Some Scattered Thoughts On Adam Roberts's Kickass New Novel, THE THIS
Just finished it this morning. (Hoping to do an interview with Adam soon, in an unlocked post.) My overall reaction is that it rules. I’m not sure it’s dethroned The Thing Itself as my favorite of Roberts’s novels, but the intensity of my reaction to that earlier book may have something to do with its being the first Roberts that I read, that it is as much the Roberts Experience—a well-constructed plot that dramatizes a number of complex social, philosophical, and technical ideas in ways that allow the ideas themselves to surprise, and all enacted by characters whose emotional reactions and sensations are convincingly and sympathetically rendered by an author who will not let them turn into mere playthings of his ideas—one responds to as the novel.
The Thing Itself was simultaneously a riff on John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), an examination of Kant’s epistemology, a pastiche of several classic novels, a critique of the inflated promises made for AI tech, an answer to the Fermi paradox, and a thought experiment about whether God is love. (Spoiler: Yes.) The plot is simple, propulsive. In 1982, a pair of researchers who are looking for intelligent extraterrestrial life from an Antarctic research base encounter a creature that exists outside of all our perceptual strategies, that is truly Other. The effect of this counter gives one of them nasty superpowers and makes the other The Only Man in Britain Who Can Stop This Villain. It’s a fast motor for a very beautiful car that does many things besides drive fast.