Customer Review

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great world-building, but no story to back it up., 28 Sep 2011
This review is from: Counting Heads (Paperback)
This novel crafts such a fascinating future that it was immensely disappointing how bad the story was.

To his credit, Marusek has crafted one of the most interesting- and the most believable- future worlds to date. It is described in intricate detail, and definitely feels like a plausible future. It would have made such a good setting for a story as well. Unfortunately he simply fails to deliver there.

The start of the book is, to my understanding, an almost verbatim copy of a novella written a few years previously. It explains the backstory for the rest of the novel, and is probably the best part of it. Unfortunately, after it finishes, the plot derails completely.

There are two serious flaws in the storyline for the remaining two thirds of the book. The first is that there are simply too many subplots, minor characters, and so forth- that don't contribute to the story in any way. Most of them could have been removed entirely without impacting the plotline at all. Half the time the reader is left wondering "how does this guy fit in to the rest of it", but this is never answered. Most of these subplots also just peter out and are left unresolved.

The other problem is that the "main" story arc set up in the first part of the book (and for that matter, the one described in the blurb) is actually a *minor* subplot later on. In particular, the opening chapter explains how Samson Harger, the ostensible protagonist, got involved with Elanour Starke (whose semi-deceased daughter is supposed to the subject of the novel), and focuses entirely on him. The novel then fast-forwards a few decades, and Samson is barely mentioned again.

The other characters are also largely unsatisfying. Of the entire ensemble, only one of them is really worth mentioning: Fred is a "Russ" (a line of clones used for policing and security work) who is struggling with his identity and role in society. He's the only character who has any real personality and doesn't just serve as a vehicle to take us around the scene. He's also the closest thing we get to a protagonist, in that his story is one of the main ones in the book and he features in the ending.

One other gripe I have is that the blurb doesn't describe the book by any means. If one reads the blurb, it gives the impression that the story is about the search for Ellen Starke's frozen head. That plotline is there, but it's just one of many. The plot overall meanders around, and the missing head doesn't really feature that much until the end. The ending has been described by others as something of a "B movie chase scene", which fits it quite well.

So yeah, a major disappointment and a wasted setting. There's probably enough material in here for 10 short stories (and it would probably have worked quite well as 10 short stories), but Marusek doesn't manage to turn any of them into a novel. He seems interested mainly in showing off the fantastic world he's created, but doesn't manage to write a story to tie it together.
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