From the moment you read, (and at times, hear) those words, you know exactly what’s going on. It's as if you too are a member of the crew. It’s not just the one thing, it’s everything. The hundreds of details going on the second you hear those words. You know what's coming, what you're dealing with, how you plan to face it, countermeasures about to be used, you know EXACTLY what's going on.
This is how you know when a writer did their job.
Last time I talked about the power fiction holds when done well. Now I'm going to focus on what that can look like. In so many shows and books, the worlds are pretty good, but lacking just one tid bit. One or two little things that don't quite get it there. As much as I love Star Trek, my biggest pet peeve about their tech is the fact that any time their engines die, they come to a stop. Engines loose power, and we cut to seeing the ship slow to a halt. Uhm, it's space right? Nothing to act on the ship, nothing to slow it down. So if the engines are dead, why is the ship stopping?
That's what I love about the Honor Harrington novels by David Weber. I'll admit, he gets a bit heavy on the science, and at times I glaze over it. But at the same time, he finds a way to keep the world living and consistent despite that hole. As you read each book, you learn more about how the world works, and how things work in it.
Right now, I could tell you quite a bit about the military ships, how they fight, and why they use what they use. Why? He built the world that good. The characters are so real I've gotten to know them like I was there. At times I wonder what position I'd hold under Harrington's command, and how much she'd notice me. Would I be on the bridge, the hanger, the ground.... the brig? I know one thing, I'd be itching to serve under her, or any of her former officers who earn their own command.
Good books (and movies or TV shows) do that. They build a world so completely you get to understand it like you live in it. When playing the game Mass Effect, it's much the same. The tech works. The world works. Shoot, I wanted to jump in and become an anthropologist who specialized in the Krogan culture (Krogans are one of the alien races in the game). It fascinated me that much, and it's not even real!
I know more than a few people roll their eyes when we say books transport you places. All I can say is they've either never read the right books, or they haven't surrendered to them enough. Because I have been to Tuchunka, the Krogan homeworld. I have run with wolves with Firekeeper. I have been in battle aboard the HMS Fearless, twice. And I have been to many other places, all very real to me.
What about you? Where have you been? What books were written so well the world was truly alive to you? I can't be the only one who's been other places without leaving my favorite chair.
For one thing, my favorite chair is on the HMS Fearless. You know, the one where I get to see Honor Harrington do what she does best. And sometimes, when I get really really lucky, I get to pet the treecat on her shoulder.