Tuesday 18 June 2024

Book review: the Centauri Device

FB_IMG_1717358004610This isn't a good book; I feel inclined to put it that way round, rather than saying it is a bad book. But it is a throwing-unpleasantness-in-your-face sort of book: lovingly detailed depictions of grime and misery. There is some literary quality in there; at least, we're above the potboiler level; and yet the literary quality isn't enough to make up for the grime.

Wiki tells us "The Centauri Device is the third novel by English author M. John Harrison. The novel, originally conceived as an "anti-space opera" would ultimately go on to make a major contribution to revitalising the subgenre and influencing the works of later authors such as Iain M. Banks and Alastair Reynolds." Goodreads, as usual, provides a variety of views. But I couldn't find one I liked, to endorse.

At the end, perhaps to justify the blow-it-all-up ending, perhaps to throw nihilistic politics into the nihilistic mix, we get a weird "what has {socialism|capitalism} ever done for the world" competition, which both lose. As politics, it is naif to the point of uselessness.

He does get a point for describing the camels as "sore-footed, refractory" but it isn't enough.

Saturday 1 June 2024

Book review: Fractal Noise

PXL_20240601_152742351Fractal Noise by Christopher Paolini is a bad book. Ironically I read it because I mistook him for Paolo Bacigalupi of The Windup Girl. But I now discover he is Eragon and so on. That fits much better; the formulaic and entirely flat texture of this book is no match for TWUG but fits well with Eragon.

To get the title out of the way, it is irrelevant. I doubt Our Author has a clue what it means; certainly it plays no part in the plot. And why anyone would bother build a transmitter to broadcast the Fibonacci numbers (or whatever it was) is beyond me. Never mind.

The plot (really, I'm going to assume you don't bother read the book, so I feel no qualms about giving the plot away): after discovering a mysterious makes-no-sense giant massively powerful alien transmitter on a far planet, sufficient excuses are assembled to justify sending down a motley crew of four to travel on foot to go for a look. For lulz, the four are ridiculously ill-matched and authority is poorly defined. "Zones" with no physical reality are defined around the object, so that the book can have convenient chapters as they cross these zones; laughably, at one point the Central Character is surprised that nothing is visible as he crosses the imaginary lines on the map.

The CC is given a heart-rending backstory - which I skipped - to agonise about as he walks; this fails to disguise the Author's lack of writing ability.

In the end, it was exactly as I expected: the CC arrives at the object, and nothing is revealled or discovered. In an appendix, the Author reveals that he originally expected the story to be about 15 pages long; and really, there is no more than 15 pages of thought in this book.