Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Stephen Baxter is an Asshole

I just finished reading Coalescent. Now, I really like Stephen Baxter - The Time Ships is a great book - it's science fiction in this immense, expansive panorama of time and space, sort of like Moorcock for science fiction, but with even less focus on characters and more focus on the sweep of time. Coalescent is not such a book, at least not directly. I bought it because I really wanted a good, hard science fiction book, something new to read that would give me a break from depressing stories about Korean adoptees (sorry LissyJo) and The Rape of Nanking (I simply can't get more than a few pages into that damn thing, I have the same problem with it I have with The Lord of the Flies. I know it's going to be so freaking depressing it'll be unbearable, so I find it impossible to start, regardless of how interested I am in the subject matter). But is Coalescent a hard-driving science fiction book? Chapter 49 and chapter 51 are certainly science fiction - sort of Armorish in some respects. That would be cool if they were the majority of the pages instead of something like 18 pages out of a 525 book.

I can summarize this book in very few words, "Stephen Baxter you f-ing bastard, you sold out to Dan Brown devotees!" That's right, it all takes place in Rome, over a sweep of history, with lots of historical crap (pretty much a given if it's over a sweep of history), including interweaving of fictional characters with real characters, ruminating about historical events and detail, etc, etc, etc. I'd tell you it had everything but the Holy Grail, but Arthur shows up, so I guess, by default, it does have The Grail - at the very least it has Excalibur. Did I mention I hate Dan Brown? Angels and Demons comes in at pretty much the bottom of all the books I've ever read, and that's a pretty impressive bottom, including some absolutely atrocious horror novels and at least one book by Faith Popcorn. So anyone who's trying to copy or cash in on the Dan Brown craze earns some of my enmity.

Anyway - bleah, I give it a Q out of 100 (I'm pretty sure that's a Klund rating). The only reason I give it a higher rating than a Q*.25 is because the science fiction part (those 18 pages) is actually pretty interesting - it just didn't need a whole 507 other pages as set up to explain [this is your spoiler alert!] that humanity might develop along divergent lines, one vibrant and aggressive and individualistic, the other antlike and an evolutionary dead end (H.G. Wells did it in fewer pages, and those Victorian-type writers were damn wordy, even on their best days). Baxter broached the topic in his other books and it didn't require sucking up to every idiot who's read The DaVinci Code (no offense Tall Brad).

Mr. Mustard - as I did with that horrible new Dune book (the first in the series by his punk son - I refuse to name it, it deserves no publicity, let's just call it House Crap), I will do with this book - I refuse to infllict it upon you. Klund may cry out, "Yet you inflicted that nasty, whiny Tad Williams fantasy series on me!", to which I can only reply, "Yes, but you made fun of me once and never bought me a cup of coffee by way of apology."

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