One of the Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of 2018 (So Far), Peter Watts’ THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION reminds just how fun future dystopias can be
Recommendations keep coming for Peter Watts’ THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION.
GOODREADS declares the title as one of The Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of 2018 (So Far).
If you’re looking for a ticket into the far future or a faraway kingdom, science fiction and fantasy novels offer some of the best round-trip destinations. This year, our readers have found retreats in the Nikara Empire and along the edges of the Unknown Regions. But which of these travel spots can be considered 2018’s best of the best (so far)? We’ve got the answer.
For this roundup, we focused on the most popular science fiction and fantasy books published from January to August. To measure this, we took a look at how many times a book has been added to Goodreads members’ shelves. From there, we narrowed down our list to include only titles that have a minimum four-star rating.
For ELITIST BOOK REVIEWS, Jane Funk praises the five star book.
Indeed, Watts’ ability to balance big ideas with narrative and character is refreshing. ‘Idea’ narratives, or hard(er) science fiction often sacrifice plot and/or character at the altar of scientific description and detail. Instead, Watts uses the ideas to his advantage, shaping a sense of distance and scale from the nature of Eriophora’s mission and using it to amplify Sunday’s own increasing sense of paranoia and betrayal. This balance pulled me quickly into Sunday’s story and it’s the reason it will stick with me.
Although Watts calls the science in FREEZE FRAME REVOLUTION ‘handwavium’ (Acknowledgements) there are still enough ‘hard’ sci-fi concepts here to please readers, as well as compelling characters and a narrative. FREEZE FRAME REVOLUTION felt like classic sci-fi (minus the sexism) and reminded me just how fun future dystopias can be.
THIERSTEIN compliments the work.
The story itself, in contrast to the shorter pieces of fiction which preceded it and which drew on the mission, and the relationships within the crew and their taskmaster, is focused on ‘How do you rebel, cooperate, coordinate against a near-omniscient, near-omnipotent overlord?’ Who is awake across the millennia whilst you sleep in suspension, who controls when you are being thawed out again, and who can re-run every record from every viewpoint, run every scenario in all it variants? Yes, the Chimp is stupid, but ever so fast, and with so much time on its hands, plus some tricks up its sleeves which the original developers provided it with.
Especially that part, the revolution under a near-panopticon, really raised comparisons with Charles Stross’ Glasshouse for me.
As mentioned before, we get to see everything from Sunday’s 1st person viewpoint – full story exhibition, her inner life, plus information dumps with explanations aimed at the reader (thanks, appreciated).
Time is counted decimally. In kilo/mega/peta/tera-seconds. Of course it makes sense, even if your brain keeps bleating ‘but how much is that in real money’ like some kind of imperial martyr.
There is a lot of foreshadowing, especially (but not solely) at the chapter ends – not very concrete, not very spoiler-ish, but more in a vaguebooking kind of way.
Worth reading? Yup. Worth waiting for? Indeed. Do I want more? Absolutely.
BOOKWORMEX enjoys the tale.
To begin with, I just want to take a moment to laud Peter Watts for the brilliance of his concept and the premise he creates for the story to develop. While uprisings and revolutions have long been studied in fictional literature, I can’t really think of anything (off the top of my head at least) which comes closer to the premise we are given in this book. It all starts with the world-building, and while it does take up a few pages and perhaps prevent the story from moving along quickly, I feel it has its rightful place in the novel. The world we see is shown from the perspective of our human crew, and seeing as how they are only awake for short periods of time and sleep for long stretches, we too only get glimpses of this distant future. Watts presents enough curious details about the world to get our imagination rolling, without ever giving too much away, making this novel feel like it might be the set-up for a sequel set in the same universe.
As a matter of fact, the atmosphere in this great future where humanity can make wormholes is quite claustrophobic, with the plot taking place almost exclusively inside that hollowed asteroid. In turn, the story shows its colours as being more of a character-driven experience than anything else, using the science-fiction backdrop to create the sort of outlandish premise the author really wanted.
One aspect which I believe helps this novel never to feel stale or boring is Peter Watts’ writing ability. Even though he often discusses complicated matters, his language remains extremely simple, concise and accessible, even when he’s educating us on the laws of physics governing black holes. As a result, the story moves along at a relatively quick and aggressive pace while still finding the time to probe the world and the characters’ minds. Unfortunately, I do feel this did make the book feel rather short, and in the afterword Peter Watts does acknowledge this was meant to be a novella, even though he did tiptoe into novel territory. In other words, it’s a short and fast story with not enough time to explore everything, no matter how concise the writing may be.
With all being said and done, The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts is without a doubt one of the more engaging and original science-fiction stories I have read recently, despite its relatively short length. It has a very unique premise, excellent character study and a curious future for us to ponder about. If you enjoy science-fiction stories which centre on characters and the exploration of concepts, I highly recommend you give this book a try.
For more info on THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover and design by Elizabeth Story