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Adam Roberts is the author of a growing number of science fiction novels, short stories, essays and other writings. This site contains not just his blog, but everything you could ever want to know about everything Adam has ever published. And more...

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Deathray on Splinter

By Adam Roberts | September 5, 2007
Categories: Book News

Deathray is fast becoming my favourite sf magazine, despite (or who knows maybe masochistically because) they're not entirely 100% enamoured of Roberts-mode prose sf.  Not 100% disenamoured either; somewhere in the middle.  Here's Jes Bickham:

Splinter is a conscious, dedicated riff on one of Jules Vernes most bizarre novels--Hector Servadac ... while Hector may be an adult he's not exactly a grown-up, and his struggle to define himself against his father while denying the events that have transpired make him, if not particularly likeable, a complex and believable character.  Splinter is a fascinating book on many levels.  There's the changing terrain of the 'splinter' itself, which appears to be slowly terraformed by the create that hit the Earth, and the disparate group of personalities surviving upon it, and the endlessly rich central relationship ... ultimately there's a lot to admire here.  But in the end, the book is almost as strange and mystifying as its inspiration; the three chapters of the novel are each told in a different tense, past, present and future.  It's a novel effect and makes the final chapter something of a fever dream; a possible divination of the future that is ambiguous and opaque, rich with interpretative scope,  This is thoughtful, literate sf; low on thrills but offering much food for thought.

The verdict: three and a half stars, making it, in the opinion of Deathray, half-a-star better than Hyperdrive ('mostly laughter-free fun from this oh-too-gentle science fiction comedy'), and half-a-star shy of the dizzy heights of Coyote Ragtime Show Vol 3 ('a dozen sexy android sisters with high calibre weaponry').  Not for the first time in my career, it was a review I had to read twice to divine the actual thrust; not because it is poorly expressed but because my own preconceptions about what sf is got in the way.  On a first reading I genuinely thought that the phrase 'almost as strange and mystifying as its inspiration' was an example of pretty much the highest praise a reviewer can offer a book ... why, after all, else go to SF except for strangeness and mystery?  This was foolish of me; strangeness and mystery are not what the sf-fan doctor is ordering nowadays.  I'm assuming it is those qualities (plus the unlikeability of the central character--when will I learn?  Likeable characters only!) that have devalued the precious star rating.  Ah well; live and learn.

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