Radio Life

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I was completely impressed by Derek B. Miller's trio of sorta-mysteries Norwegian by Night, American by Day, and How to Find Your Way in the Dark. Unfortunately, my library doesn't own this one. But the Kindle version was on sale at Amazon for a mere $2.99, so I snapped it up. (It's still a good deal: $5.99.)

I was immediately dismayed. Because it's not a sorta-mystery, it's sorta-SF. And it's one of those dystopic novels where civilization is mostly destroyed, and (bless him) Miller plops you into this nasty world with zero explanation. (I know, that's a standard tactic in this genre.) On the first few pages, terms are dropped into the narrative without explanation: the "Commonwealth", the "Stadium", the "Empty Quarter", the "Gone World". For some reason the sky is a funny color. And Miller's prose is kind of ornate, bordering on pretentioous. ("The horses are relaxed, experienced. They know this route and have not been ridden hard today. The habits of nightfall are familiar: they will be fed soon and afterwards silence will envelope them. Stillness is bred into their line.")

I'm thinking: Paul, this is gonna be a slog.

Ah, but very soon, Miller drops back into his usual strengths: strong characters, desperate situations, captivating story-telling. (And: unexpected and mostly understated humor, in the middle of desperation and horror. Miller is unparalleled at that.) And all is well, reading-wise.

Anyway: we (eventually) get the story of how civilization went down the tubes. And the Good Guys, ensconced in the Commonwealth, living in the Stadium (a literal Olympic stadium that withstood destruction) are hungry to improve mankind's miserable lot, by retrieving pieces of lost civilization. But a tribe of naysayers are threatening that noble project: revealing that ancient knowledge will irrevocably result in making the same grievous errors that caused the death and destruction so long ago. And so, it's war. And (worse) it soon becomes apparent that the Commonwealth is badly underestimating the skills and cleverness of their enemy.

In his (very funny) "Acknowledgements and Denials" afterword, Miller notes his debt to 1959's A Canticle for Liebowitz, by Walter M. ("no relation") Miller. Hey, I read that way back when, and it's—yes!—still on my shelf. Putting that into by to-be-read pile.

Last Modified 2024-01-10 5:50 AM EDT