I decided I wouldn't read any new Robinson unless I knew it wasn't going to be like that, and supergee reassured me that _Variable Star_ didn't have sadistic stuff.
He was right, but I neglected to ask about all the other things I might not like.
I thought the first two thirds of the book were pretty much ok, but I hated the end so much that I can't remember what I liked about them.
The description of meditation is pretty good, but in retrospect, it's flawed by something that's wrong with the whole book. Too much good happens to the main character. If you're so fucked up that your friends have to drag you to a therapist, doing an hour each of meditation and exercise per day as prescribed isn't going to be that easy.
A question: I'm not sure that Jinny not telling Joel about her family right off was that awful a thing to do. What do you think?
Sidetrack: If you're interested in the art described in the meditation section, go to Alex Grey's website.
The puns: Some people have criticized them as un-Heinleinian. That didn't bother me, but I think Robinson poisons his pun sequences by going on about how smart the characters who do puns are.
The relationship to the real world and the future history: Oddly enough, the part about 9/11 didn't bother me. What did bother me was the implication that Scudder's regime was worldwide. One of the good bits in _"If This Goes On--"_ was the main character realizing that America was a backwater compared to Europe.
The world is destroyed by mysterious aliens. It didn't work for me emotionally, and I'm not sure why. Part of it may have been the "we're going to go after the aliens" bit, without the possibility left open (as in "Goldfish Bowl") that the aliens are simply out of our class, but I think there were other problems as well.
Imho, it was a mistake to just drop in that the aliens of _Between Planets_ were part of that universe. Two more inhabited planets, two more intelligent species destroyed, and no one even thinks about it?
The ending was utterly sporkworthy. Our hero isn't destroyed with the earth because he's on a colony ship. But the colony ship needs a mysticism drive, and there are only about half a dozen people on the ship who can indescribably run it. When enough of them are taken out of action, the ship is doomed to go on hopelessly for a few decades and then run out of supplies.
There was something about whether the ship could outrun the radiation from the sun going nova, too, but that has now faded into all the other fake suspense.
But, Jinny, her dad, her sister, and a flunky or two show up in a little experimental ftl ship which happened to be in the shadow of Ganymede or something. Everyone can be saved! But Joel is so smart he figures out that those wicked rich people just want to save him and abandon everyone else on the ship. He's also so smart he figures out that the ftl drive can move the whole space ship.
And there's an action sequence (more congratulations on smartness) in which some bad guys get killed.
And instead of the yucky Jinny, Joel ends up with the much superior younger sister--their ages are now in line because of time dilation.
Joel is just too damned lucky (I didn't mention that his money problems get solved when his ship comes in--iirc, no discussion of what happens to the ship's economy when Earth is gone) to be tolerable.
The thing is, even when I agree with Robinson (meditation is good, kids should be given more respect and courtesy than they generally get), I want to swat him.
So bad it's tempting to remove one's eyes with a spork. Kind of like Oedipus, but less so.