A gold bracelet or a pair of socks.
The cover is beautiful. I flipped through the pages and it looked like the man knew how to format. I settled in for an exciting read.
My expectation had been for a far future novel populated by a world of extraordinary minds…I leapt to that conclusion because of the cover image. For me, the cover was eye candy and I was salivating.
Unfortunately, I found myself in the deep jungle, a Jesuit missionary, who discovers by spying on a native ceremony, a drug that unlocks the power of the human mind. A tribal youth discover this drug and uses it to bring about a prophecy and set himself up as a god. The Jesuit priest takes the drug and ponders the morality of bringing the drug to the wider world. The two fight back and forth for power in order to follow the path they desire.
While there are exciting car chases, a rekindled romance, a rescue for the abducted heroine, and some philosophizing on the morality of who should have super powers, there isn’t a lot of science in this science fiction. It’s a story that has been done before. The super medicine out of the jungle that will change the world…and who should have control over it. And the ending doesn’t really end. A lot is still unresolved and you expect another book (or books) is in the wings to finalize everything.
Still… There is a lot of action and a bit of romance. The writing is good and reads well. It might be just what you want for a summer beach read.
So I ran to a known writer to a novella that won the Hugo in 2010…and was about Time Travel.
How could I go wrong?
Now I knew Charles Stross. His Merchant Princes Series is one of my favorites. I highly recommend it, even though it is rarely mentioned and you hear more about his other books. There are several books in the series starting with The Family Trade, The Hidden Family, Clan Corporate, The Merchant War, The Revolution Business and the last I read, The Trade of Queens. The story involves a family that carries a special gene that enables them to look at a certain pattern and walk from one dimension of history to another.
The story starts in 21st century America, but the heroine discovers her murdered mother’s necklace and while staring at it, is catapulted into a Medieval dimension. Cool. There she discovers her”family” she didn’t know about who has gathered power by walking dimensions bringing back drugs or medicine. The ability is carefully guarded within the “family.” The series goes on, and she discovers still another dimension of 18th century America, while trying to escape assassination by family members. So you have Steampunk, Medieval, and modern all at once and soon they are at war with each other because of…yes, getting control and having power.
In this story, the Stasis has mastered the time gate and steered mankind away from the brink of extinction innumerable amount of times. Against the background of the sweep of existence lined out like a powerpoint display, weaves the small thread of Agent Pierce’s life. Pierce is a newly recruited member of the Stasis. To be accepted into the Stasis, one first has to kill his grandfather. Then twenty years of training ensue. As an agent for the Stasis, Pierce struggles to find his way through the maze of history (and uhistory) as unknowns attempt to assassinate him. The agents of the Stasis can go back in history and rewrite. (that’s what a palimpsest is: a piece of paper that has been written on and then erased and rewritten over)
As his existence expands and replicates over these vast stretches of time, he discovers alternate timeline and other selves that embroil him in a battle with the Stasis and the unresolved fate of humanity itself.
While the concept appeals to me, the several lectures on the history of the solar system, set up in powerpoint style, only serve to bog down the reader with its immense sweeps of history. Think Sagan’s billions and billions, and then add a bunch of trillions. The few strands of Pierce’s life are interesting, but he is a confused entity and therefore the reader is confused as to what is actually happening.
At least at the end, we get it and at least here, there is an ending of sorts.
I wondered if it was just me. Then I read a few Amazon reviews and it wasn’t. The novella has won the Hugo, but it isn’t a knock your socks off story…nor a gold bracelet.