Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Dazzle of the Day

Molly Glass

A story of a Quaker community that travels interstellar distances to settle a new planet, and the various relationship and political issues they encounter in this process. The elements in this setup are familiar, but the actual book feels very different than most science fiction--meditative, focused on gradual unfolding of romances and marital tension, long-term debate and questions of approach. Glass seems to deliberately resist the temptation for drama, villains or sustained conflict. At times this makes the account frustrating and rather dry, but ultimately it's a rewarding approach, and uses the notion of both a family chronicle and science fiction to good effect. A surprising piece in a lot of ways, and one that I think will leave an impact.

The main accomplishment is to make absence of activity accompany a complex sitatuion and envionrment rather than a simple one. The second main aesthetic virtue is exploring a deeply spiritual society that is, again, complex and nuanced by measure of their belief rather than a simplistically divine or righteous one, and similarly isn’t just a pack of angry and repressive fanatics. Instead the pantheist view leads itself to continual questioning and debate, and makes a narrative path that’s neither facile nor grim. It is a triumph on several levels, and in its rather calm, meditative fashion offers as much challenge to the norms of science fiction that I’m used to as the Steel Remains does to traditional epic fantasy.

Worse than: A Deepness Upon the Sky by Vernor Vinge
Better than: Stone by Adam Roberts

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