Debatable Space

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But the comedy layer at least the unwelcome overt kind thankfully fades pretty quickly. The story worked better from then onwards. Here, I had another problem. But the science fictional elements of the story the reason I read science fiction were fun indeed: In the book, space travel is not very common because people do it vicariously through Doppleganger Robots. This is enabled through quantum-based satellite technology to instantly communicate across vast distances.

Like the well-written action scenes that had me wanting more, these are the space opera tropes that made the book more enjoyable. I ate this up — nearly mass-market paperback pages — in four days; a rarity for this reader. Wait…did you mean that comment for this specific book, or every single book in existence? News Ticker. Tell a friend! We don't need a page and a half about the technology behind "Dyson Jewels" just because we're flying past them momentarily.

But conversely, regenerative tech that can and frequently does heal or replace broken spines, severed limbs, and destroyed eyeballs within a few days could do with being more than a magic cupboard. And while we're talking about technology, Palmer's extrapolation is remarkably inconsistent. I mean, come on—it's the 23rd Century, and humanity has populated the stars using quantum gate technology and nanofactories for raising test-tube populations light-years from Earth.

And yet, after all this, people still communicate by email? They still record digital video onto "DVD-roms"? No one under fifty calls them DVD-roms now , for goodness sake! Later, Lena mentions that Einstein had "proved" that matter cannot travel faster than the speed of light.


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Now, I don't consider myself a hard sf purist by any stretch of the imagination, but when an author feels the need to waffle on in great detail about quantum gates and emergence theory through the mouth of a character who is by her own repeated assertions an expert in these fields, I don't expect the classic journalistic mistake of suggesting that science ever "proves" anything.

But again, I probably wouldn't have noticed a one-word error like that if I hadn't been so bored by the narrative that contained it. Palmer makes the point in his afterword that he's aware that the science isn't waterproof, and nor is it meant to be, but the extrapolations are done in the name of making the fiction more entertaining. And it is at this point I wonder again if the fault doesn't lie within me as the reader—did that press release quote about high concept space opera prime me so thoroughly with the wrong expectations that Debatable Space could never do anything but disappoint?

I guess we'll never know for certain. It's a shame, because there is much bravery in Debatable Space —not just in the gung-ho bravado of the characters, but in the conception and execution of the entire novel. There are some fine flourishes—not least the occasional moment of Bester-esque typographic trickery, throwing a bit of concrete poetry into the mix, but also some great feats of imaginatory strength in the classic space opera vein. There's even a pretty good twisty plot at the core of the novel—but sadly it's buried underneath layers of cinematic flash-bang frippery and clunky long-winded exposition.

And universe have mercy Flanagan's song lyrics. Paul Raven is the reviews editor of Interzone. He likes poetry, science fiction stories, music with guitars, and girls with tattoos. His friends play a game that involves them buying him drinks and then steering the conversation round to space colonisation and neural prosthetics. An interesting take on it. I don't think you can call it a soap opera as it lacks a sense of tension or high-drama that soap opera's thrive on.

I guess that if you've not fallen for the charms of Lena that it's going to a bit of a struggle to get through as it's really a retelling of her life story which happens to be framed by her kidnapping. Personally I enjoyed it and I had a different take on it when I reviewed it.

For: Investing in further scientific exploration of space is a waste of resources

You could consider some of what Palmer writes as info dumping or you could see it as Lena retelling her history and the history of the world that Palmer's made. It does suffer a little for not keeping up the pressure in the present and switching to the past at the wrong moments. I think Palmer's use of high-concept tech is cleverly deployed and explained and I think that now we've established the universe a little the next one should be a little smoother.

That Palmer is a screenwriter is a bad sign to start with, they rarely make good fiction writers. And then appearing not to be up to date with reading the genre he's writing in screams 'Danger Will Robinson! He does pretty good on knowing his genre I'd say and he was trying out a different way of storytelling. No "Danger" in it, just experimentation and learning a craft.

A friend lent me a copy, so I was expecting something good. I was disappointed. In addition to stuff already mentioned, I found the typographical tricks irritating. The one-word pages guess it increased page count , and overly enthusiastic use of punctuation e. Add to that the worst case of Mary Sue I'd encountered in ages makes "Debatable Space" a book I'll tell friends to avoid. I only found this review after finishing the book - I went searching because I couldn't believe the book that I have just finished reading and which I think is badly written baloney, is the same one that so many reviewers were raving about.

Your review got it about right but was still overly generous to this tedious, incoherent drivel. Y U M M Y Stylistically it was as refreshing as a blended corona cigar and a glass of scotch after a long day!! I found myself quite looking foreward to the thought diary sections; I just couldn't get enough of Lena's charecter. What would anyone be like after a practical eon of experiance. What can one do after everythings been done.

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Why, cruise around the galaxy recording thought diaries and blathering on stories like an old codger. She is pretty old. There is a reason we love spending time with our elders, and it is because they are willing to share the experiances of their well lived lives. Lena has overlived life and this book makes it clear that noone should or should wish to live anywhere near she. This in a very good excuse for the very obvious not-hardcore to find something less thought provoking because they can't handle its style.

Also, haunting prophesy on the evils of post-modern societry. In the book earthlings can boot up a DR and rape and murder and today I could go downstairs, turn on my Wii, and chainsaw people in half in MadWorld. So different? I regret that so many are too stuffy to let themselves enjoy such a freakity-fresh book. Ich trinke champers mit laschfisch. I really enjoyed Debatable Space. It was different, quirky and unlike this review, never took itself seriously. You must log in to post a comment. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam.

Learn how your comment data is processed. Debatable Space by Philip Palmer. Paul Graham Raven. Issue: 11 February Share this: Facebook Twitter Print Email. Like this: Like Loading About Paul Graham Raven. Paul Graham Raven recently finished a Master's in Creative Writing, and is now trying to work out what the hell to do with it; in the meantime, he's working as a researcher in infrastructure futures at the University of Sheffield's Pennine Water Group.

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