Thursday, 17 April 2014

Gypsies by Robert Charles Wilson

What is it about Gypsies that fell short of the mark for me? I think, in many ways, it isn't that there's anything wrong with it, there's just not enough right. It is a perfectly fine entry in a blended sf/fantasy genre, but that hook that reached out and grabbed me and held me close, the way the story did in Spin, just wasn't here. Early book syndrome, perhaps? It's only my second Robert Charles Wilson, so it's hard to be sure.

First, genre. It's sort of science fiction, as the ability to travel between worlds seems to have been bred into humans through experimentation, but experimentation with magic as well as science. So, fantasy? There are few other fantasy trappings, however. No dragons. No quest for a heroic band to set forth upon, thankfully. No feudal politics.

Just our world, a slightly better one, and a grey dismal world where the church still rules Europe with an iron fist, Muslim armies are on the doorstep, and the Novus Ordo in the U.S. is bent on making the world even greyer and more bleak. In the name of world order, anyway. And to do so, it had bred three people who can walk between worlds. But two escaped, were tracked down and killed by the third, but left children. Those children now have children (one does, anyway.) The three children were raised by a father who was terrified of their power (and something else?) and tried to beat it out of them. The grandchild has been raised in absolute unawareness of what he can do.

As a meditation on better worlds and the power of imagining them, well, this is a little slight. As much as bleakness is not really my preferred setting, this might have been more powerful if it had been set more in Novus Ordo - those were the sections that gave the book oomph, and they are so slightly discussed. Whether or not the Vatican would endorse the horrible experiments being done, how it could do so, what arguments they would use, those were all the considerations I was most interested in.

The dilemma of the priest, caught between exigency and morality, was by far the most acute, and frankly, interested me more than main characters.

But this is an interesting twist on alternate worlds, and it's well written. It just wasn't quite my cup of tea.

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