Monday, September 27, 2010

"Far-Seer" by Robert J. Sawyer

I'm not going to lie: I picked this book up because of its cover. A dinosaur, holding a telescope? That's got to be good reading.

Suffice to say, "Far-Seer"--in which a race of intelligent saurians called Quintaglios do various intelligent things--was a book of suitable extremes. On the one hand, there were some awesome dinosaur fights, and the world Sawyer has created in this book is, though simple, immaculate and gratifying. It follows a "quest" or adventure style which is readable, exciting, and driven.

On the other hand, there was really awful, close-minded, dirty-nasty-filthy philosophizing. The protagonist of Far-Seer is the Quintaglio analogue of Galileo, and Sawyer makes sure we get the message that we live in a world where the empirical is the exclusive arbiter of Almighty Truth. I get rubbed the wrong way whenever anyone thinks anything they believe is Absolutely Correct; but I get especially annoyed when folks dish on religion--as Sawyer does repeatedly in Far-Seer.

It's weird: I enjoyed reading "Starship Troopers" despite Heinlein's militarism, which, much like Sawyer's scientificalism, ran counter to my own beliefs. But Heinlein, at least, was eloquent enough to make me understand his argument and see it in a pleasing light--both philosophically and narratively. Conversely, Sawyer's constant stroking of the scientific ego, and his shameless denigration of religion and religious people, was not just against my personal grain: it was prose written so lamely not even a mother could love it. To wit: "Quintaglios are rational beings. Perhaps there was a time, in the distant past, when we needed a God. But not in these enlightened days. Not now. Not anymore."

Ugh. I'm not a religious person, but antireligious people are the only folks I bother to dislike.

Still, it was a good enough story, at least when it stayed away from the headier subjects; Sawyer's a great yarn-spinner, and the book really kept me going. Ultimately, much like the homophobic Orson Scott Card, I won't actually blacklist Sawyer just because I disagree with him. It's funny how a quality story--which, in the end, is what Sawyer delivers--can overcome such pithy and pointless things as beliefs and opinions.



  1. Are all the characters dinosaurs then? That would be a challenge in and of itself, I believe.

  2. A synopsis of the book, then:

  3. @David: Hahaha. It is agreed.

    @Nick: The characters ARE all dinosaurs, although they are basically not really dinosaurs at all, just metaphorical humans. Oh, sure, Sawyer's got all the anatomy bits and pieces down, which is admirable, but there is the sentiment: "Even DINOSAURS know science!"

    I'll repeat, though, that dino-battles were awesome.