Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

All reviews copyright 1984-2012 Evelyn C. Leeper.


ACCELERANDO by Charles Stross:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/05/2006]

ACCELERANDO by Charles Stross (ISBN 0-441-01284-1) is what is often called a fix-up novel: it is composed of nine parts which previously appeared as separate novelettes and novellas. What is more, four of them ("Lobsters", "Halo", "Nightfall", and "Elector") have previously been nominated for Hugos. I cannot fault the Hugo administrator for deciding that since the novel got enough nominations to place in the top five it should be allowed on the ballot, but my personal opinion is that this constitutes "double-dipping" and so my Hugo vote will reflect this rather than my opinion of the novel itself. I found the book itself more readable in book form than in the magazines, because the type face and spacing was more readable, and so I rated the section "Lobsters", for example, higher than I did when I read it for the 2002 balloting. But Stross's style is still very dense and slow-going, and the "novel" seems more a series of stories than a novel. (Then again, that was true of the original Asimov "Foundation" trilogy books.)

To order Accelerando from amazon.com, click here.


"The Concrete Jungle" by Charles Stross:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/10/2005]

"The Concrete Jungle" by Charles Stross (in his collection THE ATROCITY ARCHIVES) is a science fiction story with Lovecraftian overtones, as well as a paranoia piece about government surveillance. I found this to be just about the first Stross story I've tried that I found understandable. Am I getting smarter (or more persistent), or he is simplifying his work?

To order The Atrocity Archives from amazon.com, click here.


"Elector" by Charles Stross:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/10/2005]

"Elector" by Charles Stross ("Asimov's" 09/04) could be described as "politics after the Singularity". This is a more typical Charles Stross, i.e, often almost incomprehensible. (It's apparently part of a series, but I have read none of the others.) What can I say about a story that contains sentences such as "Ust why the Vile Offspring seem to feel it's necessary to apply exaquops to the job of deriving accurate simulations of dead humans--outrageously accurate simulations of lon-dead lives, annealed until their written corpus matches that inherited from the pre-singularity era in the form of chicken scratchings on mashed tree pulp--much less beaming them at refugee camps on Saturn--is beyond Sirhan's ken: but he wishes they'd stop." ("Vile Offspring" and "exaquops" are undefined, and yes, he really does use a colon there.) It felt like it was better than I was understanding (if you can follow that), so I've rated it accordingly.

To order Accelerando (of which this is part) from amazon.com, click here.


THE FAMILY TRADE by Charlie Stross:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 02/11/2005]

Charlie Stross's THE FAMILY TRADE (ISBN 0-765-30929-7) is labeled "Book One of The Merchant Princes". A more accurate description would be that it is the first half of a book, and ends very much in media res. Miriam Beckstein discovers she is actually a cross-over from another world (orphaned as a baby), and not only from that world, but a princess there. The political structure of that world is a clan structure that is basically the same as the organized crime families here. And they are involved in similar illegal activities. I didn't find the alternate history aspect of the other world very well fleshed out, it's not clear when the cross-world traffic began, and the fact that it ends with everything up in the air is the final nail in its coffin.

As an additional complaint, publishers used to tell us that the higher price of books was because the books were longer. Then the bookstore chains said they wouldn't stock mid-range authors priced above $25. So most authors split their novels into two or three pieces and padded the pieces out, and the publishers priced them at a few dollars below that. But when Stross split his novel, he didn't add padding. This is good, but the price for this half-novel is $24.95--the maximum it could be. So Tor is asking people to pay $50 for a novel. No thanks. (I borrowed this from the library.)

To order The Family Trade from amazon.com, click here.


HALTING STATE by Charles Stross:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/27/2008]

I had started HALTING STATE by Charles Stross (ISBN-13 978-0-441-01607-5, ISBN-10 0-441-01607-3) earlier this year and gave it up as too difficult (the introduction of too many characters in rapid succession, too much jargon, etc.). But I read a review that said that after a somewhat confusing beginning, the book settled into a more understandable form. So I tried again, and read about a third before I concluded than it wasn't true for me. Stross has written a book with three point- of-view characters, and written it in the second person. Yes, that's right--in every chapter, the point-of-view character is "you", but you are a different person each time. One result is that you lose many of the reminders of who the point-of-view character is that you would have in a normal third-person narrative. (Even a first-person version might be easier.) And on top of that, the characters write in a combination of Scottish dialect, police jargon, and computer jargon. It is even worse than BRASYL in terms of the dialects, because there is no glossary at the back. (I checked this time.) It may be good for Scottish computer types, but not for me.

To order Halting State from amazon.com, click here.


"The Merchant Princes" by Charles Stross:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/25/2007]

"The Merchant Princes" by Charles Stross is (so far) a trilogy consisting of THE FAMILY TRADE (ISBN-10 0-765-34821-7, ISBN-13 978-0-765-34821-0), THE HIDDEN FAMILY (ISBN-10 0-765-35205-2, ISBN-13 978-0-765-35205-7), and THE CLAN CORPORATE (ISBN-10 0-765-30930-0, ISBN-13 978-0-765-30930-3). Each one comes in at between 50,000 and 60,000 words, making them fairly short "novels" by today's standards, and (no surprise here) they are not even stand-alone novels, but three installments of a continuing story. It is reasonably intriguing and entertaining, but given that they are priced at $24.95 each in hardcover, my recommendation has to be to get them from the library. (Even at $7.99 for a paperback, that's a lot for a single novel, albeit issued in three physical pieces.)

To order The Family Tree from amazon.com, click here.

To order The Hidden Family from amazon.com, click here.

To order The Clan Corporate from amazon.com, click here.


"Palimpsest" by Charlees Stross:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 06/25/2010]

"Palimpsest" by Charles Stross (WIRELESS) seems to be heavily inspired by Isaac Asimov's THE END OF ETERNITY crossed with Poul Anderson's "Time Patrol" stories, with a dash from John Kessel's CORRUPTING DR. NICE. It was fine up to a point, but I would have preferred something maybe at the novelette length. (In his afterword, Stross explains why he did not make it a short novel, and also implies he would have liked to add another hundred thousand words, which would have produced something longer than a short novel.)


SINGULARITY SKY by Charles Stross:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/07/2004]

Charles Stross's SINGULARITY SKY, on the other hand, was so hard to read, or uninvolving, or something, that I gave up after fifty pages of so. Somehow this year's Hugo nominees aren't doing it for me.

To order Singularity Sky from amazon.com, click here.


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