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The Years of Rice and Salt
The Years of Rice and Salt
by Kim Stanley Robinson
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Europe without Europeans, 20 Sept. 2006
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Robinson takes the basic premise of that of Christopher Evans' `Aztec Century'. There, the plague devastated Europe to the extent that social progress was halted, allowing the Aztec civilisation to progress, explore and develop technologically. In Robinson's alternate world the plague rampaged through Europe in the 14th Century and wiped out virtually the entire population. This, when the Mongols began exploring from the East, they discovered an empty land.

This history, divided into exquisitely written episodes set sometimes hundreds of years apart and in different parts of the world, is a romantic, joyous and uplifting work. Often the tales told are set on the borders between cultures, religions, classes, even between sexes, and profound debates are conducted, often to no great effect, although the point Robinson seems to make is that any examination of the nature of life no matter how trivial has a cumulative effect on the society of the world.

There are some interesting social developments in America where the Native Americans, inspired by an adopted Japanese, form a league of Tribes which resists any incursions by Chinese or Japanese invaders.

Christianity has all but disappeared, and Europe and Asia are composed of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

In his Mars trilogy Robinson managed to create a continuity of narrative over about three hundred years by the device of the longevity serum which kept his main characters alive from the first landing on Mars through its terraforming to its independence and beyond.

Here, as a linking thread through the centuries he employs the unconventional device of reincarnation. Souls travel in groups, we are told, and are often reborn in the same area or reconnect in life. The souls here are recognised in the narrative by their initials since they return with names beginning with K, B and I. In the intermissions between chapters they return to `the Bardo' able, as they were not in the flesh, to recall their past lives. It's an effective device, as it's a metaphor for the evolution of the soul of society as a whole.

The souls cross the boundaries of gender and race, and even at one point, of species, as when the K soul, having murdered in her last life, is reborn as a tiger.

It's a beautiful and poetic novel, and shows once more Robinson's versatility and flare for sheer style and characterisation, ending, as always with KSR books it seems, with hope for the future of humanity.


Picoverse
Picoverse
by Robert A. Metzger
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It's Pico Time...., 18 Sept. 2006
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This review is from: Picoverse (Mass Market Paperback)
Despite a cover filled with the usual plaudits and glowing praise from various quarters, Metzger's novel of universe creation and alternate worlds ends up being a bit of a mess.

Katie and Jack are working alongside Professor Horst on a device called the Sonomak - a central gizmo into which forty-eight miniature particle accelerators are aimed. At a demonstration, Horst decides to go for broke and runs all forty-eight accelerators and creates a new universe, something which Anthony (Katie's autistic son) seems to have some knowledge of.

So where does it all go wrong? The science, it has to be said, cannot be faulted. Several critics have praised the science. Gregory Benford, of all people, has provided a glowing review, from which one can only deduce that either Metzger is one of Benford's pen-names or he has Benford's children locked away with a bomb and a digital timer.

The characterisation is very bad, and the motivation of the characters gets either so complex or so basic you want to shoot them.

When a new universe (or a picoverse) is created it is a duplicate of ours, but a lot smaller. Thus, in the first picoverse (where time moves much faster than ours) there was a duplicate Anthony who somehow made himself immortal, and then went insane. He calls himself Alpha.

Alpha then kidnaps the original Anthony and traps him in yet another universe. His mother gets such a maternal rage on that she is willing to kill billions of people to rescue her son. Metzger does not question the morality of this.

In the second picoverse, one of the main character's 'duplicates' enlists the help of Stalin and creates a Soviet Communist world. Metzger thinks that the way to make us see the evils of communism is to show them as a people obsessed with ugly architecture, boots and bombing people. It's very much a shallow one-sided debate. One really shouldn't waste a lot of time criticising the shallowness of this book, and one wouldn't, had this novel not been nominated for awards. Why?

Later, our heroes board an asteroid shuttle in which is a functioning biosphere peopled by Neanderthals (why is not made clear). Initially the travellers discover that the Neanderthals are vicious and aggressive cannibals, but soon after we are expected to believe that these particular specimens are highly evolved creatures, far superior to homo sapiens. Two of the Neanderthals turn out to be alternate versions of Anthony, one of whom is the genetically re-engineered Anthony from the first universe.

The denouement (just before which our amnesiac hero Jack remembers that he is an immortal from yet another universe) is sadly, just as confusing.

To be fair to Metzger, the scientific elements are handled in an exemplary fashion. This could have been an excellent piece of work had not the author attempted to combine the disparate elements of extra-universal superbeings and multiple copies of far too many central characters. This, coupled with the bafflingly swift changes of scene conspires to produce a work which annoys rather than excites.

One can only conclude that Metzger - in his debut novel - bit off rather more than he could chew. No doubt, in another smaller universe somewhere, a very good version of this novel is a best-seller.


The Wellstone
The Wellstone
by Wil McCarthy
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the first one, 17 Sept. 2006
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McCarthy's sequel to `The Collapsium' is somewhat disappointing since it lacks some of the wit and panache of its gloriously original predecessor.
Set some years after the events of `The Collapsium', `The Wellstone' explores some of the more unexpected ramifications of a society where immortality has become the norm.
The Queen of Sol and her consort Bruno, now have a son; Bascal Edward de Towaji Lutui, a rebellious youth (and talented poet) who has, with some dismay, foreseen his destiny of being forever a Prince and never ascending to the throne.
Tired of his parents' dismissal of his concerns as childish whining, he incites rebellion amongst the disaffected youth. Having subsequently been confined to an artificial planette (an asteroid-sized world endowed with standard Earth gravity and an atmosphere through a process best explained by the author within the original text) with his entourage of supporters and sycophants, he manages to cobble together a spaceship and escape.
The science is just as stunningly inventive as in the previous novel, but the novel suffers in that one can never really feel any empathy for the Prince. One feels he should be, if not a loveable rogue, then a likeable maniac, but his charms remained somewhere off the page.
Also, by concentrating solely on the Prince's escape and eventual capture it severely reduces the plot to a linear exercise, as compared to `The Collapsium' which contained multiple diversions, revelations and surprises.
However, McCarthy is such a good writer that this is still an eminently readable and polished piece of work. One wonders if there is a veiled comparison to the current British Monarch and her King-in-waiting. It would be nice to think so, but I can't really see Prince Charles inciting a youth rebellion and heading off across Middle England on a hijacked bus, although I would be vastly impressed if he did.


Neuromancer
Neuromancer
by William Gibson
Edition: Paperback

58 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dated? Maybe, but a book to read before you die!, 12 Sept. 2006
This review is from: Neuromancer (Paperback)
Like a bullet to the head, Neuromancer (and Gibson) arrived in 1984 to almost universal acclaim and allegedly kick-started the Cyberpunk movement which has influenced certain branches of SF ever since. Whether or not they choose to call their work cyberpunk or not is immaterial. The work of Simon Ings, Grimwood, Chris Moriarty, Michael Swanwick and dozens of others would arguably not have been the same had this novel not been as successful as it was.
The prose is fast, clever, snappy, set against a background of half-working neon in streets where disposable computer equipment is strewn like empty fast food cartons.
Our hero, Case, is a cyber-freelancer, able to jack himself into computer-systems and experience cyberspace as a three dimensional reality. Case, however, tried to steal from one of his more dubious clients who subsequently infected him with a Russian mycotoxin, effectively rendering him incapable of cyberspace work and therefore unemployable. We therefore meet him, down on his luck, and mixing with some rather eccentric characters in a downtown bar in Japan.
For me, it reads like `The Maltese Falcon in Space'. There is a pervasive noir element, since Case - like many a Nineteen-Forties gumshoe - is forced to take on a job, the full details of which he is not fully aware. There's a beautiful and dangerous woman (by the name of Molly) and a mysterious benefactor, as well as a supporting cast of neon-lit lowlife.
Like any classic noir novel, the action and the protagonists move between street level and the crazy billionaire family who are literally `above the clouds', since they live within their own Las Vegas style space station.
It's exciting, challenging, dense with atmosphere, and very much deserves its cult status as a modern classic.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 2, 2012 9:10 AM GMT


The Mount: A Novel
The Mount: A Novel
by Carol Emshwiller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Humans Under The Yoke, 24 Aug. 2006
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This review is from: The Mount: A Novel (Paperback)
Emshwiller paints a seemingly naÔve and simplistic vision of Humanity living in servitude under the rule of the Hoots; small, fairly immobile aliens who have taken control of the Earth. The Hoots have eyes on the sides of their heads, giving them virtually 360 degree vision, very strong hands and weak legs, which is why humans are used as mounts, to carry them about their daily business.
Indeed, Hoots breed humans in much the way that we breed horses today, producing different strains for different functions. Tennessees are generally thin and fast, and do well in racing while Seattles (like our hero, Smiley) are darker, stockier and stronger.
Smiley is a prime Seattle and has been bonded as the mount to his little Master, his most Excellent Excellency, the future Ruler-of-us-all.
Following a raid by wild humans, Smiley (or Charley as his human name is) is unwillingly rescued by his father, Heron, and taken - along with his Little Master - to live in the wild, where the relationship between Hoot and Mount inevitably begins to change.
Emshwiller provides an interesting afterword on the inside back cover in which she explains her process of writing and the impetus for the novel, which was a study of the relationships between predator and prey.
The idea of humans as slaves or pets of alien masters is not a new one, since the idea stretches from `War of The Worlds' in which humans are destined to be foodstock for the Martians to the not dissimilar `Tripods' trilogy by John Christopher, and beyond. `The Puppies of Terra' by Thomas M Disch sees humans as pets to grotesque alien masters. Russell's `The Sparrow' also examines a predator/prey relationship, while Octavia Butler in `Dawn' sees humans as powerless DNA resources for an alien race whose raison d'etre is to integrate the DNA of other races into their own. For obvious reasons humans tend to emerge victorious but wiser in most of these books, and The Mount is no exception, although Emshwiller's optimistic ending suggests that the two races will ultimately live together on an equal, almost symbiotic basis.
What is interesting is that so many books relating to this theme are by women and are, in the main, superior in quality to the work of their male counterparts. Certainly Emshwiller (and indeed Butler) attempts to dig into the human psyche living under such conditions and is brave enough to show a human who has learned to enjoy is servitude and even taken pride in it.


World Of Null A
World Of Null A
by A. E. Van Vogt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.74

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Golden Age Weirdness - Go on! Have a Try!, 14 Aug. 2006
This review is from: World Of Null A (Paperback)
In his introduction to the revised edition of this somewhat controversial novel, Van Vogt is refreshingly effusive and proud of one of his most famous works. Among other things, Van Vogt claims that this novel (published in translation around the globe) kickstarted the French Science Fiction scene. He is also magnanimous in his praise for Damon Knight who famously published a review of this book, so damning that the review became almost as legendary as the book itself.

Nearly sixty years later, we should ask the question `What was all the fuss about?'

Van Vogt's appeal lay in his futuristic settings, the incredible buildings, machines and landscapes. He would no doubt be the first to admit that dialogue was never his strong point. His stream of consciousness approach to plot was also an issue for some readers. Here, however, Van Vogt seems to have given some thought to structure, and although the dialogue is excruciatingly stilted, one can still find much pleasure in this Noir-style adventure.

Several centuries hence, Man has adopted the philosophy and logic of Non-Aristotelian thinking (the Null-A of the title). Van Vogt at the time was an advocate of General Semantics and hoped for an age where Humanity would adopt a philosophy of logic and reason (rather Vulcan-like in its conception).

Every year, aspirants would travel to the City of the Games Machine to be tested for suitability to join the Human Society on Venus. Only totally integrated Null-A minds are allowed to live on the planet, which has become a pastoral paradise filled with vast trees a quarter of a mile in diameter.

Van Vogt uses one of his motifs, the great phallic structure, in that the Games Machine is a self-aware supercomputer, housed in a vast spire of a building.

Gilbert Gosseyn goes through the first of the Games Machine questions and is surprised to learn from the machine that he is not who he thinks he is. It would appear that all of Gosseyn's memories have been faked.

Subsequently, Gosseyn - in the process of attempting to discover his own identity and purpose - is gunned down in the street and killed. He later awakens, alive and unharmed on the surface of Venus, where he begins to unravel the details of a plan by an extra-solar Galactic Empire to take over the Solar System, beginning with Venus.

With the help of a Venusian scientist Gosseyn manages to outwit the agents of the Galactic `gang' and return to Earth. He then discovers that he has an extra `brain', as yet undeveloped and whose powers - it is deduced - will be activated when he is killed and the third clone is automatically awakened.

Gosseyn decides to end his life in order that the third body can be awakened, but is stopped just in time when it is discovered that Gosseyn III has been discovered and destroyed. However, renegade parties within the Galactic invaders decide to help Gosseyn train his undeveloped brain - which gives him powers of teleportation.

Once more Gosseyn escapes his captors and manages to warn the Venusians who - being sane and logical Null-A adepts - manage to easily repulse the invasion fleet.

In most of Van Vogt's work there is a logical, rational hero, and this is no exception. Gosseyn is the embodiment of Van Vogt's obsession with quack mental-development programmes. General Semantics may have been a beneficial training regime, but later the author's involvement with Dianetics and L Ron Hubbard's `Scientology' religion did damage to his writing and indeed his reputation.

The ending is a little rushed, but the explanation for Gosseyn's existence is cleverly thought out. The central premise however, of the nature of identity and the question of whether Gosseyns I and II were in fact the same people is the thing which raises this novel above the level of pure Technicolor Space Opera. It addresses the fundamental question of whether we are merely the sum of our memories.

Philip K Dick, who has been recorded as claiming van Vogt as one of his influences, was to take this concept and explore it in multifarious ways.

Above all, Van Vogt was not only writing a fast-paced action adventure, full of colour, weird science, mile-long spaceships and giant thinking machines. He was postulating a rational future, where we were gradually weaning the race away from irrational beliefs and acts of violence.

Interstingly, around the same time, Asimov was doing essentially the same thing with Hari Seldon in his Foundation Trilogy, whose tenet `Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent' could apply just as easily to Gilbert Gosseyn.


Elric: The Stealer of Souls (Eternal Champion)
Elric: The Stealer of Souls (Eternal Champion)
by Michael Moorcock
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Manna For The Goths (and indeed, everyone else), 14 Aug. 2006
Is this Fantasy? Is it Science Fantasy? Is it SF? Is it any good?

Well, it isn't SF, but it is stonkingly good. There was a time (on another Earth maybe) when the shelves of the SF section of WH Smith were full of brightly coloured Mayflower paperbacks with MOORCOCK emblazoned in large (mostly yellow) letters near the top of the cover under the reasonably subtle legend `Mayflower Science Fantasy'. I can't recall another genre author, apart from Asimov, who could be trusted to sell books on the strength of his surname alone.

Moorcock created the Multiverse, an infinity of worlds and ages between which there was occasional traffic. In each world was born again and again the same soul, the Champion Eternal (and his occasional companion) who could just as easily exist in a SF setting, or a surreal experimental work, or one of pure fantasy. One could argue that the Multiverse was a metaphor for the genre itself, where the same stereotype of a hero is often rewritten in different ages and settings.

Elric is an incarnation of the Champion Eternal, and was arguably one of the first real genre antiheroes, striking the same chord in the breasts of misunderstood teenagers that The Smiths were to strike twenty years later.

A weak albino Prince and sorcerer, he is reliant on the powers of a semi-sentient black sword with whom he exists in an uneasy symbiotic relationship. In return for endowing Elric with strength and vigour, the `hell-forged sword', Stormbringer: The Stealer of Souls, feeds on the souls of his victims, sometimes without even consulting Elric as to whether he wants these people killed.

Elric, of course, is both hooked by the power and the glory and self-chastised with his own guilt, and so begins a series of quite extraordinary books.

Being a creation of the Nineteen Sixties, Elric could quite easily be seen as a tragic addict with Stormbringer as a metaphor for either drugs, alcohol or numerous other dependencies.

This book consists of five stories from 1961-2.

`The Dreaming City',

`While the Gods Laugh',

`The Stealer of Souls',

`Kings in Darkness',

`The Flame Bringers.'

These early Elric stories seem in parts to be over-influenced by Robert E Howard and the portraits of dead and decaying civilisations as painted by the likes of Clark Ashton Smith. There is a depth to these stories however, and an attempt at characterisation which raises them way above the level of most fantasy of the time.

The tone is unremittingly tragic, from the first story where Elric, attempting to rescue his lover, the Princess Cymoril from her brother Yyrkoon, succeeds not only in killing her, but in bringing about the fall of his empire, which had stood for ten thousand years.

And so, Elric sets off on various adventures (some better than others) with his eternal sidekick, Moonglum (who also is reincarnated in various guises throughout Time and Space) such as a doomed search for the Dead God's Book, guarded by an immortal watchman so that mortals may not know its secrets, only to discover that the book has long since crumbled to dust.

Was Elric the original Morrisey? You decide!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 17, 2008 9:49 PM GMT


Paradox: Book One of the Nulapieron Sequence
Paradox: Book One of the Nulapieron Sequence
by John Meaney
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, complex and detailed, 14 Aug. 2006
Meaney's marvellous and intricate tale of the rise and fall of Tom Corcorigan begins somewhat blandly, but soon shifts into high gear and rampages along to the brilliant finale.

The fourteen year old Tom is the son of a market trader on (or rather in, for this is set in a subterranean world of class-based levels somewhat like Wingrove's Chung Kuo) the planet Nulapeiron. One day he meets a strange woman who gives him a gift, only later discovering that she is a forbidden Pilot when he witnesses her public execution by the local police.

There's an odd Dickensian aspect to this novel. It's almost a futuristic David Copperfield. Tom loses his parents (his father dies after his mother is seduced away by an Oracle, one of the rulers of the world, who can see into the future) and not being old enough to be eligible for housing is sent off to a school.

There he is bullied by both teachers and pupils and one day is falsely accused of stealing, has one of his arms removed at the order of the local aristocracy and is indented into the Lord's household.

This is the turning point in Tom's life. He begins to exercise and to learn martial arts from Maestro DaSilva, and here is conceived a plan to murder the oracle who took away his mother and ruined his life.

Tom - who has devoted as much time to the development of his mind as well as his body (partly being taught by Modules stored within the Pilot's crystal) is awarded a rare accolade and elevated to the aristocracy as Lord Corcorigan.

Only then does he achieve his aim and finally (in a complex and convoluted plan) kill the Oracle.

This however, awakens hope in an underground revolutionary movement, and Tom becomes the figurehead and chief-architect for a plan to bring down the establishment.

There are echoes of Gene Wolfe and Jack Vance here with the weird but oddly credible mixture of feudal society and advanced technology.

Meaney however is a very individual and stylish writer and is no doubt another important British SF writer of the 21st Century.


The War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds
by H.G. Wells
Edition: Paperback

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Absolute Classic - Timeless and still relevant, 17 May 2006
This review is from: The War of the Worlds (Paperback)
The problem with the current public perception of this novel is that it suffers from a certain level of subsequent re-imagining in various forms, from Orson Welles' 1938 historic real-time broadcast through to the 1953 film; Jeff Wayne's truncated but brilliant concept album version and - in the Nineties - an execrable American TV series which is best forgotten, as is the dire Spielberg film in relation to the far superior novel.

Re-reading this afresh is a liberating experience and an affirming one since Wells' original version is as chilling and compulsive a read as I remember it, and dispels some of the subsequent myths which have arisen more from the original American film version than from the book. The Martians, for instance, do not have three eyes or travel in threes. Apart from the fact that their fighting machines are tripods there is no other mention of 'threes'.

One legacy of other versions is that it is now difficult to read without imagining Richard Burton's voice narrating in one's head, which is not on the whole, a bad thing.

Wells' problem in limiting his book to first person narrative is that he is faced with having to describe both the Martian arrival and initial attacks in Woking, and then their subsequent rout of London, which he does by giving a retrospective account of his brother's escape from the Capital. It's a clumsy device which telegraphs the fact that he is eventually reunited with his brother and that the Martians are defeated, but this is a minor criticism of what is the definitive novel of Earth invasion which features most importantly Wells' sharply observed characters and the range of reactions of humanity to such an event.

As in 'The Time Machine' we are shown that despite the trappings of civilisation we are still capable of regressing to animal behaviour albeit peppered with occasional acts of selfless heroism.

Cleverly, the scenes which are truly horrific are those in which humanity turns on itself, such as when the narrator's brother - shepherding two women out of London - encounters a stampeding mob being driven by the Martians. Symbolically, one man, attempting to protect his gold, fights off an offer of help and - after having his back broken - falls under the wheels of a carriage.

The narrator's conversation with the Artilleryman is telling, for although he is shown to be a braggart and has no real inclination to put his grandiose schemes of Resistance into operation, his opinion of the future of humans living willingly under Martian control has the chilling ring of truth.

The Curate is a curious figure, a broken rambling coward, his faith driven to breaking point by the very existence of the Martians. It is interesting to note that in the US, some fifty years after the book was written, the film version portrays The Curate as a heroic figure who faces the Martians openly and defies them. Whether this is an attack on organised religion is unclear, Wells himself, at the denouement - in which the Martians are destroyed by the Earth's bacteria - describes them as 'the smallest of God's creatures' which some might interpret as a kind of Divine plan.

Putting the book in a historical context, we have to look at Britain of the time, still essentially an Empire with Victoria as Empress/Governess of many foreign countries which were being ruled under unwanted occupation. Wells is simply here putting the British people in the position of the citizens of many of those occupied territories. He is clear to point out, in the section of the novel in which the narrator describes the physiology of the Martians, that we are upon the same evolutionary path. In literary terms Wells' Martians are early cyborgs, using their mechanisms as extensions of their bodies, without which they are helpless. Their development has taken them to a point where they are merely a brain, some sense organs and a cluster of tentacular 'fingers'. Once, the novel suggests, they must have been much like us. It is not too much of a mental leap to imagine humanity on a dying world, watching a younger, life-bearing world with envious eyes, and to make comparisons between our Victorian Empire-building and the Martian invasion.


The Praxis: Book One Of Dread Empire's Fall
The Praxis: Book One Of Dread Empire's Fall
by Walter Jon Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed beginning to a trilogy, 5 Mar. 2006
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The Shaa have spent over ten thousand years conquering races and ruling over an empire in which life and ethics are proscribed by The Praxis, a set of rules which govern all aspects of Empire life. Immortality and artificial intelligence are banned, amongst other things, and all subjects are encouraged to be engaged in sport of some form as – one imagines – a metaphor for war.
Immortality, as the Shaa have discovered, is a curse. The minds of the immortal ‘Masters’ can accept no further information and one by one they are committing suicide.
We start our story just before the death of the last Shaa – an efficiently choreographed political event seen through the eyes of the other main protagonist, Lieutenant (and Lord) Gareth Martinez, office of the Empire Fleet.
During the attempted rescue of a ‘space yacht’ involved in a racing accident, Martinez meets the other main character, Lady Caroline Sula and they become acquainted.
Williams has made an impressive and successful effort to breathe life into his main characters. Certainly, the character of Sula is an interesting and complex one, while Gareth’s (an officer who is constantly judged by his broad provincial accent) is rather more straightforward.
The question Williams eventually poses is ‘What will happen now?’. The Naxids – six legged reptilians – were the first client race to be conquered and enslaved by the Shaa and so now see themselves as heirs to the Imperial position.
What is missing from this novel are those small elements of detail – Bob Shaw’s ‘wee thinky bits’; the minutiae of verisimilitude – and social development. Gadgets, technology, the things that make you go ‘Ooh!’. Once more we are presented with Twentieth Century attitudes and systems transplanted ten thousand years in the future.
One has to ask – since it is one of the things in the book that stands out as being truly ludicrous – whether Football would really remain unchanged after ten thousand years?
Martinez, you see, is posted to ‘the Corona’, a ship under the Captaincy of Tarafah, a man so obsessed with Football that he commandeers talented players into his crew in order to possess a class team capable of winning what trophies exist at the time. The ship is even painted lawn green with a midfield stripe and a repeated motif of a bouncing football. I imagine Williamson must be a fan. There seems no other reason for such anachronistic silliness. There’s even a joke about the offside rule. I sincerely hope that football is not going to be a re-occurring theme in this series, which is already marred by such muddy extrapolation.
I’m impressed by the Naxids – who communicate in such a sophisticated enough fashion by flashing patterns of scales at each other, why the hell would they need to evolve speech?
Grudgingly, despite the football nonsense and the talking lizards I have to admit that it’s a page-turner and that I’m looking forward to the next instalments.
On a final note I was pleased to see that along with ships’ names such as ‘The Bombardment of Delhi’ there is also one called ‘The Judge Jeffreys’


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