The Practice Effect by David Brin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Back when I was a wee kid and I was getting my hands on as many SF books as I could, I came across this wonderful author named David Brin who took the 80's by storm and won a few Hugos and Locus awards and I devoured everything of his that I could get my hands on. I was a major fanboy.
Well, it turns out I still am. This is, despite the fact that I originally kinda dismissed this particular book as one of his lesser novels with a somewhat meh execution with a cool-as-hell idea as a foundation. It took me this long to re-read it to see if I still felt the same way.
So. I came to a little realization: I'm a dickhead.
Not only was this still as awesome on the idea front, but it's also wild, self-consistent, thoroughly fun, and quite funny.
It came out in '84 and pretty much coincides with the idea of leveling up in the gaming world. Excluding living things, the practice effect is pretty simple. The more you use a tool, the more effective it gets. A pair of worn-out boots will eventually keep getting better until they perfect themselves. The same goes for any kind of tool.
Enter in an actual scientist (btw, Brin is an actual Astrophysicist) who soon discovers that he's stuck in this new world with altered laws that appear to be anti-entropic, and have an adventure that gets steadily more wild when you consider that ANY tool you "practice" with becomes more impressive with use. The better your starting materials, the better the effect.
I laughed myself silly with the kinds of Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court antics we eventually go through.
This is SO much better than I remember. Consider, though, I had read Brin's Startide Rising, Uplift War, and Earth before this, so I thought I was just comparing like to like.
In actual effect, however, I really should have been comparing this to some of the very best SF out there. Yes, it reads like an SF that behaves like a Fantasy novel, but it's subversive even in that way. The Fantasy eventually gets dressed up as an SF novel that then flips itself again, becoming a HARD SF novel.
In the final analysis, it would work REALLY well as a favorite modern SF novel published TODAY, genre-bending and making us have a wild-ass time all the way through.
This one should not be forgotten.
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