lunes, 16 de febrero de 2015

Geodesica: Ascent, by Sean Williams and Shane Dix

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this while listening to An Ending (Ascent) by Brian Eno (Spotify, YouTube).

Geodesica: Ascent, by Sean Williams and Shane Dix, is a novel that not only did I completely miss when it was first published ten years ago but was unaware it existed until a few months back. Fortunately enough for me, Open Road Media released a new edition last year that I've had the chance of reading and enjoying a lot.

The book, first installment of a duology that is completed with Geodesica: Descent, has three main themes. The story revolves around the finding of a big dumb object, so it is primarily an artifact novel. But it also has a lot of Space Opera tropes and even some elements of dystopia thrown in for good measure. The final result is as compelling as it is fun to read. 

Being a huge fan of novels such as Rendez-vous with Rama or Pushing Ice, the exploration of Geodesica, the mysterious alien artifact of the title, was my favourite part of the novel. It is not especially original, but it is full of sense of wonder and perfectly timed, with twists and surprises at just the right moments. I would have liked the artifact to be more prominent at certain points of the story, but given the cliffhanger at the end of the book, I guess the authors did save the big revelations for the sequel.

I also enjoyed very much the battle scenes, which were intense and vivid, with lots of amazing technologies and powerful weapons. Williams and Dix also very cleverly intertwined the plot with a story of political intrigues and escalating tension in which the control of the alien artifact is one of the main goals. In this sense, the book sometimes reads as a kind of chess game on a huge interstellar board in which the different factions (whose alignment is not always as transparent as they would like you to think) are just beginning to set up the pieces.

I won't reveal anything else about the plot because one of the pleasures of reading Geodesica: Ascent is, of course, learning about the nature of the big dumb object. Suffice it to say that it reminded me somehow of Eon by Greg Bear (though I enjoyed Geodesica much more than I did Bear's novel) and of The Heritage Universe by Charles Sheffield. In fact, I think that the comparison with Sheffield is quite apt, for this novel has a distinct (and I mean this in the best possible way) classic flavor to it as opposed to the darker tone of the modern, New Space Opera stories.

For all its virtues, I have also some minor complains with Geodesica: Ascent. On the one hand, the pace is a bit slow in some parts, something that is especially noticeable in the first third of the book. I won't know for sure until I read Geodesica: Descent, but I have the feeling that these books could have been trimmed to get just one novel with a more tight and focused plot. On the other hand, and this is my biggest issue, of the three main protagonists of the story, there is one (Melilah Awad) who is much less interesting than the other two. In fact, her involvement in the main storyline is mainly circumstantial and had it not been for a fortuitous coincidence, she would have been largely irrelevant in the book. Again, I might need to revise my impressions should Melilah prove to be central to the story in the second novel, but that's how I feel as of now.

Despite these minor problems, Geodesica: Ascent is a good, very solid science fiction novel and I recommend it, especially to fans of alien artifact stories. I am certainly looking forward to further exploring Geodesica in the next and final installment of the series.

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)

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