2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A bit of a let-down...,
By A Customer
This review is from: Cavalcade (Hardcover)
It is always tough for a writer to keep writing brilliant novels, and Alison Sinclair's previous two, 'Legacies' and 'Blueheart' were both superb books: well-constructed, with believable characters and convincing denouement.
However, 'Cavalcade' is a bit of a let-down. I am actually surprised it was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award; perhaps this was an attempt to make up for her other two books being so unfairly ignored.
It might be because I had just read Ian Macdonald's 'Chaga' and 'Kirinya', which deal with alien contact, and particularly the political, cultural and scientific conflicts within the spectrum of human responses, in a more convincing manner. It might be because it seems such a tired subject (humans wait for alien spaceship to carry them away...). However, the real reason I think is that, while Sinclair is adept at portraying non-human and future human emotions and politics, she seems less certain on more contemporary ground. The characters in this book do not resonate, and do not seem real. Sinclair is also unable to convey the vast numbers and range of humans on board the alien ship. Her political insight does not convince (the 'anarchist' grouping was especially sterotypical and poorly drawn).
And where are the nutters, the cultists and the conspiracy theorists, who would be the first ones to be attracted to an alien ship? All those taken aboard are so rational, so boring and so reasonable, even the criminals and the soldiers! This is a fault she shares with Kim Stanley Robinson (Mars Trilogy) incidentally, though he has a better reason for all his characters being intelligent, as they has been specifically chosen for this resaon. Unfortunately the characters in Cavalcade seem at times like a debating society transported into space. I know the novel creates a deliberately artificial setting in which to explore certain emotions and political dilemmas, it is just that this technique has to be performed with immense care and precision to make it work. Any lapses and it can seem false and pretentious. Maureen F. McHugh ('China Mountain Zhang') does it brilliantly, and so did Sinclair in her previous novels - this one however, has two many faults to make the performance convincing, which is a great shame.