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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Two Mini Reviews: "The Devil's Nebula" by Eric Brown and "2312" by Kim Stanley Robinson (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)


"Best-selling author Eric Brown has created a brand new shared world for Abaddon Books: Weird Space. This thrilling space-opera series will begin with the release of The Devil's Nebula. Brown will introduce readers to the human smugglers, veterans and ne’erdowells who are part of the Expansion – and their uneasy neighbours, the Vetch Empire. When an evil race threatens not only the Expansion, but the Vetch too - an evil from another dimension which infests humans and Vetch alike and bends individuals to do their hideous bidding, only cooperation between them means the difference between a chance of survival and no chance at all"

The Devil's Nebula turned out to be quite a disappointing book after a great start. It soon becomes corny and predictable with a story I have seen a million times in sf and a writing style that alternates between readable and very pulpy and corny; very cliche characters and action and while sometimes such is fun if the writing style is modern and cool and the action smart, here neither of those hold.

And now a few details:
 
1:  Interesting start - a crew of 3 misfits who thumb their nose at authority are on an artifact retrieval mission on an abandoned planet in enemy space where they get into unexpected trouble and find out some interesting stuff, but when they think they got away clear and with the booty, they are captured by the human authorities and the circus - show trial, death sentence, but of course a reprieve if they accept a dangerous mission etc etc etc -  and super corny dialogue starts.
 
2: Interlude on a planet far away; primitive humans worship alien god(s) who of course are evil and drug them into continual happiness until they go voluntarily to get eaten (hey David Gerrold did this in a much cooler way in his Chtorr series decades ago, but ok, maybe something will come out) but special girl knows to avoid the drugged alien food and has "outlaw" friends who teach her the ropes (oops here already we start veering into corniness..).

And guess what the dangerous mission above is? Well, you guessed it, make contact with said primitive humans who somehow sent a mayday distress signal to human space.

And I could continue but it's really not worth the time and energy; much better sf, space opera adventure, dangerous missions, misfit crews, etc  out there.

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"The year is 2312. Scientific and technological advances have opened gateways to an extraordinary future. Earth is no longer humanity's only home; new habitats have been created throughout the solar system on moons, planets, and in between. But in this year, 2312, a sequence of events will force humanity to confront its past, its present, and its future.

The first event takes place on Mercury, on the city of Terminator, itself a miracle of engineering on an unprecedented scale. It is an unexpected death, but one that might have been foreseen. For Swan Er Hong, it is an event that will change her life. Swan was once a woman who designed worlds. Now she will be led into a plot to destroy them."

There are a lot of detailed and raving reviews out there about 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson and I can appreciate them intellectually, but for me the "writing magic" that makes a book more than a collection of words without special meaning beyond the dictionary one, mostly lacks here. 

I wouldn't call the novel disappointing as I did not expect that much from it considering my past experience with the author's style, but I wish the author would write better prose as the book is full of interesting ideas. That however is not enough as the novel is utterly lifeless and it reads like a play on an empty stage where characters rush along and try to engage the spectators in an imagination game: see, now I am traveling to Earth, now I am on Mercury, now we are in a spaceship, while a constant flow of information rolls in the background. In other words 2312 reminded me strongly of the TV play adaptions where characters talk and talk and describe action happening to them, though we actually have to imagine it, rather then see it. That's fine if the actors are great, but here as mentioned we have just a string of words.

So overall, 2312 has no "external reality" and the main characters read like paper constructs than actual living human beings and the book is most likely the last I will ever attempt from the author as if one of the most interesting subjects possible for me (solar system space opera) and the book reads lifeless, there is no point in wasting time again.

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