2014 is going to be the year to read lots of new authors. Robert Adams was on my TBR pile since I can remember. Now was the time. Finally.
Having not read his previous work, I was just plain flabbergasted by this novel’s technical expertise.
The brain surely works in mysterious ways. While reading it, I kept thinking about Arthur C. Clarke. The same kind of narrative wonder is on display here. Unfortunately some problems make the novel less than totally enjoyable (see “Things that I did not like” below).
I sense that for Adam Roberts a lot of the appeal of science fiction isn't exactly in the science. It's in something that makes a leap. Like Asimov he seems to be fascinated by whodunits; in the SF field there are not many writers who have tried this approach, ie, to be able to devise clever whodunits set in a SF world. This novel is a clear signal of that. And it’s a quite clever whodunit.
Readers of a more traditional type of SF must look elsewhere. Adam likes to play with words and metaphors, which is something that’s not present in everyday-SF. Like Christopher Priest, Adam Roberts also tries to make a kind of rupture. To achieve that via conceptual jumps out of what we're familiar with is quite difficult. For me good SF must have the ability to estrange, and to make new. That’s what distinguished good from bad SF.
Also a very strong plus are the numerous interior illustrations by Mahendra Singh. It’s not easy to convey, at the same time, a sense of being both vintage and futuristic.
Drawing another parallel with “The Adjacent”, which can be clearly identified as SF, “Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea” is not like anything you’ve ever read. It also seems to be traditional SF, but underneath it’s something else.
The things that I really liked: (1) the way the classical works of SF are used as a basis for the narrative; (2) the literary techniques
Things that I did not like: (1) some decisions seemed to lack internal justification, eg, why did the submarine on its maiden voyage took a 500-feet dive? (2) The crew seemed to be ill-prepared for the problems that arose.
If you put a five people in a room and they all read this book there would more than likely be five different interpretations of events. Adam Roberts manages to touch upon everything from politics and religion to the quest for ultimate knowledge and multi-verse theory. This is my type of story, when different readers will each take something different away from it.