Old Man's War is about old people giving up their lives on earth to join the colonial forces as supersoldiers to help defend humanity. That's a solid...moreOld Man's War is about old people giving up their lives on earth to join the colonial forces as supersoldiers to help defend humanity. That's a solid premise that I can get behind. Old Man's War is, however, not written well.
This book is bad. As I write this, I'm remembering that I only finished it to provide the most honest review. It was fun in spurts, but, on the whole, this book was, as I said, bad. The writing is pedantic at its best and horrid at its worst. Why do I keep expecting more from Science Fiction? Why, oh why, do I injure myself so?
I'll focus on one small issue and one large, big, huge issue. The former is the issue of the use of Old Men in Old Man's War, and the latter is the introduction of exposition.
*** Caution: For Those Who Care, Minor Spoilers Ahead ***
Old Man's Wars are fought by old men and women. That is true. The only thing young about them are their genetically-engineered bodies. So why do they all talk like wise-cracking 20-somethings, fresh off a network sitcom? I mean everyone, as well, from the good guys to the bad guys, the chicks and the dudes. Everyone, and I mean everyone, talks the same. They crack wise all the time. There's no flow, and everyone is just as adept as everyone else.
It's no secret that the bar by which I judge books is painfully higher than that of the average reader, and I feel that that's a shame. So far, I really can't trust other people's ratings or reviews to give me a clue as to what's good. And, to be fair, I don't really find anything all that good.
Which leads me (jarringly) to my second point: The exposition. FOR THE ENTIRE NOVEL, whenever the main character (who is just the same as everyone else) is kind of out of the loop, someone near him (who is just like him), postulates WITH INCREDIBLE ACCURACY as to the nature of the conundrum. What's with this ship? (wisecrack) Answered. (wisecrack) What's going to (wisecrack) happen to us? Answer. Ugh. There is no subtlety, no nuance, no story craft.
There are parts of this novel that raise interesting points on the ideas of life and soul and existence, but for the most part, it's a scifi nerd's two-dimensional wet dream, complete with meaningless animalistic sex without any kind of lead-up or gender politics, and with everything drawing our hero in "over his head," though he manages with identical ease in every situation.
Lukewarm scifi at its most meh. Read this if you hate yourself and have no standards.
The first thing I have to say about this novel is that it is very much the first in a series. Absolutely nothing was resolved in the end. Nothing at a...moreThe first thing I have to say about this novel is that it is very much the first in a series. Absolutely nothing was resolved in the end. Nothing at all. In fact, there wasn't much of a story either, which is quite a challenge for over 500 pages.
Here's the rub: I still want to read the next one in the series. A cast of hundreds of points of view, a meandering plot that seemed to jump forward at a ridiculous pace, then slow down just as fast, as if the entire novel is one giant montage. Worked for the movie Fight Club, but does not work here.
Still, I don't want to, but I'm actually considering spending my hard earned dollars on the next in this abyssmal series, which is probably a testament to the author's particular skills.
How can I sum this up for you? There are approximately five novels in here, all summarized wonderfully, but losing their power in the summary. I don't want to spoil it for you, because I am definitely recommending this for hard-core fantasy readers, who often read so much and so fast that this novel/series would be perfect for them. Let's just say that it feels like Sherwood Smith started a novel, got bored with it, and hit the fast-forward button on her word-processor to get to the next section.
I guess that would be fine, if it weren't for the fact that the author never actually settles on a story to tell. We just keep pinging all over the place, to the effect that we, as readers, are never truly invested in what's going on in the story, and simply keep reading to see what happens next. Sherwood tries to build suspense, but I have a hard time caring because the characters have not had time to evolve in my mind, and therefore I really don't give a shit that they're in danger.
I think I've made my point, so let's move on to craft, something that makes or breaks a review for me.
As far as I can tell, Sherwood Smith has never been trained to write. At a sentence level, it's obvious that Smith is quite enamored with language, and likes to throw in volumously poetic phrases to end chapters or sections using some sort of a literary bang. But it's a gimmick: the blatant attempt at manipulation is insulting to mean. I more often roll my eyes than say, "How perfect." That's what should be the author's principle concern: not what sounds pleasant or is neat, but what fits the story. And the story is so completely barebones that these literary indulgences seem completely out of place, like Paris fashions at a PTA meeting. I stole that from a commercial.
The world does not really hold together, with its unexplainedly accepting sexual mores, its strange equality amonst the sexes. I admit that it is a refreshing change from the unremittingly masculine fantasy of most spec-fic, but it's just so polished and pretty that's it's almost passive-aggressive. The internal and external politics are less than intuitive, and constantly bashed over the reader's head. I'll let you decide on that one.
Let me reiterate the fact that NOTHING IS EVER AT STAKE. The main character(s) goals are constantly thwarted, but only as plotpoints. Inda never fails, never has to learn from his failures, is always perfect from his extreme youth through his teens. He just always succeeds. For God's sake, Horatio Hornblower suffered less success in his own storied carreer.
What saves this novel from the dismal depths of a 1 is the simple fact that, despite hating the book and never being able to read it for even the short train ride from my work to my house, I still want to find out what happens next. I must be a little masochistic. Read this if you read quickly and voraciously, as it passes the time. Bear in mind, it's definitely a book for teenagers.(less)
I heard this book was not as good as the newer ones, which I loved as well, bu...moreA vampire and a werewolf walk into a diner...
and an awesome book ensues.
I heard this book was not as good as the newer ones, which I loved as well, but this one is far superior. The humor is less forced, more natural in its delivery, and the writing is damned good, especially for a debut.
This is not high art, unless you consider entertainment art. But it is a simple, good read, something that makes the commute fly by, something that you'd take on a plane and not worry about the turbulence. I'd compare A. Lee Martinez to Terry Pratchett, but only because they're SpecFic writers who make me laugh, and endlessly entertain.
Anyone who has eyes and a brain, and can connect the two together enough to process abstract concepts like letters that combine together to stand for the sounds that mean words will love this book.
I can't tell what was greater: how insulted or how disgusted I was by this book. Not by the content (saccharin prince with evil brother forced from hi...moreI can't tell what was greater: how insulted or how disgusted I was by this book. Not by the content (saccharin prince with evil brother forced from his birthright... um, something about ghosts). No, the writing is, to be blunt, shit.
I have rules that I live by, that define what I believe is a good book. Want to know what they are? The opposite of everything that this book is.
Anyone here want to read about 12th century characters with 20th century values stapled to their paper-thing character development? How about needless expositions placed within dialogue to make the dialogue make sense? I certainly don't.
I didn't make 50 pages in this book. I ride the T a scant 15 minutes in my daily commute, but even that was too long of a time to be cooped up with this book. Thank god a good chunk of the trip is above ground, or I'd have had nothing to look at. In less than 50 pages, I put the book down and never looked back. Waste of 8 bucks, I don't mind telling you.
Alternative (and opposite): Tigana by Guy Gabriel Kay (I might be misspelling the name of the author). This is a book I cannot put down.
This book (or rather, these books, since this is an omnibus of a trilogy) is fan-freakin-tastic. I read the whole damned thing so fast I can't separat...moreThis book (or rather, these books, since this is an omnibus of a trilogy) is fan-freakin-tastic. I read the whole damned thing so fast I can't separate them in my head. Lots of action, journeys, deaths, and the like. Mostly believable, despite being quite entrenched in the epic-fantasy realm. It does jump the shark a few times, and does not hold onto its own premises an quite a few places. I'd say more, but I don't want to spoil it for you. That being said, the style is adult and grounded, clean and worthwhile. The story is fun, and the execution relatively sound. It's true that there isn't an overabundance of detail, but I was never one for verbose writers. I like my prose to MOVE.
4 out of 6 A must for fans of fantasy who are tired of the same-old same-old and for lit readers who are a little more adventurous.(less)
I've always been curious about this book. Actually, I've had very high expectations.
It's a tale of grand adventure on a grand scale. As boy, I loved M...moreI've always been curious about this book. Actually, I've had very high expectations.
It's a tale of grand adventure on a grand scale. As boy, I loved My Side of the Mountain and Hatchet (I think I read Hatchet, though maybe I didn't), or even The Boxcar Children. I wanted to be a rugged loaner who carves his destiny out of the wilds of the world with his wits and bare hands.
So, naturally, I figured that I could get behind Robinson Crusoe. And I could, mostly. His adventure actually has more than three parts. He goes, gets enslaved, escapes, lands in Brazil, and then heads out and gets shipwrecked, whence the meat of the story takes place.
But, man, is it dated. There are long winded, hit-you-over-the-head passages extolling the virtues of Christ and Providence and the influence of the Almighty on Crusoe's journey, though there isn't much in the way of Deus Ex Machina, especially by today's standards.
Regardless of the pedantry, it's a fun book. I did sometimes wonder about the veracity of the claims that the title character makes, and it was woefully lacking an epilogue, but it was fun.
For those who love adventure, and have a hole in their reading schedule, I say read it, and learn your roots.
I like stories about ships, about naval battles. Master and Commander? Loved it. Horatio Hornblower? Ate it up. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I lo...moreI like stories about ships, about naval battles. Master and Commander? Loved it. Horatio Hornblower? Ate it up. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I loved Down Perescope, that submarine movie with Kelsey Grammer. I don't care. I love it. I'm not a great fan of "High" fantasy, that genre where dragons cavort and simple farmhands weild the powers of the universe with ridiculously small amounts of training. I like George RR Martin, where magic is subtly woven into the fabric of the story, as much apart of the world as the trees and the blood. Oh, the blood. And that is where Kovic nails the story. She simply says, "Well, what if dragons were around during Britain's struggle with Napoleon? Yeah? What if?" and leaves it at that. Otherwise, it's a fascinating study of a British gentleman--in every sense of the word--pulled from the world that he knew into a world that he never dreamed of. That's my official "book review" line. I'll try to include one in every review.
What I dig about this novel is the fact that it really deals more with the physical, social, and political landscape of the era. There really is little fighting to be found. But watching Laurence, our hero, deal with his circumstances is fascinating, and kept me interested even when the writing threw me off. Alas, we all know I have exceedingly high standards when it comes to novels, fantasy in particular. Martin has set the bar far too high for mere mortals to compete, and even he has his flaws, as far as I'm concerned. For a fantasy novel, His Majesty's Dragon is sorely lacking in clear detail. I sometimes found myself wondering what exactly was going on, what exactly people looked like. That speaks volumes, as I'm notoriously not picky in that region. Still, if I have to picture a dragon, I have to know exactly, and those details were a little scarce. Still, Novik did her job, and pulled me voraciously all the way through. It's definitely worth reading, and you will enjoy it, but high art it is not.