Monthly ArchiveApril 2007



Fiction 24 Apr 2007 11:43

Mercury

coverMercury
Ben Bova

I was somewhat disappointed by this book. I started reading it expecting a sci-fi novel, and what I got was a love-triangle novel set in the future. To be fair, the plot does have several interesting sci-fi threads: a space elevator (“skytower” in the book), a mission to Mercury to harvest solar energy, passing mentions of the discovery of life in several solar system bodies etc. etc. But the main plot is no more than a classical love triangle: man loves girl, other man loves same girl, one man betrays the other, the betrayed seeks revenge. Science and space are merely the setting and play not important part in the story.

Interestingly, many of the science-related issues in the book seem to be “borrowed” from the Red Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson: the space elevator, the crash of said elevator, life-extension treatments, severe crisis on Earth… A bit too close for comfort.

I also got the feeling that maybe I should have read other books by the same author before; this is apparently book 4 in the “grand tour” of the solar system (preceded by Venus, Jupiter and Saturn), and I believe that some of plot points mentioned just in passing are actually fleshed out in the previous books (or, in case of the “asteroid wars”, in other series altogether). Still, if the other novels follow the pattern of this one, I’m not sure I want to read them.

In short: there are sci-fi novels that actually use science-related subjects in the main plot. This is not one of them.

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Non-fiction 14 Apr 2007 15:00

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

coverThe Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
Bill Bryson

Taking a break from his travel-related books, Bryson takes a trip to America in the 1950s and brings it back to us in this book. It’s a tale of life in a simpler time, when everyone was na├»ve, happy and indestructible, no one used seating belts or helmets and cigarettes were good for you.

It’s not an adventure book; Bryson is the first to admit that he had a very uneventful childhood. But he turns all that dullness into a very human story, full of laugh-out-loud moments. I was born in the 1970s, but I can relate to the nostalgic feeling of thinking back to our childhood and to the simpler world of that time (made even simpler when looked through the eyes of a child). And also to the sinking feeling of going back years later to the place you came from and realising that, actually, you can’t ever go back there: that place exists only in your memories.

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