Top positive review
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Some missed opportunities, but it did keep me reading
on 14 December 2014
Exodus is set in a near-future earth in which today’s threat of global terrorism has pushed America into virtual dictatorship. Although still nominally democratic, personal freedom has been almost entirely sacrificed to military and economic interests. But this is simply the stage for the book’s real plot – securing an escape route to another solar system for a small group to avoid the consequences of a late-detected asteroid strike. Like so many stories these days, Exodus is part of a trilogy, and the story is left on the verge of the next stage.
The plot is quite diverse, dealing with political machinations in the US as well as the selection process for the passengers, a glimpse of the scientific advances needed for the journey, and a little about the shipboard life on the way. A striking feature of Andreas’ writing is that she is not afraid to skip over spans of time where nothing much happens, in order to focus on the next key event. So for example very little is said of the actual journey through space.
The characters are almost exclusively American, but of quite a limited range – Hispanic names are there, but I don’t recall any native American, Indian or far-east Asian names. Perhaps this was supposed to mirror the generally paranoid thinking of the society, but it felt rather unreal to me. As regards the rest of the world, Europe is largely there to provide scientific know-how for the project and then wave the ship goodbye, and no other countries get a look-in at all. One scientific goal of the journey was to secure genetic diversity on the new world, and I suspect that in this regard, one would have to class the mission a failure. But again, perhaps this is really saying that political agenda always trumps scientific ideals.
I felt there were some odd omissions. Interpersonal relationships are almost entirely platonic – in a bunch of about 1600 people who think they are the last representatives of humanity, about the closest we get to romance is one man musing to himself that one of the women “didn’t look too bad”. More seriously, having had a careful explanation before launch of the compelling need for exponential population growth from the start, nothing is then done about this. I feel sure that, especially in a centrally dominated society but for sound survival reasons as well, some fraction of the women would have been pregnant before landing. But so far as the plot of the book is concerned, only politics, seen as the pursuit of authority and dominance, is important.
Technically the Kindle version has been reasonably well produced. There were a number of typos, only a few of which interrupted reading. The prose style is very plain, and coming from a historical fiction background I prefer something richer. The main obstacle was the paragraph length which through most of the book was huge, often spanning multiple Kindle page turns. I would strongly recommend that another edit trims this down into digestible chunks which fit better with an ereader page.
I thought a lot about a final rating and felt in the end that the interest value of the plot just about pushed this from three to four stars. I was never at serious risk of giving up and I did want to see the travellers through to their destination. But I would have liked Exodus much more if the issues mentioned had been tackled, and I did feel that parts of the story didn’t quite hang together as they should.