For those who read Darwinia, the tone and tenor of Spin are similar: a mix of science and fantastic, with a focus on human nature's reaction when face...moreFor those who read Darwinia, the tone and tenor of Spin are similar: a mix of science and fantastic, with a focus on human nature's reaction when faced with the inconceivable. Wilson is a master at it.
On a bright summer evening, three children on the cusp of teenhood witness the impossible: in the blink of an eye, all the stars wink out. Although the sun rises the next morning as usual, the next night the stars don't. Soon, scientists discover that a filtering membrane has been wrapped around the Earth and slowed its spin: for every hour on Earth, a million years flit by in the rest of the universe. Thus, humans face extinction --the death of their own sun-- within fifty years. The story is how this knowledge, this revelation, affects the three youngsters. Their lives are painted against the largest background of humanity and its varied reaction to the knowledge that it will die in less than a century. We follow them as they grow up to adulthood and towards a seemingly fateful end.
Wilson's style is deceptively simple, so that he is able to weave a complex story on several fronts --scientific, fantastic, psychological, emotional-- without seeming difficulty. The prose is elegant, incisive, yet never intrudes on the story, surprisingly intimate despite the grandeur of the theme. Because we see the plunge of Earth towards extinction through three people's eyes, three very different, fallible people, the rest falls into place. The science and fantastic aspects of the story are merely tools to explore who we are, fundamentally, and what Earth means to humanity. This Hugo-winning novel is well worth the read.(less)
As a conclusion to Vatta's War, I found Book 5 a bit of a letdown, especially the last battle. Moon introduced a stronger romantic element in the plot...moreAs a conclusion to Vatta's War, I found Book 5 a bit of a letdown, especially the last battle. Moon introduced a stronger romantic element in the plot but I thought it was clumsily done, including the ending.
I'd definitely recommend the series, but be prepared for a bit of disappointment in the last book.(less)
John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good ne...moreOld Man's War, by John Scalzi.
John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce - and aliens willing to fight for them are common. The universe, it turns out, is a hostile place.
John, of course, does not fight in his seventy-five year old body. He is given a new, much improved one (sort of the Six Million Dollar Man on steroids) that transforms him into a mean fighting machine. He'll need all of his resources. It's a scary, violent, deadly universe out there; soldiers are lucky to last a few months. We follow John and his "family", a group of elderly who joined at the same time he did, from boot camp to the interstellar fighting fields. Not all of them survive.
Scalzi retains his smoothly flowing style in Old Man's War, and there are traces of humour reminiscent of his first novel, Agent to the Stars, but the story is deeper, richer, more inquisitive than Agent. It could be qualified as a space opera but, just as Spin goes beyond the fantastic, Old Man's War goes beyond the genre. Scalzi questions what makes us human, in a very different way. John Perry doesn't have his own battered body, but retains his mind and his experiences. So the question appears: what makes us "us"? How is our humanity defined? Our personality? How much of it would we retain if we were to be reborn, or brought back from death?
He also asks the question: if there are aliens out there (and who says there aren't), would violence, born of an inability to understand each other, be the only solution?
Scalzi's Old Man's War is deceptive. Sure, it can read as a simple war story. But if you're willing to become absorbed in the story, you will ask yourself the same questions he poses.
Old Man's War was nominated for a Hugo Award. It's well deserved.(less)
Two days before getting out of prison, Shadow learns that his beloved wife, the one thing that kept him sane when he was inside, died in a car acciden...moreTwo days before getting out of prison, Shadow learns that his beloved wife, the one thing that kept him sane when he was inside, died in a car accident with his best friend, Bobbie. At the funeral, he learns that the two had been having a torrid affair for years. Dazed by grief and confused by what he'd just learned, Shadow accepts a job from a sleazy character named Wednesday, who hires him to protect him.
Soon it's revealed that Wednesday is Odin, and that he is recruiting all the old gods the immigrants brought to America with them to fight a mighty battle with America's new gods: Internet, Media, Cars, etc.
Gaiman takes us on a long --too long-- trek through the States and through the many arrivals of peoples to America, from the Vikings on. Unfortunately, unless one has an intimate knowledge of world deities and their roles, the narration becomes confusing and somewhat obscure. Throughout all this, the protagonist, Shadow, dreams a series of dreams that seem pointless, even in the end. The "new" gods are vague and serve only as a backdrop; they have a very limited role, and it is a geeky one at that.
American Gods is a rambling story that leaves the reader dissatisfied. Its only redeeming quality is Gaiman's demonstration of how varied and culturally different Americans are. Perhaps, in the end, the message is that what unifies them, as a people, is the new gods.(less)
Strangely reminiscent of Christopher Moore's Blue Coyote, Neil Gayman's Anansi Boys is a travel through the devious world of native myth.
"Fat" Charlie...moreStrangely reminiscent of Christopher Moore's Blue Coyote, Neil Gayman's Anansi Boys is a travel through the devious world of native myth.
"Fat" Charlie Nancy, named so by his father (when his father named someone, it tended to stick), isn't fat at all and goes through life zombie-like: he has a job he hates, a fiancée he likes but is not sure he loves, a future mother-in-law who despises him, and a father who ruins his life when he dies in a Karaoke bar.
Upon the death of his father, Fat Charlie learns that good old dad was the spider god Anansi. He was a trouble-maker, a cheat, a practical-joker; he made enemies of all the other gods during his long stint as the "super" God. Fat Charlie learns he also has a brother, Spider, who has inherited his father's powers and, through some weird magic, brings Spider to him. The problem is, his brother creates total chaos in Charlie's life and doesn't want to leave, so Fat Charlie embarks on a trip to the world of the lesser gods for a solution. Which makes things worse, of course.
Neil Gayman's Anansi Boys makes you smile all the way, even when it tackles such deep questions as "Who am I?" and "Who do I want to be?" His writing flows in a way that you see the story and not the words. Gayman makes you laugh, moves you, and makes you think. Through the relationships between father and sons, as ludicrous as the situations become, he makes us think of our own and how, in the end, family can be touched by the divine.(less)
This is the second of Dave Duncan's Nostradamus books, and a totally enjoyable read. Although the pivotal character is Nostradamus, the main protagoni...moreThis is the second of Dave Duncan's Nostradamus books, and a totally enjoyable read. Although the pivotal character is Nostradamus, the main protagonist is his apprentice, Alfeo Zeno, who carries out his master's investigations and gets in trouble in the process. The setting, Venice in the fifteenth century, rife with political machinations and the constant threat of the Inquisition adds to the charm of the story.
In this book, Alfeo must help uncover a spy who uses a complex encryption model to pass on his messages. Nostradamus uses his apprentice's special abilities with the sword, and with the occult, to unravel the plot and unmask the spy.
Duncan's description of Venice is vivid and his characters, from the Doge himself to Giorgio the gondolier, are vibrant and colourful. (less)
When I say I’m fairly obsessed by the story of a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire, most people who haven’t heard of the Twilight series l...moreWhen I say I’m fairly obsessed by the story of a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire, most people who haven’t heard of the Twilight series look at me as if I’ve finally lost it. “It” being my mind, my reason, or any rhyme thereof.
But I’m not afraid to admit that not only do I find the story compelling but I find the writing absolutely wonderful. Forget about all the vampire clichés; Stephenie Meyer has thrown them all out (well, they do drink blood, but even that little bit has a twist) and started with two people, one alive and the other dead, and has fabricated a compelling, believable, story that will raise your hackles, speed up your breath, shiver up your spine, and keep you storming through to the end. And even at 500 pages a pop, it’s a worthwhile time investment.
On her website, Stephenie also talks about her experience with publishing. It warms my heart that she very simply states how difficult it is to go through the process of finding an agent/publisher. She makes me like her as a person as much as a writer. Here’s what she has to say:
"To put it mildly, I was naive about publishing. I thought it worked like this: you printed a copy of your novel, wrapped it up in brown paper, and sent it off to a publishing house. Ho ho ho, that’s a good one. I started googling (naturally) and began to discover that this was not the way it is done. (Movies lie to us! Why?! A side note: you will not be able to enjoy the new Steve Martin version of Cheaper by the Dozen when you know how insanely impossible the publishing scenario it contains is.) The whole set up with query letters, literary agents, simultaneous submissions vs. exclusive submissions, synopsizes, etc., was extremely intimidating, and I almost quit there. It certainly wasn’t belief in my fabulous talent that made me push forward; I think it was just that I loved my characters so much, and they were so real to me, that I wanted other people to know them, too."
With those very simple words, she expresses the difficulties and the angst of every writer, but also the compulsion. Our characters is what drives us.(less)