peteg's blog - noise - books - 2016 12 09 Egan TheFourThousandTheEightHundred

Greg Egan: The Four Thousand, The Eight Hundred.

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Kindle. Being done with Tim Winton for now, I chowed on this novella by another of Western Australia's men of letters, from about a year ago. A cursory skim of N. K. Meisin's review at the New York Times led me to believe it'd be ... awesome? ... but I now see she was skeptical and pointed out many of its flaws. I guess this is the problem with not reading reviews before the book: I stopped with hers at the mention of awards as I figured Egan has a safe pair of hands, and didn't want to spoil my dinner.

The premise is cute, the politics banal, the dialogue flat (yes, everyone has the same voice), and I don't see that it adds up to much. Perhaps he set the libertarian / utilitarian set aflutter by mildly dressing-up their moral calculus. This may have worked for Spock in the 1960s for many reasons (he's not totally human, for staters, and had two strong characters to clash with), but not here. I did like where he was going with the mechanics of exchanging rock and ice, and had some vague expectation of a trade war or a foreshadowing of a Trump-like demagogue who wasn't going to exchange his precious bodily fluids for anything, costs be damned. Egan had enough words to do something.