Book: Emerald Eyes / The Long Run - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Book: Emerald Eyes / The Long Run
Sunday, 27 June 2004 at 10:19 pm
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Author: Daniel Keys Moran

Details: This is a slightly odd small press limited edition with two novels and a short story bound together. lethargic_man started explaining how he came by it, and then we got distracted so I never quite found out the whole story. Anyway, it doesn't have a normal title page with the information I usually look for in commercially published books, and doesn't appear to have an ISBN. What I can find out is: it's (c) 1987, 1989, 1998 Daniel Keys Moran; it was published by Queen of Angels in the US, presumably in 1998 though that's not mentioned. (The website listed for them doesn't appear to have anything on it but a picture of the World Trade Center, which doesn't help me very much.) Anyway here are a random edition of Emerald Eyes and one of The Long Run on Allconsuming.

Verdict: Emerald Eyes and particularly The Long Run are at least partially successful, although not really my thing.

Reasons for reading it: lethargic_man raves about it a lot.

How it came into my hands: As is probably obvious from the above, lethargic_man lent it to me.

I usually structure my reviews by starting off by saying what I like about a book, and then going on to criticism; even with bad books the first usually outweighs the second, just because I find the basic fact of reading so enjoyable anyway. I'm finding that difficult to do with Emerald Eyes and The Long Run. Most of what I liked about these two books was fairly amorphous things like: they are exciting and readable and original, whereas there are quite a few minor but specific things that annoyed me about the pair.

I think in some ways these two books typify what mainstream readers expect to dislike about SF. There's a lot of action and a fair amount of information-heavy world-building background, but they are light on characterization or plausible human relationships. And a lot of the 'science' element is little more than 'wouldn't it be cool if we had technology that could do X?!' speculation. There's also far too much weaponry porn, which leaves me absolutely cold. To be fair, anything that bases a major plot arc on futuristic genetic manipulation has a good chance of annoying me (with the possible exception of Aldous Huxley).

I did like a lot of the computer / informatics / AI stuff, though. Unlike the biology, I don't know enough about this sort of thing to read very critically, but it felt both plausible and interesting. The portrayals of Trent's various hacking exercises come across as exciting, which means both that there's enough background for me to understand why what he's doing is difficult and cool, but that background is woven into the story and not didactic. The scene where Trent gets a fancy new 'inskin', merges with his Image and gains the ability to interact directly with the InfoNet is particularly powerful.

Reading the two books back to back like this almost certainly enhanced my enjoyment of them. This presentation went some way to soften my habitual annoyance at books that are too obviously part of long series, but actually I think I'd forgive these two even if I'd read them separately. Both have a sensible structure with endings that are actually endings, and tie up enough of the threads to be satisfying while still leaving some things open. And The Long Run contains enough reminders of back story that I think one could make sense of it without having read Emerald Eyes. Also, The Long Run is far and away the stronger book of the two. If I'd read Emerald Eyes in a separate edition, I don't think I'd have been inspired to go out and look for the sequel, but it is exciting and engaging enough that I wanted to read on when I had the continuation already there in my hands.

I think the main trouble with Emerald Eyes is that there are too many characters and almost none of them are quite solid enough for me to tell them all apart, let alone engage with them emotionally. Apart from that (which to me is a huge flaw, because I read for character before anything else), the story is exciting and it does a good job of building up the background (maybe a little heavy-handed at times, but I did get a feel for the setting and I always prefer too much incluing1 over too little). The revelation that Trent is not a telepath I found moving; the big flashy battle that forms the book's climax had much less emotional impact, mainly because I didn't care enough about all the people who get killed and also because I just don't get excited about big huge explosions and lots of blood and gore. And the epilogue which sets up the rest of the series fell just short of annoying me; it's a bit on the mystical side, but manages not to spoil the balance of the book.

The Long Run could still do with better characterization, but I could at least remember who was who, and did care about what happened to them. The eponymous chase sequence is very well executed, sustaining excitement for a large proportion of the book, and providing plenty of emotional variation for such a basically simple theme. I really liked the fact that Trent's arch-enemy, Vance, is neither stupid nor motivated by pure abstract evil, despite very much playing the rôle of super-Villain. The scene with Trent and Garon fighting on top of a half-built spacescraper is so visibly written with the screenplay in mind that it's almost ridiculous, but it's well enough done that it gets away with this.

What did annoy me was a strong sense of visible scaffolding, particularly in terms of Trent's character. He almost has a sign painted on his forehead saying 'look at me, I'm a Lovable Rogue!'. Character ambiguity isn't ambiguity if it's hard wired so that the narration is practically screaming 'Look! Trent is a thief and arrogant to boot! But you should like him anyway because he gives his profits to charity and is loyal to his friends and doesn't like unnecessary killing!' And the humourous scenes, particularly between Trent and duBois, felt really, really forced. Actually I almost found myself liking Carl Castanaveras better than Trent, because there was less of the 'isn't this character adorable?!' stuff.

The other thing, and it's minor, but it really, really niggled, was the way that we know exactly how attractive every single female character is (even the ones who are basically just scenery or walk-on parts). I normally have no problems identifying with a male viewpoint character, and I have no problems with the kind of set-up where the men are the protagonists and the women are just decoration or trophies. That kind of direct sexism isn't the problem with EE and tLR; indeed, the fact that the setting is a largely egalitarian society makes the attractiveness rating thing stick out even more.

The interludes with the storyteller-god I really didn't get; I assume they are setting stuff up for future episodes, but as these two novels stand they don't seem to contribute much to the story. I was also a little peeved that there is no mention at all of what happened to David Castanaveras, or of how Ralf the Wise and Powerful suddenly manages to turn up as an almost literal deus ex machina, though I suppose it's fair enough to leave some things open as teasers for the rest of the series.

1] papersky coined the term. It's one of those beautiful neologisms which couldn't mean anything but what it means.

Having said all that, Emerald Eyes is very easy to read despite its problems, and The Long Run is absolutely gripping, even if it's not the kind of book I particularly seek out normally.


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rysmiel: words words words
From:rysmiel
Date:June 30th, 2004 09:54 am (UTC)
19 hours after journal entry, 05:54 am (rysmiel's time)
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I think this is another set of books which lethargic_man read on my recommendation.

My take on it is that Emerald Eyes is a prolonged prologue, which is all fine and good but something a book-as-physical-object really should indicate more before you get into it. The Long Run is a romp, and to my mind very good for the sort of romp it is; I have no counter to any of your criticisms. The Last Dancer does catch one up with David and Deniece as well as Trent to some extent; I think it's a better book than either of the previous, and it has at least the advantage of being easier to get hold of. [ Prior to that hardback reissue the first two were at the plutonium-dust level of hard to find ]

Moran's long-term plans for the series, as posted online, extend to 33 books. I find this reassuring when the scale of some of my own projects begins to scare me. Alas, I see no prospect of any of them becoming available unless he self-publishes them. He appears to have a reputation for being very difficult to work with - he was entirely civil in the one brief exchange of mail I had with him about axial tilt some years back, but his web presence makes it clear that he is a person of strong opinions and vehement about them, I can see that rubbing some people up the wrong way.

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lethargic_man: default
From:lethargic_man
Date:June 30th, 2004 02:14 pm (UTC)
23 hours after journal entry, 02:14 pm (lethargic_man's time)
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If The Last Dancer was at plutonium-dust level of hard to find, what did that make The Perfect Thief?
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rysmiel: pig!!
From:rysmiel
Date:July 2nd, 2004 07:55 am (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 03:55 am (rysmiel's time)
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Very much appreciated, that's what. [ Have read it once and will definitely be doing so again ]
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lethargic_man: reflect
From:lethargic_man
Date:July 2nd, 2004 06:47 am (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 06:47 am (lethargic_man's time)
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I think this is another set of books which lethargic_man read on my recommendation.

Yup. I read The Long Run during my visit to Paris during חול המועד פסח (the intermediate days of Passover) in 1998. (I went out of my B&B to look around Paris, then it started to snow -- during April -- so I went back to my room to read.)

The Last Dancer does catch one up with David and Deniece as well as Trent to some extent; I think it's a better book than either of the previous, and it has at least the advantage of being easier to get hold of.

Would you (i.e. livredor) be at all interested in borrowing my copy of this?

Moran's long-term plans for the series, as posted online

(Quod videt.)

extend to 33 books. [...] Alas, I see no prospect of any of them becoming available unless he self-publishes them.

And at the rate he's going what with job, commute and raising a family, it's unlikely he's ever going to write any more of them. :-( (Though there are two books fully written just waiting for the opportunity to publish them.)
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livredor: teeeeeeeeea (thanks to darcydodo)
From:livredor
Date:July 10th, 2004 02:38 pm (UTC)
11 days after journal entry, 02:38 pm (livredor's time)
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I read The Long Run during my visit to Paris
You know, you still haven't managed to explain to me why you have such a strange edition! Though the fact that the books were otherwise hard to find may have something to do with this.

[The Last Dancer]
Would you (i.e. livredor) be at all interested in borrowing my copy of this?
Sure. I'm in the middle of A suitable boy right now, which is lonnnnnnng but also a very different kind of beast from the DKM stuff, so by the time I've finished it I shall be happy to go back to the other.

And wow, those posted plans are quite something!
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lethargic_man: default
From:lethargic_man
Date:July 11th, 2004 08:51 am (UTC)
11 days after journal entry, 08:51 am (lethargic_man's time)
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You know, you still haven't managed to explain to me why you have such a strange edition!

I wanted my own copy. The books were out of print, and had been for a long time; and I don't think I'd discovered the likes of ABE yet. Also, I wanted to get a firsthand copy, to add to the books' sales. I learned about the limited edition from the Continuing Time mailing list, so I bought a copy. Quite simple, really. ;^)
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livredor: bookies (thanks to darcydodo)
From:livredor
Date:July 10th, 2004 01:54 pm (UTC)
10 days after journal entry, 01:54 pm (livredor's time)
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I think this is another set of books which lethargic_man read on my recommendation.
Yes, I gathered as much. When I was trying to find out how he came by such an odd edition of the book he started by telling me something about you before the conversation got diverted.

Emerald Eyes is a prolonged prologue, which is all fine and good but something a book-as-physical-object really should indicate more before you get into it
Yes, I would appreciate a warning of that kind of thing also.

Moran's long-term plans for the series, as posted online, extend to 33 books
I'll refrain from making rude remarks about endless SF series. Though it's more the fantasy side that I associate with that stereotype, I think.

Alas, I see no prospect of any of them becoming available unless he self-publishes them.
That's a shame, and probably a good argument against telling one's stories at that sort of length. Though if the ones that do get published have proper endings I shan't be too peeved, I think.
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lethargic_man: reflect
From:lethargic_man
Date:July 2nd, 2004 06:31 am (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 06:31 am (lethargic_man's time)

Emerald Eyes & The Long Run

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To be fair, anything that bases a major plot arc on futuristic genetic manipulation has a good chance of annoying me (with the possible exception of Aldous Huxley).

And DKM is really quite badly informed about biology...

I did like a lot of the computer / informatics / AI stuff, though.

And, disregarding the mystical twaddle, DKM has done a better than average job at predicting the future here. Writing in the mid eighties, he describes handheld computers not totally dissimilar to the ones used today (and, indeed, the word "handheld" has come into use as a noun, like in the stories). And his concept of Images, complete science fiction at the time the books were written, exist in an embryonic form today. (I still think AI won't have reached the point it is portrayed as having reached by the time of these books, but time will tell.)

And The Long Run contains enough reminders of back story that I think one could make sense of it without having read Emerald Eyes. Also, The Long Run is far and away the stronger book of the two.

Agreed. Indeed, I only lent you Emerald Eyes because I think reading The Long Run benefits from having read the first book. One of the major attractions of this series as far as I was concerned is the way the whole series has been thought out in advance, and even from the first book there are references to points way forward in the series.

And the epilogue which sets up the rest of the series fell just short of annoying me; it's a bit on the mystical side, but manages not to spoil the balance of the book.

Which was that? Do you mean the extended quotation from The Perfect Thief? If so, I'm surprised; it's made everyone else I've encountered who's read it want to read the Bass book*.

I really liked the fact that Trent's arch-enemy, Vance, is neither stupid nor motivated by pure abstract evil, despite very much playing the rôle of super-Villain.

I don't think Vance is a super-Villain. He's a very moral man caught in a difficult situation -- being forced to carry out unethical acts by his superiors (who do include power-hungry super-villains). He'll do what he has to do to support the Unification, which he regards as a good thing, and it takes him a long time to realise the system he is working for has been subverted to the extent that by supporting it he's no longer upholding the values he thinks he is. Also, and he never loses his compassion for Trent (except for right at the end of The Long Run, in his final message to Trent).

The interludes with the storyteller-god I really didn't get; I assume they are setting stuff up for future episodes, but as these two novels stand they don't seem to contribute much to the story.

Though it's interesting to compare the portrayals of the two gods in the two novels. In Emerald Eyes we're presented with a portrayal of the Name Storyteller as good and Camber Tremodian as bad. In The Long Run it becomes apparent that picture is simplistic, and the situation is muddied further in The Last Dancer. However, you're right that their story is only being set up here to be told fully a lot further down the series.

(Actually, what I really want to read is The Always Rising of the Night, (being the true story of Our Lady of Nightways, Ola Blue, who was Lady Blue, who was Leiacan of Eastersea), which DKM describes as being like Star Wars told from the perspective of the Empire (only once again, from what we know from the first three and a quarter books of the series, it's difficult to tell which side is good and which bad). It's most annoying that he has't written it yet.)

I was also a little peeved that there is no mention at all of [...] how Ralf the Wise and Powerful suddenly manages to turn up as an almost literal deus ex machina, though I suppose it's fair enough to leave some things open as teasers for the rest of the series.

That at least is implied in the novel: Ralf was "fostered" into a true AI by Ring.

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livredor: bookies (thanks to darcydodo)
From:livredor
Date:July 10th, 2004 02:20 pm (UTC)
10 days after journal entry, 02:20 pm (livredor's time)
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And DKM is really quite badly informed about biology...
Well, quite.

disregarding the mystical twaddle
Hm. I think some of the mysticism worked quite well, it gave the book a bit of depth. In other parts it did just come across as pretentious, though.

And his concept of Images, complete science fiction at the time the books were written, exist in an embryonic form today
I like the way you think; that is a cute connection. I think the Images reminded me more of things like Googlebots, but I don't really have a very clear idea of how those work.

I still think AI won't have reached the point it is portrayed as having reached by the time of these books, but time will tell.)
I usually work on the basis that the timescale in any SF is completely arbitrary. I'm interested in whether the proposed development and the effects it has on society are plausible, not whether it takes 30 or a hundred years.

I only lent you Emerald Eyes because I think reading The Long Run benefits from having read the first book.
Thank you, that was thoughtful of you!

And the epilogue which sets up the rest of the series fell just short of annoying me
Which was that? Do you mean the extended quotation from The Perfect Thief?
Not that, specifically, just the abrupt change of tone, and the way it's too obviously a linking section. As I said, though, it just about worked, I was only nearly annoyed, not actually.

If so, I'm surprised; it's made everyone else I've encountered who's read it want to read the Bass book.
No, I didn't feel like that. The extract struck me as apt within the section, and fairly pleasing. But if I were to judge the book from that extract, I'd predict it to be too poetic and dense to be easily readable.
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lethargic_man: default
From:lethargic_man
Date:July 11th, 2004 08:14 am (UTC)
11 days after journal entry, 08:14 am (lethargic_man's time)
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I think the Images reminded me more of things like Googlebots, but I don't really have a very clear idea of how those work.

The difference is that Googlebots are robotic programs; Images act on behalf of the person that uses them, and represent them.

I usually work on the basis that the timescale in any SF is completely arbitrary. I'm interested in whether the proposed development and the effects it has on society are plausible, not whether it takes 30 or a hundred years.

That's an interesting way of looking at it.

"everyone else I've encountered who's read it want to read the Bass book."

No, I didn't feel like that. The extract struck me as apt within the section, and fairly pleasing. But if I were to judge the book from that extract, I'd predict it to be too poetic and dense to be easily readable.

It's not generally like that. The extract's from the first chapter, which has the title "The Dream". And the chapter continues on for a few more paragraphs in a way that changes the impression it gives. It reminds me of the nested stories about the showdown between אליהו הנביא* and אחאב at Mount Carmel. הפטרת כי תשא begins with עבדיהו meeting אליהו when he's out looking for streams, and it ends with the people falling upon their faces and calling out "The LORD, he is G-d!" It's all about the vindication of אליהו as the prophet of the One True G-d. There's nothing there at all about the drought which was the cause of this whole sequence of events, which the Bible records אליהו as having started in the first place, and nothing about אליהו causing the drought to end. Yet it's almost self-contained as told in the הפטרה; certainly the הפטרה has a proper ending.

You have to read the whole chapter of the Book of Kings and the preceding one to get the wider picture, which puts the inner story in context. That wider picture is completely self-contained; it has a beginning, middle and end -- and yet that too is nested inside the wider story of אליהו's career: the following verses, describing how אליהו is forced to flee before איזבל, and falling into depression begs G-d to let him die, cast a completely different light on his apparent total victory at the end of the two inner stories.

* The prophet Elijah, on the offchance that there's anyone apart from livredor and myself still reading this. The following names are King Ahab and Obadiah.

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livredor: bookies (thanks to darcydodo)
From:livredor
Date:July 10th, 2004 02:32 pm (UTC)
11 days after journal entry, 02:32 pm (livredor's time)
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I don't think Vance is a super-Villain.
I think I'm using the term differently from you. I don't mean an exceptionally evil villain, I mean a character with superpowers who fills the dramatic rôle of opposing the protagonist. I agree entirely with you view of Vance. Indeed, the fact that he is a plausible and even partially sympathetic human being, rather than a personification of evil, is one of the things I regarded as a strength of the book.

Though it's interesting to compare the portrayals of the two gods in the two novels. In Emerald Eyes we're presented with a portrayal of the Name Storyteller as good and Camber Tremodian as bad.
I'm not sure I got that impression, actually. I thought the Name Storyteller was just strange, I couldn't work out what he was doing in the story. I didn't think of him as 'good'; as I saw it, the narrative was on the side of Carl Castanaveras, the Storyteller was mostly a plot device. As for Camber Tremodian, I almost didn't notice him, he just didn't stick out as at all important to the story.

how Ralf the Wise and Powerful suddenly manages to turn up as an almost literal deus ex machina
That at least is implied in the novel: Ralf was "fostered" into a true AI by Ring.
Ah, ok. I didn't pick that up at all. So my fault, not the book's!
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lethargic_man: default
From:lethargic_man
Date:July 2nd, 2004 06:33 am (UTC)
2 days after journal entry, 06:33 am (lethargic_man's time)
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(Footnotes posted separately, as I'd gone over the LJ length limit.)

* Which was rather annoying given how difficult that book is to find copies of. It took me years to get one. About once a year the Advanced Book Exchange would notify me a copy had been listed; only for me to find it had been sold by the time I even managed to view the listing.

† Which sounds very flowery until you learn that Eastersea is the last slum on Earth.
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