Wednesday, October 26, 2005

50 Book Challenge #58: The Traveler

I got about 100 pages into Gene Wolfe's The Knight, but eventually I realized:

1. I hate Gene Wolfe's writing. It's cold and precise in a way I associate with the hardest of hard SF. He's usually describing something extremely complex or multilayered and/or something that could be really rousing, but I can never manage to care, and I never have a good grip on the world he's creating. This quality of being simultaneously vague and meticulous is utterly infuriating.
2. The Knight is a quest, but after the first four times Sir Able slips into a neighboring dimension and time glides by while he dallies with some fey slip of a thing or fights a big scary something or other, it all blends together and again, I just don't care.

So I gave up and picked up The Traveler, which has the disadvantage of being much more poorly written (I may not like Wolfe, but he is skillful) but at least did not put me to sleep. The book grabs you right away with a kinetic scene of a preteen girl being thrown into a soccer riot by her own father and doesn't let up for a while. There's a lot of rather awkward exposition about the various secret groups that exist under our radar: Harlequins, badassed mercenaries who guard Travelers; Travelers, people who can send their life force to another dimension and somehow are, by virtue of this, usually rabble-rousing messiah types; and Tabula, a group obsessed with orderly society and thus opposed to rabble-rousing. Once we have the stage set, though, it has potential to be a ripping yarn. (I was never sure why it took interdimensional travel to figure out that the status quo generally sucks for a lot of people, but picking nits like that in a book that assumes won't find it odd when packs of genetically engineered hyenas are left to run rampant in major urban areas is perhaps expecting a bit too much.)

Of course, the plot is like something the Unabomber would have written if he'd been into fiction instead of manifestos (we're all being watched by technology! beware electricity and use only cash!) and the dialogue laughable (Actual bit from a climactic confrontation: "They want to destroy any kind of personal freedom." "That's the plan for the ordinary people, but not for us."), but it was at least a quick read. I had some amount of fun trying to figure out which of the characters was the Mary Sue/Gary Stu: the dimension-hopping, motorcycle riding Traveler? one of the Highlander-wannabe Harlequins? I'm going with option A, since it was obvious from his introduction that sooner or later the icy yet beautiful multiethnic lady Harlequin would fall in love with him, with much angst to follow.

(P.S. There's even a sellout brother! Are we sure Kaczynski's quit writing?)
blog comments powered by Disqus