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In which I explain why Peter F Hamilton will never get into my pants - Tactical Ninja

Dec. 7th, 2010

09:13 am - In which I explain why Peter F Hamilton will never get into my pants

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At the moment I'm reading Misspent Youth by Peter F Hamilton. Lately I've been enjoying dipping into scifi as a genre I didn't really look at earlier in life. What I'm discovering is that I quite like far-future, culturally-deep, world-building epic scifi. Not that I'm fussy or anything...

I enjoyed The Algebraist and would like to read more by Banks. I've read two Vinge novels, A Fire Upon The Deep and Rainbow's End. I enjoyed The Jennifer Morgue. Of those, The Algebraist and A Fire Upon The Deep would be the two that stood out as 'hey this is different and cool and I want more' type stories. They're high fantasy on an epic scale, set in very well created alien universes with fascinating tech and well-written cultural anthropology. Rainbow's End, on the other hand, is near-future scifi set on earth, with humans as the main characters. It had cool tech but lacking aliens and galaxies and outer-universe exploration, the cultural anthropology focused around 'what if we had this tech' in relation to human drama, and the story itself read very much like a spy/suspense novel.

I picked up Misspent Youth because it supposedly explores the possibilities of rejuvanating tech which allows an old person to become young again at a cellular level, and how that might affect the life of the first person to receive this rejuvenation. Sounds interesting right?


I'm just under halfway through the book and so far it reads like Jilly Cooper if she lost her sense of humour and was left with nothing but cynicism. It's not scifi, it's family drama. Oh yes, there's mention of the datasphere, which supposedly replaces the internet, but nothing about how this works or the tech associated with it. There are supposedly 'green' modes of transport, but they're just there, like the author's been told by his editor that he must pull a bunch of futuristic stuff out of his arse to keep the fans happy, and he hasn't bothered to think too much about it.

Meanwhile, we're following the lives of a family, of whom the father is the one to have been rejuvenated. There's some weird background plot going on where England's become part of the EU and the Separatist terrorist organisation doesn't like it and hangs around being vaguely threatening, but it hasn't been made particularly relevant except in that it gives the characters a reason to be followed around by bodyguards whose bungles we can laugh at and whose humourless female leader we can project our dislike of authority onto.

According to Mr Hamilton, life is about sex. All of it. At least, inside people's heads it is - there have only actually been two sexual episodes in the book so far, but all of the characters seem to think about nothing else. The trophy wife suddenly finds her much older husband irresistible after his rejuvenation and drops all her lovers for him. He, meanwhile, slavers over anything that doesn't have a Y chromosome and seems unable to control himself. The son's life is all about getting into the pants of his girlfriend, who is apparently some kind of nubile goddess and very aware of her effect on men, thus believes them to be pathetic creatures that exist to satisfy her whims.

Which brings me to why I want to kick Peter F Hamilton in the balls. All of his female characters are either vapid or manipulative, or both. They are all stunningly beautiful, and reading this novel it seems they only exist to be decorative and to provide something for the men to slaver over and get into trouble with. They don't actually DO anything, except hang about being beautiful and getting their tits out at opportune moments. Their conversations are all either about men or about clothes. The exception is a side plot about the wife's mother, who is ill - this only exists to provide a reason for her to be vulnerable, and thus for the main protagonist to bed her.

And it pisses me off. Every other scifi novel I've read has created women who are well-rounded, intelligent, who are acknowledged as human, who do things. Not this one. And it says a lot about the author that his women are simply cardboard cutouts of a stereotype. Even the head of security, who at least has an existence outside of being beautiful for the men, is portrayed as the butch, serious, not-pretty stereotypical career woman. Taking bets on whether she:

a) turns out to be a lesbian
b) discovers her femininity at the hands of the protagonist, takes her glasses off while shaking out her hair, music swells, she quits her job, etc etc blah blah

*vomit*

All I can think is that Mr Hamilton was told by his publisher that he had to produce something pronto, and he pulled out a trashed manuscript that he wrote when he was 14 and had just been dumped by his first girlfriend, and added some vaguely-imagined tech to it. And how many descriptions of 'spectacular breasts' does one novel need anyway? Pete, we get it, STFU about your boob fetish already!

I will finish the novel to see if it gets better, but right now I'm thinking this Hamilton guy is overrated. So I went to Amazon to check out some reviews. I see he's written other stuff that might be more up my alley. Can someone who's read it perhaps recommend something? Bearing in mind that it's important to me that the female characters in a novel are actually people - if he can't do that then I'm not interested.

Anyway, Amazon. I read a review of Misspent Youth on there in which the reviewer suggested that Hamilton had written female characters "that we all want to fall in love with (or be)". I felt compelled to reply to that, pointing out that some of us 'females' would rather drink a pint of sick than be anything like the vapid, manipulative nothing-people that Hamilton's women are. But Amazon requires a login. OK, it's worth it, I thought, to have a woman's viewpoint out there dispelling this myth that we all want to be decorations. But..

Amazon wants your credit card details before you create an account.

Even if you haven't bought anything. What kind of site wants you to give it access to your credit card details before you decide if you want to purchase its product? Usually, phishing sites. I never thought I'd find a legit site that wouldn't let me interact with it if it didn't have access to my money!

And that's where I stopped, because Amazon, despite being one of the more popular sites, is one of the ones I'll be avoiding in the future. Why? Well, partly because I feel like it just tried to phish me, but also because in previous interactions with Amazon, I've gone through the purchasing forms, entered my details, and got all the way to the delivery address stuff before it's told me "Oh sorry, we don't ship that to your country, but thanks for your credit card info!"

Fuck that shit. May I recommend Fishpond as a pretty good alternative to Amazon for buying books? Between that and AbeBooks, I haven't bought anything from Amazon for about 5 years, because I haven't had to, because there are alternative sites that do a better job without the bullshit. Fuck them.


And I know there's something to do with Amazon and WikiLeaks too - but I have a confession here. I haven't been following the WikiLeaks thing at all and I don't really know much about it. I gather that some info was leaked that has people up in arms and that once again governments are trying to shut it down, saying that leaking info like this could cause 'diplomatic incidents' that might get people killed.

Hey goverments, in case you hadn't noticed, people are already getting killed, and I don't see how keeping dirty secrets is going to make that number less instead of more.

Anyway, if someone would like to summarise or link for me so I can catch up on the WikiLeaks thing quickly, and find out what Amazon has to do with it, that'd be awesome. Thanks!

Comments:

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From:russiandolls
Date:December 6th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
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Iain M Banks is completely brilliant, I'm reading Feersum Endjinn at the moment. He often manages to make me cry like a little girl.
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From:tatjna
Date:December 6th, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC)
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Yep, he's definitely on my list of authors to find more stuff from.
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From:megapope
Date:December 6th, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
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I highly recommend the Night's Dawn trilogy by Hamilton. 3 brick sized books; the pacing is a bit slow to begin with, but holy shit they define epic space opera for me.
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From:tatjna
Date:December 6th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
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That's one of the ones that popped out in reviews as "Why I bothered to read Misspent Youth" - but how does he write the women in them? Because while I am used to and can tolerate a certain amount of 'the usual' in terms of women characters, what I'm reading from Hamilton atm is really making me spit tacks. I don't like being represented that way to myself.

Edited at 2010-12-06 08:24 pm (UTC)
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From:pythia
Date:December 6th, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
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Night's Dawn was...okay, but the pacing in it was pretty bad. I definitely preferred the Void trilogy to Night's Dawn.
Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained were pretty good, but it's been a while since I read them, and I can't remember how they handled the female characters.
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From:clashfan
Date:December 7th, 2010 04:51 am (UTC)
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To be fair, many/most of his male characters are also 'idealised'. I've seen a critique that interprets this as Heinlein being fascinated by competence. And I'm not sure I'd say that all of his female characters are soft-spoken.
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From:rivet
Date:December 7th, 2010 07:39 am (UTC)
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I have found Heinlein lets his social commentary get the better of his story telling, and ends up being didactic.
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From:pythia
Date:December 6th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
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I quite like Hamilton's stuff, but his short books are a bit meh.
The Void trilogy isn't bad, and has some pretty kickass female lead characters, from what I recall.
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From:tatjna
Date:December 6th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)

Re: wikileaks summary

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Thank you!
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From:phaetonschariot
Date:December 6th, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC)
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www.thenile.co.nz is good too!
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From:phaetonschariot
Date:December 6th, 2010 08:51 pm (UTC)
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Oh also there's a book called This Alien Shore by... I think that's a C.S (I'm peering at my bookshelf, too lazy to stand up) Friedman which is set quite far in the future; there are quite a lot of humans but it's set in a well-thought out world where the space-travel that humans developed messed with their genes and so they became what "pure" humans think of as aliens, lots and lots of different kinds. And there's the whole "internet in your head" trope. The main character is a human girl with a secret even she doesn't know, and there's some good alien characters as well, along with a side plot involving hackers and lots of political scheming.
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From:pythia
Date:December 6th, 2010 09:02 pm (UTC)
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also, bookymcbookbook websties I use are mainly
www.mightyape.co.nz
or
www.bookdepository.co.uk, which is in the UK, but offers free shipping to NZ, so it's actually really economical and cheaper than pretty much anywhere else I've found.
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From:crsg
Date:December 6th, 2010 09:07 pm (UTC)
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I confess I haven't ever shopped at Fishpond after the first time I bought something there a couple of years ago - took ages to arrive (about twice as long as it did for some of my overseas books did), and compared to my most favouritist book site evar (bookdepository.co.uk) the prices are expensive. Book Depository usually offers free shipping worldwide also. I dig that.
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From:pythia
Date:December 6th, 2010 09:20 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I use bookdepository too. It's usually the shipping costs which make buying books from overseas not very much cheaper than buying them here, but with free shipping it's definitely worth it!
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From:danjite
Date:December 6th, 2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
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For those things that must come internationally, I love bookdepository.co.uk

They also have free shipping to NZ.

As Abebooks is owned by Amazon... yeah, not so much.
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From:tatjna
Date:December 6th, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
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There have been a few bookdepository recs in this post, so I will definitely check it out!
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From:tatjna
Date:December 6th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)

I mean high fantasy

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That would depend entirely on your definition of 'alternative universe', and also on whether you want to maintain a separation between scifi and fantasy. Some folks see it as a dichotomy, others as a spectrum - no prizes for guessing which one I am.

I find that 'serious' scifi readers often wish to disassociate themselves from fantasy, because fantasy seems to be considered (by them) to be the realm of new-agey, non-discerning hippie types who believe in magic instead of science.

There's nothing about swords in the definition of high fantasy, btw.
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From:kimeros
Date:December 7th, 2010 04:10 am (UTC)
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I read the first page of one of his books and have hated him ever since.
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