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
Jack McDevitt’s latest novel, Firebird (Ace, 2011), is the sixth adventure following Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath. Alex is a well-known antiquitiesJack McDevitt’s latest novel, Firebird (Ace, 2011), is the sixth adventure following Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath. Alex is a well-known antiquities dealer and Chase is his pilot and assistant.
After agreeing to look into the value of some objects that once belonged to the famous physicist Christopher Robin (who allegedly disappeared near his home and was presumably lost in the ocean), Chase and Alex uncover a series of events that Robin was investigating himself: sightings of unidentified spaceships that appeared out of nowhere and then faded away. Their investigation takes them to a number of worlds, including in which one of the worst disasters in human history took place. The world is dangerous now, those who visit don’t return. But Alex and Chase brave that world in search for answers. What they ultimately find–the why Robin disappeared, why the strange ships have been appearing and disappearing throughout history, will take your breath away. And what they do about it makes for one of the most nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat climaxes I’ve read in a long time.
Firebird is the best Alex Benedict novel yet and it just goes to show that as good a writer as Jack McDevitt is (see my review of Time Travelers Never Die), he keeps getting better. This novel presses all of my science fiction buttons: it’s got a fascinating mystery, big cosmological events, black holes, lost spaceships, artificial intelligence. While the story itself, told as always from Chase’s point of view, focuses on the mystery, it can’t help but reveal new facets to characters I have grown to think of as friends. At times, the tension is high between Alex and Chase and we get a glimpse of how they came together in the first place. We also learn more about the AIs in this distant future, and the subject of the novel allows for intriguing discussions of philosophical questions: religion, intelligence, and what it means to be sentient.
The conclusion of the novel is absolutely breathtaking. I found myself on the edge of my seat, the same as I might be for a suspenseful movie or a close game seven in the World Series. Everything around me disappeared and I was completely and totally part of the novel. And the epilogue, down to the very last line, was so touching it nearly brought tears to my eyes. It is, in my opinion, one of those rare books worthy of a 5-star rating.
This is one of the most remarkable novels of any kind that I have ever read, and a truly stunning piece of time-travel/historical/science fiction.
I stThis is one of the most remarkable novels of any kind that I have ever read, and a truly stunning piece of time-travel/historical/science fiction.
I started reading Doomsday Book because I'd read Connie Willis's Blackout earlier in this year and was anxiously awaiting All Clear. I knew that DOOMSDAY BOOK was a Hugo and Nebula winning and I knew that Connie Willis was an outstanding writer, so I figured the book was going to be a good one.
It was a remarkably good one. I've come across very few books that are both page-turners, and emotionally jarring as well. There have been even fewer books that have moved me to tears multiple times. But this book was one of them. Connie's portrayal of the middle ages during the plague is brutal, and made more so by her impeccable ability to make the reader feel for the characters as if you know them, as if you are there with them experiencing the horrors. You almost wonder if Connie has the ability to travel back in time and used that ability to form the research for this novel.
Everything about the work is impressive, from the description and historical details, to the humor she injects, to the style of her writing and the care and effort she clearly puts into it....more
Stephen King’s most recent book, 11/22/63, is a time-travel adventure about a man from 2011 who uses a time “bubble” to attempt to prevent the KennedyStephen King’s most recent book, 11/22/63, is a time-travel adventure about a man from 2011 who uses a time “bubble” to attempt to prevent the Kennedy assassination. Writing a book like this is a bold move on the part of Mr. King. In the science fiction realm, time-travel stories are rampant and can easily become cliched and overdone. Furthermore, the Kennedy assassination is a kind of Grand Central Station for time travelers in fiction. It has been done in stories, books and television. So combining the two yet again was something of a risk. But after reading 11/22/63 it was a risk that I am grateful that Stephen King decided to take. The book is an outstanding example of what can be achieved when two over-used story lines are looked at with fresh eyes and a fresh approach. I loved the book from start to finish and most of the time had difficulty putting it down.
The story is told from the point of view of Jake Epping. Jake is a teacher in Maine. His friend, Al Templeton, who runs the local burger joint, lets him in on a little secret. In the back of the burger joint is a portal into 1958. It is a little hard for Jake to accept until he tries the portal for himself. Al has been back to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination, but is sick with cancer and passes the torch to Jake. Before Jake can try to prevent the Kennedy assassination, he first needs to prove to himself that the past can be changed and affect the future. This little side quest takes Jake on an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride through familiar territory: Derry, Maine, in 1958. After his hard fought success, he returns to 2011 and decides to take on the mission to prevent the Kennedy assassination. This means living in the past for 5 years. And meeting someone special and falling in love. I won’t give away the ending but it is equally as thrilling as the rest of the book.
Rather than use tried and true tropes of time-travel stories, King takes what seems to me to be a unique approach: each time you go through the portal, everything is reset back to the same day in 1958. This adds an important plot complication. Anything you’ve done to change the past is undone once you return through the portal to 1958. It means that if something goes wrong along the way, say, several years into Epping’s efforts, he can just go back directly to the point where things went wrong, but he has to start over from the beginning, much like a video game.
Jake Epping’s character is well-developed, like all Stephen King characters and the story is told from his point of view and in his voice, which becomes familiar and comforting. And there is a wonderful surprise for long-time Stephen King readers: some familiar settings, some familiar background stories, and even some familiar faces during the time Jake Epping spends in Derry, Maine.
The Kennedy assassination thread is also very well handled. King mentions possibly conspiracy theories, but proceeds under the assumption that it was a lone gunman and that helps to move the story along and avoid getting bogged down that has been rehashed in plenty of other books and movies. This is not a book about the Kennedy assassination. It is much more about the effect people have on the world around them–and each other.
Most of all, this was a fun book to read, an edge-of-your-seat thriller with just the right amount of mystery, mystique, adventure, romance, and humor thrown in for good measure. Yes, humor. The funniest scene I’ve ever read is contained within these pages. Don’t worry: you’ll know it when you see it. This read is well-deserving of 5-stars.
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
I wasn't sure what to expect going into this. So far, It has been my favorite Stephen King. Under the Dome might not have topped it, but it came closeI wasn't sure what to expect going into this. So far, It has been my favorite Stephen King. Under the Dome might not have topped it, but it came close. And it was one of the best page-turners I've read in a long time. That's saying a lot for a book that's nearly 1,100 pages long and which I read in half the time it took to read It. I wasn't a Stephen King fan early on, but with the last few books I've read, including this one, I've become one....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
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
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.
**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
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 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
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 hard-to-classify book novel about horse-racing and more is absolutely hilarious. While Beyond Apollo remains my favorite Malzberg book, UnderlayThis hard-to-classify book novel about horse-racing and more is absolutely hilarious. While Beyond Apollo remains my favorite Malzberg book, Underlay is likely his funniest....more
Another delightful Alex Benedict mystery. This one was more of a page turner than The Devil's Eye and I felt at times like I literally couldn't put doAnother delightful Alex Benedict mystery. This one was more of a page turner than The Devil's Eye and I felt at times like I literally couldn't put down the book. It's hard to say much about the story without introducing spoilers, but if you like stories about the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, cover-ups, space travel and good old detective work, then you must read ECHO....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
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
I remember getting this book from Weekly Reader when I was in second or third grade. I'd never read anything like it. I read it again and again.I remember getting this book from Weekly Reader when I was in second or third grade. I'd never read anything like it. I read it again and again....more
We read this book in 3rd grade. We would start each day with some "aerobics" and after that, we'd sit down at our desks and the teacher would read a cWe read this book in 3rd grade. We would start each day with some "aerobics" and after that, we'd sit down at our desks and the teacher would read a chapter from this book....more
Absolutely stunning, heartbreaking and joyous, hilarious and devastating. I used to think The Time Traveler's Wife was one of the best time travel stoAbsolutely stunning, heartbreaking and joyous, hilarious and devastating. I used to think The Time Traveler's Wife was one of the best time travel stories I'd ever read, but Blackout/All Clear sets a new bar. Connie Willis is amazing....more
Wow! Great book. If I rated books in half-rating, I probably would have given this one a 4-1/2. I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I think that it wasWow! Great book. If I rated books in half-rating, I probably would have given this one a 4-1/2. I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I think that it was slightly _better_ than _Old Man's War_. I'm heading off to the library now to check out the next book in the series, _The Last Colony_....more
Outstanding book. Everything that I hoped it would be. Old Man's War stands up there with Starship Troopers and The Forever War and holds its own. CanOutstanding book. Everything that I hoped it would be. Old Man's War stands up there with Starship Troopers and The Forever War and holds its own. Can't wait to get into the sequel....more
I kept reading, but I just had a hard time keeping up with what was going on, and by the time I got to the end, I had no idea what happened. This disaI kept reading, but I just had a hard time keeping up with what was going on, and by the time I got to the end, I had no idea what happened. This disappointed me because it seemed that there was a build-up to something and I never figured out what it was....more