Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Book Review: Communion of Dreams

I literally just finished reading a book from Jim Downey over at UTI. I'm not really sure where to begin, first off I have to highly recommend this book if for no other reason than it free. Yeah you read that right, just go download the PDF at Communion of Dreams and read the whole thing, how can I not love that? I'm freaking broke. The only downside being that I'm already finished reading it because I couldn't put it down. I'll also say that I've never considered myself a fan of Sci-Fi, and yet my favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams and while I can't put Jim up on that level I will say there was a certain similarity at least in the way they all feel more grounded in reality then some of the more stereotypical Sci-Fi. I also realize that a big part of this is that I'm ok with sci-fi, I'm not down with fantasy, I don't like gnomes and elfs. If it doesn't seem possible then I get bored, notice it doesn't have to be probable just possible, or close to it. To be perfectly honest the whole sci-fi genre always seemed like something I wouldn't like so I haven't read much beyond what I've just mentioned, maybe I should give it a try... anyway onto the review now that the reviewers biases have been established.

Ok well I think I've made it clear that I enjoyed the book so I don't feel bad starting off with some of the problems I I had with the story. The biggest problem for me was simply the time line. Its supposed to take place about 50 years in the future. Now 50 years ago they thought we would be living on the moon in 2000, but we don't, and thats kind of how I feel about this. There is a huge amount of computer/communications technology which I'm fine with, that stuff is still changing at a dramatic pace. My problem is that in the book we have set up colonies on mars and the moon, we have a mining facility on Titan, a moon of Saturn which is actually the main setting for the book, the Titan and the station. I just don't see that happening. especially as another major part of the book is that a flu kills the majority of the population, and civilization nearly collapses. I just can't imagine how most of the worlds governments could fail, throwing the world into chaos as billions die, and still finding time to create several new generations of space craft. I mean hell we've been using the space shuttle for 30 years. Although there is a brief mention of Stephen Hawkins final theory which turns physics on its ear and makes most of this possible, so where I'm ok with it or not, at least Jim did realize this. Plus there's illegal cloning, which is viable, but there is also illegal genetic engineering that seems past what will be done given the other circumstances, especially as its illegal in the story and mush be done in secret. I'm sorry Jim but I would have pushed the time frame back to maybe 100 years. Really it wouldn't change much of the story, other than their wouldn't be anyone left from our time, which means you might have to lose the great reference to the 2000 election and George and the terror war. Or just make that character even older, eh no, that wouldn't work Or say he was remembering stories his parents told. Beyond that, um there were a few typos and a few times when I had to stop, say WTF? Then reread things although I'm not sure if that was due to writing or more likely due to the fact that I was still reading at 1am last night when I ran out of pages because I apparently hadn't printed the entire thing. For me though the very minor typos and what not made it more fun, like its not quite finished and its just asking for someone to help with the final wax job to really make it shine. I'm not claiming that person will be me. Although I'd be willing to try.

So thats pretty much all the negatives I can think of. Beyond that it was a throughly engaging book and if you read this site or UTI then you'll probably be amused by the fact that the greatest human danger is from a fanatical religious sect called the Edenists. This is where I stumble, I want to tell you more but I'm not sure what I can say without giving things away. Normally I'd be willing to mention more, comfortable in the knowledge that it will probably be a little while before you can pick up the book and will have forgotten the details and just know it sounded good. But with this book you can go right now and own the book for free in a matter of seconds. Ok one other thing I liked was that while it dealt with aliens, there weren't actually any aliens in it. I'm not sure why but I really liked that fact. I loved the early part where a team was trying to figure out what the thing could be prior to even seeing it and thinking about it from very varied view points. Honestly I think that's all I need to say on the subject, it was a great book and I highly recommend you go download it, unless you don't like to read in which case why are you here? go to youtube or find some porn this is a blog, its mostly words.
Why are you still reading my drivel? go click the damn link. geez.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Kilgore...

First off, thanks muchly for the review and feedback. I'm really glad you enjoyed Communion of Dreams, and I hope that anyone else who takes your recommendation to read it also enjoys it. Being compared to Vonnegut or Adams is a real honor, even if I am (unsurprisingly) found to fall short of their level of skill.

Typos and whatnot? No doubt, and sorry if they got in the way of your reading. I've tried to catch what I can, but always welcome any additional help in terms of people pointing them out.

Now, to the meat of your criticism: guilty as charged. This actually ties in with a post for my own novel-related blog I've been thinking about for several days, but haven't gotten to writing yet. (You can find my blog here: ) The title of the piece will be "The Future Ain't What it Used to Be."

There's actually a small school of thought in SF called "The Mundanes" who focus on real nitty-gritty SF that is entirely scientifically accurate, and hence limits humankind to just our solar system (and even at that sees any kind of space travel as limited exploration at best for the next several hundred years). That's fine, and there's a lot you can do within that framework, but...

...but it isn't what I was doing with CoD. I specify early on that the novel is set in an alternate future for us, which branches off starting in 2000. And I wanted to write about what we could really accomplish if things went ...differently. Somewhat how I see this is by looking back 50 years, to the hopes and dreams at the very start of the space age, and how things have actually turned out to be both more amazing and yet more pedestrian than the people of that time expected. We've got tech that those people never dreamed of...and yet we don't have flying cars, or real space colonies, et cetera.

So, yeah, CoD isn't realistic in the sense you say - but it was meant to be a glimpse into what might be possible, just maybe, if things were to be tweaked just so.

Again, thanks. Over 5,500 people have downloaded the novel so far, and what feedback I have had has been positive. It's nice to see someone comment on it so much, and I'll be happy to post a link to this entry from my site.


Jim Downey

Kilgore Trout said...

The quick answer is, good point. While I already said I don't like Fantasy its also true that were talking about fiction, an entertaining story is what really matters. And as I said it was absolutely an entertaining story. I'm also for the first time thinking about what would happen if we lost a couple billion people in a short period of time. Forgetting the ghost towns and unneeded infrastructure would that hasten or slow technological progress. Assuming it took people out essentially at random so there was still a similar proportion of scientists and engineers. Honestly I'm not sure. We would have fewer of those scientists and engineers, but we would also have much less fighting over resources.

In the end I guess its like when I watch a movie I like and am able to ignore the glaring problems because I like the movie, but if the movie sucks and someone is forcing me to watch it then I end up laughing and pointing out every flaw. In other words I like the book, fuck the time line.

I also just thought of one other question but I think i'll take it over to your other blog.

Oh and the typos were minor they never got in the way of my reading. Of course I'm also of the text, IM, e-mail generation so I'm pretty good at spotting a slip of the finger. It's one of few skills the youngest generation is generally good at.

thanks again for making this available to everyone.

Jim Downey said...


Just wanted to let you know I just posted that entry over at my blog. You can find it here:

Jim D.