Speculative Novels Critiqued

Spook Country
William Gibson, 2008

This author created the term “Cyberspace” that we use today. He was the cream of the Cyber-punk writers shortly after Bruce Sterling dubbed them “Mirror Shade” writers. That was some time ago, the Eighties actually. Gibson has not written Cyber-punk since the Nineties, so with this novel he intentionally doesn’t write futuristic science fiction. His gift for yarn spinning remains evident, however, what he’s missing is a compelling reason to use it. There simply isn’t enough plot with which to build a drama. He creates some memorable characters yet he doesn’t craft them with creative verve as he does the protagonists of Idoru, or Neuromancer. I’d still rather read Gibson than 90% of the other would-be Cyber-punk authors since he writes with authority and a voice that shades a nihilistic future through speculative fiction.

Kurt Vonnegut is often mislabeled a science fiction author. He was in fact a creative writer who used science fiction themes. He was not only a fabulous humorist but a formidable teacher. He once wrote advice that went like this (I paraphrase):

You must make absolutely terrible things happen to your protagonist in your fiction. Why? Because it is through this trial of survival that the mettle of your character is tested and thus the reason that your reader should identify with his heroic essence.

Gibson would have done well to heed Vonnegut. Hollis, the heroine, is not tested. The worst thing that happens to her is that a drug addict steals her purse. Consistently everyone in the story has a pretty good time. Members of the art world and the affluent pursue various McGuffins, the principle one being an immense amount of cash. Eventually the resolve demonstrates the author’s predilection toward quality of life particulars. The story rings hollow from a lack of tribulation.

Paris Clueless, 08/09

Gilgamesh The King, 1984

To The Land of The Living, 1990

Robert Silverberg

Robert Silverberg finished these novels during the Eighties. I know this was his most prolific period and perhaps his best writing. Oddly these two novels read as though they came from completely different decades. Gilgamesh is a heroic tale quite different from the author’s Majipoor stories. He claims to have incorporated as much of the historic facts and quite a bit of the fables about the real Sumerian king as he could gather. This is not the studied prose of say Neal Stephenson in his “Baroque Cycle” where you have gratuitous amounts of heraldic research poking you in the brain. That is not Silverberg’s fault either. What was written about in 18th Century Europe was set by a printing press or written on paper in cursive. What is known of Gilgamesh comes from runes on clay tablets and hieroglyphs on architecture. None of the languages that tell his tale are still extant.

Gilgamesh is a superior novel to To The Land.. but it isn’t more fun to read. I am a fan of this authors work during this period. He wrote some excellent science fiction novels. His story telling ability is likened to that of R.A.H., and not without reason; Silverberg admits Heinlein’s strong influences on his narrative style. But Silverberg really shows his narrative strength in many of the segments of To The Land especially when he paints a nightmarish hell and sets characters up as brooding and depressed or suicidal.

I should have mentioned before that Gilgamesh’s sequel is To The Land of the Living. I read these books out of order yet it didn’t affect my enjoyment or understanding one bit. I am glad in fact because I avoided reading Gilgamesh before I picked up the sequel where in dead famous modern authors cavort with Roman Emperors. You can take the former seriously but not the latter. If you’ve never read any Silverberg at all then I suggest you pick up Tower of Glass, or Shadrach in the Furnace. I could go on because I am a fan but you can’t miss with either of these novels. Now if you simply won’t read science fiction then get Gilgamesh the King. Finally if you won’t read historic fiction or science fiction but like a good Poe tale then read To The Land of the Living first.

Paris 7-2009

What the Dickens Does This Mean Point Blank?
by Paris Parts

There is more to contrast than to compare between Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities and Lee Marvin’s cult classic “Point Blank”. Both stories require analytical interpretation to be fully appreciated. “Point Blank” leads its audience to draw conclusions in order to further the plot while A Tale of Two Cities advances psychological theories about human behavior that leaves the reader to ponder the writer’s motives. Dickens creates montages through the arrangement of his stories through the chapters while “Point Blank’s” use of montage is to confuse the viewer and thus arouse his suspicions to the reality of the story.

Lee Marvin is in his powers in this film whether it makes any sense or not. The setting although there is too much L.A. in it, is wonderful, especially the finale at Fort Point that ties this movie into the next story. The courtyard/parade grounds, catacombs and the stairwells of Ft. Point are straight out of 1792, the setting A Tale of Two Cities.

Charles Dickens’s interesting style in this novel is to clip seeming unrelated story -lines from various periods interspersing stereo type characters and then tying them together in a fiendish world with some terrific literary description.

For instance, the passage way the banker and Patriot must walk up is that type of stone spiral stairwell at Ft. Point, or rather Dickens gives us details that make me return to Lee Marvin’s and my walk up the stairs there. When Dickens describes the human excrement pouring out of the cells down spiral stone stairs, how slippery it makes them, how insufferable the air is, and the character fears of how he must descend them as well, I find Dickens’ style creating a schema as though from my very memory.

The stairs at Ft. Point in 1970 were slippery from the fog as I rushed up them two at a time to get ahead of my friends and hide in the Spanish archways or take to the roof. The vertigo I felt on that roof as I stared straight up at the Golden Gate Bridge affected me later when I more cautiously walked, slipping on the stones and leaning on the rounded walls. And as in the finale shot in “Point Blank”, I found the sweeping view to Alcatraz from the roof beautiful. It was the best of times, period.

Dickens creates two villains in this novel: the Marquee and the wife of Jacque One, Mme Defarge. The former is the epitome of corruption from too much power and over inbreeding, while the former similarly represents too much power, but hers is too much power too soon. Although the heroes of the story are the best remembered characters, I found these two villains to have more entertainment value. When a peasant petitions the Marquee and for a pathetically, the Marquee’s indifference and diffidence charmed me. His rejoinder of a coordinating conjunction to the petitioner’s every statement of deplorable peasantry conditions, served to entertain as well as foreshadow the book’s next thematic arc.

“We have no bread.”
“And the children are too weak to stave off the diseases”.
“Yes. Well? And that is my concern?”

The father of a child whom the Marquee ran down with his carriage murders him in his bed. This justifiable murder is a relief to the reader who is being set up by Dickens. He is suggesting that if you start with this murder where will it end? He illustrates his point through the chapters on the Reign of Terror. That the Marquee should become the cause of the obsessive hatred of the second villain is too convenient to the plot.

Dickens writes a story that allows the reader to read himself. If she is a reader who hates rape to distraction then she is liable to rationalize and side with the motives of the wife of Jacque One. However, a careful reading of the text will expose that Dickens does not allow this identification with the villainess. She does not feel gratitude to the doctor who has saved so many lives of her peasant compatriots. She would even have this doctor who tried but failed to save her sister, the very impetus of her wraith against aristocracy, guillotined. A doctor devoted to a beautiful daughter, and who would find rape abhorrent, would be executed with her aid and with no remorse or compunction. Mme Defarge
is not a salvageable character, and Dickens eliminates her (hoisted by her own petard).

So in A Tale of Two Cities you find an unconventional story format with stock characters about a fascinating historic period. You may find a masterful prose style and artistic masterpiece of metaphor, symbolic meaning, and creative fiction as well. Dickens even writes from cutting edge science of the Victorian period when he directly delves into Freudian realms of the subconscious and mental illness. The Bastille prisoner displays Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome Disease, and though seemly miraculously restored, he relapsing at a later point.

Dickens reveals the entire mindset of the French Revolution within the microcosm of Jacque One and his wife, two patriots who represent the bravery, ingenuity, and finally psychotic reaction of the ordeal of revolution. Jacque displays a fanatical side tempered by reason and his wife by contrast goes off the deep end. They are the answer to Dickens’s rhetorical question of where condoning one seeming justifiable murder could lead.

Is there a connection between a Hollywood picture made in 1967 and a classic novel written in the mid-19 Century? Yes, obsessive behavior.

Point Blank, whatever its merits, shows the obsessive drive of Lee Marvin’s character, Walker, that I maintain come even after his death. A Tale of Two Cities, no mere cult classic like “Point Blank,” shows obsession as a rationalization for the human bloodlust that comes with mob mentality.

Marvin’s character, Walker, is motivated by greed although he wants revenge too but foremost he wants the money. I think that he feels entitled to the money because he sacrifices his life for it before the narrative begins. Now how do you handle this one? The story of “Sunset Blvd.” handles it by giving the narrative to the corpse floating in the pool with William Holden’s voice-over telling the story chronologically. “Point Blank” is written as though the body jumped out of the pool and started telling the story in fits and flashbacks. The director and Marvin engaging in experimental filmmaking blur the line between realism and fantasy even in its title; the narrative gets started when Marvin awakens in an Alcatraz cell remembering being shot point blank. Nobody survives that sort of gunshot wound. Nobody swims from Alcatraz to San Francisco with this sort of wound—the docent voice-over during the Bay Cruise of Alcatraz tells us that historically nobody has ever made that swim. The movie is fraught with symbolism and subtext. The supporting cast continuously tells Walker that he has no reason to exist, that he is from a different time, and to just die. Angie Dickinson’s character, Marvin’s wife’s sister who has no last name, tells him figuratively that he died back on Alcatraz. This is so overt that we know it is not a figurative suggestion but rather the truth.

The principle characters are: Walker, a hood who cannot be stopped–he can chum it up with the FBI or take down the Mafia. Not that his character isn’t real enough but rather the narration and point of view doesn’t want the audience comfortably buying Walker’s credibility: Marvin performs as his consummate tough guy the viewer has always found plausible.

Then there is Mel, an old friend of Walker’s who looks like Lee Majors but acts like Jack Palance in his old menacing roles. Trouble is that it would be difficult imagining Walker having friends. This is a guy who has no first name—even his wife calls him Walker. Mel is introduced via flashback party scene where he pins Marvin to the floor begging for his help. The next time we see this aspect of Mel’s character he is on the roof dressed in a bed sheet soon to be plummeting 20 floors below thanks to his friend, Walker. Here Walker’s motive is revenge for the double cross that started the narrative. The viewer might jump to the conclusion that this is the end since his wife’s infidelity and his (murder?) have been avenged.

Angie Dickenson, Walker’s sister-in-law, has also fulfilled her supporting role at this juncture by luring Mel to his death. Indeed she merely fades out of the story around this point. Her sister is long dead due to a drug overdose which seemed appropriate because she was a sort of Sixties character and this is supposed to take place many years later. There are numerous flashbacks to her death, a subtext to remind us we are watching the dreams of a dead man. In one flashback her room and apartment is vacant, a reality affirming form of gestalt. We are briefly seeing it as it really is in the present, not as Walker fantasizes in his schema from the past. This was the juncture where I stopped accepting the narrative’s authenticity; I mean, my schema and your schema no come-a from the same reference frame-a.

Carroll OConnor plays a sort of Mephistopheles, who insists that Walker’s motivation, getting the money, is a pipe dream. He represents the financial present day reality of the underworld. OConnor is terrific and makes you glad the story continues after its natural conclusion. This is the actor’s Hollywood period before he became an icon with his TV show “All In The Family”. His own Mafia chums show Walker proof that getting the money is impossible with OConnor’s wanton murder.

This leads us to an ending that let’s us draw our own conclusions. Walker fades back into the shadows of Fort Point as the sun dawns over Alcatraz. He never gets the money, or rather the possibility of “the money” is left in the parade grounds center of Fort Point but he doesn’t reach it. We have already been shown in a previous scene or two that the money in the package is always bogus bait left out for the victim in order for the Mafia sniper to get a clear shot–the exact opposite of point blank.

And speaking of “The Mob”, I have trouble with a really huge flaw in “Point Blank” that comes with the Mafia drop off at Alcatraz. There was no Mafia in SF in 1967 and probably none today.

The Universe Maker

A. E. Van Vogt wrote this novel about 53 years ago. He’d been around a while but his novels weren’t his best work at this time, rather he sold a lot of pretty innovative short stories. The Weapons Shop and World of Null A were in the works. The latter being his big debut novel and the former being a novella for which he is better remembered. I’ve enjoyed both but I think as a student of the Principles of General Semantics, I feel let down by them. My bias stems from his NRA stand and style in The Weapons Shop wherein I feel he overly imitates Heinlein. The World of Null A is just too lame as a serious study or use of Semantics. I would have expected a disciple of Count Alfred Korzibski to make fuller use of the material, and I found at least one flaw in his reasoning when applying the principles.

The Universe Maker is something else. The author hasn’t quite broken out of his short story mode so he weaves a plot that lets him incorporate many short stories into one cohesive tale. It is a good novel yet I think Isaac Asimov wrote with a deeper understanding of his direction and theme as well as in simply tighter prose than A. E. Van Vogt manages. The Asimov novel I refer to is his time travel work, The End Of Eternity which followed “Maker” by two years.

Van Vogt developed his distinct style by the time of this writing, a style that would serve him the rest of his career. What the author does that is unique in fifties and sixties Sci-Fi is that he creates a fairly misogynistic protagonist who can be counted on to pivot numerous times in his loyalties to issues and support characters (especially female support characters). The pivotal choices never come when the reader expects them nor do they generally follow any previous train of thought.

The plot of this novel is fairly routine: protagonist is whisked into the far future where he influences world politics; attractive female appears for whom he falls but must betray in order to save the world; paradox develops by his having tampered with the fabric of time; paradox is resolved by unknown science or benevolent character.

What he never develops adequately is the sub theme of discovering the origins of time and the existence of a human soul. He makes an earnest stab at reasoning that there is no such thing as a soul but he never returns to the argument to conclude it. He even reveals some insight into the concept of reality being a product of the human mind’s penchants for ‘time-binding’. What the climax and resolve signify is left up to the reader which is also a very Semantics driven form of dialectics. For hard science fiction, however, Van Vogt cannot break out of his Noir hard-boiled convention enough to carry the reader’s imagination to the truly alien and far flung future. Several of his characters are stereotypes from the depression and others are from the ‘War Years’. The characters rarely stick around long enough for the reader to attach any concern. This is not a romantic novel.

Where the author succeeds in surprising plot twists and intriguing problem solving from the third person narrative, he creates an imaginative creatively written story. When he resolves a bunch of short stories in the span of fourteen pages, he shows considerable craft and finally makes his mark as the science fiction author whose specialty is General Semantics.

Bank Dick Pick Up On South Street in Brighton Rock

W.C.Fields is a man on posters these days. A soundbite in a caption. We can hear his snarly voice as we read the quote. Our attention span is short and our frame of reference is sketchy at best. I have seen Fields in My Little Chickadee and numerous short subjects yet only recently watched him in a more modern (1940?) film—The Bank Dick. I’d say he hadn’t changed at all from the soundbite image or my previous exposure. Of course he cannot change because he is dead and frozen on celluloid so what I mean is that my perceptions haven’t changed nor my stereotype of him from his slapstick era films. I love the man’s character and even came to admire more his gait and carriage. The practiced pratfall and comic routine which is so seamless that I hardly notice it, he paired with his delivery in oft times rather strange plot that lacked continuity. But the Bank Dick is funny and it is a good showcase of his talent, so see it if you never have. I write about W.C. here because if there was ever a more lovable swindler and seamy character played, I’ve never known it.

I read Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, and wrote about it in some unmemorable way on some transient space. I pick up the theme again because I just watched the film noir with Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, and Thelma Ritter, Pickup On South Street. This is not the art film of other film noir (a la Maltese Falcon). This is a weird slice of NYC life in 1953 that is wrapped in propaganda Red-Scare film. It is very good. What floors me is that the characters are as much a part of our urban landscape in 2004 as they were in 1953. The bad guy, Joey, looks a lot like a young Bryan Ferry. Thelma Ritter looks like any homeless person. Widmark is so punkish that I had a bad dream last night about high school punks after watching him. Jean Peters plays a wonderful part that seems contemporarily in line with crack whores and the like, yet always these stories cast them with hearts of gold. She is marvelous to watch yet her pusstart look just doesn’t cut it in the tough as nails department.

Thelma Ritter is so good in this movie that she is nominated for an Oscar. Would the Academy every really give an Oscar to a B movie like this—well they didn’t. Thelma is quite at home in this NYC tale, more so than her famous appearance in Reno in The Misfits. There is no connection I can make between her character and any in Brighton Rock. Her resolve when she is about to die—a woman who is living just to bury herself, makes her part about the best thing in Pickup On South Street. That is saying profusely much because there are so many good scenes and parts in this flick.

Greene’s theme is similar in that you wonder who you are rooting for by the middle of the novel. Pinky is a slimeball yet Pinky is offered up many times as conditioned to his behavior rather than fallen to it by free will.

His girl is not so different from Jean Peters as far as lying and conniving, though Greene colors her as both stupid and naïve, and the connecting thread is that inner city urchins must live by immoral means, at least as far as conventional morality of the comfortable class who would read the novel or see the picture.

Having said that, I’d like to offer that Pickup is in a modality for the sort who could identify with the protagonists, at least through some element of abhorrent social behavior. Could you see standing in line a throng of fans who were all grifters (pick pockets)?.As each patron reaches the ticket booth he reaches into an empty pocket and says “Hey now, alright wiseguy!”and nails the patrons closest to him in line.

Pinky is an insensitive monster whom Greene pays off in the end with his just desserts. Widmark’s McCoy, by contrast, is cynical and has a persecution complex but he turns out not to be the monster originally introduced. I can’t remember Widmark playing the hero in any pictures. He must have been one in a war picture or two, though I remember him as a bad guy in the westerns.

You’re going to think I am obsessed still with Spider-Man, but I need to say this: The hats, the sets, and the look of the characters was all a flashback for me of Steve Ditko’s work on Spider-Man between 1963 and 1966. The scene where they are running below the docks was practically panel-for-panel of Spidey chasing gangsters in issue 10 and The Crime Master in issues 26 and 27. The bait house and the pulley Widmark swings on is right off of issues 11 and 12. Clearly Ditko’s art was mightily influenced by these film noir pictures and through him, so am I.

Anyone influenced by BBC television show (Mysteries, Monty Python) won’t have a hard time relating to Brighton Rock even though it is set in the 1930s. And poets will like it because in the symbolism and his language there crops up true gems in the rough:

The gulls which had stood like candles down the beach rose and cried under the promenade. The old man found a boot and stowed it in his sack and a gull dropped from the parade and swept through the iron nave of the Palace Pier, white and purposeful in the obscurity: half-vulture and half-dove. In the end one always had to learn.


3 Responses

  1. The Baroque Cycle
    Neal Stephenson

    Paris Parts, June 2009

    Neal Stephenson has handled many sorts of fiction. Quicksilver, 2003, is an historic fiction and is followed by two sequels in a series he has titled “The Baroque Cycle”. The other two novels are titled: The Confusion, 2003, and The System of The World, 2004.

    The author is a student of cryptography (the study of deciphering codes), and a writer of science fiction. I couldn’t foresee him conveying such convincing characterization of post-Renaissance people and events. As I read this novel I learned about authentic history through Stephenson’s ability to paint the landscape and mindsets of great thinkers of the Royal Natural Philosopher’s Society. His research is extensive. The bloodline of the Heirs of Ascendancy to European royalty is an exhausting read, and I can only imagine what he went through to map it. We’re both Americans, and I can say that here in the USA we are seldom inculcated with rote learning on these historic facts as they do in Europe. In the final novel he acknowledges the myriad sources for these facts and tells that it took him seven years to put it all together. I’d no clue as to why he went down this literary path after succeeding in Cyber-Punk and cryptographic stories. I was looking for a device that fit into cryptography, and behold, it is in the calculus and “The Logic Engine”. Both of these discoveries led to some types of computer logarithms, which are used to generate security codes.

    Alchemy plays a large part in the plot. Stephenson has Sir Isaac Newton seem like a crackpot who won’t rest until he has proved that alchemy works. We never really get into Newton’s mindset in the first two novels where the author mostly alludes to him through critiques of the protagonist, Daniel Waterhouse, and by others who characterize Newton in great detail.

    And one should be an avid reader to undertake this trilogy of three thousand pages. Quicksilver alone is nine hundred and eighteen pages and not always a ripping good drama or much of a mystery.

    The author starts it on home ground in Massachusetts during early colonial times with quite a blast. That was clever because it takes a bit to warm to some parts that flash back to London. His device is to have an ongoing sea battle against pirates to keep the reader turning pages on the more mundane settings or confusing historical episodes. By the time I read to book two “The Story of Half-cock Jack”, I knew I was hooked into finishing this novel though it took me many years to finish the cycle.

    Quicksilver is basically the easiest read of these three novels. The author portrays the pirate adversaries as both human and surprisingly business-minded. The modern reader forgets with the peril of a mere oceanic voyage in this era that there were equally perilous foes of the common voyager. Stephenson goes over-the-top in a few scenes but keeps it realistic in the main.

    The Confusion is not as reader friendly as Quicksilver simply because Stephenson prefers first person floating narrative in the form of missives and letters throughout this novel. Also the pervading elements of stocks trading and investment banking/business lends itself to boring the reader. There is the heist in “Bonanza” and the voyage around the world, but this doesn’t compare favorably to the broadsides with the pirates of the first novel. The fact that the main protagonist is female might have been a literary trap for Stephenson who writes about men with more flair. The author leans heavily toward the pulp type of hero vs. villainous foe physical combat and there can be little of this when the protagonist is female and engaging her wiles rather than her swordsmanship. Yet the setting of this novel affords the author more detail of the bloodline to the English and French thrones

    In truth I cannot recall all of the plot twists in all three novels but what I carry away is the progression of a theme throughout. Adventurers were responsible for many important discoveries and helped out the human condition in some cases by conveying new ideas to remote parts of the globe. The fathers of modern thought were alive in England and would soon infect progressive thinkers in America. Case in point was Sir Isaac Newton who single-handedly changed our view of the universe as much as Copernicus, DiVinci, or Galilleo. He is the author of the first ‘modern’ work, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. To be the front runner is unique in most fields, and the genius that was Newton is at least consistent in the author’s portrayal of Newton’s abilities. Reader, we are speaking of the man who invented Calculus. I still can’t do Calculus, but to think of Newton seeing all the proofs that pointed to its rise; well Stephenson can argue about Leibniz’s claims to Calculus but it is as much as saying Einstein didn’t really write E=MC squared first.

    That the author can give Newton so many Doyle-esque facets is a tribute to his imagination. As he states in his “Acknowledgements”—
    When necessary I just made something up.

    Often the author’s imaginings save this writing from being merely a lengthy description of Europe in the 18th Century. Imagining what sailors might think who were among the first to sail into the San Francisco Bay; did they find their Shangri-La? Should they set aside their dreams of fortune for the agrarian life in some of the world’s mildest climate?

    The final novel, The System of the World brings back all the characters from the first two and arranges Sir Isaac Newton at the center. The author gives us climax and resolution on the matter of philosophic gold and thus the earnest worth of alchemy. Sadly the hero, Daniel Waterhouse, must wait for Edison and electric power in order to build a functioning computer, but he takes mechanical binary computation further than modern science buffs realized before reading this. Stephenson even leaves himself an opening for a sequel, as Bluebeard doesn’t materialize by the conclusion.

    If you are interested in the early development of encryption, physics, surgery, calculus, mining, or numismatic studies then read these novels.

    • Reamde, Neal Stepphenson, 2011

      Having read many of this author’s works, I ponder his motive in this new direction. His first novel Zodiac is a dutiful homage to the GreenPeace movement and a lesson in Earth First tactics. His characters speak in a counter-culture lingo, and the protagonist is the evil polluting corporate menace to the eco-system.

      Later he delves into science fiction (Cyber-punk) and historical novels. This novel, while still very engaging through contemporary politics, is a swing to the right. His protagonist is a sort of Steve Jobs gone native in the British Colombian wilderness. He even hunts a bear.

      The plot revolves around a ‘what if’ speculation: How would the survivalist A-2 crowd in the northern US actually fare if they were to use their paramilitary training and arsenal of automatic weapons against an invasion of Al-Qida jihadists. I am happy to say that Steppenson writes that realistically they would hardly hold their own when they came face to face with a guerilla army of Arabs who would use any means necessary such as an RPG to take them out.

      Since this is a novel of over a thousand pages, the author has more of a point to make than just this. The Russian Mafia is involved and many characters populate the story line. Stepphenson creates some really great heroes and villains, but the title of the novel is misleading. There is a REAMDE virus in the story but early on rather than central to the conflict throughout. The character who creates it and also plays a computer game in the role of a warrior with the same name is really only a sideline figure.

      Zula, the niece of the main character becomes the female in distress throughout the story. She is a very interesting character and a credit to the author that he wrote such a background for her. While Zula is a bit of a superhero, there are more superskilled characters with fantastic abilities to rival hers. The super villain complains to her even:
      No more of your Nancy Drew stunts!
      He is overwhelmed by her resourcefulness and tenacity.

      Perhaps Stepphenson created the protagonist, Dodge, after himself to assuage his hippie conscience that it is OK to be a rich famous success as long as you don’t lose sight of basic American moral values; such as helping the poor or putting family first. I don’t actually know if Stepphenson is a millionaire but I can say that he leans towards becoming the next spokesman for the NRA. Well maybe not since he has to write these incredibly long novels. Do famous authors get paid by the word? I’d like to see him knock out a Cyber-punk novella.

      RLK 10/12/12

  2. Joe Haldeman Mars Bound trilogy

    While Joe is a very good writer on some themes, this has not been one of his best series. He has neither the handle on Mars geography of Gregory Benford nor Kim Stanley Robinson . His best effort in the series is with the military spies (main characters) and the military protocal that the ship’s Captain shows.
    I would not recommend these novels to hard sci-fi readers but rather as light science fiction entertainment.
    Paris 05/25/2013

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