This was essentially the Orient Express in space. It's a pulpy closed door murder mystery set in a luxury space liner. (Yes, there is even a space traThis was essentially the Orient Express in space. It's a pulpy closed door murder mystery set in a luxury space liner. (Yes, there is even a space train.) Nothing new is added to the genre, except for some aliens, alien psychology and future tech and even they don't read so differently that say... a train full of foreigners.
It's still fun popcorn fare that's good for the airport....more
While this wasn't a book that was without some flaws, it's still a pretty good read. It has been quite some time when I've last enjoyed something I woWhile this wasn't a book that was without some flaws, it's still a pretty good read. It has been quite some time when I've last enjoyed something I would term 'hard-soft sci-fi'. Hard in the sense that it deals strongly with biology and various aspects of science (The lead character is a salmon researcher) and soft because, in the end, it is about how one can relate to another species based on this science.
Politics, space travel, intergalactic tourism, xenophobia and cultural issues when dealing with a culture that does not acknowledge that other intelligent species outside of themselves could possibly exist.
The lead is a strong minded female, a bit emotionally and socially stunted (and self aware in this fact). She isn't entirely without emotion, she just has difficulties expressing them properly. Some of the plot seemed a little scattered for my tastes, like pieces of a mystery that's so spread out all over the place that a reader can't figure out what is happening or why things relate until the very end of the story--but not because the story is that intricate, or so convoluted-- it's because the plot threads are so spread out and the reader isn't really told that they actually have anything to do with each other.
Still, I did enjoy all the description and detailing of various aliens and the human understanding of them, or at least attempt to understand.
The end was kind of heartbreaking, but effective and really worked well....more
The setting is A Singapore of the future: Singapore III (There are 5-6 I think.) The protagonist is Detective Inspector Chen who is currently not-so-fThe setting is A Singapore of the future: Singapore III (There are 5-6 I think.) The protagonist is Detective Inspector Chen who is currently not-so-favored by his patron goddess Kuan Yin because he went against her wishes and married a demon woman. Being that this focuses on the Asian style of bureaucratic heaven and hell, it has come to the attention of several authorities that souls are ending up where they shouldn't be. Chen is sent to investigate, and along the way, picks up a demon adjunct who helps his investigation.
I will add that Snake Agent (and sequels) are one of the few Chinese themed English language books I've read that is written by a Westerner that manages to bypass some of the "exotic orient" pits that tends to leave me with a strong sense of distaste. Williams avoids the 'suffering women' Joy Luck Club tones, the 'crazy/exotic/totalitarian/dominating orientals!', or any Confucious-style speech patterns that set my teeth on edge. Any passive traditional women also have their own Asian brand of strength that often gets ignored in stories. There isn't a single samurai sword in sight! No Way Of The Warrior!
This is a story about persons in a futuristic alternate Singapore, dealing with non-Western mythologies in a straight and authentic manner.
The fact that this book exists at all has me curling my toes. The fact that it's an engaging and well written story has me ecstatic. I'm in love with Chen and the Demon-- Irhz(?) and their interactions/chemistry....more
This second Detective Chen novel isn't as tight as the first volume. Still enjoyable, but hampered by the fact that some of the reoccurring charactersThis second Detective Chen novel isn't as tight as the first volume. Still enjoyable, but hampered by the fact that some of the reoccurring characters that I liked in the previous book didn't get nearly enough airtime in this one. I'm not certain I like the new female protagonist-- though, as is with a few of her other books, I found myself strangely fascinated. (Or at least grudgingly respectful. Neither of which is the same as actually liking however.)
The two main leads, Chen and Irzh are excellent. ...more
An early take on alien first contact over the backdrop of feminism and terrorism in India by Liz Williams - whom I notice tends to be an ambitious wriAn early take on alien first contact over the backdrop of feminism and terrorism in India by Liz Williams - whom I notice tends to be an ambitious writer with a somewhat shaky execution. (At least her earlier books, which seem to improve with subsequent volumes, so... she's at least interesting and not static.)
Empire was well-written and pretty interesting/exciting. But like many of her early books, the ending was fitting but felt too convenient - which made worse by the way it felt as if there is a desperate need for a sequel.
I found it to be more entertaining than 'Banner of Souls', but not as good as her Snake Agent series....more
Book three in this series pretty much fixes whatever problems were in book 2. Tight story, great character fun. Accurate (within reason) depictions ofBook three in this series pretty much fixes whatever problems were in book 2. Tight story, great character fun. Accurate (within reason) depictions of alternate universe Chinese mythologies.
I still don't like the relationship Irzh has with his paramour, however, all interactions between him and Chen are excellent and had me squealing happily. Inari gets to come out and actively do something!
While book one was explosive and tight for a story in the human realm, Book three notches up several levels in Hell. Now I'm just curious what else Williams will be able to come up with for her other stories that will beat Precious Dragon's rather apocalyptic kick in the pants....more
This was.... an ambitious story - possibly too ambitions - but I will give it this: It's the first time I have ever seen a man-hating, racist, genderiThis was.... an ambitious story - possibly too ambitions - but I will give it this: It's the first time I have ever seen a man-hating, racist, genderist, speciesist, bad humored, standoffish woman portrayed successfully as a heroic character.
In a world where the male half of just about every species is considered obsolete and unnecessary, several women journey out to save humanity in a mind bendingly alien world. If you can last long enough through the alieness, I found the story to be quite gripping, if also at times off putting due to some of the imagery and the attitudes of the very strongly opinionated characters. It works, though. It works well.
Unfortunately, like many of Liz William's other books, which tend to have a secondary connected plot stream running parallel to the main story, I found myself almost ignoring half of the going ons with the one disconnected girl who was running around on a quest of her own. I kept a close enough eye on her part of the story to get a sense of what was going on - which turned out to be a good idea over skipping entirely - as both threads built up momentum and collided spectacularly with each other.
Then, just as I got to the explosive climax - as I also felt with many of her other books - I was left with the sense that the ending was a bit too convenient, even if it worked well with the story. That was a little disappointing.
I wish there was a way to rate half stars, because I liked it a bit more than a general 'like', but not quite enough to rate a 'really'.
It's a snappyI wish there was a way to rate half stars, because I liked it a bit more than a general 'like', but not quite enough to rate a 'really'.
It's a snappy political sci-fi thriller with a strong dose of referential sarcastic humor. The technology involved might not be exactly be new in the realm of science fiction, but the logic behind them is sound and well thought out. The characters themselves aren't particularly new either-- but the situations they find themselves in, their banter, and the way Scalzi strings everything together shows a level of creativity and energy that I haven't seen in this genre in quite some time.
I think my only main issue has to deal with some confusion over too many too-similar-sounding alien names and some minor instances of info dumping.
The humor is bolstered by the level of seriousness infused into the main plot thread and the characters reaction to it, their own history, and their own approach to their own beliefs. The humor doesn't show up just for authorial laughs and/or parody, it's there because the situations are ridiculous and are supposed to so. (Though, some characters were stretched a bit thin -- but never so much that they ever quite broke the bounds of believability.)
I also take a strong liking to the main character. He's written just enough allusion to background and flesh to be believable. But not so much that I feel as if I'm being forcefully drowned into his personal psyche and neurosis, which I tend to object to in some of the more self indulgent angsty, screwed-up protagonist novels.
A strong piece of work. I intend to check out more of Scalzi's books....more
**spoiler alert** Hm. I suppose I should add the caveat that the following review rates this as a fluff piece. I enjoyed it thoroughly. However, if yo**spoiler alert** Hm. I suppose I should add the caveat that the following review rates this as a fluff piece. I enjoyed it thoroughly. However, if you are looking for Good Literature, or even Serious Writing... it fails on a number of levels.
There is nothing I hate worse than a military story written by someone who obviously has never served in or had prolonged contact with anyone that has served in any sort of military anywhere in the world. Or, wasn't at least a historian in the subject. From the first few paragraphs I could tell that Tanya Huff, whose friends and family have served, wouldn't have any problems in terms of writing military.
This is a very solid space military story in a softer, but similar vein to David Drake's Hammer's Slammers series. She doesn't shy away from the morality involved in killing, or species/cultural clashes, or the sorts of hairy issues that might come up when attempting to integrate many different alien species together. She doesn't delve too deeply, and at times I think she might have been a little bit too pat in her solutions, but she doesn't shy away from mentioning that these issues do exist.
Then again, this is the military, and not some free wheeling democratic culture. Also, I think that Huff is focusing more on the way these species are actually quite alike, rather than their differences. They also sound very North American military. Aside from some deliberately mangled popculture references, and some fancy sounding new rank names, what is described in the pages of this book may as well have been the US army/Navy. As I slung through the pages at high speed, I had distinct flashbacks to the game Starcraft and even the Firefly tv series/movie.
I suppose the only bad thing about this is the fact that it is a military story and therefore one is resigned to have to deal with casualties... Oh, and I suppose the love interest that shows up in the second novel in this omnibus. I suppose he was meant to be endearingly quirky-- however, his quirks ended up irritating me. I can't deal with people who deliberately get in the way during a serious situation by mocking people who are only doing their jobs/standing in their path/forcefully distracting people by constantly demanding their attention. I don't find that quirky. I suppose he redeems himself in the end, but... by the time the end of the book arrived, I was so irritated that I wish he'd gotten blown to bits.
Alright, and everything is a bit cliche, the alien species aren't different enough, and the military bits reads as a little too 20th American (which David Drake mostly manages to avoid, at least in the Hammers Slammers series.)
Still, for what it is, I am very much looking forward to getting my hands on the third installment of this series. The Smoke series was an intense disappointment, but Valor has renewed my faith in Huff's ability to spin light, engaging stories with realistic characters and entertaining interactions. Literature? Not really, but still worth passing the time with, even if you don't end up keeping it. I think the first book/novel is the stronger of the two, but the second is still quite enjoyable....more
I suppose it would make a difference to read the previous two installments-- or as I hear it, two books and prologue in the rewritten version that wilI suppose it would make a difference to read the previous two installments-- or as I hear it, two books and prologue in the rewritten version that will be coming out-- however, I'm not entirely certain I care enough to do so.
The cover compares her writing to CJ Cherryh. I don't see it, no matter how many years they've worked together.
Perhaps this sort of story was ingenious when it first came out, however, anyone that's dipped in fandom for long enough will recognize the old hurt-comfort trope of sexually abused-yet-extremely-talented pretty boys preyed on by evil evil people and saved by the dashing old man (And dashing older man's bits) with a bow to the occasional female friend.
I'm not entirely certain I even understood what this 'Net was. I don't think it was ever clearly explained-- at least not up to where I read to-- and I was hampered by my own recognition of the term as a dated reference to the internet. That 80-early 90s feel didn't help in the least, and kept me from accepting that the story might take place in the far far future....more
Second book in the series. I found this one stronger, in that the plot didn't fly about nearly as much and wasn't quite as sidetracked by the necessarSecond book in the series. I found this one stronger, in that the plot didn't fly about nearly as much and wasn't quite as sidetracked by the necessary description of what just makes the aliens alien. (being as most of it was covered in the first book) This story is far more contained. There is excellent coverage of the emotional backlash and follow through for the events in the first book.
I am grateful that the author has a realistic understanding of injuries and wounds and the sorts of stresses that weird science can place on a person's body. Enjoyable with a cup of coffee and a bit of pie. :P...more
As well written as "Android's Dream". This military space sci-fi was funny at the right times, serious at the others, a bit of a man's romance to bothAs well written as "Android's Dream". This military space sci-fi was funny at the right times, serious at the others, a bit of a man's romance to both adventure, life and love. The technology is just as complicated, with long character discussions of space engines and theoretical physics. The key thing I enjoyed about it, however, had nothing to do with the tech itself, but Scalzi's approach to it.
Here, with all the 'experts' running about, no one is really all that clear on how the tech actually works. The guns are smarter than the people working them. The focus is less on the "Gee-wiz! Fancy Space Tech!" and more about what the characters think about the tech during the instances they need to. Ironically, this brings back that exploratory feeling, adding new energy and spin to concepts that aren't actually all that new in this particular brand of space genre.
I particularly love some of the psychology involved when battling the enemies they encounter, and the scene partway through the book when one of the characters has a bit of a breakdown (And understandably so.) It's a military story, so unfortunately, people will die. There's none of the character safety nets that you might find in other books. But no matter how little a particular character shows up, they are often fleshed out just enough for you to know who they are and what they think.
Slightly less happy than "Android's Dream" but definitely worth reading....more
Serviceable writing, characters I wanted to shake or punch thoroughly, and teenage level breathless angstful-romance tropes -- I shouldn't have likedServiceable writing, characters I wanted to shake or punch thoroughly, and teenage level breathless angstful-romance tropes -- I shouldn't have liked this book, yet somehow I couldn't put the thing down. Reading it was like ingesting a heady, emotional dose of crack.
I'd heard bad things about Stephenie Meyer, and hadn't been able to work my way through a small chapter sample of 'Twilight' that I had gotten at a convention, so I went into this story expecting very little. She might not be the best writer around; she's not bad, but I think what she really excels at is her storytelling.
Good: I liked the world building. She creates a believable set of aliens with a strong level of individuality and logic that I found interesting. These aliens bring up some good questions about what humanity is, what is death, what is good stewardship and personal right? What is morality? Who gets to decide what that morality is? How does hypocrisy come into play? The breathless emotional tone really sucks a reader in and allows you to dwell and wallow in sweet, wild, emotion. Some well sketched characters that I found truly interesting.
Bad: These questions are not really the focus of the story. The main part of the story dealt more with cohabitation, love and romance. I have difficulty believing that the human race is so special that other alien minds do not have something that going for them that may balance out whatever it is they 'lack'. The story is a little too pro-human. The breathless, emotional tone can also seem bizarre or sophomoric when read with the wrong mindset. And due to its lack of variance, it can sometimes feel overdone - making you feel less sympathetic than you might otherwise be, though the story's logic does give you the option of making allowances for the characters as they create their Drama. The romances were addictive, but in a strangely train wreck sort of way. I'm not entirely certain some of it was particularly healthy. And if you don't like aggressive, potentially violent (and in some cases, not so potentially) large men who literally lift their nearly underage girls up and run off with them -- you may find yourself turned off. Especially when these violent men suddenly become 'actually sweet'.
Conclusion: The expression of the story might have done with some more editing, but I found the framework workable. And if you are able to suspend disbelief or can make your mind blip over certain... slightly off things in the relationship aspects, the romance is quite enjoyable as well. And really, as unbelievable things got at times, the voice was strong enough that there wasn't a moment where I couldn't sit back and think, "Oh. Well. There are unbelievable people like this in reality. I guess it's not that unreal." I don't need to like all the characters in a story to accept that they are built with enough personality and are a part of the world. Throughout the reading of 'The Host' I found myself sucked in a lot farther and with a lot more strength than I have felt from a book in quite some time. As long as I didn't allow my brain to engage too strongly, I found it quite fun....more