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Splinter Paperback – August 28, 2007
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About the Author
Adam Roberts is 36 and a Senior Reader in English at London University. His first novel, Salt, was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Aside from his numerous novels, he has also published a number of academic works on both 19th century poetry and SF. He currently resides in London (UK), south of the river.
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I'm an american and so are the main characters, it's very obvious early on in the story that the author does not know, understand, or even like american culture. He seems to have gleened his view point of americans from a combination of tabloid news stories and Fodors travel guides. I would go as far as to say much of his writing dripped contempt for america.
Even getting past that (for those non-american consumers), the acctual writing is very amaturish. Descriptions everything tried to be, but failed at being poetic. They tended to be overly wordy and overly described. I can understand that you need to paint a picture, but this author seems to need to paint 50 pictures per page, and after a while you want to read story not minute details about everything in the room and every person in the room.
The writing tends to ramble off course alot too and your not sure what's acctually going on sometimes. It also feels alittle adolesent at times, as the main character is very obcessed with sex. I could see if the character was put forth as some kind of deviant, but he's not, yet you mst endure countless blurted out thoughts about how the protagonist can get X woman into bed, during what would be considered a crisis situation.
Being male I know men have sexual thoughts every 5-10 minutes, and if this book was something more aboutt he male experience I could understand that being part of the story. But it's not, instead it's just fluff.
In short, this book has a very interesting concept thats very poorly executed. I would save my money.
As a teenager, I read and enjoyed Jules Verne's obscure novel To the Sun/Off on a Comet. (The translation I read was divided into two volumes.) I sort of thought no one else had ever read it, but of course some other people had. One of those people is Adam Roberts. And now Roberts has produced this curious riff on Verne's original novel.
The story is told in three sections. Rather cutely (though I must say the conceit works pretty well) they are in past tense, present tense, and future tense. The protagonist comes home from France to California to visit his father, with whom he has not been on good terms. Hector Jr. is an art historian. His father is a rich man, and his mother died some decades earlier. He finds that his father has holed up at his ranch in rural California. He is convinced that he is in contact with an intelligent space being, in the form of an asteroid of sorts that is going to collide with the Earth and send part of it on a journey around the Sun. Just like in the Verne novel. Hector Sr. has gathered a small group of, well, call them cultists, prepared to survive this impact and reestablish the human race. And when is the impact scheduled? This very night!
The rest of the novel, then, follows events at the ranch as something that seems very much like what Hector's father predicted actually occurs. Or maybe. There is an earthquake, after which the ranch seems isolated, fogged in, and surrounded by gravitational anomalies best explained by a massive object being buried beneath it. But Hector remains quite stubbornly skeptical. He is more concerned with his lust for one of the women at the ranch, whom he decides is sleeping with his father. He is also of course concerned with his strained relationship with his father. And he's pretty worried when he starts to get visions that at least to an extent resemble the visions his father claims to be having. Finally, in the third section, things get very weird indeed, with a movement towards an SFnally transcendent resolution.
It's an odd, original novel. At one level it is at least a brave try at making the absurd events depicted in Verne's novel almost plausible. But more seriously, it is a character study. Hector Jr. is clearly a man who has not escaped his father's shadow. His relationships with women are adolescent. Even his career seems based on essentially sophomoric attitudes toward art. As Roberts suggests in his afterword, he (as with all of us) needs to resolve his relationship with his father to truly grow up. That Hector needs to survive the end of the world to grow up is, I suppose, a rather science-fictional result.
This is rather an impressive novel, but not quite one I could love. It's well-imagined, and well-written. The main character is thoroughly believable. Only, he's not terribly interesting, and not terribly nice, without being in any sense evil. All of this makes sense, and this works quite well in working out the novel's themes. Yet it held me at a distance from the book -- and left me respecting Roberts's achievement, but no more.
The last chapter or so is written in the future tense which is a weird and seemingly meaningless choice. The ending was unsatisfying. All in all it read like a book you have to read for class (and this is coming from someone who majored in English and loved most of the books she read for class). Maybe it would be more interesting if I was reading it for class, then we would be discussing and analyzing it. But it is not an enjoyable sci-fi read and I wouldn't recommend it.
What's the bad science? Something impacts with the earth while the main character is visiting his dad's commune/ranch. The ranch just happens to be in a prime spot while the earth is broken into fragments, and no one else is believed to survive. Gravity remains close (which is attempted to be explained by the thing that impacts being lodged in the fragment he's on, and it's dense enough to still provide consistent gravity). Atmosphere is still maintained at a constant pressure. But this constant isn't consistent on the whole fragment. While I can't buy it, neither can the main character. That is, until the end, when the important, grandiose part of the story comes about.
If you can sit through this, you'll find out that the grandiose revelation is one of the oldest cliches in the whole of science fiction, and some religions. For that kind of payoff, you'll probably end up feeling as cheated as me.
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Shallow observations on sex love, family, the human condition, and especially shallow view of America.Read more