Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, November 11, 2011

2011: Humanity's Fire 3: The Ascendant Stars (Cobley, Michael)

Book 3: Out of the Blue Heroics (2/5)

I had read Book Two in about 4-5 days and had little problem following the braided plot threads. The day after I finished Book 2 I started Book 3 and finished it in three days. It would be logical to think that I had a flawless grasp as soon as I laid my eyes upon page 1... and yet, I was shaking my head and putting the book down again and again through the first 150 pages (of 467 total pages). It was a very frustrating 1-star beginning that held little hope of rising from its own ashes. Somewhere along the remaining over-sized and somewhat bloated pages, a dwarf of a phoenix rose and whimpered.

The first third of the book is bogged down by the compound difficulties in trying to understand the character fragmentation of Robert Horst and Julia Bryce and their respective plunges into the hyperspace-tiers/Godhead and the tiernet/Glow. The physical/virtual and embodiment/disembodiment of the two characters in these bizarre landscapes is most frustrating. Eventually, Julia's plot thread begins to become a little clearer while Robert's thread maintains its reality detachment until the very end. If you can follow those two threads alone, then the rest of the book is a cakewalk. Just be prepared for the last second heroics of Kao Chih and Henry and the late and abrupt predictable deaths of two adversaries (will be most displeased). And if you usually have difficulty in following plot lines, don't worry- it seems as if the plot is recapped every chapter as the character perspective is shifted.

Greg is in orbit around Darien for most of the book, trying to out-think various intruders, making alliances with numerous orbital participants and trying to survive the ever-growing military presence of the Hegemony. Theo and Rory are still hunkered down in and around Tusk Mountain while the Knight of the Legion of Avatars sits quietly around his fortress awaiting the arrival of his cybernetic counterparts from the depths of hyperspace Abyss. Kao Chih plays a very limited role in the plots unraveling but the Roug bring their technological prowess to the table to help out here and there. Chel and Kuros, too, play smaller roles while Cat sits upon her moon readying herself for the inevitable battle.

The prologues for Book 2 and Book 3 held a tantalizing clue about the Hyperion AI 150 years ago and its involvement with the great AI presence in the plot. I thought the prologues would eventually be woven into the greater scope of things but, in the end, the prologues were merely bits of interesting data relating to the early strike of the Darien colony. I had high hopes.

Like Book 2, Book 3 has symptoms of "deus ex machina" with the unforeseen, miraculous unveiling of the space-fold bomb (also later unhyphenated as "spacefold bomb") and the Roug smartgun. Not only are a few technological wonders dropped onto the scene, also small-bit but big-moving players are dropped in right as the most incredible moments.

Book 3 is a tad more consistent than Book 2 except for a few things which caught my meticulous eye: sometimes subspace is used to describe a communications network but hyperspace is used for transportation... are the two one-in-the-same? Why can a hyperdrive descend to Tier1 hyperspace but unable to go further to Tier2, and how can an impromptu adjustment allow it to descend even further? Regarding the Enhanced and referring to page 27, how could the Enhanced "undergone genetic engineering in the embryonic stage" yet still be "either an orphan or signed over"? If the engineering was done prenatally, then the Enhanced were obviously pre-selected, thereby they wouldn't have to be orphaned or signed over. Minor, I know.

One additional miff is found on page 127 where Captain Velazquez says he, "Lost over a seventh" of this complement (one-seventh = 14.28%). If the loss was more than one-seventh, why not just say one-sixth (one-sixth = 16.66%) which is a mere 2.38 percentage points more than one-seventh? One-seventh is a strange fraction to use, when "one-sixth" or "half of one-third" would have been equally as useful (sometimes I hate being the author of math textbooks).

Ascendant Stars isn't an out-right dud, a shame I rarely bestow upon any novel I can finish. If you can follow the first 150 pages better than I can AND not mind the continuation of the deus ex machina, then you'll probably enjoy the book more than I did. I look forward to seeing some more science fiction from this author. A one-off, all inclusive novel would be great to see, something which allows for a greater control over consistency in word usage, dialogue, historical background and fraction usage :p

No comments:

Post a Comment