threemonkeys: (Waxlion)
My internet connection is still a bit troublesome. It can take several retries before a successful connection and even when the connection is established, things seem slow - as if there are a lot of fail+resends going on.

I got a similar interrupted sensation out of reading Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross. The first 100 pages or so went very well, but after that reading went into a stop-start mode. I just found this book too easy to put down and not that easy to pick up again. It wasn't actively or obviously bad, just lacking in sufficient engagement for me. Now this book has god a lot of very good reviews, so it does make me wonder where the point of difference is between me and those reviewers. I think the answer lies in characterisation. This book is very strong in the areas of universe building and plot. These are well done with the universe being notably quite distinct. On the other hand, I cannot escape the feeling that the characters are just there to serve the plot and not as aspects of development in their own right. I can perhaps add that there does seem to be some attempt to develop the characters, but it is pretty superficial and light weight compared to the other aspects.

Two observations come from the above piece of thought. The first is that this is almost exactly the same observation I had regarding Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds last week so perhaps this is a characteristic of modern space opera. The second is that this wouldn't have bothered me when I was younger. The sense of wonder from the space setting would carry me through. So where is the problem? Are authors not doing the "wonder" as well or am I just getting more critical in my curmudgeonly old age?

The answer is probably a bit of both but mostly I suspect with me. For evidence, it is worth comparing my reaction to this Stross novel compared to the Reynolds one. While they had many similarities including the same fundamental (to me) character problem, I found the Reynolds book much more engaging to read. This was because the basic story premise was distinctively not earthbound. There is no way the story could be translated to a more prosaic setting. The Stross book on the other hand could have been rewritten easily on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. That bonus for the exotic setting was very real to my engagement. So the sense of wonder is alive and well for some authors - but only a few I fear. On the other hand even with the exotic setting I was still pretty critical of the Reynolds book. I want more these days than just space ships and BDOs - I want the whole literary package. I don't think I'm being unreasonable - do you?


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June 2015

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