RogerBW's Blog

Grail, Elizabeth Bear 22 September 2022

2011 SF, last of its trilogy. Fifty years after the events of Dust and Chill, the generation ship Jacob's Ladder has finally got to a habitable world. Alas, it's inhabited…

It doesn't feel like fifty years later, though: with all the pressure off, everyone's relationships seem to have been frozen until the reader meets them again. Still, that's not the main point, which is a meeting of two human-descended societies, each alien to the reader and to each other. Who has the real answers? Because if they're going to live together, some answer has to be found…

Alas, this is all interrupted by yet another reappearance of a dead villain, and the sort of shenanigans we got in the last two books. Can't anything ever be resolved? Wasn't it interesting enough without the action scenes? The problem for me is that the limits of this sufficiently advanced technology are never clearly defined, so when someone tries something and someone else attempts to prevent it there's no real tension. Magic has prevailed over other magic, move on.

For me that was tedious. Much more fun was the talky interaction between the ship's personnel, descended from hyperevolutionists but trying to recover from that complex of ideas; and the occupants of the planet, descendants of the human society that the generation ship left behind, societally subject to "rightminding" which removes many of the acquisitive and violent human impulses but does seem also to have some drawbacks. They work out their points of commonality, and their points of disagreement, and we don't know what will happen, whether the inhabitants of Jacob's Ladder will be welcomed, asked to move on, or…?

…or a deus ex machina resolution that sucks away any tension that remains. Oh well. I still enjoyed the book, and the trilogy; I'm glad this final volume wasn't just more of the same; but there are definitely times when it feels like the result of a crude tool being used to delineate what in the artist's head was something much more interesting.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Previous in series: Chill | Series: Jacob's Ladder

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1