What makes a good science fiction read? Part 1)

mibreadingThis blog (and some future ones, I also want to cover the same for Fantasy) were prompted by two books I have read recently.  The first being ‘Zero Point (Owner Trilogy 2)’ by Neal Asher and the second ‘Heaven 2.0’ by Scott Haworth.  Now I should say at this point that these are my personal opinions and I voice them in the hope that they might a) resonate with some people b) promote some discussion on the subject and c) get you thinking about what makes a good read.  As for the last point, as writer I understand that my definition of a good read might not be everyones.  So the more I can appreciate the views of others the better.

Anyway back to those books.  The first, ‘Zero point’ I didn’t find an easy read and the same was true for the first in the series (which probably means I delayed longer than I should to read the second one).  However that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, I did.  For me at least there was a lot to carry in my head and at times I had to stop and think what about what was going on etc.  But, as I say I enjoyed it and will definitely read the third in the series.  ‘Heaven 2.0’ on the other hand was a much easier read, lighter.  I ploughed through it.  I did enjoy it, an interesting concept and it galloped along.  However on another level it left an irritation behind.  For me there was a fundamental logic missing.  Now you may think that when you read science fiction or fantasy you suspend logic and in a sense you do.  That’s one of the joys of the genres.  However for me, at least, the stories still have to carry their own logic that I can agree with and this one didn’t.

Let me explain.  As I said the concept was interesting.  Without wishing to spoil it for others (it is worth a read) in the future, on Mars, there is a corporation going back into the past and capturing people as they die and bringing them back into an actual physical man made personal ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’, they then leave a false body behind and effectively revive the person they’ve saved.  I Now if you ignore some of the ‘hows’  the main thing that isn’t answered for me is the ‘why’?  What does a future corporation gain from doing this?  There is some vague allusion to this being a profitable venture, but it’s not explained and I can’t see it.  They are also not giving these people a choice on whether they want to be saved, they just take them, why?.  Also, if I understand the book correctly the intention is eventually to ‘save’ everyone.  But that’s billions and billions of people, where are they going to put them? (remember these people do occupy physical space).  Also in the book they don’t have thousands and thousands of people going back to extract them, how does that work?   Finally, they then decide whether these people have eternal ‘heaven’ or ‘damnation’ (the premise on which the conflict in this story is based).

So, I think you can see my frustration.  As far as I’m concerned there is some fundamental logic missing.  As writers I do believe our stories need, no matter how fantastical the setting or content, their own internal logic.  Things have to happen for a reason we understand.  People have to do things for motives we can identify with, no matter how bizarre those might be.  In ‘Zero Point’ someone is killing billions of people, but we don’t question their personal logic for doing that.  In Iain M Bank’s stories there are fantastical worlds and eccentric, intelligent ships with their own agendas.  But again we don’t question the logic, which means that however strange it may be, it is there .  The more I think about it the only reason I question it for ‘Heaven 2.0’ is that, for me, it was so obviously missing.  So on one level it was a good read, but not on another.  Confused?  so am I, but never mind on to the next book and here’s hoping it’s one of the best I’ve ever read.  That’s the beauty of it you never know what’s round the corner.

Well, as so often happens when I write a blog (or in this case a bit of a rant) it raises other issues / ideas.  So in the next blog I’ll explore reasons I’ve stopped reading books or series of books (this time definitely not good reads).

As usual I hope this might have sparked some thoughts.  So if you agree, or disagree I’d like to hear from you.  Or let me know you own frustrations.

Ian Martyn     

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

4 thoughts on “What makes a good science fiction read? Part 1)”

  1. I agree with you about the logic having to make sense within the story. The fact that there’s no obvious way a corporation could profit from bringing people from the past as described, and no explanation of it that makes sense in the story, totally turns me off from wanting to read it.

    The premises of a story can be totally outrageous, as long as the story is internally consistent and makes sense with normal human motivations (or alien motivations that are sufficiently explained or alluded to that I can accept them).

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