Saturday, July 21, 2007

Escape Velocity

Escape Velocity

Christopher Stasheff

Date: October, 1983   —   Book

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Fiction, Science Fiction

Escape Velocity is a prequel to one of Stasheff's most popular series, The Warlock [in Spite of Himself] series. This is a series that is based on the idea of 'sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic'— especially is the psychic types who are the "magic users" don't know anything about science, being the remnants of a colony who were basically the SCA and the Ren Faire geeks all rolled into one.

This is an attempt to explain how this world came to be, and it falls quite a bit short.

The lamentable fact is that Stasheff would be a joy and wonder to read in this book if he did not flit from idea to idea madly. His protagonists encounter four or five planetary societies in the course of a novel not quite 250 pages, and that's not nearly long enough to develop any one of them. You could easily set several novels on the first world introduced, a world where a masochistic psychiatrist (who finds it painful to listen to people, so he's really very good at his job) has managed to convince the local natives that it's better to have the battles every day, done in a style much like that of laser tag, than to have a long and drawn out war with real weapons where people die and it's all depressing and stuff.

And Stasheff actually sells the idea pretty well, including the "savages" who are actually as saavy as history is increasingly proving certain tribes of our own world. (Those "poor Manhattan Indians", for example, didn't trade their island so much as offer it on lease with guaranteed lodging and parties thrown into the deal.) And then he drops it and rushes madly on to the next world, and the next, until the theoretical climactic moment of the novel comes as an afterthought, with a few too obvious bits thrown in for the readers of the series.

Overall, it rates a "meh."

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