Reading: C. A. Higgins — Lightless

Catching up on reading and writing about what I’m reading. Pretty sure C. A. Higgins’ Lightless I saw first on io9 long enough ago that it was in my wish-list with “On sale in n days” for a long time. I picked it up a couple of weeks ago with The Philosopher Kings, and read it while on tour with Isabelle in Düsseldorf.

Also I was watching The Man in the High Castle at the same time. Which is pertinent as I found myself comparing how each build certain characters through inner psychological narrative and motives in disparate ways. In Lightless, this is substantially through inner monologue and the reader’s privileged view into the characters. In The High Castle—and I’m thinking particularly of Rufus Sewell’s harrowing Obergruppenführer John Smith—nothing passes through from the inner life. It is only in the last episodes we’re given hints into what might motivate him, adversary, collaborator, war criminal, but never enough to postulate moral positions. Excluding the core actors here, who wore their one-dimensional passions all too insubstantially; it was the supporting roles who were populated with such unreadability.

Lightless, for all that I liked it, as a first novel suffered from this excess of the inner life. A character was reprehensible because they were in the core of their being this. The lack of nuance that comes from telling too much. Despite what I said about specific actors in The High Castle, I find a habit of many new writers in skiffy to write as though they were viewing a movie, or maybe hoping their novel would get optioned, it lends a formulaic obviousness to the proceedings.

I’m also reading Alastair Reynolds right now, his debut from fifteen years ago, Revelation Space. At my favourite bookstore, Shane said he doesn’t read much sci-fi because of the lack of poetry in the writing. Naturally I can counter with a half dozen authors who prove the opposite, but his point is valid. The writing and words need to be the equal of the imagination and philosophy.