Bewildering Stories

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Book Review:
Ken MacLeod, Learning The World:

by Jerry Wright

Learning The World
Author: Ken MacLeod
Publisher: TOR
Paperback: 364 pages
Price: $7.99
Ken MacLeod is an uncommonly sharp writer*. His new novel Learning The World has flavors of Iain Banks' "Culture" novels, Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky and perhaps even a bit of Heinlein and Panshin. The primary characters are a girl named Atomic Discourse Gale, a teenager on a naftl (nearly as fast as light) generation ship, and Darvin, an "alien space bat" (as it were) on the second planet of what the human travelers from the "Civil Worlds" call "The Destiny Star".

Although my copy of the book calls it "A Scientific Romance" (for no readily apparent reason) several reviewers comment that their books were subtitled "A Novel of First Contact", which makes more sense. Y'see, even though the Earth descended humans have been been exploring the galaxy for millenia, they've never run across intelligent life. Which makes the discovery of the bat-people of "Ground" a shocker. As you read the book, the Chiropterae (or humans as they consider themselves) are drawn as likeable people who keep and attack prey animals and use the almost intelligent "trudges" as slaves.

There are some long rambling discourses from both the star-travelers and the bat-guys that occasionally seem a bit heavy-handed, but for the most part, Learning The World was an enjoyable read that kept my interest. The actual interplay between human and other really didn't occur until rather late in the book, which was a bit of a disappointment, but the novel kept my interest all the way through, and I even felt a shiver when McLeod purposely channeled Robert Heinlein.

McLeod is a Hugo finalist and winner of his third Prometheus Award for this novel. Get it and read it. You won't be sorry.

* (The paperback cover echoes a Kirkus review assuring us of that...)

Copyright © 2006 Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

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