Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed May 16 12:40:37 EDT 1990

Raymond's Reviews #55

%T The Quiet Pools
%A Michael P. Kube-McDowell
%I Ace
%D May 1990
%O hardcover, US$17.95
%P 371
%G 0-441-69911-1

Michael Kube-McDowell made a startlingly powerful debut in his trilogy "The Trigon Disunity" (Emprise, Enigma, and Empery), then gave us an original and unusual alternate-Universe novel in Alternities. In The Quiet Pools he has produced a satisfying "big" novel in the Campbellian tradition of celebrating the human drive to techno-transcendence, perhaps marred by a too-conscious effort to cross over into the best-seller big leagues.

In the author's future, the megacorporation Allied Transcom is struggling to launch the second starship of the Diaspora project, an ambitious plan to spread viable human colonies through near interstellar space. Opposed are the eco-terrorists of the Homeworld underground, a conspiracy bent on keeping the `best and brightest' on Earth to repair her shattered ecologies. Caught in the middle is Christopher McCutcheon, a hypertext librarian for Diaspora who discovers that the Homeworld network's secrets are interwoven with his own painful past.

The Homeworld network is prepared to murder and vandalize without limit to achieve its ends -- the choice between the two should be easy. But Chris begins to understand that the few who run Transcom are hiding their own dark secret, some terrible knowledge that could shatter and reshape humanity's concept of history and of its very self. And that it is is within his power to make the choice that will take humanity to the stars or bind it back to Earth, possibly forever.

This book is a well-written execution of a provocative premise. If hard-core SF fans may find the issues involved a mite too obvious, well, that's what makes them fans; they should be glad this isn't another complete crossover turkey like Voyagers (see RR#49).

My biggest problem with this book, believe it or not, was the amount of gratuitous sex'n'violence in it. Now, the sex scenes were well written and I have never been accused of prudishness, but I several times felt as if the narration was leaving off something interesting to tug at my genitals. And there was one particularly harrowing scene involving the brutal murder of a young woman that could just as well (for plot purposes) have been left to inference -- it belonged in a slasher movie, not an SF novel purporting to address some fairly serious speculations about the destiny of intelligence.

Yes, this sort of thing goes on a lot in junk genre fiction. I think Kube-McDowell can do better than that; I think this novel was a serious attempt to do better, and I'm disappointed that he felt it necessary (or perhaps was forced) to stoop to such pandering.

Nevertheless, I recommend this one (with reservations), especially to hard-SF fans. Buy it in paperback.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed May 16 12:40:37 EDT 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>