Most helpful positive review
Imaginative, interesting, but the plot rambles.
on November 10, 2002
This is a novel well worth reading because it makes you think. As always, Hogan is trying to think outside the box, and he tries to make the reader to do the same. In that, he succeeds in this very worthwhile novel.
The time is the late 21st century. There has been a third world war, and America and the world has more or less recovered from the aftermath. But America is transformed into a near-fascist state. There are hints that the Asians are practicing liberal democracy and that the Europeans are more or less junior rivals to America.
The novel involves a race by the three powers (America, Europe, and Asia) to re-establish contact with a colony established on Alpha Centauri's main planet--the colony had been jointly established prior to the war. The Americans arrive first, and the clash between the Americans and the colonists is the central theme of the book.
The main notion of the book is that people and nations carry their prejudices from generation to generation, and that it may take some form of "fresh start" to eliminate these prejudices. Hogan notes that America represented such a fresh start when it was founded, and Americans have shaken off much in the way of class structure and other undesireable components of European culture. Likewise, in his novel, the colonists have made a "fresh start," and have abolished racial prejudice (or even racial awareness), as well as any concept of a market economy or of the anglo-saxon justice system.
Hogan's basic premise makes sense--that a fresh start such as took place in America might help eradicate ancient prejudices. As he writes elsewhere, if we could somehow get one generation of the folks in Northern Ireland away from their parent's prejudices, this ancient quarrel would doubtless end for all time.
Unfortunately, some of Hogan's speculation fails to hold water. His replacement for a justice system is having people shoot bad guys out of hand. Only trouble with this is that it is exactly what people used to do a couple of centuries ago. This caused feuding and an endless cycle of family reprisals. So we invented courts. Here, Hogan has us going backwards, candidly probably due to his lack of historical knowledge in this regards. Similarly, Hogan postulates that the Centaurian colonists would abandone money and a market system because everyone would work their fair share and take their fair share--the notion is that productivity is so high with modern technology that there is no need to ration resources. Nonsense, as the fall of socialism/communism has shown. Human greed is limitless and there will always be a need to somehow ration labor and resources. Here, Hogan makes a nice try that falls flat. These are not major quibbles, by the way.
As a novel, Voyage From Yesteryear is so-so. The characters are not well developed, the storyline is murky, and the book rambles. In one sense you always know where it is going--a clash between the Americans and the colonists. But other than this broad theme, the book rambles erratically. You might think that these flaws render the book mediocre. That is not true. This novel's strengths are its ideas and speculations about both science and human societies. It is quite readable and does constitute a good read.
This is an interesting book with interesting ideas and speculation. It is well worth reading whether or not you agree with all of Hogan's speculation. This one gets 4 stars. That ain't bad.