Science Fiction Though the Decades

Monday, February 24, 2014

1983: Prelude to Chaos (Llewellyn, Edward)

Concentrated background frames diluted characters (2/5)

I bought this novel because of the motorcycle on the cover; simple as that. I had never heard of Edward Llewellyn and, after reading this novel, I may never hear again of Edward Llewellyn. We wrote his first science fiction novel at the ripe age of 67 (proof that it can never be too late). After that novel, The Douglas Convolution (1979), Llewellyn wrote only five more novels, two of which were published posthumously. Most noteworthy, which is perhaps too strong of a word to use in this case, is his Douglas Convolution trilogy in includes the novel of the same name (1979), The Bright Companion (1980), and this very novel being reviewed, which acts as a prequel to the series, Prelude to Chaos (1983).

Rear cover synopsis:
“Gavin Knox was bodyguard to the President of the United States and witness to a crime which could shake civilization to its foundations.

Judith Grenfell was a neurologist who discovered a side effect of the most common pharmaceutical on the market which could cause the greatest biological disaster in human history.

Both were prisoners in the most advanced maximum-security prison ever devised.

Without their information the few survivors of biological catastrophe could dissolve in bloody civil war. They had to escape, and fast, to safeguard the survival of the human race, or leave the world barren for eternity.”


Savvy with technology and gutsier than most, Gavin Knox holds a special status among the prisoners on a barren peninsula where the Federal Penitentiary at Jona’s Point sits imperviously. The prisoners are confined within their prison at all times; they never see the natural color of the sky, never see the horizon, and never hear of news from outside their concrete confines; Gavin, however, has the duty to adjust the radio lines on the roof, thereby allowing him to spy on the only ship perpetually near the prison.

Also with a privileged status, Judith Grenfell has access to keypass codes and freedom in the medical ward and its morgue. Also with detailed knowledge of how bodies are packaged, shipped, and disposed of, Judith only needs assistance with technology to hatch her plan of escape, which is where Gavin Know comes into the picture. Though the prisoners are always watched, their time being intimate is knowingly less watched; so with sweet nothings mumbled into each other’s ear, they concoct their plan: bypass doors, hide under a frozen stiff, easily pass the defunct scanners, emerge from their coffins while on the offshore boat, clobber a guard or two, and make off with the mini-copter to freedom…

…if only a mini-copter weren’t so inconspicuous. On a less obvious route, the duo exchange their transportation for a car, which they switch often in order to stay off the law enforcement’s radar. Their once professional trysts in the prison morph into a less formal acquaintance, their respective personal traits bolstering their low profile and dependence on one another. Spooning in cold motels, their budding relationship doesn’t go beyond emotional and technical support, but Judith’s decision to relocate to a religious enclave may change the nature of their relationship.

The enclave, one of many remote places called Settlements by the puritan practitioner’s of The Light, is home to an Amish-esque commune; rather than limit their technology to eighteenth-century standard, the Light communities limit their use of chemicals to pre-1990 level. This single decree of their religion has kept them safe from the terrible effects of Impermease, the “cheapest, safest, and most effective insecticide” (183) but in reality, the chemical built up in the human body and destroyed the female ova even before birth, thereby rendering nearly every female around the world infertile. The Believers of The Light host fertile women, all of whom they encourage to reproduce through marriage. This fixed notion of marriage drives a wedge between Gavin, who makes the suggestion to ease their place in the community, and Judith, who fiercely decries the draconian measure against her feminine freedoms.

Another chemical drug which the community shuns is Paxin, a drug which was announced to have very little side effects other than its calming stat; Judith is one of the few people who actually know the truth: Paxin acts as a primer for subconscious suggestion. Gavin, having been arrested for murder of a colleague in the Secret Service, is under the impression what he had once been under the influence of the drug, a hypothesis which is consistent with his odd impulses. Since the Settlements do not take the drug of Paxin, they live a freedom which is unknown to those in the Affluent, any city or town which is outside of the Settlement. The Believers have a very strong opinion toward the Affluent, but so too do the Affluent have opinions of those in the Settlements.

…Judith, a fine scientist, who might have been adding her brains and skill to the struggle to discover some solution to the Impermease disaster, was more worried about the health of the few hundred children in the Settlement than the sterility of millions of American girls.

I mentioned this to her once. She sighed and said, “I’ve told you already, Gavin. All their research is hopelss. The eggs in those girls were sterilized years ago. I won’t waste my time trying to bring the dead back to life. What I can do is to help the living to grow up healthy and strong, fit to build a better world.

“So America means nothing to you anymore?”

She turned to stare at me. “Oh yes it does! The new America. The America which will rise from the cesspool of the Affluence. That is what we are working for here!” (157-158)

Judith’s opinions are largely shared among the Settlements, but outside the Settlements lurks jealousy and distrust:

…Rumors listened to with excitement and passed on with eagerness for the same conscious or unconscious reasons; to raise a sense of public indignation which might later justify burning the homes and looting the property of the minority concerned. And the hatred behind the desire was fueled by more than common resentment. It was fired by the fact that the Sutton Settlement still contained fertile women. (164)

This mutual dislike boils over during one of the Settlement’s trips to town where they exchange their last load to lobster for gold bullion, a tempting mark for marauders. With Gavin’s military expertise, the crew of the gold-laden truck make their escape after shooting and maiming their way through the local’s blockade. This stunt infuriates them enough to mount a larger sortie to the Settlement’s recluse location, but the organization of Gavin’s wartime awareness easily crushes the drunken yokels. However, the very act of hostility brings in the federal agents who want to capture their women, dismantle their camp, and reeducate the men. For refuge, there is only one resort: the Federal Penitentiary at Jona’s Point, the same penitentiary which imprisoned Gavin and Judith but which may now give sanctuary to the Settlement.


What should be a story to “safeguard the survival of the human race”, according to the book’s own synopsis, fails to gain momentum after the prison escape and devolves into a story to safeguard against small-minded religious zealots, local yokels, and big brother. This has every feel of a potboiler: perpetually tepid action, sexual tension, misogyny, murder, a car chase, shootouts, a sleazy motel, a motorcycle, and the enticement of prison sex. This would be, at best, a mediocre novel if it wasn’t for (a) the overly-detailed background story, (b) the repetition of a few words, and (c) the complaining about women.

Aside from the four-page epilogue, there are 21 chapters, nearly each one with a page or two of background to the current story. This novel is supposed to act as a prequel to the proceeding two books, but the chunky bits of background feel like textbook snippets spliced into the narrative—almost like a prequel within the prequel itself. All of the history feels force fed, none of it has an organic presence in the story.

Within the first few chapters, I noted Llewellyn’s overuse of the word affluent as a proper noun (Affluence), as a common noun (affluence), and as an adjective (affluent). I estimated I had read the word seven times, so I kept a count thereafter: 25 times, about half of which the proper noun accounts for. That seemed a bit much, but another word was idiosyncratically over used, the German loanword “verboten”, which was used four times. I suppose it’s a loanword but while everyone knows what the word means, no one actually uses it… except for Llewellyn.

Gavin Knox is a pretty macho guy. He’s so wrapped up in his militaristic self that the concept of “woman” usually involves their admiration over his manliness or their secret desire to bed him; any experience a female has outside of these boundaries is unknown territory and best left to complaining about: “She strode down the alley, her skirt swinging, her head held high. She was a stubborn, willful, crazy, arrogant bitch … Once she married me, nobody would dare to insult or threaten her” (119). That is, nobody can insult her or all women unless it’s Gavin Knox himself: “That’s the trouble with having a female partner on any mission [aside from missionary, I presume]. Single-minded and resolute in the crunch; illogical and unpredictable when out of it” (144).

On a more minor note, be it an artistic inclination or unfamiliarity with writing novels, compound the three annoyance above with Llewellyn’s affection for sentence fragments and you’ll find a novel which is aggravating to read: word repetition, sentence truncation, rants about women, and exhibitions of textbook background.


If Prelude to Chaos is an introduction to the Douglas Convolution, count me out of the proceeding two novels. The ideas of infertility are mildly interesting, but Llewellyn doesn’t possess the vehicle to move the idea toward fruitfulness. The novel ripens too quickly in and around the prison then tapers off into a distasteful mix of bitter misogyny, stodgy background, and vapid progress.

Monday, February 17, 2014

1981: Radix (Attanasio, A. A.)

Impenetrable, undecipherable (1/5)

Purely based on the book’s well regarded status on Amazon and Goodreads, rather than a friend’s recommendation, I bought Radix some time ago. It has haunted my shelves for a good two years being ignored next to other novels I have been trepidant to start, Piers Anthony’s Macroscope (1969) and Parke Godwin’s Limbo Search (1995) among them. So, without any preconception of the plot or prose, I dived into the book… and sank up to my chin in a chaotic, putrid swamp of world-building and compound adjectives.

Inside page synopsis:
“At the end of the twentieth century, the Earth entered the Line, a beam of radiant energy from a distant black hole. In the aura of this strange power, the Earth was altered forever. Humanity distorted into a variety of forms. Reality as we know it collapsed, timeless beings incarnated themselves in human flesh, endowing it with unimaginable power.

Into this twilight age a youth was born who was destined to transform the future of mankind. At first a frightened, rebellious teenager, he was forged into a brutal warrior in a harrowing rite of passage. A wanderer for a time among a tribe of outcasts, he began to discover his humanity. At least, he was forced to turn against those who made him to unleash the godlike powers he held.”


Dear God, where do I begin?

This is an excellent synopsis which I am unable to expand upon because, frankly, I didn’t understand a damn thing beyond page 71. I finished the book to give it an honest rating, but the reading was protracted by my inability to absorb nonsense which flowed from page to page, chapter to chapter until the very end. I could only stomach a few pages at a time, not because the prose was too rich, but because, as mentioned above, the world-building was too dense, too obscure and the writing style was… how does one put it… distracting, off-putting, perhaps bordering on indecent to the English language?

To begin with, the first section of the book, entitled “Distorts" from pages 1-122, had an unsavory yet alluring introduction to the lengthy book: a fat, unappealing man-child wreaks destruction of local gangs and local businessmen alike while he ardently tries to disown his mother, forget his father, and plant his man-seed when he feels the need. However, the section is marked by a number is inconsistencies and flip-flopping: 

(a) Sumner, first, remembers “his first journey outside McClure” (27) but later reminds himself that he “had never been outside of McClure (29); 

(b) Sumner’s scansule is inoperative because the battery was professionally taken out (21) so he drops it to the floor where the tube explodes (22) yet later he uses the scansule “for hours on end” (59) and even later comes home to see “the clear space where the scansule had shattered” (119);

(c) Nafandi leaves the Rigalu Flats at Sumner’s command (102) yet later returns on a whim (104). 

The inconsistencies, be they blatant and intentional or a sign of the author’s rush to fill the pages with world-building vocabulary, feel awkward. Beyond awkward, miles away actually, lies the author’s reoccurring unreadable writing, which is strewn with artistically inclined compound adjectives or nouns and idiosyncratic compound nouns, a similar sensation to walking on Legos spread across the tile of an endless, unlit hallway; for example, these sentences mean absolutely nothing to me: “Drift was vaguely alive, its whale-small eyes blood-burned” and “he stumble-stepped on the ice-peddled shale” (361). By then, I just wanted the entire Attanasio experience to be over with!

Only by page 258 did I realize that Attanasio was using the garbage heap of compound adjectives as a crutch to describe his pretentious fictional world, like he had to create new words for posterity’s sake or because English isn’t an expressive enough language (I’m not a barber, but I know when I get a bad haircut = I’m not a writer, but I know when get a bad book):

The man's hands on his shoulders hummed with spring-thundering, and the dark in the blue of his eyes was shimmering with something like father-love. "But look!" the breeder insisted, pointing to where the wart-knobbed, mud-green hulk of the razorjaw was running to shore. Its horn-browed eyes looked fireblind, and the long thrust of its maw glistened with many pink-skinned teeth. (258-259)

This trend continues:

That instant someone in the group twanged a box-harp, and the wiry, tremulous note pierced him. The feather-crowned yawp took the bowl from his hands, and he saw her refill it with oddly shaped blood-red leave. (322)

And doesn’t let up any time soon:

The ice and snow around the glades were heat-carved and wind-shaped into pale blue pavilions. A line of ice-glens moved up the snow-fields toward the summit, and Sumner climbed through them as though he were moving from dream to dream. (338)

The ort-lord gestured circularly, and a curve of the wall fanned into a hypnotically clear mirror. Sumner's voor-burns were gone. A sun-bossed face stared back at him, wide and flat. He was wearing a blue, loose-fitting garment, and his hair had been cut back around his ears, close to the square of his head. (370)

He glimpsed a mirror-eyed fox; then the pinecove clapped into an exploding radiance, and a long-tailed scream sirened louder than hearing. (410)

Followed by a glut of compound adjectives on page 413:

Spikes of energy cut across the sky, and above the tide of slavering beasts, raels came into view. A thousand of them circled in from the nearby hills, invisible in the darkness, lizard-frilled, tendriled and bulb-glistening in the sporadic blastlight.

The onslaught of orts staggered and broke up beneath the lash of poison-darts the raels flailed beneath them. A brute cry whined through the fury of the sky-echoes, and their distance from the orts widened.

The rock-mantled hill appeared ahead. Vapor-scabbed fire wrung the horizon to crazed colors beyond it. Rubeus was closing in. The ground flinched, and they had to stop running to stay on their feet. Then a bellowing corona blasted seeing and flung them to the ground.

The air sizzled. Even with their faces in the ripped earth, their vision was a dazed, flame-shaken halo. Colors winced apart, and with screaming slowness, sight returned.

They were sprawled at the foot of the hill. Dazzling flame-echoes crackled above them, lighting the blown-away forest with the brilliance of the sun. The raels had vanished. Several translucent corpses burned with crawling worm-fires in the field, then disappeared beneath the renewed advance of the orts.

The above moments were irksome but not debilitating; however, there were times when I cringed in utter pain, screamed out in agony, wished that I had never picked up this dreaded novel (but for an honest rating, I simply had to finish it). These times were situated in the novel where the author’s world-building vocabulary was at its densest, so dense, in my opinion, that rereading appendix for clarification would have tripled or quadrupled the time it read to understand the passage:

Thousands of darktime voors had channeled the psynergy of their lives through Dai Bodatta, feeling that they were dying into the ecstasy of Unchala. The joy had been real, but the crossing had been only a passage to a memory of Unchala. The voors' psynergy had really dispersed into the planet's kha where the acausal laws of Iz would return them to earth as the memories of future voors … Five thousand years from now, after the Iz-wind had long passed, voors would be remembered as sorcerers, witches, elves. The human form was new to them. Only now, after thirty thousand years dormant in the howlie collective unconscious, were voors humanwise enough to use the return of the Iz-wind to create godminds. If the brood created enough godminds, their psynergy would be strong enough to unify. As One Mind, they could disengage from the earthdreaming completely and flux once more with the Iz-wind that streamed through collapsed stars from cosmos to cosmos. Only a few centuries remained before Iz was too far to reach. (362-363)

Clueless reader, indecipherable verbiage or just words thrown on a page as meaningless as this review (duly noted, thank you)? The climax of tolerance was reached on page 394 after pages of frustration. I so, so wanted to give up on the remaining pages but stuck through the thick, thicker and the thickest to reach the muddied conclusion, the rank epilogue and the murky final sentence: “Everything is best” (446).


The most enlightening thing about the novel was the amount of use my dictionary got. My Sony Reader’s New Oxford American Dictionary catalogued my vocabulary entries and, from this, I learned and unlearned a slew of useless, archaic or technical words, but also heap of useful words;  among my favorites: irenic, caliginous, coriaceous, banausic, kenspeckle, risible, tussock, splanchnic, diaphanous, squamous, theanthropic, colubrine, and fuscous.

There’s a large following of this book for some reason, though any understanding of this reason is impenetrable to me. As philosophy is often referred to as masturbation with words, I would extend this metaphor to Radix… fascinating for the author and voyeurs but a nuisance to passers-by, like myself.

Monday, February 10, 2014

2007: Rollback (Sawyer, Robert J.)

A cheese platter of pop culture and author indulgence (2/5)

In 2009, I read my first Robert J. Sawyer novel—Calculating God (2000)—which I enjoyed for its plethora of science yet panned for its stereotypes and a laundry list of annoyances: “near-millennial pop-culture references, science fiction trivia, extensive homage paid to the late Carl Sagan and facts surrounding the real Royal Ontario Museum”. Little did I know, Rollback would gather these same elements around an entirely different plot; yet, regardless of the who, what, when, where and why of the plot, the entire novel feels like a paint by numbers novel—a pushover, an easy read.

Rear cover synopsis:
“Dr. Sarah Halifax decoded the first-ever radio transmission received from aliens thirty-eight years ago. Now, a second message is received, and Sarah, not eighty-seven, may hold the key to deciphering this one, too… if she lives long enough.

A wealthy industrialist offers to pay for Sarah to have a rollback—a hugely expensive rejuvenation procedure. She accepts on the condition that Don, her husband of sixty years, gets a rollback, too. The process works for Don, making him physically twenty-five again. But in a tragic twist, the rollback fails for Sarah, leaving her in her eighties.

While Don tries to deal with his newfound youth and the suddenly vast age gap between him and his wife, Sarah heroically struggles to figure out what a signal from the stars contains before she dies.”


It has long been thought that the first message from an alien race would be the passing of information vital to bootstrap the human race into technological perfection, to provide all of humankind’s questions with a simple yet benevolent heaven-sent answer. However, the first message was anything but.

March 1st, 2009: Earth’s first reception of an alien message via SETI. The enormous packet of data sent from Sigma Draconis II is encoded by a decimal number system, which is gradually decoded by numerous experts around the work. The first part of the message establishes a common grammar for the second part of the message which defeats the world’s greatest minds… until Sarah Halifax stumbles upon the answer to the deciphering while playing Scrabble with her husband; the feat wins her brief worldwide fame. More importantly, the resulting information is discovered to be a survey of eighty-four question regarding morals and ethics:

A series of questions, most of which are multiple choice, laid out like a three-dimensional spreadsheet, with space for a thousand different people to provide their answers to each question. The aliens clearly want a cross section of our views, and they went to great pains to establish a vocabulary for conveying value judgments and dealing with matters of opinion, with sliding scales for precisely quantifying responses. (100)

Of the 1,206,343 anonymous responses to the questionnaire via internet, 999 are randomly selected to be sent back to the alien source with the inclusion of one additional response: that of Dr. Sarah Halifax. The 18.8 light-year distance to Sigma Draconis II means that humanity will not receive a return signal for at least another 37 years. Meanwhile, the humans go about their terrestrial lives doing terrestrial things such as playing Scrabble, watching Seinfeld and buying DVDs of old Canadian TV series.

February 2nd, 2048: Earth’s second reception of a signal from Sigma Draconis II. Sarah Halifax, celebrating her sixtieth wedding anniversary at the ripe age of eighty-seven, is called on to decipher the message yet again. The bulk of the message is unreadable yet is confirmed to have been sent by the same aliens which sent the initial message as they used a unique identifier, a fact kept secret from everyone on Earth. Cody McGavin, the superbly wealthy business owner and financer of SETI, calls upon Sarah because he believes that the enormous distance of signaling between civilizations is not a conversation between the same civilizations, but between individuals: the one alien and the one human transceivers. To facilitate this belief, opposing Sagan’s rhetorical question “Who speaks for the Earth?” (144), McGavin offers the most sacred of gifts to Sarah: near immortality.

The gift of near immortality comes in the form or a “rollback” procedure, from the Rejuvenex company, which starts “with a full-body scan, cataloging problems that would have to be corrected:  damaged joints, partially clogged arteries, and more” (58) and entails a repair to their DNA, with “trillions of somatic cells” being repaired while “lengthening the telomeres” (59). The procedure costs billions of dollars and only a few wealthy people could afford the process of restoring their body clock to the age of twenty-five or so.

With the passing of their recent sixtieth anniversary, Sarah and Don look forward to spending another sixth years of marriage together. With the procedure complete, Sarah and Don notice no immediate effects but the checkups performed by Rejuvenex’s doctors reveal that, while Don’s rollback is progressing nicely, Sarah’s own rollback hasn’t started, leaving her at the physically frail age of an octogenarian yet her mind is still sharp as a tack.

Without the buzzing susurrus of his body’s aging pains, Don’s rejuvenation unveils the cobwebbed senses of youth: vim and vigor, hope and ambition, and, most notably, the stirring juices of sexual attraction—the feeling of being attractive and attracted. Unable to squelch his new-found stallion lust with his fragile wife, Don finds ample opportunity at the university where Sarah used to work. His errand of fetching her “contact” papers allows him to contact a particularly pulchritudinous redheaded graduate student who lures him into her bed… without a sign of physical struggle or mental anguish.

Ignorant of his trysts yet slowly realizing the ramifications of his rejuvenation, doddering Sarah eventually falls and can’t get up because philandering Don isn’t there to assist her. She asks filthy rich Cody McGavin, of McGavin Robotics, for a robot assistant to help her at home while Don is dipping his wick elsewhere. Able to cook, serve, chauffer and ambulate Sarah, the robot, which they name Gunter, becomes an essential part of their family. They invest their trust in the machine which is concerned for their well-being and is always hovering around Sarah to facilitate her every whim and aid in her memory.

Meanwhile, Sarah toils at home trying to decipher the recent signal from Sigma Draconis II. Across the world, those with original copies of the transmission are correlating that data with the recent set and even amateurs are taking futile stabs at cracking the code. She thinks, perhaps, that one set of answers from the original questionnaire may unlock the transmission, but the eighty-four sets are unable to unscramble the code; attempting to unlock it with all possible variations of answers from the questionnaire would result in 2 × 1039 unique answer sets, which is even beyond the capability of supercomputers in the year 2048.

Increasingly physically feeble, Sarah expends her last joules of might to decipher the code, alone in her strife at home and together with symposiums online. Revitalized with youthful vigor, Don is also gifted with age-old wisdom thereby questioning his own impetuous actions; his love for Scrabble and women one-third of his age is eclipsed by his lifelong dedication to his dear wife, Sarah.


I have given thought about what the first, brief message from the stars would be:

Mars: “Mars needs women.”
Tau Centuri: “Hello?”
51 Pegasi: “Attachment not found.”
Vega: “Erectile dysfunction?”
Pollox: “LMAO.”
Capella: “We request The Beatles.”
Aldebaran: “This statement is false.”
Altair: “What was I gonna say?”

Popular held opinion, as mentioned in Rollback, is that aliens will bestow great knowledge to us because of their advanced capabilities and age-old benevolence, a belief once held by Carl Sagan: “Carl Sagan used to talk about us receiving an Encyclopaedia Galactica” (100). Instead of answers, the aliens of Sigma Draconis II send questions, questions of personal moral depth, all of which can be accomplished by the lengthy primer which stems from mathematics. It’s a bit beyond my mind or belief how you go from “[Question] 2+3 … [Answer] 5” (73) to “Is it acceptable to prevent pregnancy when the population is low?” or “Is it acceptable to terminate pregnancy when the population is high?” or “Is it all right for the state to execute bad people?” (101).

I can briefly suspend my belief (as a SF reader, this is rather precursory) for the message, but the reply to our answers is borderline absurd. The surprising content of the message may first be wow but the ramifications soon dissolve the initial excitement to turgid interest and finally to the novel’s epilogue with either flaccid disinterest or rigid revolt… the epilogue is pretty, pretty cheesy—barely able to stomach as a matter of opinion.

Referring to the “near-millennial pop-culture references, science fiction trivia, extensive homage paid to the late Carl Sagan and facts surrounding the real Royal Ontario Museum” mentioned in the introduction, let me outline these eccentricities and others exhibited by Sawyer in this novel, eccentricities which make the novel irksome, painful to read. All these whims coalesce into one broad category of indulgence:

(a)  The book feels cheesy, hokey or emphatically sarcastically cute. Passing whims include: the chimes of Window’s OS opening theme, visiting outdated websites (Slashdot) on said computer, remembering television shows of Canada’s past, buying DVDs of said television series, recollecting a favorite Seinfeld episode, buying VHS and DVD movies, mentioning the difference between Contact the book (1985) and Contact the movie (1997), listening to an iPod, naming a robot from a memory of Lost in Space (1965-1968), remembering watching 2001: A Space Odyssey, playing The Sims game, mentioning a fictional glass artist who has the same name as the book’s dedication: Robyn Herrington, etc.

(b) Carl Sagan is mentioned seven times (pages 30, 55, 100, 103, 106, 144, 243), which is strange because he isn’t a character in the novel. He may be one of Sarah’s influences and one-time personal colleague, but why must he be so prevalent? I don’t know why Sawyer is so obsessed with Sagan; he may have been a great scientist and intellectual, but how does one find the gall to include the man in such a mediocre novel?

(c) The gall/cheese factor is ramped up when Don says, "One of my favorite authors once said, 'Virtual reality is nothing but air guitar writ large'", which is actually a quote from Sawyer’s The Terminal Experiment (1995).

(d) Then there are a few hiccups which have no referential point and even after research, I can’t pin down the reference; for example: “Pauli's turned out to be a seafood restaurant, and even though Don loved John Masefield's poetry, he hated seafood. Ah, well; doubtless the menu would have some chicken or steak” (44). I thought maybe I had missed something or had Sawyer simply stuck this in the story to be cute… well…

Aha, it was another one of those “cute/clever” eccentric additions of Sawyer’s which he thinks is pretty keen to include in his novel but really adds zero value to the story… perhaps, negative value.

Aside from the numerous eccentricities which distract the reader more than entertain the reader, the novel is a no-brainer: predictable twists and predictable characters. Including working full-time and two 8-hour periods of sleep, I finished this book in a matter of 47 hours… not because it was engrossing, captivating or intellectually stimulating, but because it read easily (more easily that A. A. Attanasio’s Radix [1981], rather). You could say, it read so easily that it was void of any engrossment, captivation or intellectual stimulation; “very readable” does not equate to “very good”.


I guess if you want to read a quick book on a long flight and suffer indigestion from the book’s content rather than the plane’s food, this might be for you. Or, if you savor pop culture references and meaningless eccentricities, you might enjoy every other word of this novel. I’m sad I still have Sawyer’s The Hominids in my bookshelf… it might receive an early, thrusting boot from my collection if it anything like this cheese platter called Rollback.