Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book Review: Nor Crystal Tears

Today has been a pretty big SF day for me, I started the day by watching the newest Doctor Who special: The Waters of Mars (excellent), followed it up this afternoon by watching the Spanish time-travel thriller Timecrimes (intriguing) and now I'm reviewing one of my favourite SF novels focusing on first contact between alien species - Nor Crystal Tears, by Alan Dean Foster.

A big part of what I love about this book is the fact that the main character, Ryo (an insectoid alien called a Thranx), is going through the process of handling a first contact situation with humans, so we get to see ourselves through the eyes of others. There is a similar feel in the William Golding novel The Inheritors (Neanderthal meeting Cro-magnum), and in Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity (tiny little caterpillar-like aliens doing a rescue mission for humans), but this book gives us half of the novel with just the aliens before the humans even appear.

The main character is an agricultural expert who is thrust into the situation involving first contact with a new and bizarre race, and although he is basically a giant Preying Mantis, I actually find him quite relatable. With the trend inn SF focusing on darker and more gritty stories, the simplicity and wonder involved in this story are like a breath of fresh air for me.

Alan Dean Foster (pictured right) has for me, mostly been the guy who wrote the novelization of many of my favourite films (Alien, Star Trek, Tranformers) so I was a little nervous when I first came across this story, but honestly, I can't think of a better way to take a look at ourselves as a species than through the eyes of a very remarkable alien.


  1. I'm all befuddled now... I can't think of a single thing in Waters of Mars to make me not want that 45 minutes of my life back. Enlighten me?

  2. Since the reboot of Doctor who in 2005, my wife and I have been wondering, If the doctor is the only Time Lord left, why is he still following the rules? The episode "Father's Day" showed us why a companion couldn't break the rules, but why not him? Also, I kind of like when our hero gets too big for his britches - his character flaw makes him more relatable.

    So there you go.

  3. There's no reason why he can't break the rules, but there are plenty of reasons why he shouldn't and he knows that better than anyone.

    But anyway, nothing HAPPENED. They set all of that up even though he knew perfectly well he should have left, but the fact that he broke the rules didn't MEAN anything. He realized he was wrong and stopped before he did anything interesting. If you're going to go there, GO there. It would've been awesome, and a new story we haven't seen before. But they didn't go anywhere.

    That wasn't the problem I had with it though... The writing was awful. There are scary monsters that we see for like five minutes that totally fail to be scary, and then this random "Doctor falls in love with chick because she's doomed" thing, which I think is more a function of them having this messed up co-dependent Doctor who can't function on his own than them trying to write a story, because it was really random and didn't fit.

    I don't have any exact examples of the terrible writing I speak of, but nothing in the episode rang true for me. It was so obviously WRITING that I couldn't get lost in the story.

    Like I said in the e-mail I just sent, I'm a fan of the old series, and I'd rather watch those than the new ones any day, so I may be starting out with a bias. I love MY Doctor and I don't feel like this new Doctor has the same personality and set of values that the old ones did. That's fine, I'd like to see some new stories and whatnot, but I think they could do that, and even have him get too big for his britches as you say, without compromising the integrity of a magnificent character.

    I think I've been ranting even though I said I wouldn't...