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Millennium (1999)

Millennium (1999)

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3.73 of 5 Votes: 2
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0441006779 (ISBN13: 9780441006779)
ace books (ny)

About book Millennium (1999)

It is incredibly difficult to write. Moreover, it's damn near impossible to write well. With that said, I really tried to enjoy Millenium but in the end it just didn't work for me. It's too bad because the premise is creative. Hell, I even enjoyed the movie with Kris Kristofferson and Cheryl Ladd. What diminished my enjoyment of the book were excessive details and a dated writing style. As I mentioned, I enjoyed the book's premise. In the 50th century, the Earth is barely able to sustain life. The birthrate is nearly non-existent and there is barely any point to existence. Most people die by the time they reach 30, their bodies riddled with tumors and disease. Hedonism and suicide claim most lives. Despite the grim state of affairs, there is a glimmer of hope. Time travel is possible and with the Gate - a time travel portal - a small, motivated group of people are busy snatching healthy specimens from across time. The people they snatch are those destined to die, such as passengers in a mid-air collision. Using the Gate, snatcher teams board an aircraft, stun the passengers, then bring them into the future where they are stored. The idea is to reawaken them when the Earth has healed itself and is once again capable of supporting life. Without this body snatching, the human race is doomed to extinction. Okay, so far so good, right? Sadly, the book gets bogged down by an early 80s writing style that feels so archaic to me. One of the main characters, Louise Baltimore, is the leader of the 50th century snatch teams. Reading about her, however, is like getting to know a bad caricature of a newly liberated woman from the 70s or early 80s. Louise smokes, drinks, has a lot of sex, swears excessively and is afraid of no man. Just a century ago, it was socially acceptable to own slaves. Now the concept is abhorrent. What would the psychology of a person living in the 50th century be like? It's fascinating to ponder, but with Louise we get nothing other than an admission that her sex robot has no face because all women secretly desire to be ravished by faceless strangers. Yes, you read that right. We get a few pages about her masturbatory practices, but no real substance. I felt that she would have been better suited to an 80s, gritty detective novel than a sci-fi story. There's more that I could add, like the fact that the book bogs down with overly detailed passages about the state of air traffic control in the early 80s and that God wrote the epilogue to this book, but I'm just going to stop. Time to move on to more interesting reading material.

There's a ton of energy and passion in this book, but somehow it doesn't quite hang together. It's proper hard SF (as hard as time travel gets, anyway) disguised as a gritty Clancy or Crichton thriller—a Shrike in wolf's clothing. One scene in particular gave me a good shiver of SF weirdness: recovering the wreckage from a plane crash, rescue workers find that all the analogue watches are 40 minutes fast. And the digital ones are counting in reverse. Nice!Besides that, there are several splashy set-pieces and visual gags that could look great on the big screen; and remembering the weird Hollywood twist that Varley took in Demon, it struck me that this guy really, really wants to make movies. I checked later on Wikipedia and I was right! He wrote a screenplay for Millennium concurrently with the novel, and it was eventually made into a movie—apparently a highly forgettable one. And it doesn't look like he's had much luck in Hollywood since then. That's a shame, but at least he pursued his dream. He clearly loves The Movies even more than he loves SF.But I was a little disappointed by the ending. To his credit, Varley attempts a proper ending that explains and resolves everything, but—too much, too late. Deus ex machina can work when it's intentional and it can be fun when it's literal, but it's a fine line to tread, and I would have preferred something less ambitious. (Pohl's Gateway might be a good comparison: with a similarly impossible setup, it doesn't attempt to resolve it fully, and just rounds off the narrator's story arc. The sequels try to take it further, with unconvincing results.)Another problem is that the two main characters seem to be the wrong characters: as the book progresses, they progressively lose a lot of agency, and two other characters come to the fore. I had become interested in their personal stories, but those stories kind of petered out as everything else escalated to 11 and beyond. Maybe the other two should have been the main characters in the first place!

Do You like book Millennium (1999)?

Thanks to the generosity of a neighbor who was downsizing her library, I found this book. (Thanks, Lisa!) I vaguely remember my dad and brother talking about it when I was in my early teens, and it has stuck with me. It was a treat to finally find it and read it for myself! It was a fascinating take on time travel and I really appreciated the treatment of those pesky time travel details that often bug me and prevent me from suspending my disbelief. I also enjoy stories that take pieces of our real world and join them with the fantastic, so this was right up my alley in that regard as well. It wasn't as compelling maybe as I would have liked, the prose was a little dense-- but overall, it was enjoyable. Of course, the nostalgia-factor alone made it a good read for me.

This is a time travel story done right... in spades. The wit of the female protagonist and the cynicism of both the protagonists resonated with my dry sense of humor. The very distant future that the author came up with is just ridiculous enough for me to find it believable. Usually authors miss the mark for these futures by making them so different they might as well be alien planets, or by making them some sort of caricature of our present using only one or two steps of cause and affect.I really enjoyed the writing style, pacing, and how the story jumped back and forth between the two protagonists' points of view. I never knew what was coming, and definitely did not see what was coming in the prologue. The chapter title's each being an ode to other time travel stories was also a nice touch.So I finished a book the day before I took a flight down to Orlando from Seattle. So naturally I grabbed this book to read during my flight. What could be better than reading a story involving plane crashes (and the gory details of the crash sites) while shuttling through the sky at 30,000 feet? It felt a bit daring and added to the excitement of the read.I definitely look forward to reading this book again in the future.
—Greg Frederick

Un peu comme Stephen King, John Varley a un style verbeux : il part d'une action donnée dans le temps pour développer non seulement sur le passé de ses personnages, mais aussi sur toute la gamme d'émotions et les différentes pensées qui leur ont traversé l'esprit. Ce qui aurait dû prendre 2 lignes se déroule pompeusement sur 2 pages.Cet aspect, même s'il est parfois lourd dans « Millénium » - un titre de l'aveu de l'auteur piqué à Ben Bova! - s'avère être le plus intéressant du roman.Le reste - l'intertextualité via les références constantes à des oeuvres du XXe siècle (disons 1913-1969), les multiples théories bidons sur les voyages dans le temps, les personnages plus antipathiques les uns que les autres et, encore une fois, une fin sans queue ni tête qui ne mène à rien - est insatisfaisant. On se serait contenté d'une nouvelle. Seul le style de l'auteur rachète, partiellement, un roman trop long, changeant et à la fin qui déçoit.

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