Lord of All Things

Lord of All ThingsLord of All Things by Andreas Eschbach

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

this review refers to the audiobook version.

i think the title is missing a punctuation mark: Lord, Of All Things.

i’m going to go on a bit in this review, and be SUPER-SPOILERY. consider yourself warned.

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still with me? ok let’s go.

is this the Andreas Eschbach who wrote The Carpet Makers? really? the same guy, not his evil twin? cause i adore The Carpet Makers. it rocks on so many levels, from its construction to its conclusions. but Lord of All Things… lordy, lordy, lordy.

let me get the good stuff out of the way, since it will be brief: there are some really interesting scientific ideas in this book, and for the most part they’re explicated clearly and not at mind-numbing length. Eschbach balanced the needs of story against the need for education pretty well, and this is very much more easily said than done.

the opening, introducing us to the lonely child and proto-geek Hiroshi and the diplomat’s daughter Charlotte, was also rather fetching.

there you go. that’s all the good stuff.

so the book’s all about Hiroshi’s desire to see the development of nanotech, so that nobody will ever have to do a McJob again. he wants to see everybody have all the toys they ever want without having to slave away to get them. if he can only just get his assemblers right…

Hiroshi also desires one other: Charlotte.

altho one can hardly understand why! Charlotte is such a spineless dishrag of a character, never really wanting anything her whole life, apparently. she just sort of drifts through the book like a dandelion seed, being in the right place at the right time for Hiroshi to explain things to her and to divest him of his virginity. she even generously develops brain cancer at the end so that Hiroshi can come save her from death with his super-duper nanites.

the women in this book… ugh.

here’s the deal: not a woman passes through the pages without being described down to her navel (innie or outie). guys are described by their qualities; women are described by their appearance. and then criticized! as in, she could have done something better with her hair; she should never wear purple with that skin color. whatever. which is perhaps just as well, because no woman in the book ever seems to want to accomplish anything–presumably then they can just stay home and pluck their eyebrows.

this is not an example of an author trying to understand the opposite sex, and failing. this is writing the opposite sex purely from the point of view of (yep, you got it) the male gaze. with a heaping helping of male wish fulfillment.

and it is absolutely infuriating in this book, cause it’s on every page.

other weirdness abounds: part of the book is set in the US, presumably in contemporary times. but it sounds like a totally weird mix of now and the 1950s. the sexual politics in particular are so 1950s they’re almost laughable. maybe hookup culture doesn’t exist in Germany (where Eschbach’s from)? in Eschbach’s US, women have sex with importunate men to get them in a marrying frame of mind. so that the women can then quit this educational foolishness and have babies.

ok, ok, trying to cool my jets on the women. really. i’m trying.

so! Hiroshi leads a stereotypically solitary geeky life, working against the fools who would sabotage him at every turn, to get his nano-machines going. other than that once with Charlotte, women don’t get on the radar unless he needs a housekeeper. because he’s dedicated, you understand? he’s dedicated. we are told super-often that he’s dedicated, just in case we might forget. we’re supposed to admire this rather than find it a little obsessively creepy.

things bounce along through a number of pretty improbable events until we get to the end. Hiroshi’s used nanotech flowing from his brain (his actual meat-brain, not the metaphorical one) to cure Charlotte’s cancer and ridden off into the sunset, because of course government baddies Can’t Allow Him To Live. he builds himself a nano Mandelbrot castle in the awareness that he’d rather die than be held captive. and then he commits ritual seppuku.

what?!?!? this guy who has never, not on any page of the book, showed any interest whatsoever in his native culture?!!?!? he suddenly gets out the short sword and the white robe, writes his death poem, and romantically exits the stage to the weeping of a nano-shamisen?

lordy, lordy. i could go on, there’s just so much in this book that’ll flay your sensibilities. i had an occasional sneaking suspicion while reading this that the publishers translated some early work of his and served it up in English as a contemporary work. i’ll have to check this out, because this is not the Eschbach i know. this is a far, far less mature writer, in every sense of the word.

go read The Carpet Makers instead.

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