REVIEW THE FIRST: Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis. This is going to be one of those reviews that is mostly complaining but then I tell you to read the book anyway, so just be prepared for that– it’s just that the weird stuff is more interesting. Doomsday Book tells a story of a time traveler sent from 2048 to 1320. In this future, time travel is part of how historians do their jobs, for the most part, although certain periods are considered too dangerous to send people back, and the machines they use to do the time travel are calibrated in such a way as to deny people travel if sending them back will cause paradoxes.
So Kivrin, one of the main protagonists, gets sent back to 1320, and then all sorts of shit goes wrong, including an epidemic in the “now” timeline (causing a massive quarantine) that may have been caused by sending her back. Which is impossible, which kind of complicates things.
This book was published in 1992, but reads like it was written in the fifties or sixties, in that other than time travel and some weirdly inconsistent advances in medicine the author appears to have anticipated exactly zero societal changes that were actually brought on by advanced technology. Like, the internet existed in 1992, even if it was mostly AOL and local BBSes at the time, and most houses had a computer. Willis appears to have believed that computers were a fad that were going to go away. So her notion of future is kind of weird and charmingly retro, but her notion of past is excellent– the bits of the book set in the fourteenth century are phenomenally interesting, enough to make it much easier to ignore the weirdnesses of what is supposed to be 2048 where they seem to still be using rotary phones. Which never work. At times it almost seems like they’re going through operators to connect phone calls.
It’s also enormously and charmingly British, so be prepared for that. The book won all sorts of awards, and it’s a great read, but be prepared to chuckle condescendingly at it in a couple of places.
The second book of John Scalzi’s Interdependency series, The Consuming Fire, is out and I finished it today. I liked the first one a hell of a lot– no surprise, as Scalzi has been a favorite for years– but didn’t write about it here. The Consuming Fire suffers from a slightly meandering first third and takes a bit to get its legs underneath it but once it does it’s off to the races. I like the basic premise of this series a lot– the Interdependency is an intergalactic human civilization (no aliens in this universe) headed by an Emperox, who is both a political leader and the leader of the church, and the different smaller human societies are joined by what are called Flow streams, which (more or less) are wormholes that connect one chunk of space to another and allow a properly-equipped ship to move substantially faster than light. This has allowed the Interdependency to exist, as many of their civilizations can’t fully provide for themselves and so trade is absolutely necessary for their society to exist.
In the first book, the Flow streams started collapsing. This is Bad. In this book, it becomes clear that what first started out as a couple of lone scientists screaming about the slow-moving ecological and societal catastrophe (sound familiar?) has now become a real and present danger to human civilization. The good thing is that the Emperox is on the side of the scientists. The bad thing is that virtually no one else is, and the political machinations going on throughout the book are complicated and (ultimately) really satisfying. Scalzi’s humor is on point throughout, although he’s kept a trend from the first book of giving spaceships really weirdly anachronistic names– there is a ship called The Princess is in Another Castle, for example, and I feel like there was one in the first book named after a Beatles song.
Still. S’good. Read it.
UPDATE: I keep almost abandoning Spider-Man PS4, to the point where I’ve declared myself done with it at least twice and I keep going back to it. It’s one of those frustrating games that keeps having bits that are entertaining and fun as hell and then four seconds later you’re screaming at the screen because of the absolute bugfuck stupidity of whatever Goddamned dumb thing the game is insisting you do next. The research missions, in particular, so far are damn near unforgivable– they can be ignored, but I’m bad at ignoring shit in games like this and so far each research mission has found a new and different way to be absolutely insanely annoying in some way or another. I’ll be perfectly happy to make it through the rest of the game without another fucking car chase, too, which are never not terrible.
Also: I think I mentioned this in my previous piece about this game, but guys? Spider-Man doesn’t kill people. Ever. The only character more fanatical about not killing people than Spider-Man is Batman, and even that is only true for properly understood versions of the character.
This game has a reward for knocking 100 people off of buildings. Like, there are occasional big fights on top of skyscrapers (in itself, kinda dumb) and the easiest way to be successful is to use moves that knock the bad guys back a lot because most of the time they’ll go sailing off the edge of the building and they’re dead.
I will probably end up finishing this, but much like The Witcher 3, another game that I hated initially and only completed out of spite, I’m going to hate it about half the time I’m playing it. But Read Dead Redemption 2 comes out in a few days and I need this one done and dusted by then. So I need to beat it this week.
4 thoughts on “Two quick #reviews and an update”
Doomsday Book killed me. That [spoiler] at the end – UGH. I loved it, recommend it to everyone, but it killed me.
Connie Willis has a definite style that is sometimes hard to take – for that reason I don’t read her too much any more. But some of what I have read has turned out SO worth it. For a lighter take I’d recommend To Say Nothing of the Dog; for sheer brutal historical intensity with fantastic character and storytelling, Blackout/All Clear is unbeatable.
Blackout/All Clear are at least loose sequels to Doomsday, aren’t they?
They take place in the same universe and feature some of the same characters and themes, but I don’t think you need either one to appreciate the other.
To Say Nothing of the Dog also shares universe and (possibly) characters but is a much lighter story.
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