I thought the Terry Pratchett announcement would be a good place to stop the blog but ideas keep floating to the surface. So maybe not. However, my health is still not what it should be and posting may be a little catch-as-can for awhile.
Recent reading has included three Jack McDevitt novels in the "Priscilla Hutchins" series. They are splendid trainwrecks; McDevitt has the mechanics of writing down pat and his science is good enough. His characters are often interesting but they're too often unnecessarily foolish. Alas, his technology is risible, starships engineered in ways that make absolutely zero sense and cardboard McGuffins he couldn't sell if you spotted him ten bucks and a fake expert. Also unsellable, in these books, set some two hundred years in the future, the culture of North America has barely changed, give or take union between the U. S. and Canada plus several feel of sea-level rise. To call this implausible is to give it too much credit -- consider the alien gulf between today and 1815. It just doesn't fly. The assemblage of nicely-drawn, well-meaning muddlers he trots forth are likeable and relatable, but none of them are especially competent. The books would be a better read if he could stay out of the engine room -- and could keep his people in the middle ranks, where most of them belong. It looks like hard SF but it's space fantasy with a good paint-job; the tech shrinks and expands as needed to fit the plot, FTL radio is tossed off with nary a handwave and FTL travel is apparently easier than a solo drive down the Isthmus of Panama. Frustratingly enough, there are occasional gems in this mud, wonderful stage-settings and edge-of-your-seat scenes, moments that carry you along through the silliness hoping for another flash of the good stuff. Flashes are all there are. These are "buy at the terminal/leave on the plane" books. If you're technically inclined, be warned: you're going to keep stumbling over the painted backdrops, canvas flats and foil-covered props. (McDevitt also wrote Ancient Shores, also long on sense of wonder and a bit fast-talking about tech and how long technological objects might last in working condition.)
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
9 months ago