Sunday, February 11, 2007

That's Not Saturn Either

San Diego was done up in shades of gray this morning, with overcast and light rain - not as lovely as it usually is, but every city is entitled to a little weather, even in southern California. I walked around the marina and along the bay shore near my hotel and watched a huge "Dole Costa Rica" cargo ship glide toward the mouth of the harbor, pushed by a couple of tug boats.

Yesterday I drove down here from Los Angeles, and since I had just finished reading Robinson's The Wild Shore on the plane, when I saw an exit for San Onofre State Beach, I had to make a quick stop, since San Onofre is the area where the book takes place. I took a few pictures, though it was getting cloudy and they don't look like much (these aerial photos are better). It was cool to see the beach, cliffs, and hills that are such an important part of the book.

The Wild Shore is a wonderfully realized book, with characters and environments that seem so perfectly integrated, it's hard to believe that they are "just made up." Everything works as an organic whole. This is in contrast to the patched-together feeling of the 2002 book I'm now reading, Coyote by Allen Steele. Subtitled "a novel of interstellar exploration," it sounded promising, and it is interesting in a number of ways. The first quarter of the book is a political back story that seems so clumsy and contrived that I nearly gave up on the book. Amazon reviews helped me to hold on until the part where the starship Alabama reaches "Coyote," an Earth-like moon orbiting a Saturn-like planet of the star 47 Ursae Majoris, 46 light years from Earth. The 100 or so colonists launch in 2070 and reach Coyote after a journey of some 230 years (traveling at 20% the speed of light), during which they have been kept in "biostasis" (so they don't age) while robotic systems run the ship.

From there it does get pretty good, though still contrived and anachronistic in many ways (e.g., technology is advanced enough for robotic AI systems to operate and navigate the ship, but most other computer systems seem to be what we have now, if that). It turns out that Coyote is literally patched together, built around at least three previously published SF stories that are now chapters. So it is what it is, and I'll give it a chance and finish reading it.

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