Smallworld is indeed tough to describe. Imagine Terry Pratchett writing hard science fiction instead of fantasy. Stir in a whiff of Douglas Adams – but not too much. Imagine side-splitting sentences that blind-side you from behind moon rocks. This is emphatically not a “comic” novel; rather a wildly convoluted serious story but told by a narrator with an unquenchably comic spirit. Some of the lines, like this one…
[Re the false night cast by the glittering rings of the nearby gas giant] "During Crystal Night, as the children had christened it despite unfathomable objections by their parents…”
…are going to be puzzling to readers who no longer know which set of atrocities Herr Hitler presided over, or, for that matter, who Hitler was; but if you miss one, another will be along in a moment.
Underpinning the humor and the complex story is a far future universe minutely imagined and scrupulously explained. For science fiction fans with no sense of humor (and there are a few) the book will still be deeply satisfying for its milieu, characters, and story alone.
(review of free book)