I picked this title up after reading "Finder," by the same author. This story is set in the old-west town of Tombstone, and features the usual suspect...moreI picked this title up after reading "Finder," by the same author. This story is set in the old-west town of Tombstone, and features the usual suspects, namely the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday. The twist is that both Wyatt and the hero of the story have magical powers that allow them to influence those around them and - in some cases - draw strength from them, either intentionally or unintentionally. Doc Holiday, for instance, is supposed to be basically in thrall to Earp, who is out to grab as much power in the town as he can. In contrast, our hero has not come to terms with his power which is either denied to exist by most of his race or looked down upon sharply. We also have a side helping of race relations with the local China town, and a hint of romance between the female lead and the hero. While the central premise seems interesting enough, the follow-through is weak. The problem is that the story sets off in all the aforementioned directions at once, and ends up feeling very scattered. The plot is hard to find, the narrative meandering, an the climax hard to even identify. And it ends abruptly, with absolutely none of the plot points resolved in anything like a satisfactory manner. If you want to give Emma Bull a try, read Finder instead. (less)
"Moreau" clearly deserves its status as a classic with its thought provoking insights on human vs. animal nature and bioethics. However, I could not h...more"Moreau" clearly deserves its status as a classic with its thought provoking insights on human vs. animal nature and bioethics. However, I could not help being distracted throughout by the wild implausibility of "science" Dr. Moreau was practicing. Even granting the core premise (function follows form - re-engineering an animal's physical form to mimic humanity's will also permit human-like thought, speech, and behavior), the ridiculously short time frame in which this incredible feat of bio-engineering was to have taken place was impossible to swallow. A modern writer - aside from injecting a great deal more advanced science into the story - would also have given the whole project many decades and a large staff of rogue doctors, not a single decade and two. But, the book is 115 years old so I'll try and cut it some slack. It's good to have read just because of the influence it had on the genre. (less)
Somehow after reading several Neal Stephenson novels, Weber's verbosity has become More irritating, not less. Stephenson's critics complain that he ne...moreSomehow after reading several Neal Stephenson novels, Weber's verbosity has become More irritating, not less. Stephenson's critics complain that he needs a good, strong, editor, but after reading the Quicksilver series I really don't know what I'd cut. On the other hand, it would be simplicity itself to scale back a Harrington novel by 30% or more. Seriously, do we Really need a blow-by-blow on a signed treecat conversation?! The other traditional complaints apply as well: Harrington is more than a little too perfect, to the point of a more than occasional wince from the reader, and a good number of the characters are just too good to be true as well - too honorable, too honest, too understanding... And yet, after I waded through the first 50 or 75 pages, I was hooked and kept reading eagerly all the way through the Battle of Manticore. And I just placed holds on a couple other anthologies in the series so I could figure out what actually happened on Torch / Verdant Vista.
(Which, of course, brings me to another complaint. The Honorverse has fractured considerably by this point, and simply reading all of the books in the Honor series itself is going to leave a reader in the dark about a few minor (or not so minor) points. It'd been a year since I read the Honor book before this one, and I spent a long time wondering if I'd simply forgotten a whole series of plot points. Turns out I hadn't: they're covered in spin-off series. But even reading through the Honorverse Wiki doesn't entirely simplify the task of figuring out in which order to read everything... I think the books themselves need to be published with a good, solid "key.")
But for all these complaints, the plot is Really quite good. It takes a good author to make you care almost as much about an "enemy" character's death as one of the "good guys," and it really is fascinating to see how two relatively honorable, non-evil societies can find themselves battling to the death even though (almost) no-one actually wanted it. (less)
Another solid entry in the Harrington series. There were a lot of plot elements woven together in this one, and with Harrington in exile most of them...moreAnother solid entry in the Harrington series. There were a lot of plot elements woven together in this one, and with Harrington in exile most of them couldn't weave around her. This was actually refreshing in a way, although I was always looking forward to the chapters on "Hell." This series does take a bit of commitment. There were probably only a hundred or so pages of serious action in the 550+ and I can easily imagine that some would find the whole thing boring - this was, in fact, my initial impression of the first book. But if you bear with it, the payoff is worth it. As always, I especially appreciate that there are good guys on both sides of the war, and bad guys on both sides of the war, and characters called upon to make very difficult decisions of conscience that could easily go either way. Looking forward to the next entry. (less)
In the "500 Kingdoms," the Tradition is an impersonal, magical force that attempts to compel its citizens into one of the old, familiar stories - whet...moreIn the "500 Kingdoms," the Tradition is an impersonal, magical force that attempts to compel its citizens into one of the old, familiar stories - whether they will or no. Elena was supposed to be a Cinderella, but it turns out that the Kingdoms are in far greater need of a Godmother.
As substantive as cotton candy, but cotton candy is fun to eat, and this was fun to read. (less)
In a nearly unprecedented move I was actually prompted to Purchase this book, in *hardcover,* after reading about 1/2 of it in the bookstore. Thorough...moreIn a nearly unprecedented move I was actually prompted to Purchase this book, in *hardcover,* after reading about 1/2 of it in the bookstore. Thoroughly enjoyed it - although I cannot entirely deny that the ending wasn't quite as exciting as the beginning. Still, I greatly appreciated the "subversive" message that TV is channel for spreading subliminal messages of disconcent. ;) I would highly recommend it especially for the pre- and early teen crowd. (less)
My very first book! I remember sitting on Dad's lap sometime just before 1st Grade and reading to him - comprehensibly if haltingly - about Sam I Am a...moreMy very first book! I remember sitting on Dad's lap sometime just before 1st Grade and reading to him - comprehensibly if haltingly - about Sam I Am and his odd choice of breakfast foods. And I remmeber his incredulous reaction: "She's really reading!" So, was it the book or Dad's reaction that catapulted me into my lifelong bibliophilia? History may never know, but "Green Eggs and Ham" will always retain a warm spot in my heart - right next to the Cheerios box that Mom says was probably the first thing I actually learned to read. ;) (less)
Another excellent offering from S.M. Stirling. "Island" is technically in the "Change" novels universe, but the stories are entirely separate because...moreAnother excellent offering from S.M. Stirling. "Island" is technically in the "Change" novels universe, but the stories are entirely separate because the premise goes that just before our world was thrown back into the dark ages by a sudden change in the laws of physics, the island of Nantucket was actually physically transported back in time to about 1250 BC. (This is alluded to in the second "Change" trilogy when an expedition finds pre-Columbian Indians living on Nantucket somewhere around 2020 - apparently they changed places.) So, we've got the 20th century Nantucketers with their cars, boats, planes, and insufficient crop land suddenly faced with a survival crisis as they try to figure out how to not starve without daily deliveries from the mainland. (Wasn't it nice of whomever engineered this event to place it in March, when there was still time for spring planting if they worked fast enough?)
Yes, it's a ridiculous premise, just like nearly all of Stirling's. But it's a very fun read with good characters you genuinely like - or don't, in the case of his anti-heroes. And it is fun to think through how a modern society would survive, or not, with most of their technology stripped away, without the ability to talk to the locals, and etc.
My husband did level a charge of "authorial affirmative action" in the character of Alston, the black, female, and oh by the way lesbian, Coast Guard captain who also just happens to be a post-black belt martial artist. Yeah, maybe, but what fun is it to read about ordinary people? ;) Cofflin, unwilling boss of the Nantucketers, is certainly a more realistic character, if stereotyped laconic "Yankee," complete with "Ayups." And maybe Alston is just there to balance the vegetarian, bleeding heart, environmentalist whack-o's who decide to "help" a nearby group of Indians with guns and other modern tech. Now There's a set of characters I almost believe! :)
I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and am looking forward to the other two books in the series. (less)
This is an anthology of short stories set in the various universes of L. Sprague De Camp. I don't know how I managed to miss out on this early giant o...moreThis is an anthology of short stories set in the various universes of L. Sprague De Camp. I don't know how I managed to miss out on this early giant of sci fi / fantasy, but despite the fact I have read only one of his stories (Lest Darkness Fall), I found the anthology enjoyable overall and did not suffer too greatly from my lack of background in De Camp's stories. I especially enjoyed the first story about the Strange franchise, and a later one about Orpheus. I did, however, skip most of the story about Tom O'Bedlam and Insane Nick because it made no sense whatsoever in the first several pages and was not at all interesting in its "madness." I was inspired to track down a copy of "The Incomplete Enchanter" from which the anthology's title is taken and it's next on my reading list. (less)
I thoroughly enjoyed the entire "Event" series (first two: Island In The Sea Of Time, Against the Tide of Years) As with all of Stirling's work, the pr...moreI thoroughly enjoyed the entire "Event" series (first two: Island In The Sea Of Time, Against the Tide of Years) As with all of Stirling's work, the premise is ridiculous: in this series, the entire island of Nantucket has been mysteriously transported back to roughly 1250 BC. But the exposition is excellent, with compelling characters, great pacing, and imaginative but believable plotting once the premise is accepted. In this final book, the Nantucketers press their war against the rebel sociopath William Walker, and separately his ally Isketerol. The author has a rather geeky sense of humor, which the reader may chose to interpret as campy or hilarious depending on mood. One of his characters - an otherwise cerebral and scholarly fellow - gives into the urge to greet a foreign head of state with V'd fingers and "Live long and prosper," and on another occasion urges his arch enemy "go away, you silly Greek kanigit, or I will taunt you a second time." Oh, and make sure you watch the classic movie "Zulu" before reading "Oceans of Eternity," or you'll entirely miss a very extended joke. All in all, I can't think when I've enjoyed a sci-fi series more, especially in the "alternate history" genera, unless it is Stirling's other series in the same universe, the "Change" novels. (less)
This is a very old Stirling / Drake collab (first book ~91) following the attempts of Raj Whitehall, chosen of the great war computer, to reunite his...moreThis is a very old Stirling / Drake collab (first book ~91) following the attempts of Raj Whitehall, chosen of the great war computer, to reunite his world. Compared to other books by these authors both individually and co-written, this one ranks near the bottom. While the story and the characters did hit their stride around the end of the first book, there is a distinct lack of truly likable characters, not to mention a cause that you can cheer for. Indeed, the core conflicts may be reasonably described a fights between the bad guys and the worse. Who do we want to win? The bad guys of course... but it's hard to get all that excited about it. This series is regularly compared to another Drake colab, the Belisarius saga (beginning withAn Oblique Approach) because of the remarkable similarity in basic plot. Belisarius is by far the more enjoyable of the two, and for me it comes down to characters. In Belisarius, many of them are genuinely likable people with strong senses of honor, justice, and the like. They also get developed pretty nicely. Here no-one - not even Raj himself - gets more than broad strokes. The focus is almost entirely on the military side of things: logistics, tactics, politics thereof, and of course the fighting itself.
The thing is, I am willing to bet that this is the more Realistic of the two series. I am sure that if I spend much time looking through the reviews on this volume I will see no end of complaints about Drake's "Misogynism," his objectifying of women, etc, etc, etc. Bollocks. He's not a misogynist, he's a realist. Are 95% of the female characters in this book either scheming wives of noblemen, whores, or (in several cases) both? Absolutely. Do most of the women encountered by the soldiers end up raped, enslaved, or worse? Yup. Does this indicate that the author hates women and believes they ought all be treated this way? Let's be serious. Honestly, what "The Hammer" and "The Forge" do is describe war between basically feudal societies in brutal, unflinching detail. People lose limbs, when they're not simply blown to bloody pulp. Women are raped. Everyone who loses is killed or enslaved. Soldiers steal from the army, pillage the landscape - even their "own" people, and are motivated largely by the potential for plunder. Politicians screw over their troops, distrust their generals, and calmly and civilly plunder their own districts even more thoroughly than the army on its worst day. Sounds a lot like reality to me. It also isn't much fun to read: I am sure that this series didn't sell anywhere near as well as the Belisarius analog. We greatly prefer fantasy. (less)
My husband has recently devoured the "Dies the Fire" series, but since he checked them out from the library I haven't had opportunity to read them. In...moreMy husband has recently devoured the "Dies the Fire" series, but since he checked them out from the library I haven't had opportunity to read them. Instead this stand-alone story was my first Stirling, and I found the author to live up to his hype. Obviously there's a pretty significant fantasy element to the story - random returning WWII soldier accidentally opens a portal to a parallel universe where Columbus never arrived in America. Variations on a theme most sci-fi fans have read before. But it's what he Does with his parallel universe that sets "Conquistador" apart: he keeps a secret from the world at large, while populating it with people - and animals - of his own choosing. The story - which flips frequently between the 40's, 70's, and 2008 - is told in an engaging manner, with believable and mostly likeable characters - and the ones that aren't likeable you at least appreciate. Without giving too much away, I appreciated the fact that the settlers from the 40s made most of the same "mistakes" of the settlers of the 16 and 1700's in our universe. Interesting to consider that as fasionable as it is to pillory our ancestors for decimating the native populations (people, animals, etc.), there are quite probably some historical inevitabilities at work. :)
Anyway, this book places Stirling squarely in the same category as Turtledove as far as master writers of alternative histories. (less)