Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al

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Book: The view from the stars

Author: Walter M Miller Jr

Details: (c) Walter M Miller Jr 1964; Pub Panther 1968

Verdict: The view from the stars is nothing special.

Reasons for reading it: I was a sucker for the marketing ploy where a bunch of Miller's early short stories were republished as an anthology to cash in on the success of A canticle for Leibowitz, which is one of the most brilliant books I've ever read.

How it came into my hands: Dundee charity shops

The view from the stars is a collection of very standard 1950s SF short stories. It's not bad; there are some cute ideas, but there's little about it that's memorable. Miller appears to be trying for sensawunda by simply instructing the reader to feel wonder, which doesn't work for me. Also, he has a very specific political agenda, which threatens to overwhelm the story quite a lot. You can certainly see the beginnings of the theme of ACfL, of societies going through cycles of tech acceleration, destruction and starting again from the beginning.

Even by the standards of the time, the gender politics is rather awful; in almost every story, women get rescued from near-rape and then make the situation worse by behaving like airheads, which earns them stern lectures from the geeky yet manly protagonists. In one case he actually canes the damsel in distress, for no discernible reason apart from vague kink. I would probably have put up with it in a single story, cos I read a lot of this kind of thing when I was younger. But an artefact of the anthology format is that it looks like a theme, and as themes go that's a bit icky.

Even with those criticisms, the stories aren't without originality. From a technical pov, they are good shorts; they set up just enough background to present an original idea and a plot twist, so they are all satisfying to read. I particularly enjoyed the Mars colony pair, Crucifixus etiam and The Nth Generation. The former looks at the actual labour gang who do the terraforming, which is an unusual perspective, and the second is starting to show glimmers of the sort of thing that is handled so superlatively well in ACfL. But without the famous name, these stories would have been long forgotten.
Tags: book

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