I attended a lecture by Stephenson upon the release of his latest book, "Reamde". I was impressed with his sense of irony and especially with his advi...moreI attended a lecture by Stephenson upon the release of his latest book, "Reamde". I was impressed with his sense of irony and especially with his advice to aspiring writers.
Based on the lecture, particularly the Q and A session, I decided to read some of his stuff and was told to start with this one, "Snow Crash". Some acknowledge Stephenson as the creator of a new genre, Cyber SciFi, so I was even more motivated since I enjoy Sci-Fi and Fantasy, though in small doses.
Unfortunately, I was not overly impressed with this effort. Perhaps my expectations got in the way. I struggled to finish the book and was ultimately disappointed with the ending, kind of a whimper rather than a bang, to borrow an idea from T.S. Eliot.
The plot basically involves the uncovering of a plot to take over the world by scrambling and infusing people's consciousness with an ancient Sumerian "program" that moves people to speak in tongues and also allows an outside force to control their behavior.
The plot, however isn't as important as Stephenson's picture of a future world in which hackers rule a virtual "Metaverse" and various commercial interests rule the physical world. The environment he describes is imaginable and in many ways is an extension of where we are headed today. It's astounding that this book, published in 1992 is as accurate in its predictions of where we are headed as it is.
The story jumps back and forth between the two major characters Hiro Protagonist, a katana adept hacker, and Y.T., a messenger who delivers her packages on a technologically advanced skateboard. There are some other important characters like Juanita, a beautiful genius hacker, Raven, an insane Aleut who has the power to detonate nuclear weapons, and dozens of others populating Stephenson's fictional world.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The ideas Stephenson presents are fascinating but ultimately the book drags with all the descriptions and a fairly muddled plot. It will be a while before I pick up a Stephenson book again.(less)
I am so proud of myself. I dumped the book a third of the way in.
It's a mish-mash of thriller, fantasy and historical fiction. Very poorly written wi...moreI am so proud of myself. I dumped the book a third of the way in.
It's a mish-mash of thriller, fantasy and historical fiction. Very poorly written with impossibly stereotyped characters. I realized that I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen so I skipped to the last three, mercifully short chapters, and voila, I was right.
The ending is also unbelievable because the whole book is based on an unbelievable premise followed by an unbelievable epilog.
Thankfully, I was not one of the people who had to wait 5 years for this, the fifth volume, in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" Series. I got my hands on...moreThankfully, I was not one of the people who had to wait 5 years for this, the fifth volume, in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" Series. I got my hands on a Used Hard Cover only a month after finishing Book 4, and managed to race through the close to 1,000 pages in 10 days or so.
I won't even try to summarize the interwoven plot threads here. After focusing on minor characters in Book Four, "A Feast For Crows", Martin returns to the major players in this book. My favorite is Tyrion, the Imp, a little person, born into the wealthy House Lannister, and now a slave in the Eastern Lands. He constantly cheats death by his wits. He cares little for so-called Honor and does what he needs to do to survive but in the process usually does the right thing.
Another favorite is Arya, of House Stark, who though a mere 11 years old, manages to survive and in some ways prosper. She uses her wits and surrenders all preconceptions to make a life for herself in a strange land. Jon Snow, her bastard brother, has risen to be the commander of the Night's Watch, which protects the realm from the forces that exist beyond the Wall, a huge barrier of ice, thousands of feet high. He too must learn to do what works rather than follow the strictures of the medieval code he was raised in.
Jaime Lannister, a one-time golden Boy, who is now a one-handed knight, is beginning to realize that he can't be the bully he was before his hand was cut off. He is a successful military leader but can no longer intimidate people with his fighting skills.
Daenerys Targaryen, the Dragon Queen, continues to rule her city. Unfortunately her dragons have become unruly and are feeding on children as well as sheep. She struggles mightily to rule consistent with her principles of "no slavery", etc. but is foiled at every turn by people who know better, supposedly. She's so darn dutiful, she comes across as boring.
There are others of course, many others. One of the most despicable is Reek, who was once Theron Greyjoy, a Prince of the Iron Isles and has been humiliated and brainwashed to the point where he sleeps with his master's dogs. There is Melisandre, the Red Priestess who has the last of the Baratheons, the legitimate ruling family, totally cowed. One of my favorites is Dolorous Edd, who always sees and comments on the dark side of things.
I still appreciate, Martin's organizing the book around the Point of View of the characters. The ruthlessness of the villains, here, is somewhat overplayed and the bloodshed that pours out throughout the book is a bit much. Nevertheless, I can hardly wait for Book Six of the promised seven books. Martin is going to have to begin to tie all these threads together and bring some closure to many of the sub-plots and, quite frankly, make something definitive happen.
Let's hope the next book doesn't take 5 years to gestate.(less)
Well, I don't know how best to epress how much I am enjoying this series: "A Song of Fire and Ice". "A Clash of Kings" is volume 2 in the series. I ac...moreWell, I don't know how best to epress how much I am enjoying this series: "A Song of Fire and Ice". "A Clash of Kings" is volume 2 in the series. I actually think it's a better written book than Volume 1 but then Martin didn't have to spend a lot of time setting the scene in this book.
Volume 2 picks right up where Volume 1 left off. The major characters continue to evolve. Joffrey, the child king, becomes more and more of a jerk, Jon Snow, the bastard and Night Watch Brother loses his arrogance and begins to mature into a fearsome warrior, Princess Arya continues to get in trouble while trying to work her way back to Winterfell, Sansa, her sister, and Joffrey's fiancee has the scales taken off her eyes, Tyrion, the Lannister Imp shows what a basically good person he is, though his father will never admit it, Cersei, the widowed Queen Mother, shows what an absolutely amoral person she is, Catelyn, the widowed Mistress of Winterfell is unbelievable as the dutiful doyen, Bran, the crippled young lord continues to develop his extrasensory abilities, His older brother, Robb, King in the North, though only 16, proves both his manhood and his military prowess, Varys, the court eunuch, continues to play all sides against each other, Theron Greyjoy shows his true colors as a disloyal, arrogant power seeker, and Danaerys, the Dragon Queen, continues to search for a way to reclaim the Iron Throne her father lost.
There are other characters too which makes this series as interesting as it is. There is also enough action to satisfy any reader's need for more than narrative exposition and dialogue. The battle at the end of the book is as well described as anything Bernard Cornwell, the dean of battle descriptions, has done. I can hardly wait to get to volume 3. (less)
In some ways this book was very imaginative and in some ways just another Heinlen-like hero story.
The protagonist, Cadmann Whelan, is in charge of sec...moreIn some ways this book was very imaginative and in some ways just another Heinlen-like hero story.
The protagonist, Cadmann Whelan, is in charge of security in a situation where there seems to be little need for it. Homo Sapiens has dispatched a space ship to colonize a new planet. To get there while still young, the travelers must be put into deep freeze. Some of the colonists come out of the freeze with their intelligence negatively influenced. Avalon, which is what they've named the colony seems perfect but monsters await.
The title uses Heorot, from the Beowulf saga, to set the stage as Avalon is beset by a Grendel like predator. Though, the colonists manage to kill it, turns out there are more on their island. In a final twist, though they slay the few they find, a cruel twist of biology puts the colony in terminal danger.
Whelan is the lone hero who is un-appreciated and reacts like a spoiled chld but in the end is the saviour of the survivors. A little bit too much of a Space Opera for me.
The pacing of the plot is pretty good especially as the story reaches its climax. The characters are not very original nor real but play their designated roles to keep the plot moving.
There is a tremendous amount of violence in the book and a little bit of non-explicit sex. The unspoken moral of the story is: "Don't fool with Mother Nature." A lesson we must eventually learn ourselves.
There is a sequel, Beowulf's Children which I plan to pass on. (less)
This is the second book in the Nicholas Seafort Saga, most likely more appropriate for a juvenile reader but sometimes I just can't resist a space ope...moreThis is the second book in the Nicholas Seafort Saga, most likely more appropriate for a juvenile reader but sometimes I just can't resist a space opera.
Seafort is assigned to a convoy going to a deep space colony. His passenger list is made up of arrogant colonists and violent street children. On the way, his ship is attacked by aliens and he is betrayed by his Admiral. Left stranded on a ship damaged beyond repair and short of food and fuel he, an inexperienced Commander at that, tries to keep his charges from mutinying while realizing how impossible the task of saving everyone is. Without fusion drive it will take decades to return to Earth. The rest of the book tells the story of that journey.
As I said earlier, this is a Space Opera so the characters tend to be stereotypical if not downright cardboard. The plot of abandonment in space is not a new one, but Feintuch does employ some wrinkles and surprises. I got a little tired of Seafort's self doubt and subsequent over-compensation. Hopefully he will gain some confidence going forward as I plan to read more of the series. The ending stretches credibility but it wouldn't do to kill Seafort off before the series is finished. However, his blind luck does defy imagination. (less)
I was surprised by how much I liked this book. I've had it for a long time and somebody wanted to mooch it so I thought I'd scan it before giving it a...moreI was surprised by how much I liked this book. I've had it for a long time and somebody wanted to mooch it so I thought I'd scan it before giving it away.
I ended up cruising through its 488 pages in three days.
The story is well plotted and moves along quickly. The characters, especially Repairman Jack and the villains are well-drawn and fun to read about.
The introduction of a mysterious group called "The Others" who come from "Otherness" was a plot device the story did not actually need but it did help the reader make sense of the drug "Bezerk" that changed its molecular structure and lost its hallucinatory properties every new Moon.
Without having read other books in the Repairman Jack series, I suspect that strange creatures from "Otherness" are part of every story and help explain why Jack gets called in to fix things when the weirdness starts.
The ending was neatly done, tying up the loose ends without straining credibility.
I will undoubtedly try another Repairman Jack story and maybe some of F. Paul Wilson's other titles. (less)
There were times this story was very exciting and moved quickly and other times it was slow and boring. I almost gave this book away because I was so...moreThere were times this story was very exciting and moved quickly and other times it was slow and boring. I almost gave this book away because I was so disappointed in Excavation. Fortunately, someone on Goodreads suggested I read it. I'm glad I did.
The action scenes, as unbelievable as they may seem, and the characterizations are the strongest parts of the story. Even the military types, who often get stereotyped in stories like this, are fully drawn here.
The weakest elements involve the number of close calls that almost every major character survives, as minor characters are killed, and the number of fortunate coincidences. People just happen to be in the right place at the right time. While a certain amount of this kind of artifice is needed to keep the plot moving, I think Rollins overdoes it in this novel.
The plot is complicated and there are many twists as well as a number of surprises as the story unfolds. The ending is perhaps a little too neat and the epilogue a little too saccharine but, maybe, that's what the majority of thriller readers want. I prefer a little more realism like Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child provide in the Pendergast series.
Overall, though, I liked the book and will most likely try another Rollins effort.(less)