4.0 out of 5 stars Quite enjoyable and sometimes funny
I am really not a fan of post apocalypse novels, but Robert Charles Wilson has done a good job with this one and I found it entertaining and humorous. It starts in a very Mark Twain mode with two young men fleeing the agents of a despotic hereditary President across Canada and into battle in Quebec. The scenery is painted well and the characters were engaging. The plot...
Published on 16 Mar 2012 by Robert
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A tricky text does not a good novel make
This novel purports to be a true account of events written by one Adam Hazzard, a Church-educated literate farm hand, who witnessed the rise (and presumed fall) of one Julian Comstock. At the beginning, the reader is told that s/he will know of the events to come, which is unlikely as this is a story from the future, set in an America that has declined catastrophically...
Published on 21 Sep 2010 by A. J. Poulter
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A tricky text does not a good novel make,
This novel purports to be a true account of events written by one Adam Hazzard, a Church-educated literate farm hand, who witnessed the rise (and presumed fall) of one Julian Comstock. At the beginning, the reader is told that s/he will know of the events to come, which is unlikely as this is a story from the future, set in an America that has declined catastrophically when the oil ran out and the global economy crashed.
The power in this future America is the Church of the Dominion, a union of Christian Churches, from mainstream to the oddball: Adam Hazzard's Church of Signs for example uses snakes as a part of worship. The economy is mainly agriculture, with a few people ('aristos') owning the land, and everyone else either being leased workers (who 'loan' their labour for food and lodgings) or indentured hands, who are wage slaves. The government is 'elected' by the aristos who pledge the votes of their leased workers. Its main task is fighting a war against invading Europeans, known colloquially as the 'Dutch'. This war is a re-run of American Civil War-style fighting, except with some technological twists: sub-machine guns and long-range artillery, the latter supplied by the Chinese. The Presidency is inherited, and the current President, Deklan Conqueror, is Julian's uncle. It is suspected that Deklan had Julian's father killed, because of his successes in the war. The narrative begins with Julian, Adam and one Sam Godwin, a military veteran, who advises and protects Julian, trying to escape a draft into the Army, ordered by Deklan to get Julian to the front and a fatal encounter with a bullet. Finally, Julian is a free thinker, who reads prohibited books from the previous age of the Secular Ancients, about Darwin, and the scientific achievements of the old America, which sets up a major faultline in the story.
But the story takes second place to the artifice of this book. The writing style is mock nineteenth century, filtered through a prim Christian, who has read a limited range of popular hack-written fiction. The text itself is used knowingly for amusement, for example with funny footnotes. Hazzard enounters a journalist and later a publisher and these are stereotyped to the hilt. Other texts by Adam Hazzard play a major part in the plot and eventually he gets to write a 'bestseller' himself which has a cover depicting, inter alia, an octopus, which is not in the story but which make the book more saleable.
While there are resonances with the current political landscape in America and the story itself is fun, this book lacks the originality and sweep of imagination that previously characterised this author.
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite enjoyable and sometimes funny,
I am really not a fan of post apocalypse novels, but Robert Charles Wilson has done a good job with this one and I found it entertaining and humorous. It starts in a very Mark Twain mode with two young men fleeing the agents of a despotic hereditary President across Canada and into battle in Quebec. The scenery is painted well and the characters were engaging. The plot kept moving through battles with the Europeans over Labrador and finally to New York where the readers encounter the ruling classes of
an expanded United States. Unlike a lot of after-the-fall stories, Wilson adds humour to his tales. Some ironic and some slapstick. Such as the recreation of the life of Charles Darwin. A jolly good read.
4.0 out of 5 stars Runaway soldier movie maker,
A post apocalyptic near future work of science fiction that shows a rather different America in the late twenty second century. Where a new order has arisen after the collapse of the one that we know.
It runs for just under seven hundred pages and is divided into five parts plus an epilogue.
It's presented as being the life story, written sometime after the fact, of a man called Julian Comstock. Who lived a remarkable life. And it's written in the first person by his friend Adam, the two having known each other from childhood.
It's in a very literary, rather victorian style, complete with a fair few explanatory footnotes. Whilst that may sound like it could be a bit of slog the prose is actually very smooth and it's an easy read.
Adam tells the story of Julian - aptly described as being 'one of those boys who always got your way in the playground. A few fine words and everyone wanted to be your friend,' from his days when the two were growing up together and then what happened after they had to leave their hometown.
The future America here is quite an interesting creation. A world where a lot of what we know has become dimly remembered myth [the read can recognise certain things, even if Adam can't. Which is a nice touch] And where one particular family have held presidential power for a long time. Fanatical religious sects are also rather prevalent.
Julian is the nephew of the president, and the latter is likely to deal with any relative who threatens his power base. But Julian's primary ambition is to make a film about the life of Charles Darwin.
We follow Adam and Julian through all that happens to them on their journeys throughout this new america.
There are philosphical musings on many issues involving history and religion, but primarily it's a work of literature.
It's not quite ground breaking, but it's a good and involved read and a fine work of post apocalyptic fiction all in all.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointing,
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This review is from: Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America (Hardcover)
If I recall I bought this on the basis of a recommendation on BoingBoing (a slightly breathless recommendation, too).
Unfortunately, it left me feeling a little disappointed. Robert Charles Wilson is credited as writing SF with a literary bent (admittedly that might have been on a dustjacket quote), certainly I think that's the intention. I think, though, that there are other SF writers that are doing better literary SF than this.
To be clear, I don't think the book is terrible; I enjoyed it well enough and I wouldn't discourage anybody from reading it at all. I'm just not entirely convinced that the book is as successful as others are at producing high quality literary SF.
The book is a future history of the US, at war with Europe, post collapse of our current oil-based economy. It's (naively, unreliably?) narrated by one Adam Hazzard who is placed into a friendship with Julian Comstock, nephew of the President. It follows their adventures across America and into combat withe European Armies who are trying to increase their influence in continental America. I think that this is where I started to get a little bored with the novel; some of these sections weren't quite as compelling as they might have been - it felt a little as if the book sagged in the middle.
In terms of the world he creates, it is one that whilst superficially different from that that we see today, draws on the past, in some senses I imagined it to be steampunky, given that coal and iron come to dominate again and there where some scenes that reminded me a little of the mythical Wild West (not that they were geographically in the west). It also draws on the present, in the sense that the retreat from rationality depicted is by no means impossible to imagine (evolution is a heresy and organised religion holds a great deal of power) it's an extrapolation of what could happen if the failure of our current society were not to survive, but not retreat to barbarism. From this point of view, Wilson does critique our current society well.
The style it is written in is an interesting one; the narrator is retelling the story after the event and so is possible wiser than he was as a young man, but I didn't feel that he'd ever overcome the naivety that he had due to his inexperience at the time. This is in keeping with the society depicted; at the beginning of the novel, Hazzard is, while better schooled than his father, certainly not to be considered well-schooled by our standards.
In short an interesting, if not entirely successful, novel.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Excellent work, Mr Hazzard!",
This is an extremely well realised novel that succeeds both as a story of a dystopian future and as an exercise in in the literary style of C19th American writers.
The protagonist is one Adam Hazzard, who is recording a memoir of his friend Julian Comstock and his rise to prominence. Mr Hazzard is writing nineteen years after his friend's rise, and some two hundred and eighty years in our future.
This future is one of Robert Charles Wilson's great achievements in this book. Our world has collapsed with the end of oil and a number of related human and ecological disasters. By the time of the events of the book, civilisation has been restored to C19th century levels. The United States, with its capital in Manhattan, has grown to sixty states and is in a state of almost constant warfare in Labrador with the "Dutch" (the soldiers of Mittel Europa, dominated by Germany) for control of the North West Passage. America is divided into rejuvenated but dangerous cities and rural estates where "Aristos" rule over the leasing classes (freemen reliant of the Aristos) and the indentured - essentially slaves descended from urban refugees who gave their service for food during the End Of Cities. Social conformity is enforced by the Dominion which oversees the recognised churches and suppresses dangerous knowledge
Julian Comstock, nephew of President Deklan Comstock who had his father killed for becoming too popular, is sent to obscurity in the Mid-West. Here, he befriends the humble Adam Hazzard. Forced to flee, accompanied by Julian's tutor and protector Sam Godwin, the friends undergo a series of adventures that lead, via the battlefront, to Manhattan. Here Julian will finally have the opportunity to spread his radical, rational message.
Robert Wilson is able to use this future not simply to pastiche Victorian America, but to offer a commentary on other times and places, including our own, and offer some thoughts on the nature of belief and its relationship to science. Julian's fascination with Charles Darwin is particularly well handled to show that the Inquisition was not the only obstacle to scientific thought.
Although the focus is on C19th references, Wilson has not restricted himself to that. The Dominion clearly stands comparison to the Inquisition (although not that alone) and Julian's career resembles the Emperor Julian the Apostate, as is clear from his name.
Robert Wilson's other triumph is in his realisation of a C19th century literary style. He does this deftly and in a manner that keeps the modern reader's attention. Mark Twain is an obvious influence, but I suspect that the Memoirs of Ulysses S Grant also have a place in Mr. Wilson's inspiration. He invests Adam Hazzard with a clear eye, but an enduring political innocence (possibly not as innocent in the later stages). One of the best recurring literary jokes is Adam recording verbatim his Canadian wife's French remarks without actually understanding them.
Wilson has achieved the most difficult of feats with works of this type - he manages to maintain the style throughout. Other authors rarely achieve this; for instance, both Connie Willis in "To Say Nothing Of The Dog" and Adam Roberts in "Swiftly" have anachronistic lapses.
This book works well on all levels. Highly recommended.
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Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America by Robert Charles Wilson (Hardcover - 23 Jun 2009)