30 August 2004

Archival Review: Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul, Book I: Exodus by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz

Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul, Book I: Exodus

I read Vulcan's Forge and Heart when each came out, but since (like this one) they were all library reads, I've never reread them. I remember Forge as very good and Heart as fine, and must say that Exodus only falls into the category of fine as well. My biggest problem was the 24th-century plotline. As repeated ad nauseam on TrekBBS and Psi Phi, I don't really buy the idea that Uhura and Chekov function perfectly well into the post-Dominion War era (though I did like the authors' take on Chekov; Uhura less so). Curiously for a book that brings so many classic characters into the modern era, it seems to establish McCoy is dead.

The Watraii subplot and structure of the novel makes the whole thing feel like The Sundered II: The Vulcan Version. Hopefully the obvious route of the Vulcans-in-exile being the Watraii won't be followed. Or at least, it was obvious to me-- Killian Melloy at Wigglefish seemed to entirely miss it.

Not much seemed to happen in the 24th century, aside from some stereotypical our-heroes-ignore-orders business, but I did rather like the character of Karatek in the memory sections. He was a well-drawn ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, always one of my favorite kinds of characters, and his relationship with his adoptive children was very touching.

Overall, the book was decent, but nothing too exciting. Maybe 6/10?

28 August 2004

Archival Review: Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Blue Mars

Overall, this was probably my second favorite of the "Color Mars" Trilogy. I was very slow to get into it. However, by this point Robinson has refined almost all of his main characters, making them all very interesting and flesh-out, as opposed to the one-dimensional cyphers they were in Red Mars. I even liked Ann and Maya this time round, though it took me until almost the end of the book for the former.

The only viewpoint character I didn't really like was Jackie's daughter Zo; she was definitely the worst viewpoint character across all three books. Hiroko was actually bearable this time around, mostly because she spent the entire book missing. This was good, because I'd never really bought Hiroko as a character; she was always felt unmotivated to me, and I could never figure out why she was held in such high esteem; I personally just felt she was weird. Unfortunately Nirgal, Art, and Nadia draw the short-straw here after some wonderful fleshing out in Green Mars; the latter two's character arc is just kinda dropped and never concluded.

Throughout most of the book, my real problem was that I didn't really know what it was about. Red was about the colonizing and first revolution; Green was about the second revolution. Though Blue was initially about building a new Martian government (and there was some neat stuff here), the middle of the book felt pretty aimless to me. The end introduced the immigration crisis, but it was at this time I realized what the book was actually about.

Unlike the first two, Blue Mars is not really about the history of Mars. This novel is about long life, and the problems of living the centuries that the First Hundred can. Michel returning home to Provencal was one of the best parts of the novel; the looking-back provided was wonderful. Maya coping with her increasing distance from her own past (a plotline introduced in Green) was also very interesting. Sax's determination to solve this problem gave a strong focus to the end of the novel, because we saw through him and through Maya just how serious this memory problem was.

The best part of the problem was, well... the solution. The scene where Sax summons the remaining Hundred to Underhill, and they take the treatment was downright wonderful. If any part of the book was going to move me to tears, this was it. Sax's almost stream-of-consciousness rush of memories was extraordinary. The ending was also great in that it finally restored the bond the Hundred had had during the journey on the Ares but lost since. As the memories poured in, for the first time in centuries, the Hundred understood one another once more, and lost the distance that had been created between them. Sax and Ann finally figuring out why they were antagonists was great; as were the two brief bits with them rock climbing and sailing. (By the by, Sax's boat is almost as cool as the Zygote boulder-cars. Almost.)

Though I have had much praise for the book here, I would still place it second beneath Green Mars because of its lack of a strong plotline (the memory thing and coping with being so old is more of a theme until the very end) but above the plodding story and one-dimensional characters of Red Mars.