Monday, September 03, 2012

Recent Reading

Humanity's Fire Trilogy by Michael Cobley

This starts off with a bait-and-switch, the solar system under attack by a swarm of machine intelligences as last-ditch starship launches try to escape the plague. Then fast-forward to a time when, after the temporary inconvenience, Earth is a minor power in a well populated part of the galaxy, and has rediscovered one of the colonies of that desperate exodus. Which just happens to be where a previous cycle of spacefaring civilisation fought the last major battle.

In all, it's harmless spaceship fiction, with a moderately novel cosmology of sedimenting layers of hyperspace, and a heavy seasoning of tropes from cyberpunk onwards; though the ending suddenly arrives in a cloud of anti-climax.

Despite the title, there's no Campbell style "humans are the best" -- the human colonies are more the people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the major blows against the various antagonist factions coming from other sources.

Verdict: entertaining enough for me to have picked up a volume per year as it came out in paperback, but not a classic.

Helix by Eric Brown

His Kethani was harmless enough, and I'm a sucker for Big Dumb Object SF, so I picked this up as part of my stash of holiday reading.

Oh dear. The first chapter sets up a greentarded future a century or so hence, which somehow manages to combine a disease and CAGW ravaged humanity down to the tens of millions with a viable long-shot starship program. The second chapter flips to humans in fursuits in some frozen environment, suffering under a stock model Church. In the third, the starship, 1000 years out, traveling at half the speed of light is a parsec from a gravity well -- then a few moments later it crash lands on an apparent planetary surface.

At this point I put this travesty down, having given it three strikes and it's out, with just one afterthought -- if you're running a 1000 year last-chance colony mission when the human race is dying out due to transient ecological issues, aim for somewhere that it likely to be habitable a millennium hence, by doing a simple cometary orbit to the Kuiper Belt, and expect homeostasis to have reasserted itself by then.

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