The Long Earth

Lana put me onto this book while on a trip to Texas, and I have to say I like it. This is very unlike the other Terry Pratchett books I’ve read, in that whilst it is occasionally amusing, it isn’t really an attempt at humor. It is instead a relatively methodical examination of the impact of discovering a series of inhabitable earths a trivial amount of distance away from our own. I also have to say I like the ending, not in the sense of liking what happens, but in the sense that it wasn’t a twee or overly convenient way to stop the book. A good read.

The Long Earth Book Cover The Long Earth
Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter,
June 25, 2013

The possibilities are endless. (Just be careful what you wish for. . . .) 1916: The Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong and the wind in the leaves. Where have the mud, blood, and blasted landscape of no-man's-land gone? For that matter, where has Percy gone? 2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Police officer Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive—some say mad, others allege dangerous—scientist who seems to have vanished. Sifting through the wreckage, Jansson finds a curious gadget: a box containing some rudimentary wiring, a three-way switch, and . . . a potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way humankind views the world forever. The first novel in an exciting new collaboration between Discworld® creator Terry Pratchett and the acclaimed SF writer Stephen Baxter, The Long Earth transports readers to an infinity of new worlds. All it takes is a single step. . . .

There Is No Darkness

This book is very different from the other Joe Haldeman stuff I have read. The other stuff has been serious, thoughtful, and well written. This is attempting to be more of a parody book, much like what you’d get from Harry Harrison. Perhaps that’s the influence of the co-author, Joe’s brother.

I must say however that the end was unexpected and interesting. The last 50 pages was the best bit of this book by far.

[isbn: 0441805647]

Asimov’s Mirage

If I was to name one flaw with the Robot City and Robots and Aliens series, it would have to be that they’re not very good. They’re lackluster, have difficult to believe plots, very simple structure, and are overall poorly thought through. Its a similar sensation to that I feel when I read the tie-in books written after Harrison’s Bill the Galactic Hero series. I feel a little sorry for the writers in later books in these series, because I suspect their hands were tied by the poor decisions of previous authors (similarly to the mess that Bear’s Foundation and Chaos had to dig that series out after Benford’s tragically terrible Foundation’s Fear).

Robot City and Robots and Aliens were disappointments because I read Roger MacBride Allen’s Caliban series before them, and Caliban is ok. Not awesome, but ok.

I say all of this as an introduction to Mirage. I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve been wading through Asimov robot tie-ins from other authors for a while now, and some of them are not very good. That’s why finding Mirage was such a delight. Its well written, has a similar style as Asimov’s own writing, reuses characters and plot elements from previous tie-in books sufficiently to acknowledge their existence without getting bogged down by the poor decisions of those previous series. Its an engaging read, and I’m glad I stuck through these various series long enough to find it.

My only complaint with this book is that the epilogue is confusing and doesn’t align with my understanding of the end of the story.

[isbn: 0743475232]

Logan’s Run

Its all about the distopian future novel at the moment (I just finished reading Make Room, Make Room! and Friday, both of which have a not-so-bright vision of the future). This book was turned into a movie as well, and is a lighter read than Make Room, Make Room!. The future is equally dark here though, and I think the writing technique on display in Make Room, Make Room! is better than the one used here. In places this book feels like a script outline. An example is during an escape sequence, where there is a single sentence describing how Logan escapes from a danger. There is no tension or insight — just “Logan avoided the blah”. Overall I thought this book was disappointing, with a premise that is hard to believe.

[isbn: 0553025171]

Make Room, Make Room!

I must have read this book a few years ago and forgotten, because I have no specific recollection of reading it, but the plot is familiar. This is a distopian novel about the dangers of over population, and was written at a time when the best available population models said that massive over population was going to be a problem by 1999. In the book the population of New York City is 35 million, whereas in reality its much more like 8 million at the moment. In order to support that many people the quality of life has had to radically decline, and the city spends most of its budget on welfare payments instead of maintaining its decaying infrastructure. It turns out that didn’t happen, and I think that’s partially why I didn’t enjoy this book. The underlying story is good, but the book lacks hope, and feels preachy about population control. This book’s style is quite different from the rest of Harrison’s work that I’ve read — there is hardly any humor. Its still an interesting read though and I managed to make it through to the end. I guess what I wanted from this book was a little less doom and gloom.

[isbn: 044151605X]

Robots and Empire

I find the newer Asimovs harder to read for some reason — I think it might be because they are more inclined to introspection that the earlier ones, but that might not be all of it. Overall I enjoyed this book, although I did find that I lost enthusiasm briefly in the middle. Overall, worth the effort though.

You can tell that Asimov was getting old at the time that he wrote this book, as he dwells extensively on the importance of living an interesting and worthwhile life, instead of necessarily a long life. Overall he makes the argument that this is what is wrong with Spacer society — life is so long that its inconceivable to take risks early in life that might shorten that life. Later in life its too late however, as you are by then trapped in your comfortable rut. Its an interesting concept, and one which bears further consideration.

[isbn: 0586062009;0345328949]

Robots of Dawn

This book is the third in the third in the Robot mystery series, and is once again set on a Spacer world. This one was written 30 years after the first two, and Asimov’s style has noticeably changed between the 1950s and 1980s.

The book starts off slowly, with a lecturing tone which I found quite annoying. For example, devoting an entire page to a discussion of whether the deliberate death of a a robot (even a human shaped on) is murder. Often the first part of the book feels like it is going excessively slowly.

However, its only the first third of so of the book which suffers this flaw. Its as if Asimov realized after a while that he also had a story to tell, and got on with it. The book then improves massively and has a good story.

So, overall I liked this book, although the first part of the book wasn’t as good as the rest of the Asimov I’ve read.

[isbn: 0553299492;0345315715]
[award: nominee hugo 1984]

Naked Sun

Bill Clarke was kind enough to lend me a compendium of Asimov that contained the next book in the series I’m reading at the moment. I’ve had to skip over some of the earlier collections of robot short stories, because they’re quite hard to find. Specifically, I haven’t been able to find anyone with a copy of The Complete Robot for sale, even new.

This book is the next in the Robot series, and the second which features Detective Baley. Again Baley is solving a murder, although this time its occurred on a Spacer world instead of his own Earth. Along the way he has to confront his own fear of open spaces, as well as other’s fear of proximity to other humans.

This was again another excellent book. I enjoyed it a lot.

[isbn: 0553293397]

Caves of Steel

Caves of Steel is interesting because it is a murder mystery set in the future, which at the time this book was written was a novel concept. It also presents an interesting almost-communist view of the future, where individual liberties are surrendered one by one in order to improve economic efficiency in order to support Earth’s ever growing population. Implicit in that is the assertion that capitalism is inherently inefficient, but I’ll leave that discussion alone.

This book is a really quick read. It took me a day (including actually going to work) to knock it over, which was fun. The book is a good, light read.

[isbn: 0553293400]
[award: nominee hugo 1954]