Wednesday, May 5, 2021

"The Godel Operation"

James Cambias has been nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award and the 2001 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Godel Operation, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Godel Operation comes just at the end of Chapter 5, in the middle of two conversations happening in parallel aboard a space station orbiting beyond Jupiter. In one dialog a young man named Zee is flirting with a young woman named Adya. While the two humans are talking they're being spied upon by Daslakh, the smart-alec robot narrator of the novel, and a killer whale cyborg spaceship named Pelagia. Daslakh is Zee's best friend, while Pelagia feels very protective of Adya. The two machines are analyzing the conversation of the humans and sniping at each other over a private channel. Meanwhile the vast artificial intellect called Summanus, which runs the station, is spying on them — or at least Daslakh assumes it is, and is paranoid about saying anything which might reveal secrets to Summanus.

A reader opening to Page 69 would see some aspects of The Godel Operation — there's intrigue, romantic comedy, and a complex setting full of different sorts of minds. The relationship between Adya and Zee is a major plot element, so the reader gets a good look at that.

However I do think Page 69 misses some of the novel's strengths. It doesn't really hint at the main plot of the story, which is the search for a mythical superweapon called the Godel Trigger. It doesn't give a good sense of the variety of weird settings the characters visit as they journey from Uranus to Jupiter and finally to Mars.

There's a lot of exciting action in The Godel Operation — falling out of spaceships, a heist, exploring an abandoned complex full of traps — and this section falls between those. A reader might conclude it's like a futuristic Jane Austen novel, whereas I was aiming for a mix of P.G. Wodehouse, Olaf Stapledon, and Iain M. Banks. The book also includes four flashbacks to older incidents involving the Godel Trigger, thousands of years earlier in the history of the Solar System. Each of those has a different tone, and of course this page doesn't show any of that.

Overall I think a reader opening to Page 69 of The Godel Operation would see that it's a fun, lighthearted book, but would miss all the parts I really sweated over. I hope that page would be enough to keep that reader going through the end of the chapter, and the start of Chapter 6 will really grab hold.
Visit James L. Cambias's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Godel Operation.

Q&A with James L. Cambias.

--Marshal Zeringue