Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

  • Mood:
  • Music:

The Wednesday Morning "How Does He Find The Time To Read All This Stuff" Review: Contacting Aliens

Cards on the table time: I like Space Opera. It's the wide screen baroque that pushes SF onwards. In fact, contrary to popular belief of space opera as a rehash of 1930s and 1940s pulp themes, I feel there's a solid argument to be made that post-1980, space opera has proven to be the most ambitious and most effective part of the genre, one that has been unafraid to ask many questions about what it means to be human in an age of technological explosion (and if you're prepared to argue either side of that, I've got a Lexicon 2 bubbling under that you might be interested in...).

One of the more interesting space operas of recent years has been David Brin's Uplift series. Half a millenium from now humanity has found itself part of an ancient and complex civilisation with a caste structure that thinks in terms of millions of years, one that's very unsure about the sudden appearance of a "wolfling" race, one that belies billions of years of careful gardening and controlled uplift of animals to intelligence. Caught up in conspiracies and machinations, humanity stumbles across secrets that threaten its very existence. In two trilogies, one loose, one a single story, Brin has shown us the complexities of his Five Galaxies, with its many sapients and complex customs - and its deep, deep secrets.

So now, after the second trilogy has ended with the publication of Heaven's Reach, Brin has teamed up with the artist Kevin Lenagh to deliver Contacting Aliens, a guide to the complexities of the galactic clans and a glimpse at some of his research material (some of which has been seen before in the pages of the GURPS: Uplift role-playing game). Composed as a briefing to a human agent about to go out into the complexities of Galactic civilisation. As a framing for a writer's notes, this approach works as well as any other. Brin has obviously thought deeply about his background, and this slim volume goes someway into exploring his ideas. It's just a pity that it really comes across as a role-playing add-on published as a normal book. The illustrations aren't that good, either - this would have worked so much better as a project illustrated by some of the best known names in SF art, like Malcom Edwards' early '80s books or Stewart Cowley's collections of SF cover art.

Still, at best this is minor associational material. It's fun if you loved Brin's books but of little interest to anyone else, unless of course you're playing GURPS: Uplift...
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 1 comment