Daily Archives: October 21, 2011

Greg Bear – The Forge of God – Book Review

Greg Bear gave himself a hefty job of work for this 473 page tome.  The subject is the arrival of aliens on the surface of the earth, the gradual discovery of their motive to ‘eat’ the planet, and the reactions of science and politicos as the realization becomes certainty.

In some ways the internal plotting resembles Heinlein’s, The Puppet Masters, in others, Larry Niven’s, Lucifer’s Hammer.  However, if you’re a reader who finds himself studying the characterization as the author develops it, the tool used in furthering the plot, you might find this one a bit annoying.

Although Greg Bear’s handling of the plot requires the introduction of a lot of characters for the reader to attempt to keep track of, he does a fairly craftsman-like job.  He’s obviously aware of the problem and uses a lot of internal plotting to provide the reader with anchors of segment  for each of them to assist.  If he hadn’t been a workmanlike writer he’d never have succeeded as well as he did, which isn’t to say he succeeded completely.  Greg Bear’s skill at characterization kept the work from becoming a complete disaster.

The plot develops rather slowly, and to keep the interest of the reader the author introduces a number of not-often-used event features as crucial pieces of his plot.  This served in my instance to keep me determined to finish the book. 

The concepts Greg Bear introduces are compelling enough to cause me to pause in the reading about 2/3 of the way through to allow some digestion of it all before continuing.  There was no temptation to leave it alone after a day, but I found when I returned I found I already had to reorient myself, reacquaint myself with the individuals connected to names among his multitude of characters, briefly re-study which sub-plot I’d absented myself from when I stopped to contemplate what he was doing.

I believe authors could gain a lot of benefit by carefully studying Bear’s handling of a complex plot broken constantly by updating internal, brief sub-plots, and constant shuffling a population of characters within.  Before reading the book I might have thought it was an impossible task.  After reading it I’d conclude it was merely improbable in a Tolstoyesque sort of way.

I’ve pondered how he might have done it better, considering the task he set for himself, and haven’t thought of any way it could have been done without removing some of the sub-plots, which he’d made essential to the overall plot development.  A trap he’s too competent an author to have caught himself in unaware.

Too busy might be how I’d describe the book, but still compelling enough to cause the reader to work hard to struggle through.  At least some patient readers.

Old Jules

Friday limerick and flock update

The head-count of chickens and truants
Considering sub-plot and nuance
Suggests there’s a vixen
Requiring a fixing
Or else a coyote’s influence.

Old Jules

Unrequited Love – I Coveted This

I watched it sit in a vacant lot I frequently drove past in Kerrville for several years.  Occasionally I’d trip up the hill to it, walk around it, kick the amazingly good tires.

After I began scouting for a new, moveable dwelling I began going snake eyes when I got near it to keep my intentions from drawing the attention of the Coincidence Coordinators.  Sydney Baker is at the other end of town from the lot it was sitting in, so I assumed the Wing King was long defunct and this jewel was waiting for me to chase down the owner, make an offer, and take it away.

But today when I drove to that lot to get the license tag number so’s to try to contact the owner the bus was gone.  I figured someone had called a wrecker to haul it away because they were going to use the lot for something.  I puzzled over my next step toward finding it as I drove to Sydney Baker to see who occupied the address of the Wing King on the side of the bus.

Sheeze!  The Wing King was right there, still in business.  Okaaaay.  Got to prepare myself mentally for this.  I kept driving, furious thinking.  But a few blocks ahead in the parking lot of the strip center in front of Dollar Tree, there it was, parked parallel to the curb.

I walked around it, squatted down to see if it was dripping oil or coolant.  Nothing.  I pulled off my vest and slid under the engine.  Everything was pristine.  No grease, barely any dirt.

What the hell’s it doing sitting here?  Why did they move it?

Nothing for it but to drive back to the Wing King and talk to the owner.  Now.

I sat in the truck going snake eyes a couple of minutes to prepare, then went inside looking for someone who looked ownerish.  Two kids.

“Is the owner around?”

“No, he doesn’t work days.”

“I want to talk to someone about that bus down there parked by the curb across from the high school.”

“The water pump went out on it.  He’s waiting for the part.”  The kid thinks I’m someone in authority about to make trouble.  How the hell could he think that, looking at me?

“I want to talk to him about buying it.”

“He won’t sell it.  He got it for almost nothing, $1500, and it’s only got 10,000 miles on the engine.”  Thanks a lot kid.  I needed to hear that last part.

The other one, a girl chimes in.  “Yeah, and parked there with that sign on it reminds the high school kids we’re here!”

Ahhhh.  And Kerrville has a sign ordinance.  That bus parked there doesn’t violate it.

That’s a bus the cats and I will never live in.  But at least I found out about a place sells chicken wings.  Wonder if they’re any good.

Old Jules

C.W. McCall – Wolf Creek Pass – a song about a truckload of chickens.