John Brunner’s Endless Shadow is something of a modernist clusterfuck (the excerpted quote from Joyce should be a heads-up) and rather hard to get into, but damn if it wasn’t a fascinating slice of galactic soap opera. The concept is that humans had colonized dozens of worlds, were separated through a dark age, and have since been re-unified through a dimensional bridge system. While various human worlds contribute their culture to the mass of humanity’s empire, Earth’s main responsibility is maintaining the bridge.
The shift in focus from one group of characters to another (three groups) made it somewhat challenging to sort out who was who, especially considering that it’s not even 100 pages. It read like a pilot episode for something like a much more bizarre Deep Space 9 or Babylon 5. Despite being disjointed, a lot of interesting individuals either did interesting things or had interesting things happen to them. If this were a weekly 90s space soap, I would’ve watched it.
My biggest issue with Endless Shadow was not the lack of a protagonist, disjointed storytelling, or strange philosophical puzzles, but the heaps of praise, almost to the point of deification, for programmers. In Endless Shadow, computer programmers are viewed as superhuman, beautiful women want to throw themselves at them, but alas, the program is more important, and they flawlessly write millions words of code! Really? I work in software, and you’re lucky if programmers can be arsed to do their own unit testing half the time, much less write a million words (not lines, mind you!) of code without a single mistake. But if Brunner wants programmers to be newtype supermen, so be it; he makes up for them with snake-handlers and pain cultists.
Now, I’m a huge Ursula K. LeGuin fan; she was one of my first fantasy loves and I really liked her sci-fi when I finally went back and read it. But the more of her contemporaries I read, the more I find myself thinking that her Hainish stories pale in comparison to the other anthropological sci-fi (anthro-punk?) I’ve been reading.
Gardner F. Fox’s The Arsenal of Miracles was much more of a straight-forward space opera. Where it was an interplanetary space adventure, Arsenal was awesome; a former Earth Empire Admiral wanders the galaxy, known as “the Lucky”, though he makes his own luck, is reunited with the beautiful alien queen whose people he threw his career away trying to find a new homeworld: together, they search the ruined worlds of a lost alien master race to recover the technology that will help her people earn their place in the Empire while on the run from a rogue admiral and treacherous prince. Where it delved into actual science of Radiation, it got pretty silly… But it’s so easy to forgive silly bad science when you have a space-man fighting a giant space panther armed with nothing but a table leg followed by a sword-fight as the alien queen’s champion against her evil brother.
If Leigh Brackett had written Arsenal, Bran the Lucky would’ve smoked cigarettes and called the alien queen Baby, but I can’t really think of any other ways to improve on this one. Fox has been added to my watch list.
Lastly: hey, it’s Dean Cain and Milo!
I’d been meaning to write something about Lois & Clark for some time, since I recently rewatched it, but it basically boiled down to three points:
1. Lois & Clark is best Superman.
2. Special effects aside, Lois & Clark aged really well.
3. Out of half a dozen Superman movies, why were none as good as the pilot of Lois & Clark?
Update: While the Superman of my childhood has spoken up on behalf of gamers and ethics in journalism, Superman in the comics is apparently busy punching cops.