After Hours

Finished 'Xenocide', 'Clarke County Space', and 'Sir Apropos of Nothing'


Four months ago, I bragged about a great sci-fi fantasy haul from the local used book store. Last week, I finally polished off the last of these books, Xenocide by Orson Scott Card. That puts me at about a book-per-month average, having read The Mote in God's Eye, Sir Apropos of Nothing, and Clarke County, Space between February and now.


Xenocide was the third book in the Ender's Game series. I will say it was better than the last book, Speaker for the Dead, but it was still wildly different from Ender's Game.

That doesn't make it a bad book--Card's ability to build whole epic

plots out of ethical dilemmas is astounding--but it still feels vaguely

like a bait-and-switch. Those of us who adored Ender's Game

for the military tactical aspect, or simply the coming-of-age drama

that the tactics were wrapped around, find themselves in wildly

different territory in the subsequent books. Xenocide is not

a short book, and you have to wade through a whole lot of exposition

and dialectic disguised as internal monologue, but it's a decent read.

I am upset, however, that it is blatantly a middle chapter. The book

begins with a whole planet about to be wiped out by a corrupt

government, and it ends with that central conflict unresolved.

Characters grow and change in the mean time, but it's all setup for Children of the Mind. That bugs me. I won't be rushing out to buy that novel anytime soon; Xenocide didn't grab me enough to make me need to finish the arc. As literary indictments go, that's fairly telling.


The Mote in God's Eye I told you about earlier.


Sir Apropos of Nothing probably should have been a funny book. If I was a regular reader of fantasy novels (I've read The Hobbit, and nothing else), it might have been. I love author Peter David's Star Trek

novels (the eight or so I read in high school, anyway). However, David

was riffing the whole time, and went hideously far out of his way to

make the main character--Apropos--dismally unlikeable. I didn't

laugh--most of the gags are based on puns or a cynical subversion of

cliche fantasy tropes--and the prose style really turned me off. The

last part is largely a personal thing. David has confessed to writing

this book on a dare, and it very much felt he just wrote with no idea

where he was going, and used Apropos' internal monlogue to write

himself out of lulls and plot corners. I have used this crutch myself,

so I'm hyperaware of it, and it bugs me. Don't take my distaste as an

indictment.


Allen Steele's Clark County, Space is a blantant example of

what I call an airport book. You read this book for the same reason you

eat airline peanuts: to pass the time until something more substantial

is available. That's not to say that peanuts are bad, just that you

can't exactly make a meal out of them. Clarke was written

with a wild confluence of ideas--a hard sci-fi space station that hosts

mafia hitmen, an Elvis cult, and vision-questing Indian lawmen--that

span only 230-odd pages. It's disposable fiction. The ride was fun, and

it was amusing to see where the roots of Steele's outstanding Coyote

series began, but I wouldn't call it a must-read. Great for lounging on

beach and giggling over, but unless you read a book every few days, I

wouldn't swing this one into your rotation. Go with Steele's newer

stuff instead.


I really don't dislike every book I read. I've just been in a mood lately.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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