Lord of All Things by Andreas Eschbach (Samuel Willcocks, translator)

Every four or five books, I like to take a chance on a book I’ve never heard of. It gets me out of ruts. Such was the case with Lord of All Things – originally written in German and then translated into English. The reviews I saw promised “The Book of the Year!” and “A Celebrated Achievement” and yada yada. Sometimes they are, but this one wasn’t. This is a book that was about three times longer than it needed to be and yet didn’t tell the whole story. There were some really great parts, but on a whole it was just an okay read. It needed a good editor.

Hiroshi and Charlotte begin as childhood acquaintances with remarkable gifts. Hiroshi is a extremely smart technical genius with a gift for robotics on a mission to end all want; Charlotte is a diplomat’s daughter with an unbelievable gift for languages and the handy ability to see into the past of any object she touches. Two ordinary children who may, or may not, change the world. They meet throughout their lives to drive each other toward their individual destinies.

This novel read as something between a Frank Capra screenplay and an alternate history textbook. There was a lot of grand vision – which was good – trying to mesh a different past than we’re used to with a future that would be idyllic. The problem is: that if a sci-fi book could figure out how to change the future in a couple hundred pages, we would be hard at work making it a reality. Instead, the author seems as much as a loss as most at getting it accomplished – even in fiction. In some ways, it would have been better for the author to have accepted the idealized Communism that Capra spouted to get a good story than trying to be so nuanced for our modern enlightened age. Robots just can’t overcome the foibles of the human heart. And, let’s not even get started with aliens.

This is a hard book to dismiss or recommend because it had a lot going for it, but there were a lot of inept parts too. Certain characters used as foils shouldn’t have even been in the book, and the author just missed on the ending. The middle of the book was really good with a lot of driving force. Let’s just say, I think the author has some skills, but he needs a good editor to make them shine. Here’s to looking forward.

4 stars out of 10

photo: wikipedia

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