DXMachina (dxmachina) wrote,

Lord of the Flies...

I am in the midst of a three-day weekend because I had a stray vacation day that needed burning. I had two home improvement possibilities for the weekend, either finally rip up the carpet in the living room in preparation of painting the room and installing flooring, or do some serious cleaning out of the attic. Since yesterday started with a quest for some old software I had packed away up there, the attic got the nod.

It was a sunny, albeit cool and windy day, so it was comfortable up there. There were a bazillion flies swarming about the windows. They weren't bothering me, but I did put up a couple of fly traps to try to rein in the population. Fortunately, most seem content to stay up in the attic, unlike my old apartment, where I would get seasonal infestations about the windows in the fall. (In the spring I'd get ladybugs.)

Project Attic is going to take awhile. There's a ton of stuff. The first summer I lived in the house, I set up my bed in the attic and slept up there while I was renovating the back room. Since then the bed has been used mostly as a horizontal surface. Last weekend I hauled the box spring downstairs, converting the futon in the back room to an actual bed. Yesterday I stood the matttress up off to the side, and took apart the bed frame. Now I actually had some space to work, so I set up a table, and set to work sorting stuff. The first thing on the agenda is to get rid of all the extraneous old clothes, so I'm sorting through what can go to the Salvation Army, and what gets chucked. The SA is also getting the still-sealed-in-its-box CD storage carrousel that my sister gave me for Christmas a few years back. So much stuff.

A Fire upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge, is a novel I avoided for a long time, despite all the critical and fan praise that's been heaped upon it. I've long had a prejudice against stories written tens of thousands years into the future. It's hard to explain. Maybe it's just too far forward for me to grasp (or care about), with technology is so far advanced as to appear to be magic, and humankind deliberately unrecognizable. Maybe it's because the novels I have read that are set that far in the future have tended to be pompous polemics.

Still, there was all that praise I kept hearing for this book, both in print and in Boskone panels, so I finally picked it up for the plane just before I headed off to the F2F last May. I never got to it, and it slipped down near the bottom of the TBR pile. Finally, I ran out of stuff to read.

I liked it a lot. It's one of the few novels I've read lately where I was actually eager to find out what happened next. At it's core, it's your basic fantasy plot. An ancient Big Bad awakens and begins subverting all to its will, but it's incomplete. The good guys search for the key to defeating the Big Bad, an instrument which has fallen into the hands of otherwise insignificant beings, two children who are lost far from home. After that, it's a race to see who gets to the kids first. Meanwhile, the kids have their own problems. They've landed in the middle of a conflict on an alien planet, each on a different side, each not knowing that the other survives. Neither do they know about much of what's actually going on in the greater universe.

Along the way, Vinge introduces us to two truly alien alien races, both of which are wonderfully executed. The depictions of far future civilization seem plausible enough, and the action is pretty much non-stop.

The only real problem I had with the book is that the climax is too much like magic. The book's underlying technological premise is that physical laws change as one gets further away from the galactic core, sometimes abruptly. I might buy this, and Vinge does a good job of showing how it works. The problem is that at the end, when an aspect of this premise is used to defeat the Big Bad, what happens appears to completely violate everything we've been shown to that point. Granted, we are dealing with technologies so far advanced as to appear to be magic, but it not only didn't seem to make sense in light of what had been previously presented, but it also didn't seem to jibe with what we'd seen of the aftermath of the Big Bad's previous defeat, presumably at the hands of the same instrument.

It's a matter of degree. It's too much into the realm of magic for me; it may not be for others. It didn't lessen my appreciation of the book much, because the kids' story is the more compelling of the two plotlines, even if it would be all for nought if the Big Bad won. It's a book well worth reading.
Tags: books, house

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