There’s lots of sense of wonder in “The Island,” by Peter Watts: the vast sweep of time, glimpses of a mysterious past and hints of a mysterious future. I loved the prologue, which describes building a space highway of wormholes. Then it injects the first sour note by asking to be thanked.
Sunday Ahzmundin is so filled with contempt, her narration of the story is really hard to take. She’s been on the ship forever, wakened at long intervals if the ship’s computer can’t handle something. She trusts the computer less than you might trust HAL, and reminds it that it’s not supposed to be as smart as a human by calling it the Chimp. Nor has she any love for her biological son, Dix, whom she meets for the first time after he’s already grown up. The only thing she admires is the marvel they discover around a red dwarf. Unfortunately, the ship is on a course to destroy it.
Her efforts to save it become yet another battle in the endless intrigues on the ship’s journey, giving the impression they have crossed the galaxy on the hairy edge of mutiny. There’s plenty of sourness to go around, culminating in one last bitter twist at the end. The whole thing leaves you feeling that all the beauty of the universe is wasted on people.
Not to my taste.