These books follow primarily Sten Duncan, a human surface tactical officer, and Niun S'Intel, a warrior and one of the last born of the alien Mri raceThese books follow primarily Sten Duncan, a human surface tactical officer, and Niun S'Intel, a warrior and one of the last born of the alien Mri race. Humans and another alien race, Regul, are just reaching a truce and the Mri have been the Regul's mercenaries throughout the war. Duncan is one of two humans sent to begin the human take-over of the Mri's adopted homeworld which has bren ceded to humans in the truce. However the encounter between Humans, Mri, and Regul ands up being more violent and far more complex than expected.
This was a hard series for me to get through. But even so, I'm glad I read these books as an omnibus. For one thing, each ended with something of a cliffhanger. For another, the stifling grimness and inertia of the books was sufficiently oppressive that I'm not sure I would have gotten through the series if I hadn't just kept plowing on.
The story is beautifully well crafted with characters whose struggles and psychological reality felt more like a work of modern fiction than science fiction. There is a sense of familiarity but culture shock to the aliens with relatively small, given that they are aliens, but distinct differences in perspective that made them understandable in their strangeness.
The characters were the biggest strength of the book. Each one, including those ostensibly on the other side of the conflict was interesting, believable and compelling in his/her/it's own way. The connection between Duncan and Niun had a particular pull, as I'm sure Cherryh intended.
My biggest problem with the book was just the story Cherryh chose to tell. For one thing there large sections of the books with stifling inactivity that the characters are forced to and chafe at and it's hard to stay with those feelings. There are also large sections of the book in which Cherryh doesn't shy from the horrors of conflict. Again had to stay with the feelings. I also started not to trust that Cherryh was going to bring the story to something even akin to resolution. I should not have worried on that score. The ending is beautifully wrought and has a wonderfully final yet open-ended feeling. On the whole the series again demonstrates Cherryh's mastery of her craft, but at the same time I'm not sure I feel really glad to have read the books.
This brings me to another musing about my more general problem with sci fi that I'm sure impacted my mixed feelings about this book. I have this perhaps overly optimistic hope for the future that space facing creatures will have to have honed their ability to cooperate and interact in a peaceful way that it's hard for me to just go with the idea of space wars without feeling deeply unsettled by this very premise. I'm aware that this is an unfair set of criteria to apply to all things sci fi, but the sense of realism brought these internal biases to the fore for me. ...more
This book is incredibly well written and Miéville's prose is amazing. The cast of characters are dynamic and compelling. They are sometimes aligned anThis book is incredibly well written and Miéville's prose is amazing. The cast of characters are dynamic and compelling. They are sometimes aligned and sometimes at odds, and seem to move in and out of each others' lives in a grand, almost celestial fashion. Miéville's plot is driving, and after about the first 125 pages, I was dragged along to the type of ending I wish most writers could concoct.
All that said, I didn't exactly enjoy this book. I would say it was a hard read and that I'm not sure I want to pick up the third. I just entered the following quote which I think sums up the feeling of the book well:
"So many truths have been kept from me. This violent, pointless voyage has been sopping with blood. I feel thick and sick with it. And that is all: contingent and brutal without meaning. There is nothing to be learnt here. No ecstatic forgetting. There is no redemption in the sea."
The tagline on the cover says the book is dark and gritty and I would call that a vast understatement. The book begins by following Bellis Coldwine as she reluctantly escapes New Crobuzon (the grand but terrifying and oppressive city). Slowly a group of other characters are added to the mix and begin to take up various supporting roles in the narrative, all hastening toward an end that feels a bit like the kind of fate found in a Shakespearean tragedy.
So on the one hand, I wish all books were even half as masterfully written as this one, but on the other hand, I don't know if I understand or can take Miéville's sensibility.
**spoiler alert** This is Carey's sequel to Santa Olivia. In it we follow Pilar and Loup as they try to build their lives following their escape from**spoiler alert** This is Carey's sequel to Santa Olivia. In it we follow Pilar and Loup as they try to build their lives following their escape from Santa Olivia while also trying to help those they left behind.
I ended up really enjoying the book (hence the four stars), but the story initially didn't grab me and the first third to half felt like it was providing background just so we could get to the meat of the story.
Loup (and with her Pilar) is recruited to an elite bodyguard corporation d/t her physical abilities. The first part of the story follows her training to be a "secret agent bodyguard." For one thing, secret agent bodyguard... really? It just felt too cliche and at the same time tidy that she and Pilar would become secret agent bodyguards, and the reasons behind it weren't nearly compelling the way the reasons why Loup learned to become a kick ass boxer were.
After this though the story picked up and the part I really enjoyed dealt with how Loup and Pilar attempted to help those left in Santa Oliva and also dealt with the age-old question of what it means to be human using Loup's genetically modified quality as a vehicle for this. This is where Carey really shined. She was able to use the emotionally poignant quality of her writing to convey how important it is for us as a species not to make decisions based on fear, but rather on what is morally correct. I loved that America had descended into the haze of paranoia that we can already feel across so many aspects of our lives. The relationship between Pilar and Loup was also such a touchstone for the story. Carey used this to illustrate how love allows us to transcend ourselves and the teenage love between Loup and Pilar never felt too corney. Maybe it was because Carey always kept a seek of humor in her writing.
Anyway, not quite as good as the first, but it definitely makes me want to pick up the Carey novels I haven't read thus far. ...more
This was a fitting follow-up to Carey's initial Kushiel series. This book follows the birth and childhood of Loup who is born with strange abilities.This was a fitting follow-up to Carey's initial Kushiel series. This book follows the birth and childhood of Loup who is born with strange abilities. The setting for the book is a militarized zone that the US has created on the border with Mexico in response to social turmoil. The individuals within this zone have few legal rights and no way of escaping the area. The book plays upon Catholic religious beliefs and how an individual with a qualitatively different set of internal emotions and motivations negotiates relationships and the formation of the self. There were definitely places where I felt that the challenge rating for Loup was a little low and that the individuals within the village were idealized to some extent; but these complaints were only minimally problematic and the vividness of the Loup character and the depth of feeling she portrayed was salient enough to overwhelm any more minor difficulties with the story....more
I always appreciate Resnick's particular brand of lighthearted, cowboy/space opera fiction. This book started out a bit on the heavy side for me. I stI always appreciate Resnick's particular brand of lighthearted, cowboy/space opera fiction. This book started out a bit on the heavy side for me. I started out thinking the book was too much on the superficial side, but the growing obsession of the main character, Lane, with the mysterious dream-wish beast made me think mor eand more of the old Freudian idea of thanatos. Lane, a hunter, seemed to be more and more obsessed with mortality as the story progressed. For me, he played more of the role of the antihero throughout much of the story, but the ending still felt satisfying. Definitely not one of my favorite's of Resnick's but worth the read....more
This book follows a large group of characters ("heroes"). The conceit is that they have all gathered at a bar at the end of the galaxy where they exchThis book follows a large group of characters ("heroes"). The conceit is that they have all gathered at a bar at the end of the galaxy where they exchange stories, get caught up in a war, and then exchange stories re the battle. I was a bit disappointed in the book. I have come to expect great things from Resnick and didn't feel this quite did the trick. It was interesting to read the actual deeds of the characters and then laugh at how they "improved" the stories at the later retelling. But each section felt too long and there were far too many characters. So much so that I never felt particularly attached to any of them. A few die during the alien invasion and I couldn't even really be bothered to feel bad. Another, perhaps more worthy criticism is that the stories approach women, even the women supposedly telling their own stories, as sexual objects and little more. All the women are either busty beauties or they once were, and the majority of the stories told by the women revolve around their sexuality. Of course, at times it's a powerful sexuality, but it felt two-dimensional nonetheless. All in all, there were a few funny moments, but I would go with the Santiago or Oracle series any day. ...more
For some reason this novel began to feel like a rehash of the same material from some of her earlier works. Similar, very important, environmental andFor some reason this novel began to feel like a rehash of the same material from some of her earlier works. Similar, very important, environmental and sociopolitical material was dealt with, but it just didn't feel as gripping or as interesting as what I've become accustomed to from Tepper. Perhaps part of the problem was that Tepper wove in this theme of dogs with the ability to speak and aliens that had taken the shape of dogs. I'm just not a dog person. Many of the alien cultures that Tepper is so adept at creating were still interesting, and worth reading the book for, but this is definitely lower down on my list compared to some of her previous novels....more
I said in a recent blog that art does one of two things to me: it either narrows my focus to an appreciation of the object, or broadens my focus to anI said in a recent blog that art does one of two things to me: it either narrows my focus to an appreciation of the object, or broadens my focus to an appreciation of the world and its interconnections. This book manages to do both admirably. It addresses all of the strangeness of our species through the eyes of aliens who have come to help us become "neighborly". I adore Tepper's main character. She's a strong woman who overcomes her inner demons with the help of the aliens and goes on to be their intermediary with the government of the US. The aliens turn out to have their own short-sighed deficiencies that earthlings help them overcome. The most refreshing thing about this book is its candid examination of Earth cultures and the reasons we haven't overcome the problems with them. As Publisher's Weekly is quoted as saying on the cover, "This book succeeds admirably." This book actually rivals Beauty. I can't rave enough about Tepper....more
This book was both terrible and wonderful to read. Russell simultaneously tells the story of both a past (full of hope) and a present (where most allThis book was both terrible and wonderful to read. Russell simultaneously tells the story of both a past (full of hope) and a present (where most all of the characters are dead). What makes it both good and bad is that all the characters are so wonderfully compelling. The story also raises interesting cultural, anthropological, and theological questions along the way. I found it interesting though that Russell was much more thorough about explaining scientific concepts (which I already had a grasp of) than she was about explaining theological concepts (which I understand not at all). The very name of the book is a theological reference that is discussed towards the end of the novel. From this I deduce that the references illustrates one of the main theological conflicts proposed by the story....more
Now Resnick is my favorite escapist sci fi author, and I just adore his space age, bounty hunter, cowboy universe. It was Cowboy Bebop before thereNow Resnick is my favorite escapist sci fi author, and I just adore his space age, bounty hunter, cowboy universe. It was Cowboy Bebop before there was a Cowboy Bebop. This book was as vivid and campy and real as I'd wanted it to be, but I was left feeling a bit less than satisfied. It's the story of the return of one of the greatest outlaws/revolutionaries on the Inner Frontier. The problem was that I started anticipating the ending a few chapters before it actually happened, and then there was no bang to create closure for me. For some reason, the main character also lacked the charismatic pull that I'm used to associating with Resnick's heroes. I hope there is a sequel somewhere in the works....more
This is the first in the Soothsayer trilogy. I'd read this book before, and Jason and I chose it to read together. Resnick paints such a wonderful picThis is the first in the Soothsayer trilogy. I'd read this book before, and Jason and I chose it to read together. Resnick paints such a wonderful picture of this universe with these colorful bounty-hunter characters. The book isn't just a playful look at a universe with some kind of high adventure. It tackles the question of whether ultimate power corrupts. The ultimate power takes the form of a little girl who can see all possible futures and then manipulate events so that the one she prefers happens. This doesn't always work out perfectly, since sometimes every possible future contains negatives. The question is gradually answered across the next two books, but I won't go into that here.......more
This is the story of a young, genetically modified, vampire (they call themselves Ina) who awakens gravely wounded in a cave with complete amnesia. NoThis is the story of a young, genetically modified, vampire (they call themselves Ina) who awakens gravely wounded in a cave with complete amnesia. Now, I do find the amnesia thing pretty trite, but aside from that the story raised interesting sociological issues around prejudice, sexuality, interpersonal relationships, and in-group/out-group mentality. The heroine, Shori, has had her DNA combined with that of a human woman. This genetic modification allows her to function in daylight and has also made her skin black. While the story was engaging, there were also a couple of problems. Early in the story, Shori's memory loss so dominated the story that it interfered with my emotional connection with the characters. And while that problem resolved itself as Shori gathered more information about her past, the final third of the book got bogged down in the "legal" proceedings of the Ina and again lost touch with its emotional core....more
This is the inspiring story of a horrible near future in which the US has disintegrated into warring factions and the middle class is bearing the brunThis is the inspiring story of a horrible near future in which the US has disintegrated into warring factions and the middle class is bearing the brunt of the exploitation of the upper class, while being preyed upon by the even poorer and more abject lower class. Lauren is the daughter of a preacher and college professor. She has her own ideas about religion and as she struggles to survive in this blasted wasteland of a future she finds ways of bringing hope to those around her. The one thing that our heroine does not explicitly comment on that was somewhat disturbing to me is that (other than her) no one seems to use birth control and doesn't seem the least upset about having 6, 10, 12 kids in this hopeless future. Still Butler does an amazing job at making this place believable and real and making her heroine beautifully strong and inspiring. I'm looking forward to the sequel....more
The narrative style of this book deviates substantially from the previous novel, Parable of the Sower. Rather than being simply the journal of LaurenThe narrative style of this book deviates substantially from the previous novel, Parable of the Sower. Rather than being simply the journal of Lauren Olamina's attempts to find meaning and establish her philosophy as a mainstream "religion", this novel is the retrospective selection of parts of her journal by her daughter, Asha Vere who does not agree with her religious principles. While this combination of viewpoints improves the sociocultural commentary of the novel, it dilutes the clarity of the narrative structure.
Asha is stolen from Olamina when a fundamentalist christian group takes over the US and enslaves Olamina's group as a dangerous cult. Asha is then raised in a loveless, troubled christian household. Olamina's brother, Marc, takes a more dominant role in this novel as a minister of the fundamentalist christian group who actually uses his role in a positive way. We find in this novel that there is no group that is purely evil, but rather different people take different philosophies and use them to their own ends, even Olamina. While this is an important statement, I felt that the strands of the story became too disparate and did not allow for a full development of each....more
I was quite taken with Shin's Archangel trilogy. Shin's great achievement in that previous series was the impressive reality of the world and characteI was quite taken with Shin's Archangel trilogy. Shin's great achievement in that previous series was the impressive reality of the world and characters, but unfortunately this retelling of Jane Eyre never reached the same level. There were aspects of the story that were more appealing to me when compared to the original Jane Eyre. Shin lent the story a persuasive, feminist bent that worked well with the material and made the choices of the characters less chair-shiftingly uncomfortable, but the dynamics and story never quite grabbed me....more