Saturday, June 07, 2008

Dreaming in Smoke

I read Dreaming in Smoke by Tricia Sullivan because it won the Arthur C. Clarke award in 1999. I was not particularly taken by the book. It was different, but the characters never felt fully fleshed out to me, and I thought too much space was given over to the characters telling each other things I thought the author wanted me to know.

from the back of the book:
Kalypso Deed is a shotgun, riding the interface between the AI Ganesh and human scientists who solve problems through cyberassisted Dreams. But she's young and a little careless; she'd rather mix drinks and play jazz. Azamat Marcsson is a colorless statistician: middle-aged, boring, and obsessed with microorganisms. A first-class nonentity-until one of his Dreams implodes, taking Kalypso with it.

Now Ganesh is crashing, and nothing could be worse. For on the planet T'nane, it is the AI alone that keeps the colonists alive, eking out a grim existence in an environment inimical to human life. To save the colony, Kalypso must persuade Marcsson to finish the Dream that is destroying Ganesh. But Marcsson has gone mad, and T'nane itself has plans for them both that will alter their minds-and their world-forever.

SFSite reviews it here:
The writing is often brilliant. The ideas are often fascinating. But I felt as if I were, so to speak, "reading in smoke". The story was difficult to follow, and the characters difficult to care about. There's much to respect about this novel, but not as much, I thought, to like.

and here:
It's the balance between character and action that makes Dreaming in Smoke a first-rate science fiction novel.

Infinity Plus:
This is overall an excellent book. It is well done in its concept, structure and execution, the last of which Sullivan completes with a style that includes both lyricism and sharp, thoughtful insight. These features combine to completely overshadow any small worldbuilding niggles concerned with the scenario which might otherwise distract you on a first reading.

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