Monday, April 16, 2012

Nebula Update: No Enemy But Time

No Enemy but TimeNo Enemy but Time by Michael Bishop

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

One of the great things about the Kindle is that I can highlight passages I want to use in my reviews. The first such passage from No Enemy but time was:
Alfie had almost certainly plucked from her the fresh gardenia of her maidenhood, for his chieftaincy of the Minids gave him carnal access to almost every female who had attained menarche.
The problem with highlighting this sentence is that it was so awful that it opened my eyes to how wretched the rest of the prose was. So that leaves the plot and the characters.

The plot can be summarized as a guy traveling back in time to observe hominids. Something about the way the author wrote about a female hominid early in the book made me sure that they'd end up in the paelo-sack later in the book...I'm not quite sure how icky that is, but it definitely is at least a little bit icky. The chapters about the time-traveling alternate with chapters about the protagonist's life which lead up to the time-traveling. Oh, and the time-traveling happens via dreams, which just makes things feel less science-fictiony.

The non-time-travel chapters actually tell a more compelling story. The time travel part features the standard question of getting stuck in the past, but by late in the book neither the protagonist nor the reader cares.

There are a few interesting ideas in this book. So it is saved from the 1-star designation, if barely. I don't know whether 1982 was a weak year for the Nebula field, or after 30 years not everything ages well. (The LeGuin books from the 1970s continue to be fantastic, however.) Hmm. Now I see Bishop beat out Asimov, Heinlein and Dick to win the award. Foundation's Edge wasn't as strong as earlier Asimov, Friday had its own icky parts, and I haven't read the Philip K. Dick work. But I think I'd recommend any of them over No Enemy But Time.

That brings me to 33 of 47 Nebula winners read. Until the 2011 awards are announced in May, I'm going to concentrate on reading the nominees rather that past winners. (I've actually read 3 of them, but I'm behind on my review-writing.) It's nice to read more "modern" works for a change.

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