The Forge of God

by Greg Bear

ISBN: 0765301075

What would happen if society had an inkling–or proof–that the world was going to end, soon?

That is the premise explored in this novel. Written as more of a page-turning thriller than philosophical treatise it still examines some Big Questions, albeit with a broad brush.

While I did find the friendship between Arthur and Harry, and Arthur’s relationship with his son compelling, in general I thought that the characters lacked depth. This may be because there were so many of them to focus on in this sprawling novel.

I eagerly turned pages until the end (and the End) though. Unfortunately, the very end of the book just exists to set up the sequel. Bear would have been better off ending the novel six pages sooner, without the final chapter. Arthur’s son asking “where are we going now?” would be enough hook to get me to read Anvil of Stars.

Revelation Space

by Alastair Reynolds

ISBN: 0441009425

This debut novel is best described in two words: space opera.

It weighs in at nearly 600 pages, and is almost entirely plot-propelled (versus character-driven.) It covers the requisite vast distances and time periods. At times elements reminded me of Vernor Vinge’s last two books, but the characters in Revelation Space were not as fully developed as I find Vinge’s to be.

While Reynolds did keep me turning the pages, I grew annoyed with some of the devices he used. Most irksome was his tendency to have one character explain something to another, but not let me in on it–this is a rather artificial way to create or maintain suspense. The times he did let me it on it, I thought it was too much shorthand on his part, where he should have done more work.

The problem with this planting a sense of “more” and delaying gratification is that it can be hard to create a payoff that lives up to expectations. This was a decent ride, but I think Reynolds overstretched himself at the end.

Bottom line: cool ideas, some flaws in the execution.