I haven't finished a book since mid-August, my longest drought on record, and there was no better book to break that drought than Jack McDevitt's TheI haven't finished a book since mid-August, my longest drought on record, and there was no better book to break that drought than Jack McDevitt's The Devil's Eye. This is the fourth installment in Jack's series of science fiction mysteries involving Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath. Benedict is a trader of antiquities and Kolpath is his pilot and sidekick. Together, they solve mysteries that generally start with the discovery of some ancient artifact that cannot be explained. The stories take place more than 9,000 years in our future.
These novels are pure fun for me and the more I think about it, they are the type of stories that I enjoy writing. (In fact, my story, "Take One for the Road" coming out in Analog in 2011 is probably best-described as my attempt at a Jack McDevitt science fiction mystery.) Jack does an amazing job of taking a seemingly impossible event and pulling together a plausible explanation for it. In The Devil's Eye, the event is a memory wipe without explanation, and the results--well, I don't want to give anything away, but the story along the way has perhaps the biggest scope of any Alex Benedict novel so far.
The story involves political intrigue, travel to the far end of the galaxy, and grand cosmic events, all wrapped up into a tight mystery that keeps you reading to the very last page. The world that McDevitt paints in these novels is one that I wish actually existed. (The only other time I've felt this way is in Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe.) Alex and Chase are like old friends. One thing I particularly like about this series is that it is a series only in characters. While there is occasional mention of events from previous books, the books are only very loosely connected and the novels themselves stand as independent mysteries, almost like the Agatha Christie Hercule Poroit novels.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Devil's Eye and I highly recommend it. I've already started on the next Alex Benedict novel, Echo, released just last month....more
I've now read all 3 of Stephen King's BIG standalone novels, It, Under the Dome A Novel, and The Stand. While I enjoyed The Stand, I think it was theI've now read all 3 of Stephen King's BIG standalone novels, It, Under the Dome A Novel, and The Stand. While I enjoyed The Stand, I think it was the weakest of all three. In part this might be because it was the first, but I suspect that some of it has to do with the fact that I think the ending of the book dragged on longer than it had to.
The first half of the book was outstanding, and in particular, I think King did an excellent job of painting a frightening picture of the world as we know it falling apart. When the book opens, things are business-as-usual and gradually, we find that even ordinary things are becoming difficult as the world dies from the flu. I think King is a master of detail in this respect. He is able to investigate each and every facet of normal human experience and illustrates how that experience is impacted by the world-wide disaster. His vision for this kind of writing is unmatched. The depth of his characters is also outstanding, and you find yourself occasionally frustrated by the good guys and having sympathy for the bad guys--and this is as it should be because nothing is black-and-white.
The fantasy element of the story bothered me, however, and perhaps that is simply an artifact of my difficulty suspending my disbelief. When the battle between good and evil entered the scene, I started to grow a little wary. I understand King's reasons for doing this, but I think the book would have been more interesting without this element. Second to that, more explanation as to why there was this supernatural element and how it related to the superflu would have been helpful.
I think the book should have ended sooner than it did. I didn't see much value in the final journey back to Boulder. There wasn't much new I learned about the characters or the situation.
Nevertheless, it was a good read, especially the first half of the book or so and I am glad I had the chance to read the book. 3.5 stars out of 5...more
Connie Willis' newest novel, Blackout had a lot of things in its favor even before I read the first page: (1) it was written by Connie Willis, whose wConnie Willis' newest novel, Blackout had a lot of things in its favor even before I read the first page: (1) it was written by Connie Willis, whose work I admire; (2) it's a time-travel story, which is a minor passion of mine; (3) it takes place in London in World War II, a setting which pushes more of my buttons. When I started reading it, I knew I would not be disappointed. The story follows three "historians" from Oxford, circa 2060, who are researching aspects of the Blitz in London. They do this by traveling back in time and embedding themselves in various events.
The story is rich with the setting and details of the period. The amount of research I imagine it must have taken shows through in the fine detail of what life must have been like during the Blitz. Having been to London, roamed the city and the Underground, I could picture very well where the events took place. Connie Willis' fabulous description, and especially, the little details she adds, helped complete the picture of what it was like 70 years ago, with bombs falling overhead. The characters come to life, too, and Willis even captures some rather witty examples of the British sense of humor that had me laughing out loud.
But the story has another layer, one which gradually build in tension: time travel itself, and its implications. More and more it appears that the historians are finding themselves stuck in 1940 London. The usual methods of extraction do not appear to be working. And no one knows why.
The writing really helps make the story come alive. Connie Willis is a master at this. The words on the page disappear and you feel embedded in the scenes, the sounds of the exploding bombs shuddering your bones, the droning of the airplanes rattling your teeth. She makes it look so easy, and yet if it were this easy to write a good story, everyone would be able to do it.
I don't give out 5-stars for books very often. (The last piece of science fiction to which I gave 5-stars was Joe Haldeman's The Accidental Time Machine.) I don't have hard and fast rules for this kind of thing, but there are 2 things that clue me in to the fact that what I am reading is 5-star material: first, it's a page turner, one that I can't seem to put down. I ended up finishing this book between 3-4 am simply because I woke up and had to know how it ended. Second, if I find myself getting close to the end of a book and wishing there was more, I know I've got something that's worthy of 5-stars. Both apply to Blackout. And yet--in this rare instance, my wish is coming true. For Blackout is really just the first half of the story. The second half of the story, All Clear is scheduled for a fall release. So the story will continue.
This leads to one of two minor issues I found with the book. First, the fact that the story ends abruptly with a cliff-hanger means that people will have to wait to find out how things turnout, and some people may find that frustrating. Second, it seems there are ways that our stranded time-travelers could make contact with their colleagues in the future--some fairly obvious ones--but those are not considered by characters. At least not in the first half of the story. (Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity hints at one possible solution--something that was also used in the Back to the Future series.)
Regardless, this was an absolutely wonderful read and I no eagerly await the conclusion of the story, desperately hoping it will be as good as the opening....more
There are 3 things that I really enjoy reading: science fiction, science and history. Kim Stanley Robinson's latest novel, Galileo's Dream is a terrifThere are 3 things that I really enjoy reading: science fiction, science and history. Kim Stanley Robinson's latest novel, Galileo's Dream is a terrific fusion of all three. It took me a longer than usual time to read this book, which I started in late December. But despite the interruptions, I kept coming back to the book because it intrigued me. It is a fascinating, fictionalized look at Galileo's life, and his struggle with the Catholic Church, a struggle which in some ways parallels the struggle taking place in the future with a newly discovered intelligence on the moons of Jupiter.
The novel has something for everyone: time travel, historical fiction, space ships, far future societies, first contact, high technology. But the main thrust of it centers around Galileo's life in Italy, his friends and family, and his evolution as the "first scientist". Interestingly, the copyright page on the Kindle edition calls the book a "work of historical fiction". Indeed, but both past and future history must be included in that broad categorization.
I think I like Stephen King's short fiction better than his novels, but I am biases; I am a fan of short fiction above all else. Stephen King is a defI think I like Stephen King's short fiction better than his novels, but I am biases; I am a fan of short fiction above all else. Stephen King is a definite master of the art.
There are four novellas in Different Seasons and I will briefly address each of them.
1. "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption". I'd seen (and loved) the movie, but never read the story. Having read the story, I immediately added it to my list of all time favorite stories. It's all about the voice, I think. There are elements that differ from the movie, but the voice is the same and I think it's the voice that made the movie as good as it was. Like all my "all-time favorites" it's the kind of story that I can and will read again with equal enjoyment. 5 stars.
2. "Apt Pupil". This was a horrible story--in the traditional sense--I felt a sense of horror reading it. I was in constant discomfort, uneasy. And that's because it was a well-told story. Despite my feeling that it was probably the weakest story of the lot, I still think King demonstrated his ability to make the reader feel something about the characters. 3-1/2 stars.
3. "The Body". I'm ashamed to admit that I've never seen "Stand By Me" from beginning to end, but now I don't have to. I liked the story, a kind of coming-of-age tale typified by King's ability at getting deep into a character and his or her surroundings. There was a nostalgia to the story that I didn't quite feel, perhaps because I grew up in the 70s and 80s and not the 50s and 60s, but despite that, I think some of that nostalgia managed to sneak through anyway. 3-1/2 stars.
4. "The Breathing Method". This story surprised me the most. It is the shortest of the stories, and while it's not the best story in the book, it is fair second. I loved the setting of the story, and the mystery surrounding the club (which in some ways reminded me of Asimov's Black Widowers). There was an unearthly quality to the story, and it is a story that I imagine could have been written by Jorge Luis Borges. It was perhaps the best page-turner in the book. 4 stars....more
I enjoyed this collection of short stories, Stephen King's first. The better stories in the batch were, "Jerusalem's Lot", "The Boogeyman", "StrawberrI enjoyed this collection of short stories, Stephen King's first. The better stories in the batch were, "Jerusalem's Lot", "The Boogeyman", "Strawberry Spring", and "Children of the Corn". It is clear from the stories that King is a natural writer of short fiction, which makes his transition to novels all the more impressive. I'm looking forward to reading his other short fiction collections....more
Wow, what a book! There's a lot to condense down into a brief review, but more than anything else, the characters made this book. The story was an intWow, what a book! There's a lot to condense down into a brief review, but more than anything else, the characters made this book. The story was an interesting one, but the characters are what brought it to life. The book was not at all what I expected it to be: a book about an evil clown that goes around killing people. I was surprised by it at every turn, and the fact that it took me a month to read is a testament to how much I enjoyed it. I was so busy with other stuff that I would have ordinarily given up on it, but I stuck with it to the end and it was well worth the trip....more
**spoiler alert** Not a bad book, but not as good as Carrie, in my opinion. The first four parts of the book were great, but the last part got a littl**spoiler alert** Not a bad book, but not as good as Carrie, in my opinion. The first four parts of the book were great, but the last part got a little too silly for my tastes. It seemed to me that the story was going in the direction of a man who was simply going insane and that would have been a good way to conclude it without bringing in supernatural aspects of the hotel. It would have been interesting to see how everything was explained through Jack's insanity. But that's not how it was done. The story was well told, regardless, and King's attention to detail in his writing gets better with each book I read. ...more
Enjoyed this book, perhaps in part because there was an attempt at a scientific explanation for the paranormal activities taking place. (I have a hardEnjoyed this book, perhaps in part because there was an attempt at a scientific explanation for the paranormal activities taking place. (I have a hard time suspending my disbelief for traditional horror, but I think this helped.) I liked the way the story was told--through interviews, excerpts from books and newspapers, letters (the "works within the work")--in addition to the narration. There is a definite attention to detail in the telling of the story, and all of the characters were believable; some of whom I could even empathize with. I'd give it 3-1/2 stars if that were possible in Goodreads....more
While the book is a page-turner, I found the plot really hard to swallow. Furthermore, I really noticed just how awkward of a writer Dan Brown seems tWhile the book is a page-turner, I found the plot really hard to swallow. Furthermore, I really noticed just how awkward of a writer Dan Brown seems to be. He uses many phrases that one would almost expect to find in pulp fiction. Characters are flat, and where they are developed, I was distracted by the writing style. The New Age elements of the book really turned me off, early on, but I pressed on because the book was a page turner. Unfortunately, with one exception (an unexpected plot twist toward the end), they payoff was disappointing....more
This was the 3rd Stephen King book I've read, and the first that's non-fiction. I found it to be remarkably well-written, and enjoyable. He has down-tThis was the 3rd Stephen King book I've read, and the first that's non-fiction. I found it to be remarkably well-written, and enjoyable. He has down-to-earth, common-sense advice that come from experience, and doesn't pull any punches....more
This was just a fun book, plain and simple, and a great read. I am a big fan of time-travel stories. Although not quite as much fun as Joe Haldeman'sThis was just a fun book, plain and simple, and a great read. I am a big fan of time-travel stories. Although not quite as much fun as Joe Haldeman's The Accidental Time Machine, the story itself was enjoyable. The character's romp through time is very much the kind of journey I'd want to take if I had access to a time machine. There were clever uses of time-travel paradoxes throughout the story, and it was fun feeling like I was getting to meet famous people from history. As far as time travel stories go, it was not on par with Robert Silverberg's Up the Line, but it was a lot of fun (a la Heinlein) and I'd recommend it to fans of time travel science fiction....more