Walter Jon Williams
Night Shade Books, 2008
The blurb on the back of Implied Spaces by S.M. Stirling encapsulates the style of the novel best by calling it a “Sword and Singularity” novel. It’s sci-fi sure, but it is adventure sci-fi that isn’t afraid to borrow some conventions from the fantasy genre in its pursuit of fun. The plot follows Aristride, a former scientist turned swordsmen/poet, and his companion Bitsy (a cat who happens to be the avatar of a powerful AI) as they try to stop the machinations of something called Vindex while attempting to unravel the mystery behind both its purpose and identity..
While I’m all for the ripping adventure yarn Implied Spaces mentions a number of interesting ideas but fails to capitalize on them in a meaningful way. The title itself, the implied spaces, are what Aristride calls squinches; what are essentially objects that are the by-product, rather than the result of, a specific intent. An idea which is explained in Chapter 4 of the book but never really touched on in any explicit way until the books final pages. Williams also touches on the existential crisis as it pertains to both humans and artificial intelligences but offers no answers and doesn’t dwell long other than to mention it in passing. Both topics could have made for a much meatier novel but seem to have been left by the wayside in favor of a stronger focus on the action.
The book does occasionally suffers from an over abundance of dialogue tags that make some sections particularly difficult to read. Most notable being the exchanges between Daljit, Aristride, and Bitsy in Chapters 4 and 5. It is strange however, dialogue ranges from the well crafted to those strangely frequent uses of both “said” and “asked” that the book takes on a curious uneven feeling. For a more sparkling discourse on why dialogue tags can be a problem check out The Toasted Scimtar’s post about the issue (on saidisms in general not related to Implied Spaces).
Williams makes sure not to take himself too seriously. There is even a chapter long exposition by the villain dictated to Aristride that had me thinking of Bond; a fact mentioned by Aristride himself as soon as he was able to get a word in edgewise. Williams evens goes so far as to refer to genre material in the novel itself mentioning both the the asimov principles and the vingean singularity.
From things like the zombie plague to Aristride’s constant use of poetry to encapsulate his memories of things the book nails the sense of fun necessary to create a worthwhile adventure story.
Unfortunately as exciting and entertaining as the novel was the climax comes much too early and much of the novel’s final quarter feels boring as a result. This is compounded by the final revelations about the nature of our universe. Revelations that would have made for some deeply interesting reading had the by further examined towards the end of the novel. Instead the revelations serve as minor footnote, an impetus for the villain’s actions, with little overall impact on the plot of the novel itself. If said revelations are expounded upon in further fiction buy Mr. William I would certainly be interested in reading about them.
In the end the exciting opening chapters and entertaining middle still manage to outweigh the lackluster final chapters leading to what amounts to entertaining, if not instantly classic, read. Recommended, with reservations.