Guide Desolation Road: A Short Story

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But this one? It purports to be science fiction, but it's really just a bunch of magical hoo-hah: impossible and unreal. McDonald's writing is friendly and engaging, as are almost all of this characters, good and bad alike, but the February Not rated because I abandoned it halfway through. McDonald's writing is friendly and engaging, as are almost all of this characters, good and bad alike, but the story has nothing really to say I read this as a Nook book, and like so many ebooks, it's filled with typos and errors, more than enough to make reading it an unpleasant experience I feel ripped off by the publisher.

I simply cannot get over the contrast between Desolation Road and Dervish House. It is as if they were written by two different authors. May I recently finished McDonald's Luna: New Moon, another very good exercise in world building, and decided to give Desolation Road a second go.

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I mean, how could McDonald so grab my attention with his other SF novels, and yet so totally lose me with this one? Desolation Road deserved another chance. It still doesn't stand up. It's a trivial book with trivial characters and trivial observations. I give up.

Desolation Road (Desolation Road Universe, #1) by Ian McDonald

I've been trying to read this book all the way through since it came out, about twenty years ago. I've given it at least four college tries. My best try saw me to about page , whilst the try that I'm just now giving up only made it to page I have never so badly wanted to like a book that I just can't finish. First off, I love Ian McDonald.

Some of his books are among my all-time favorites. I love his mix of surrealism, poetry, and stream of consciousness with concise Okay.


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I love his mix of surrealism, poetry, and stream of consciousness with concise descriptions of scenes and events. Some of the language in Desolation Road is brilliant, just plain brilliant. So why can't I finish it? Why can't Desolation Road maintain my interest for more than a day at a time?

Desolation (Short Film)

I don't know. I can't figure it out. When I pick it up to read it, the book fascinates me. But when I put it down, I lose all desire to pick it up again.

It's a mystery I can't explain A little help? View all 3 comments. There are probably people who hear Bob Dylan songs and want to spend hours analyzing them, or writing their own songs. Ian McDonald may be the only person who heard "Desolation Row" and thought "Oh man, this song is begging for someone to write about this as if it were a real place on Mars! McDonald's first published novel and the first novel of his that I've read, which is strange si There are probably people who hear Bob Dylan songs and want to spend hours analyzing them, or writing their own songs.

McDonald's first published novel and the first novel of his that I've read, which is strange since he's fairly prolific and been nominated for several awards, which generally attracts me like mice to cheese I think I have "River of Gods" around somewhere, so there's that. Its set on a future Mars in a desert that's been terraformed, where a scientist named Dr Alimantando comes across a greenman who leads him to a device that allows him to convert the area around it to a livable oasis.

He names the town "Desolation Road" because "Lonelyville" isn't quite as catchy and sits back expecting to exist in complete solitude forever with only his own thoughts to keep him company. Except we've all seen "Gilmour Girls" and we know if there's one thing that adorably isolated small communities attract, its adorably quirky townsfolk. And before you can compose your Martian Stars Hollow fanfiction here they come rolling in!

Subway Literature: Ian McDonald’s Desolation Road

In fact, the first batch of chapters are basically explanations for how the various townsfolk arrived, mostly one at a time. In what people seem to interpret as an homage to Jack Vance, everyone has quirky names like Mr Jericho and Persis Tatterdemalion and equally strange backstories that sometimes sound like entries for some weird contest that no one bothered to give out an award to. The chapter are short, but each one introduces a new character, gives their cute backstory and then integrates them into the new town, just in time for us to admit a new person or persons to the family.

It makes for a very episodic read at first, and without any real plot forming you start to wonder if he's just going to parade an endless cast of people with funny names at you and strange characteristics he talks to machines! But just when you're about to start marking this off as tedious, it very gradually begins to gather some momentum. People start to grow old, start to die, new generations are born and they start to grow up and very slowly McDonald starts to expand the world these people live in and make it less hermetic.

People leave and we follow them for a bit on what they do outside the town and before long what some of the characters are doing outside the town begins to have an effect on everyone who stayed behind. For better or for worse, the characters start to become more than their names, although the writing style always seems to keep everyone at a slight distance.

Its not hard science and anyone expecting an early version of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy aren't going to find that level of detail here. Instead McDonald delves into a SF version of magical realism where getting the feel and mood right is more important than getting the science exactly right. A lot of it is just wacky enough that it fits right into everything the girl with the charmbursts, the guitar player who can make it rain, the woman who talks to gods but there are going to be moments when you want to flip back to the front cover and makes sure you're not reading some kind of Borges story.

Still, while its never relentless it may rub some people the wrong way if you're looking for a more realistic experience yes, I know, about future Mars. Fortunately it trends closer to more normal SF territory by including an evil corporation, a union strike that turns violent and at least two warring paramilitary groups. Some people who prefer the quieter early chapters that just about life on Desolation Road may not enjoy the later sections of the book as much when the laser guns come out and the body count starts to rise alarmingly high.

For me, it felt like the book was progressing toward something, an arc the story itself acknowledges toward the end as it becomes clear the book isn't about the characters so much as the life and death of the town itself. By this point the story has become more easier to digest as all the little threads that he's been populating the book in its multiple small chapters suddenly start coming to fruition or get cruelly snipped off.

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By the time we reach the end the tone has become elegiac and even a little sad, becoming the tale of a town's lifecycle but also about generations and how they survive and move and persist, how you can love where you live and leave where you came from and never want to go back, and how it still hurts even when it turns out you actually can't. Almost all of his characters make bad decisions and pay for it in one form or another but when you extend a life out long enough don't we all take that risk? Our chances of survival diminish the further out we go and while we only sometimes imagine that to pertain to our immediate selves, its more than that, its our homes, its the cities we live in, and where we look to either side of our worlds and see only eternity the truth is it came from somewhere and it'll go away, too.

Years ago I found myself walking to the next town over and found the street where I grew up, only to discover that the house had been knocked down and entirely replaced. Yet the memories still exist. And yet one day we won't even have those. And if the book is saying, hey, that's okay, that's what supposed to happen and everything is working like it should, whether its here or Mars or you or your parents or your descendants then all I can say is, fair enough.

Its not ideal, but as both the characters and us eventually find out, very little is. It makes its own peace and that's what stays with you. View 1 comment. Marvelous how all human strife and conflict was a symbolic enactment of loftier struggles between the Powers Cosmic so that every moment of the present was merely a fragment of the past repeating itself over and over again.

Desolation Road. Through a series of unlikely accidents, Dr. Alimantando and what an effort it must have been for Ian McDonald to type that name over and over, in the days before search-and-replace! McDonald's take on our fourth planet or something very much like our fourth planet, anyway is only one of many, of course—there was something of a glut of Mars novels in the s, in fact, of which this novel could be seen as a harbinger. McDonald squanders more inventiveness in a dozen pages of Desolation Road than most authors manage to pack into entire series. Every chapter, throughout at least the first half of the book, introduces at least one new character.

The only consistent feature is the town of Desolation Road itself, and even that grows and changes with each arrival of the Bethlehem Ares Railroad's fusion-powered trains. There are echoes of both Cordwainer Smith and K. Jeter , and perhaps also of the film Brazil in this version of the Red Planet as well. Beyond the ken of the mortals whose stories are told directly, great powers and principalities manipulate reality at the quantum level, their agents easily mistaken for angels and demons, wielding technologies indistinguishable from magic.

Despite or because of that, the human society of Ares is curiously archaic—an era of soi-disant "Industrial Feudalism. Buttery brass and polished leather fittings abound. If this novel isn't quite steampunk, it's certainly a nearby neighbor. Desolation Road was McDonald's first novel, published in , and in some ways it shows. His prose is florid, and often repetitive, scattering images and ideas with profligate disregard.

In latter years McDonald has become much more economical.