Series: Commonwealth Saga #2
It's finally over. The ending wasn't even all that interesting; stuff just happened and then things finally ended. Even the stuff with the Prime aliens and the Starflyer wasn't all that interesting in this one, so everything that bugged me about the world Hamilton created just started screaming at me. There wasn't enough to interest me to balance things out.
This has to the most depressing and unimaginative future someone could come up with. This may be an urban legend, but I once heard a story about someone asking Patrick Stewart why they hadn’t found a cure for baldness in the twenty-fourth century. His answer? It’s the twenty-fourth century; no one cares if Jean-Luc Picard is bald.
The universe in which we find ourselves in Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained isn’t like that. It’s shallow, ageist (physically), mysoginistic, and it portrays all socialists as terrorists. It’s considered expected and even desirable that human society has organized itself in such a way that, despite miraculous medicine, someone can be grievously injured while escaping a war zone and have to go into debt to pay their medical bills because their insurance company refuses to honour the claim. Seriously.
This is just about the most unimaginative future I have encountered. It reads more like it was written in the 1980s rather than mid-2000s. It’s also indulgently edited to the point that it reads more like an epic fantasy than a space opera and very little happens. It even had a few overtones of what should probably be called racism, but I’m open to other terms, like when a character observes that it just isn’t civilized to build a city in a humid environment like a jungle. Civilized? Wtf?
Melanie, the dimwitted wannabe journalist who pulls off amazing stuff, drove me up the wall, but lots of other characters did too.
The sex scenes were laughable and I just can’t get over how bleak a future it is. The portrayal and judgement of women in the novel just made me angry. The narrator didn’t help matters with his dull reading, but I won’t be indulging in another Hamilton even in print. There are too many better books out there.
It's been a long time since I've found such delight in a story's every sentence.
The telling is all fine wordsmithing and sharp phrase-turning and frank soul-searching, neither sentimental nor cynical nor pretentious, and thoroughly engaging.The story is also satisfying and among the best I've read, and it's not the only Peter Carey work to earn that status with me.
It's told in first person, primarily by two narrators, each nearing 30 and introduced as neighbors in small-town Bacchus Marsh. The woman, Irene Bobs, is married to car aficionado and would-be Ford dealer Titch Bobs, and they're raising two children. The man, Willie Bachhuber, is a school teacher and quiz-show whiz, who left his wife and child over a misunderstanding about the child's parentage. The latter leads to much of the story's depths and surprises, and takes the reader into the thick of Australia's troubled racial landscape. The narrators wind up in a car called a Holden (Ford's Aussie competitor) in Australia's 1954 Redex Trial, a cross-continent auto race over much grueling outback.
Irene is my favorite narrator, but I've grown very fond of both voices. Irene, who considers herself little more than a pretty decent mum, turns out to be a bad-ass driver. Willie is her spot-on though occasionally delirious navigator. Their personal journeys progress apace with the race, eventually along separate but criss-crossing paths, never stereotypically and always with great heart.
Here's a taste of the telling, from Irene's perspective:
"The smell of a rally car, the stink, the whiff, the woo, you will never find the recipe for this pong in the Women's Weekly but ingredients include petrol, rubber, pollen, dust, orange peel, wrecked banana, armpit, socks, man's body. I drove into the night on the ratshit regulator. My headlights waxed and waned depending on the engine revs. Beneath us was bulldust, two feet thick. It was always smooth and soft-looking but the Holden banged and thudded like an aluminium dinghy hitting rock. It is a miracle our suspension didn't melt. Sometimes I saw the shock absorbers of a car in front, white hot, glowing like X-rays. Cattle loomed from the blackness and if I had rolled or hit a roo, if I killed us all, what then?"
What then, indeed. It is well worth the read to find out.
I'm currently reading Smilla's Sense of Snow and The Good Women of China. Once I've finished them, it's time to move on to these books.
My real life book club meets soon, and our May choice is The Lie Tree. This is our year of reading exclusively young-adult literature and this book was highly recommended to me.
I've got three books for my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project: Dragonfly in Amber, The Magic of Recluce, and Stations of the Tide. There's a hold on Dragonfly and the other two are interlibrary loans, so they can't be renewed.
I'm also reading with an eye to my August conference. Peter Brett will be a guest of honour and I'm going to read his The Warded Man to get an idea of what his work is about.
Years ago, for RL Book club, I read Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees. Now I intend to see what The Poisonwood Bible is like.
Saturday I'm headed to an art show where one of my friends is exhibiting and Sunday I'm doing brunch & a movie with another friend. The movie is a filming of a Shakespearean production, Timon of Athens, a play that I have never seen performed.
Happy reading, friends!
Oh god, we just had a sequence where it took Orion three tries to get out more than "Girl". Why is he being encouraged to talk to her rather than leave her alone? (I know why: she's been hired to entertain him.)
I really hate this future and its treatment of women.
I wonder if I can up the speed again...