Wednesday, March 16, 2016


After enjoying the trilogy's first book and disliking the second, I popped from the top of my book-stack the third one: Elizabeth Bear's Cleave. At first, it was just to see if my new contact prescription was comfortable for reading, but the book managed to sustain my interest, and at the boring or frustrating parts I just soldiered on and through. Now I have finished the trilogy, and it can drag at my heels no longer.

The coolest part by far, and the part that made me hang on until the end, was the moment when two groups of humans meet each other, and find that they are far more mutually alien than the several actual forms of alien life that they have separately encountered. It's a nice moment, the climax gently engineered for many chapters before, and it gave me a little reader-frission.

The fantasy technology to upload whole minds, and thus have machine-mediated memories and brain functioning, was exploited (but only when it served the plot, and not when it would have shortcutted the plot). This allowed a lovely moment of clarity by one character:
I've got a head so full of dead people I suspect whoever I started off as should probably be counted as one of them. (p. 131)
Lots of things gave me ε increments towards rage-quitting, but they never quite triggered book-abandonment. The sentences in general, their constructions and tendency towards Latinate words and local jargon, did not render the book a pleasant poetic read. It read more like my own train of thoughts: technically correct, with all manner of dependent clauses tacked anywhere they'll stick, reveling in complicated words and light wordplay, but coming across as bloodless. It's fine when it's in my own head --- that's me, I can't escape it --- but choosing to spend my leisure time immersed in this verbal frippery was not the relaxing joy that I seek in reading. And the completely unpredictable plot "twists", each of them a new technology/philosophy that could resolve the entire plot (and yet somehow didn't), detracted from the books' good features and distracted me. Most of the two-person dialogues were pure sophistry, barely internally consistent, and immediately invalidated by the next plot hook.

The end of the novel, and trilogy entire, was just as frustrating as the entirety of book two, with all of the meaty interpersonal conflicts and the intellectually interesting problems and the culture shock completely obliterated by a deus ex machina that, in retrospect, could have taken place on the first page of the first book and obviated the need for all these words, words, words.

This post's theme word is covert, "a feather covering the base of a main flight or tail feather of a bird." The covert down, with restricted availability and only obtainable by sneaking, is the softest and most prized for winter jackets and blankets.

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