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The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts. Book Review

June 25, 2018

Book Cover for Freeze-Frame Revolution

Sunday Ahzmundin and fellow co-workers spend most of their time in stasis until their particular expertise is required to supplement the AI undertaking the general running of their ship. They work in shifts which only last a day at the most, after which they may not be awakened for several millennia and often with a change in shift personal. You would think there is little time for a mutiny. Nevertheless, it doesn’t stop the inhabitants of the Eirophora from trying to break free from what is effectively a life of servitude in space.

The Freeze Frame Revolution is a series of stories rather than a novella. But this does not make the reading any less compelling. In fact, considering each chapter as an episode in Sunday’s life makes this conceptually complex book easier to digest.

The Eriophora is a black hole space ship. As an eriophora spider weaves spiral wheel-shaped webs, the vessel, with its crew dedicated to building gates to make space travel more efficient, is appropriately named.

When we join the story, the ship has already been functioning for a few millennia, with the crew woken every so often for problems which cannot be solved by the “Chimp”, the AI maintaining the Eriophora.

Having been bred for the job, the crew do not think too deeply about families they may have left behind, or whole civilisations have come and gone in the time they have been in space. But, given that they may not be woken up in the same shifts, reacquainting themselves with crewmates they might have previously formed relationships with might no longer be possible, particularly if for some reason an unfortunate accident has befallen them. This lack of continuity and being free to develop relationships and have some control over their lives begins to grate on some of the crew, who organise a rebellion. This proves a tricky thing to do, given personnel changes in shifts and that they are being put into stasis for long periods of time. How they go about this is only one facet of this fascinating collection of stories with an overarching story arc that pulls them all together.

There is some science in The Freeze-Frame Revolution but, in the sense of the type of science fiction with tries to extend on what we know and yet keep the reader involved in the story, these details are there to form a framework for the characters to act within. So, while reading this book the writing does stretch the reader’s imagination, but also provides plenty that is familiar to grab onto, particularly with respect to interpersonal relationships.

Peter Watts certainly knows how to keep you on edge because, you’re never quite sure which way things are going to go as the crew organise their rebellion, where the loyalties of the human’s lie or even the state of their minds. The constant uncertainty of whether the mutineers would succeed, and the strangeness of the whole set up maintained the sense of the tension and desire to see what happens the whole way through the read.

The Freeze Frame Revolution is one of those books that is very special because although it is conceptually heroic, in that it attempts to psychologically dislocate the reader from everything they experience on a daily basis and feels familiar, it gives them enough humanity to hang onto. Watts manages to successfully weave in relationships of characters struggling for a sense of self-worth, as well as trying to find their place in the grand scheme of things into this other worldly narrative, even though you are often left with little more than a few exchanges and sparse backstory. This is the type of writing that provides the stepping stones for the reader to use their own imagination to take the worldbuilding to the next level in terms of how they see the spaceship and the type of civilisation that built it, rather than spoon feeding them.

In all The Freeze-Frame Revolution is a fascinating novel, which will take more than one reading, no less because it may need several goes for a reader to get their head round the complex and expansive ideas.

If you want to get a better sense of the universe Peter Watts has created, his website has the most fantastic back catalogue of his writing, which is downloadable. The whole website is a treasure trove to be enjoyed.

http://www.rifters.com/real/shorts.htm

As far a black hole spaceships are concerned, there is an academic paper available if you follow this link.  https://arxiv.org/pdf/0908.1803.pdf

The Freeze-Frame Revolution was courtesy of Tachyon Publications via NetGalley.

 

4 Comments
    • Reading the back catalogue is a helpful lead in. But knowing your reading tastes from your great blog, you’ve probably already been through them.

      • Thanks! I haven’t read any Watts however, I thought this might be good place to start. I’ve been wanting to read Blindsight for years, and while I think I’m indeed alined to him contentwise, I’m a bit afraid it’s too try-hardish, if you get what I mean. I should read the beginning first on his site, maybe my impression is wrong.

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  1. Peter Watts’ captivating THE FREEZE-FRAME REVOLUTION is one of the Best Science Fiction Books of 2018 So Far - Tachyon Publications

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