Reviewed date: 2009 Sep 10
Gravity Dreams is an irritating story of a post-singularity world where nanotech has made humans nearly immortal. A few backward pockets of people live primitive lives without technology, and our hero Tyndel is one of these. When he is infected with nanites, his community considers him a demon, and he is run out of town. He ends up joining modern society, and experiences a painful period of culture shock. His old culture was all about sharing and enlightenment. This new culture is all about paying one's own way in a cruel, uncaring world. Tyndel rejects this at first, but eventually learns to deal with it. He becomes a needle jockey--that is, a pilot of an FTL ship. Needle jockeys are rare, so his talent earns him a lot of money. But it's dangerous world. There is a being in overspace--a god of sorts--and it is stealing needle ships and their pilots.
It's an irritating book. Here are a number of things that bugged me.
- Tyndel doesn't have any male friends. In fact, he has no male peers. The only men are either his instructors or junior officers serving under him.
- Modesitt likes to use strange words. Some of them aren't even real words, like nielle. "That sky was not purple, nor blue, but nielle, blackness beyond black, with stars that jabbed like knives of light."
- What people eat is important, so Modesitt brings us countless scenes of eating in cafeterias all over the galaxy. Tyndel likes chicken, rice, and mixed greens. Arleen tea is his absolute favorite.
- Why doesn't Tyndel ever miss Dorcha? He misses Foerga, but apparently he had no other friends or relatives worth a single thought.
- When Tyndel comes around and decides to participate in Rykashan society, he seems overly apologetic about his previous failure to appreciate how awesome Rykashan culture is. The problem is, he's wrong. Rykashan culture is crummy and all the Rykashans treated him like dirt. He should be hopping mad, not groveling.
- Engee (i.e., the nanite god) is really dumb. The denouement wasn't worth the buildup.
- The book's title, Gravity Dreams, isn't alluded to until one throwaway sentence in the closing pages. It isn't even that important.
- Modesitt's philosophy is juvenile. It's clear he hates religion and thinks that any rational person is above such superstition.
- Tyndel makes a big deal out of how Rykashan society only functions because everyone is honest with themselves and others, yet he falls for Cerrelle because he says she's the only person who is honest with him. Nobody comments on the inconsistency.