The Wooden Spaceships – Bob Shaw

The Wooden Spaceships

Summary

Having crossed between planets in air balloons, the new inhabitants of Overland are settled. But then comes a declaration of war from the survivors of their exodus from Land - a war that must be fought in the zone between planets. To say nothing of what awaits on distant Farland.

Review

With the series history now better established in my mind, I entered confidently into The Wooden Spaceships, and found I liked it more than previously. The first two thirds is a solid, not terribly surprising extrapolation of the previous book, bringing the characters back to the strange, gravity-free crossing point between the worlds.

Happily, this book feels less rushed. While it continues to rely heavily on different-universe physics (e.g., no turbulence at the crossing where the planets’ atmospheres brush), and on nifty gadgets (wooden spaceships), its relatively simple plot allows more scope to explore its characters dreams and motivations. I can’t say that protagonist Toller Maraquine comes across as particularly deep, he does show more humanity and more subtlety than in the previous book.

While the first sections of the book are fun, the remaining third, dealing with Farland, comes out of nowhere, and feels broadly like a novella stuck onto the preceding sections to pad out the book. It’s interesting, but all a bit random, and not closely connected to the rest of the book. It feels very much like Shaw intended to end the series here, and yet there is another sequel. Why he didn’t reserve Farland for its own book – a much more logical approach – is not clear.

Leaving aside Toller Maraquine’s modest development, this is best read as a short novel plus a related novella. If you enjoyed the first book, though, you’ll enjoy this one (these two) more.

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