Monday 23 March 2020

Book review: the Brightness Reef trilogy

ZOMG! So much word! So leaves of so dead trees. And all to so little purpose. Brightness Reef itself is kinda OK; Infinity's Shore is his Swann in Love, though without the depth, obvs; and Heaven's Reach... ends eventually, thank goodness.

These are all ~5-600 turgid pages long, so I've largely lost track of the details as I've read through. They are in themselves a metaphor for the vast sweeps of space and time they try and fail to cover. If you want to read other people's opinions, Goodreads is a good place to start, and I'll start you off with a link to Brightness Reef. Incidentally, if you're not at all familiar with Sundiver you might want to start with that; from my recollections, it is better, anyway.

I can give him credit for sweep of ideas. And inventiveness with aliens, though if I have to read once more about bloody Asx asking his f*ck*ng rings if they want to stroke the wax one more time, I will kick him in the doughnuts. This brings me to one of the big flaws, most evident in the second book: because the novel keeps swapping from one perspective to the next, and the author fears - accurately - that we'll get lost, often half a section is taken up with flashbacks, sometimes to flashbacks of flashbacks and repetitions of repetitions. It's like watching Danger Mouse.

In the end, the raw pointlessness of it all jars. So does the gratuitous cod-physics.

A complaint: the Evil Rothen (look away! Spoilers) actually land their spaceship on Jijo. WTF: why would anyone sane do that? Then the Even More Evil Jophur do the same, only their spaceship is even bigger. Fuckwits. Then there's some junk about chemically crystallised time, and/or quantum, and people only moving when you don't look at them. FFS, it is every bad take on QM all rolled up.

Another complaint: all this gumpf about transcendence. At least Banks had the courage to make his transcended being actually just disappear. Here, they drivel about orbiting white dwarfs then neutron stars because of some implausible drivel about the embrace of tides which he throws at you in the vain hope that you'll not notice that it makes no fucking sense at all.

Speaking of no sense at all, neither does evacuating a whole galaxy just cos it's links are going to get severed; and the shame of that is that not only does it destroy his entire plot, but it also destroys the grand sweep of space and time, if everything must be connected. Nor does foretelling "the rupture" from 500 kyr ahead fit with importing people 2 kyr ago. Nor for that matter does "psi-sensitive" stone emerging from subduction zones. Nor does the idea of devolving. None of it makes any sense.

The trick with all of these stories is always to spin out the subtle hints and sense-of-mystery for as long as possible, before being forced to reveal in the last chapter that you have no satisfactory conclusion. Alas, Brin is not one for subtlety and reveals his hand as trash far too early. Speaking of which, we never ever find out why the supposedly billion-year-old "mummy" was so convincing to so many people, when it could just as easily have been faked.

Monday 16 March 2020

Musical review: Hamilton

90252544_10157958933532350_9084115092445855744_o (1) We went to see Hamilton the Musical last weekend. Originally we planned it as a birthday gift for my mother, but alas Coronavirus isolation put paid to that; and with D pulling out too we roped in two of E's friends: Mi and Gl. M and I caught the train at 12:44 post (for me) Winter League 3 (a felt good row but alas somewhat slow); walked to and looked around the British Museum; and then Lime eBiked to our Hotel (the Hotel Corona!) in Pimlico (£5 each for that distance, Tube would have cost less but in these times, avoiding the Underground seemed both sensible and more fun). Thence to LimeOrange Korean restaurant (convenient to hotel and show; decent; did nice tofu but only of one sort) where we met up with the Youth. And so, on to the show.

You can listen to the soundtrack online via Youtube if you please. It's kinda HipHoppy; well sung, so the words are distinguishable with some effort, and you can follow the storyline (all sung; none spoken). As a musical, it's good: fun, dynamic, vibrant, dramatic, that kind of stuff. If you're actually interested in the story of Hamilton and his times that helps; but don't go to the show for the information; you'd get far more by reading his biog on Wiki.

Unlike An Inspector Calls I think I don't have much to say because there's not much to analyse. But I'll criticise a few things. The adulation the show has received in the good ol' US of A has more to do with their love of their founding story than the show's historical quality

In discussing the Federalist papers, they blur the decade between the revolution, the initial constitution, and the congress that wrote the new (since amended) constitution that we know today. Although they push H's authorship of TFP, they don't tell you anything about what he wrote. They don't even tell you that he was for strong central govt. They do cover him founding the National Bank.

Jefferson comes across as Prince, which is weird (but funny; George III is also funny). Indeed, quite a lot (maybe half?) of the cast are black, which is also weird; it's kinda like they're trying to make some kind of point (blacks helped in the revolution?) and can't find any way to say it in words; Wiki's not brilliant section of criticism covers this, somewhat. The love songs are mawkish, but doubtless that's what the crowds demand.

The Youth went home after the show; M and I to the hotel for a peaceful night; for me an early run; followed by b'fast and then a slow walk up the the National Gallery, mostly for the early stuff; and so home. The theatre was full; the museums and London in general were quiet.