Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bad blurb

A couple of days ago I read the free ebook Earthweb, from Mark Stiegler, published in the Baen Free Library.

I only started to read it because I was immensly bored, and hadn't read anything of Stiegler before. I nearly dismissed it out of hand, because of this blurb:

Someone Out There really hated humans. Twenty years have passed since Shiva I first swept aside Earth's crude defenses and rained down destruction. Now Shiva V has entered the Solar System, more powerful than any of its predecessors.

The Shiva cannot be destroyed by fleets of ships: we tried, and it was the fleets that were destroyed. It cannot be defeated by a clandestinely developed super-weapon based on new principles of physics: no such weapon exists. It cannot be defeated by a forceful American President and his faithful generals: they do not know what to do.

There is only one way to defeat a Shiva: get inside and kill it. Once again, in the personae of five champions, four billion of us are about to do just that.

Whoever wrote that should be pelted with dead invertebrae. Because Earthweb is not a bad read. True, it is not one of the most original novels ever: The concept of sentinent robots out to kill biological life has been done before, and done better (most recently by Alistair Reynolds, and his books you should definitely read). The very interesting concept of crowd intelligence (people can bid on the likelihood of new ideas to be correct or to succeed in an open market, which is central to the novel, and not even mentioned in the blurb) has also been done before. But it is a nice novel to read, and maybe perfect for a long flight or trainride. And it is not just a tale of a couple of heros slugging it out with killer-robots, which is what I suspected from the last sentence of the blurb.
Rather, it deals with the impact of having the Earth threatenend every couple of decades on society, the influence of personal feelings on leadership, well, and killer robots. There are some killer robots as well.

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