January 6, 2004

Sundiver: More laser beams than a Dr. Evil plot

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at January 6, 2004 5:11 PM While in Houston I happened upon my copy of Sundiver by David Brin, which had been sitting unread in my closet for a few years. I don't really know why I never got around to reading it; maybe it was the godawful cover art. Brin was not only a Techer but a Lloydie (I met him once when he visited the campus), and I've enjoyed his essays but never read his fiction. (For a great Brin essay, try this one on the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek.) Anyway, I tossed the book in my bag for the road.

I read about 90% of it during my interminable travel on Sunday, and finished it on the BART this morning. So, a few comments:

It struck me that Brin writes as if his audience is the Caltech science fiction book club. The prose is frequently dense with scientific terminology which I imagine could be troublesome for less technical readers. I kind of enjoyed it but it's definitely not for everyone. (Since this is his first novel this probably changes over time.) This did, however, result in some awkward dialogue.

As far as plot I was expecting (based on the back cover synopsis) a Ringworld-style exploration where a bunch of humans and aliens go somewhere in a cool ship and find cool stuff. There were elements of this, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book was primarily a mystery novel embedded in a sci-fi novel, a combination I've always found enjoyable. But this, too, was geared to a technical audience; some of the major clues involved physics that might not be as familiar to the average reader as they were to me. I can't decide whether this is a complaint; I do derive a certain amount of enjoyment from solving a mystery based on my knowledge of optics, but it obviously restricts the audience a bit.

I do have one definite complaint: the ending was too neat. Pretty much every conflict, internal and external, was resolved, with a couple of exceptions that are obviously the driving forces for the entire series that begins with this book. It seemed rather unrealistic.

Anyway, not the greatest book I've ever read, but a good companion for hours of plane travel. I'll probably pick up the sequel, Startide Rising, which is supposed to be very good and in a rather different vein from Sundiver. I'm curious where the story will go... Tags:

Star Wars vs. Star Trek

Okay, so I read the Brin essay, and I liked it. He makes some excellent points (especially about The Empire Strikes Back, my favorite), but I think this man is taking things a little too seriously. Now, I see his point about popular culture shaping ideals, I get that...but can't I just enjoy the Star Wars movies anyway? Do I have to sit in the theater and think about Nazis?????

I was raised a Trekkie...my dad never missed an episode and I was always right there with him. I never really thought about a lot of the things that Brin brought up in his article, but I applaud him for saying them. I guess if you're going for fiction v. reality then Trek is going to win the "reality" battle.

I will still love Star Wars. Well, the last three at least. The first two didn't really do anything for me.

There's your daily opinion from the peanut gallery...

Posted by: Tracy Manford | January 7, 2004 5:55 AM

Re: Star Wars vs. Star Trek

Randal Graves: Which did you like better? "Jedi" or "The Empire Strikes Back"?
Dante Hicks: "Empire".
Randal Graves: Blasphemy!
Dante Hicks: "Empire" had the better ending. I mean, Luke gets his hand cut off, finds out Vader's his father, Han gets frozen and taken away by Boba Fett. It ends on such a down note. I mean, that's what life is, a series of down endings. All "Jedi" had was a bunch of Muppets.

My approach is to enjoy Star Wars and then enjoy Brin's highly amusing deconstruction of it. I don't think they're mutually exclusive. Brin wrote another essay that was published alongside the one I linked which enumerated the flaws in Episode I; it's also a fun read.

And while I'm linking these things, here's the old classic 50 Reasons Why Jedi Sucks (not by David Brin). And a parody of that list, the incomparable masterpiece of flamebait 50 Reasons Lord of the Rings Sucks.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | January 7, 2004 11:51 AM

Re: Star Wars vs. Star Trek

Hahahaha! I needed a laugh today, thanks for the links.

...and a good Clerks quote is always appreciated, of course.

Posted by: Tracy Manford | January 7, 2004 11:55 AM
Post a comment