There's a fine line between accurately depicting military life and fetishizing it, and while the first half of Orphanage felt to me like the latter, BThere's a fine line between accurately depicting military life and fetishizing it, and while the first half of Orphanage felt to me like the latter, Buettner dives straight into "War Is Hell" territory in the second half. If you're a fan of military SF who can't get enough of Robert Heinlein and has watched the boot camp segment of Full Metal Jacket more times than you can count, you will love this book and should run out and buy it right now.
As for me, while I always stop channel surfing for R. Lee Ermey, I don't dig the Heinlein and I don't get much out of military SF, so it was harder for me to gloss over some of the book's contrivances. The main character's a total washout who just happens to be friends with the world's top space pilot, and whose judge in juvie court just happens to be a Medal of Honor recipient who can pull strings for him whenever the plot requires; he just happens to stumble across the most intact alien artifact found in the war, becomes pals with the army's best gunner, falls in love with the best pilot, etc. etc.
I could gripe, but the book was honestly too engaging for all that to really get in the way of enjoying it. One could make the complaint that the author doesn't bring anything new to the military SF genre, or that his overarching conflict is a little too black and white, but you know what? If this book is your kind of thing, you're going to eat it up....more
Scalzi may just be the best popcorn writer SF has ever produced. That probably makes it sound like I’m saying his books don’t have any depth, and thatScalzi may just be the best popcorn writer SF has ever produced. That probably makes it sound like I’m saying his books don’t have any depth, and that would be wrong. Inside this fast-paced, enjoyable adventure story is an elegant little examination of the nature of identity. It’s often observed that the hero/villain dynamic works best when the two share everything in common except their basic moral core. That’s never been better exemplified than here, in which a clone trooper is grown to house a copy of the personality of a traitor but develops his own sense of self instead.
Now that all the world-building of Old Man’s War is out of the way, Scalzi has room to create a “second movie is better than the first” scenario and actually follow through with a plot instead of the series of incidents and unlikely coincidences that made up the earlier novel. My only gripe is one of structure: Instead of opening with our hero, Jared Dirac, Scalzi saves his introduction for Chapter 4, after spending more time than was necessary explaining beforehand exactly who Jared is and why he was created. It may have been more fun to leave it a mystery that the reader could discover along with Jared himself, but that’s just a matter of personal preference.
Since I’m reading this series out of order (having skipped ahead to The Human Division while it was being released in serial form), I noticed one other thing that I appreciate: the evil bastard villain (who is definitely an evil bastard villain) is nevertheless right in his reasons for taking the actions that he takes – it’s only the actions he takes in response to an unjust situation that are themselves wrong. ...more
I'm kind of on the fence about this book. As a piece of military SF adventure from the Golden Age, it's pretty excellent and not nearly as clunky as mI'm kind of on the fence about this book. As a piece of military SF adventure from the Golden Age, it's pretty excellent and not nearly as clunky as many of Piper's contemporaries. Something about the whole story is a little off, though, and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I'm not surprised to discover (after the fact) that the book is based in part on the Sepoy Mutiny in British-ruled India. What's unsettling is Piper's attitude toward colonialism and imperialism. At best, the case could be made (as is done in the introduction to the Gutenberg version) that Piper simply presents human nature as it always has been and as it is. However, the book reads as a full-on endorsement of imperialistic domination.
The hero who Piper would have us identify with is Carlos von Schlichten, proud Argentinian descendant of Nazi war-criminals. There is a token female character who begins the book standing up for "native rights" but she is quickly swayed to von Schlichten's "kill 'em all" attitude as soon as there's a whiff of danger. When the native Ullerans rebel, Piper makes no attempt whatsoever to identify with them or even explore the reasons behind their uprising. The "good" aliens are simply those who are loyal to the Terran Federation, and the "bad guys" are all presented as savage ingrates who won't admit that being colonized and absorbed into Terran culture is the best thing for them. By the second chapter in, the Ullerans are simply referred to as "geeks" which, odd as it is for a fictitious race, becomes offensive pretty quickly.
I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the natives to be presented in a different light than that seen by their human colonizers. That doesn't happen - once the uprising is inevitably stamped out and all those dirty heathens who dared to want political power on their own planet, the scum, no hint is ever given that their human overlords were ever in anything but the Right.
I don't know. Poe's law states that it is impossible to create a parody of an extreme viewpoint that someone won't mistake for the real thing; possibly this was all some kind of subtle satire that I just didn't get. It reads as a shockingly amoral tale of might making right, and in the end I can easily picture Gene Roddenberry wanting to kick H. Beam Piper's behind....more
"When I was your age, television was called books." Now we've come full circle to a book structured and released episodically like a television progra"When I was your age, television was called books." Now we've come full circle to a book structured and released episodically like a television program. The Human Division isn't a serial in the traditional sense of a novel broken up into chunks with cliffhangers. Instead, most of the chapters stand on their own as complete short stories while contributing to the whole. So did it work?
As for the story itself, I'm not going to say much. It's the fifth in the Old Man's War series (yes, I skipped ahead) and focuses on a team of diplomats who get handed the Colonial Union's messes to clean up on a regular basis. For story, character, and plot I'd only have given the book 4 stars, but it earns the extra mark for innovative concept and delivery.
As a librarian I've sat through many lectures from experts prognosticating the future of ebooks and how they will change the reading experience, but all those scenarios usually involve hashtags, hyperlinks, and the ability to electronically highlight your favorite passages (which for some reason all these ebook speculators think will be really important). With the chapter-a-week, 99c delivery method, Scalzi seems to have hit on something that keys in to how people actually enjoy entertainment.
I understand that most people still prefer to drink their fiction in one big gulp, but what Scalzi managed with this experiment was to create a sense of shared experience and community among all of us who were eagerly awaiting our weekly fix of Human Division while killing time for the new seasons of Doctor Who and Game of Thrones to start. I thought it was particularly hilarious how parts of the Internet briefly exploded when we all learned that *gasp* the book finishes on an end-of-season cliffhanger. How dare someone do in a novel what we've come to expect from every show on the boob tube!
Thank God and Tor, The Human Division was renewed for a second season....more
I've been reading Scalzi's blog for a while now, so I finally got around to one of his books to see what the fuss was about. A good one to start with,I've been reading Scalzi's blog for a while now, so I finally got around to one of his books to see what the fuss was about. A good one to start with, too: Old Man's War is extremely readable, the kind of fun, rip-roaring SF adventure that no one else seems interested in writing nowadays. (Yes, I know there's a "New Space Opera" movement, but I think everyone else skips over the fun part in order to make their books more epic.)
The book draws inevitable comparisons to Starship Troopers since it follows pretty much the same formula, but with its own unique spin. I'd go further to say that it serves as a counterpoint to Heinlein, if not as an outright rebuttal. Scalzi addresses questions about the moral justification of war that Heinlein glosses over too easily. Also: less fascism.
Why not four stars? The book has an awful lot of infodumping and while that can be necessary in a start-of-series worldbuilding book, too much of the character interaction is there simply to explain things to the reader. Another problem is that Scalzi relies pretty heavily on coincidence to keep the story going toward the end: certain familiar characters just happen to be the only ones to survive a massacre, certain people just happen to bump into each other at the right time, and so on.
Shut up, Jared, it's just a book. Relax and enjoy Vol. 2....more
John Love's impressive debut cobbles together a bunch of older ideas into something that feels like the freshest space-battle book I've read in a longJohn Love's impressive debut cobbles together a bunch of older ideas into something that feels like the freshest space-battle book I've read in a long time. The premise is from Saberhagen's Berserker stories: a mysterious, unstoppable spaceship appears from nowhere, makes no attempt to communicate, and lays waste to civilizations. Those sent to stop it are a Dirty Dozen mix of criminals and malcontents who, because of their evil natures, are able to conceive of and do things that the traditional military can't. The confrontation, which takes up two thirds of the book, plays like the classic Star Trek episode "Balance of Terror" with an obsessive neurotic in place of Kirk and a nigh-omnipotent trickster god in place of the Romulans.
Love's sense of pacing is marvelous, especially in the tensest action scenes where he manages to slow time down to a crawl without dragging the momentum of the narrative. He also manages the difficult task of populating a book entirely with unlikable characters and getting you to invest in them anyway. The main nitpick I have with his writing is that he uses the phrase "the ship turned in its own length" on almost every page, but aside from that one distraction Faith packs a hell of a punch....more