About half-way through Gene Wolfe’s Home Fires, I gave up. Why?
The dialog. Wolfe’s never been great at writing dialog that sounds like real people talking, which is why my favorite Wolfe work (The Book of the New Sun) is one in which this flaw is made a virtue. But this is bad even for him:
“It wasn’t that at all. They tried … I was afraid to tell anybody. Terrified! Put your arm around me. I’m serious! Do it. I need a man’s arm around me, and you’re just right for me and — oh, damn! I’m g-going to c-c-cry.”
The crazy right-wing politics. There’s the North American Union, with its single currency. There’s the European Union, where thieves get their hands cut off because of sharia. There’s the UN, which always takes the sides of the poor nations of the world instead of the NAU.
The tech illiteracy. The setting is Earth, in a resource-poor near-future. Our protagonist has a cellphone, but nobody else seems to, and from what we see in the half of the book I read, it’s just a phone. Websites exist, but there’s no sign of social networking. When pirates hijack an enormous, luxurious cruise ship, the protagonists talk for a while as if there’s a possibility of keeping the news under wraps, as if there wouldn’t have been hundreds of people tweeting “OMG pirates!” within ten seconds of the first shots being fired. When the protagonists talk (via some kind of video-phone communication) with the authorities on shore, they argue a bit over the location of the ship, as if there’s no such thing as GPS. The whole thing could’ve been written in the 1970s.
It’s been a while since I really enjoyed a new Wolfe book. The Wizard Knight was the last one, and even that had its annoyances.