Friday, March 13, 2009

Yesterday I finished Stations of the Tide by Michael Swanwick.

The fact that the name is an obvious play on the Christian "Stations of the Cross" gives you a hint about the books contents.

Set in some unspecified future, the novel involves the efforts of a bureaucrat to track down a native who may have stolen forbidden technology on a planet that is about to go through a periodic cataclysmic shift that will drown half the planet. The native has become a leader with mystic pretensions and most of the book consists of a long distance duel between the native and the bureaucrat where the native tries to lead the bureaucrat into various traps and the bureaucrat just tries to find the native.

Along the way are various pseudo mystical experiences and side stories.

Overall, it was an interesting read but with some problems. The background and world that the story takes place in is never made clear. Swanwick choses to follow a style that just throws the reader into the deep end of a different world and expect them to learn to swim without explicit instruction. That can work well, see Stephenson's Anathem for example, but in this case the description is too scanty and the result is a lack of clarity and, at times, a difficulty in following exactly what is happening or why.

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