alternate universe. Instead, they are on the same space-time line they were before. At the end Benford shows us that their world is dying. Renfrew is ill, and Peterson has holed himself in a prepared bunker (country manor) where he expects to spend the rest of his life.

When I read the book, I thought Gordon's actions could have generated more than the single probable universe that Benford described. Remember how Gordon was frustrated by his superior in trying to figure out the message? What if Gordon gave up totally and gone along with his boss? That would have been another probable universe, and different from the original 1998 space-time line also.


message 30: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) | 896 comments CS wrote: "Buck wrote: "Of comparison to Le Guin- The Disposessed is perhaps more to the point, with physicist Shevek's study of simultaneity... "

I was referring to Benford's resolution of the "future's" ef..."


There are so many intriguing ideas in Timescape. It's a shame that its presentation is so flawed. I almost abandoned it.


message 31: by Buck (last edited Apr 06, 2016 08:07AM) (new)

Buck (spectru) | 896 comments I watched the movie The Lake House on TV last night. Although it is essentially a romance, it deals with the same issues as Timescape, communication between people in different times and the effect of changing the past to affect the present. The movie was more entertaining, but apparently there is no book on which it was based.


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