Sorcerers and physics

I’ve been on a bit of a genre binge lately: there was the Walton, and then Zen Cho’s SORCERER TO THE CROWN, which I ultimately found both absorbing and unsatisfying, for many of the reasons laid out in this excellent blog post and comments thread. The beginning was rather too mannered for my tastes: the mysteries were set up in a way that seemed to show too transparently the strings behind the puppetry, and the whole atmosphere lent itself too much to glib comparisons to JONATHAN STRANGE (at points feeling almost like fanfiction). But once Mak Genggang and Prunella Gentleman came onto the scene it all came much more alive – though I never did find the magic as convincing as the social satire.

I’m now inching through Ken Liu’s English translation of THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM, which also has at times a strange clash of tones and registers. There’s the subject matter of Cold War US pulp SF (which was, I’ll have you know, basically the highlight of my preteen life) and sometimes even the strange abrupt characterisations of that genre; blended with the depth and interest that always (for me) accompanies the depiction of real totalitarianism; and then the fantastical-historical computer game exploration of hard physics problems that I can only, due to the limited horizons of my reading, associate strongly with Greg Egan. The last is so weirdly compelling that today, at a work meeting, I found myself suggesting that we might dehydrate a project and then reanimate it with water under more hospitable conditions. These creeping metaphors.

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