Time After Time

I am so bummed. The third season of Primeval has only just started airing on BBC America, which means it won’t be out on DVD for at least a year. And I don’t have a TV!

Is it a good enough series for me to rush out and buy a nice new TV and subscribe to cable? Basically, no, it’s not that good. Besides, the first few episodes have already aired. Who knows when they’ll go into reruns? It’s the kind of series that you sort of want to watch in order, because there’s a long story arc involving Nick Cutter’s ex-wife, who is quite clearly Up To No Good.

I wonder why the good science fiction is on TV these days. Not all of it, I’m sure. Lately most of the novels I’ve been reading have been fantasy. I think I need to stray over into the other aisle.

I do hope the SF novels being written today are less juvenile than Riverworld.

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6 Responses to Time After Time

  1. conradcook says:

    Whatareya *talkin’* about? Riverworld rocked!


  2. midiguru says:

    You know what they say: That’s why God made horse races. Or, in Internet slang, YMMV.

    The 2nd Riverworld book, “The Fabulous Riverboat,” would be a treat for a 14-year-old boy (or for anyone who has the mentality of a 14-year-old boy). There are lots and lots of battle scenes that involve stabbing, bashing, and things blowing up, interspersed with lovingly detailed descriptions of extremely unlikely gadgets. There’s a whole page on the steam gun, for example.

    One of the questions I found myself pondering as I read it was, “Why don’t these hundreds and hundreds of factory workers just walk away? Why should they bother toiling away for years on end to build the riverboat?” Remember, they get their three meals a day courtesy of the grailstones, the weather is always nice, and there is very little being marketed in the way of luxury goods (plus, no money-based economy, so no way to buy luxury goods).

    One could ask the same question of the invading armies: Why bother? What does anybody have to gain by dashing up from the beach and stabbing total strangers in a melee? Farmer never tells us … because he was writing for 14-year-old boys, and 14-year-old boys love to indulge in fantasies of running around stabbing total strangers for no reason at all.

    Does that answer your question?

  3. conradcook says:

    I believe he tells you: the factory workers building the riverboat earn a chance in a lottery to be *on* the riverboat. And they want that chance.

    The weather is not always “nice,” it’s always the *same*. Toward the poles, it gets visciously cold, especially at night. But (like cigarettes, which you mention elsewhere), that doesn’t really matter: people don’t get sick.

    Farmer’s project in that series was to look at how specific historical people had lived their lives, try to work out what kind of person they were, and then apply those patterns to a secular kind of afterlife. I thought it was a really interesting, nifty project.

    It was action-adventure, which I gather you don’t like, but it was nevertheless very well thought out.

    I thought the sequels got a bit long-winded, but they were basically good.


    ps – as I recall, the armies you’re talking about fight when there’s a mass battle between one side of the river and the other. The cause of that was that, first, resurrections had stopped, and second, the industrial state tampered with and broke the power line on one riverbank: so everyone on that bank stopped getting food, and got hungry.

  4. midiguru says:

    Fighting: There’s a lot of fighting in book 2 (The Fabulous Riverboat) and that happens before any sort of power line is built. Nor have the resurrections stopped in book 2. If anything, the fact that resurrections have stopped should put a big damper on any fighting, not amplify it!

    Lottery: Why should anybody even CARE whether they get a chance to go on the riverboat? The riverboat is an enormous boondoggle! In the first place, Clemens has no idea how many thousands of miles he is from the north pole — could be 20,000, could be 200,000. The boat will have to stop and be fueled and repaired many, many times before it gets to a place that is not even faintly attractive.

    I like action adventure okay, but I prefer it smart rather than dumb. The technological apparatus that Farmer builds up in book 2 is mostly dumb. Wood alcohol is used as a fuel, for instance. But alcohol is manufactured by fermentation: it requires microorganisms. Why would the race that created Riverworld have provided this type of microorganism, I wonder.

    Another choice bit of dumbness is the idea, which Farmer sort of sneaks in in book 2 without giving it any underpinning, that the process of physical aging has stopped. Clemens explicitly figures that if it takes him a hundred years to get to the north pole on the riverboat, it won’t matter — but he has NO way of knowing that he won’t get old and feeble long before then.

    In point of fact, the resurrected children HAVE aged. They have grown to adulthood. And we’re also told that certain individuals have gotten fat because they over-indulge. So it’s a reasonable bet that the normal aging processes of the human body have not been halted.

  5. conradcook says:

    micro-organisms – fermentation is part of a process called “rotting.” And if things couldn’t rot, your ecosystem wouldn’t last long.

    lottery – *some* people care because they’re ambitious and have the spirit of adventure. Doubtless many have settled down for an eternity of every day looking like the one before, but Farmer decided not to write about them.

    etc – were I to debate with you about this any more, I’d start *feeling* like a 14-year-old boy. There’s no arguing taste.

    Question for you, Jim – what do you consider the best-imagined sf alien world?


  6. midiguru says:

    Rotting: You’re absolutely right. The point I was hinting at was that Farmer didn’t design a real ecosystem. The entire planet was manufactured. So why did the manufacturers bother to include the specific microorganisms that produce alcohol?

    The best-imagined SF alien world? That’s an intriguing question — thanks for asking! My reading has been very, very spotty, of course, and spottier in hard SF than elsewhere. But after staring at my bookshelves for a few minutes, I couldn’t think of a single novel that I’d describe as having a well-imagined ecosystem. I may write a new blog entry about this.

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