Peter Watts’ impressive and intriguing THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION is a sharply thought-out vision
Excitement abounds for Peter Watts’ THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION.
The June 2018 issue of LOCUS contains two reviews of the book.
But here we have the stand-alone short novel (or novella), so back to ‘‘compressed and elliptical,’’ particularly for readers not familiar with the earlier stories. It’s not that the necessary background information isn’t there – it is, starting with a front-matter diagram of the good ship Eriophora, which is also helpfully labeled as a United Nations Diaspora Authority vessel. Infodumps are few and cunningly distributed, though, and some vocabulary items remain unexplained (though understandable in context), so this is one of those SF texts that requires close attention to everything as it flies by.
The story line, like Sunday’s lifeline, is discontinuous,
fragmented into periods of awakening
required by problems with gate building, and it
offers views of cosmic machineries and glimpses
of far, far futures that the crew will only ever see
in tiny, contextless fragments. Whether or not the glimpses afforded to us readers will finally be
expanded to fit together into a greater whole (as
the other ‘‘Sunflower’’ pieces imply), this large
fragment – part thriller, part hard-SF vision,
part existential nightmare – is an impressive
and intriguing exercise in fitting huge Ideas into
a small space.
Gary K. Wolfe:
So in many ways, THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION harks back to the classic SF theme of trying to outwit a seemingly omniscient computer with eyes and ears permeating the entire vast spacecraft – in this case, the Eriophora, which is carrying some 30,000 Diasporans, or ‘‘’spores’’ on a mission that shows no signs of ending and has long since lost contact with any other humans.
But while these stories are compelling, the hard center of the novel (or novella, or series of episodes) remains Watts’s sharply thought-out vision of a millions-years distant future which, despite its remoteness and its sophisticated biotech, reads very much like all the classic tales of frustration, mutiny, and never-quite-satisfactory aftermath. I rather suspect he’s not quite done with the Eriophora.
For Kirkus, John DeNardo includes the title among his Are You Ready for June’s Spectacular Lineup of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Books?
Peter Watts is not known as an author who shies away from mind-blowing ideas. Case in point: The wonder-packed THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION in which Sunday Ahzmundin, a crew member on a construction ship that spends 66 million years (objective time) building interstellar wormhole gates, drops in and out of periodic suspended animation as determined by Chimp, the ship’s AI. At any given time, only a handful of crew members are awake. Sunday becomes aware of strange things going on within the ship, like crewmembers who go missing. She soon learns that a rebellion is brewing. Which begs the question: How do you stage a mutiny when you’re only awake one day in a million?
THE 1000 YEAR PLAN declares THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION a must read.
After sixty-five million years of trekking across the galaxy building gates to facilitate human expansion, some of the crew of the Eriophora want to stage a mutiny against the AI that runs their lives. It’s a tough thing to manage when they spend nearly all of the journey in cold sleep and they don’t even know who or how many of their allies will be awake at the same time, at intervals stretching several millennia or more. The most striking thing about the scope of “The Freeze-Frame Revolution” is the way it makes the scale of the universe and the wonder of discovery feel like more of a prison than a liberating experience. Watts falls within the lineage of classic hard SF writers who can make far-future science magic seem tangible, but his true gift lies in how personable he makes it. Heavy themes like alienation, the value of existence, and the nature of consciousness are woven into the brisk narrative with humor and pathos.
For more info on THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover by Elizabeth Story