This is the first time that a David Brin story has left me bored for practically the entire journey. Mr. Brin decided to try his hand at Science Fiction set in a strictly Einstein conforming Universe.
In itself that isn't such a bad idea, but the story simply plods along too many plot threads few of which hold any really interesting developments. It also feels bizarrely as if Mr. Brin was trying to leave an opening to tie this universe into his Uplift series, but as interesting as some of the backfilled story could be, there are occasional references to uplift activities which have only a peripheral relationship to the central plot and have no challenges to overcome within the story line making it unclear why they are there at all.
Toward the end of the book it feels as if Mr. Brin got bored with what he was writing. The timeline moves painfully slowly through the first two thirds of the book, then fast forwards years at a time toward the end as we get a quick summary of the results of events set in motion earlier. This too is disappointing.
Instead of telling stories of endless conniving by aristrocratically entitled idiots (among other plotlines), why not tell us about the debates that allowed humans to actually decide their future. Instead of telling us the story of how we managed to find a path out of the difficulties we were facing, the eventual success of human civilization is entirely gobbled up as fait accompli by the summary chapters that form the conclusion.
This is the first time I've encountered Forstchen, and overall I recommend this novel. It contains an interesting mix of strategy, apocalyptic future, and family, with perhaps the barest fringes of romance thrown in for good measure.
There are several other plotlines that are given teasers but never fleshed out, and it seems to me almost as though the author became disenchanted with his own work and decided to cut it short.
The story comes to a very brief conclusion that runs counter to most of the foreshadowing, and curtails what seemed like a much longer story arc nearer the beginning. For example Forstchen goes into extravagant detail about a piece of gold jewelry that his daughter is given at the beginning of the book, presumably with the intention of exploring metals as hard currency in the post-apocalyptic world that the character ends up in. What we are left with is pretty depressing, all of the death and destruction, but none of the postwar renaissance and indomitable human spirit that draws victory from the ashes of failure. Here the victory is bare survival, which is pretty bleak indeed.
The leading misfeature is the plot in which the heroine jumps frenetically between baseless overconfidence and irrational despair. As the plot developed I found myself hoping, even assuming that there must be some point of redemption where she actually tests herself and learns something, but I was disappointed in this as well.
A much better version of the story of the spoiled kid to grows beyond his childish youth can be found in Kipling's "Captains Courageous". As for "Fated," I'm mostly disappointed that anyone saw fit to publish something so pointless.
I'm not usually sensitive to reading styles, but the voice actor in this case does help to knock the general failure of the story out of the park. Her delivery is so earnest (while the protagonist is being so obtuse) that I found myself losing suspension of disbelief on a nearly constant basis.
Some of the descriptions of native American ritual and beliefs are interesting. I don't know if they are accurate, but they are at least interesting. And occasionally the author's description of the story setting hits a good fantasy note; but again all of these have been done better by other authors. Garth Nix for example paints a much more interesting and believable picture of the netherworld in my opinion.
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