Lay away book special: A perspective on Baxter’s world building

I’m really digging The Wheel of Ice. Not only do you have the second Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe, but even the incidental characters have great potential. Characters like Phee, her older brother Sam, younger sister Casey; their mother Jo; and this Luis Reyes person apparently on the wheel as a kind of moral police. Even aside from the whole mining colony on a fragmented moon in Saturn’s ring setting, Baxter has created quite a vivid world in characters alone.

In particular, the different classes ranging from “A” to “D” are downright curious. As far as I can figure they’re not related to family – since Phee is an “A”, Sam is a “C” and their mother is a “B.” There’s definitely some sort of merit system involved, but what exactly it’s based on hasn’t come up yet. The intrigue around the “Blue Dolls” that are apparently sabotaging the wheel also goes a long way to breathing life into this imagined colony. Nothing breathes life into something quite like a potentially imagined crisis, after all.

However, I find Baxter’s treatment of perspective to be a little bit jarring. We’re given different characters’ perspectives throughout the novel, but they’re quite entrenched in those characters’ own viewpoints. It’s not entirely a matter of just reporting things from a set character’s perspective because they’re there to see them happen (as it often felt was the case in Shada).

Instead, there’s a lot more fluid internal monologue going on, though perspectives regularly shift mid-chapter. So, for example, we’ll begin a chapter in Zoe’s perspective, but then the Doctor will come in and Zoe will leave, and we’ll jump into the Doctor’s head. Maybe reading A Song of Ice and Fire has made me used to a one character/chapter form, but jumping between characters in the same chapter will definitely take some getting used to.


About NSCZach

A writer who translates Beowulf (and other things), freelances, reads voraciously, and plays adventure video games/J-RPGs.
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