Review: Fallen Angels

Fallen Angels - Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Michael Flynn

This book was ok, but it didn’t really grab me and keep me interested throughout the entire book.  The premise is that, instead of the global warming that most people predicted, Earth entered into an ice age.  Everybody’s attempts to "go green" and limit pollution actually helped hasten that ice age.  The book is very U.S.-centric and we don’t really learn what’s going on in the rest of the world but, in the U.S., there’s a glacier moving its way across the U.S.  People are cold, resources are limited, and, oddly enough, science is taboo so people aren’t able to find ways to improve things.  Even science fiction fans are persecuted, and possessing science fiction paraphernalia can get you arrested.

There are a group of people still living in space stations orbiting earth from before NASA was shut down.  These people periodically send scoopships into Earth’s atmosphere to collect gasses that they need, and people from Earth try to shoot them down.  The book starts off with two men flying a scoopship and getting shot down.  Closet science fiction fans try to find them and get them somewhere safe before the government finds them.

This book I guess was written largely for people who are more involved with, or at least familiar with, the “fandom” scene.  The science fiction fans were the heroes of the story and some of them were as over-the-top as one would expect based on stereotypes of fandom culture.  I learned all sorts of new terms and acronyms such as fafiated, gafiated, FIAWOL, and FIJAGH.  Since I’ve never been to a convention and don’t really participate in any of that, this stuff often dragged me out of the story.  There was a constant barrage of it.  However, most of the terms were easy enough to understand within their context and others were explained.  The two men from the space station, one of whom was born in space and the other of whom had left Earth with his parents as a very young child, were unfamiliar with fandom so they served as an excuse for the authors to explain things to the uninitiated reader.

Some parts of the story held my interest well, and other parts bored me.  There were some very funny parts in the book that made me laugh out loud.  Sometimes I was drawn into the story, but I was never really drawn into caring about the characters.  I never felt that concerned about what happened to them, and sometimes I was annoyed by them.  I also wish we’d been told more about the space stations -- how they were established, what their original intent was, whether they had ever attempted to reach any agreement with people on Earth, etc.  They were never really explained in detail, aside from occasional snippets about what life was like on them as told by the characters who were from the space stations.  

My e-book edition of this book also had a LOT of errors.  Spelling errors, grammatical errors, punctuation errors, you name it – more errors than I’ve ever seen in a book published by a traditional publisher (Baen).  And there, were commas, in really, weird, places.  Everywhere, commas.  In, places where they, made no sense.  The book was originally published in 1991 (and it showed its age more than some older books I’ve read), so perhaps the e-book was created using OCR and various spots on the page were read in as commas?  Or maybe it was supposed to be some sort of a homage to William Shatner’s delivery method as Kirk in the original Star Trek series.  I have no idea, but it was annoying.

In any case I found some enjoyment in the book and I’ve certainly read worse books, but I was happy to reach the end of it so I could move onto something else.