Yet another geek blog

19 August 2012

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

In Short

A (very) simple machine is suddenly invented that allows travel into parallel universes. An apparently infinite number of uninhabited and unspoilt Earths.

A lot of science fiction has dealt with the problems of things running out, space, oil, food, air etc. But how would we cope with plenty? What if we suddenly had infinite resources?

This is good “old school” science fiction. A single interesting idea is presented and then followed see where it leads.

This is clearest in the plot, which is almost entirely event rather than character driven. It is as if the authors just light the blue-touch paper and stand back. The machine is invented: so what happens then? The poor of the world simply leave: so what happens then? People can use the machine to go around walls and into locked rooms: so what happens then? Colonists do not see the point of paying taxes to another universe: so what happens then?

Things to Like

The sheer scale and grandeur. This is clearly as a 'pilot' novel for an ongoing series or shared story space. It is full of dangling story hooks and unexplored ideas.

I also love the plans for the magic machine. Expect to see them eBay soon.

Things not to like

The plot is stretched very thinly. It is forced to jump between far explorers, colonists and a transformed original world. This does not allow enough room for characters or drama.

I hope that future visits to the Long Earth take the form of self contained stories.

Things it is like

  • The Saga of the Exiles by Julian May
  • The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams


posted by Yet Another Geek @ Sunday, August 19, 2012

1 August 2012

My Dear Watson by Margaret Park Bridges

In Short

A female Sherlock Holmes.

Things to Like

A simple idea that is immediately engaging. Firstly is lots of humour to be had in the difficulty of maintaining the disguise. Secondly there is some nice exploration of social attitudes to gender. Put simply, a person who is a woman is a woman first and and person second.

Holmes and Constance Moriarty are two intelligent and resourceful women who have overcome the challenge in two very different ways. Moriarty has become a simpering vamp who manipulates men to make their power her own. Holmes sidesteps the problem by stepping into a male role.

This seems like a ridiculous idea, but it is worth remembering that this was done in Victorian times (Margaret Ann Bulkley became Dr James Barry), and we will never know how often.

Things not to Like

There is not much Sherlock Holmes here!

Holmes’ misogyny and brush with the cross-dressing Irena Adler are touched on but not given the attention that they deserve. Holmes despairing annoyance at how easily Watson is manipulated by Miss Moriarty is engaging enough, but the conviction that she is a murderess is based on nothing more that an instant dislike and prejudice towards the surname. This is not the Holmes we know.

Worst of all is the inevitable return to female dress. There is nothing wrong with the idea that a woman can pass as a women in female clothes. Nor that she would then see a different side to people. But not that Holmes can just disappear by doing this. It is an essential part of the plot that when Holmes puts on a frock and a wig nobody recognises her. These are people who have known Holmes for years, are aware of Holmes’ skill with disguises and are actively looking for the missing detective. None of them looks twice at the tall striking woman with the severe nose who has suddenly appeared on the scene.

Things it is like


posted by Yet Another Geek @ Wednesday, August 01, 2012


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