Friday, May 02, 2008
Sometimes I think I should just stop talking about me in this space. Because, y'know, even though I'm firmly convinced the universe is entirely about me, it seems graceless to keep pointing it out to people who, however worthy, are by the mere fact of exclusion not who the universe is about.
But then, if you're reading this at all, it's because you're interested in me right now, not someone else.
Still, I feel I should warn you that, if you're getting a little tired of me telling you about other people who think I'm pretty darn neat, you can skip this entry. I--- and the universe--- will forgive you.
Another couple reviews have come in for Implied Spaces, which in spite of not having appeared on any bookstore shelf continues to generate enthusiasm.
The first from colleague Tobias Buckell. "Implied Spaces has been the treat of the month for me. Flushed with a reader's high just after finishing the last page I mentioned on my blog that it had been, so far, my favorite book of the year. I had to mull that over a bit for the column, and after looking over my reading list this year so far, I have to say I still think it's my favorite book of the year so far . . .
"This is a romp through a novel of wild ideas, pocket universes in which D&D like environments exist for the titillation of their inhabitants being just the first of a series of escalating wild ideas, and Williams handles each oncoming wave with a steady hand and a quick pace. This is a fast, fun, and wild read."
Next we have Gary Wolfe in Locus. There's an introduction in which Gary, setting up his argument, discusses the "lycopene" and "ludenic" strains in SF, "ludenic" being from the Latin word for "game."
"For every Asimov who was studiously concerned about the social implications of robotics, there was a Kuttner who seemed to feel that robots were just fun to write about. For every carefully considered Clarkean novel about space exploration, there was another looneytune space opera. And the same thing seems to be happening with the current boy-band of SF ideas, the Vingean Singularity. There's no doubt it's a cool idea with all sorts of real-world implications, but - as Walter Jon Williams demonstrates in his new novel Implied Spaces - there's a playful aspect to it as well, and one that has more to do with the singularity as a function of story than about real-world technological tipping points. In other words, Williams is asking what good the singularity is purely as a literary device - what possibilities does it open up for the SF novelist, and how do these possibilities relate to earlier traditions? Williams's answer is interesting and often delightful, if not always fully worked out, and his angle of approach harks back to classic ludenic SF writers like Zelazny and Farmer, whose pocket universes borrowed as much from fantasy as SF, and who pretty much had to weave them from whole cloth in terms of any sort of SFnal rationale. Now, with Matrioshka arrays, quantum foam, portable wormholes, and downloadable mind backups, Williams can locate his various worlds in a firmly hard-SF context, though the worlds themselves are as playfully multi-genre as ever.
"The result is a novel that is, among other things, a galloping tour of various SF and fantasy subgenres. It begins as classic sword-and-sorcery, with the hero Aristide working his way across a hostile desert environment accompanied by his magical sword Tecmessa, his talking cat Bitsy, and eventually a troll-led army of warriors. (Yes, you have to get past a talking cat to get into this novel, and even though it turns out not really to be a cat, Williams should be held accountable.) . . .
"In a brief visit to the espionage genre, Aristide is dispatched on a James Bond-like mission to a tropical world called Hawaiki, where he sets himself up as a potential victim for whoever has been kidnapping tourists there. In fairly rapid succession thereafter, Williams takes Aristide through adventures drawn from horror (a zombie plague), romance (a brief ill-fated honeymoon with his lover), space opera ("'Do you mean... we're hurling hostile universes at each other?'"), military SF (featuring the Screaming Cyborg Division, which is even better than a talking cat), and, by the end, a bit of Stapledonian cosmic perspective, as we learn the true nature of Aristide's nemesis Vindex and the secrets of the origin of our universe. This is a lot to pack into a relatively short novel, and while there are some creaky joints between the major setpieces . . . and while some readers will find the abrupt scenery changes jarring, what holds it together is Williams's confident wit and his pure sense of celebration in driving us on a spin through all these genre-worlds. C.S. Lewis once rather presumptively wrote of David Lindsay that he was the first writer to discover what other planets are really good for in fiction, and Williams may turn out to be among the first to ask what singularities are really good for simply in terms of playful big-scale SF storytelling. Maybe he's written the first Singularity Opera . . . "
Yeah, compare me to Zelazny and Farmer. See if I get tired of it.
And Singularity Opera? It occurs to me that in point of fact I actually give Aristide a couple arias.
I believe I will exit, singing . . .