Vintage David Brin – All new to me

It has been too long since I’ve been able to update! Contract work has a way of taking over one’s life, however I am back with something a little unusual. I have always considered myself a David Brin fan, but discovered last week that there are quite a few of his books that haven’t crossed my path. I downloaded “The Practice Effect” thinking it was a new book only to realise that this little gem must have been one of his first books. The copyright states 1984, the same time the Uplift Saga appeared. (perhaps to ride on the coat tails of that famous series?)

The story revolves around Dennis Nuel, a physicist researching zievatronics, groundbreaking technology that allows mankind to visit parallel worlds. We meet him 6 months after his mentor died and he was ousted from the project by the new director. Things get interesting when they offer him his job back, with a tiny little catch of course. The zievatron machine has stopped functioning and Dennis will have to go to the parallel world to make repairs. How can he refuse?

This is a light hearted story that takes a look at what happens when one of the natural laws as we know them are reversed. I particularly liked the fact that Brin also explores the socio-economic impact and implications of this reversal. Brin pokes fun at everything and from some of the other reviews I read, it’s even funnier if you have a decent understanding of physics. Unfortunately I don’t do math, so might have missed out on some of the humour, but found the book very entertaining regardless.

What intrigued me more was the opportunity so see the changes in Brin’s writing style from this early book to the epic stories he is known for. Most noticeable was the lack of depth to the characters and although likeable they still seemed a little see-through. The same problem crops up in places with the story layout. I found the switch from a single person to multi person view halfway through a bit jarring and the plot seemed a bit familiar at times. That aside, The Practice Effect is a fun ride and if you’re a Brin fan, definitely worth adding to your bookshelf.

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