Monday, 25 January 2010

Clarke and Baxter, Time’s Eye (2004)

[Note: what with a new term, and lots of assessed work coming in at once, I currently have more marking to do than God. This means there's no time to write any new reviews this week, so instead I'm reposting reviews that appeared a few years ago in venues, such as the much lamented alienonline, that mean they are no longer available. Your out-of-date reviewerage starts here.]

How do you like your Yarn, sir? madam? Ripping, is it?

And how about your Adventure, madam? sir? How do you like that? High is it? Well step this way, because I’ve just the thing for you: it’s called Time’s Eye, and it’s another collaboration by those two world-figures of SF, Clarke and Baxter. What’s that? You want to know how High the Adventure gets?

It reaches as High as a timequake-world in which the surface of our planet, acting under the influence of a large number of mysterious floating globes, tessellates into a mishmash of historical periods. Early hominids bump into twenty-first century UN peacekeepers, nineteenth-century British imperial officers join the army of Alexander the Great, that sort of thing. Feisty and likeable heroes and heroines, and one excellently hiss-worthy female villain, trek across the changed face of the world, trying to plumb the mystery of what has happened. Rudyard Kipling, Alexander the Great and Ghengis Khan all come within spear-chucking distance of one another in a spectacular battle between armies from different time zones at the site of Ancient Babylon, now half-destroyed by the appearance of a mysterious and possibly alien artefact. This is a novel in which characters turn to one another and say things like ‘I suppose all this footslogging seems primitive to you, with your flying machines and thinking boxes, the marvellous war-making devilry of futurity!’ Is that High enough for you?

If you’re looking for a read that rattles along, a book that entertains thoroughly, with well-differentiated characters you come to like caught up in world changing events in the grand old manner, all of it laced with cosmic speculation about the role of time and the possibility that humanity’s future won’t extend much beyond the present century, then this is the book for you.

There’s something very does-what-it-says-on-the-tin about Time’s Eye. It takes its world-shaking premise and its various characters and puts them through exciting and often illuminating adventures, keeping the reader hooked and leaving him or her wanting more. The notion of time warping such that people from different histories interact is hardly a new one in SF, after all: the premise of Time’s Eye recalls such sf warhorses as Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Time (1938), Murray Leinster’s ‘Sidewise in Time’ (1934) or Fred Hoyle’s October the First is Too Late (1964), not to mention Brian Aldiss’s Frankenstein Unbound (1973). But Clarke and Baxter put their adventure together so well, so entertainingly, that it never feels derivative – except, of course, in one particular.

Because, as an authors’ note at the beginning makes plain, this novel is a riff, or remix, of Clarke’s classic 2001 A Space Odyssey and its various diminishing-return sequels. To be precise, the reader is told that this book ‘neither follows nor precedes the books of the earlier Odyssey’, not prequel or sequel but ‘orthoquel’, a word which apparently means a book ‘taking similar premises in a different direction’. I do hope that so uneuphonious a coinage doesn’t catch on; it’s almost as bad as ‘quadrilogy’. But the idea behind it is a nice one.

There are some sunspots in this generally excellent read. Because it presents itself as sophisticated melodrama rather than psychological realism, we are carried along the improbable plot line without the friction of disbelief. But it perhaps strains credulity a little too far even for Good Honest Pulp SF that, of the twenty-first century characters, the half that falls in with Ghengis Khan just happens to include a man who speaks medieval Mongolian, and the half that falls in with Alexander the Great just happens to include a man who speaks Classical Greek, thereby facilitating the smooth integration of the disparate historical groups. (There are a couple of miniature errors in the Greek as well; the Macedonian soldiers chant ‘Al-e-hand-dreh! Al-e-hand-dreh!’: shouldn’t that be ‘Al-e-hand-ros!’ But I don’t mean to be pedantic.)

A more important concern is whether the mysterious impermeable floating globes that give the novel its title work as well as the mysterious impermeable black monoliths of the original 2001. They are certainly intriguingly rendered; although I can’t get my head around the idea, adduced several times in the book as evidence of their other-dimensionality, that the ration between their diameters and the circumference of their central circles is not pi but exactly 3.0. Can that be, even in other dimensions? If we swallow that, wouldn’t it also mean that ‘in another dimensions’ two plus two might equal six thousand and seventy, or that a triangle might have four sides? (But wouldn’t that make it a square?). Isn’t circumference equals pi times diameter just the way things are for circles and spheres? But it would ill behove me to disagree with such eminent scientists and SF writers as Clarke and Baxter.

More to the point, I wonder whether the globes work as well as the monoliths simply on a level of the frisson sent along readers spines. They are, perhaps, more logical (as in Banks’s Excession, a shaft dropped through four dimensions would appear as a sphere in three, just as a sphere intersecting a 2-D world would appear as a circle to the flatland inhabitants of that plane). But they lack the tombstone chilly rightness of Clarke-Kubrick’s original monoliths. Still: good stuff.

8 comments:

dgdgdf said...

http://www.bootboots.com
http://www.salelouboutin.com
http://www.buylouboutin.com
http://www.bestlouisvuitton.com
http://www.sale-mbt.com
http://www.discount-christianlouboutin.com
Velours Scrunch Boots Miss Clichy 140 boots Robot 120 ankle boots Black Suede/ Leather Lace Up Ankle boots Tina Suede Black Platform Boots Circus Cutout Suede Ankle Boots Deva 120 suede fringed Boots Sigourney Metallc Ankle Boots Miss Dark Brown Miss Suede Black Arielle A Talon ankle Boots Ariella Clou Silver Studded Boots Alta Arielle A Talon Python Short Boots Robot 120 ankle boots Gold babel shoe boots Brown Trottinette 140 ankle boots Brown Trottinette 140 ankle boots Mouse suede Forever Tina boots Purple fringed suede C'est Moi boots Black

dgdgdf said...

C'est Moi boots Pink Charme 100 suede ankle boots Leopard suede boots Christian Louboutin Tuba Tall Boot Fifre Suede Ankle Boot black lace ankle boots Black Lace-Up Boots black fold-over boots black leather knee-high boots peep-toe bootie Christian Louboutin Astraqueen shoe boots platform lace-up bootie Christian Louboutin Suede Black Ankle boots supra fifre 120 thigh-high boots Christian Louboutin Alta Ariella Talon Leopard Boots Christian Louboutin OTK PlatformAfrica grey suede Boot Christian Louboutin Alta Ariella Talon Leopard Ankle Boots Christian Louboutin black leather ankle boots Christian Louboutin dark red leather ankle boots Manolo Blahnik Something Blue Satin Pump Manolo Blahnik Something Black Satin Pump Black patent leather sandals

dgdgdf said...

Black patent leather sandals
Black sandals with Phnom Penh
Dark blue satin pumps
Jimmy Choo Black leather sandals
Jimmy Choo Black patent leather pumps

Jimmy Choo Black patent leather sandals
Jimmy Choo Gold Pumps
Jimmy Choo Pierced black leather sandals
Jimmy Choo Platform Purple Sandals
Jimmy Choo Platform Sandal

Jimmy Choo Platform Thirsty Blue Sandals
Jimmy Choo Platform Yellow Sandals
Jimmy Choo Satin Sandal
Jimmy Choo Snake Sandals
Jimmy Choo White leather Sandals

dgdgdf said...

Silver patent leather high-heeled sandals
cow leather pump with stone emboss light purple cracking leather sandal purple patent leather shoes with black heel Yves Saint Laurent White Pumps Yves Saint Laurent Ankle Strap Sandal Yves Saint Laurent black patent leather Yves Saint Laurent black sheep leather pump Yves Saint Laurent bright grey patent leather Yves Saint Laurent Cage Platform Sandal Yves Saint Laurent grey leopord suede Yves Saint Laurent Grey suede Yves Saint Laurent light gold cracking leather sandal Yves Saint Laurent light red suede pump Yves Saint Laurent red patent leather sandal Yves Saint Laurent red suede

LV bags said...

louis vuitton handbagsbuy now
louis vuitton bagslow price
louis vuitton Walletsfree shipping
louis vuitton handbags replica
louis vuitton handbags cheap
louis vuitton bags for cheap

louis vuitton bagon sale
discount louis vuitton handbagson discount
louis vuitton walletnew arrive
louis vuitton shoes for women cheap
louis vuitton wallet for cheap

louis vuitton handbagsnew arrive
replica louis vuitton bagsbuy now
louis vuitton shoesfree shipping
louis vuitton handbags on sale
louis vuitton shoes on sale

louis vuitton bagsnew arrive
louis vuitton replicabuy now
louis vuitton handbagsfree shipping
louis vuitton designer hanbags
louis vuitton bags on sale

NBA Jerseyhot sale
NFL Jerseybest quality
MLB Jerseybuy now
NHL Jersey nba jerseys for sale
NFL Jersey for sale
MLB Jersey for sale
NHL Jersey for sale

China wholesale on sale
wholesale on discount

trustme said...

Helo, I appreciate you for telling us so nice things, thank you!By the way, if you like nike tn you can come here to choose! We have a lot of
nike tn,tn chaussures,
nike tn requin chaussures,nike air max tn chaussures.
If you want to find the shoes according to the sorts, then here you can have the informations, we classied the shoes in
nike torch,
nike dunk mid,
nike tn 8,nike dunk sb mid.
At the same time, the vibram also offer you in our store.
You also can choose the most fashionable sunglasses here, it really can make you different from other people. We have
sunglasses,designer sunglasses,
wholesale sunglasses,sunglasses discount in USA.
They includ men's sunglasses,women's sunglasses.
So many fashion brands are for you,like Emporio Armani Sunglasses,
Fendi Sunglasses,
Giorgio Armani Sunglasses,
Gucci Sunglasses,
Hugo Boss Sunglasses and so on.

Femalethoth (Mal from xkcdsucks) said...

With regards to pi being exactly three: It's actually not as far-fetched as 2 + 2 = 5 and a four-sided triangle. It has to do with the fact that pi's definition is rooted in distances, and distances are DEFINITELY something that can be changed.

Here's a way of thinking about it. A circle is the set of all points equidistant from a center, yes? And pi is the ratio of the distance around the circle to the radius of that circle.

Consider a line of latitude, on a globe, measured as the crow flies not as the mole burrows. A line of latitude is therefore a circle, with its center at a pole. However, if you measure the radius (the distance along the sphere from the pole to the line of latitude) and the circumference and try to calculate pi there, you won't get 3.141etc. In the extreme case of, say, the equator, you get a pi of 4.

It all comes down to what metric the space you're in has, to use some topological terms. The study of non-Euclidean metrics is a very rich field, as is the study of spaces that cannot possibly have metrics.

It's not just mathematical abstraction, though. General relativity tells us that our space, our physical universe, does not have a perfectly Euclidean metric. Distance itself gets distorted by gravity, so that near massive objects the shortest distance between two points is not what we conventionally imagine to be a straight line.

I'm not sure it would be possible to have a metric where pi is three when measured both by C = 2 Pi R and V = 4/3 Pi R³, but it's certainly conceivable. The fact that it's exactly three, for a variety of sizes of spheres, is the mark of engineered space.

But, as you say, they may still not have the ominous narrative power of those monoliths.

xiaopywsp said...

aaa replica
Prior to we touch on the subject, that is aaa replica, we had better emphasize the criterion of aaa replica foremost.

knock off designer handbags
Consequently, a few of persons merely replace the designer handbags in the real sense with the knock off designer handbags.


purse discount
At Louis Vuitton Handbags Mall, the purse discount we offer is competitive in the industry.