Friday, October 23, 2015

Entanglements, by David Gerrold

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A writer gets a device that lets him examine alternate universes. (11,737 words; Time: 39m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ Average
Recommended By: SFRevu:5 SFEP

"," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 05-06|15, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"

(from Maud Muller, by John Greenleaf Whittier)
Pro: The writing is excellent, and often very funny. Lots of the jokes are quite subtle, so it merits close reading. The conclusion--that his choices over time are what has made him who he is, and that he's proud of who he is and what he can do--is satisfactory, albeit predictable.

Much of the material seems to be autobiographical (possibly exaggerated for comic effect), so it should be especially attractive to those interested in the author.

Con: The story doesn't really get going until he starts playing with the quantum empathizer, and by then you're almost 60% of the way through it. To the extent that this stuff is memoir, it isn't SF. To the extent that it's not memoir, it distracts from the story.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 05-06|15)
David Gerrold Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

11 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I agree with this mini-review and Lois Tilton's review. The story would be a fun read for people who have read Gerrold's books, know a bit about his life (through The Martian Child) and want to know more, but I think it might be a bit of a slog for non-fans.

  2. Firstly - thank-you for providing the link to the free copy of Entanglements. That was most helpful.

    I read your review and Locus review by Lois Tilton. Both were pretty similar.

    While I wish the author had started using the device earlier and spent more time exploring more of his alternate lives, I still though this was a good genre story. The character who gave him the device dresses suspiciously like Dr Who (not a specific Dr Who but a mixture of 3 or 4 that come to mind).

    It could have done with less minor sub-plots, like the story writing he could not get on with.

    If anything, the reader probably needs to be at least a minor Star Trek fan to really appreciate this story. I am a long-time Star Trek fan.

    It is a good "SF with comedy" story. I think this deserves a 4 imo.

    1. The way we're reviewing stories, "loose ends" are okay in a 3 but they count against a 4. Since this story is mostly loose ends, there's no way it can be a 4 in our rating scheme. That doesn't mean it can't be enjoyable, of course. Our 3s encompass most published stories, and they range in quality from enjoyable to endurable.

    2. Thanks for pointing out the Dr Who reference. I know little about the doctor and I wondered if there was more to the Pesky Dan Goodman character.

      The one part of the story that resonated with me was the bit where he says "And the one who was married—all the ones who were married.
      Yes, I envied them. Who wouldn’t? And if I could ask them, I’m sure
      they’d say they were happy. They probably were. I wished I was that
      happy too." It has extra meaning for readers who know Gerrold is gay, because many gay people, especially of his era, gave up the dream of getting married and having children, and wonder what life would have been like if they had been straight.

    3. I haven't read "Entanglements" (yet!), but I'm intrigued to hear that your grasing system is as strict as you're describing here. What would you do with, for example, "Magic for Beginners, " by Kelly Link? That's a brilliant story that's pretty much a symphony of loose ends. :-)

      (That being said, I *definitely* see how a rubric would help when you're reviewing such an immense volume of material!)

    4. I haven't read "Magic for Beginners," but a lot of what seem like loose ends can end up being important to the story. With any criterion, I try to give the story as much benefit of the doubt as possible, so unless I finish the story saying "Wait! What about X? What about Y?" or find myself in the middle repeatedly muttering "why are you telling me this?" then I don't ding a story for having loose ends. Loose ends are things you could cut from the story and materially improve it in the process. A lot of things that might seem like loose ends turn out not to be when you think through what happens if you remove them.

      I mainly use the rules as a way to articulate what I liked or didn't like about a story. I almost always know how good the story was as soon as I finish it, but the rules give me a way to talk about why I liked it. Occasionally the rules help me realize I was overenthusiastic about a story. (A story can be fun and still not be award-worthy.) And when I find a great story that breaks my rules, I stop to see if I need to rethink them. (I've done that twice so far.)

      Finally, different people like different things in stories. That's why we include ratings from four other reviewers. Our system is a little different from what others use, and that's a good thing. There would be no point in exactly duplicating another reviewer.

    5. Ah, cool. I've really been enjoying reading your reviews so far (particularly the ones for stuff I've read - or was persuaded to read by your review), and hearing you're not bound by the rubric is good to know. :)

      If you want to dip into Magic For Beginners, it's archived over here. I'd recommend it just because I don't think it can possibly fit into any rubric I can imagine, so I'd be curious to hear your response :) It won the 2005 Nebula and was a Hugo nominee. If you're interested in some discussion of it, Abigail Nussbaum has a nice piece on the story.

    6. It's a fun story, but is it really an SFF story at all? There's no actual magic in the story at all.

      The voice of Jeremy (and all the little things he considers) is the best part of the story, of course. There's something to make you laugh every couple of paragraphs.

      As far as the story arc goes, one could argue that Jeremy very much wanted to be a part of the TV show, and at the end of it, he believes that he has done so. (On the other hand, one could also argue that Jeremy died of a brain tumor and that the narrator is his grieving father.)

      It would definitely be a hard story to rank, that's for sure.

    7. Well, it's got an impossible, fantastical TV show, and an increasing blurring of the boundaries between the TV show and Jeremy's reality. Seems fantastical to me!

      I think Nussbaum has it right when she describes the story as more surrealism than fantasy. At the same time, there's this constant sense that it could be coherent, that if you just understood enough then everything would make sense - I don't know. It's definitely unique.

      Anyway, glad you enjoyed :)

  3. A 3 range from enjoyable to endurable - That explains a few of the 3's I've read that were closer to a 2 (but I didn't quibble over the rating as it was close enough).

    Can you please identify a "loose end" ?

    1. Sure. A loose end is anything the story introduces that ends up unrelated to the conclusion. If the book makes a point of telling us that the hero keeps a loaded gun under the bed, but the gun never gets mentioned again (much less used), then that's a loose end. A story can be fun and still have loose ends, but stories with very few loose ends really rock--even if it's not obvious that that's why they rock.