**spoiler alert** This is a hard book for me to review without getting angry, so bear with me. The review may also contain spoilers, so if you have no**spoiler alert** This is a hard book for me to review without getting angry, so bear with me. The review may also contain spoilers, so if you have not read this book or "Ender’s Game" you may want to skip over this review and just note I'm giving it a 2/5, and would probably drop that down to a 1.5 given the choice. The original "Ender’s Game" novel is, in a word, extraordinary. Its one of those books almost everyone has read. Its translated in hundreds of languages. Its won many, many awards, and has won Orson Scott Card many awards as well. So you would think that revisiting "Ender’s Game" through the eyes of the rather important side-character Bean would be hard to mess up. Whole sections of the book are already written, as Bean and Ender experience the same situations together. All Card needed to do was fill in the blanks, toss in a bit of behind-the-scenes information on Ender through the eyes of a team member, and voila! Instant hit, especially with fan boys like me.
Unfortunately, thats not what happened. Instead, Card let the many years that passed between the writing of the original "Ender’s Game" short story, and the conceptualization of "Ender’s Shadow", shine through. He forgot what it meant to write a story based on a childhood dream during the time of Nixon, Carter, and Regan. Instead, he wrote as an upstanding citizen and devoted Latter Day Saint. Don't get me wrong, neither of these attributes are bad! They're just not where he was personally when he wrote "Ender’s Game", and this changes the whole tone of not just "Ender’s Shadow", but "Ender’s Game" as well!
In "Ender’s Game", Ender is manipulated by the world government into becoming the greatest space admiral, and the world's savior. Along the way, Ender knows he's being manipulated, and believes he understands the implications found within such manipulations. And even in the face of severe adversity, chooses to keep going because he knows its the right thing to do. He sees their deception and continues on, because even if the deception itself is wrong, their goal is just. And it coincides with his own reason for continuing on; to save his sister Valentine. Throughout the book, we also are given the perspectives of Generals Graff and Anderson, who speak constantly of the affects their manipulations are having on Ender, and the justifying reasons for their deception of someone so young. Graff is even put on trial at the end of the book for his involvement, and is deemed not guilty, in no small an example of the ends justifying the means.
"Ender’s Shadow" takes these machinations, these deceptions of both the children at Battle School and the general public, and throws it out. Instead of sticking with the idea of a government uncaringly using a very small segment of the population for the protection of the species as a whole, instead the government is painted as almost completely lost in how to proceed. Only the arrival of hyper-intelligent Bean saves the day. Younger even than Ender, Bean ends up manipulating Graff and Anderson, in order to achieve the results we saw in "Ender’s Game". The government wasn't smart enough to plan anything in advance, but Bean is! Not only that, but he continues to get smarter and smarter. By the end of the Bean series ("Shadow of the Giant"), he has long since past the point of believability. Nearly every problem Bean faces, he is able to solve with his unbelievably powerful brain without any outside help. This makes the books following "Ender’s Shadow" gradually get worse, but it all starts here.
The Bean series, beginning with "Ender’s Shadow", has me hesitant to read anything else Card has written in the Ender-verse. "A War of Gifts" seems to be yet another attempt by Card to re-write the "Ender's Game" tale by repainting it rosier than it once was. A recently-announced prequel to "Speaker for the Dead" makes me fear Card will start rewriting the rest of the series as well. And that makes me quite sad, because it will mean the scuttling of one of the greatest science fiction series around. ...more
Terry Brooks' Shannara series has always been very pulp. While that was pretty common-place when he first wrote Sword of Shannara, nowadays that lackTerry Brooks' Shannara series has always been very pulp. While that was pretty common-place when he first wrote Sword of Shannara, nowadays that lack of originality usually leads to a drop in readership, and ultimately a loss of publishing deal. Yet somehow, Brooks continues to take a very basic Lord of the Rings-esque plot, and make it his own.
This, the final "Genesis of Shannara" book, came in about where I expected it to be. It was nothing special, it offered no huge revelation in the transition from the Knight of the Word universe into the Shannara universe. Instead, it seemed to take the same Mad Libs fill-in-the-blanks angle, and fill in all the necessary blanks. Entertaining, but nothing special.
And to be honest, being that this is the last book in this exploration of the world before the world of Shannara, this depresses me a little! When he embarked on this series, explaining how the two worlds are related, I was hoping for so much more! It 'explains' origins inferring. Presumably, the Knights of the Word become the Druids. The Spiders become goblins. Instead, it takes us up to the actual apocolypse, and ends it, leaving us looking for a missing link.
Brooks now returns to his "Magic Kingdom For Sale" series, so for the next 3 years at least, we will see no more Shannara books. Its probably a good thing that he takes a break from the Shannara universe, he's been writing in it for 10+ years now. But I hope he will eventually give us that missing link. While humans and elves are safely apart from the rest of the world, how do the Dwarves, the Ogres, the Goblins, Gnomes, and Demons, all come to be? How do the lands shape themselves so differently from the United States that was the setting for these last several books?
I finished reading this book a few days ago, and I already have forgotten most of this book. That ended up being one of the biggest issue with this boI finished reading this book a few days ago, and I already have forgotten most of this book. That ended up being one of the biggest issue with this book, its entirely forgettable. Even the climax of the book seemed to be underwhelming, let alone the build-up and finish to the entire book.
The book is set in the universe Banks seems to write most of his stories in, and in part because of that, I have absolutely no inclination to read any of his other books. There was nothing particularly interesting about the universe, besides being slightly hard to swallow. Nothing overly unbelievable or fantastic, but generally not well established. Perhaps thats what I'm missing having not read the previous books in this universe, but as the book is not part of an actual 'series', I consider it up to the author to convince me to either believe in the universe, or at least to set aside my disbelief. Banks did neither.
It seems I'm rather alone in not liking this book, as most of the reviews I saw on Good Reads associated with this book were overly positive. But personally, I was unimpressed.
This is a half-way review. I'll write something more extensive when I finish this book.
As I mentioned after reading "The Dreaming Void", I was pretty stuck trying to find something interesting to read. A trip to the University Book Store and a phone call to my dad pointed me at Iain M. Banks, a british sci-fi author often mentioned along-side Peter F. Hamilton when discussing Space Operas. Sadly, so far I'm not sure what they're on about. Maybe I just picked the wrong book to start out with, but I'm half way through and the only 'space opera'ish thing about this book has been Banks' over-use of big words.
Oddly enough, I'm still curious where the book is going. I'm just not impressed. Its like reading Terry Brooks; pulp, predictable, yet entertaining enough to keep you reading. We'll see how it all pans out in the end....more
First, a complaint. For as amazing as this book is, my one complaint is that its very hard to read anything after reading this. Because the book blendFirst, a complaint. For as amazing as this book is, my one complaint is that its very hard to read anything after reading this. Because the book blends Fantasy (The Void) and Science Fiction (The Commonwealth), and Hamilton does such a great job at writing both, I'm having a hard time deciding what to read next!
That aside, Peter F. Hamilton's first book in his new Void trilogy is a very well written follow-up to his Commonwealth books ("Pandora's Star" and "Judas Unchained"). Set ~1500 years after the end of "Judas Unchained", the universe is quite different from the one we last read, while still being familiar and enjoyable. His ability to create technology that is both extraordinary and believable at the same time is one of many things Hamilton does brilliantly.
The same is true of his characters. Being able to write characters that have lived over a thousand years, or characters whose personality is shared across multiple bodies, can't be easy. And yet at no point do the characters feel awkward or flat. You immediately begin to understand them as people, and care about them and what will happen to them. If there's one place I'd say Hamilton REALLY showed improvement over the previous two books, its in his characters.
The biggest flaw with "Pandora's Star" is that it takes half of the book to really take off. Were the book only 300 pages, that wouldn't be such a big deal... but at around 1000 pages long cover to cover, half a book is a long time! In "The Dreaming Void", things start off interesting and entertaining right away. Nothing over-the-top, mind. But by the end of the first chapter, you already know you WILL finish the book, because you just HAVE to know what these characters are about!
The second book, "The Temporal Void", is set to be released this fall. In fact, in his May blog, Hamilton said the tenative date is October 3rd... a month late for me, sadly, as I will be in England in September. I attended his book signing at the University Book Store here in Seattle and found him very entertaning. My dad and I both had hoped to catch him again while we were in London, but alas, it appears the stars won't align for that....more