The Garden of Eden by Martin Westlake


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Post February 20, 2012, 03:07:27 PM

The Garden of Eden by Martin Westlake

The start of this story is excellent. There is some great technique here. The author gives just enough information to allow the reader to fill in the blanks. He could have been sidetracked by infodumps. For example, instead of outright saying people have telepathy, he cleverly weaves it into the story:
For a start, we couldn't access him completely and we didn't know whether this was in his basic design or whether he was somehow deliberately able to block us out. Before the voyage, back in China, we had repeatedly tried to converse with him, but his mind was somehow able to throw up a wall of static which we couldn't penetrate.


Another example is when he mentions radiation levels and the forbidden capitals. We have in our mind a dying world. It’s not pertinent to the story what exactly happened, but get enough to understand the reason they’re in space.

However, any technique taken too far can be bad, and that happens here. There’s a fine line between giving too much information and not enough. In the former, you bore your reader. In the latter, you have them thinking too much.

I needed more backstory for Goli in order to empathize with him. His death would have touched me more if I understood him better. Here’s a case where less is not more.

Another instance is the following:
Worse still, 'pathy couldn't work in a vacuum, so we had to switch to old-fashioned radio connections. We couldn't even have a proper conversation.


I thought, “Well, why wouldn’t telepathy work? Does it have a physical component instead of being pure energy? Is it like a sound wave, something our brains can attune to as it propagates through a physical medium? That’s an interesting concept. I’m not sure how electrical signals can somehow become sound waves, but...”

And then I realized I wasn’t reading the story anymore. If you’re genre is science fiction, you’d better be careful about skimping on the science. Your audience should like science, so gaps like that will distract them.

Finally, the biblical allusions were interesting, if a bit of an olio. I think the author could have done a better job of tying it to a specific theme instead of just alluding to various names from the Bible (e.g., Noah, Ark, Davi, Goli, Eden).
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Post February 20, 2012, 04:57:02 PM

Re: The Garden of Eden by Martin Westlake

Jaimie wrote:The start of this story is excellent. There is some great technique here. The author gives just enough information to allow the reader to fill in the blanks. He could have been sidetracked by infodumps. For example, instead of outright saying people have telepathy, he cleverly weaves it into the story:

Another example is when he mentions radiation levels and the forbidden capitals. We have in our mind a dying world. It’s not pertinent to the story what exactly happened, but get enough to understand the reason they’re in space.

However, any technique taken too far can be bad, and that happens here. There’s a fine line between giving too much information and not enough. In the former, you bore your reader. In the latter, you have them thinking too much.

Wow, that is some deep assessments, Jaimie. I'm learning a lot from reading your critques!

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Post February 24, 2012, 03:12:36 PM

Re: The Garden of Eden by Martin Westlake

The first paragraph had enough to ‘wake-up’ one’s attention. Good intro.

In this story, interior monologue gave us the thoughts and feelings of an
imaginative astronaut, the perils, the sense of mission, and his self-awareness.
This story might be Sci-Fi, but it could have been set in the old American West during covered-wagon days. Or on board a ship, or even as an adventurer in Africa.

The question of ‘do we want to live forever?’ is touched on briefly as it has been for many a century. Goli and the protagonist’s re-incarnation seem to be some shell in which their minds are transferred to, after the old shell is no longer of use.

I find it hard to believe that Goli’s helmet cracked when hit by an arm-thrown-pebble! Very hard. Unless the pebble had some innate energy that was released by it being thrown.

In essence, it was a very nice first person told story capturing the thoughts and feelings of a future astronaut, his mission, his environment and his time and place in a future society that, like ours, can’t be trusted!

good job!
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Post February 24, 2012, 03:52:03 PM

Re: The Garden of Eden by Martin Westlake

Megawatts wrote:...I find it hard to believe that Goli’s helmet cracked when hit by an arm-thrown-pebble! Very hard. Unless the pebble had some innate energy that was released by it being thrown....


Obviously, it was a bad batch (like the first batch of bat-headpieces in Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" that shattered when struck lightly with a hammer). Or perhaps Goli had sabotaged his own equipment to improve his chances of dying when he provoked the narrator into acting in self-defense... loosening valves and seals, treating the faceplate with acid or other agents to weaken the material.
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Post March 13, 2012, 11:38:29 AM

Re: The Garden of Eden by Martin Westlake

What I really look for in a Sci-fi story is its ability to smart me up instead of dumb me down. This story allowed me to learn to see details of space exploration in a new way. From the powdery substance on the planemo and its vertigo inducing starscape, it allows the reader to trudge along through laborious mission seeing what they are seeing.
The author doesn’t take time to explain concepts that have been developed within the last decade – jumping bodies, sentient starships, and ‘acclimatise to consciousness’. This gives the reader the responsibility/opportunity to explore new ideas if they need to.

I like the building of suspense – “I’ve found a file but I can’t open it.” “Don’t look, but there is green glow over there.”

The characters obviously display some sense of the loneliness of space, especially after much of the Earth has become unusable. Most of the near-future science fiction is focused on the fighting response immediately after a catastrophe, not in the feelings of despair that might eventually creep into humanity’s collective psyche.
Nicely done, straight ahead sci-fi.

I liked the Bible references, they're not overwhelming, but add a link to Old Earth.

Honestly, I kept waiting for the guy's head to implode after the helmet was cracked. A small thing. Also, would a wandering planemo be the best possible place to put a devise that's going to be used as a tracking devise? - since it's not held in place by star?
Since the house is on fire - at least let us warm ourselves.

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