[techbooks] REVIEW: "A Civil Campaign", Lois McMaster Bujold
- BKCVLCMP.RVW 991004
"A Civil Campaign", Lois McMaster Bujold, 1999, 0-671-57827-8,
%A Lois McMaster Bujold
%C P. O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
%I Baen Publishing Enterprises
%O U$24.00/C$35.50 jim@...
%P 405 p.
%S A Vorkosigan Adventure
%T "A Civil Campaign"
My brother has been at me to review more of Bujold's books. He loves
Bujold. (As an author, at the very least.) Trouble is, while I like
Bujold's books, too, she writes space opera. Not much scope for
technical reviewing, there. And when he loaned me Bujold's latest,
even he admitted that there was nothing I could review in it. But
we'll come to that.
Bujold is a very good author. She is consummately professional in
wordcraft, plotting, scenes, and dialogue. But unlike other writers
who are merely technically competent, there is a strong thread of
humanity that illuminates and enlivens all her books. Her characters
are complex, which occasionally leads to rough spots as she skates a
thin line between different aspects of her actors: a line that may
sometimes waver a little. Bujold has a strong sense of both irony and
comedy, using both but abusing neither.
But, as regular readers know, I am a critic of technology, not
I was deeply engrossed in the book before I realized that it had a
very strong, and central, technically related component. A major
subplot in the story is the development of a new product, and the
trials and tribulations thereof. This plotline, while nowhere near
the detail of "Making It Happen" (cf. BKMAKHAP.RVW), outlines the
necessary considerations for product development: functional
development, interface design, market research and marketing,
financial and organizational evolution of a company, and project
There is the great idea. There is the fact that the great idea has to
be "productized." There is the really disgusting interface. There is
the initial product. There is the really, really bad marketing idea.
(Anybody who has worked in high tech will recognize this one.) There
is the discovery that the interface really has nothing to do with the
function, and that it can be changed almost arbitrarily. There is the
marketing presentation (done rather well). There is the attempted
hostile takeover (almost literally, in this case). And finally, there
is the "killer app." (This is the technology industry's version of
"happily ever after," with about the same level of reality.)
I was a trifle disappointed that an earlier, and rather perceptive,
discussion of terraforming got lost as the story progressed. It made
some interesting points, and could have been significant. Oh, well.
Maybe in a later book.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKCVLCMP.RVW 991004
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