I started reading Cheri Priest’s Boneshaker recently. About 8 or so chapters in, I had to admit it has a well detailed steampunk world, nicely grimy, and focused on an interesting tale of parents and children. But I just wasn’t gripped by it, so for the moment it’s been put aside on my “promising, but I’ll work on it later” pile. Good stuff, well done, yes, but not grabby.
I’ve been tweeting back and forth with Brad Murray about many things (the Fate game Diaspora that he and three other gents worked on being a big part of it), one of which is our mutual admiration of Vernor Vinge’s novels A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness In The Sky. I am not a hard sci fi sort of guy when it comes down to it, but Vinge’s novels really grabbed me. Yes, there’s bits of science and intriguing speculation flying fast and furious at your face, but he also has a master’s touch in pacing and character.
It’s been a while since I read those books, but their fingerprints were all over Diaspora. So Brad pointed me toward Vinge’s earlier work, Marooned in Realtime. I saw that The Peace War was essentially a prequel story to Marooned, so I picked up both and got to reading War.
Vinge owned me all over again. I’m prone to the occasional mild bout of insomnia, but that wasn’t the case while I was reading The Peace War. I came to bed dog tired and ready to sleep. Then I’d pick up the damn book, and I’d be up past three A.M. While not all of Vinge’s work grabs me this hard (I’ve never managed to get into Rainbows End, but I might give it another try later), those failures to grab are the exception.
The Peace War was written before the end of the Cold War, so it has some “future history” anachronisms in it based around that, and they just do not matter. It’s a solid thriller with a future Earth that’s been irrevocably changed by a bit of technological blackmail and the regrets of the guy who made the technology possible. I’d summarize more, but Vinge’s ideas are the sort that are difficult to describe without spoiling some of the essentials. Highly recommended.
I’m starting into Marooned now, and I’m at that crucial 8 chapter mark. No chance of this going on the Later Pile, though — I’ve been staying up past three again. The grab is in the characters, at the end of the day: I care about the characters first, and get lulled into the exploration of the hard(ish) sci fi ideas afterwards. Which is really the way it should be: give me a great story about interesting people first, and explore ideas second.