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 w...moreOnce 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.(less)
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 t...moreGreat. 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!(less)
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 of...moreEver 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!(less)
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...moreMeh.
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?(less)
Now here's some good sci-fi for you. World-building is a big deal in science fiction, but one mistake some authors make when their fantastical setting...moreNow here's some good sci-fi for you. World-building is a big deal in science fiction, but one mistake some authors make when their fantastical setting takes center stage is to sacrifice character for the sake of the "Wow, look at this!" factor. This is something Karl Schroeder does not do.
Book 1 ended with Venera Fanning cutting herself adrift into the wide open spaces of Virga, the giant zero-g gasbag lit from within by artificial suns that is the setting for this series. As Book 2 opens, she "washes up" on the surface of Spyre, the largest of Virga's rotating cities. Spyre is home to a multitude of tiny nations walled off from each other and drenched in centuries of tradition, inbreeding, and paranoia. Venera is a woman schooled in the uses of power, and to find her way home she will have to shake the calcified culture of Spyre to its core.
Schroeder pulls off a couple of impressive stunts here. First, he gives us a main character who isn't the least bit sympathetic (she was almost a villain in the first novel) and makes her compelling. Second, by focusing on how the science of his setting might affect human culture, he creates a place that reads as a cross between Ringworld and Gormenghast and feels more believable than either.