So, I love science fiction. That’s news to me.
When I self-conceptualize, I love fantasy. I grew up on Tolkien and George RR Martin and Robert Jordan. When I was younger and still aspired to be famous and noteworthy, I thought I would be a fantasy novelist.
But looking back through the books I’ve read for Cannonball Read, 32% of my reviews have been of science fiction novels (compared to 21% fantasy and 19% history).
Anyway. I read Dennis E. Taylor’s Bobiverse books back in 2017, and I loved the first book. The rest of the series lost a bit of its luster, but I still found them enjoyable. Then I read The Singularity Trap last year and realized that maybe I didn’t love the Bobiverse books as much as I thought.
Outland follows a group of college students in Nebraska who develop an interdimensional portal that allows them to visit multiple earths. One which saw global warming run amok, turning the surface of the earth into a scorched wasteland reminiscent of Venus. Another (which features prominently) that had the Yellowstone supervolcano erupt millenia in the past, apparently wiping out humanity and preserving Pleistocene America. I won’t go too deeply into the plot for fear of spoiling what happens – but if you’ve read the Bobiverse books, this book feels a like one of them.
Taylor’s an interesting writer. His books are smart – they’re, fundamentally, about characters solving problems that they aren’t prepared to deal with. And they solve those problems in believable and novel ways. But there’s a coldness to his style. As a reader, I never feel the urgency of their situation. Taylor doesn’t put me in their shoes and give me the panic that they should be feeling – possibly because his characters don’t seem to panic. Even if they’re in a situation for which they’ve had no training, they are still always able to think on their feet and move forward (often with a quip or two throne in for good measure).
I think this is why, despite my enjoyment of his books (and the great performances by Ray Porter, the narrator), they often end up being somewhat forgettable.