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Curious, that. I hated Bester's The Stars My Destination, for much the same reasons as are outlined in the last five paragraphs of this review. The wonder show of technology has been entirely lost for me because of them.

I loved Hugh Howey's Wool, 1-5 in the Silo series. Parts of it are too painful to ever re-read, but I'll probably still do it. It's raw, it's intense, it commands empathy, and also -- there you have it -- there is the subtle romance.



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 27th, 2013 02:43 am (UTC)
I think it's a flawed approach to that particular novel. Bester has never sought to offer a dystopian vision; he is more interested in the carnivalesque aspect. I mean, come on, this novel was originally called "Tiger! Tiger!". What sort of social authenticity are we looking for?
Dec. 27th, 2013 03:21 am (UTC)
I guess there's not much to 'carnivalesque' for me, not in this case. I stumble on too many things, never enjoying the ride.

Here, I've started putting my unhappiness into words:

"I could have liked this. For one, ‘jaunting’ is a great word. Bester puts thought into how the society would have changed with this discovery: protecting locations, building mazes and rooms with no doors or windows, the very rich preferring other means of transportation since jaunting is so simple and cheap every commoner can do it, et cetera. He puts thought into the tight coil of a plot. Among the ideas packed into the book are various kinds of cyborgization (for speed, for perception in a different part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and so on), remote operations, and what a synaesthete could feel. Wikipedia mentions that ‘Bester's description of synesthesia is the first popular account in the English language’, and that’s quite something.

But I didn’t like it. Reason number one: women.

Women are no more than stage props, there to be raped or used or lusted for (Gully’s feelings towards Olivia are certainly not love). These women will flare up as needed, forgive as needed, and in general appear on stage to perform some service or disservice for the main character much in the way of the android in the last few pages, first springing to relevant life and then winding down into stillness as soon as the needed function has been performed. They are empty. Male characters other than Gully himself are equally empty, but they at least appear to have agency. The women do not. Jisbella attaches herself to the next convenient male. Robin is violated, then ‘forgives and forgets’. Why, Robin? Whatever possessed you to say you forgive and forget?"
Dec. 27th, 2013 03:50 am (UTC)
Oh, sure, totally agree with the take on women. Stage props, totally. I am not sure he is even pretending otherwise.
Dec. 27th, 2013 06:10 am (UTC)
By the way, do tell what you love about the book!
Dec. 27th, 2013 04:14 pm (UTC)
I like precisely how tightly it is packed. It's never occurred to me to take it as an attempt to portray a realistic world of the future: rather, it has always seemed a rich, nightmarish vision of one character, who is not entirely capable to form a realistic image. There is a breathtaking beauty in its waste, in its jamming-together of history (Скопцы, например) and half-baked science, and pure cinematography - burning scars and cold stone and screaming colour.
In a certain sense, this is a book about Gully Foyle: he is a Gulliver, of course, thrown in a strange land of creatures who can never be known. Everybody else is a stage prop - any emotion we feel toward other characters is incidental.

You're wrong, however, to assume that this social fantasy is undermined by the simple fact that women can jaunt. Women can walk, too, and yet the nineteenth century saw the proliferation of invalids: women with "weak" nervous systems, who spent their lives in beds and wheelchairs. The ability to do something is less important than the social constructs that frame the ability in question. Robin works (she teaches jaunting!), but Robin is lower-class. Why on earth would a higher-class woman, brought up in fear of the world, kept as carefully as a glass vase, would want to jaunt somewhere on her own? Bester has very good historical precedent for this.
Dec. 27th, 2013 05:46 pm (UTC)
I see! That's interesting. I cannot and did not see the story as a vision of just one character, possibly because he's so much an antihero that I have no empathy for him. So while the story is -- also literally -- manic, I don't get pulled along with it. I could have, I think, but whenever it gets pushed along by the women with their "now I hate you, now I don't", I disbelieve it and get bored. So now I'm asking myself, is it empathy that I require for liking a story?.. I don't *think* so, not necessarily, but I'll have to dig up some examples. In any case, thanks! Yours is an interesting perspective.

As to walking and jaunting, I think they aren't really comparable. Jaunting is that much more freedom, and most women are not from the high classes.

Dec. 27th, 2013 08:34 pm (UTC)
I think they are comparable. You can run away, sure, but where do you run? What do you do there? Where do you get the impetus to run? And so on. It seems to me that you are inserting yourself into the situation, but you were brought up in a completely different way...

Yes, I emphasized with him fully. Not sure what that says about me. :)
Dec. 27th, 2013 10:52 pm (UTC)
Not myself, no. I'm a scaredy-cat at the best of times, and that's with being brought up as I was. It's that jaunting does not appear in a vacuum. I have a hard time believing that women have been so docile up to that point that when jaunting appears, practically nobody takes advantage of it to, for instance, very quickly get out of a protest when trouble comes :)

Hmm. Are you by any chance plotting terrible revenge? :)
Dec. 27th, 2013 10:56 pm (UTC)
When I read this book for the first time, I was about ten, and I can't recall any plans for terrible revenge at the time. Now, I may be. :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )