I actually had some time to read a few books outside of book club in the past couple months. So here’s a quick review of each. They aren’t the full reviews I normally do, because it just doesn’t feel the same without the book club chiming in. Plus, I don’t know if they’d turn out to be good/bad book club books (I’ve been surprised before, in both directions. Heck, see The Emperor’s Blades most recently for one such example). But here’s a few thoughts!
Europe In Autumn, by Dave Hutchinson
It’s been a really long time since I read ugly prose. So long, in fact, that I forgot what it was like. Then I picked up Europe In Autumn. Regardless of it’s other strengths of flaws, the prose in this really is just plain ugly. I don’t need everything to be Cat Valente-style gorgeous, but man, put in some effort to make the words not gross! Everything sentence is flat and just flops there. Descriptions are more often lists of things/characteristics than anything that evokes a visual or an emotion. Maybe it makes me shallow to be turned off by ugly prose, but… ugh.
Also, I couldn’t give two shits about the character or the plot. At first it was neat to see things in my native Polish, and the novelty of that carried me for a while. But by the time we get to the third boring description of a smuggling/infiltration going wrong we still have no reason to care about whether it goes wrong or not. There’s no stakes for the protagonist, it seems like he fell into this line of work because he was bored with his old job, but finds this one just as dreary. If he fails, what does he lose? What does he gain? Are there any consequences for anyone? For the world? Even if there were, do we care? The answer to all of these is “no.” Or it was for me, anyway.
I guess there’s some sort of alternate reality/hidden world thing going on once you get 3/4ths of the way through the book, but I barely made it 25% of the way through. I have no faith that it would be interesting enough to slog through this. Not Recommended.
The Causal Angel, by Hannu Rajaniemi
The final novel in the Quantum Thief trilogy, and a fantastic finish!
I’ve raved about the previous two books in the trilogy, and Causal Angel doesn’t disappoint. The books just keep getting more and more epic, with Quantum Thief being somewhat local, mostly confined to one city, Fractal Prince expanding to cover the fate of the inner system, and Causal Angel tackling the ultimate fate of humanity and the observable universe.
Things keep getting more bombastic too, with ever-larger things exploding ever more frequently, more harrowing escapes, and more personal sacrifices in every book. By the time I was in the last quarter of the book I couldn’t stop reading, and stayed up waaaaay too late.
Also, I know I mentioned this before, but Rajaniemi is our people. The books are transhuman from the very beginning, fully embracing emulated minds and their consequences from page 1, and reference many well-known shibboleths and thought-experiments in the rationalist-sphere. But it’s really hammered home in the third book, where not only does Coherent Extrapolate Volition enter the plot, but much of the conflict (and problem-solving) revolves around the technologically-mediated CEVs of disparate groups competing against or reinforcing each other to drive toward the final conflict/resolution. It’s awesome.
Of course the writing is dense and sometimes I had to go back and reread a page (or two or three) to grasp what was being put down. I don’t think that’s too big a strike against the book, sometimes it’s good to be challenged. :) And it didn’t happen often.
I fully expected to love this, based on the previous two books, and I’m really glad I wasn’t disappointed. Highly Recommended.