My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“This guy obviously has a sense of wonder in his DNA… an essential upgrade for The Matrix generation — download now!” Stephen Baxter
This quippy blurb was written many years before e-books appeared. When he’s saying “download” he’s simply using tech lingo. People didn’t use to download books just ten years ago. Just making sure.
Well, Stephen Baxter’s quote about Idlewild, which features several times in this book, including most prominently on the cover, is what it’s all about really. I imagine Nick Sagan hates continuously being compared to his father in such a way, but I can’t imagine a better ad for the book itself. I mean, it’s the reason I got interested in it in first place (“huh, Carl Sagan’s son wrote a sci-fi book?”), and to be perfectly honest, I can’t shake the feeling it has a lot to do with why it was written, too.
Anyway, Idlewild reads a lot like a cross between The Matrix, Harry Potter (or other books similar to it that have many special youngsters studying their powers together), Neuromancer and Doctor Who, because of the virtual reality time-and-space-travel. If that sounds entertaining to you, I think you will have a good time reading it (I did).
Admittedly, I thought that the characters were much stronger than the plot itself: while reading I was much more interested in seeing what kinds of new and interesting interactions could emerge between them than I was reaching the end. Nevertheless, I have to say that the plot twist came completely out of the blue, and yes, I’m mildly curious about the sequel. I might read it at some point.
Finally, I would have given it four stars if it wasn’t for the fact that at times I could notice instances of Mr. Sagan attempting to flex his literary muscles. With truly masterful writing this may or may not be perceivable, but it doesn’t really matter, because the reader is inclined to surrender, to suspend disbelief. “This was so cheesy, but I love it!” Here I often caught myself realising that I was reading parts of the book that the writer, Carl Sagan’s son, rewrote many times while actively trying to make them appear as intelligent and techno-cool as he possibly could. Did he succeed? Well, I guess it depends whether you’re asking about the appearance of or the actual intelligence hidden within.