Devin Colt has been framed for murder. His younger sister, Jane, witnessed the kidnapping, by machines, of her best friend, Adam, from his dorm room....moreDevin Colt has been framed for murder. His younger sister, Jane, witnessed the kidnapping, by machines, of her best friend, Adam, from his dorm room. Together, Devin and Jane scour the darkest, most lawless places in the galaxy, searching for Adam and seeking the truth that will prove Devin’s innocence. What they discover will shake the foundations of their belief in what is and isn’t real.
Artificial Absolutes is a complex story presented in a very non-linear way. Much of the storyline is presented through flashbacks, so keeping up with whether you’re in the past or present is occasionally a little tricky. Although it’s clearly a science fiction tale, it’s also a mystery, and Fan is very good at coaxing the reader to the edge of revelation before veering off on a different, but essential, tack. The heart of the book, though, is the question of the nature of life and of what makes a being human. Possible answers to these questions are explored not only via the dialogue of the characters, but through certain of Devin’s and Jane’s relationships as well.
The characters in Artificial Absolutes exhibit a great variety of personalities that Fan differentiates very well. The interactions between and among those characters is sometimes a little stiff, especially when such interaction should be more intense than usual. The struggles that Devin and Jane each face within themself are very well depicted.
Fan’s writing is easy to read and the world she’s created is easier to keep up with than are those of much science fiction. By raising one potential philosophical issue, she highlights the importance of holding science and its practitioners to a higher ethical standard than doing or creating something merely because it’s possible to do so.(less)
Jack Dane isn't necessarily happy with his life as an underpaid feature writer for a small metropolitan newspaper, but he enjoys the comfortable routi...moreJack Dane isn't necessarily happy with his life as an underpaid feature writer for a small metropolitan newspaper, but he enjoys the comfortable routine it affords him. That comfort is shattered when unwelcome visions begin pulling him into their reality. Nikki is a psychologist and Jack’s best friend from college. He’s always been romantically inclined toward her, so seeking her professional help is a little awkward. Despite her own attraction to Jack, Nikki agrees to see him professionally. She’s skeptical of his tales, until she experiences the reality of one of his visions. Meanwhile, Jack meets Arthur, an aging clairvoyant, while writing a background piece related to some recent crimes. Arthur’s revelation of the true nature of the visions leads Jack and Nikki to redemption of sorts for members of each of their families.
I thoroughly enjoy exploring theories about the concept and reality of time and space, which is something The Last Radiant Heart does in quite a bit of detail. Unfortunately, too many things about the story and the writing distracted from that exploration in this instance. Foremost is the fact that the theory of time Wright puts forth has internal inconsistencies; like precluding linear time at one point and embracing it at another. The theory seems to be twisted to fit the plot, rather than the plot arising from a consistent theory. Then, there’s the sexual tension between Jack and Nikki. In the first two-thirds of the story, it feels forced and unnatural. Then it just disappears. The climax of the story, while dramatic, is disappointing given the buildup it receives. I expected something earth-shattering, but just got an, “Oh, look at that.” kind of event. Finally, Wright pushes the political correctness way too hard when Jack discovers an unknown fact about his cultural heritage.
Several aspects of the writing were annoying, as well. When Jack first describes his visions to Nikki, they sound like something submitted for a descriptive writing assignment, rather than a distraught individual telling a friend about a very disturbing experience. The narrative is in third person, but every so often, a sentence in first person pops up for no story-related reason. The use of a few clichés in writing is almost impossible to avoid, but including enough to draw the reader’s attention to the fact they’re there is way too many. Timeline inconsistencies and numerous missing articles and prepositions were like speed bumps in this reading foray.
The concept at the core of The Last Radiant Heart has the potential for a great story. Regrettably, the execution falls far short of that potential.(less)
In the not-too-distant future, True Ailey is on the backside of his career as a journalist. Corporations are the new Mafia – controlling society throu...moreIn the not-too-distant future, True Ailey is on the backside of his career as a journalist. Corporations are the new Mafia – controlling society through thugs and the technology embedded in everything and everyone. Virtual reality is the drug of choice – as addictive and debilitating as heroin. Information is the most valuable currency. Much of the world has fragmented into small republics where ethnic and cultural wars are part of everyone’s daily life. Exiled to one of these hellholes by his network, True is trying to hold his life together. When his friend is assassinated, he sets out to determine who’s behind the attack and for what purpose. His digging puts almost everyone he knows in danger the closer he comes to exposing the ultimate cover-up.
A little over half of Virtually True is written in third person, present tense. The remainder, mixed throughout, is third person, past tense. This makes for a very bumpy read – especially when it randomly jumps from past to present tense. Feels like talking to some pretentious jerk who always refers to himself in the third person. All this is very distracting from a plot that’s not all that easy to follow in the first place. The concept of the story is interesting, but it’s developed in such a choppy manner that it’s difficult to maintain interest. Because the storyline frequently jumps from reality to virtual reality, it’s also difficult to know what’s true of any character, and thus almost impossible to muster empathy for any of them, one way or the other.
If you’re seriously into technology and virtual reality, Virtually True may provide some interesting thought experiments. If you’re not, it could prove tedious and frustrating. (less)
Adrian, an alien, has occupied the body of an Englishman in order to find another human body that contains his leader, Menonan. He travels to Ephraim,...moreAdrian, an alien, has occupied the body of an Englishman in order to find another human body that contains his leader, Menonan. He travels to Ephraim, Wisconsin to find a man he forced to help in a failed attempt to track down Menonan twenty years earlier. There he discovers that a young woman, Laura, is the key to his success this time. Thus begins Adrian’s stalker-like attempts to convince Laura that she has no choice but to help him. In addition to Adrian’s creepy behavior, Laura must deal with an overbearing father, a lecherous boss, the wife of the now-dead Englishman in whose body Adrian resides, the wife’s detective friend, the police, various townsfolk who know what’s going on but won’t divulge their secrets, and a younger sister who wants to help but is mostly just a pain in the ass.
The central premise of Escape from Eternity – Earth as a place created and used by a race of eternal beings to recover from the boredom of eternity – is an interesting concept with a lot of story potential. Unfortunately, Scholze falls short of delivering on that potential. The idea is presented in a piecemeal fashion that leaves more questions than answers. Some of those questions, when raised by Laura, are answered with a, “That’s just the way it is” kind of answer. That isn’t acceptable to Laura, nor should it be to the reader.
One problem I have with the story is the number of times Adrian has to try to explain to the same people the nature of earth and his mission here. This lengthens the book unnecessarily and becomes very tedious. I suppose this could be a device for demonstrating Adrian’s commitment to his mission. If so, that could be more effectively shown by better developing his alien personality.
All of the characters are inconsistent. I like well-written characters who are confused and troubled. I’m not a fan of characters who are confusing. Even when they’re confused or uncertain about something, there has to be a core value or trait that directs everything they do. Scholze’s characters don’t have that. They react and behave in whatever manner best fits the plot twist of the moment.
The story includes a fairly graphic description of a sexual assault. The outcome of the assault is important to the plot, but it could be accomplished by any of several other means that would be less invasive to the story.
Overall, Escape from Eternity feels like several lumps of clay that a sculptor has thrown onto a frame, but hasn’t yet begun molding into a pleasing form. (less)
Maarkean Ocaitchi – formerly a naval starfighter – still believes the Alliance that he served stands for and is guided by the principles of democracy...moreMaarkean Ocaitchi – formerly a naval starfighter – still believes the Alliance that he served stands for and is guided by the principles of democracy and freedom. Despite that belief, he’s had to turn to a life of smuggling along with his younger sister, Saracasi, in order to keep her from being jailed and executed on what she claims are false charges of treason and rebellion. Maarkean begins to question his whole belief system when Saracasi is imprisoned following an unsuccessful attempt to hijack their transport, Cutty Sark. Choosing family over country, he is led inexorably on a journey that will forever change his own life, but the destiny of the Alliance as well.
Aristeia: Revolutionary Right is a science fiction novel with roots in the American Revolution and the issues currently plaguing the United States. It’s also a bit of a political/philosophical treatise on the abuse of power and an action story with numerous battle scenes – one of which occupies a significant amount of the overall story. These elements are blended well enough to keep the storyline and the reader moving along.
A large part of the book centers on the issue of loyalty to country despite that country’s deeply flawed nature. All the characters struggle with this issue; either trying to validate their beliefs to themselves or to persuade others of the validity of their own viewpoint. The result is that the characters become very one-dimensional, even as their beliefs evolve. Some of the characters beliefs are altruistic and others are based on their own desire for power. The conflict between those motivations – even among allies – would have enhanced the story, had they been developed more.(less)
Early in the fourth decade of the twenty-first century, Harry Vega organizes the Pure Human Society to lobby for criminalization of xenoalteration – t...moreEarly in the fourth decade of the twenty-first century, Harry Vega organizes the Pure Human Society to lobby for criminalization of xenoalteration – the grafting of skin or body parts from bioengineered animals to humans. Xenoalteration has replaced tattoos in popularity and is an offshoot of xenotransplantation – an accepted medical practice for extending human lives with animal organs. When Harry’s daughter, Bryn, is kidnapped as she leaves one of his sparsely attended rallies, she assumes it’s retaliation for her father’s efforts. When she’s released after being forced to undergo a radical alteration, she discovers that neither her father’s motives nor his actions have been pure. She turn’s to her late mother’s best friend for help and ends up depending on one of her former captors as well. The more she learns, the less certain she is that she can trust anyone but herself.
Reading Xenofreak Nation is a little like watching the two-hour premiere of an action/drama television show. There are numerous characters who may turn out to be good guys or bad guys, multiple organizations with interconnected but competing agendas, non-stop action, misdirection, and a little romance. Even the chapters end much as television programs fade to commercials at critical points in the story, and pick up right where they left off. This is a short, quick read. The writing and story are clear and compelling. The characters are complex, but believable. This one’s not easy to put down, so be prepared to get through it in one sitting.
Today, Xenofreak Nation would be classified as science fiction. In twenty years, parts of it could be deemed prophetic.(less)
Card's insights on leadership and the development of it were interesting and could have been explored further. The depictions of what were essentially...moreCard's insights on leadership and the development of it were interesting and could have been explored further. The depictions of what were essentially laptops and blogging didn't seem very futuristic until I remembered that this was written in 1977...the year I graduated from college and was still using computer terminals the size of school desks to do very basic modeling of things like traffic-light timing. I didn't like the portrayal of the children as having mature personalities merely because of their advanced intelligence. I can see gaining maturity because of the situation into which they were thrust, but here they started with that level of maturity and didn't grow in it throughout the book. We'll see how well this one sticks with me before I decide whether to read the rest of the Ender Series. (less)