Interesting that it has been sci-fi books in the past few years to really pull me out of my slump.
Driving the Deep was a fabulous follow-up to the first book about Fergus’ adventures, Finder. No, you don’t need to read it first. Yes, you should, because Fergus will undergo a very significant change in that book that gives him a very useful and needful talent here.
You know what I think about this book? This is what A Long Way to An Angry Planet could have been if Chambers had a little bit better grasp of plotting.
Fergus is hanging around with some shipmaker friends, chilling post last book when they convince him it is time to take care of some old emotional business on Earth and return the motorcycle he stole from his cousin when he left his very unfortunate home life. Unbeknownst to him, a police detective has been watching that locker for two years, for completely different reasons. When Fergus breaks in to liberate his cousin’s motorcycle, any thoughts of dealing with old family issues are wiped away when it looks like his ship-building friends are in deep trouble.
I love the characterization, and that Fergus is mostly ethical. I like the range of people he runs into, and I felt a number of them came alive, although I’d have to say that some were a bit odd just for the sake of being odd, it seemed (much like Angry). There’s a cat, as there should be on a ship, and the cat’s mostly just a cat, which I actually appreciated.
“The farther you get from Earth, the more you’ll encounter people hacking the phenotype, either for aesthetics or survival. Often both. Try not to act like an originalist if you encounter any.”
The plotting was tight, and if there was one angle that I realized, it really didn’t spoil anything, because it was the last part of the book anyway. Action was fast-paced, veering from Fergus’ internal struggle, to interpersonal tension, to large-scale environmental stresses. I appreciated the variety, and the fact that Palmer didn’t allow Fergus to wallow. Ultimately, he’s a Han.
“Here, the only thing they have to defend against is one rogue hauler pilot with a stray cat and, I suppose, possible discovery by a lackadaisical Alliance.”
Atmosphere was decent. Most of it came alive for me, although a couple of times, I’m not entirely sure I felt the weight of the moon above as much as in other books (thinking of you, Starfish.). I mean, perhaps it’s hard to find words above it because it is all darkness that deep, but that’s why the weight of the ocean and the claustrophobia become so important. But maybe it was decent. I’d have to read it again. Certain parts did come very alive.
It isn’t an outright funny book, but it has it’s moments. The almost-A.I.s in particular do a nice job of verbal fencing. And I’m almost positive I caught a couple of nerd-references to the first Star Wars. Zucker, the detective who reluctantly signs on for the ride, is also very good at being a foil, both literally and verbally.
“There were clearly significant advantages, in terms of avoiding law enforcement, of having spent a career inside of it.”
While this plot wrapped up very satisfactorily, it was a very quick ending, post climactic scenes. There was an epilogue to the scene that brought Fergus and Zucker together in the first place that I found rather unsatisfactory, but perhaps that was the strain of reading all day. I’ll have to give it another shot and see if it feels more comprehensive, but mostly, it didn’t.
Altogether, one of the few books that have held my attention since recovering (as in sit-down-and-read-all-day kind of attention)–we hope–from Quarantine Brain. I might have to go back and read the first again. Definitely a fan.