I really like SFR. Everyone seemed to be either reading this book or talking about it and I pounced on it like a hungry manka cat. Good books accelerate as you read them, and this one promised to be awesome. New planet, strange biology, unlikely relationship, all this was going to rock.
I liked the unobtrusive but lyrical narrative. I loved the twist in the beginning. I was excited.
Then a curious thing happened. The first quarter flew by. The second was slower. The third I was slogging through. By the time I reached the end, I was skimming. The book decelerated. Whatever momentum it had had been lost.
There are a few things that contributed to it.
1) Watery science. It started out as such a strong psychological drama, that should've been rooted in biology, but it wasn't. The relationship between symbiots was never fully explored. Why were the aliens bonded to humans? Were the aliens on the planet before the humans landed or are they a product of a higher planet-wide biosphere consciousness like Solaris? Was this an attempt to communicate? By whom? To what purpose?
It's like a flower floating in a vase: it is really pretty, but there is no root. It seemed as an afterthought, as if this wonderful idea had been conceived, but not a lot of research or thought had been given to its development. This is where my expectations - not the fault of the author - hindered my enjoyment. I wanted more "meat." I wanted more scientific exploration, a sense of discovery and achievement.
2) Romance. There was a great promise in the initial pairing of two scientists. Grayson Murphy had such potential, an analytical, collected man faced with an emotional attachment that went against everything he built. It's the classic conflict of nature vs science. He could've been so tormented.
Instead after interacting with Elizabeth for a while, he just sort of grabs her, they make out and all of his emotional problems are solved. Grayson spends the second half of the book being the professor's beautiful daughter. There was a made for TV movies a few years ago that featured a female Indiana Jones character. The whole thing was kind of cheesy, and I don't remember it that well, but I remember that after having sex with the male lead, the woman brushes it off.
The male lead then talks to her about it. "What was last night to you?"
Woman: "It was just a night."
Male lead: "Well, it wasn't just a night to me."
Said no real actual man ever. Ever.
This is pretty much what Grayson devolves to. He turns into a girl with a penis, who spends the last half of the book telling Elizabeth how awesome she is and how great she is and how smart she is. I didn't get a sense of camaraderie, intellectual competition, or any of the things the first half of the novel promised. :(
It feels like the whole book is just "skin deep." I will read the next one, but I'm weary.