``Opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.''
Listed on Blogwise
WARNING, WHOPPING SPOILERS AHEAD. I write these pages as notes, records and reminders to myself of books I have read. You are welcome to peruse these reviews, but be warned that they will spoil your reading pleasure if you have not already read them.
<<< Return to review list | ^^^ Go to local list

Divergence   by Tony Ballantyne

Read: 2009-12-10 Reviewed: 2010-03-24
Re-read factor:

The dysfunctional crew -- everybody necessarily a world apart: robot, android, human, AI mind, simpleton, old lazy woman -- of a spaceship uses software it does not understand to enact trades of cargo and services. They end up winning a trade to take someone to Earth in return for improvement of their ship which amounts to dividing it in half and splitting the crew up, giving command to the least obvious member. It is a wonderful story line that really sets the book off in a strong direction. It almost seems impossible that this momentum could be maintained throughout the book, and it almost does, but not quite. In some ways the sci-fi seems to simplify, and the action dumbs down a tad. Especially when they get to Earth you have that King Kong feeling that there are limitations ultimately to where you can take things, and when they get scaled down to human proportions where stories lie things get a bit trivial again.

Lots of mysterious things happen during their journey. They pick up one or two more obscure passengers. In the end it comes down to the fact that the entire predicament is down to the trading software designing circumstances to get the first passenger to Earth so that she can confront her genesis, and the all-powerful 'Watcher' (Big Brother character) can work himself out. the Watcher turns out to be the self-same intelligent trading software which has introspected itself to such degree that it has gained a sentience of its own. The woman turns out to have been somebody who had her mind emptied and then the sentience put part of itself into her. In the end the self-introspection of the sentience leads to its own downfall, and its grip on the Earth disappears immediately and life on Earth returns to normal. To be fair, the resolution is rather weak and tends to be just a huge fall-down, but it is the journey which is the story, /a la/ Wizard of Oz.

It boils down to something like Red Dwarf, sprinkled with Ballantyne's usual mix of signature pieces: Schrodinger cubes, Von Neumann Machines, dark seeds, etc, and disappointingly also features the arrival of such nonsense as Schrodinger's kittens. Despite the nomenclature being irrationally contrived, the actual story is made to work because the actions of the various players is wonderfully thought-provoking, and the scenery is pencilled in with precision, but there is plenty left out of the description for the reader's imagination to fill in.

In places I found the constantly imaginative storyline a drag, it becomes almost fantastical and the reason I don't like fantasy is that fact that anything can happen next, making such things as jeopardy and continuity non-existent. It is sufficiently far-out sci-fi to be weird. All this is kept in check, however, by the very plausibility of this future technology, and the fact that the author dos not try to explain everything, but allows phenomena to happen in a not-understood way.

Along the way there are pointless branches underneath the lush foliage. There are a couple of people who live on Earth, under the Watcher's gaze (almost), but also in the mind of the main protagonist. This aspect is never really resolved (or did I miss something? -- quite possible in this convoluted work).

You may comment on this review by filling in this form.

Your BookBlog URL: 

Comments (max. 300 characters, no HTML):

These book reviews are copyright © 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015 Dale Mellor
All rights reserved.
Comments are due to their respective owners

This page was generated by bookblog version 1.1.1
The BookBlog software (not the contents of this page) is copyright © 2004, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015 Dale Mellor
All rights reserved