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The Practice Effect by David Brin

Science Fiction novel by David Brin

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Weird Physics!

  • Jan 30, 2011
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This is a rather tongue in cheek science fiction story.  It is not very serious.  In fact it is quite often hilarious.  The physics in the story is almost certainly impossible anywhere in the universe.  But it can make one think about how the way physics works makes reality what it is.  If it worked a different way it would be a different reality.

Suppose that as you used an ax to chop down trees it got sharper.  But if you stuck it in a drawer and left it alone for a month it got more dull.  Pretty strange right?  Well that is the backwards universe our physicist discovers.  Boy is he confused.

That is the world of The Practice Effect.  A device is invented which makes it possible to teleport to another world.  Of course when it gets there it stops working.  Naturally some fool has to be sent to figure out why it stopped working and fix it.  Of course, that fool is our hero, the physicist.  But when he gets there he finds that somebody or something has tampered with the machine and broken parts for which he does not have enough spares.  Oh no, didn't you always want to be stuck on an alien planet probably for the rest of your short life.  Of course, that is everybodies' favorite dream.

So our hero goes tramping off into the woods with his high tech camping gear looking for "civilization"?  He eventually finds it.  A rather medieval civilization.  Naturally he doesn't have a clue about the rules and is soon arrested for breaking them and ends up in jail.  This is where he learns the purpose of "criminals" is to "practice" the king's clothing.


Wear somebody else's clothes and they get better with use.  But what happens to your own clothes?  It is funny how a different physics would completely change the economics.  That is why this book is so funny.  Make one little change at a fundamental level of reality and lots of other things must change as a consequence.  Giving expensive clothes to criminals just so they can wear them in jail.  ROFL

But our law abiding physicist can't tolerate such nonsense.  So he breaks out of jail with a zipper.  Yeah, that is a spoiler but it doesn't explain how he does it.  Medieval societies don't make zippers.  But he escapes with fellow criminals and he learns the rules of the underground criminal society.  But since he is a MAKER, a person who can make things to be practiced better, he is a valuable commodity.  He can make things that no one has ever heard of.  He is betrayed and captured by the king again, but for a more prominent position.  No more jail time for him.

But then he meets THE GIRL. 

Hey, it's a science fiction book.  There is always some GIRL to complicate the geek's life.  So there is another jail break with THE GIRL with the help of THE ROBOT.

Oh, didn't I tell you about THE ROBOT?  Well they sent a robot with the first machine to explore the unknown planet, kind of like the Mars Rover.  Of course all of these medieval types are freaked out at the sight of a robot.  What would a really smart Medieval man like Galileo make of a robot that took orders from some strange man and could knock people out with an electric shocks?  He must be a servant of Satan with his familiar.  Run for your soul!

Wait, was there a Satan on this planet?  I don't remember.

Anyway THE GIRL is some kind of witch princess, NATURALLY, and a war is about to start over her kidnapping but our hero has escaped with her and yada, yada, yada.

In a way this story is a conventional geek meets girl adventure story but the strange physics makes it much funnier and more interesting than usual.  It reminds me of another funny culture conflict sci-fi story, Warlock in Spite of Himself

So for some light fun reading this story is great.  But imagine what life would be like if real physics was different.  Suppose frozen water sank instead of floating.  What would that do to the way the world works?  The Titanic would not have hit that iceberg and James Cameron couldn't have made that movie.  Horror of horrors!

David Brin is doing that free starting chapters marketing trick:
Weird Physics! Weird Physics!

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February 06, 2011
Excellent review!
March 28, 2011
Glad you liked it. Tried the book? It is a quick fun read. Not too serious tho.
March 28, 2011
Not yet. I'll have to check it out someday in the near future.
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The Practice Effect

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The Practice Effect   Practice effect.jpg Author David Brin Original title The Practice Effect Language English Genre(s) Science Fiction Publication date 1984 Media type Print

The Practice Effect is a novel by David Brin, written in 1984.

Plot summary

A scientist by the name of Dennis Nuel is working at, and attending, an institute of scientific research and pioneering work into the fictional scientific field of "Zievatronics", the manipulation of Time and Space. After the death of his mentor, however, he is taken off the project and another professor takes over. After a time, the device that has been created to move through space and time, known as the "Zievatron" encounters operational problems and is fixed to the co-ordinates of a world that appears to be very similar to our Earth in most respects, and Dennis is re-recruited to help fix it. He volunteers to be sent to the other world in order to fix the other part of the Zievatron. On arriving to this planet, he finds the Zievatron dismantled and critical parts of it missing. Of the 3 surveillance robots that were sent through to this planet, he finds 2 that have also been broken apart. After a while, he finds the last robot, intact and still functioning, and uses it to view any recorded images that might help him identify what it was that happened to the Zievatron.In this world, instead of objects wearing out as you use ...

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Book, Science Fiction, Science Fiction Books, Physics, Brin, Laws Of Physics, Entropy


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