Centuries – A. A. Attanasio

Centuries

Summary

Between the years 2000 and 3000, humanity tries a half a dozen approaches to self-betterment, including some with disastrous effects. One woman lives through it all.

Review

I enjoy reading Attanasio’s work in part for the sheer intelligence of it. He’s not ostentatious in his use of language, just confident and sure, and not afraid to tackle some pretty big concepts. In my experience, his are not works you breeze through, but ones you examine.

That doesn’t mean, they’re not fun, though. In this case, Attanasio takes human development at a fairly large scale – 1,000 years – including machine intelligence, genetic engineering, and a host of other concepts. The result is insightful, if occasionally ponderous (in a few senses). While he sticks to a small cast of core characters, I found them (as is often true with Attanasio) somewhat distant, and would have like to feel a stronger emotional connection to go with the intellectual portions of the story.

Attanasio also tends toward the slightly mystical, and his work – including Centuries – occasionally feels more opaque than it needs to be. On the plus side, you do always get the feeling that the author himself knows exactly where he’s going. He’s one of the few authors  that makes me think, “I need to spend some time working this out”, more often than, “He’s not expressing himself clearly”. (Somewhat reminiscent of David Zindell.)

Overall, an interesting look at some possibilities for human development, if one more concept than character driven.

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