Recent Reads: The Continuing Time
A few years ago Daniel Keys Moran published the fourth book of the Continuing Time, after a nearly 20 year hiatus. I went and bought an e-reader so I could read THE BIG BOOST, and bought the other three books in e-copy so I could read them all one after another. I enjoyed the experience quite a lot, honestly, which was lovely.
Anyway, in early September, during my media blackout month, I wanted something to read, and one of the things about me when I’m writing is that I can’t easily read new fiction. So I saw the Continuing Time books on my e-reader and thought “okay sure, I’ll read one of those” and then somewhat to my surprise re-read all four of them in a few days.
EMERALD EYES stood up better to a third reading than it did to a second, perhaps because I knew/remembered more clearly how it fit into the whole world’s structure. The second reading of it a few years ago left me kind of feeling like it was All Prequel, No Story; this time it felt a bit more like it–well, like it stood on its own, although actually I think what it did was fit into the whole more powerfully because I had a clearer memory of how it did.
THE LONG RUN remains one of my favourite books ever, and by itself puts the Continuing Time on my Desert Island Books. It also helped form some of my personal philosophy, namely and specifically killing is wrong, which is main-character Trent’s bottom line and which (despite the fact that I’m still a meat-eater) I can’t find fault with. I was surprised, re-reading THE LONG RUN this time, how relatively short it is; the 3rd book, THE LAST DANCER, is nearly (maybe equally) as long as the other 3 books put together. Anyway, it also happened that THE LONG RUN was published 25 years ago in September, which DKM wrote about extensively last month. I don’t know that his commentary brought anything new to the forefront for me, but it was interesting to read and–the excerpt from the novella by 18-year-old DKM that eventually became THE LONG RUN ties in to commentary I have on THE BIG BOOST, so I’ll get to that in a moment…
I like THE LAST DANCER more than the author does, perhaps because it was the first of his books that I read, perhaps because although the main character, Denise, is generally described as reactionary rather than proactionary (I just made that word up), I don’t…really find her to be passive. Even reading the book knowing that other people object to her as passive, I don’t see her that way. I think she has (as the kids like to say these days) agency, and while it’s true there are probably several places where she could move more decisively, at the same time, this is a character who has spent her entire life in hiding. The fact that she even *wants* to act, given the potential consequences for her, is pretty impressive. So I’ve got a fair amount of sympathy for the character.
Also, the scene between her and JohnnyJohnny is heartbreaking.
I also very much like the other storyline in THE LAST DANCER, which delves into the history/future of the Continuing Time universe. It happens to be peopled by characters who are almost all dickheads, to the point that the least dickheady of them comes out looking like quite a decent bloke, but I think that’s a pretty good trick for a writer to pull off. The way that character and his nemesis evolve are nicely done, although–even with as much back story as there is, I still want more. In some ways, TLD is my favourite of the Continuing Time, *because* of the back story and my desire to know more.
Then we come to THE BIG BOOST, which–doesn’t disappoint. When you’ve waited eighteen years for a book and it doesn’t disappoint, it’s really done something right. It returns to Trent as the main character, and here’s the thing about the excerpted novella from a writer 30+ years younger than the one who wrote THE BIG BOOST:
The excerpt is deadly close to that same scene in the published version of THE LONG RUN. And THE BIG BOOST, thirty years later–it’s written by the same guy. There’s no significant change in the voice, there’s no altered characterisations. I’m not talking about polishing, improving; anybody improves over thirty years if they keep doing something, even sporadically. I’m talking about the bones and the soul: they’re the same. And I really think that was probably my greatest concern, with a 20 year lapse between books 3 and 4: that the Continuing Time’s spirit would change.
But it didn’t, and with a space of a few years between reading THE BIG BOOST and re-reading it, with the EMERALD EYES story fitting in better to my perception of the canon, I can appreciate that even more. When I read THE BIG BOOST originally I desperately wanted to like it; re-reading it confirms it’s worth liking. If it suffers from something, it’s that it wants the rest of the AI Wars: it’s a bit like the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which, as a friend of mine said, ONLY NEEDED THE REST OF THE MOVIE to be great. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie didn’t come out until the 3rd film… :)
Anyway, it was a good enjoyable re-read and I’m glad the urge struck me.