Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Brave New World - My Venture into Sci Fi

I thought I was a Sci-Fi reader. I really did. I liked books that took place in other worlds. I've enjoyed series where the characters could do fancy things with their brains. I love me some Stargate and Firefly and Richard Dean Anderson. I'd 'squee!' if Adam Baldwin ever called me.

But as I started to look into books for my Sci-Fi assignment, I learned something very important: I don't know squat about sci-fi books. Thought I did. But I don't. I actually know (some) Fantasy and some quasi-paranormal stuff. I browsed the library stacks hoping for inspiration and found a lot of Fantasy (not helpful) and a lot of series sci-fi (and I had no idea where any one book fit into the series).

I put a shout out on my blog asking for help and my lovely classmates (I'm talking about you, Ben and Carri!) gave me several suggestions. I also went on Novelist and looked at their reading suggestion lists. I then went to the IMCPL website and put a ton of books into my queue. I requested something from all three of these sources - books I thought would be attainable to my poor, un-sci-ified head.

I brought my haul home and surrounded myself with a dozen books that take place on various and sundry planets. I read the inside flap of each of them and eliminated about half. I then read the first few pages of each and landed on three. One was written by an author I've read before, but since I wanted to branch out a bit more, I put that at the bottom of the list. The next started out with the F-bomb. Man had his house stolen, so it was understandable, but it felt like we were starting off on the wrong foot that way. So I selected book number three: The Better Mousetrap by Tom Holt.

As I started to get into the book, I had an "Oh no, there are dragons in this book - did I accidentally pick a Fantasy after all?" moment, but they had fancy technology mixed in with the magic, so I figured I was ok.

The book takes place in present-day England (and occasionally New Zealand, and once in Renaissance Italy at what we assume is Da Vinci's back yard). Frank has a Portable Door that allows him to travel through space and time (like our favorite Hero, Hiro Nakamura). Emily is in Pest Control, except the pests she "controls" include said dragons, ginormous spiders (gak), and other monster-type creatures. She also dies a lot, so it's a good thing that Frank has that door. He has to go back in time to save her at least half a dozen times, because the Better Mousetrap of the title is actually a magical device that makes sure that someone dies, but in all realities or dimensions or...something like that, and one has Emily's name on it (thus the multiple deaths).

I did enjoy this book, for the most part. My biggest complaint is that it had way too many twists and turns, especially the closer you get to the end. You think you're following along, then suddenly you're lost again. It all ends up making sense, but I think I prefer to get a bit more settled in to the last twist before I have to deal with a new one. The book started out a bit confusing, too, but I blame that on a literary device: introduce your characters in weird situations apart so that you know that later there will be more weird situations, probably with those characters experiencing them together. The style was quirky and I enjoyed the British humor. But what was really interesting was how Holt interspersed the corporate culture into the story. Almost made it creepier...

This is definitely not your typical sci-fi, but I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Jasper Fforde or British comedy. It's clever, witty, and fun while mixing up the familiar with the unfamiliar.

1 comment:

  1. I have the same sort of reaction to sci fi - I'm overwhelmed with all that's going and I'm completely disoriented. I don't know this world where everything is taking place so it's just one lost moment after the next.

    I know there is some metaphor around this "idea" of building a better mousetrap. I think it has something to do with the fact that the best mousetrap is still the ones where the mettle bar crushes their skulls.