I've been steadily going through some recent big titles in space opera, and this is my first selection of what could also be called military sf. (SomeI've been steadily going through some recent big titles in space opera, and this is my first selection of what could also be called military sf. (Some would lump Leviathan Wake's into that category, but not I.) Old Man's War is always on the lists of great space opera and military sf, and I can see why.
Damn, this is such a fun book. It's well-paced, it's told with a great wit that often had me laughing out loud, and by the very emotionally satisfying end it fully pays off on the promises made in the book's opening line.
While it is a great read, it does have some first-book problems that hold me back from giving it 5 stars. For the most part, all the secondary characters are fairly one-dimensional; many of them, even some of the more important secondary characters, were indistinguishable from the others. And the second act, while very entertaining and featuring plenty of awesome aliens - mostly killing or getting killed, but hey, that's the genre - is really just a drawn out, act-long montage.
But the minor foibles aside, I gotta say it lives up to the hype. If you're looking for an action-packed, fun read with an emotionally satisfying core, you should check this out. ...more
Even by Bacigalupi standards. Don't get me wrong. Overall I liked it quite a bit. I do think there were a couple of stumblWell that wss fucking bleak.
Even by Bacigalupi standards. Don't get me wrong. Overall I liked it quite a bit. I do think there were a couple of stumbles, but for the most part it was a smart, engaging, and well written book. But it was so bleak and grim that I had to take a couple of short breaks while reading it just to come up for air.
Structurally, I'd say this more closely resembles his two YA books, Shipbreaker and Drowned Cities, than it does his premiere adult novel, Windup Girl, in that it's basically a post-apocalyptic adventure. Also, one of three main characters is in her early teens. Though it does have the elements of searching for a mysterious McGuffin and everybody betrays everybody that Windup Girl featured.
In order to talk about the few problems I had with the book, I'm going have to go into mild spoilery territory here on in, so be warned.
As much as he tortures his characters and puts them through the wringer every step of the way, I felt there were a few times where he took an easy way out. One of the main characters spends a few chapters getting horribly tortured. When the character is finally saved her wounds suddenly become inconsequential and she has her wits about her in a matter of minutes. She goes from being tortured for what must have been hours, to calmly and lucidly giving several pages of plot exposition.
Another character at one point gets turned to swiss cheese with bullet holes. Bacigalupi makes a point of telling us several times about how much blood was lost. Yet the adult female protag was able to carry his limp body through a town on fire to a doctor of some sort (that we never meet or have explained who they are and why they're helping) all before he bled out.
And the end, though basically satisfying, just felt a little too conveniently lined up. I don't want to go into too much detail about the last scenes of the book, but yeah, convenient is an appropriate word.
So, all criticisms included, I'm still really impressed by the book and will be looking forward to the next tome of bleak from Bacigalupi....more
"The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason." The opening line of Neal Stephenson's new 'hard SF' thriller, Seveneves, is bound to go"The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason." The opening line of Neal Stephenson's new 'hard SF' thriller, Seveneves, is bound to go down as one of the great opening lines in science fiction. I'm sure it will soon be mentioned in the same breath as William Gibson's opening line to Neuromancer. "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."
So as you can see, the very first sentence packs quite a punch and the punches keep on coming. The clock is ticking till the sky itself burns for five thousand years. Will science and reason save humanity in the harshness of space? Or will politics and greed be our final undoing? Well, I won't spoil it for you, but if you are familiar at all with Stephenson's books, you'll expect very smart and very brave people try to save the world with their smarts and bravery.
Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. The premise is exciting and fun and the tension keeps ratcheting up and up. While this is most definitely 'speculative' fiction, he keeps the science grounded, yet fascinating. No artificial gravity, no warp drives, no energy shields. As usual, Stephenson does a great job of helping to make sense of the science for the average reader. But to do so means he does a lot of 'infodumps.' His books have always been high on the infodump quotient, Seveneves is even more so.
The book is divided into three parts, and I have to say I found the second act the most compelling, fast paced, edge of your seat reading. While there are smart people being heroic throughout the book, this is by far the most adventurous and heroic section.
I do have a few criticisms, and most of that has to do with character. Stephenson has never been one to dive too deep into his characters's inner worlds, but even so he could craft fleshed out, compelling and fun characters like Raz, Hiro, Jack Shaftoe. To be honest, I have to say that most of the characters fell pretty flat for me in Seveneves. I understand that the majority of them are scientists and engineers and they're not going to be the type to fall apart int an emotional mess when the shit hits the fan. But this is some pretty goddamn apocalyptic shit hitting the fan and I would expect even the coolest, logical engineer to have their emotions get hotter and go deeper than what we get here.
One character standout, though still lacking in the emotional depth I just mentioned, is the African American scientist/celebrity Doc Dubois. Any fan of Neil Degrasse Tyson won't be able to help but picture Dubois as Tyson. Even the speech cadences are there.
Again, without going into spoiler territory, the third act of this book was very reminiscent of Raz's quest in Anathem.
All criticisms taken into account, this is still a damn fun and exciting read. Fans of hard sci fi and doomsday thrillers are going to dig this a lot, I think.
Also, when I was reading it, I kept envisioning it not as a movie, but as a miniseries. With the right budget and enough hours to tell the story (5-6 hours I'd say) this would be awesome to see come to life on the screen.
damn this was good. gritty, hard-boild detective noir in a post-cyberpunk, transhumanist future. sex, drugs, brainhacking, and lots and lots of violendamn this was good. gritty, hard-boild detective noir in a post-cyberpunk, transhumanist future. sex, drugs, brainhacking, and lots and lots of violence. reminded me a bit of a sci-fi sandman slim with a more paced and developed plot....more
I'm a little torn about this book. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. It's a good and unique book. Is it good and unique enough to win all those awardsI'm a little torn about this book. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. It's a good and unique book. Is it good and unique enough to win all those awards (pretty much every award)? Well, certainly a lot of people think so. And like I said, overall I enjoyed this book quite a bit. But I didn't like it THAT much. Most of it was pretty slow, and it knocked me out of the story quite a bit, but more on that later.
I really loved the idea of multiple identities and an AI in a human body. The book's greatest strength are its ideas. However some of the ideas sometimes get in its own way, I think. One of those ideas is the whole pronoun thing. Breq, our protagonist, speaks a language that uses the female pronouns for everyone no matter the gender. Apparently, this causes her to have a hard time reading the cues that signify gender around the galaxy, since she's simply not used to thinking in gender. Though there are a few times when main characters are called out for being one gender or another - and some random side characters as well - there's no real consistency as to who she mentions having a gender and who she doesn't. This really pulled me out of the story basically every time I saw the word 'she' as it made me think, 'did she if this she a man or woman?' So while it's an interesting idea, in practice it really pulled out of the story for at least half the book. So I can't really call that a plus.
Unlike most other books of the space opera genre, this is most definitely not an action thriller with a lot of plot twists, action, and a several visits to exotic sites around the galaxy. Instead, for the the majority of this book the narrator-protagonist is dissecting the minutiae of social interactions, hidden intentions, quirks of language and body language cues.
In short, this book is very feminine. Not as is in girly, or in even being about femininity. But feminine-ness informs and permeates every aspect of the book. Which to me is neither good nor bad, it just is.
Overall, I liked the Sith book more. It was pretty interesting to get a look into how the Jedi Brotherhood was structured. But it would have been muchOverall, I liked the Sith book more. It was pretty interesting to get a look into how the Jedi Brotherhood was structured. But it would have been much more intriguing if it was a book on the Jedi philosophy. ...more
Finally got to this book after hearing about it for years. Definitely should have gotten to this sooner. Really loved it right from the first page. GrFinally got to this book after hearing about it for years. Definitely should have gotten to this sooner. Really loved it right from the first page. Great pacing, stellar world building, just plain fun to read.
I really expected to like this more than I did. And I did like it. But... Yeah... ok, positives first.
The world building - in truth, galaxy buildingI really expected to like this more than I did. And I did like it. But... Yeah... ok, positives first.
The world building - in truth, galaxy building - is great. I totally love the space opera world he created here. I love the idea of the Culture, and fuck yeah I want to live in that distant, distant future. Perhaps that's why this series is considered so influential? I've picked up that the Culture series is supposed to be one of the essential contemporary space operas. So I was really expecting some next level greatness here. Maybe if I had read it in college when it first came out I would have dug it more, it would be more ahead of it's time?
So that brings me to the not-so-positives. I'll try to stay pretty spoiler free here.
In short, I didn't care about any of the characters. I didn't understand their motives, it felt like people did what they did because the story needs them to do that.
The main character Horza, what a missed opportunity. The reason he is chosen for this mission is because of his past, yet we never really go into his past and see how it led to the person he was now and why he was doing what he was doing.
The interludes add basically nothing to the story, other than a glimpse into the world of the Culture. But they add no relevancy to, or give significant insight into, the developments of the plot. So it just ends up feeling like filler.
There's a lot that feels like filler actually.
But, all that being said, I did like it. It's a faced paced, fun read and it takes place against a pretty awesome backdrop.
Worth reading for the world building and far future concepts, if you're into that kind of thing. If that's not your kink, then I can't recommend. ...more
Wow, this was darker and grimmer than I expected from a YA book.... And I loved it. Fast paced and has some great characters and fantastic world buildWow, this was darker and grimmer than I expected from a YA book.... And I loved it. Fast paced and has some great characters and fantastic world building. If you loved 'the windup girl' but were put off about reading PB's YA books, trust me, you 'll dig this....more