Truly one of my all-time favorites. I think this is the eighth time or so that I've read it. I've tried to read it once a year or so, ever since the f...moreTruly one of my all-time favorites. I think this is the eighth time or so that I've read it. I've tried to read it once a year or so, ever since the first time in high school. I'm amazed that, even after having gone through it so many times, I still laugh at certain parts (or at least smile). I love the dry British sense of humor, so different from an American style. Definitely one I'll still pull off the shelf (or download to my CranioCube) in fifty years or so.
This was my first experience with an audio book. I checked it out from the library and listened to it during the drive to and from work.
A good book,...moreThis was my first experience with an audio book. I checked it out from the library and listened to it during the drive to and from work.
A good book, certainly an interesting parallel read to one of my all-time favorites, Ender's Game. Not a lot of action in this one, more of a psychological treatise on how warfare affects children. I found some of Bean's feats to be a little inconceivable - Card portrays him as a little bit too much of a "superman," thus lessening the childhood aspect that he was aiming for. But overall, certainly a fun way to pass the time in the car.(less)
I read this book after enjoying The Old Man's War. John Scalzi is a really cool author. He has set up a high science-fiction universe but doesn't appe...moreI read this book after enjoying The Old Man's War. John Scalzi is a really cool author. He has set up a high science-fiction universe but doesn't appear to take things too seriously. His treatment of the world is almost tongue-in-cheek, but it definitely keeps things light, a plus given some of the heavy settings he's writing about.
I didn't find Ghost Brigades to be quite as captivating a read as The Old Man's War, but it was still highly entertaining. It's just what I want out of a good sci-fi read: a deep-space setting, lots of weird gadgets and far-flung science, cool action, and an explosion here and there.(less)
I read this book during our December 2005 Caribbean cruise. I was blown away by the awesomeness of Scalzi's universe, and loved how he so quickly deve...moreI read this book during our December 2005 Caribbean cruise. I was blown away by the awesomeness of Scalzi's universe, and loved how he so quickly developed a world that I was pulled into.
This book reads like The Forever War-lite. It deals with many of the same themes, but in a far more light-hearted and fun-to-read manner. The gadgets are cool (I totally want a BrainPal), the settings are fun, and the writing is good. For dealing with the subject of recruits sent to die in an interminable interstellar war, it's a surprisingly light-hearted read.(less)
While a classic of modern sci-fi, I found this book to be a little bit of a downer. Given the cultural context of the era in which it was written (the...moreWhile a classic of modern sci-fi, I found this book to be a little bit of a downer. Given the cultural context of the era in which it was written (the Vietnam War), I guess it was hard to write a "happy" war book. The technology and settings were certainly well-developed and interesting. I'm sure this was one of those "must-read" sci-fi books, but it was a little too heavy for my tastes, at least while on a cruise.(less)
If you're looking for good literature, with a classic storyline, well-developed characters, and snappy dialogue, a Star Wars book is not the place to...moreIf you're looking for good literature, with a classic storyline, well-developed characters, and snappy dialogue, a Star Wars book is not the place to start. If you want to read about a day in the life of a Dark Lord of the Sith, look no further.
Luceno has been given the enviable but fearful task of describing the first bit of Anakin Skywalker's life as Darth Vader. This is a period of time Star Wars fans have been waiting years to hear about. The storyline of the book itself is forgettable - far more interesting are the sections describing how Vader begins to come to terms with his new life, new body, and new apprenticeship to Darth Sidious.
For me, the most intriguing part of the book comes at the very end, when Obi-Wan realizes that Anakin Skywalker is not dead, but effectively reincarnated. Creepy stuff.(less)
Ah, graphic novels. Why must you tempt me with your awesome covers, your intriguing plot ideas, and then abandon me so thoroughly when I actually read...moreAh, graphic novels. Why must you tempt me with your awesome covers, your intriguing plot ideas, and then abandon me so thoroughly when I actually read you?
The idea for the book is cool. An expedition uncovers billion-year old sarcophagi locked under the ice on Europa. Good start. And then the book falls into the cheese of bad sci-fi. The main character describes how, if you shoot a pistol in zero-g, you'll go flying off at 700 mph in the opposite direction because of recoil. Uhh, no. Any high school physics student can explain why that's not true. And the evil mega-corporation called "Doors" that runs every computer in the world? Wow, that's SUCH a subtle dig at Microsoft... How EVER did they come up with that one?
It's like I WANT to be geeky enough to enjoy graphics novels, but I just can't let my brain go there.
Pretty pictures. Interesting space shots. Other than that, this isn't something I would recommend to anyone but the most base of sci-fi fans. And then, only if they're not too bright.(less)
Despite the misleading title, this book was not written by Douglas Adams - it was written by Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) based on (of all thing...moreDespite the misleading title, this book was not written by Douglas Adams - it was written by Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) based on (of all things) a computer game authored by Douglas Adams.
It's pretty clear that Jones is trying to emulate Adams' style. While a noble attempt to be sure, it falls short. I was excited by the first couple of chapters, as the humor was very typically British and dry, and it was reflective of Adams' writing, but after the introductory section it just got... well... silly. So thanks, Terry, but it's probably best that Adams' unique and engaging style died with him.(less)
In honor of the late, great Arthur C. Clarke, I picked up one of his books I'd never read: Childhood's End. The book recounts the story of an alien ci...moreIn honor of the late, great Arthur C. Clarke, I picked up one of his books I'd never read: Childhood's End. The book recounts the story of an alien civilization that comes to Earth and rules over it for 150 years, before mankind's true destiny is revealed.
I won't get into the overall story of the book itself - it's a quick read and certainly worth picking up. One of the most interesting things to me about the book was that Clarke wrote it in 1953, but it's set between about 1970 and 2120. It's fascinating to read what a sci-fi author, writing 60 years ago, THINKS will be the great technological innovations of his future (our present). As an example, here's a passage from the book. The timeframe for this passage is about 50 years from now, but keep in mind it was written 55 years ago:
"Do you realize that every day something like five hundred hours of radio and TV pour out over the various channels? If you went without sleep and did nothing else, you could follow less than a twentieth of the entertainment that's available at the turn of a switch! No wonder that people are becoming passive sponges - absorbing but never creating. Did you know that the average viewing time per person is now three hours a day? Soon people won't be living their own lives any more. It will be a full-time job keeping up with the various family serials on TV!"
Clarke, how right you were. Your timing was a little off - we hit this point in the mid-80s! And according to a Nielsen Media report published in 2006, the average American watches 4.5 hours of TV a day. And of course, in a world where everyone has cable, the number of programs you could watch for outstrips the amount of time you have. For that matter, you could probably spend 24 hours a day just watching tournament bass fishing if you wanted to. Add the Internet to the mix, and the formula becomes much more complicated.
Anyway, I just thought it was interesting how off Clarke was with his predictions. Often you think of sci-fi authors as building these fanciful worlds that could never come to be, at least not in our lifetimes. In this case, I think it came to be far too quickly!(less)
I’ve fallen out of touch a little with the Star Wars lore ever since the release of Episode III. I never really kept up too much with the post-ROTJ st...moreI’ve fallen out of touch a little with the Star Wars lore ever since the release of Episode III. I never really kept up too much with the post-ROTJ stuff to begin with; I read some of the books, but could never keep up with the frequent release schedule and, to be honest, what I did read wasn’t all that good. I’ve heard some positive stuff about the New Jedi Order series, but I’m hardly likely to start off on a 13-book series right now.
LucasArts has done a good job of getting me back on board with Force Unleashed. They’re selling it as completely canonical and tying together a book, graphic novel, and videogame definitely appeals to my completionist side. I decided to spoil the videogame storyline by reading the graphic novel first.
I gotta say, as graphic novels go, it wasn’t all that great. To be fair, I haven’t read all that many, but this mainly felt like a sixteen-dollar advertisement for the game which is, of course, precisely what it is. The story is not fleshed out nearly as much as I would like, the book is far too short, and the art is so-so. The action scenes are written almost as fill-in material, and it’s not always clear what’s happening on the page.
As I said before, I may end up reading the book as well, but hopefully the videogame will be a little more fulfilling. (less)
Anoter run-of-the-mill Star Wars book, pumped out to appease the Star Wars masses (myself included). It's not that it's a bad book, it's just that it'...moreAnoter run-of-the-mill Star Wars book, pumped out to appease the Star Wars masses (myself included). It's not that it's a bad book, it's just that it's not really good. Sure, it gives General Thrawn's origin story, and it fills in some of the blanks between Episodes I and II. But ultimately it's just that - filler.
Zahn is forced to work within the content already predetermined by the movies. As with any prequel material, the fate of the main characters is known. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are never in any real danger, since we both know they have to show up for the next movie. The other Jedi are completely expendable, since they'll either die now or die at the end of Episode III. And, of course, we know Thrawn will succeed since he's the star of Zahn's classic Thrawn trilogy of novels, which really set off the Expanded Universe in 1992.
I suppose the point of a book like this is not to know WHAT happens, but HOW it happens. Zahn is able to set up a few interesting scenarios, and he really shines when describing massive space-battle scenes. His description of the political machinations onboard Outbound Flight are interesting, if ultimately irrelevant to the central plot.
Overall, not a bad read, but I would only recommend it for the most hard-core and completist of Star Wars mythology fans.(less)
It’s been at least 15 years since I read Jules Verne’s classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea the first time in high school. Since then I have earned an...moreIt’s been at least 15 years since I read Jules Verne’s classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea the first time in high school. Since then I have earned an engineering degree and gotten SCUBA-certified, both of which, needless to say, lend me a new insight into Verne’s work.
When reading 20,000 Leagues, it’s crucial to be aware of the time in which Verne wrote. The book was written in 1870, in an effectively pre-industrial France. Submarines of the time were horrifically primitive by any modern standard, so Verne’s premise of a submarine that could cruise the world, completely self-sufficiently, operated solely by electricity, must have seemed like complete fantasy at the time. His idea of men wearing suits that allowed them to walk around on the sea floor was a technological impossibility. Today, of course, nuclear submarines and SCUBA gear are, if not commonplace, at least well-understood by most.
Interestingly, Verne showed a keen fascination for electricity at a time when few understood its possibilities as a power source, particularly for vehicles. Nemo’s Nautilus is completely powered by electricity, although it’s never completely explained what the actual FUEL source is. At a time when coal-powered steam engines, or even old-fashioned cloth sails, drove sea-faring vessels, the author is able to fairly accurately predict how submarines should and eventually would be powered.
Verne’s predictions for how SCUBA-gear would work are both eerily accurate and completely outrageous. At one point the narrator implies that two different plumbing systems exist in the tank, one for inhalation and the other for exhalation, and the user blocks off one or the other with his tongue, moving his tongue back and forth with each breath. I have to assume that even pre-Industrial Frenchmen had heard of check valves, so maybe I just read that wrong. On the other hand, Verne is able to describe a remarkable example of a chemical rebreather, even if some of the details are wrong
Also of interest is Verne’s perspective on nature and Man’s relationship with it, a perspective which I assume is distinctly Victorian. The characters are clearly respectful of nature but they firmly believe in Man’s dominion over it. The Nautilus itself is set forth as an example of technology allowing Man to conquer Nature. Several references are also made to the near-limitless energy resources the Earth has to provide, an interesting counterpoint to today’s struggle for long-term energy efficiency.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is absolutely required reading for any sci-fi fan. Verne set the tone for what would become modern science-fiction. A dense read, to be sure, but completely worth it if only for the insight into the mind of a 19th-century visionary. (less)
This is one of the most poorly-written books I've ever read. While an interesting basis for a sci-fi book, the execution is extremely sub-par. Sawyer...moreThis is one of the most poorly-written books I've ever read. While an interesting basis for a sci-fi book, the execution is extremely sub-par. Sawyer writes like a fifth-grader who is telling his class about a summer trip to Disney World.
Much of the book takes place at CERN, a particle accelerator in Switzerland. Sawyer adds details about the location clearly included only to prove that he's been there, completely unnecessary details like where the fire extinguishers are located. I understand the need to include details in order to create a picture in the reader's mind, but much of the minutiae he includes is completely extraneous.
On the opposite end, the characters are shallow and underdeveloped. Many are there simply to create a structure on which to develop a plotline; we care little about where they're going or why. Ultimately they seems like a set of people who are all just wandering in different directions with no clear purpose.
Most annoyingly, the characters have a tendency to deliver long, very artificial diatribes that allow Sawyer to communicate his philosophies. Science fiction has a long history of comparing and contrasting science and theology, and when done properly it can be very thought-provoking. In this case, the practice was too in-your-face, too overt to be taken seriously. I did not for one minute believe that these characters would actually have conversations such as these.
The book was the basis for ABC's new television show of the same name. Seeing parallels between the events of the book and those on the TV show is interesting. The premise of the book itself is intriguing, but the flaws are too numerous make it worth struggling through.(less)