I'll never find this to be definitively my genre, space opera, but I'm pleased to have finally read something definitively belonging to said genre so I can make sense of the term. As it turns out I'd read a few things from it before, but I hadn't heard the term until recently, so I hadn't gone to look it up. Even the most casual browser of this blog sees the patterns in my reading - environment, poetry, local fiction, nonfiction (usually memoir that has something to do with either environmental or social justice).
Making it highly logical, then, that I'd go read me some space opera.
Alastair Reynolds, according to the Times blurb on the cover of Pushing Ice, is a "mastersinger of the space opera." I don't know about that, since it's far from clear to me quite what Ian Cadman of the Times meant by that appellation, coined for a previous Reynolds novel entitled Redemption Ark, but this novel is, as they say, a ripping yarn. (Or as the back cover puts it, "a deep space adventure story with a scope as big as the Galaxy itself." I'm quietly pleased there wasn't an exclamation mark at the end of that sentence - good sense for that sort of thing, the Brits.) Grand gestures, grand feuds, grand crises successfully negotiated, grand themes very easily summarized, a small group of idiosyncratic core characters: yeah, it actually could make a decent opera.
As much as I enjoyed it, though, it's not at all why I read. I admire real opera as well, but it's not something I'm keen to see. It worries me that I may be more wedded to realism than I'd like, but that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Admittedly I'm a neanderthal who can't get past the idea of singing throughout one's real life, ie can't suspend my disbelief enough to accept the genre's founding assumptions, but with theatre I'm usually seduced by the actors, and in opera I just can't connect. With this novel, similarly, I tired of the plot eddies and of the narrative logic, and I found myself wishing hard for a little quiet time with one or more of the characters. I didn't want comic relief, just relief from the pressure of narrative, but it's not the kind of genre where I'm going to get that.
Science fiction, in its many modes, is a real pleasure for me, but I don't find it as rewarding as my usuals. A nice diversion, though, as the semester gets rolling!