Monday, March 17, 2008

The Wreck of the River of Stars

By Michael Flynn.

A few months ago, I enjoyed reading Michael Flynn's book Eifelheim. Recently I saw his name again and decided to check out some more books by him.

As you might guess from the title, this book is a tragedy. What's perhaps unique about it is that (almost?) every character has a tragic flaw. While the story has a lot to do with the sailors' attempts to bring the ship safely to port (which chiefly involves shedding enough momentum in time to stop at Jupiter when it's at the right place in its orbit), it also has a lot to do with their backgrounds and characters. In fact, I would say this story is more about the characters than about the science fictional elements, which are more of a backdrop. It starts a little slowly (I had trouble keeping track of all the characters being thrown at me) but picks up steam a ways in.

There is a lot of sex. In fact, I almost stopped reading when the self-destructive ship's doctor decides to seduce the only passenger with her private drug cocktail within the first 10 pages. For some reason I didn't, and I eventually started caring about what happened to the characters—at least, some of them. The Igbo girl particularly is amazingly and amusingly perceptive about what drives the other people on the ship. Even though you know the ship will be wrecked (if not in the sense of being destroyed, perhaps, the crew is certainly destroyed), there is something about this book that keeps you hoping everyone will survive.

If you enjoy tragedies and science fiction that focuses on characters (it was fairly apparent that the captain was going to be a central character in the story when he died in the first few pages), you might like this book. On the other hand, it also has (seemingly) realistic science—no faster-than-light travel or fusion drives that don't require fuel. However, I probably won't be reading it again: the often gratuitous sex ("I can't be pregnant! He's too young to father a child!") combined with the tragedy makes it somewhat unpalatable.


Martin LaBar said...

I recently read his _Firestorm_, and, like you, I didn't find it anything like _Eifelheim_, which, I guess, wasn't a surprise, considering what _Eifelheim_ is. The characters were almost all flawed, and there was a lot of sexual activity.

Joshua said...

I returned Firestar the first time I checked it out (maybe 6 months ago) without reading it because I heard it had a lot of sex in it. Then I checked it out again about a month ago and started it last night, but I'm not going to finish it. I agree about the sex, although flawed characters that grow or change (or have the possibility to do so but for some reason reject it) are not necessarily a bad thing, in my opinion.

I have the sequel (I think), Falling Stars, because I picked it up at a book sale not realizing it wasn't standalone. And there are two more books in the series, too—but there are so many other books to read, I probably won't bother trying them.

Thanks for your comment! Sometimes I wonder whether anyone still reads this. I'm not even sure how you found it in the first place; I got the impression that you must have done a search on Juliet Marillier, since I think those were the first posts you commented on.

I have been reading, but haven't been posting as much because I haven't been finishing as many books and I don't want to review something just to bash it. I also started thinking that a book deserves a little more effort on a review than I usually give; I started writing reviews for The Orphan's Tales (both volumes; I think I reviewed the first earlier, but I realized how feminist they are when I read the second and reread the first*), The Porcelain Dove, Cherie Priest's Four and Twenty Blackbirds (I might yet finish that review), and just haven't been finishing them because I'm not sure what to say. It's also easy to save the file and put off finishing them, of course.

* (Not that the goldfish who was once a dragon didn't amuse me, but at the same time there is a great deal of sadness and political innuendo in the stories.)