Synopsis: A steampunk-in-space/hard-SF mining-on-Mars crossover
Book Review: I picked this up because it was an awesome concept. Olde Timey wooden ships, sailing between the planets? Sign me up! I wish it had been executed by someone who could write. The book reads like an outline that was never fleshed out. Copious amounts of telling with very little showing. The characters are indistinguishable, and it’s impossible to empathize with any of them because one gets the distinct impression the author never considered them as beings to empathize with, only cardboard cut-outs to move through the plot. As a result everything is shallow and boring.
Someone with a flair for writing could have carried us away with style. This is, after all, steampunk in space! What’s not to love? But the descriptions are bland and brief, we never once get a feel for anywhere, anything, or anyone. The steampunk sections never get into the wonder of awesome quirky machines or weird Edwardian/Victorian societies. They feel for all the world like someone saw some people doing steampunk cosplay and thought “Well that looks nifty, let’s do some of that!” without having ever read any steampunk or having any inkling of what that sort of society looked like. The people feel like caricatures, in the bad way, which is quite a feat for a genre which is known and beloved for its delightful absurdities.
Likewise, all the action set in the near-future Hard-SF Mars setting is equally flat. The people there don’t interact like real people either. It feels more like someone who’s never met an adult before tried to picture what adults trying to solve problems in a professional setting would do, and had to rely on bad pulp fiction as his only resource. Has the author ever met a real adult human in the wild? It really doesn’t feel like it.
Needless to say – Not Recommended.
Book Club Review: Sometimes bad novels are fun, much like certain B-Movies are fun. We all have our favorite bad movie that we like because it’s so spectacularly bad in such an amazing way. Some movies are famous for it. I still haven’t seen The Room, but I certainly plan to!
This book is not like that. It’s not “so bad it’s good”, it’s just plain old regular boring bad. After getting the complaining out of the way, we spent most of the time talking about this year’s Hugo’s controversy, how SF has changed over the past half century, and various other sundry topics. Not Recommended.