15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Luxuriant language conceals a thin story
John Clute is a singular SF critic: he writes with verve and style and with a unashamedly vaste vocabulary. Indeed his unapologetically fertile use of words, his love of language as a sensuous and liquid thing, alienate some who prefer a more direct and uncomplicated approach. His knowledge of the genre is also unmatched, and would be called 'encylopaedic' had he not in...
Published on April 20, 2002 by flying-monkey
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ridiculously painful read...
I've always felt it's unacceptable to write a review unless you have actually read the book. Regardless, I feel the need to write a bit about Appleseed, as it is the only book I have ever started and not been able to finish. Reading it hurts. Clute's use of language, with it's endless cavalcade of arcane and nonsensical terminology is beyond annoying. Just to give an...
Published on February 16, 2006 by O.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A 50pg story inflated to 300 with useless words,
All the ideas in this story could have been done as a short story or novella. The only reason it is a long as it is, is because the author insists on stuffing every sentence with layer after layer after interminable layer of clever, but basically useless and undiscriptive, verbiage that seems to serve no other purpose than to stretch the story to novel length for the sake of the publisher. One almost wonders if Clute wrote this or if he is merely presenting the product of some piece of experimental story writing software hooked up to an unabridged dictionary and a thesaurus.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling wordplay makes a thin soup,
This book has been lauded for its invention of a dazzling new lexicon for the post-human future. Unfortunately, dazzling wordplay is about all it has. Plot? Not hardly. In the first 100 pages, all that happens is that our hero lands on a planet, buys a couple of military A.I.s on the cheap, is attacked almost as soon as he leaves his one-man trade spaceship, and barely escapes from the planet with his cargo and his delivery instructions (in the form of a plant-like alien). Character development? Not much chance of that, when 90% of our hero's dialogue consists of the phrase "okey dokey"
If you slog through the sometimes-amusing wordplay to the end, you find that although the hero finally gets his marching orders, there is still no indication of how (or even why) he is to complete his mission. Maybe that will happen in a future volume. But I wouldn't bet on it. There doesn't seem to be any room in the post-human future for outmoded concepts such as plot or character development. Only "words, words, words."
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the effort,
I'll agree, Clute borrows heavily from a number of authors in imagining the glactic stage on which Appleseed is set, including Vinge and Banks, as noted, but didn't they draw on those who came before as well? Rich, baroque, and minutely imagined post-human galactic cultures date back at least to Dune and Ringworld, if not long before. What made me enjoy Appleseed so was Clute's insistance on giving the reader a full-immersion introduction to his unique flavor of galactic civilization, painting his picture as he will, and leaving interpretation up to the viewer. So much nicer than endless dull straightahead descriptive paragraphs. In this he reminds me of Gene Wolfe at the height of his powers (the Torturer series), providing us with an alternate universe seemingly imagined down to the most mundane, yet shockingly out-of-the-ordinary, details. I for one will grab the next volume as soon as I see it.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wanted it to be more than it was,
The book seemed to be going somewhere, and then half way through, I found myself wanting it all to be over. It just did not mesh with its potential.
As others have mentioned, the language is definitly not run of the mill. I found I had to skim more than read, and not concentrate on any individual word or phrase, in order to grasp the concepts.
I would be intrigued to see other books set in the same universe, but following a more interesting story line. So much potential, but for me, it fell far short.
5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great space opera,
At the beginning of the fourth millennium galaxy trader Nathaniel Freer owns the space ship Tile Dance piloted by artificial intelligence KathKirtt, an essence with two brains. The crew consists of androids and cybernetic beings. On a routine run, the Tile Dance heads to Trencher to pick up cargo that they will next deliver to another planet Eolhxir.
At about the same time, a plague threatens to destroy computer data. The dangerous impact includes those aging humans that reside in outer space rest homes run by companies like Insort Geront, the firm producing the computer chips that causes the plague. Only lenses from Eolhxir can destroy the plague. Freer takes on board ship an Eolhxir native with a lens. Now the Insort Geront targets Freer and company for eradication so that their master plan to control a galaxy can go on unimpeded. Fleeing for his life, Freer meets Johnny Appleseed and others who join with him to stop this nefarious plot from succeeding.
John Clute destroys the myth that them that can't write write reference books. The award winning encyclopedist provides science fiction fans with a strong futuristic tale that never slows down as the audience goes for a hyperspeed journey into various elements of the genre. Nathaniel is a wonderful lead character who wants only to earn a living picking up and delivering cargo and women, but now deals with the galaxy wide conspiracy that has him trapped in the middle. APPLESEED stretches credibility at times, but then again that is the essence of science fiction, as Mr. Clute would know from his encyclopedia days.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My My - Tough, but worth the effort. Okey Dokey?,
Since buying the UK first edition from Amazon UK in 2001, I have tried 3 times before to get past page 10. My concentration wasn't up to it. I was out of practice with dense SF language. Whatever the problem, I failed. (One attempt must have been in my doctor's waiting room since I found a receipt from 2003 in the book.)
Somehow, I was at the right point earlier this week to tackle it again. It was worth it, worth it, worth it. Dazzling language, a constant stream of references and illusions, and characters suggested only by hints, but hints that tell you all you need to know, make this a challanging but firecracker burst wonderful book. ("Read" is a verb, not a noun.)
I cannot suggest strongly enough that you buy it and (when you are ready) read it.
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars surface and vastation,
This book is the product of formidable intelligence, learning and guile. John Clute spends hundreds of dense, recomplicated pages telling what essentially boils down to a science fictional, Rabelaisian shaggy dog story about how sex will save the universe, and throws everything he has at it. The result is many things: a classic, deeply English fantasy story disguised as a science fiction novel; a recapitulation of Renaissance theories of mind and memory, and their visual expression in both the figurative (the azulejaria, the mappemonde and the masks) and dramatic (the frequent invocations of the commedia dell'arte) arts; a late flowering of British science fiction's New Wave; a tarry concentrate derived from the endless sea of Idea that was Clute's contribution to the Encyclopedias of Fantasy and Science Fiction; and a vastly entertaining, slight example of the modern, high camp space opera, with can-do heroes, alien queens and gnashing, wailing, despicable villians who in the end receive their just desserts. It is also not particularly easy to read.
To claim that Clute has not acknowledged his debts is silly; the entire book is a sloppy wet kiss (with tongue) for everyone who has ever written a spirited, exuberant, idea-heavy space adventure. Other reviewers mentioned Iain Banks, Samuel Delany, Vernor Vinge and Bruce Sterling. To that list I would add Michael Moorcock, E.C. Tubbs, John Crowley, Michael Swanwick, Elizabeth Hand, Mervyn Peake, Cordwainer Smith, Jack Vance, Avram Davidson, and about 2,000 years' worth of fantastic literature, including both the Bible and the Arthurian Grail quest. "Appleseed" is not so much an original story as an assemblage or pastiche of the corpus of science fiction, held together by Clute's arcane, unstoppable manipulation of the English language. It can be seen as Clute's conception of science fictional narrative made manifest as Story itself.
Much is made of masks in the book, both as signs of presence and as signifiers of intentional artifice as an ontology enabling communication between vastly differing societies and species. More so than anybody else I've read, Clute makes clear the staggering complexity implicit in a pan-galactic society composed of hundreds of different species, and does so with an admirable (if somewhat opaque) conciseness.
Masks also figure in their more traditional sense of concealment, both in the sense of being surfaces stretched tight over emptinesses or hidden depths, and in the sense of hiding strategically valuable truths and lies. The whole story is on one level a formal drama (a la the commedia dell'arte), and as such it makes sense for the characters to function as nearly bare archetypes, and not 3-dimensional characters that stand outside of the story. Every actor in the story is a puppet, and it is never immediately obvious what lies behind the mask or who is pulling the puppet's strings (in one very important case, a puppet pulls its own strings).
The language is a little overwrought and at times the narrative verges on seeming febrile, but whether or not it works for you as a reader, it seems to me that Clute always has things under his control, and most of his effects are intentional. Space is huge and strange, and the role of space opera has always been to show our tininess and, paradoxically, our essentialness, in the face of its vastness. All Clute really adds to the good old stuff is the shared history and culture we as science fiction readers usually try to keep at arms' length, and a generous impulse to see the two as being of equivalent value. Have a little faith in him and his story and you will be amply rewarded in the end. Just prepared to work some to get there.
4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book,
John Clute's debut full-length novel is a mind-bending, fast-moving account of ship captain Nathaniel Freer and his inadvertant mission to keep data plaque from taking over known space.
The plot sounds simple, but the beauty of this book is in the stylistic writing that Clute uses to express situations, thoughts, communication, and other aspects of life as it exists in this future. Sci-fi writers are almost never stylistic in their delivery of the story, and it is such a breath of fresh air to read a story that is so unique because of the writing style. Think Frank Herbert meets Tom Robbins meets George Lucas - and that's a start.
The story itself is engaging and moves rapidly. Johnny Appleseed comes to the aid of Nathaniel Freer, and - with the help of several truly alien computer intelligences and other lifeforms - they attempt to undo the data plaque that has taken over many parts of known space.
Greatest of this books strengths is the fact that it is so truly alien. There is almost nothing the reader can relate to, and yet Clute keeps us intrigued through the use of humor, strange stylistic references, and abstract human and alien emotions.
An excellent book.
5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cost/Benefit Analysis Yields Negative Returns,
WHO SHOULD READ THIS:
We hated this book. But it's possible that we've totally missed the boat on this one. There are plenty of critics who didn't get The Silmarillion, The Book of the New Sun, and Ulysses when they came out. Pretty much unthinkable to us, but possible. If you really enjoy a challenge in words and are comfortable with reading settings that seem like a drug-induced hallucination trip, then you might really, really like this book. Those with puerile interests in reading about sex will probably like this book quite a lot. If you thought there was little cooler in life than Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-book or movie-you might give this thing a try.
WHO sHOULD PASS:
The Law of Diminishing Returns should apply here. There are deeper books that will yield better returns with much less investment. You would do well to concentrate your energies on those books. Perhaps Library Journal was right and this book really is appropriate for "large sci-fi collections." If you've reached a point where you've comfortably read anything very good that might be out there and you can't seem to find anything new and different, why then this thing might be next on your list. But that has got to be a very, very select group of people John Clute is probably one of them, actually.
READ THE WHOLE REVIEW AT INCHOATUS.COM
5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of time,
This was a frustrating novel to read. It was a chore working through the verbose and convoluted language. You certainly get the impression that the characters are living in a completely different time and place, but the author barely gives any real explanations for the reader trying to envision the settings. It constantly left me scratching my head and I didn't find it the least bit witty or entertaining. Most readers will want to stay away from this one.
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Appleseed by John Clute (Hardcover - 2001)
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