Take Back the Sky - by Greg Bear (spoilers ahead)

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Take Back the Sky - by Greg Bear (spoilers ahead)

Postby SolarpunkFan » 2017-01-13 05:51pm


Sorry about that, just my leftover reaction to this book.

Months ago I did a review of War Dogs and its sequel Killing Titan by Greg Bear.

The first book was very engrossing, read the whole thing in three days (I procrastinate a lot on reading, so that's actually quite a feat for me). The second book wasn't all that good. Back then I chalked it up to the midquel-effect and having my expectations too high.

Oh how naive I was in those pre-Take Back the Sky days.

So how bad is it?

The novel starts off where Killing Titan left off, beneath the oceans of Titan. The hero of the story and his peers are there to meet the Antagonists, a bird-like species of alien that humanity is warring with. They're being attacked from above by the rest of the military who are acting under orders from the Gurus, a species that came to Earth and gave us technology and told us that the Antagonists were bent on exterminating us.

The "Antags" decide to help the heroes out by taking them off of Titan, but not without casualties for both species.

They break into a deserted Guru spacecraft (which was "camouflaged" from the humans and other Antags, how convenient to have it sitting there around Saturn and pretty much deserted and unguarded), the Antags lock the remaining humans in a large cage within the spacecraft as they're still under Antagonist suspicion.

After that a whole lot of nothing takes place for a long time. And that's really amazing. Not "amazing" as in "mindblowing fun", rather it's amazing in the sense of "holy shit, I'm a guy who loves the Neon Genesis Evangelion TV series and I find this a fucking drag".

As it turns out the Antags can't operate the ship properly without opening a locked hatch near the front of the vessel. They take the central character, along with a Russian soldier who has a "Guru in her mind" or something like that, to it. The hatch then proceeds to brutally mindrape them, IIRC one of them was subjected to the sensation of being ground up alive by a machine, among other things.

And that's a strike for putting the characters through an experience that should have made them catatonic and traumatized to the point of being practically useless. Seriously, even seasoned soldiers in reality can snap, and that should have made the characters there break right then and there.

And the Russian Guru-Human thing figures out what needs to be done to unlock it and get to the controls.

Turns out that they need to go far out to the outer solar system as there are planets there, including the Antag homeworld. It will take five years to get there but the humans are told that it won't feel like five years to them.

So we finally get out of Saturnian space and the humans are relocated to a better location near the Russian woman who is piloting the spacecraft. Time starts to feel "weird" to the narrator at which point we stop in Plutonian space. In Plutonian space there's a massive artifact that not even the Gurus understand. That artifact is completely ignored for the rest of the book.

After some time we jump through space again. And they find themselves beaten up by another group of humans. Surprise! While the ship seemed deserted at first, there were some humans on board that were put into gladiatorial matches between each other and against other aliens, one of them being a man who knows the narrator. Though since those gladiator humans were starving and injured by this point they don't have much longer to live.

And there's a reason for those matches. The Gurus are broadcasting the conflicts between humans and other aliens to entertain a galactic audience.

And we finally reach the Antag homeworld, only to discover that a third species is wiping out the life on the planet. I think Bear wanted us to feel emotion at this, but he completely failed at doing so.

The Antags on board the vessel decide to go down and fight to the last for their honor. So they're basically Klingons except that they look like birds.

And after that we go back to the inner system with an egg provided by the Antags. We arrive ten years after the novel started off and the Gurus are leaving the solar system along with their human helpers.

The remaining soldiers (sans the Guru-Human and a few Russians who want to stay with her) return to Mars or Earth as the Russians do a suicide mission into the sun, killing the Gurus and their human allies.

The book ends with the narrator getting a vial of the green stuff (nicknamed "Ice Moon Tea") that he was infected with on Mars with a note from one of his friends saying that big changes are coming and they'll be good.

The end.

The novel felt like cheap junk food to me. Most attempts at stirring up the reader's emotions fall entirely flat and most of the explanations are shoved in the last third of the novel. And that's compounded by the book being a bit short. The explanations are glossed through at high speed and most are only vaguely answered, some only getting a paragraph before being forgotten.

I'm sorry if this review sounds bitter, but I used up some of my gift card to buy this crap. So that was about $20 USD flushed down the toilet.

To paraphrase the late great Roger Ebert: "I have a finger I could use to review this novel". :finger:
"A quasar is the most powerful object in the universe. It is bright with energy" - Captain Ryker demonstrating his "knowledge"

"You drongos will have to do better than that if you want to beat the devil!" - Hugh Dawkins, also known as "The Tasmanian Devil"

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