Which book to read? – Kim Stanley Robinson to the rescue!

I recently finished Hugh Howey’s Wool Omnibus, which combines his 5 self-published short stories into a single book. The first (and shortest) story is probably the best, as it sets up an intriguing premise and ends by making it even more intriguing! The success of that story led to a longer sequel, which led to an even longer one and so forth. Mr. Howey clearly felt the obligation to flesh out his characters and add increasing levels of story detail in each successive story. A lot of that additional detail is welcome, but sometimes I felt that I just wanted him to get on with it. In a sense, that is a positive commentary on how engaging the story was and how desperately I wanted to find out how our world had come to this post-apocalyptic state of affairs.

Anyway, after I finished Wool, I decided to start on Howey’s follow-up trilogy called the Shift series. This is part of the “Wooliverse” and all the stories (including the upcoming book titled Dust – which apparently will tie up all the loose ends) are referred to as the ‘Silo series’. Well, the first of these Shift novels, called First Shift-Legacy tells us how the apocalypse happened. The story is structured in 2 streams – one taking place in the lead-up to the apocalypse and the other stream taking place several decades into the apocalypse, showing life in one of the Silos. I was looking forward to a continuation of the story in Second Shift, but I was disappointed to see that there were a new set of characters and I was not really in the mood to invest into that, so I have opted out of reading it for the time being.

I then spent a day desperately trying to start off on a new book, but unable to figure out what sub-genre I wanted to get into. My choices included Hugh Howey’s own young adult scifi novel called Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue, Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest scifi epic 2312, C.J. Cherryh’s award winning scifi novel Downbelow Station (named by Locus magazine in 1987 as one of the 50 best scifi novels of all time) or S.M. Stirling’s post-apocalyptic novel Dies the Fire which describes a world in which electricity and gunpowder cease to exist (the ongoing J.J. Abrams TV series Revolution is a poor rip-off of the concept).

I sampled each of these books, trying out the first couple of pages to get a feel for the writing style and the tone of the story. Ultimately, none of them seemed to appeal to me. Just as I was at a loss, I realized I had another book by Kim Stanley Robinson with me, the very highly acclaimed The Years of Rice and Salt; I knew this book had something to do with the Dark Ages and the Black Death, so I didn’t think it would satisfy my ‘scifi craving’. Nevertheless a quick scan through a wiki entry revealed that it is in fact an alternate history novel, chronicling a period of several centuries right up to our current time. It builds on a scenario wherein the Black Death killed off 99% of Europe’s population thereby shifting the balance of global power to Asia over the next 700 years.

Suddenly this seemed both interesting and relevant to me, so I’ve started off on the book earlier today and raced through the first 20 pages (700+ to go). It certainly has me hooked and I can now rest at ease, knowing my reading needs are taken care of for the next few weeks! It will be my 6th K.S Robinson book after the excellent (and politically dense) Mars Trilogy and the less memorable Icehenge and Memory of Whiteness. It’s a busy month at work, so there’s no telling how long I’m going to take to finish it. I hope I’ll have the energy to write about it once I’m done.

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