Review: Castoff World

Okay. Okay. Okay.

Welcome to December the 2nd, 2011.

I wrote this yesterday and promised a follow-up, so here we are again, again!

RNG results: Tone, Nitpicks, Content

Castoff World is a fairly predictable beast – a post-ecotastrophe story set on an automated garbage-collecting ship in the Pacific Ocean, occupied by a young girl and her grandfather (spoilers: the grandfather dies). There’s quite a lot going on in the background: the protagonist is stuck in the middle of the ocean because of some unspecified political upheaval back on dry land, there are roaming bands of pirates she has to hide from, the ship gradually gets smarter to the point where it actively takes care of her, ultimately depositing her back on land. Much of the exposition is handled by back-and-forth conversations between the child and the grandfather, which are filled to the brim with euphemism and the kind of deliberate baby-talk that some find touching and others find kitschy; I didn’t enjoy wading through them.

This, coupled with the very leisurely pace, made it difficult for me to feel anything as the story progressed. It certainly didn’t help that pretty much every element of the plot save the machine’s growing agency was so utterly predictable that I could probably have stopped reading a third of the way in and still been able to deliver a decent plot summary. Of course the grandfather gets sick and dies. Of course the girl gets reunited with human society. Of course there’s a final scene where an animal frequently associated with the girl’s deceased mother is prominently featured, because you can’t let the scientists be right all the time. Aiyah.

Nevertheless, I don’t mean to condemn it utterly – there are some nice moments of techno-speculation, especially improvised uses for high-tech plastics, and while the plot is ploddingly conventional, the themes are at least somewhat less so – yes it’s after the apocalypse, but at least the blame (as much as there is any blame at all) is laid at the feet of purely human matters rather than being apportioned to science and technology – indeed, technological progress is identified as the reason everything isn’t yet completely fucked.

At the end of the day I can’t say I dislike this story, but that’s mainly because I really don’t care about it – there’s nothing strong or clear enough in it to provoke a reaction of any sort in me.

Three and a half stars.

  • reviews to date: 1
  • average score: 3.5

The next one will probably be up some time two years from now. Don’t hold the line.

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