Well, my vacation is over and today was the first day in the office again. I always end vacations with mixed feelings – it feels good to have leisure time, but I really like to work as well… This vacation I had plenty of time for reading, and I actually “inhaled” 3 books – and I would like to recommend all of them!
Kristian recently blogged about Jack McDevitt – one of my favourite SF authors. In Kristians post I learned that the novel Omega is finally available as paperback. Omega is the fourth sequel of a loose cycle of stories centering in exoarcheology, a galactic phenomen cuasing civilizations to collpase, and the superluminal pilot Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins (a lot of starship pilots and people in leading positions in McDevitts worlds are female). In preparation for this book I re-read all three previous “Hutchins novels” (The Engines of God, Deepsix & Chindi). While revisiting Deepsix I thought I encountered a logic flaw, and I emailed McDevitt about it. I was in email contact with him once before, and like the last time he replied less than 24 hours later. I’ll save this up for a seperate post though… McDevitt writes slow stories. He takes his time to construct his characters, and their relations to each other. He has a way of describing weeklong travels in hyperspace, while still maintaining en element of action and speed. The solution of the phenomenon of the planet devouring (well…. culture-devouring) interstellar “Omega clouds” was quite surprising. If you have the time, and if you are interested in McDevitt and Hutch, I suggest to read them all. Nevertheless Omega can be enjoyed without knowledge of the other books as well.
Almost forgotten by me, Amazon also delivered the advanced ordered paperback edition of Terry Pratchett’s recent fantasy novel “Thud!“. For the sake of the length of this post I assume the esteemed reader knows about the Discworld series of Pratchett – if not look it up in Wikipedia. Since Night Watch, the novels got darker, more intense and – in a way – more political (in the same sense as a parable is political. Thud! however is the most political of Pratchetts books so far. Basically, it is a book about racism, and due to the outstanding talent of the author you can both laugh, but still get some kind of message from the book. At first, the racism theme only shows up between the obvious conflict of the dwarfs with the trolls on the eve of the anniversary of the battle of Koom valley where the trolls ambushed the dwarfs (or the dwarfs ambushed the trolls – depending whose side you believe), but there is a conflict also between Sgt. Angua – a werewolf – and Lance Constable Sally – a vampire. But then there is also the level of conflict between acclimated city dwarfs and the “deep down” (read: fundamental) dwarfs – the keepers of the laws and the lore. Go figure. But don’t expect it to be a grave, complicated or instructive novel. No – it’s hilarious and pure fun to read. PLUS it gives you a bit to think about.
The last novel is by McDevitt again. Apart from Priscilla Hutchins, he has created a second character who appeared more than once. Alex Benedict makes his living by selling archeological artifacts (sic!), an occupation heavily frowned upon by his uncle, who disappears in hyperspace almost at the beginning of the novel. He leaves Alex a few clues to solve a puzzle of historical dimensions. Alex sets out…. well, to tell the truth I only proceeded up to page 76 by the time I wrote this. The novel is from 1989, preceding the first Priscilla Hutchins novel by 6 years. In many aspects so far, it seems a prototype for the later series. Many settings are similar, like the faster-than-light engines called “Armstrong units” in the older novel, and “Hazeltines” in the newer ones. Interstellar travel is measured in weeks and months. And also a female pilot plays a major role. However Alex Benedicts universe is more crowded than Priscilla Hutchins. And there is an intelligent, spacefaring alien race in open conflict with the humans – both ideas not used in the Hutchins books, where there is neither armed conflict in space, nor a second STILL LIVING spacefaring race. Even though I hardly read a quarter of the book, it is quite suspenseful so that I feel safe to recommend it.
Well, long post. Thank you for reading.