Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Observer by Nancy Kress and Robert Lanza

I can’t stop thinking about this book since I finished it. I really can’t. 

I first (re)discovered Nancy Kress a few years ago when I was in an reading dry spell. I was listlessly perusing the library shelves feeling like I had nothing to read when I came across a copy of her then-just published novella After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall. I recognized her name from having read Beggars in Spain years before so I picked it up. 

It blew me away. The book was a masterpiece. The author created a fully realized world, She didn’t need a thousand pages to do it. Up until that point I had been disdainful of shorter works; Nancy Kress made me realize just how much hard work and talent was needed to excecise economy when world building. 

When I saw a new title by Nancy Kress on NetGalley, I mashed the request button ASAP. It was only later that I realized that she co-wrote it with someone else. 

Nancy Kress writes hard sf. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just because the hard science she’s basing her work on is usually biology instead of physics doesn’t make it any less hard. Which made her an excellent fit for partnering up with Robert Lanza, a scientist who wanted to get his ideas into a novel. 

There is alot of awkwardness in the novel. I almost stopped reading halfway through the prologue- it was boring and dull and every character’s name started with a W and I couldn’t tell them apart and I didn’t care about any of them. 

Am I glad I pushed through that! Even though some parts of the book read like a dry, poorly written physics textbook (during which I kept muttering to myself that Lanza should’ve let Kress write this alone) those dull clunky sections were massively overpowered by the well drawn characters and the very real emotions that jumped off the page down my throat and lodged in my sternum. 

I wish the book had had content warnings for child disability and child death. 

I understand from some cursory internetting that Lanza may believe in the observer-created reality that the characters believe in in the novel. I can’t say that I’m convinced myself. It sounds a lot like wish fulfillment to me. But it sure has given me a lot to think about . . . 

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