I’ve read a lot of these dimension-hopping novels, so I sort of surprised myself when I picked up Elsewhere. The plot is familiar, and so are the characters; in many ways it’s a good book to pick up when you don’t want to work your brain too hard.
Jeffy lives a life of quiet contentment with his precocious eleven-year -old daughter, Amity. Their near-idyllic life is torn apart when a vagrant Jeffy’s befriended turns out to be a renowned quantum physicist, who gives Jeffy the Key To Everything: a device that transports “passengers” to alternate realities.
Okay, first off, it’s a good book: engaging, well-written, with a light lyrical style which may have put it in the YA category if not for the over-the-top brutality of the main antagonist.
Then I split my writing between Scrivener (novels) and Ulysses (everything else).
But I’ve always had a slight problem with both of them: it was the markup.
Ulysses uses Markdown – or rather its own subset of Markdown. It can handle basics like bold and italics, and at punch, it does a fairly good job with stuff like footnotes (pretty useful if you’re writing academic papers). Table support has been a weak spot as old as Ulysses itself: it just can’t do ‘em, even though every other Markdown editor supports them. Still, most novels don’t need tables, so it’s hardly a dealbreaker if you’re writing the next great American novel. What’s important is that it saves your work in the Markdown format: it’s purely text-based so is portable, a good fit for collaborative work, and is great for version control systems.
On the other lawn, we have Scrivener, which stores everything in RTF format.
Now, the problem I have with RTF is probably just my own ageism: RTF is old. It’s the format Microsoft used for word processing when the world was a twinkle in the eye of the cosmos. Things have moved on; Microsoft certainly has. So while there is nothing lacking with RTF, I don’t like keeping stuff in a dead format, especially one that’s kind of … opaque.
This is an odd one, and when I started I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it. The book’s written as a collection of interviews, messages and conversations in Chinese restaurants. It begins with the discovery of an ancient alien weapon that’s been disassembled and buried in different locations across the globe. From discovery, we move quickly to assembly, but the trouble starts when the scientists and military try to make it work. …
Now, I’ve read a couple of books like this, and I haven’t always enjoyed them. Unless you can do it well, then comes across as a bit of a cop-out. Unless you can do it well, then it gets pretty tedious very quickly.
Luckily, the writer pretty much nails it. The whole book is dialogue basically, and it’s written so well that the scenes are set, the relationships defined and the suspense is … er … suspensed, all through these snippets of conversation. The characters are mostly believable, though I did feel that sometimes their behaviour came out of the blue, which demonstrates the problem with this kind of writing: because you’re getting parts of the story, you get the feeling that something’s developing in the background you might be missing. For example, I didn’t pick up that one one player had built such strong feelings for another he’d be driven to do something hideously out of character.
Still, the whole book shows great imagination and attention to detail, which makes it, like all good speculative fiction, strangely believable. A great combination of a quick read and an intensely readable page turner.