A King of Infinite Space

Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 6, 1999

A King of Infinite Space by Allen Steele

Eight people attended the discussion, including one we hadn’t seen for several meetings. Steele’s book concerns a rich young man from the 20th Century who awakens from a cryogenic hibernation several hundred years in the future, where he tries to find a place for himself in the interplanetary civilization he discovers.

This book was the first futuristic space adventure we’d discussed all year, and we welcomed the change after several historical novels. Most of us had read Steele’s work before, so we began with a discussion of his prior body of work. Generally we’d liked earlier books but not loved them, so were curious to see whether this book represented a change.

We liked the story’s premise and felt that Steele’s engaging narrative voice got the book off to an excellent beginning. The world building of the future society was well thought-out. Steele cleverly worked in several references to his favorite band, The Grateful Dead. Several people enjoyed seeing the spoiled rich kid forced to do manual labor to support himself financially. The futuristic gangsters who play a large part in the story were an innovate touch.

The author couldn’t quite pull off some things successfully in the narrative. The protagonist is neither likable nor smart, which poses problems for a book written in first person. We have a hard time caring what happens to him. The character is so clueless that he goes through most of the book without understanding what is going on. Since he is our window into the story we are in the dark too. When a couple of characters actually sit him down in the end and explain the big truths, we feel cheated and manipulated.

We enjoyed reading a space story, and we appreciated Steele’s ambition in trying challenging narrative feats. While we thought that this book was flawed, we ultimately felt that it was worth reading.

–A. T. Campbell, III