Book Reviews VII

Not working vastly slowed down my reading speed since, as I’ve said many times before, I do much of my reading in transit.
However, the one hour lunches here (good point: more time. Bad point: less money) have increased my reading speed a little.
I have two book reviews this time around. Greg Egan’s Diaspora, and J. Gregory Keyes’ The Empire of Unreason


Diaspora, by Greg Egan
I picked up this book a long while ago, and it languished back in New York until it came in a shipment of boxes from my parents. I bought it based on the overarching concept of parallel and multiple universes that the book explores. I have read Egan before (Quarantine), so I had an idea of what to expect.
However, I was disappointed. Sure, there are some fabulous extrapolations and explorations of this post-Singularity (to use the Vinge term, Egan uses Introdus) Humanity in its various forms–from software to robots to plain flesh and blood humans. There are dizzying concepts thrown around, even as the action moves outward from Earth, to alien worlds, and beyond.
On the other hand, the characterization is, to put it bluntly, weak. I know that its not one of his strengths, but here the characters seemed to exist solely so he could show off his ideas and little more. Characters who should be intriguing, like The Orphan, just fall down at the merest touch. And Egan’s idea of a “truth mine” seems to violate and ignore Godel’s laws about formal systems. And the ending seems just as flat and uninspiring.
NOT recommended.
The Empire of Unreason, by J. Gregory Keyes.
Third in the Age of Unreason series, the book continues to explore the alternate history/arcane world of the 18th century where Newton discovered the laws of alchemy after he discovered the laws of gravity. Benjamin Franklin continues to develop as one of the three major viewpoint characters, as he rallies his naescent America against threats both arcane and otherwise. Adrienne continues her position in Tsar Peter’s Court, and the native American Red Shoes has the most terrifying story arc of them all.
The novel isn’t as crisp as the first two, a letdown by comparison to the adventures contained in Newton’s Cannon and A Calculus of Angels. Characters hurriedly move from place to place, and some potentially interesting subplots languish. It’s not a bad novel, but nowhere near as good as its predecessors. Its not so bad that I am going to avoid the fourth and last book, however. As always, in these sorts of series, it is far better to begin at the beginning…this book makes little concession to readers new to the series.
Recommended for readers of the previous two books–and the first one, Newton’s Cannon, is a strong recommendation for everyone.