Top critical review
It's technology, stupid! Who needs characters?
Reviewed in the United States on April 19, 2017
I am reading the nebula award winning novels in chronological order. This is the winner for 2013.
Initially I didn't realize that I had already read this book. When I remembered, I thought it would be worth a second read. Now I'm not so sure. I did finish reading it the second time, but I kind of wish I hadn't.
The story takes place in the year 2312 when humanity is busily populating the solar system while Earth itself sinks ever further into the swamp of pollution and overpopulation that we are experiencing today. There are three or four main characters, depending on how you look at it. Actually, you could say there are 0 main characters because the author seems to feel character development is overrated.
The book is heavy on science and technologies that can be used in various ways to allow humans to freely and expediently travel the solar system. Some of these are quite innovative, or seemed so to me. Okay, that's pretty much it on the good side, but that is actually quite a lot. Enough to make it worth reading once, but not twice.
As I already mentioned, character development is not the author's strong point. The dialog is especially terrible. There is no way any of it sounds like real people. And all of the characters sound identical. And the narrator, too, not surprisingly. One really annoying aspect of this--and it could just be me--is the use of the word "so." It starts many, many sentences and sometimes weasels itself in mid-sentence as if discontent at being always in the lead. Of course, the narrator's voice would not want to miss out on this delightful little word.
Why do humans have to spend one in every seven years back on Earth itself? No simulation will do, it's got to be Earth. The author says that no one knows why this is, but that falls flat to me.
A big deal is made of how oppressive 1 G is to "spacers." They have to wear a body brace to deal with it during their Earth sabbaticals. But their interplanetary travel takes place on terraria that are maintained at 1 G and this doesn't seem to bother anyone.
In this future, human sexuality has broadened to the point of ridiculousness. It seems that heterosexuality doesn't even exist anymore. Most people seem to have both sets of functional reproductive organs. That's a bit hard to believe. Can human anatomy be redesigned to accommodate this physiology. I think the author is trying to present a more sexually open world but he should probably look into his biological facts as closely as he does his physical ones.
There's also a really major flaw concerning ecology that I don't want to discuss due to spoilers.
I would recommend this book if you're interested in technology but not if you're interested in characters or social issues.