**spoiler alert** This book was a huge surprise for me. A friend had loaned it to me, along with several other books, and I was looking for books to r...more**spoiler alert** This book was a huge surprise for me. A friend had loaned it to me, along with several other books, and I was looking for books to read on my annual go-to-a-cabin-on-the-beach-and-read-and-sleep vacation, so I threw this one into my bag. The premise sounds intriguing - first contact of humans with an alien species, and the team sent to the planet is comprised of 4 Jesuit priests, a doctor, an engineer, an astronomer and an AI specialist. It was the Jesuit priest idea that piqued my interest - and I'm a sucker for "first contact" books, too.
So, I started reading, expecting an interesting, but normal, such story. Imagine my surprise and delight when I got that plus a whole lot more! This is not just a first contact sci-fi story - it's an exploration of God, faith, prayer, predistination and the problem of pain (as CS Lewis deals with in The Problem of Pain) disguised as science fiction.
The story is told in alternating chapters of the present (2059) and the past (several years earlier). We first meet the only surviving member of the team, Emilio Sandoz, who is emotionallly and physically broken. Between chapters of the Jesuits trying to help (and debrief) him, we get chapters introducing the characters and how the first contact happened and how the mission came about. So, you're immediately set to wondering about what happened, and how did Emilio get in such a state? As you read further and further, the feeling of dread really starts hanging over you. This is not necessarily an easy book to read, because of the story and the themes - it's not a "they lived happily ever after" kind of book! But, it has jumped to my list of top 10 books I've ever read!
I was utterly captivated by the book - the style of the writing, the construction of the book, and, of course, the overall theme: if God is a loving God, and we are "doing his will" why do HORRIBLE things happen to us? Did God allow it? Did God send it? Does God not care about the pain? These are questions I have struggled with my whole life. This book doesn't answer any questions, but it certainly presents the problem in a very powerful way. Don't get me wrong - this isn't some boring theological treatise - this is a rip-roaring sci-fi tale, with a VERY interesting and original alien planet, and can be enjoyed just for that. But, I think most readers will also be touched by the theme of the book, and will be left pondering some very heavy ideas...(less)
**spoiler alert** An interesting post-apocalyptic novel. We never know the cause of the apocalypse, but that's not important, anyway. What we do see i...more**spoiler alert** An interesting post-apocalyptic novel. We never know the cause of the apocalypse, but that's not important, anyway. What we do see is the relationship between the father and the son (both remain anonymous) as they try to survive in harsh weather with dwindling resources. They must avoid marauders, killers, crazies, starvation and harsh weather on "the road" to warmer climes and a supposedly easier life. It's a very poignant look at the relationship of a parent to a child, as the father tries to keep his son safe, but also tries to not scare him too badly with the way life is now. This is a pretty grim book, but well-written and definitely a page-turner. But not exactly light reading. (have hankie ready at the end...)(less)
I really wanted to like this book, but it just never grabbed me. It was clever, yes, but a bit too obviously clever. The attempts at humor left me fla...moreI really wanted to like this book, but it just never grabbed me. It was clever, yes, but a bit too obviously clever. The attempts at humor left me flat. The whole thing was really quite dry. I had hoped for something along the lines of 'Good Omens', but this wasn't even close. Very disappointing.
I had high hopes for this book - but I was disappointed. The book is a sort of mystery/thriller, set in England in the mid-1800's. Several corpses hav...moreI had high hopes for this book - but I was disappointed. The book is a sort of mystery/thriller, set in England in the mid-1800's. Several corpses have been found in the Thames with their hearts and lungs torn out. The story is told by a medical doctor who is first brought into the investigation to help, and then becomes a suspect. Several historical figures play a part (Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Charles Babbage), which is what drew me to the book. However, other than IK Brunel, none of the other historical figures play much of a role. They are just guests or members of "The Lazarus Club", a discussion group of scientific/progressive thinkers. Our doctor gets drawn into the club, and soon gets caught up in the hunt for a mysterious mechanical device create by Brunel, that people are getting killed for, and the doctor finds his own life in danger and begins to suspect members of the club.
It all sounds rather exciting, and, at times, it is. (The entrance of the Lady Ada Lovelace - the first computer programmer who wrote programs for Babbage's Analytical Engine - ranks up there with some of the best scenes from Frankenstein.) But, the problem is the author can't make up his mind what story he is telling. There are too many dead ends, too many sections of the book which do nothing to drive the story forward, etc. I think there could be at least 2, if not 3, GOOD books made from this one book.
Also, the way the story is told, I never really connected with any of the characters - I couldn't really feel any emotion, except in rare passages. Most of the time, the narrator (the doctor) just seemed to be dryly relating what happened. This kept me from really getting into the story. Though the author captures the era well, the dry narrative style is a real shortcoming. (I still remember a high school English teacher I had, who, in the creative writing portion of the class would say "SHOW me, don't TELL me what happens" - too bad Mr. Pollard didn't have her as a teacher!)
Because of this, I can't really recommend this book, unless you are interested in this time period or in IK Brunel. There are other, better, books out there.(less)
This is a graphic novel adaptation of Nverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Like a movie adaptation of a novel, it has been pared down to the bare essentials. But...moreThis is a graphic novel adaptation of Nverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Like a movie adaptation of a novel, it has been pared down to the bare essentials. But they kept the most important parts, and didn't seem to make any wild changes from the original story. The illustrations were quite good and seemed true to the descriptions in the original novel. Again, as with a movie adaptation, not all of the visuals were as I had imagined them, but it was fun to get another viewpoint.
This is a good introduction to the novel, but anyone who reads this first MUST read the novel to get the full impact of the story. The novel is one of my favorites - so if you're only going to read one of these versions, I recommend the novel. But if you've read the novel and want an alternate visualization, this version is absolutely worth it!(less)