Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Shadow and Night 3: The Weak Points

Thus far my posts about Chris Walley's The Shadow and Night have been positive. There are some objections, however, though I think some are trivial.

Pace. Someone is bound to say that the opening is too slow. I say "someone" because it didn't bother me. This is a very different world, and we need to feel at home with the righteousness involved before we can truly feel the horror of encroaching evil. Besides, the hints that something is amiss do come early and are rather dramatic, especially a dream Merral has. It also makes the shift when Merral and Vero head north far more powerful. (Finally, the target audience for "Short Attention Span Theater" shouldn't be reading novels anyway.)

Science. I had misgivings when I saw the "fantasy" description: "Great. Some dolt is doing Tolkien in Space." Despite the author's misgivings, however, this really is science fiction. It is NOT fantasy. Lewis' "Space Trilogy" was more of a fantasy than this is. And most of the science is good. There is one place, however, that is just plain wrong: the invocation of quantum entanglement as a means of instantaneous interstellar communication. It doesn't work that way. I would suggest either invoking tachyons or perhaps some experimental Below Space communication system of a temperamental nature.

Inconsistency. Considering how cautious the Assembly of Worlds is, I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't have redundant systems, especially where vital items are concerned. This would mess up the dramatic conclusion of the first section and the major on-going temptation of the second, but I would expect some spare parts, so to speak. (I'd be more specific, but that would be a spoiler.)

Dark Angel? One of the quirks of the postmill position is that its proponents are usually cessationists: they deny that miracles still occur. So the importance of dreams and angelic intervention surprised me. But there was an odder oddity: the angel that turns up late in the story sports dark clothing and often seems like a shadow. I'd want to see some ID. When angelic garb in the Bible is described, it's usually blazing white. Why the difference? I don't know. Perhaps Heaven ran out of bleach.

Ending. I was a bit annoyed at the ending, because a relationship issue is brought up but not settled. I would've preferred either settling it, which would cause the story to drag on beyond its obvious end-point, or simply let it go, which would have been better. I can more or less understand what Walley did; I just don't think it tidy.

But this is quibbling. This story combines great beauty with a formidable vision of the danger we are approaching thoughtlessly. So my final word for the tour is simply, "Get it, read it, and share it with others."

Next up (off tour): the whole postmill bit considered a bit more carefully, but still without flaming.

Other blogs on the tour:
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Grace Bridges
Jackie Castle
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Marcus Goodyear
Rebecca Grabill
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Michael Heald
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Heather R. Hunt
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Pamela Morrisson
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Deena Peterson
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachelle Sperling
Donna Swanson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise


Rebecca said...

Totally agree on the inconsistency. I had a very hard time swallowing there not being a back-up system when the main one ... blew. (Did I give it away? Forget you read that.) Really, it's the height of arrogance (and isn't that sin?) to assume technology would *never* fail. Or even be down for maintenance.

I just remembered the library. Now THAT was cool.

Again, you'll have to find me through wordpress.

Steve said...

Consdiering that Assembly products tend to have amazingly long lifespans, it might not have bothered me if

1. a backup was on the way and hadn't arrived yet or

2. there was another "incident" that took out the backup or

3. there was no continuing insistence on the cautious nature of the Assembly.

Kait said...

I never thought of that, about the backup stuff. Good point. And you lost me when you mentioned that T word that I can't even pronounce! Maybe Walley was trusting his audience to suspend belief for a bit?

Fantasythyme said...

It does seem odd that the Assembly didn't have a backup system for major equipment. That's in keeping with what the Gate technician said about th e system never failing. He claimed there were redundant systems 'on' the Gate, bt not 'of' the Gate.

Good point about the angel wearing black. Maybe it was in disguise?

Chris said...

So, as the author, I find myself forced to defend a) my quantumn physics and my angelology. Well that's a novel combination for literature!

My understanding of quantum entanglement is not great but I understand that 'faster than light' transmission this way is at least possible. It an odd world there!

Now re angels. The dark garb, is of course, partly a literary device to make the Envoy different from the rather overdone angels of literature. But I suggest that evil and good are not colour coded. Some have entertained angels unawares! And there are times and places where the envoy reveals his 'true colours'. Perhaps, like God, he needs to cloak his glory for our sake.

Re the Gate. Well, gates are massively expensive to make and never fail. In many systems there are multiple gates but Farholme doesn't have one because it is an end of the line world. But a fair point. In any second edition I may add a sentence expounding this.

Anyway if that's all that wrong I'm a happy man!


Chris Walley


Steve said...

Quantum entanglement can indeed involve "simultaneous" change at stellar distances. But it can't be used to transmit information faster than light. The reasons are involved, but if you check the Wikipedia page I give, it explains the matter briefly.

But as I said, the points are minor.

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