Saturday, February 16, 2008

Robert Shea's "Shike"

I just finished reading Robert Shea's "Shike". A Boing Boing post brought it to my attention, and I started reading it because Amazon had recommended other Robert Shea books for me. Whatever model they have running their recommendations (complicated machine learning? simple statistical correlation with others who report the same tastes as me?) works, because "Shike" is exactly the kind of fiction I like. It was long, detailed, had an epic plot, spanned many generations, and (bonus for 日本の事がすき人!) was mostly set in Japan.

I found that the last hundred or so pages dragged a little -- as the characters aged, the story had lost it's "Ender's Game"-like youthfulness and became a little too powerful. I mean, how likely is it that a single woman could be so clever and powerful as to obtain the ears (and beds) of the power-wielding men wherever she goes? With her first husband it seems reasonable that he weasel his way into power. But then, in a period of exile, she beds the ruler of the Mongols, and then on her return to Japan, she beds the main opponent of her still-living husband in a civil war? I am willing to allow other, egregious errors in the name of fiction, but this was too impossible to accept.

Despite this tapering-off of quality towards its end, I recommend this book.

This post's theme quote is taken from the end of a seminar I attended, which degenerated into one student shouting at another: "No! Look, if you have f(x) and you divide by forty-nine, then do you see?!?!" Everyone else in the room was suppressing giggles at this. What a fantastic argument.

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