Bought. I love BBs Comic book suggestions.
The excellent (french) site Bedetheque has more info and some page samples of the original “Transperceneige”.
This is really cool. I remember reading this over a decade ago as a teen. It was also the first time I was introduced to the concept of vat-grown meat.
What a fantastic concept. I’m totally going to have to pick this up.
Maybe I’m just a stick in the mud, but the absolute absurdity of the concept makes the work entirely unapproachable for me.
In an end-of-the-world survival situation, the energy needed to propel the train would be better used elsewhere, and the sheer strain of operating the moving parts forever without pause for maintenance means you’d break down in a relatively short period of time, not to mention having to deal with weather hazards on the tracks, et cetera - it’s just entirely silly from anything remotely like a practical point of view.
I dunno - I guess I just hate when symbolism trumps logic. If you’re going to set your story in certain conditions, and then ignore the logical reality of those conditions, why set the story there to begin with? If you’re going to have the story rely on a train that somehow magically doesn’t break down or otherwise derail (hah!) the story via logical concerns, why not just make the story about a magic-based society to begin with, so those concerns never even come up? It just feels like shoehorning in a particular symbol that doesn’t really work very well, simply because they want to use that particular symbol for some reason.
THANK YOU. I agree 10 million %. The thickheaded lunky laziness that so-called “writers” get away with in the margins of fantasy DOES NOT BELONG in sci-fi, goddammit.
You’re ignoring an awful lot of well-written fantasy and shitty sci-fi.
You should read the story before having such knee-jerk reactions.
I read the original long ago, and I can tell you:
-The train was demoing a new kind of “perpetual motion” drive (and that is the only scifi concept in it). It was the only big scale system of such sort.
-The apocalypsis came on FAST. Like “Day after Tomorrow” freeze fast. Those who were close by had the idea to get on the train and get it going to survive. Afterwards, there was no elsewhere to use it in.
-Respecting to weather hazards, the train and tracks had been designed to work in conditions of feet of snow: it vaporizes snow from the tracks in front of itself. That’s why it was called Snowpiercer from the beginning.
-And spoiler: the train IS breaking down. That’s one of the issues that drive the conflict
So does the book explain why the survivors are on a train instead of…not?
On the face of it it sounds like the sort of lazy-ass “imaginative” writing that Bradbury and Ellison kept going back to: come up with a wacky idea (“What if people were made of cotton candy? What if medieval dragons were actually steam trains? What if firemen started fires? What if THEY WERE HYPER-EVOLVED SHARKS ALL ALONG?!?”) and then don’t actually explore the causes and consequences in any interesting way, just plop your Wacky Idea down on the table and wait for applause.
But, since the review doesn’t actually say one way or the other, I’m going to suspend judgment pending further information.
Knee jerk reactions? Really?
I was explaining why the book has failed to capture my interest, and you tell me those reasons are not valid because I should read the book? Do you see the problem, here?
That’s like saying someone who comes off as a total jerk is a really nice person once you get to know them. You can’t fault someone for getting the wrong idea of something that is badly presented.
But even with the points you add, it still makes no sense. They’re smart enough to develop Perpetual Motion, but stupid enough that instead of using it to power any of countless other more practical systems they decide to make it into a globe-spanning train for some undefined reason? They’re progressive enough to develop Perpetual Motion, but lack the foresight to predict and attempt to avert or prepare for an oncoming global apocalyspe, no matter how sudden?
The train is breaking down, but instead of just stopping somewhere and converting the Perpetual Motion engine into a power plant to provide them with warmth, light, food, electricity, and everything else they need to survive (which it presumably already does in addition to powering the train, because otherwise how do they survive?)
There is zero reason for them to be on a moving train. None. They can just stop the train and build a camp. Hell, they can just squat in the train as it sits stationary, because it has a goddamn Perpetual Motion engine which provides for their survival, so why even bother moving the damn thing? Convert it into a stationary base! Why waste a portion of the produced energy in moving your entire home in circles around the globe for no reason? (And how do they actually go around the globe? There are these massive obstacles called oceans.)
No, I’m sorry, all you’ve succeeded in doing is convincing me that the story is even stupider than it sounded. It could work if the entire reasoning for all the needless, unbelievable, absurdity was “because magic” or “a wizard did it”. But when you invoke things like science, and concepts such as perpertual motion engines and physics, you have to abide by the actual logic of those systems, and not just make stuff up.
And I’m sorry, I don’t care how much your absurd situation “drives the conflict”, it’s a piece of fiction, an author shouldn’t have to resort to saying “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” in order to make their conflict work.
Or if they do, they should have the good grace to come out and say “the reasons why things are the way they are in this story aren’t important, I’m not going to waste your time with stupid pseudo-science logic that doesn’t actually work, I’m just going to ask you to suspend your disbelief by calling it magic, or even just outright asking you to do so in the introduction or whatever”.
Your reaction was knee-jerk because without knowing you jump to conclusions. Sorry if you took the “jerk” part of the word personally.
About your other objections: ONE single company in the world developed the drive, and it was a trade secret. They hadn’t licensed yet. Making a luxury travel experience for the super-rich was their chosen demo, and the train was the ONLY full-scale model.
Stopping the train? was it even was designed to keep generating energy when the train is stopped? (perpetual motion, remember?) and you assume that the few people who really understand how the drive works survived.
Finally where did you get the idea that the tracks go around the planet?
I think I’ll join you in that mud, if there’s room.
The absolute ridiculousness of the concept totally turned me on to it.
Sounds really fun, like something out of 2000AD magazine.
You sound like the kind of person that does not enjoy zany “What if?” scenarios. In which case, this book probably isn’t for you then. I fully enjoy books that take a totally bizarre situation like this, and just run with it. How they got into that ridiculously absurd situation? Is it plausible or not? I don’t really care too much about that. But I can fully understand that the fact that the fine details aren’t really that well thought out - other questions you’ve mentioned elsewhere in the thread, like how they couldn’t see the apocalypse coming, etc - would really bother others. Doesn’t bother one bit though
I enjoy properly presented "What If? scenarios.
If you say, “What if the oceans rose 300 feet?” and then in your story fail to account for certain key logical conclusions of that “What If?” (for example, you could make a big deal out of the symbolism and imagery of sunken present day cities, but fail to realize that people couldn’t realistically still live in those cities), then no, I’m not going to enjoy it.
I already stated a few ways to make “What Ifs” enjoyable. If you’re writing a story that isn’t concerned with matching reality or making logical sense, there are ways of signalling this fact to your reader and in effect asking them to suspend their disbelief.
Stories like Harry Potter work because all the impossible things are easily explained with one word: magic! So long as you keep your magic at least somewhat internally consistant, it’s pretty easy to get even the most unwilling of readers to suspend their disbelief with magic. If some absurd Deus Ex Machina crops up, like the Sword of Gryffindor appearing out of thin air at just the right moment, we’re okay with it because magic can do that.
Stories like The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy work because they don’t take themselves seriously and the reader is too busy being amused to care. When a Vogon Destructor Fleet shows up out of nowhere and just sort of floats in earth’s atmosphere despite gravity, we suspend our disbelief chiefly because we’re already busy laughing over the absurdity of everything that’s led up to that pont. We’re not concerned with how they’re just hanging in midair, because 1) they’re advanced space aliens and 2) it’s not important to the story or the humor.
Stories like The Matrix work because while the logic of the drama is spotty at best when you stop and think about it, the creators go to pains to not draw your attention to it in any way. It doesn’t matter that the robots using humanity as a fuel source would be completely energy inefficient, because that’s only one ultimately unimportant detail that we learn in the course of unraveling a much larger mystery. It also helps that they hand wave it, with Morpheus saying the machines combine this technique with “a form of fusion”. They also then immediately move on with the story and never mention anything to do with the human-fuel scenario ever again.
It’s fine to write stories that involve unrealistic things, or which don’t have perfectly consistent logic. But when the basic premise of your story makes absolutely no sense, you’ve got a problem. Harry Potter might have a lot of little plot holes or logical inconsistancies in places, but the core concept of a hidden magical world isn’t hard to accept. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy certainly isn’t the height of realism, but the core concept of a human everyman being dragged into a weird and hilarious alien universe is likewise easy to digest. The Matrix breaks down a bit if you try to connect all the dots with an expectation of total realism, but it’s central tenet is that reality is an illusion and that the actual world is quite different from our own.
But when the basic premise of your story is that someone invented a Perpetual Motion Engine and decided to make a luxury passenger train out of it instead of using it to revolutionize human industry and production; and then a sudden, inexplicable, unavoidable global apocalypse destroys all human life except for a small group that take refuge on the train and absolutely no one else anywhere else survives; and then for some reason the Perpetual Motion Engine only operates if the train is in motion…
No, I’m sorry, you’ve soared past the limits of willing suspension of disbelief for me and many others. The entire story hinges upon such singularly illogical compounded nonsense that it doesn’t work. The basic premise is just too profoundly unbelievable.
Worse still, it utterly falls apart if you try to remove the absurd pieces. Take out the “need” for the story to take place on a moving train, and the conflict evaporates. A bunch of apocalypse survivors in a much more realistic shanty-town or a bunker or other safehaven, living off a Perpetual Motion Engine, doesn’t have the same Catastrophic Countdown crutch propping up the conflict. Take out the Perpetual Motion Engine and there’s no way you could keep a train in motion in addition to providing warmth, food, and light for people in the middle of a mini Ice Age.
No, the story just asks too much. It requires you to accept that not only was there a global apocalypse, but also that it was too sudden and unexpected to be prepared for in any way; that humanity has invented a Perpetual Motion engine just recently enough that there’s only one working example; that this one working example was put to the absurd usage of powering a luxury passenger train; that this train was conveniently designed in advance to deal with several-meter-deep-snow-covered tracks via special precipitation vaporizers; that the only survivors of the entire human race just happened to be people who took refuge on this train; that these survivors just happened to be conveniently stratified by wealth and status; that unlike in real disaster scenarios where wealth and status become meaningless in the face of survival, for some reason the wealthy elites are allowed to assume command of the band of survivors instead of a competant, cooperative leader with actual skills who can actually get things done; that once in power and beginning to abuse it, the wealthy elites don’t get deposed and scragged by the majority masses…
It just goes on and on with unbelieveably unrealistic nonsense, and you have to accept all of it for the basic premise to work. No thanks.
Quite right, quite right.
I even googled it to make sure I had it right, but apparantly lots of folks have made my same mistake, because “Vogon Destructor Fleet” brought up plenty of exact hits.
I hate to be “that guy” after you put such effort into writing your post… But really, none of that will bother me. If the actual story itself is somewhat interesting, I’m willing to give it a shot, regardless of how they got into the situation in the first place. I can be entertained by even the SLIGHTEST novel concept, regardless of the ridiculous amounts of unrealistic nonsense required to get there. But I fully respect that other people cannot, and that it can cause quite a strong response. I’m still looking forward to giving this a read, though.
Perhaps it should BE ignored.
I mean, you don’t get to say “why, this sci-fi is so lazy it’s no better than FANTASY!” when fantasy and sci-fi as genres contain roughly equal ratios of diligent care and lazy bullshit. It comes off like L. Ron Hubbard’s awful forward to L. Ron Hubbard’s awful Battlefield Earth, when he’s rambling about how it contains elements of every genre imaginable except fantasy, because fantasy is dumb, because there’s never any tension, because any time the hero is in any sort of jam he can cast a spell to get out of it.