Celestial Weasel (celestialweasel) wrote,
Celestial Weasel

Forty Buckets Of Custard

Well, I have finished 'Forty Signs Of Rain' By Kim Stanley Robinson. I think I must sadly say that I now regard Robinson as someone who started off without 'it', got 'it' briefly for The Gold Coast and Pacific Edge and then lost it again. The phrase that springs most to mind with Forty Signs Of Rain is the time honoured 'if you want to send a message use Western Union'.
Having read most of the book I felt that I had read not 180 pages but 60. I don't just mean that I thought it could have been written in 60 pages, or should have been written in 60 pages, but that I genuinely thought, on picking it up again, that I had read 60 pages and was amazed at where the bookmark was.
The main characters are very superficially drawn - Anna and Charlie are 'young working couple with children by numbers' and Frank reminded me of no-one so much as a Robert Anton Wilson parody of a rationalist scientist. Then again I have always had difficulty in taking sociobiologists seriously and maybe elements of the character are deliberately silly.

Nor did I feel that there were any great insights into how Washington works. Possibly this is just because there are so many things treading this territory, and because I have, to my shame, watched a few episodes of that great liberal's wet dream The West Wing.
Without giving anything away it is fair to say that nothing much happens in the book.

The climax, the flooding of Washington D.C. just didn't interest me, probably because I didn't find it particularly vivid and because I didn't care about the characters.
Now, if it had been a restaging of the Canadians / British burning down the city as in 1814 in the war of 1812 that would have been more interesting! (and why do they call it the War of 1812 when it went on until 1814, I want to know? Why not call it the war of 1812 to 1814 or 'the war where Washington D.C. got burnt down?' or 'another war that the U.S. started and didn't win'?

It also contains some of the most clunky info-dumps seen in the wild for a while - a character suggests to another characters that they google for the history of the N.S.A. They do, and Robinson tells us what they find!

Part of the problem is that the bar for 'this kind of book' (whatever that is) has been set pretty high, with Pattern Recognition and Cryptonomicon to name but two. As you probably know, I think P.R. is a genuine classic, and although I have certain reservations about Cryptonomicon and Stephenson, I still view it as a masterpiece, albeit flawed.

Anyway, save your money and read P.R. if you haven't, or if you want to read Robinson try The Gold Coast and Pacific Edge and see if, like me, you find the alleged dystopia more appealing than the alleged utopia.

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