If you are reading this book review, then you have me confused with Andy Weir and this text confused with the start of “The Martian.” I realize they a...moreIf you are reading this book review, then you have me confused with Andy Weir and this text confused with the start of “The Martian.” I realize they are similar, as both contain words, but you should really be reading his book, not my review of it.
Not convinced? What if I were to tell you that Jack London did not in fact die in 1916, but became a time traveling nomad who ended up in 2012 where he watched reruns of MacGyver, caught Moon Race fever followed by the whole Mars One craze, then returned to his roots of writing survival fiction under the guise of Andy Weir two years later? If I were to tell you all of that, you’d say I was crazy, and I say you should read “The Martian” and you’d know exactly what I meant.
From our first few moments with the Ares 3, we know exactly what kind of book this is going to be. This is Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Except with more explosions (but not the Michael Bay kind), and no space monkeys (like the 1964 classic). The book is fast paced, the bulk of it in the first person in the guise of journal entries. I know that might turn you off - I thought it would turn me off. It doesn’t. Mark is exactly the kind of smartass you want to read in the first person. The science in the book is as legitimate as Weir could make it, and everything is actually within reach of us today. Weir may take a few liberties, but there are no hidden teleporters or miracle techs, everything is very real and now.
It was fun, exciting, and I haven't felt this happy about a book in so long, I’m all confused inside and am unable to write a worthy review. But there you have it. I would add that I will be surprised if the Martian doesn’t make the list of nominees for a Hugo in 2014.
This book review is based on an ARC that was sent to me by the publicist prior to publication on behalf of the FantasyBookAddict.(less)
Yes, you have to be dense not to see the threads of conclusion drawing together, to not see the various hints and plot lines draw to a close...moreI'm a sap.
Yes, you have to be dense not to see the threads of conclusion drawing together, to not see the various hints and plot lines draw to a close in this final volume. And yet, there I was, some grain of sand caught in my eye, causing me to get a little teary eyed as I reached the end of the Riyria Revelations. A bit predictable, but satisfactorily brought to a conclusion all the same. (less)
It is no small feat that this is a novel narrated by a selfless AI who is also the most poignant personality. For me, books have flavors, superficial...moreIt is no small feat that this is a novel narrated by a selfless AI who is also the most poignant personality. For me, books have flavors, superficial resonances that can usually be expressed verbally as “this books reminds me of FOO, but with BAR.”
What Ann Leckie has accomplished in her debut novel is to give us a story that has all of the flavor markers and hallmarks of a classic C. J. Cherryh novel from the 1980’s, with the poignancy of a contemporary story. The novel is first and foremost a top notched space opera. But what has been fascinating for readers is that the language Leckie has chosen to use bring up questions of gender. This is certainly not the first book to talk to gender - even LeGuinn’s Left Hand of Darkness wasn’t the first genre book to go there. Leckie’s fresh approach, though, is in giving us a future society where gender is rendered equal not by neutering it, but by neutralizing it. By removing the bisect of male and female and using only the female gender to reference everything, the society of the Radch blurs the line. By submerging Breq, our AI product of Radch society, into other cultures, we begin to see the how arbitrary some attributes of gender are, and how much they can complicate what should otherwise be a simple worldview.
One of the oldest tales is the tale of vengeance. What is justice, then, but vengeance wrought legal? But what if the system, the ruling mind that defines what is right and legal, is itself what has gone awry? Is the vengeance of ancillary component still justice? I am probably reading too much into this play of words between the title and the straightforward goal of Breq, but these are the kinds of thoughts you have when reading Ancillary Justice. Its really refreshing to find a book that satisfies both my simple interests (Space Opera with boom!) while still being thought provoking.
And there was plenty of explosions and gun play. Just in case you were worried.
Ancillary Justice was a wonderful read, and I look forward to more in this series. (less)
Abaddon's Gate welcomes back James Holden and his motley crew in the third volume of the Expanse. At the end of Caliban's War the alien artifact that...moreAbaddon's Gate welcomes back James Holden and his motley crew in the third volume of the Expanse. At the end of Caliban's War the alien artifact that wreaked havoc emerged from the cloud cover of Venus, it's construction work complete. A giant ring is ejected into the outer solar system, where came to a rest, waiting.
The ring is a gateway, a portal to someplace else. Little is known about the other side, but our friend Miller is back from the dead again to urge Holden to take action. Readers familiar with the Expanse know that wherever Holden is, there is usually conflict. Earth, Mars, and the PTO are all racing to the ring, as much to make sure no one else can stake a claim as to find out what's on the other side of the ring.
And so our story begins.
The first two books reminded us that space opera didn't have to span a galaxy, that the story could be just as epic confined to our own heliosphere. Abaddon's Gate takes us back to the realm of the classic space opera, replete with the Big Dumb Object, bizarre changes in the laws of physics, and a glimpse at an ancient, cosmos spanning civilization.
In other words, pure awesome fun.
Working with both a few regulars and a new fresh cast of character perspectives, Abaddon's Gate is as much about what we find on the other side of the ring as what we bring through with us. Sometimes the greatest threat to humanity is humanity itself. (less)
High Fantasy often faces the criticism that it is a poor reflection of the works that have gone before it, most notably Tolkien. By employing the same...moreHigh Fantasy often faces the criticism that it is a poor reflection of the works that have gone before it, most notably Tolkien. By employing the same basic mythos with a highly Western European (and generally, British) composition, many chide that too much of fantasy falls into this trap and needs to be refreshed with something edgier, or something more original. The end result is generally a poor facsimile that inevitably fails to shine in comparison.
"A Guile of Dragons" is not some mere copy.
Yes, it employs many of the elements that we might quickly label a High Fantasy trope - dwarves, dragons, ancient terrors, and the name Merlin (or at least his son, Morlock). Its important to remember that it is not what elements a writer uses, but how they use them, that brings distinction. Enge does not treat these elements lightly - the history and culture of the dwarves alone are an integral part of this story, hinting at a depth we never see a bottom to. The shortness of the work (@300 pages) is belied by the depth and fullness of the characters that populate it. These are thick characters, populating the pages not because they fill a need but because it is their story to tell.
Set as a prequel for Enge's character, Ambrosius, aka Morlock syr Theorn, "A Guile of Dragons" introduces us to a small cast of recurring characters, each of whom demonstrates a depth and fullness usually reserved for the titular character. Not having read the other books in this milieu proved to not be a problem - as a prequel, it is a well contained volume, beginning with the birth of Morlock, son of Merlin, and the circumstances that place young Morlock in the care of the dwarves of Thrymhaiam to the north. This is also the story of Morlock's first real adventure (other feats are alluded to, but nothing so grand), following a metre and pace that is reminiscent of a classic saga even when the story telling is modern.
For in the Northold, the dwarves find themselves cut off from the Graith of Guardians as a guile of dragons invades, reigniting the Longest War from before the dawn of history. Morlock, a thaen of the Graith, adopted son of the dwarves, trapped between both worlds, faces the failings of each as he is thrust into battling the dragons themselves.
Enge, who's unsecret real world identity is a classics professor, demonstrates that a writer is influenced by the books and life you lead. "A Guile of Dragons" is a worthy epic for any fantasy reader, containing a surprising depth and fullness that is rarely found in so short a book. I cannot say more about this book without spoiling it, so I will just say that I wholly and heartily recommend that it be read.(less)
It's somewhat embarrassing to admit that I had ample opportunities to read this book when it was in two parts, independently published - and failed to...moreIt's somewhat embarrassing to admit that I had ample opportunities to read this book when it was in two parts, independently published - and failed to do so until it was bought up by Orbit and reprinted.
That was a mistake.
Originally published separately, readers can see the divide between the events and repercussions of the first book (Crown Conspiracy) that lead into the second book (Avempartha), and how together they form the chapters of a much larger tapestry. Sullivan sites the story arcs of Babylon 5 as one of his inspirations, and in reading the novel you can see that play out as he gives the reader a simple, straightforward collection of fantasy tropes building up our expectations that this story is going in one direction, only to flip it at the climax and offer a resolution that both fits the story so far, and yet defies what we anticipated.
The curious thing about Sullivan's book is that he uses light strokes to paint a picture. He doesn't labor over info dumping, choosing instead to give us a who's who and a what's what at the start of the book, and a few short dumps initially to fill in the gaps. Nor does he rely on the shock that grittier fantasy authors have brought us lately; this book is very much a homage o the simple, well written adventure story. While its most basic elements are a variation of the quest and heist motifs, there are deeper motivations at play than just greed. The real strength in Sullivan's writing, though, is in his dialog, the repertoire and voice of his characters making them distinct enough to stand out from the backdrop. No, not all of the characters are well rounded personas with depth, but the characters with whom the story revolves live and breathe in the mind's eye even after you set the book down.
Theft of Swords is not high literature, with flowing, flowery passages evoking a deep sense of wonder. What it is is wonderfully entertaining. Case in point, I sat down and read the last 40% of the book in one day because I just couldn't put it down. Highly recommended to fans of epic fantasy, especially if you enjoy the "lighter" side such as a Brandon Sanderson or Daniel Abraham novel, you will enjoy this. (less)
When this series began, there were complaints from some reviewers that the destruction of Windwir seemed too inconsistent. Why did Neb survive, but no...moreWhen this series began, there were complaints from some reviewers that the destruction of Windwir seemed too inconsistent. Why did Neb survive, but not others? What was the nature of the destruction that it could raze the city, but leave random individuals untouched? At the time, I attributed this to the randomness of destructive nature - if you've ever looked at what did and didn't survive a tornado as it decimates a community, you know what I mean.
Antiphon takes a stab at starting to give the rationale in the context of the Nine Lands, and yeah, I didn't see that coming :)
Antiphon is a worthy continuation of the Psalms of Isaak, in what can only be described now as a science fiction epic, shrouded in fantasy, with the drapery of steampunk and the trappings of...fantasy. Bah. Post-apocalyptic apocalyptic fiction?
Whatever classification system you use, I call it a good fun read. Probably not the best place to dive into the story, still a great read. Enjoyed it!(less)
Somewhat reminiscent of Enemy Mine, this first book was a fast paced, fun read. If you like your sci-fi to have aliens, fighting, and a lone huma...more*wow*
Somewhat reminiscent of Enemy Mine, this first book was a fast paced, fun read. If you like your sci-fi to have aliens, fighting, and a lone human trapped in the middle of it all, you've come to the right place.(less)
A five star rating, though I would really say 4 1/2 stars - but hear me out. I tend not to enjoy independent fiction, completely for unfair technical...moreA five star rating, though I would really say 4 1/2 stars - but hear me out. I tend not to enjoy independent fiction, completely for unfair technical reasons. The stories may be fine, but the execution is typically so distractingly poor that I can't bear to make my way through.
Umstead's "Grabriel's Redemption" defies that generalization. Well written and engaging, the story is spartan and fast paced. I only paused once to question some science (this is what the genre brings out in us, and I stand by my assertion that that's not how science works). Otherwise, I read this without pause or inhibition and enjoyed the heck out of it.
Some criticize that the characters aren't well developed enough, but I would argue that they are just as well developed as any Clint Eastwood or Bruce Willis character (hmmm, take that as you will on second thought). No, we don't get a feel for how Gabriel feels about global warming or what his preference is brandies is, but we do know how he will react, and he remains true to that characterization throughout.
This was a quick read, but I don't regret it at all. If you're looking for some non-Earth military action, you could do far worse than to sit with Gabriel and his team. (less)
I have to caveat this review before it even gets started. Like the near mythical James Halliday in "Ready Player One," I was born in the mid-70's. Tha...moreI have to caveat this review before it even gets started. Like the near mythical James Halliday in "Ready Player One," I was born in the mid-70's. That means my perspective on the 80's is skewed through the lenses of someone who saw them as a child to teenager. Cline's use of Halliday's obsessive fascination with the 80's and all things geek, then, fits into my world picture just fine. But if the rousing call of "Thundarr!" doesn't even tickle a memory cell, or if the thought of Ultraman and Mechagodzilla make you just scratch your head in bewilderment, then Cline's book is going to be a tough and/or boring read. The book seems to have been written for and caters to the sci-fi and computer geeks who came of age in the 80's, and despite its future setting was intended to pull on those nostalgic heart strings. On to the review!
The year is 2044, and life is about as we expected. Fuel shortages, housing shortages, poverty, its all there in spades. The only saving grace in this near dystopian future is the OASIS, an MMORPG so vast and pervasive that it has its own equipment for accessing it, and nearly everyone in the world actually does. The inventor of the OASIS, James Halliday, is wealthy beyond measure. And then he dies, willing both his fortune and ownership of the OASIS to whoever can solve the quest he has designed to find the Easter egg. "Ready Player One" is the story of Wade Watson, told in the first person as he takes part in this global quest, to find the three keys that open the three gates that lead to Halliday's prize Easter egg. Its a fairly fast paced story, where a lot of the action takes place in the OASIS itself, the augmented virtual reality that is so key in this world.
As far as complaints go - well, you can see that Cline is a fanboy of Whedon with his references to the Whedonverse and Firefly, but where's Farscape? Where's Earth Above and Beyond? Was there really too much culture to be able to reference in under 400 pages?
More seriously, the biggest problem I see folks having with this book is that it is so niche. I'm not unfamiliar with the marketability of the culture in question, believe me, but outside of our circle I can see this book being a very boring read for folks. The book could have taken place in 2014 as much as 2044 - most of the technology that is critical is at least at the speculative layer today. Which means when you peel back the "sci-fi" of it taking place in the future, all that you are really left with is a book that's reminiscent of an 80's movie that takes place in a virtual reality where knowledge of the 80's is key.
And yet, I loved the book. I couldn't put it down, reading it within a week of getting it, which says something this time of year. If my caveats have done nothing to disuade you, then go grab a copy now, and enjoy!(less)