Well, I can't say I wasn't warned. But I was anxious to find out what happens next in the series. I thought, how bad can the narrator be? In the first few minutes, I agreed with the other reviewers that she sounds childish, but I thought I could put up with it for this one volume. Then I realized that the viewpoint character was Dehya Selei, the elegant, powerful mathematical genius and Ruby Pharoah of the Skolian Imperialate. When she chirps, "I created the psiberweb," in a tone and cadence you might expect to hear "I created a new Barbi costume," I gave up. I'm buying the paper book.
I tried three times to read this book: In 1989 when it came out, in 1990 when it won the Hugo (surely I had missed something!) and again in 2003 when I vowed to read or reread all the Hugo winners. I never made it past the first dozen chapters. I found the plot tedious and the characters uninspiring. Then when Audible offered it as a Deal of the Day, I decided to try again. I guess it took an outstanding performance to show me that this is a GREAT book! I was up until 4 am this morning because I couldn't quit listening. The technology is amazing, even after 23 years. The characters and their stories are sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes horrifying, but always compelling. The different cultures are imaginative and fascinating.
This book is so much fun in so many ways, but I'll just focus on one -- the names. I suffer from biblianomia, a word I made up for inability to remember fictional character names. My paper books are full of highlighting and notes, so I wasn't sure about a 1,085-page book with over a hundred characters. I needn't have worried. The names Pynchon gives his characters, plus the narrator's masterful handling of each voice, made it easy. The itinerant mechanic/photographer is Merle Rideout. The anthropologist is named Provenance. And so on. Even minor characters get great names. My favorite is Mia Culpepper, who was mentioned briefly but so far hasn't been heard from again. I keep expecting her to show up feeling guilty about something.
It's a good space yarn, and I will get the others in the trilogy, but one chapter repeatedly mentions the golden ratio "phi," and I wanted to shriek every time the narrator pronounced it "pi." You don't have to be a mathematician or SF fan to know how to pronounce phi.
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