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.

No comments:

Post a Comment