I must be mad

Having finished the mind-blowing (but flawed) Whipping Star by Frank Herbert on Kindle … it was a short novel by modern standards … I’ve made a start on Fallen Dragon by Peter F Hamilton.

That was after another very brief flirtation with On Basilisk Station by David Weber. I still cannot stand to read more than a short stretch of it without suffering convulsions. The scene-setting consists of a load of politicians indulging in a cliched, banal exchange, contrived so as to fill the reader in on the state of the union.  Contrived being the operative word. It is such a tired device, so hamfistedly handled, as to be impossible to stomach.

No third chances.  That one is in the (virtual) bin.

So back to Hamilton. Well, it is a book I can read without retching. The writing style is fine, certainly not intolerably cliched. But the opening scene, in the bar in Kuranda, is definitely a cliche.  Two army types pick a hick bar in which to indulge in a bit of conspiracy, supposedly to avoid attention from their superiors.  But a brawl with the locals was guaranteed from the outset, and even anticipated by the conspirators. So how does that square with the avowed intention to keep the meeting secret? No attempt is made to address that bit of illogic. The only thing that is clear is that this was a cheap plot device to inform readers about the main protagonist’s ability to handle himself in combat situations.

It also introduces the reader to the notion of weaponry implanted in the human body; no doubt it will be a theme in the rest of the book. Of course, the trouble-making locals in the bar knew the military had that sort of technology but attacked the hero (Lawrence) anyway, knowing him to be a squaddie but still affecting astonishment and alarm on realising too late that he was equipped with the sort of weapons that could leave the lot of them lying in pools of blood in microseconds.  It’s about on the level of … “Let’s teach this army type a lesson … oh, no! He’s got a gun!” Another big ask of the reader’s credulity.

Not a fantastic start then, but too soon to write off.  If On Basilisk Station has been Steve Gibson’s worst recommendation to date, Fallen Dragon may yet be more worthy of persevering with.  But it is a long book.  I do not want to find myself giving it up as a bad job several hundred (virtual) pages in.


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