(OK, so I’m mixing… but I think this review of one of my favorite books is worth passing on… in its entirety.)
Emergence, by David R. Palmer
It was originally found here… www.eyrie.org/~eagle/reviews/books/0-553-24501-5.html
First encountered as short story, same title, January 1981, Analog, reprinted in Analog’s Children of the Future. Anthology unlikely inclusion in tiny SF section, Yuba College library, discovered while bored.
Fell in love — utterly, completely. Read repeatedly. Sparked first interest in journal, spawned experiment with personal journal written in clipped style, minimal words, echoing story. (Said journal now lost to operating system shift — correction: location still known, contents difficult to recover without extensive work, condition unchecked. Multiple impeding factors: ancient disk size, use of obsolete software, stupid encryption decision. Moral for future: plain text always best choice, standard markup format acceptable, use of proprietary format bad decision for any reason.) Lost access to story with move to unversity. Never forgot.
Heard of novel years later, discussion with friends. Asked if read short story, informed of novel expansion. Immediately decided must acquire despite mixed reports of value. (Knew novelization frequent source of degredation of short story, didn’t care. Affection for story borders on obsession, must read in all available forms.)
Have finally acquired novel as loan from friend (thank you!), settled in eager to read further adventures of heroine. Had been waiting thirteen years for continuation of story!
Have beem rambling on about me, not about story. Perhaps makes for interesting soliloquy — horrible review. Must focus, start over, give faithful (and patient!) reader reason to care.
Emergence told as personal journal, one Candy Smith-Foster. All available review sources (not this one!) start similarly to previous line, proceed to immediately spoil short story (present as first 50 pages of book). Not this reviewer — read short story cold, no expectations, no prior information, will treasure initial discovery process forever. Cling to faint but stubborn hope future reader will skip back cover, skip introductory blurb, go immediately to story, find similar joy. Chance of intersection between set of careful readers, readers of review small. Refuse to spoil nonetheless.
Sufficient to state basics: narrator is brilliant beyond human pale — resourceful, intelligent, determinedly self-analytical. Narrative deeply personal beneath unusual style, thoughtful analysis. Emotions poured into journal as catharsis — connection with reader startlingly intimate, gripping, memorable. Despite savant brilliance, broad-based extreme competence, idealized capabilities narrator incredibly real.
Multiple reviewers compare story to Heinlein, cannot disagree. Similar approach to competence, similar broad-ranging resourcefulness, similar glorification of intelligence verging on self-indulgent. Feel of story reminiscent of adventure yarns, hero bravely coping with unknown, finding solution to problem in nick of time, single-handedly saving self, friends, civilization, world. Etc. Perhaps overdone — doesn’t matter. Narrative voice so utterly present, captivating, present!
Style of review flawed attempt to echo style of story, give glimpse, provide taste. (Also prompted by desire to recapture earlier experiments of reviewer. [Inclusion of personal details part of narrative style — deeply nested parentheses also.])
Short story remains simply brilliant, best science fiction short story reviewer has ever read. Book worth high price for first fifty pages alone. Expansion not train wreck feared — faithful expansion of subject material, readable, interesting, engrossing, maintains original tone. Beauty and force of initial narrative not quite sustained, dulled slightly by additional material, words, events, but effective variety also introduced. Expanded story exposes far-fetched background more thoroughly, gives reader additional time to analyze, suspension of disbelief to suffer. (World background requires excellent suspension — strong cables, tight fastenings, powerful winch, disbelief pulled firmly into air. Narrative style helps considerably — too busy admiring language, identifying with emotions, caring about narrator to bother disecting details.)
Still brilliant. Novel revived complete love of style, language, story, main character. Very tempted to give perfect score despite flaws — love of story that strong. Will refrain. Short story absolutely receives perfect score, novel very close. Refraining only because suspect love of material partly idiosyncratic, related to reviewer’s background, personality, identification with aspects of character. Will have to keep self firmly in grasp, not overuse language style, not write next ten reviews like this.
Will find, purchase personal copy. Must own. Perhaps two — frequent re-reading likely.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Reviewed: 2004-04-26 Russ Allbery > Reviews