I love a road trip, and I love a good road trip novel. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is definitely that - instead of an overarching plot, theI love a road trip, and I love a good road trip novel. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is definitely that - instead of an overarching plot, the book is structured as a series of episodes through which a cast of fascinating, well-developed characters grow, mature, and come to terms with whatever is going on in their lives. In this case, the cast are the crew of a ship that slogs from star to star drilling wormholes through space so everyone else can travel at their leisure. The crew is going after the Big Score - a job at the heart of the galaxy that will pay enough to let them upgrade to a higher level of work and prestige. This is set in a universe in which the human race itself is the low man on the totem pole, slowly pulling itself upward in galactic respectability.
The book opens with the obligatory new crewmember showing up for her first day of work, which of course gives the author an excuse for an introduction to everyone else and a tour of the ship. Each of the characters is flawed and no one quite assumes the role of 'protagonist,' though the newbie and the captain hog the limelight a little more than the others. In some ways this is a feel-good book, but not in a sugary-sweet way. It's a long year's journey with hard-knocks deep spacers, and it's a universe I'd love to spend more time in. Just before writing this review I noticed there's a sequel slated for later this year. Not complainin' one damn bit....more
Rick Remender is a purveyor of what I often think of as "misery porn" - putting characters through one ringer after another, squeezing the knot tighteRick Remender is a purveyor of what I often think of as "misery porn" - putting characters through one ringer after another, squeezing the knot tighter and tighter until you think their situations can't get any worse... and then it does. Remender gets away with this because he's got a knack for creating characters you can actually care about, no matter how much misery gets heaped on their lives (see Fear Agent).
That's the case again here in Low, but this book (if you read the letters page in the monthly issues) is actually Remender's commentary on this very issue. The defining characteristic of his protagonist is her unshakable hope in the face of overwhelming odds as the human race itself approaches its inevitable end.
Greg Tocchini's art gives a surreal, dreamy haze appropriate to a story set in the murky depths of the ocean (where the last dregs of humanity survive). In keeping with the theme of humanity's last days, there is quite a lot of debauchery along with quite a bit of gratuitous nudity. You won't hear me complain, but others might....more
1. Unabashed Space Opera: Giant space empires, colonization and conquest, outposts on the edge of civilAltogether cool things about Ancillary Justice:
1. Unabashed Space Opera: Giant space empires, colonization and conquest, outposts on the edge of civilization, giant sentient warships, the power to wipe out solar systems, menacing mysterious aliens, and even the mention of a friggin' Dyson sphere. What's not to love? But wait, there's more!
2. A New Kind of Mind: SciFi is full of artificial intelligences, and we've seen the collective-consciousness thing done before (mostly during the 80s when it was used as a creepy stand-in for those dirty Commies) but this is the first time I've seen the one-mind, many-bodies thing done not as a "creepy menace" but just as another way of existing, and had all the ramifications of that type of sentience explored. Justice of Toren is a compelling, likable protagonist with a brain-twisting alien point of view to wrap your head around. And if that wasn't enough..
3. A New Way of Looking at Gender: Leckie's got some serious Samuel Delany / Ursula LeGuin stuff going on here. The central culture of the novel, the Radch, is gender-neutral. Gender role traditions have melted away to the point of meaninglessness and Justice of Toren has a hard time even recognizing gender and getting pronouns right in other languages. It's implied that Radch language has no gender-specific pronouns, and to communicate this the author uses "she/her" in place of "he/his" for all characters, regardless of actual gender, which for most is never specified. Makes for a really interesting read.
Minus one star for a pet peeve:
Radch culture is very stratified and formal; therefore a lot of the interaction and intrigue between characters revolves around people being very deliberatly polite/impolite to each other, where every sentence might contain some finely calculated sleight or rudeness. Personally, though, I find those kind of cultures (and stories about them) tedious, and it made this book a slower read for me than it otherwise would have been....more
Finally got around to: "Three Hainish Novels" book three
Meant to read this last year, then home improvement and such got in the way. Now that I got toFinally got around to: "Three Hainish Novels" book three
Meant to read this last year, then home improvement and such got in the way. Now that I got to it, I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. I've heard this one praised as the best of Le Guin's three early Hain novels, but for the first two thirds of the book I really didn't enjoy it. The protagonist is an amnesiac stranger-in-a-strange-land, so this is in no subtle way a "search for identity" novel. The problem, though, is that not only is the protagonist poorly defined (a necessity for this kind of story) but for most of the book his goals and the stakes are also way too vague.
It's only when the hero, Falk, makes it to the eponymous City of Illusions that a plot congeals, and from there on the book is really good. It's one of those things where I don't want to discuss it too much and spoil anything. Yes, I know it's an old book, but I think that there are enough people who haven't read the original Hainish Trilogy that I don't want to give anything away. What surprised me most, I think, was that I went into this set expecting each of these books to be completely stand-alone, but City of Illusions does make connections that turn these books into an actual series and not merely individual novels set in the same universe.
I suspect that Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile, and City of Illusions are all books that will benefit greatly from a second reading, so I'll be sure and save my omnibus volume and give them another crack a few years down the road....more
Prince Jorg is a monster, and that's a problem. No only that, but he's an irredeemable monster, a point that the author makes clear by throwing in (caPrince Jorg is a monster, and that's a problem. No only that, but he's an irredeemable monster, a point that the author makes clear by throwing in (callously? thoughtlessly? both?) a quick, mostly off-camera rape right there in the first few pages, removing any ability to identify or emotionally connect with the character.
However, to Jorg's credit, he's no Prince Joffrey. Jorg isn't a spoiled brat torturing others for sport, he's a victim in his own right of an unspeakable trauma who has taken his fate into his own hands despite his incredibly young age. Because he's a child, as one of the other characters points out late in the book, he has no true understanding of the value of the lives he destroys along the way to achieving his goal: to become Emperor and put an end to the ongoing Hundred War that dominates this far-future, post-apocalyptic fantasy realm.
In a sense, Jorg is a cross between Alex from A Clockwork Orange and Severian from The Book of the New Sun. Halfway through Prince of Thorns you also realize he's an unstoppable force of nature whose schemes always work out, and that's when the shock and awe wear thin and the book loses some of its steam. Hopefully Lawrence can find some new angle on the character as he follows into the sequels, otherwise Jorg's tendency to win all the time is going to get tedious.
For that reason I almost gave this one three stars, but after finishing Prince of Thorns I started another fantasy novel whose opening chapters are so badly written that I had to give this one four just for comparison. (Lawrence's prose is clear, clever, and lovely.) ...more
Once upon a time, Harlan Ellison wrote a TV pilot about a generation ship that had been traveling for so long that all its inhabitants had forgotten wOnce upon a time, Harlan Ellison wrote a TV pilot about a generation ship that had been traveling for so long that all its inhabitants had forgotten where they'd come from and where they were going. It originally aired as the zero-budget Canadian show The Starlost, which bore little resemblance to Ellison's vision.
Phoenix Without Ashes is that original pilot, now seeing the light of day in comic book form. It's an excellent beginning, but for the moment that's all it is. Hopefully there will be more volumes on the way, because as it stands, this graphic novel is all loose ends with no resolution. Someone give IDW a lot of money so I can find out what happens next....more
Great. That's all I need right now. Another new writer I have to start following.
It's been a long time since I tried to swallow a 600 page book, and tGreat. That's all I need right now. Another new writer I have to start following.
It's been a long time since I tried to swallow a 600 page book, and the first thing that shocked me about Pushing Ice is how fast a read it is. It takes a standard Arthur Clarke style scenario - an alien object speeds out of the Solar System and a spaceship crew has to catch up, rendezvous, and study the artifact. In this case, however, the artifact snatches said spaceship crew and drags them along with it at relativistic speeds into the deep future.
What makes this book flow so well is that Reynolds balances the "wow, gee whiz" stuff with a good bit of human drama and well-developed characters. The main struggle isn't between humans and their environment (though there is that) or humans vs. aliens (though there's some of that too) but between two human characters who start off as best friends and end up as bitter enemies. Reynolds doesn't paint either as a hero or villain, and both make glaring mistakes and bad decisions as often as they do the right thing.
That said, the author is prone to a little repetition, and while his aliens are satisfyingly non-human, they fall too easily into white-hat, black-hat camps. Also, I'm not sure that the human crew would have really put up with their squabbling leaders for as long as they did without booting them both out of power and holding a general election. Nevertheless, Pushing Ice is a good, solid, mind bending, epic, hard-sf read. More, please!...more
Ever since I saw the original press release announcing that Michael Moorcock was writing a Doctor Who novel, this has been my most anticipated read ofEver since I saw the original press release announcing that Michael Moorcock was writing a Doctor Who novel, this has been my most anticipated read of the year. While the book contains numerous "WTF" and "I don't get it" moments, the end result is extremely satisfying and well worth the expectations. Having said that, I can see where the casual Dr. Who fan looking for just another safe little Time Lord adventure would be put off. Getting Michael Moorcock to write a media tie-in novel of any kind would be like getting Tolkien to write a Forgotten Realms novel where a bunch of Dark Elves sit around for 300 pages reciting poetry.
While Terraphiles comes across as a stylistic mash-up of P.G. Wodehouse's "Jeeves and Wooster" and Moorcock's own multiverse stories, what it reminded me of the most was John M. Ford's brilliant Star Trek novel, How Much for Just the Planet? Moorcock's love for Dr. Who is obvious, as is his understanding that the Doctor's adventures need not be taken too seriously. If anything, the book's initial weakness is that the characters - a band of "Earth reenacters" cast in the mold of effete, inbred, brain-dead British aristocrats - are hard to relate to or care about. What shocked me later in the book was the realization that I did care after all, especially when the doofiest of them makes an unexpected and poignant sacrifice.
I guess what the hardcore Whovian needs to understand is that this isn't a novel about the TV Dr. Who. It's the Moorcock Multiverse Dr. Who, and he's a glorious, mind-twisting thing to behold. Good show, what!...more
It started off so promising, too. The first chapters give a great setup: Cable and Hope (the child who will either save or destroy the mutant raceMeh.
It started off so promising, too. The first chapters give a great setup: Cable and Hope (the child who will either save or destroy the mutant race) are on the run from Bishop, who is chasing them into the future. The idea that Bishop is engineering global holocausts to restrict Cable's movement is a great Big SciFi concept, as is the handicap that Cable can only leap forward in time. It creates for a great "man on the run" atmosphere, and as he goes farther and farther into the future, the Earth becomes even more barren and lifeless, which ratchets up the tension nicely.
Then the story starts - or rather, comes to a grinding halt. Once Cable hits a future he can no longer time-jump out of, his old buddies X-Force show up, as well as Bishop and Cable's evil twin Stryfe. If you don't know who Stryfe is, Google him. He's got absolutely the most ridiculous super-villain armor ever created. Anyway, the buildup is great, but the rest is just a protracted fight scene in the Silly Nineties' style with lots of posing and big brawny men weilding firearms the size of small trucks as if they were handguns. (Although it's funny when Deadpool does it. He's one of the book's saving graces.)
Also, the internal continuity errors start cropping up early. Follow the math with me: when the book opens, Cable is already several hundred years in the future. He jumps a hundred years ahead in time to avoid an apocalypse, and ends up in a wasteland. Then he jumps a thousand years ahead to see if life has returned. It hasn't. Then he jumps even further ahead, and the fight scene begins. The year, we are told, is 2997. Am I the only one for whom that date obviously doesn't make sense?...more