Friday, January 25, 2013

Review:Containment by Christian Cantrell

Containment by Christian Cantrell

I loved this book and the character of Arik and it would be nice to give it five stars, but that would be lacking honesty.

This is good hard science fiction about a group of settlers on the planet Venus. As such, it is necessary to draw the proper picture of why we are there and how we got there and how we survive there so much of this hard science has to be there to support that. Some of the science seems questionable to me but that's only because I didn't stop to look things up to verify them and I'm just not an expert in many of those fields.

Often the hard science of Containment seems to come at the reader from a distance with detachment. Other times there are moments when Arik resonates with the science. There are long paragraphs about the harshness of the planet and life in the biosphere that contrast to the Arik's feelings because he expresses a few times how he's comfortable within the biosphere that he must live. The exposition often draws on the harshness of the planet almost as though we are portraying the planet as another character, and that didn't work that well with me because I didn't see the plot developing in that direction.

There also seems to be two stories happening. The present and some flashbacks. Again it's necessary, but at times it's confusing.

I had this one curious problem, Containment caused what I refer to in my antiquated thinking as the vinyl record skip syndrome. It's like having that scratch on the record where the needle skips and you have no idea how much you just missed. That's where I'm reading along and stumble into exposition and then suddenly reach the bottom of a page that I can't remember reading. It's a bad habit of mine and I believe many other readers might have something similar. I know to catch it because, as is the case with Containment, the parts I nearly napped through have some plot points that I need to know.

Containment qualifies as a hard science science fiction. The problem with that is that in trying so hard to do this many times hard science becomes hard to read. If the goal is to deliberately alienate readers who hate walls of exposition then it's likely to be successful at that. Most readers will accept a few of those when they clearly drive the plot. But, when a few of them seem to be there just to increase the hard science quotient, some readers end up skipping the important ones later. And, although I can point out many occasions where the exposition does drive the plot forward; for each of those there always two that are questionable.

I would never ask a writer to give up their babies, especially when they are doing hard science because it does tend to create some lovely images. The problem is that they often serve as a match for the dreaded purple prose that other creative writers get noted for. Neither of these are bad, But out of necessity they should drive the plot or character development and serve a purpose that the reader can identify.

Over all Containment is one of those curious books that everyone who loves science fiction might like, but it will always have a variety of reactions from love to mild acceptance to confusion.

Obviously many people do love it, and although it's possible one more good edit might have made those numbers rise, it's just as likely to make it worse. By the numbers (reader response) I can't say that the author made any large mistake in leaving it as it is. It might be a tough read for one out of four readers, but overall it's a tightly written and entertaining read.


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