Monthly Archives: January 2010

Let there be indexing

I’ve just finished creating an index of all my full-length reviews (see tab at the top). Been meaning to do it forever, but somehow my good intentions usually end up losing in the never-ending battle with procrastination. Anyway, it’s done now and I hope it’s helpful.

The Wilding — a “so what?” sequel

For a moment it seemed like she hesitated. “There is a way,” she whispered at last. “A Braxaná custom you can invoke. I researched it. It’s called the Wilding. Do you know it?”

Title: The Wilding
Author: C.S. Friedman
Year: 2003
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Have you ever read a sequel and then asked yourself, simply, “why?” Indeed, that is the question here. Why did Friedman, seventeen years after writing the quite solid In Conquest Born, choose to follow it up with a piece of work that seems so weak compared to the original? Was it pressure from fans to write again in the same universe? Did she feel there was unfinished business to attend to? It doesn’t seem to me that there were any loose ends left at the end of the first novel. Was this simply an attempt to recapture past glory, or a nostalgic effort to revive a cherished accomplishment? Whatever the case, I’m sorry to say I didn’t care much for The Wilding. I know Friedman can write better than this, so it’s a shame she spent some portion of her energy on such an unnecessary and disappointing sequel.

I won’t delve into the details all that much. The story takes place a couple hundred years after the events of the first book. The Braxins and Azeans are still engaged in their perpetual war. Both societies have undergone some changes, but the basic situation is still the same. Except that the remaining telepaths have scattered to parts unknown and are now distrusted by everyone. One piece of the plot involves an Azean’s quest to find the hidden psychic community in search of a long-lost sister. Another piece involves a Braxin’s mission (the “Wilding” of the title) to find new genes to refresh the dwindling Braxaná genetic pool, and to avoid execution at the hands of his enemies. These two characters meet up and find their quests are leading them to the same place. Of course there are numerous other characters in the mix. There is much traveling, scheming, fighting, death, and general adventure. The end.

OK, I’m making it sound terrible, and it’s not, really. It’s just that I didn’t feel any of the spark I got from the earlier book. Nothing about this story made me feel it really needed to be told, and nothing about the way it was told really compelled my attention. The characters were less vibrant, the plot was clumsier, and the entire style was less stimulating. So to anyone out there who has read and enjoyed In Conquest Born, I’d advise against expecting the same quality level from this follow-up. As sequels go, I have to say I’ve read better ones.

Flash reviews — January ’10 (Happy New Year to all!)

Hello my fellow sf fans! Just in case anyone was wondering, I’m still alive and kicking. You may have noticed I haven’t posted anything in a couple of months. Actually, I haven’t been online much, and haven’t even been reading much lately. There are several reasons for this, but I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty details of my life. All that matters is that I’m going to try and get back into the swing of things now. Never fear, I still have a couple of shelves of books awaiting my attentions, and I just came from the bookstore with more. I’ll get some full reviews going again soon. For now, let me just quickly dispose of a couple of items from a few months back:

Title: The Dark Light-Years
Author: Brian Aldiss
Year: 1964
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
This book starts with a premise that I generally admire — that communication with alien species will likely be far more difficult than anyone imagines. The mindset and cultural foundations of the Utod are so utterly alien that humanity can’t bridge the gap; after all, the Utod wallow in their own excrement and consider it one of the good things in life. However, Aldiss does very little to explore or develop the premise in any interesting way, and the story and characters fall completely flat.

Title: Planet of the Apes
Author: Pierre Boulle
Year: 1963
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
After seeing the movie so many times, I thought I’d check out the source and see how they compare. I have to say the book is better, though perhaps not by a wide margin. One of the central points — that humanity is not as distinct from the other animals as most would like to think — is made more clearly in the book (especially in the stock exchange scene). The movie focused more on the other main theme, that of another species taking over after humanity destroys itself. Both forms of this classic story have their strengths, and I’d recommend the book to anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure.