Celestial Weasel (celestialweasel) wrote,
Celestial Weasel

Missile Gap

I have read another of the works of The Honourable Charles St. John Ross, gentleman SF writer (who cravenly, in these modern times, to avoid alienating the hoi-polloi has adopted a more proletarian sounding pen name).
This is another interesting one. Which of us can honestly say that when we were small we never imagined the Earth being broken up by aliens and split into geographically separate parts? I know I did. So it is good to see it covered in novella form. And the reason I persevere with the hon. gentleman's work is that he has definitely Got Something. It would be tempting to say 'if only he could afford to write slower and more carefully or there was a firmer hand of editorial guidance', but as Malzberg tells us thus has always been the way of SF. Maybe he is too busy huntin' and fishin'.
Possibly the best contemporary SF I have read this year, though.

Good things:
1. Just after the Cuban missile crisis was, I think, an inspired time to set it.
2. Genuine 'hard SF' working out of ideas, particularly welcome since they are in areas different from the usual nanotech / brain uploading / computer-nanotech-Singularity cluster.
3. Some genuinely powerful imagery
Stuff I haven't decided whether 'tis good or bad
1. One of the 3 plot-lines is essentially The Enterprise, but Russian and a nuclear-powered plane exploring the disk-world. This could either be seen as being a clever homage or playing to the peanut gallery. As I am feeling mellow I am tending towards the former.
Bad things:
1. One of the other two plot-lines has intelligent insect colonies reminiscent of Sand Kings by George R.R. Martin which doesn't quite work (not as good as GRRM certainly). Apart from that the story involves Americans starting a colony on one of the continents on the disk world, and would probably have been better without the GRRM-style element.
2. The characters in the 'Enterprise' strand come across nuked 'Earth's'. We are supposed to surmise that the Earth has not been transported, but copied and that these are copied that have been activated earlier. The third strand is of super-beings downloaded to the Earth copy. At the end they decide it needs to be destroyed for reasons that do not make sense to me. October The First Is Too Late by Fred Hoyle is hinted at in the final section. I can see what he is getting at but it doesn't really work. There is also some spy stuff which we have previously established that he can't do.

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