I've now read two of the Hugo contenders on the ballot this year. How the hell did that happen? I'm still voting for His Majesty's Dragon, mind you (I...moreI've now read two of the Hugo contenders on the ballot this year. How the hell did that happen? I'm still voting for His Majesty's Dragon, mind you (I love Captain Laurence and Temeraire far too much), but I will be very hard pressed to not vote for Charles Stross' Glasshouse. Because damn. That was a very hard contender with Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon for best novel I've read so far this year.
Where to begin? Given the social circle I'm in, it will probably surprise no one that I found his society's treatment of bisexualism, gender freedom, monogamy and polyamory and every shade in between--and, just as importantly, solid acceptance of people's comfort levels for such things--refreshing. I was also quite amused by the inhabitants of this society being able to change their forms at whim, and that "elven" was apparently a common enough body type to show up as a reference. So was "centaur". There are pop culture references to both Star Trek and The Prisoner, done deftly enough to not be hugely obvious, but nicely apparent to fans of either. As a computer professional, I appreciated his frequent use of tech phrases like "fork an instance" and "firewall" in new and creative ways--in the sense of people's conscious existences and entire civilizations, rather than simple computers.
But all of that was really flavor and spice on top of a quite substantial and satisfying read. In a day when I'm half-braced to find grating copy errors in at least half the books I read, Stross' prose has a polished, dazzling clarity. And the plot was wonderfully convoluted, making me genuinely uncertain as to what was going on at least twice. Most of all, I appreciate that he made me think quite a bit about what he was writing. Highly recommended read. Four stars.(less)
After following John Scalzi's blog for a while and finding him a generally entertaining blogger, I decided it was high time to tackle some of his pros...moreAfter following John Scalzi's blog for a while and finding him a generally entertaining blogger, I decided it was high time to tackle some of his prose--so I picked up Old Man's War a few weeks back and have whipped through it in short order today.
Old Man's War has a blurb on its cover that compares it quite favorably to Heinlein. Having yet to read a word of Heinlein, I can't speak to the truth of this comparison--but I can definitely tell you that this story's very light on the character details and very heavy on the things exploding. There's just enough characterization to give various cast members some noticeable trait to help you remember them, and that's about it; the vast majority of the time, unless it's immediately pertinent to the plot, you don't even get details of physical description. This was a little disconcerting for me at first (since I do like to have at least a few basic details of appearance filled in), but I quickly got over it. The story moved fast, was generally engaging, and was well-armed with other details of interest: recruiting senior citizens into the Colonial Defense Forces by the hook of promising to make them young again, the idea of a universe populated with countless alien species who are in fact mostly hostile to humanity, and what in the world's going on with the Ghost Brigades, which turn out to be a plot point for Our Hero, John Perry.
On the other hand, nothing about it was ever particularly surprising, either. John has a meteoric rise through the ranks, based just as much on luck as his wits, and never has anything happen to him that's particularly challenging or develops his character in any significant way; he does have a brief fit of angst over whether he's still human as opposed to a kickass fightin' machine, but that's about it. The alien species we're introduced to are just as lightly sketched in as the human characters, and although the one character that raises the question of "so why do we keep shooting at all these other species rather than trying like, y'know, diplomacy?" is an annoying asshat, he does have a valid point. One does wonder where the friendly non-human species are; two get mentioned, but only in passing, and there are no friendly non-humans on camera.
Still, there's enough of interest here that I do plan to check out the next book. Three stars!(less)
**spoiler alert** Picoreview: good work by Ms. Czerneda as always, and boy do I want to be her when it comes to writing SF. I do, however, have some n...more**spoiler alert** Picoreview: good work by Ms. Czerneda as always, and boy do I want to be her when it comes to writing SF. I do, however, have some nitpicks.
The two biggest nitpicks are things that I saw mentioned in reader comments on Amazon.com, and with which I agree. One is that the ending is kind of abrupt, and the other is how Ms. Czerneda kept showing us the thoughts of Mac, her protagonist. She italicized them--as many writers do--but she also had a lot of them in past tense. This was rather distracting! As a reader, I'm conditioned to thinking of italicized thoughts as simply dialogue that's thought rather than spoken. The greater problem, too, was that her treatment of this was not consistent. Occasionally Mac's italicized thoughts were actually in present tense, which is what one would expect!
This is not like Ms. Czerneda, either; it doesn't happen in any of her other works. So I have to wonder what happened--if this was her fault or the fault of her copyeditor.
There are other quibbles I have with the story, but these are lesser ones... things like "so what was the point of taking this particular scientist and putting her in the thick of things? Why are her skills so crucial?" However, I'm willing to cut slack on this specifically because this is the first of a series--and unlike her previous series, which are genuine trilogies in which each book is a standalone story, this looks like it's going to be one big story. So I can deal with not having all the questions answered yet.
And, all this said, I did definitely enjoy the story. Mac was a likeable reluctant heroine, and I found her distinct lack of interest in affairs off Earth a bit of a refreshing switch--in fact, up until the story really gets underway, she hasn't even ever left the planet. This isn't something I'm accustomed to seeing in SF novels I read. :)
I really liked Brymn, who was the latest in Ms. Czerneda's colorful array of alien characters. And I sniffled at his eventual fate at the end of the book. Speaking of which, the ending definitely did pull a surprising fast one, because I just was not expecting that Brymn's race was actually responsible for the death and destruction! She did an extremely good job of making you THINK that the race that seems to be the bad guys are in fact trying to stop what's going on--and once that's revealed, there's also a good sense that even though Brymn's race is causing all these things, it's not because they're evil. They just have an extremely dangerous biological imperative going on, and the leaders of the Dhryn have been hiding their own history from their people. You get some small heads-up that this is coming, what with the reader finding out that among the Dhryn, biology and archaeology and even medicine--disciplines that would let the race at large have a clearer understanding of what's going on--are forbidden practices.
Nice little touches of technology all throughout the book, too.
All in all, though not up to the standards of A Thousand Words for Stranger, a very fun read. Definitely looking forward to Book 2 hitting paperback.(less)
**spoiler alert** The Species Imperative series continues to be a solid example of what Czerneda does best--create vivid and memorable alien species....more**spoiler alert** The Species Imperative series continues to be a solid example of what Czerneda does best--create vivid and memorable alien species. The two major alien characters in Migration weren't quite as cool as Brymn in Survival, but they definitely had their moments. I really liked Fourteen in particular, and how he developed through the course of this installment of the ongoing story. I also liked the lead alien character at the conference Mac attends--since she is a collective consciousness, and written very well.
Slightly disappointingly, however, the human characters this time around don't quite match up to the alien ones. Our hero Mac mostly alternates between angsting over the capture of her best friend Emily by the Ro and angsting over her budding attraction to Nik, the spy-type we saw show up in the first book. The one disappointing quirk in Czerneda's writing from the first book carries over into this one, too--when Mac addresses her thoughts at Emily, Czerneda is inconsistent in making those thoughts first person vs. third person. I wouldn't ordinarily find this a problem, except that she also keeps working Em's name into these thoughts, and it reads really weird when you try to write out someone's thoughts in third person and you're also still trying to address them to an imagined audience.
For example: She didn't mean to do that, Em. Bits like this kept showing up in Mac's thought patterns, italicized to clearly show that they're thoughts, and yet they're in third person. People don't think in third person, and they don't address third-person thoughts to imaginary listeners, either. This comes across as the author addressing Em somehow rather than Mac. I didn't mind Mac constantly talking to Em when she was alone or constantly directing her thoughts at her--coping mechanism for the character, I can deal with that. I just wish that Czerneda would have been more consistent in writing out the actual thoughts. I'm wondering why this got past her editor; it's a quirk that's only shown up in this series. She hasn't done it before.
Meanwhile, Mac also spends a lot of time angsting about the aforementioned Nik, as mentioned. One reviewer on Amazon.com took this as an excuse to slam this book as a thinly veiled romance novel, which isn't fair--yes, Mac and Nik do have a budding romance going, but that's not the main point of this plot. And I do like Nik's periodic appearances, suitably sparse through the book to account for the fact that the man is a spy, and he has plenty to do that Mac doesn't get to witness. The thing that actually knocked me out of the story a bit, oddly enough, was Mac's propensity for regularly thinking of Nik as "yummy". That particular word choice just seemed weird to me--a bit too frivolous a word choice for this woman who's been set up as a hard-headed, no-nonsense kind of scientist who regularly rolled her eyes at Em's attempts to get her paired up with someone. Especially in this book, where Mac's fighting off the nightmares about what happened to Brymn in the first book and how his transformation led to her having to get an artificial arm, and where she's worried as all hell about whether Em is alive or dead. Yet every time Nik shows up in her thoughts, it's "ooh, yummy". Just doesn't fit.
Not that I take issue necessarily with describing Nik as yummy, 'cause, well, he is. I especially like the bits where he shows up to watch over Mac when she has nightmares and winds up holding her during one--very sweet. But "yummy" is a word I'd expect out of a much fluffier heroine in a much fluffier book.
What else... I do have to take issue with the fact that when you get down to it, at least in Mac's part of this plot, not much actually happens. All the interesting stuff is happening away from her, out where the Dhryn are hitting various worlds on their migration. Things don't start getting really interesting until Mac reaches the gathering of delegates in New Zealand and convinces everybody there that a) the Dhryn are obeying a species imperative to migrate, and b) that imperative is actually getting enforced on them by an external source. It would have been nice, though, to see what the hell everybody else at that conference was doing while Mac and her group were doing their research--we barely glimpse the other attendees.
And oh yes--there's a really neat piece of art on the cover of this book, which is described by Czerneda in the book's acknowledgements as Vancouver being destroyed while Mac looks on. However, nothing of the sort actually happens anywhere in the book. Hrmph. :) False advertising!
Now for stuff I really did like.
As I mentioned, the major alien characters--very cool. I liked Fourteen a lot, especially his banter with Kay when the two of them first show up and weasel their way into interrupting Mac's vacation. I also liked the gathering leader--Anchen, that was her name. And the Vessel showing up at the Gathering was a suitably gripping plot development, and helped continue Mac's connection with the Dhryn.
I really, really liked the development of Mudge as a character as well. He got a lot more participation in this book than he had in the first one--and to be honest, I almost expected him to start being set up as a competing romantic interest to Nik, especially when we got a lot of emphasis about Mudge's and Mac's long history. And Mudge lamenting, "Who will I have to argue with?" when he is faced with the prospect of Mac never being around any more. And all of the things that Mudge takes on during the course of the plot to help Mac out. Part of me thinks the poor guy really needs to have something neat happen to him since he started being so useful to Mac all throughout this plot--and although I would habitually vote for the yummy guy, I have to admit I'd be oddly satisfied if Mac wound up realizing Mudge was more important to her.
(Though I don't think that's where this is going, now that I've finished the book. I think it's telling that I was almost disappointed that Mudge and Mac remained entirely platonic through the course of this plot. ;) )
And I liked the ending, where Mac finally convinces the gathering that they have to turn off the signal that they'd been set up to activate, saving Earth in the nick of time.
All in all--not the best work Czerneda's done, but a mostly good, solid read despite its flaws. I'm looking forward to seeing how this wraps up in Book 3!(less)
**spoiler alert** Just finished Changing Vision, the second book in Julie Czerneda's Web Shifters trilogy, as part of my campaign to clear multiple no...more**spoiler alert** Just finished Changing Vision, the second book in Julie Czerneda's Web Shifters trilogy, as part of my campaign to clear multiple novels by the same author off my To Read Shelf. Picoreview: tight, cohesive story as always with Ms. Czerneda, and I am reminded once again that I do love her portrayals of her alien races. The Iftsen were particularly amusing.
I might have suffered a bit for it being so long since I read the first of this trilogy, Beholder's Eye, though. Mostly what I remembered from the first book was that the protagonist, Esen-alit-Quar, was an alien shapeshifter who established a deep friendship with the human Paul Ragem, and that they had no trace of romantic inclination. This holds true in the second book, which brings out several fun details that round out this universe of Ms. Czerneda's nicely.
For example, this book takes place 50 years after the first one does, and yet, Paul is still a vital, energetic man. Not precisely youthful, but not old either. He comes across as a man in his late thirties or forties, perhaps. And it's interesting to see that Ms. Czerneda's Humans clearly have longer lifespans, which reminds me of the Dunedain in Tolkien. ^_^ From Paul's description (black-haired, gray-eyed), I could almost see dark-haired Viggo Mortensen playing him. I also liked that Paul is described as having established a family in the time since the first book--he's married and had children grow up by the time of this second novel.
However, there's no trace of his family on camera in the plot. His wife is a spacer, and apparently his children have become spacers as well. This is a point that intrigues me, because I have been wondering what this implies about what will happen with Paul's and Esen's relationship in the third book. Esen spends most of her time in non-Human forms in the story (and the forms she assumes are all beautifully described; I really love Ms. Czerneda's ability to come up with unique alien species), but a couple of times she does actually shift into Human form--and it turns out that while she is several hundred years older than Paul chronologically, if you go by relative ages she's actually much younger by her species' standards than he is. So when she takes on Human form, she's actually a kid, roughly 12 years old. And yet, she decides by the end of the book to start taking on Human form more often, because that form is special to Paul.
The third book, from what I've seen of Amazon reader comments, says Esen will be coming of age in that story. Which ought to have interesting effects if she goes into Human form at all. I'm not sure how I feel about this--half of me, the incurable romantic, really wants to see Paul and Esen's relationship take on love, and the other half of me, the half that thrives on things like the platonic relationship of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, is already protesting that Esen and Paul have a richly defined relationship already. I do trust Ms. Czerneda to handle it well either way, so I shall have to simply see what happens.
As for the plot in this book, aside from the Esen-Paul mileage: pretty tight plot all around, though some of the underlying details didn't quite come together for me, things involving why Paul and Esen left their comfortable refuge on a Fringe world in the first place and got themselves embroiled in a serious diplomatic dispute between two other species. I am not sure whether this was a result of the writing or me just not piecing stuff together well enough--there are a lot of details there about what Paul and people connected to him are doing behind the scenes, and they do start to come together at the end, but I feel a bit slow on the uptake processing it all. It might work better for me on a second read, where I can pay better attention to those details.
I also liked that the obsessive captain chasing after Esen through most of the book is not just an obsessive madman; Kearn has good, noble qualities that actually do come out in a crisis, which makes him a much more interesting character. His second-in-command Lefebvre, who has personal connections to Paul, is the same for different reasons. The one character who can be called a real villain of the story actually gets less camera time than either of them, and he's more of a stock madman type character; we never get into his head, so he makes less of an impact. And he's one of those details not quite coming together well enough for me.
I'll definitely read the third book, though. While this isn't up to the level of the superior A Thousand Words for Stranger, still an excellent read. ^_^(less)
The moment I finished Reap the Wild Wind, I had to immediately jump back to A Thousand Words for Stranger just to remind myself of what had been previ...moreThe moment I finished Reap the Wild Wind, I had to immediately jump back to A Thousand Words for Stranger just to remind myself of what had been previously established about the Om'ray--and of course to re-read the story of Sira and Morgan, which was an excellent little love story in general.
Re-reading this, I'm amused to find that the book actually has a fairly small cast of main characters, despite being set in a starfaring society. The spacer Jason Morgan in particular is a hub of connections, and has had past dealings with the Clansman Barac, the Pact Enforcer Lydis Bowman, and the pirate Roraqk. There are even reasons that Sira seeks out Morgan in particular at the beginning of the story, despite her being amnesiac. This may make the plot a bit too close and convenient for some readers, though it didn't actually bother me; Czerneda has gotten better about this since this, her first novel.
It's particularly interesting, though, to re-read this book and see mentions of what's very likely to come in the Stratification series. That specific term is mentioned in this novel, as is the leaving of Sira's people from their original homeworld--and I further noted that Sira's people call themselves the M'hiray, and that they are a specific faction whose ancestors had begun to manifest much more power than the rest of their kind. And I was amused as well to see a character named Bowman here, because of Marcus Bowman in Reap the Wild Wind; that similarity of names can't be a coincidence, and I find myself wondering if Marcus is an ancestor of Lydia.
For me, though, as is the case every time I re-read this book, Sira and Morgan are the main attraction. The progression of their relationship from an infatuated fixation on Sira's part and reluctant compassion on Morgan's straight up to love on both their parts is fun. So is Morgan the human telepath holding his own against Sira's people.
**spoiler alert** Regeneration is the concluding book of the Species Imperative trilogy by Julie Czerneda, finishing up where Survival and Migration...more**spoiler alert** Regeneration is the concluding book of the Species Imperative trilogy by Julie Czerneda, finishing up where Survival and Migration had left off. We finally get to learn the story behind the evident rampage of the Dhryn across the galaxy--and what the ultimate goals of the Ro are. The nitpicks I had with the first two books still apply here, and I have to admit that towards the ending of the story I started skimming rather than reading in depth... which suggests to me that the book could have used maybe one more edit pass.
By and large though I did quite enjoy reading it. I approve of carrying out a romance with a love interest who actually gets very little screen time--which makes the time he is on screen more effective. Though, the swoonability of Nik aside (or should I be saying yumminess? Har), I also have to admit that I found the final resolutions between the characters just a tad too romance-novel-tidy.
I was almost disappointed that Mudge didn't get to be the love interest after all. I mean, he got way more screen time getting his character developed and having his relationship with Mac progress, and I kinda feel like the poor man deserved to get the girl after all that. ;) Having him do the Hero Thing and clonk Nik out and then stay behind was a pretty good substitute, but then, I think that I'd have liked that plot path a little better if he had indeed heroically died. As it happens, having him get to be alive at the end (and presumably free to pursue amorous intentions towards the second-in-command of the Annapolis Joy) seemed a little too predictable and pat.
I really did like the lamnas rings, though. Those were a very cool little way of keeping Nik's activities on the reader's mind even if he wasn't actually on camera--and I also liked that what Mac got out of them was very jagged and erratic, which I felt very neatly reflected that Nik wasn't an expert at using the things and had no idea what they would actually do. And I was vaguely bummed that Mac didn't check what was in the last one!
Anyway, a decent book overall. Taken as a whole, the Species Imperative Trilogy isn't as solid as the Web Shifters one, nor A Thousand Words for Stranger. I'd say three stars for this book, maybe three and a half for the series as a whole.(less)
I gotta admit, I love me a good ol' skiffy novel with a hefty dose of romance on the side. And Ann Aguirre's first, Grimspace, fills that bill nicely....moreI gotta admit, I love me a good ol' skiffy novel with a hefty dose of romance on the side. And Ann Aguirre's first, Grimspace, fills that bill nicely. Linnea Sinclair blurbs it--and if you like Linnea Sinclair's books at all, this is a ringing good thing, because Grimspace is of the same ilk.
Sirantha Jax is a jumper, one of the few humans capable of taking a ship through "grimspace", working in mental concert with that ship's pilot. But she's accused of causing the crash of the last ship she worked on and the deaths of everyone else on board, and her very own Corps is seemingly bent on breaking down her mind. Before they can, she's sprung from incarceration by a small group of mercenaries who want to establish a new breed of jumper not bound to the Corps. She must decide if she trusts her new benefactors, even as she struggles to figure out exactly what happened with the destruction of her ship.
Grimspace is written in first person, present tense, which for me always lends a certain extra immediacy to what I'm reading. It's a style choice that works extremely well for Jax, who's quite brash and forthright, a prime graduate of the Han Solo School of Action Before Thought. ;) Her love interest March is suitably swoonable, complete with a psionic gift that gives Jax repeated strong immersions into his psyche, and this too works very well in first person, present tense. The only place the book falls down for me is towards the ending, where there's an unexpected interlude that knocks the pacing off--but fortunately, that interlude is short. Definitely looking forward to reading the next one in the series. For this one, three and a half stars.(less)
The other day, editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden posted up on Making Light that he had several dozen ARCs of Cory Doctorow's forthcoming novel Little Brot...moreThe other day, editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden posted up on Making Light that he had several dozen ARCs of Cory Doctorow's forthcoming novel Little Brother to hand out to any readers of the blog willing to immediately read it and talk about it. He announced a specific email address you could contact to ask for one of the books, and all you had to do was provide an address to which they could send it.
I was one of those fortunate enough to get in an email before they ran out of copies, and mine arrived in the mail yesterday. Pretty nifty; I've never gotten an ARC before. And this was a hell of a novel to get in such a form. I feel privileged to have gotten an advance look at it.
Little Brother is simultaneously profoundly depressing and vitalizing. It's depressing because it paints an all-too-real picture of what could happen if another terrorist strike ever happens on American soil, and the terrifying part comes in not just with the thousands who die in San Francisco in the story, but also with the transformation of the city into a police state. And it's vitalizing, because it challenges the reader with the concept that if you feel that what your government is doing is wrong, you don't have to take it lying down. You can take steps to make it right again. You can act.
Marcus, a.k.a. w1n5t0n, a.k.a. M1k3y, is a seventeen-year-old high school student caught in the wrong place at the wrong time during the attack on the city. He and his friends are detained by the Department of Homeland Security and questioned for days; one of them isn't even released. The whole experience moves Marcus to found the XNet, through which he and thousands of other young people across the city begin to fight back against the brutal surveillance tactics imposed upon their city in the name of fighting terrorism.
There's some deeply disturbing scenes of a crowd of young protestors being gassed, and some even more disturbing ones later where Marcus is interrogated and, yes, tortured. Most disturbing of all is the ultimate government reaction to the entire crisis, furious attempts to sweep everything under the rug. But even then, Marcus and those who come to believe in his actions, both of his own generation and older, don't let it lie. The book does end on a note of hope.
Keep that thought of hope in mind as you read this book. Because you should read it, especially if you fall into the same generation as Marcus and his compatriots; the story's talking directly to you. For everyone else, if you happen to agree with its politics, it may depress the hell out of you for the realism of the story it tells. If you don't agree with its politics, you may wind up wanting to throw the book across the room. But it's a story that needs reading, and arguing about, and acting upon--as do each and every one of the points its story raises.
Little Brother's formal release date is this Tuesday, April 29th. I encourage you all to check it out. It'll probably be available for free download on Doctorow's site by then, as is his custom for his works; check it out that way if you wish. If you find though that this book does speak to you, buy a copy.
For what will undoubtedly be the most challenging thing I'll have read this entire year, five stars.(less)
I'd been meaning to read Liz Williams's Banner of Souls for quite a while now, and only now just got around to it. It was worth the wait, by and large...moreI'd been meaning to read Liz Williams's Banner of Souls for quite a while now, and only now just got around to it. It was worth the wait, by and large.
The most attention-getting thing about the book is definitely the fact that it's set in a distant future where the solar system is populated by an entirely female society--but that isn't even the point of the plot, so don't go in expecting it to be an anti-male screed. It isn't. What the plot is about is how the Martian warrior Dreams-of-War must journey to Earth to become the guardian of Lunae, a young woman destined to become "the woman who holds back the flood", and how Dreams-of-War must prevent another woman, Yskaterina Iye, from killing her.
I've seen reviews that compare Williams' prose to Ursula K. LeGuin, and while I've read less LeGuin than I'd like, I can kind of buy this. Like LeGuin, Williams makes her prose both substantial and lyrical. This went a very long way towards balancing out the small nitpicky problems I had with the book: one, that the intriguing hints of backstory (such as, why aren't there any men in this society? What happened to them?) never became more than hints, and two, that the ending came across as a bit too pat and convenient.
But all in all, a satisfying and interesting read, one that left me eager to find more of Williams' novels. Four stars.(less)
Julie Czerneda is always a pleasure, and with the new Stratification series in particular, she returns to the same universe of her first book--still m...moreJulie Czerneda is always a pleasure, and with the new Stratification series in particular, she returns to the same universe of her first book--still my favorite--A Thousand Words for Stranger. This story is set much earlier in the history of the species called the Clan, on their original homeworld, Cersi. In this timeframe, they are a people called the Om'ray, subservient to the two more powerful species of their world, the Tikitik and the Oud. An Agreement exists between all three species that forbids change of any kind of their cultures, an Agreement that until now the Om'ray of Yena Clan have scrupulously endeavored to keep. But young Aryl Sarc of the Yena Clan is discovering new and frighteningly powerful abilities. And though she tries to hide them at first, she is pushed again and again into using them, for the arrival of offworld explorers on Cersi is throwing the Agreement into peril.
I quite liked this story, and was delighted to see that two of the principle explorers were a human and a Carasian; I remembered the latter species quite vividly from A Thousand Words for Stranger, and it was fun to see one here again. The primary human character, Marcus Bowman, is as likable as you can get through Aryl's eyes, given his lack of speech she can understand, both vocal and mental. We also get an interesting Om'ray male, the metalworker Enris, who has "future mate of Aryl" written all over him. ;)
But there's no sign yet of any romance in this story, which is all to the good. It's interesting to see Aryl's eyes opened to the bigger picture of worlds beyond Cersi, and how the Tikitik and Oud are responding to the presence of the offworlders. There are fascinating hints that the Om'ray were once much more powerful than they are now--and that the offworlders know something about it. I'll definitely enjoy seeing where Book Two takes this. Five stars.(less)
Frankenstein is rightfully lauded as one of the very first SF novels, and one penned by a woman to boot. For this reason alone I'm happy to have it in...moreFrankenstein is rightfully lauded as one of the very first SF novels, and one penned by a woman to boot. For this reason alone I'm happy to have it in my library. I am however here to tell you--if you're home recovering from major surgery and loopy from painkillers, this is not a book you want to tackle during your downtime.
The language, certainly appropriate to the era in which it was written, is thick and florid. And the layers of who's telling a story to whom--the monster telling a tale to Frankenstein who's telling a tale to the ship's captain who's telling a tale to his sister in letters--are tough to keep track of. Moreover, due to this exact nature of the story, i.e., tales being told back and forth, the action is thereby kept at a remove from the reader. For me, this was a hindrance as it kept me from really fully engaging with what was going on.
I could say that the story boils down to "a lot of landscape and angst and oh yeah there's a monster", but that's really uncharitable of me. The thing is, even given the lengthy passages in which both Frankenstein and his creation lament the general sucktitude of their various lives, there's a powerful story here. And if you give it a chance it'll grip you--right around the throat. ;) Three stars.(less)
It is no fault of this book that every time I think of the title, I keep songvirusing myself with "Riders on the Storm". The titles are merely similar...moreIt is no fault of this book that every time I think of the title, I keep songvirusing myself with "Riders on the Storm". The titles are merely similar, not identical, and certainly the book's rather cheerier of atmosphere overall.
Book 2 of Julie Czerneda's "Stratification" series, this one focuses on the efforts of Aryl Sarc to forge her exiles of Yena Clan into a new incarnation of the previously destroyed Sona Clan. Thrown up against this are any number of challenges for Aryl: the Oud and Tikitik's ideas about what exactly the emergence of a new Om'ray Clan should mean, the discovery by her human friend Marcus Bowman of the forbidden talent she possesses, and her own blossoming as a Chooser. Meanwhile, Enris Mendolar of the Tuana continues on his own Passage--and discovers secrets about the most reclusive Om'ray Clan of all, the Vyna.
There's no real sign yet of the "Stratification" to come, although hints have now been laid down that Tuana Clan as well as Yena have taken their own steps to quell the rising of forbidden talents. Ominous hints are given, too, about what exactly the news of Om'ray gifts would do out in the surrounding galaxy. And Aryl is definitely now coming into status as well as power, in this installment. One therefore presumes that Book 3 will bring in the actual Stratification--and that we'll see the rising of the M'hiray.
For this installment, three and a half stars.(less)
Tanya Huff's Confederation novels are still maintaining combat readiness as of the third one, The Heart of Valor. This time around we've got Torin Ker...moreTanya Huff's Confederation novels are still maintaining combat readiness as of the third one, The Heart of Valor. This time around we've got Torin Kerr, newly promoted to Gunnery Sergeant, being grilled in depth about her adventures in Book 2--and leaping at the chance to escape endless debriefings even if it means she has to babysit a convalescent major and a platoon of Marine recruits on a training planet. Problem is, the planet's supposed to train the recruits, not kill them.
Heroine Torin Kerr has been compared a lot to Sigourney Weaver playing Ellen Ripley, and yeah, that's still about right. The level of military action in this series in general and this novel in particular is certainly comparable to what we see in Aliens, as is the romance. In fact, Torin and her love interest Craig Ryder spend most of the book apart. (Which is what demonstrates that yeah, Craig Ryder is clearly the Intended Series Love Interest; he gets extensive POV time and a whole subset of the plot to himself.) There are several stock character types that you get in any SF scenario involving Marines, but they're entertainingly executed. And while Huff doesn't top Julie Czerneda for me in her development of alien species, she's nevertheless got some fun going on with the species here, both with the di'Taykans in the platoon (complete with a particularly amusing excuse to take out the recruits' regular Staff Sergeant so Torin has to take command) and with the alien that's the driving cause of the plot.
A light read all in all, but it moves well and things explode on a regular and satisfying basis, and sometimes that's all you really need to ask out of a book. Three stars.(less)
Battlestar Galactica: The Miniseries is one of the free ebooks I got off the Tor.com site in its promotion for going live. It's pretty much what the t...moreBattlestar Galactica: The Miniseries is one of the free ebooks I got off the Tor.com site in its promotion for going live. It's pretty much what the title advertises: a novelization of the story depicted in the opening miniseries for BSG.
Carver does a decent enough job putting the story into prose, but it's a very straightforward translation; there's nothing added to the story here. When I read a novelization of a TV show or movie, I'm generally hoping for something new to enhance what I saw in visual form, such as deleted scenes that didn't make it into the final cut. With the exception of an alias used by the Six who leads Gaius Baltar into betraying the human race, all the details in here were very familiar. Plus, the prose itself was very sparse. This was fitting for the general fast-paced nature of the story, but it also kept the reading experience from bringing anything new to me.
If like me you're already an established fan of the show, you can skip this one unless you're bored. If you're not an established fan and you don't have access to the DVDs, though, you might consider checking this out for an introduction to the series. Overall, three stars.(less)
I wanted to like this book. I was ready to let it entertain me with its creepy-sounding premise: alien spores infecting hapless human beings and turni...moreI wanted to like this book. I was ready to let it entertain me with its creepy-sounding premise: alien spores infecting hapless human beings and turning them violent and delusional, while directing them to some mysterious purpose. Meanwhile the government has to race to figure out what's going on before word of the violence spreads to the general public--and before the aliens become enough of a genuine threat that military action must be taken.
Okay, cool, I thought. However, the book that that premise promised was not the book I got. Most of the focus is on Perry Dawsey, a young ex-football-player who's infected by the Triangles and who fights a losing battle against encroaching insanity as they grow within him. But here's the thing: the character's backstory already has him violent and temperamental, and specifically fighting to keep that part of him under control. That's the thing that makes him an interesting and sympathetic character, and it's this that gets shot right out from under him the longer he wages his personal battle against his body's invaders. It gets to the point that when he meets another person infected with the Triangles, he's so far gone that he assaults her with no more than the faintest glimmer of conscience--and by then, with no real sign remaining in him of common decency, I honestly found myself wondering why the book had made me hang out in this guy's point of view for the majority of the camera time.
Nor are we given any real, strong characters to balance Dawsey out--especially when female characters are on camera. We get a woman who's in charge of the scientific investigation, but who lacks personal fortitude and has to be nudged into asserting herself by the agent to whom she's attracted. Also, the unfortunate female victim of the Triangles Dawsey assaults is signified in the narrative mostly by the fact that she's a) female, b) fat, and c) pathetic, particularly in comparison to Dawsey himself, for not fighting against the organisms growing inside her. Granted, this is supposed to be from Dawsey's POV, and he's well and thoroughly on board the train to psychotown at that point--but nonetheless, it was grating to read.
The book's not without a few strong points; I did like the visual tricks it was playing with using unusual fonts and layout to signify when the spores were speaking, once the ones in Dawsey became sentient. There are definite pacing issues, but Sigler's writing did in general overcome those well enough to keep me reading to the end even if I wasn't appreciating the characters very much. And the overall question of the story, what the Triangles are, where they've come from, and what they're trying to achieve, is suitably intriguing enough to keep the story moving.
For me though, unfortunately, it just didn't click. Two stars.(less)
The second Sirantha Jax book by Ann Aguirre didn't strike me with quite as much awesome as the first one--but that's not to say that I didn't like the...moreThe second Sirantha Jax book by Ann Aguirre didn't strike me with quite as much awesome as the first one--but that's not to say that I didn't like the book, because I did. Wanderlust picks up in the aftermath of Grimspace, with Jax and her beloved March being interrogated while the Confederacy scrambles to reorient after the shock wave of what happened in the first book. Now out of a formal job, Jax is offered the highly unlikely position of Ambassador to Ithiss-Tor, only to discover that there are powerful parties who will stop at nothing to keep her from pulling it off.
Here's the thing though: once Jax actually accepts this job, much of the rest of the book isn't about it at all. Rather, it's about getting her to it, and revisiting the world that much of Book 1's events took place on so that March a plot-relevant excuse to actually bail on Jax for a while. Which is all very action-packed and exciting to be sure, but that whole part of the plot worked a little too hard to convince me that March had torn apart his own soul because of the Horrors of War and Oh Noez! He's Going to Have to Do It Again! Also, Oh Noez! There's a new gorgeous guy who has Romantic Rival for March Written All Over Him! And, Oh Noez! March is going off to war because he thinks Jax doesn't actually need him!
So all in all there was a little bit too much Oh Noez! for me, this time around. But it wasn't badly written and I'm still absolutely interested in seeing how Jax manages to pull off working her way into actually knowing what she's doing with this ambassador gig, which one presumes will start happening in earnest in Book 3. For this one, three stars.(less)