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The Metalmark Contract by David Batchelor

The Metalmark Contract

by David Batchelor

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This review was written by the author.
I am the author. The Metalmark Contract was partly inspired by Childhood's End, by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, and partly by "The Talking Stone" by Isaac Asimov. I was also influenced by "The Swarm," a story by Bruce Sterling. You may find reviews at http://t.co/I84t38U
  DavidAllenBatchelor | Aug 8, 2011 |
Now although it might not seem it to anyone who reads this blog, but I generally don't read books set in our world. I don't tend to enjoy them as much as those set in different ones. But occasionally there is one such book that I really enjoy. This is one of them. But before you read any further, I have a warning. This seems to be the first in a duology/trilogy/series/something. I didn't realise this, and it doesn't seem to say anywhere online or on the book except for the words "End of Book One" after the end of the narrative. Because I didn't realise this, I was a little disappointed when the story didn't reach it's full conclusion.

Actually, the ending seemed a little anticlimactic. The pinnacle of the agreement was reached, when the eponymous character Metalmark was using Mercury as per the Contract, which was quite exciting. And then there was a court case, which was in comparison done quickly and didn't really seem to add anything to the book. Which disappointed me.

But the rest of the plot was very interesting. A lot of the ideas, which I don't really want to talk about as they would be spoilers, were fascinating or perceptive. They range from political opinions of the contract to the scientific ideas of how Metalmark and his technologies worked and existed. They were quite fascinating. But as in any book that I give merit to, the characters were the highlight of the book. For me, in particular, the best characters were Metalmark himself, the "Taikonaut" Liu Xueli and Pres. Jackson. I also liked Dr. Steve Simmons before he got a job with Metalmark - afterwards I felt his relationships developed a bit too quickly, unless I misunderstood the timescale.

I was particularly fascinated with Liu Xueli and her position as a Taikonaut. (Chinese Astronaut, I'm not sure if this is set in an alternative present or a few years in the future - I went with the latter in my mind). At first I didn't like her, but once I realised how deceptive she could be I started to like her more, and with every scene I seemed to like her more. I would have to say that she was probably my favourite Character, although Metalmark did come close.

The main problems that I had with the book were mainly formatting and narrative problems. Such as websites being underlined as if they were an actual link. Some of them anyway - some weren't, which makes me suspect that this is something from a word processor rather than an intention.The first is one that I seem to have found in quite a few books in the last couple of weeks, and that is the use of parentheses. I find that it breaks the flow of narrative or dialogue, and although I found their use somewhat appropriate on one occasion, it still made me withdraw from the sense of being "in the book". The other thing that I found hard to read was the abbreviations. Things like Sec. Jen. and Pres. I found to be non-conducive to easy reading. I felt that it was unnecessary and that the full titles would have worked a lot better. Especially at the start of the book when I had to remember what they all meant. The same was true of acronyms, NASA, CIA, UN are all recognisable worldwide, but EPA, ESA, and a few others are less clear.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and many of the ideas it contains. The abbreviations and acronyms annoyed me a bit, but not so much that I didn't enjoy the book. It ended weakly, but hopefully that will be resolved in the sequel. But the majority of the book was very good, with an admittedly large cast containing some great characters. I Look forwards to the sequel. ( )
  AdamBourke | Jun 15, 2011 |
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Dedicated to the memory of Geneva Jackson Nethercutt, my grandmother, who opened the world of books and knowledge to her daughter, grandchildren, and great-granddaughter.

Thanks to friends and family who enjoyed earlier versions of the book and gave helpful comments.

And special thanks to my wife Laurie for her dedicated help with the editing, and for her love and support.
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The Sun was too bright for any human eye to watch the arrival of the forerunner that day, the day that changed history from the thread of one species on one planet of one star into the twine of two species strung on planets like gems on a necklace of space-time.
Metalmark is the voice of a thousand crystal butterflies singing. - Steve Simmons
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Science fiction
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