Saturday, November 24, 2012

Books of the Week: 11/24/2012

That's right, mortals! I have returned! And I bring with me many wondrous things. By which, I mean, reviews of terrible and not-so-terrible books! Please, please, curb your enthusiasm! One of today's books is good, one is bad. Which is good and which is bad? You'll see. *Duh duh duhn*

Frederik Pohl

Well. This begins with a man named Robinette arguing with a robot psychologist. Interesting. Very interesting. I like it! Robinette has some serious problems. Coming from me, that's saying something. All of the characters have problems, in fact. But at the same time, they aren't defined only by their flaws. These are real people. 

I really like the writing in Gateway. First-person tends to be either awesome or terrible. Pohl makes it awesome. The way Pohl handles Robinette knowing the entire outcome of the plot is especially brilliant. 

As for the plot? I can't talk about it much without spoiling everything. But suffice to say, my mind mind was blown. Pohl's plot walks the fine line between despair and hope, euphoria and depression. 

Much of this is because of the setting. The future Robinette lives in is filled with contradictions. Strip-mining has returned in force. But the miners are not searching for gold or precious gems. They're looking for technology. Yes, you read that correctly. Humanity has jumped into a sort of space gold-rush, men and women boarding tiny vessels made by extinct aliens--hoping their destination is a trove of xenotech, not a planet filled with sentient lava. 

Those tiny spaceships? You're maybe thinking they're the size of our space station. You're wrong. These ships aren't much bigger than a school bus on the OUTSIDE. Inside, you have four people, their gear, their food, and a ton of alien mechanisms you don't dare touch because they might make you blow up. Pohl brilliantly captures the claustrophobia and madness that begins when you put people in a confined space for months.

It might sound like I'm gushing. Well, I am. Gateway is incredible. Plot, characters, setting, writing, everything is incredible. You should read it. 

Krunk's Kornor: Krunk am applaud Robinette's mother for defying traditional naming conventions. VIVA LA PROLETARIAT! DOWN WITH GENDER-CONSTRICTIVE ROLES! Krunk am have been studying Marx and other theorists. It am quite interesting.

The Approaching Storm
Alan Dean Foster

Here is an approximate rendition of what I said during the first chapter. "What? I'm confused. Who said what now? What's going on? Who said that? What is that? What's the Confederation of Allied Trading Resources Coalition of the Outer Inner Rim? (Okay, I made that name up, but there was something similar.) Why can't these characters be more distinct? Why can't I tell these people apart? Why does this writing suck? Why am I still reading this? I could be playing Dishonored."

And then I put the book down. I made it less than a chapter. Maybe The Approaching Storm gets better. But I have more important things to do than slog through mediocre-to-poor writing just to find some gems. (Say, proofing a novel filled with mediocre-to-poor writing and a few gems.) 

Foster can't keep the characters straight. Right out of the gate, he confused me with four vaguely-described characters. These characters proceed to have a confusing discussion filled with plotting, all while interchanging how their dialogue is marked. From one speech to another, I couldn't tell who was talking. 

The writing is lackluster. Not terrible. Not great. Just...lackluster. 

Bleh. Maybe this gets better. But given that the first chapter was filled with bland writing, bland descriptions, an orgy of confusion and obscure alien races--not an actual orgy, sadly, because that would be interesting--and general blandness, I highly doubt it. Maybe someone with more time on their hands disagrees. If you're one of those people, say so in the comments. 

Anyway. Plot? I dunno... Characters, writing, dialogue, setting...lackluster at best.

Krunk's Kornor: This book am stupid and confusing. And this coming from barbarian who am reading passages like "The word 'proposition' is to be understood more in a grammatical than in a logical sense: the following are not argumentations but enunciations, 'touches,' approaches that consent to remain metaphorical."