I stumbled upon some dude’s sci-fi book reviews. He gives Old Man’s War a higher review than Kiln People! For reference, Old Man’s War tries to excite by the idea of giving old people a new youth with new, attractive, strong bodies so they can go fight a war. They have sex, they fight, they make sacrifices, but other than the wishful dreaming of a second youth, it’s just an ordinary, badly-written war story. On the other hand, Kiln People presents how a society could work even with the ability to copy yourself for a day. It explores the consequences and some of the fascinating trickinesses that would come out of such a wild idea. Sure, Brin degenerates into wild metaphysical nonsense at the end, but at least the book has some thinking!
And this dude didn’t even like A Fire Upon the Deep! He keeps talking about the shallow “characters,” suggesting they’re supposed to “develop” or something. It’s really weird–Vinge goes to great lengths to explore great ideas, and this guy wants people to change? I understand that our reviewer merely agrees with the standard literary ideas, but I think he’s backward. People are setting, and society, civilization, and a grander scope is what’s important. Caring about an individual in a story always leaves me feeling a little empty, because the author hasn’t captured the important things. We might care what happens to this one person, be sad when they lose something, and excited when they triumph, but ultimately the scope is too small. Why should I care what happens to one person in one circumstance, dictated by luck? I’m much more interested in larger outcomes–what will we become, what can we do, how will our societies react.