It’s been a while since we sat down with a cup of tea and a book. But I just finished Avenir Eclectia, with which some of you may be familiar, so I thought I’d share my observations.
It’s hard to review a book when its authors and editors are your friends. One always worries about ticking someone off. But I trust that the hardy Splashdown crew is up to my little critique.
On the whole, I enjoyed Avenir Eclectia. But it’s a hard book to read. I don’t mean in its sentences or vocabulary. I mean in its superstructure. It is an anthology of flash fiction, but many of the stories are serials. Yet instead of stringing each serial separately, the editors have interwoven them. So you spend a couple of pages with Ernsto, then you get yanked into Zana’s storyline, then into Reece’s, and by the time you get back to Ernsto you’ve almost forgotten where he was… The jumping back and forth is distracting, and kind of frustrating.
Novels do this kind of plot-switching all the time, so I tried to figure out why it bothered me so much here. I think there are two main factors. First, because each segment is so brief, the effect is more choppy than in a novel, where you might have eight or ten pages in Plot One before jumping to Plot Two. Second, the large number of serials going on at any one time goes beyond the number of subplots usually found in a novel of the same size, so there are more people, places, and perils to keep track of.
To absorb the full magnitude of this book, read it in as short a time frame as possible. That is the only way to keep the multiple storylines all in your head at the same time. The only problem with this approach is that when, at the start of a new serial installment, the writer reminds you what happened in the previous installment, it feels terribly clumsy. If you can’t read all at once, take notes. The scope of the setting is huge, and so is the cast.
Despite the large number of contributors, the quality of the writing is uniformly high. The tone is also remarkably consistent. The science is rock-solid and is included in a thorough and informative Appendix. Highly recommended for science fiction fans who appreciate having their brains exercised.
Additional stories in the same storyworld are posted to the Avenir Eclectia website.
The Avenir Eclectia soundtrack is pretty awesome, too, if you like electronica. Which I do.
Most of this review originally appeared on Goodreads. Apologies to those who’ve now seen it twice.