It's difficult not to like Emma--the character--despite the fact that she seems to lead a rather vapid life. Of course, this is a function of the society in which she lives, and one can imagine such a charming and intelligent woman being a far more productive individual were she to exist today.
Taken in the context of its time, the novel 'Emma' is a delightfully fun and witty examination of the societal constraints and mores of the period in which it takes place. Plot is not essential here, and there really isn't a great deal of it. It's the characters who count, and Emma is certainly the most captivating of the lot. She bears some resemblance to the major female leads of other Jane Austen novels, but rather lacks the spirited, rebelliousness of Elizabeth Benett (of 'Pride and Predjudice').
'Emma', as a novel, is not as tightly written as Pride and Predjudice (which is probably Austen's best known and best loved work). There are places in 'Emma' that certainly could have done with some decent editing, sections of dialogue that are simply far too protracted and tend to weary the reader. That said, the book is still worth investing the time to read.
Lindsay Brambles (author of 'In Darkness Bound')
'Plague Ship' is definitely a product of its time, and as such would not likely see publication in today's tough SF market. The plot is pretty basic and the characters rather typical of this sort of story. The tale lacks the intricacies and well-rounded characterizations of the best SF of today, but if all you're looking for is an easy, uncomplicated tale, then this may be your cup of tea.
Read some of the other Norton books from this period and you'll find them all remarkably similar in tone. In fact, if you read the work of other authors from around the same time you'll find that they were producing material that doesn't vary all that much from this.
An okay read, but it's no 'Dune'.
Lindsay Brambles (author of In Darkness Bound)
Well, it's epic and it's weird. It stretches the imagination. At times I'm inclined to feel too much so, with the result that the reader is, in effect, distanced from the characters. It's difficult to have a passion about a story when you find none of the characters of a nature that you can relate to in any way. On top of this, the book is so far reaching in some of it's ideas that you feel rather lost in the chaos of what the author is trying to describe. Of course, the future probably will be as wonderfully strange and incomprehensible as the portrait Stross paints. One only has to imagine how bizarre our own time would seem to someone transplanted from the nineteenth century. What would they make of the plethora of technology we so take for granted? Imagine how stunned they'd probably be by Bluetooth-enabled phones, where people walk around the streets seemingly talking to themselves. Cars and even planes they might understand, but could they really make sense of computers and the Internet?
If you want to get a taste of what it might be like if you were suddenly shifted ahead in time a hundred or more years, try 'Accelerando'. Just remember this isn't your father's SF.
Lindsay Brambles (author of In Darkness Bound)
Some will see it as simply a romance, but beneath that facade is a delightful, rather satiric examination of the mannered society of the period. Were you to distill it all down you might be inclined to see it as nothing more than a novel about the fevered concerns of young women to make 'agreeable' matches with worthy members of the opposite sex. But a paucity of plot belies the true charm of this novel: strong, well delineated characters -- most notably Elizabeth Bennet. You become so enamored of her that you find yourself compelled to read onward.
Of course, when reading this book I couldn't help recalling the scene in the movie 'You've Got Mail,' when Tom Hank's character rather breezily disparages the novel. As a man I have to confess that the natural inclination would be to dismiss this novel outright. There's certainly nothing 'macho' about it. Nothing 'manly.' And if action and adventure are more your standard, then by all means avoid this book. But don't dismiss it because it's considered 'chicklit' or because you believe it to be in the vein of a Harlequin Romance novel. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is as fine a portrait as any of the gentried society of the period. A great way to learn something of the past in a most entertaining manner.
(Lindsay H.F. Brambles, author of In Darkness Bound)
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