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A. Coles (Newcastle, UK)

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Price: £3.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 16 Jan. 2015
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Wish it had been longer...

Price: £4.72

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cut above, 30 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Existence (Kindle Edition)
Having read several Uplift novels years ago I knew David Brin as a solid, if (I thought) unspectacular sf author. I hadn't heard anything from him for a while (this is his first novel in 10 years) but when I read the sypnosis I was pretty intrigued.

So what do we have? A complex, multi-character near future epic. Whatever Brin has been doing for the last ten years he's certainly been keeping up with both the latest science and the tide of hard sf, post cyberpunk literature. His depictions of the year 2050, with it's hyper-evolved 'net, it's augmented humans and flash mob mentality is both fresh, somehow, and remarkably believable. Set against 40 years of ecological disaster, vague references to nuclear terrorism and a political "Big Deal" that has further entrenched the power of the 1% the background events, many filled in by intra-chapter extracts from imaginary blogs and wikis, the novel flits from Earth orbit to the flooded remains of the Chinese coast with a cast of characters which, although slightly stereotyped, are interesting and varied. I've read many sf novels recently that have tried to pull off this multi character arc, where no one meets until the 3rd act, so I thought I knew what to expect, but Brin's storytelling brought me genuine surprises and fresh takes on old ideas.

I'll not summarise the plot, but the scope is great and the solution to the Fermi Paradox is a new one on me. Maybe the later chapters skip ahead and we don't hear from some characters again but it doesn't feel rushed.One of the things I'm most impressed by is the optimism through the whole thing, even while various disastrous possibilities and actualities are spelled out in the pages. I'd certainly love to see further works set in this universe. Meanwhile, I've got plenty to think about.

The Company of the Dead
The Company of the Dead

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, 27 April 2012
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Reading a review of this book on io9 it sounded just up my alley - time travel, alternative history and a lot of thriller thrown in. But I'm abandoning my read about half way through, something I rarely do.

The story itself is fine, with interesting ideas on how things might have worked out differently in the twentieth century, and a large cast of characters who, on the surface, should provide us with a rollicking run through said story. But it just doesn't work out that way. I can't believe other reviews here that say the characters are well rounded. The characters are ciphers, plain and simple. There's no actual protagonist, no internal monologue. The characters belonging to Kennedy's entourage are interchangeable. I'm half way through the book and I can't tell you why Kennedy cares about re-establishing the USA (before he sees the future), why he supposedly inspires blind loyalty from everyone who served under him or what his life was like. The modern captain of the Titanic is British but shows no difference in outlook to the CSA characters. There is a character who as far as I am aware is black and is good at killing people - that is it. What's it like to be a citizen of the CSA or to live in New York under the Japanese? No idea apart from that they have more sushi restaurants. Other than New York, places are hardly described, to the point where I had to keep flicking back to work out how they were suddenly somewhere else.

The whole thing is made worse by the splitting up of the multi-angled story into tiny chunks. Chapters end with no reason other than it seemed like the author wanted to move on to another viewpoint, often after a couple of pages. I found that the longer chapters were much easier to read.

I appreciate that this is a debut novel. I wouldn't say the author isn't capable of better - now and again some of the prose takes a leap into more poetical description, and, as I've said, the story itself seems interesting, but I think the publisher should have spent a lot of time working with the author to get it right. As it is, I'm just not interested enough in anyone in the book to continue reading.
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