lunes, 23 de abril de 2012

Review of Mountain by Liu Cixin

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.

I know it was only on Friday that I wrote about Liu Cixin. But over the weekend I had the chance of finishing reading Mountain and I can only say that my mind was blown away. This is one of the best novellas I've read in a long time.

As in "Taking Care of God" the plot revolves around the first contact of humankind with an alien race. However, in Mountain the focus is on the mystery surrounding the aliens and the history of their civilization. In less than 50 pages, the author manages to develop a complete (and amazing) cosmology and introduces more ideas than other authors in 500 pages novels.

Cixin's Mountain is somehow similar in theme and tone to "Exhalation" by Ted Chiang (one of my favorite short stories ever) with the best parts of Incadescence by Greg Egan added in for good measure. Some scenes even reminded me of Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon. Not a bad combination, is it?

Though Mountain is quite a different kind of story, closer to modern hard SF, there are some similarities with "Taking Care of God", especially in the underlying philosophy: both are recounts of the struggles that intelligent species have to face to survive in the Universe and both give a message of hope in spite of these difficulties.

Cixin's prose is fairly simple and functional and he relies maybe a bit too heavily on dialog and infodumps. However, it doesn't detract from the reading experience or from the overall enjoyment of the story.

All considered, Mountain is an excellent novella which reminds me why I love science fiction of ideas so much. If you like short fiction by authors such as Chiang and Egan I strongly recommend that you give Mountain a try. You won't regret it.

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)

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