Sunday, February 28, 2010

Alternating Worlds by Gary Wolf

This book is true sci-fi, taking place in the far future on spaceships and other planets. I think the book's biggest challenge in gaining the readership it deserves is the first ten pages and the cover. The cover seems to indicate (and did indicate to anyone who saw me reading the book) that it is a new age book, not a "space opera" with bad guys and wars. The first ten pages unfortunately centers around the weakest dialogue---that between the main character, Rohde, and his first mate, Jensen.

However, once I started page 11, the page numbers became insignificant as the story developed. An antique art historian and art dealer is an unlikely hero, but he has enough gusto to overcome his trade.
Wolf does a great job creating relatively vivid characters and an intriguing plot. At times I felt that the parallels between the political struggles in the book and in our current world were a bit obvious, but turned the pages all the same to find out how it resolved itself in the future. I thought the concept of a planet that seeks to give full, fair, and equal credit to all of the beliefs of all of the people since (the dawn of?) time was an incredibly creative and fascinating concept, and I was particularly impressed by the paradox of true alternance that arises near the end of the book (not wanting to spoil anything, I refrain from further explanation).

The personal stories of and the dialogue between Rohde and Jensen were just a bit too "normal" (boring). But the story line, the tension within the main story, and even the conversations between people of different planets made those Rohde-Jensen conversations minor blips.

I recommend to sci-fi fans and *strongly* urge to move beyond the cover and the first 10 pages if those are, indeed, obstacles. A great sci-fi read!

THREE AND A HALF of five stars

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