Down The Bright Way Paperback – Oct 2 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
most compelling SF voice" I had to read this Robert Reed book.
But somehow I didn't find it an epic of breathtaking scope and
boundless imagination. Instead much of it felt like something
I had heard before. Left me without the kick of discovery.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
What I love primarily is the intimacy of the character nuances and attendant pathos with the epic scale of the setting. In particular, the energetic way the possibility of contact with a huge array of parallel universes, and conflict between rival multiverse groups unfold make Banks and Melko's recent efforts in this theme look even more pitiful by contrast. More than just the usual twists of divergent recent history, Reed's book explores alternate hominid development, a wide array of different social models and significantly different situations. Among the array of civilizations--including multiple Earths depopulated by human efforts--there's a fundamental optimism in the array heavily tied to the creativity of the setting. Reed provides enough solid description and small hinting detail that makes the wide scale of the universe credible. It's the ultimate believability of the setting that constitutes the book's greatest accomplishment, and the book's refusal to signpost the larger picture into either an utopia or a dystopia builds up this strength.
Also worth mentioning is the effective construction of some very interesting personality types. Normally for a work this wide ranging in environment and dealing with such a twisty plot it's frustrating to go beyond a single viewpoint perspective, losing track of events and making connection to the novel's pace rather difficult. Here Reed pulls it off quite effectively, in part because the different characters have such easily distinguishable voices and intentions
I was most interested in one character, a regular out of sorts normal human who meticulously pretended to be one of the famous Wanderers out of a basically psychological compulsion. It's effectively the type of approach that has someone spend a lot of effort plagiarizing for an assignment when in so doing they demonstrate enough skill to do their own work effectively. In this case, the fact that someone is able to imitate the patterns of behavior enough to actually fool real Wanderers establishes that he could do just find on conventional Earth, but he's drawn to this specific type of masquerade. It's an interesting take on the whole nature of the alien, and it works as presented particularly not as any kind of big breakthrough or self-realization but the small little details involved in keeping up the charade.
If there was one weakness it's that more probably could have been done with more fully describing the nature of the unFound and some of the background technology. Still the stark nature of the larger menace helps put the ambiguity of the narrative villain into sharper relief. Overall I've few complaints, and put this book high on my list for examples of how one can write classic, fairly conventional science fiction really well.
Better than: Transition by Iain Banks
Worse than: Marrow by Robert Reed