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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Just Finished Reading: Tides of Light by Gregory Benford

In the far future the remnants of humanity are on the run from the machines that control most of the Galaxy. Looking for a new home on which to settle they detect a world under attack from a strange inexplicable device. When their ship is attacked they abandon it for the dangers of the planets surface. There they face an even greater threat. Thrown into a war between alien cyborgs and human soldiers once allied to the machines whom the cyborgs had defeated. Torn between loyalty to their human brothers and fear of the deadly cyborgs they must walk the path of survival while all around them the planet is being torn apart.

Oddly the back of this book says that it’s the second volume in the Galactic Centre novel series although you can see on the cover above that it’s apparently the fourth book in the series. This might explain why it took so long for me to get comfortable with it. I’d actually read the first (or third) book in the series some years ago – pre-Blog – but that didn’t really help. What did help was the character flashbacks and speculation about recent and ancient history. At least that gave me the context. I struggled a bit with the language though. The author had invented a sort of future shorthand and language drift which took a bit of getting used to, especially as I had to mentally translate what people where saying before I could move on with the plot. However, once these twin hurdles were overcome this actually turned out to be a very good and often gripping piece of hard sci-fi. Whilst the aliens – both cyborg and machine – where suitably alien they were understandable to the extent that I found the cyborgs in particular to be very interesting. Most of the humans turned out to be fairly two-dimensional but there was enough personality in the main characters to more than adequately carry the story forward. All in all, after a difficult start I really quite enjoyed this book and some of the images stayed with me a long time after I’d finished the final page. I have the next book in the series already (actually it along with this volume has been in the ‘pile’ for quite some time) and I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m also going to have to see if I can get the first two books in the series now I know that they exist! Recommended – but I’d start from the first book rather than here.

On a more general note, I’m rather surprised by the lack of any significant number of SF novels based around the conflict between men and machines. With the popularity of the Terminator franchise and the drive towards autonomous military robots I would have thought such an area would prove very fertile ground indeed. It’s a rather odd, and obvious, gap in the genre.

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