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Children of the Thunder Mass Market Paperback – December 13, 1988
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There were some plot developments this time that seemed a little obvious, but while I admit my memory sucks, I’m still pretty sure that’s just because I’ve read it before.
The characters in this book are quite good. They aren’t always likable. They stumble around trying to figure out what’s going on and often get it wrong. It is the case that the young women in this group of children lose some of their knack for influence during their periods. I thought that was actually a rather brilliant move on evolution’s part–it strongly encourages reproduction by allowing them to retain their abilities for nine months simply by having babies. Meanwhile, the children have to figure out how ‘best’ to manage their abilities, and each one is very different from the others. Some had simply stayed with their families; some ran criminal rackets; and almost all of them were in control of their ‘parents’. Only David is willing to take on the task of hunting down and bringing in his siblings, planning to use them to ‘save’ the world from itself. Another thing I like about these kids is that most if not all of them come across as narcissistic sociopaths–they have to watch the people around them in order to learn proper emotional responses.
Just to make things a little crazier for Peter, his own daughter Ellen, who has never met him, is forced on him due to the death of her mother. He has no interest in being a parent, but the two of them grow together and help each other in many ways.
On an almost irrelevant note, Peter at some point learns that there’s a crisis because an approved pesticide is now killing all the bees. I guess Brunner had a touch of prescience there.
I liked this book almost as much as I did as a child, and would love to see more of this world.
All of which gives special urgency to the uber-kinder who'll have to live in that mess. They're sick of it, quite literally, and ready to take the reins. Although their means can be as brutal as the current regime's, I say give it to them - they can't do any worse.
For one, he insists on using what he imagined would have been early nineties British slang. The slang term he uses the most is "bocky," which means vomitous. The result is terribly silly, and it's far more annoying than it is amusing. Half the book's dialogue is "bocky this" and "bocky that."
Secondly, the plot is almost completely driven by the protagonist's imperfect memory. Every time the characters hit a snag in their research, the story picks up again with Levin (the main character) suddenly remembering something from his past that helps move things along. Bad memory should never, ever, be a plot device. It was so eye-rollingly lame. Every chapter is the equivalent of Levin and company remembering where they put their car keys.
Moreover, the characters' motivations tend to be somewhat questionable. Okay, Levin is trying to break a big story, because that's his job as a journalist. But he has no idea what story he is even chasing, and yet his employers keep enthusiastically funding him as though he's on to the next big thing. His scientist companion with whom he is collaborating also doesn't seem to have a clear goal, and still stubbornly marches onwards, basically towards nothing. She's some sort of scientist who used to believe children should be raised communally, and was against the nuclear family. But then she encounters some anecdotes that seem to contradict her theories. Apparently, some children are just really naughty, and that doesn't make sense according to her ideas on group parenting. On this pretext, she goes to Britain and blindly searches electronic archives hoping to find bad boys and girls. So she goes about looking for really naughty children, hoping to find a correlation, and Levin helps her (in the hopes of getting a big story).
And that's the book, interspersed with stories of tweens who mostly seem to go psycho once they discover they have mind control powers.
The ending is pretty depressing. Brunner sticks to his favorite theme of the eventual ascension of humanity, but does so in a less than uplifting way.
Also, Brunner seems to have an uncomfortable fascination with pre-teen sexuality. At least it made me uncomfortable. A twelve-year old is not "nubile." She's twelve years old. That's it. Only a pedophile would be into that.