- Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Angry Robot; Reprint edition (August 31, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 085766025X
- ISBN-13: 978-0857660251
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,080,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Winter Song Mass Market Paperback – August 31, 2010
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"Harsh, sometimes grotesque, strongly compelling - a classical journey told in a new, uncompromising voice." - John Meaney
"Harvey paints a grimly convincing portrait of a subsistence existence on the inhospitable world. Harvey's... novel depicts a fascinating universe of want and plenitude, to which he will hopefully return in future novels." - Eric Brown, The Guardian
"This is tough, traditional science fiction with plenty of “Hard SF” and world-building, intriguingly leavened by the spirit of the Norse myths that runs through it. Good entertainment by a thinking writer." - The Morning Star
"[Colin Harvey] deserves a place on your shelf along with Asher, Reynolds, Hamilton and Stross." - Deadwood Reviews
Praise for Colin Harvey's Previous Works:
"The novel is familiar in a haunting way, yet unique in its storytelling... Teens and adults who love science fiction will enjoy this thought-provoking work." - Armchair Interviews (reviewing Lightning Days)
"...a unique, rich, yet realistic and believable fantasy world excellently written" - entrepreneur.com (reviewing The Silk Palace)
About the Author
Colin's first fiction was published in 2001, since when he has written novels, short stories and reviews, edited anthologies and judged the Speculative Literature Foundation's annual Gulliver Travel Research Grant for five years. Colin's reviews have appeared at Strange Horizons and he was the feature writer for speculative fiction at Suite101. The author passed away on August 16th, 2011.
Top customer reviews
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Winter Song is a good book, there is nothing really spectacular or new in it, if you're a sci-fi fan you've come across all these ideas before but it is very entertaining and enjoyable anyway. It is a cracking good old fashioned adventure that would be ideal reading for a plane trip or daily bus commute.
I enjoyed this book a lot and would happily read anything else Colin Harvey has written and will continue to follow the latest releases from Angry Robot Books.
This book has a reasonably good beginning. I would have given it three stars if it hadn't deteriorated so badly toward the end. However, the ending was so bad that I dithered over a one star rating. I eventually opted for two stars since I did find the first two thirds of the book entertaining.
There are a wealth of SF ideas in the book. They include Artificial Intelligence (with the ability to download themselves into humans w/o consent), Nano technology, terra-forming, human genome engineering, lost colonies, etc. With few exceptions (more on this below), the author does not attempt to give even a pseudo explanation for how any of these might work. Worse, the author does not explore how any of these might affect human attitudes or society. What is left is a flawed adventure story.
This book has more than it's share of typos, awkward sentences and bad punctuation. I frequently had to stop and puzzle out the meaning. A typical example:
"A construct, the same as you." You made yourself grow bigger, ...
The first "you" referred to a second construct while the second "you" referred to one of the protagonists (also a construct). The frequent use of "you" as a substitute for a proper name (the AI protagonist had one) made for many confusing transitions.
I'm about to give away some plot lines, so if you intend to read the book, you may want to skip the remainder of this review.
The author only goes into any scientific detail on a few occasions and with very poor results every time:
1. Basic mechanics. The main protagonist decides it is necessary to move a comet and the AI gives the following rational for being able to do it: i) "Ice weights slightly less and one kilogram per cubic metre at standard gravity" ... wrong, it weights a little less than 1,000 kilograms. Common sense should tell anyone that a cubic meter of ice weights a lot more than one kilogram. ii) "So a cubic kilometer masses one megatonne" ... still wrong, it would mass 1,000 megatonnes. iii) "This comet's diameter at twelve point five eight kilometres means that it masses almost two thousand megatonnes". Another error. If the comet were a cube, then the author's apparent calculation of a ~2,000 cubic kilometer volume would be about right. However, the comet is a sphere and it's volume is a little over 1,000 cubic kilometers. So, the author comes up with a mass of two thousand megatonnes when he should have come up with a mass of one million megatonnes -- only off by a factor of 500! iv) The ship that will be used to push the asteroid can manage an acceleration of 4 gravities and has a mass of a little under a megatonne. The author reasons this would allow the ship to give the asteroid an acceleration of 1/50 of a gravity. Another error. Using the author's numbers, the acceleration of the asteroid would be limited to about 1/500 of a gravity. Using the correct numbers, the maximum acceleration would be 1/250,000 of a gravity. An total error of a factor of 50,000!!
The irony is that the author has one of the characters commenting that "It'll be like an ant pushing an elephant". I had a good laugh when I realized the character was startlingly close to being correct!
If the comet can't be moved in a timely matter, the whole story collapses.
The initial plan for surviving the return to the planet calls for riding a piece of the comet down. Are you kidding me????? This has the same odds for survival as being at ground zero for a nuclear blast. Maybe the author saw Fail Safe and thought Slim Pickens survived his ride down on the atomic bomb.
Later, the comet has been successfully directed toward a south pole strike and the ship is very near a crash landing at the equator. They see the flash of the comet strike and two seconds later they feel the shock wave! The author apparently isn't aware that a shock wave travels at the speed of sound. We never learn exactly how big the world is, so we don't know the distance from the south pole to the equator. However, it has a gravity of about 2/3 standard, so it's going to have a diameter between those of the moon and the earth. A travel time of 15,000 seconds is probably in the ball park.
2. Terra-forming: Worst of all was the entire rational behind moving the comet. Our protagonist has sent out distress calls which he believes will probably be answered. He is convinced that if he does nothing, the planet will continue a cooling cycle and everyone will be dead in 20-30 years. If he does crash the comet into the planet he believes the impact will kill millions, send the already cooling planet into a "nuclear winter" (the population is ill equipped to survive this), will almost certainly exterminate one of the two human races on the planet and he isn't sure the act will result in the planet eventually warming up. So, with zero hesitation or self doubt, he decides to lie to his companions about the expected affects and get busy moving the comet.
The book ends on a very strange note. The protagonists are headed for a crash "landing" in an ocean. Thrusters giving them a 1/10 gravity acceleration have managed to "flatten out" their trajectory. We have no reason to believe the ship has any ability to glide. The main protagonists are talking about their future together and the book ... ends. Given the authors lack of understanding about how things work, I'm not sure whether he intended this to be a cliff hanger (unfair), he thought he had set the table for a survivable landing (really bad science and/or no common sense -- see plan 'A', riding the comet down) or he indeed knew that he had consigned them to death (in which case not a single plot line was resolved). In any case, a very lame ending.
Winter Song takes place on a desolate, icy world in the backwoods of space. After a brief kerfuffle with space pirates, Karl Allman crash-lands on this hillbilly snowball. Fortunately, he's not totally alone - the planet is home to Icelandic space colonists. These Nordic stragglers have been cut off for centuries and, although they're still keeping alive and using space-age technology, they've regressed quite badly from a social standpoint.
Karl begins his life with the settlers as a raving lunatic - his spaceship (now so much rubbish) managed to download its entire database into Karl's head. So not only does he have to survive space-age Viking culture and find a way home, he's got to do it while being the man-with-two-brains.
For a small paperback, this is a book with some big topics. Between the front and the back covers, Karl stumbles across a second tribe of lost colonists, conducts a detailed exploration of space-Viking culture, gets mauled by a wild bestiary of alien critters, hikes across a frozen wilderness and saves the world from magnetic mangling. Makes for a long day. And, in the breaks, Karl explains the rest of the universe to his Girl Friday.
To Harvey's credit, although this is a lot of world-building, it is never intrusive. The characters are all genuinely, legitimately curious, and the detail comes across in dialogue and description, not pages of dry future-history. It is clear that the author has an extraordinarily detailed universe - I would be surprised (and disappointed) if Winter Song is our only visit.