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24 September 2010 @ 08:34 am
Shining Darkness  
I bought Shining Darkness by Mark Michalowski over a year ago since I thought his previous offering for the new series Dr Who books was easily the best of the bunch. It has been languishing in the `to read' pile ever since.

It must be said I'm not so sure about this one, although I find it hard to put my finger on what I feel was disatisfying about it. It avoids many things, e.g. a child, or even young adult, viewpoint character or a glib determination to be nothing more than a throwaway entertaining romp, that plague much of the range's output. However, at the end of the day, this felt more like one of those flimsy romps, than something into which a bit more thought and effort had been put.

I think ultimately it is the quest-style structure that undermines the book. Our heroes are whisked from planet to planet each of which is entertaining (I particularly liked the scrap yard planet and its argumentative and grumbling robots) but none of which has more than a couple of dozen pages devoted to it. As a result they each feel like a quick vignette or joke. Even that could have worked, but maybe the satire, such as the race which switches religion every week wasn't quite biting enough, or the seriousness of some of the themes prevented these being as light-hearted and playful as they needed to be. At the same time as giving us this mad-cap succession of set pieces, the book is discussing the way people justify prejudice, the complexities of dealing with artificial intelligence, and presenting us with some quite subtle characters, such as a villian who is a gentle pacifist.

I certainly didn't dislike Shining Darkness and it was an easy and pacy read but I think it was aiming at a very difficult target: the light-hearted adventure with a serious heart, and it didn't quite hit it.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/20936.html.