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Showing posts from August, 2007

Distraction

Sterling, Bruce. Distraction. Bantam Books, 1998, 439 p.

This book was enough to drive me to distraction. I picked it up after I saw in a list at CNET or Wired or someplace like that and it was lauded as one of the most influential SF books of the last decade. Or something like that. Hard to understand why. It's not that Sterling didn't have a good idea for the plot. He did. Imagine a near-future USA where the political establishment is all but impotent, where regional authority has by and large replaced national cohesion. Global warming has seriously altered the world's climate. Genetic engineering is careening out of control. Privacy has all but disappeared. But politicians still pretend they matter and campaigns are still run. Into this world steps Oscar Valparaiso, the handler for newly elected senator, Alcott Bambakia. It's a nice set-up. Unfortunately Sterling doesn't do much with it. Or rather he doesn't let his story unfold. Instead we are treated to pag…

Over Sea, Under Stone

Cooper, Susan. Over Sea, Under Stone, Aladdin Paperbacks, 1965, 196 p.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Three young people, two boys and a girl, are on a quest to find a mysterious object before it falls into the hands of an evil, almost indestructable man. Along the way, they are befriended by a mysterious, bearded old man who mutters wise things and protects them from bad things. Yes, it's a quest store and no, it has nothing to do with Harry Potter, Ron Weasley or Hermione Granger. Rather this book was written more than 40 years ago, long before J. K. Rowling had her flash of inspiration about a school for wizards and the adventures it held for the students there.

Of course, the quest story is old, going back hundreds of years and the one archetype that continues to inspire authors like Cooper and Rowling is King Arthur. And like Arthur, most of the time we find a Merlin character around to keep the hero out of trouble or at least alive. In Rowling's books, the Me…