Top positive review
67 people found this helpful
on 10 September 2005
As a sci-fi fan, I'm often asked what books someone who wasn't a sci-fi fan but wanted to check it out might read. Usually these are books by Anne Macaffery, Kevin J Anderson or David Eddings, mainly because these give you a relatively low-key read. After all, you have aliens and spaceships to deal with - isn't that enough?
For myself, however, I like Alistair Reynolds, Stephen Erikson, or Iain M Banks. These authors are anything but a low-key read. I rarely find a book that can cover both bases at once. Learning The World, however, does just that.
This is a book about meeting an alien species for the first time, and how an unprepared civilisation would deal with that. Humanity has spread to other star systems and met with absoultely no alien species at all. Zip. The Fermi paradox remains intact.
So when a ship names But The Sky, My Lady! The Sky! (yes, someone's been reading their Iain M Banks books, haven't they?) reaches its destination, it discovers an alien species. Meanwhile, the aliens notice a strange object in the sky. This story follows both sides as they observe each other, speculate on each other's motives, values, morals, and, ultimately, interact, as well as how each society deals with the presence of aliens in the same system.
It doesn't really concentrate on the technical or scientific side - descriptions of the ship are deliberatly vague, and the system is simplistic (one planet of each class?). This is all deliberate, because this story isn't about the technology that allows you to travel from system to system, nor is about the planets you find once you get there. It's about two cultures which thought they were alone in the universe meeting each other for the first time.
In places it gets political, especially in the sections covering the ship, but never overly so. It remains humourous, engaging, and thoughtful, and the characters are characters you could imagine actually existing.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing interest in sci-fi.