Thursday, 25 November 2010

Reviewlette - Teranesia by Greg Egan

Teranesia by Greg Egan

This book was sent to me by a mystery philanthropist in South Africa. (Actually, I have a pretty good idea who sent it.) It took almost three months to get here. Three months. Roll on quantatronic matter transfer machines I say.

This is lifted from the cover:
As a young boy, Prabir Suresh lives with his parents and sister on an otherwise uninhabited island in a remote part of the Indonesian peninsula. Prabir names it Teranesia, populating it with imaginary creatures even stranger than the evolutionarily puzzling butterflies that his parents are studying. Civil war strikes, orphaning Prabir and his sister. Eighteen years later, rumours of bizarre new species of plants and animals being discovered in the peninsula that was their childhood home draw Prabir's sister back to the island - Prabir cannot bear for her to have gone out alone and he follows, persuading a pharmaceutical researcher to take him along as a guide.

I'm undecided about this one. It was entertaining but - and this may be down to my appalling memory of whatever happened at the beginning - the protagonist somehow developed an intimate understanding of genetics by the end of the book. It is well written but there are times when I don't believe the cause and effect, such-and-such happened to this character so he reacts by doing whatever. I didn't quite buy it sometimes. And there's a scene with a snake which didn't seem to move the plot along or enlighten me at all.

The author seems to know a shed-load about genetics. Do you ever watch House? The TV show? Part of the pleasure for watching House, for me, is the bewildering language the doctors use when trying to figure out whatever is wrong with the patient. "He may have Fibro-hairy-mitosis, so start him on ten CC's of Streptro-fusion-olive-duplo-matt, stat." There's a bit of that in this book too - though about genetics and DNA strands and RNA re-combatant yadda-blah. Not too much. Just enough to make you me feel stupid.

All-in-all a pretty good read but erring on the side of 'meh'. I'd be interested in what you think.

I have another Greg Egan, Distress, which has been entertaining dust-bunnies on my shelf for several years. I'll read that shortly as the guy seems to have a lot of fans.

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