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I no longer read 5 star reviews, having found they are rarely critical examinations of the story. Some "reviews", especially on Amazon, are very long and look like high school book reports. I don't read those either. And a lot of reviews say more about the reviewer than what is being reviewed. e.g. criticizing "1984" for not having a happy ending.
This is not a glowing 5 stars review, is reasonably concise, and hits the main points, which means it's probably a better-than-average review.
Some criticize this story because the ending is easily guessed. While true, this totally misses the point. Hogan's desire here is to express his views of the human condition. (I can see the beginnings of this in his "giants" series, written by a much younger and more optimistic Hogan.) Here, he accomplishes this by constructing outsiders (the Venusians) who explore and try to understand a future unpopulated earth. Normally I would greet such an attempt with a smirky "Oh no.". However, I find Hogan to have been a very intelligent and keen observer. So I think his tale is not just worth reading, but also worth thinking about.
I like the way Hogan constructs and then logically analyzes and solves mysteries. Even if some are easily guessed at, it's a style of writing that holds my attention and is more palatable to me than the "horrific conflict" schtick that many sci-fi writers use nowadays.
Hogan became very knowlegable in multiple disciplines including physics, biology, and computer technology. And he does a good job of weaving lots of good sciencey stuff into his stories. My kind of story! On the other hand, inexplicably, Hogan promotes naive Velikovskian ideas in this story. Whatever his reason was for doing this, science trained readers may react violently to this outrageous blasphemy. Subtract 0.65 stars.
Narrator warning: he uses a British accent which sounds snooty. I find it to be bloody irritating and incongruous with the story. Subtract 0.7 stars. If people in the future will sound like British aristocrats, we ought to just start WWIII and end it all right now.
Incidently I also like his "Giants" series, even though the main character is a chain-smoking
alcoholic. Well, nobody's perfect.
RIP James P. Hogan, 1941 - 2010. He was a better-than-average science fiction writer. And he cared about us enough to write this story.
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