Last week I read Stephen Baxter’s Anti-ice… and at times I felt like it was Professor Challenger redone (if you’ve read my previous posts on the subject of those books you are probably aware that, as far as I am concerned, that is most definitely not a good thing). Yes, the science was a little better, and –annoying as they were at times– the characters themselves were more or less consistent with what we find in the literature of the period. That was not the problem. That boiled down to the fact that there were a number of elements I just found to be unnecessary, grating and poorly handled, like the leading character’s infatuation with a mysterious woman. Over all the book felt like a concept in search of a plot. That is, at times it seemed to me like the author had had an interesting idea –what would have happened if, in the XIX century the British had come into possession of a powerful technology that would have enabled them to make a technological leap of close to a century?– but then he either didn’t know just what he was supposed to do with it, or he decided to try to force it into a pattern that didn’t quite fit.
I had been warned that this was one of Stephen Baxter’s weakest works (unfortunately I got that warning when I was reading the first chapter, and seeing how I don’t like to abandon a book once I’ve started it, I soldiered on), though in a way the fact that I wasn’t expecting much may have served to lessen the disappointment.
In short, if you are a die-hard Baxter fan, this one may be worth it (and chances are that you have already read it, so this post is likely to be redundant). If you are not, you may want to steer clear of it. No, it’s not dreadful, and it certainly doesn’t plummet to the level of The Land of Mist, but that is not much comfort.
I just finished Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships (1995). This semi-official sequel to H.G. Wells The Time Machine (it was authorized by Wells’s estate) makes for an interesting read, but unfortunately it also feels something like a doughnut. It begins well enough, but even though I liked the seventh –and final– book as well as the epilogue, books five and six felt somewhat tedious, out of place and out of character. And before we go any further, a fair warning: while I usually try to avoid spoilers in these reviews, in this particular instance it won’t be entirely possible for me to do that. No, I won’t be giving away the ending of the book, but I am going to be commenting on some of the specifics regarding both the characters and the events it depicts.
Now, as a sequel to a book that was written a hundred years prior, the author had the not insignificant challenge of trying to merge two styles and two moral codes into his work: Wells’s and his own. This is something that, at least for the first four books, he mostly manages to accomplish. The one place where I feel he gets into trouble is when it comes to the Morlocks. Continue reading Holy Morlocks!
Okay, so in these past few days I have been spending too much time reading and too little time blogging about it. In fact since my last post I finished The Long Earth (a Pratchett/Baxter collaboration) and The Homeward Bounders (by Diana Wynne Jones). Both books are worth reading and, against all odds, they make for an interesting combination since, in spite of their rather obvious differences, they do share a number of common elements, starting with the fact that both deal with the subject of parallel worlds. Sure, one deals mostly with what the sudden availability of a countless number of Earths would mean for human society as a whole while the other is a fantasy novel that deals with the adventures of a group of kids who become pawns in a sort of cosmic game that spans a multitude of worlds, but at least there is a common element that can serve as a connecting point, while painting two completely different pictures.
The problem is that while these two books do make a good ‘double feature’ analyzing them together isn’t easy. Continue reading A Stroll Across the Multiverse