Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Problem

...with reading some old science fiction books is that you feel the need periodically to shout, "They have time travel in 2054 but no cell phones?" and throw the book across the room.

15 comments:

Carlos said...

Dare I ask which book?

I think it was Robert Heinlein's Space Cadet that had cell phones (but no time travel), back in the late 1940s.

Carrie's Mom (and damn proud of it) said...

That struck me too - I was listening to the Audio version, so when I got the book I looked up the copyright - who knew from handheld cellphones nearly 15 years ago? Besides, they're at Oxford, for heaven's sake. Little has changed there in centuries!

Carlos said...

From that slim clue, let me guess what book it is... Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis?

Anna said...

I really, really disliked that book, and the cell phone thing was only one of the reasons. (Assuming it's Doomsday Book you're talking about here.)

Carrie said...

You people frighten me. Yes, it is the Doomsday Book. I don't hate it. I might when I'm through, if all the little things that are bugging me aren't worth the ending, though.

Anna said...

They're not. (;

Carlos said...

Willis often uses missed communication or miscommunication to advance her plots. Sometimes it works. In her screwball comedies, it can work very nicely. Other times, it feels like padding or emotional manipulation.

Willis has a very strange skill set. She's very good at comedies of manners, but has a tin (or lead) ear for satire. She can construct fabulous Rube Goldberg plots, but she populates them with affectless Barbie dolls for characters. Then she turns around and writes heartwrenching science fiction stories about a dog getting run over by a camper. It's a little frustrating.

elswhere said...

You guys! I love Connie Willis! I loved The Doomsday Book! And To Say Nothing of the Dog! And I especially loved Bellwether. Now I feel kind of like a freak...

Natalie said...

Hmmm. I agree with you Carlos. She has a great sense of the ridiculous in her screwball comedies. I have never liked her more serious SF, but Bellwether and To Say Nothing of the Dog are two of my favorite SF (is Bellwether SF?) novels in the past few years. And then there's "Even the Queen"...

Carrie said...

I have to say that I'm enjoying it, despite the phone thing (you're not a freak, Elsewhere). Though it is reminding me of the movie Noises Off with people in and out at just the wrong times and doors slamming, I like the idea behind it. I might have to check out the ones you recommended, Natalie.

elswhere said...

Hmm. "Is Bellwether SF?" Well, there are things in it that haven't really happened yet, but it's more social satire. I guess. But so, so funny and astute! My partner and I still describe anyone who's in league with the forces of chaos(especially the college students who work in her library) as a "Flip."

Carrie's Mom (and damn proud of it) said...

Carlos, you are amazing.
I admit - I gave it to Carrie to read. The closest I ever get to SF is Kurt Vonnegut but I really enjoyed this book - maybe because I've always been fascinated by the mediaeval mindset and the whole "flu" pandemic scenario seems particularly timely. It's quite clear however, that Willis has really not thought through exactly what technological advances might have taken place by 2056. Not that anyone can begin to foretell that. She wasn't very imaginative. But it's just a story after all and fun for an historical fiction buff.
The next recommencation will be "Intensive Care: A Doctor's Journal", by John F. Murray, M.D.
I want to be sure she knows what the doctor's are talking about when she has to take care of me!

Carlos said...

i'm blushing.

If y'all like historical/science fiction novels, I would recommend Kage Baker... except that she's writing a series, and some of the early books are between publishers. Let's see:

In the Garden of Iden -- Renaissance England (and she gets the dialect right! she used to teach Elizabethan English as a second language)

Sky Coyote -- California just before the Spanish arrive

Mendoza in Hollywood -- California in the 1860s

The Graveyard Game -- all over the map. This is her Le Carre novel.

The Life of the World to Come -- England, circa 2300

The Children of the Company -- all over the map again, but with a gorgeous set piece in 1906 San Francisco.

Plus a bunch of short stories, collected in Black Projects, White Knights and Mother Aegypt.

They're addictive.

Then there's The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers...

Carlos said...

Incidentally, I am such a geek.

Carrie's Mom (and damn proud of it) said...

Carlos, thank you, thank you!
Catie and I wil be going to the library tomorrow!
And if you're a geek, we need more geeks.