March 30, 2005
Three more books

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

Ever since I read American Gods, I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman. Michele bought and read this book before I did and said it was great. She liked it so much that she tracked down the DVDs of the BBC production of the book and watched that as well.

Needless to say, it moved to the top of my reading stack.

The story takes place in a Gaimanesque world where the world is oblivious to the magic world that surrounds and permeates it. After living a normal life, our protagonist, Richard Mayhew finds himself slid out of his reality and into the Underground.

His adventures take place in the world that exists in the under London. Below is a fantastic place of history, magic, and the supernatural where the base currency is one of ‘favors’. Each chapter gives glimpses of the world and then pushes you forward leaving you craving more about what is hinted at. Enjoyably, each new chapter brings more interesting things to ponder.

Like American Gods, the only problem with the book is that it ends. As you finish the book, you want more, much more about the world that Gaiman describes. The story touches on other places and people that you want to know more about.

Supposedly the upcoming book, Anansi Boys, is similar in delving into Gaiman’s vision of the supernatural. I look forward to it with baited breath.

The Merchants of Souls - John Barnes

This is that latest book in the Thousand Cultures/Giraut series that Barnes has created. In this series, humanity is mending itself back together after splitting to hundreds of planets with thousands of cultures. The idea being that planets were colonized based on specific cultures to allow harmony as they developed. Imagine cultures devoted to such varied ideals as Tamil Poetry, Occitan Chivalry, Calvinism, a pure military society, and even a pure hedonistic society. The invention of the ‘springer’ and instantaneous transportation device that can span the light years arrives to weave the culture back together in some fashion. Chaos ensues.

This book takes place mainly on Earth and involves the challenge of the OSP (the good guys) to face down the billions of Earth people living in virtual reality their whole lives. The bad guys want to use stored copies of people’s consciousness as virtual playthings fort their virtual lives. The OSP must stop this.

Barnes touches on several interesting ideas in a future world when machines do the work and all that is left for people to do is think and create. He touched on these ideas in the other novels, but examines then a little more deeply in this book.

Still, it’s science fiction and the story involves murder and misdirection in a hard sci-fi world. Barnes is good in this aspect, with consistency and refusing to solve the issues with miraculous invention in the nick of time. His inventions and culture are fully realized and you can understand the motivations of those involved event though it takes place in the imaginary future.

I enjoyed the book, but it’s for people that have read the first two books, A Million Open Doors and Earth Made of Glass. I’m sure you can find the first book for sale used for only a few dollars.

Idlewild – Nick Sagan

Last week when I was heading out to Utah, I asked Michele for a book to read and she handed me Idlewild. She said was good but not great. After finishing it I have to agree.

The story is a mashup of the Matrix, Stephen King’s The Stand, and a whodunit. Our protagonist wakes up with amnesia and we learn along with him about his world. A good literary technique, but the author won’t get away with using it again.

Central to the book is the concept of IVR, a form of Matrix-like virtual reality where much of the story takes place. Perhaps the Matrix has ruined the concept of virtual reality for sci-fi writers in the near term, since a lot of the ideas felt lifted, but probably weren’t.

I enjoyed the book and Sagan puts in enough red herrings and false leads that I was unable to deduce what was really going on until I read it. Most things follow but in the last couple chapters, things seem rushed with travel over distance happening way too fast and the death of a character happening in an almost unexplained way. I’d bet there are a couple more chapters that the author cut that would have made the story a little smoother at the end.

The book is good enough that I am looking forward to the follow-up, Edenborn.

Posted by michael at March 30, 2005 09:01 PM