Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Alien Years

The Alien Years

I recently finished reading the Alien Years by Robert Silverberg, which I suppose you could describe as the thinking man's "Independence Day," but as a thinking man, I still noticed that the plot was very contrived, the dialogue stilted and hoaky, and the entire epic somewhat anticlimactic. So It wasn't as brilliantly written as the best of the genre, but I still like it. I still recommend it to fans of Silverberg or of sci-fi in general. It just could've used a really good editor to rework some of the more questionable story elements.

The story is epic in scope opening "7 years from now" and ending... I don't remember... something closer to 100 years from now. The aliens land and all hell breaks out, but unlike in most post Alien invasion stories, there's no mad max like wasteland. Some humans are enslaved and society as we know it is radically altered, but the Aliens stay to them selves or the most part. There is very little real contact made betweent the races because there can be none. The Aliens are simply too alien. Most of their behaviours, actions, and intentions are left pretty nebulous, which was one of the strengths of the book. This was a story about the humans of Earth, not the Alien invaders, about how they were coping, how they were raising their children, and how they were making their way in this new world.

If John Jakes wrote Sci-fi, it'd probably be something like this, a sweeping saga about one family during a time of crisis. That's either a compliment or an insult, I'm not sure which. Anyway, it's a ringing endoresment of how entertaining this book was, how moving in places, and how clever.

Robert Silverberg knows people. There is nothing false about his characters, in my opinion, and the way they act in this new world -- and how they relate to one another -- is fascinating and feels completely real. I bought all of the characterizations and character interactions. Some of the plot elements were too forced, however, since Silverberg seemed to force too many important characters to run into each other seemingly at random. This happened a few times. Not enough to bring down the story, but enough to keep it from being brilliant.

Also, as far as science fiction is concerned, the science was surprisingly lackluster. There was hacker named Master Megabyte. Megabyte? That's still a viable unit of date storage in the future? And, anyway, it's just a gay name all together. All of the sections dealing with hackers and hacking in general (thankfully kept to a minimum) were all either corny as hell at best or impossible to follow along because they were so unrealistic at worst. But, as I said, those sections were kept to a minimum.

Do I recommend the book? Sure, if you like science fiction. If you don't like sci fi, you'll hate this book. Not just because it's science fiction, but it's somewhat poorly written science fiction. But the story is great and the characters really well drawn. I liked it a lot and stuck through to the end. I had a blast.

Anyway, that's what I did this week.

No comments: