May 2007
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Day May 25, 2007

Greg Bear’s Quantico

I finished Greg Bear’s latest, Quantico, the other day, as a break in between stacks of material for the dissertation and before I start the second volume of Proust for our group’s July get-together. I should say, at the outset, that Bear’s publisher sent me a copy of the book for promotional purposes, so that I’d write about it here on my website. So I’m also holding up my end of the bargain.

In general, I liked the story. Greg Bear is a terrific author of hard science fiction, and anybody with his range (Slant and its predecessor are favorites of mine) deserves a read. Many of my favorite authors of speculative fiction are writing about terrorism these days, as you’d expect, and it’s always interesting to see alternative versions of how our own future might evolve. Bear’s version occurs in the very near future, after another major terrorist attack, but unlike more heavy-handed approaches to such a future, his version of the United States is palpably close to our own — but with additional crackdowns, additional surveillance, and additional hysteria. But all of these measures are very realistically haphazard, and Bear doesn’t flirt with overarching Orwellian schemes, preferring to show us the piecemeal evolution of our response to Islamic terrorism. In this way, his story seems quite realistic.

I won’t spoil the plot, because I definitely think it’s worth a read. Perhaps the biggest issue I had with the novel, however, is simply its size. Given the scope of the story he spins in Quantico, the book ought to have been a bit longer. The story feels a bit rushed, and certainly there is little time for his characters to truly develop. We get backstory but little evolution on their parts. Granted, it’s nice that not every author feels the need to deliver doorstop-sized tomes for every book, but Quantico would have benefited, I think, from a slower, more textured unfolding of its tale.

At the moment, I’m on the ferry headed for the mainland given the holiday weekend. I’ve got Richard Morgan’s new one, Black Man, in tow, freshly delivered by Amazon UK. I’m a fan of his previous Kovacs novels (especially the original, Altered Carbon), so I’m expecting a richly technological noir thriller.