Welcome back to the SPSFC. As you may be aware, we are now in the semifinals, meaning a mere 30 books remain in the competition.
Having selected three semifinalists of our own, At Boundary’s Edge will now be reading six more books selected by other teams. In this stage of the contest, each team’s chosen three are passed along to two other teams. At Boundary’s Edge will be reading the books chosen by Team Read Stars and Team Science Fiction News.
As before, our team of judges will read each book to completion (or give it a dreaded DNF rating, and score it somewhere between 0 and 10. These scores will be added together to create a team average. The team average will then be combined with the average score given by the other two teams to have read that book. Spaces in the final are limited, and only the highest scoring books from across the competition will be granted one of the coveted spaces. And remember, if a book has made it this far, it’s because a few people really liked it. Even if it doesn’t go any further in the contest, it must be doing something right.
Today’s review is of The Peacemaker’s Code, by Deepak Malhotra. As always, all thoughts below are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of my fellow judges.
One of the oldest pieces of advice given to young writers is ‘write what you know.’ The intent is clear. If you know about something, you can bring an authenticity to your work that is unique to you. Of course, this assumes that you want to write about things relevant to your own life experiences. Personally, what I know wouldn’t make for a very good story. It happens. Right from the outset of The Peacemaker’s Code, it’s clear that the author knows their stuff. If you need more evidence, just check out their non-fiction work. It’s seriously impressive stuff. While I doubt Malhotra has personal experience dealing with impending alien invasions or other science fictional concepts, the nitty-gritty of negotiations and political philosophy are clearly based on a wealth of real world knowledge.
‘Write what you know’ also runs on an assumption. The assumption that you are able to convey your knowledge in an entertaining way. After all, entertainment is the primary function of literature. For me, that is where The Peacemaker’s Code stumbled. As intelligent and worthy as the subject matter is, it can be a thoroughly tedious book to get through at times. It’s not the longest book in the SPSFC, but it’s the one that took me the longest time to finish. I was stuck on this thing for over a month. Once I’d put it down after a chapter or two, I never felt the urge to pick it back up. There was never a desire to know more. There was a point when I genuinely considered marking it as a DNF simply so I could make time for the other contestants. That’s not the sign of me enjoying a book.
Luckily for The Peacemaker’s Code, I am not in the habit of DNFing books. I slogged on, marvelling at the effort that has clearly gone into its creation, but not enjoying myself. This book has been a burden on my schedule for a long time, and at points in the reading of it, I could feel my eyes glazing over. Now, I don’t believe its entirely fair to level all of that at the book itself. There’s been a lot going on lately, and eBooks struggle to maintain my fascination at the best of times. But that’s true of every book I’ve read in the contest, and so I have no issue marking it by the same criteria.
My personal SPSFC rating for The Peacemaker’s Code is a 5/10. In theory, it has a lot to recommend it. In execution, it left a lot to be desired.
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