This book leaves me with a lot of conflicting reactions. There were several times where I was a hair's breadth from just giving it two stars and puttiThis book leaves me with a lot of conflicting reactions. There were several times where I was a hair's breadth from just giving it two stars and putting it down in favor of another read. But I really hate doing that with books, and the novel within the book was just a little over 200 pages, so I decided, again and again, that I would just deal and get through it. (This version of the book also includes about another hundred pages of short stories which take place in-universe. Full disclosure, at the time I've only read the novel. I'll give some of those short stories a shot later on.)
I'm glad I didn't give up. I liked the book more and more as I went on, but the flaws and weaknesses run throughout. As an aspiring author I know it's not good form to give bad reviews on books, but I'm not published yet and I think there's something to be gained in examining the Schismatrix critically.
I want to start with the positives. It took me a while because it's so unassuming, but I got to say I eventually realized I was digging his prose. It's muted and doesn't call attention to itself, but is by no means flat and boring. Reading a sample of a current big sci fi hit, I was struck by how much I disliked the prose immediately. That shone light on how easily I had been able to settle and flow into the prose of Sterling.
I also gotta give it up to him for sheer originality and scope. This little book is overflowing with ideas and scenarios that would show up decades later in books like Leviathan Wakes and The Quantum Thief. And in a sense, the books downfall is the other side of the coin here. Like I said, Schismatrix is only about 237 pages. But the book spans nearly two centuries.
As we flew from new sets of characters and environments and philos0phical war grounds over and over again, I realized I didn't understand why the main character was doing anything he was doing. I didn't understand his antagonist either. It's like we are given all the peak scenes from a much more epic novel, but without the meat and sinew and color holding it all together. Nothing had weight or purpose or any kind of resonance with me until a few moments toward the very end. And that -- the lack of emotional connection caused by lack of understanding and time spent -- is why I came so close to giving up on this over and over again.
In a world where Schimatrix is a 4 or 5 star novel, it may actually need to be a trilogy of books, or at least one significantly longer novel, like 600 to 800 pages. But that's not the world we live in.
So 3 stars, worth checking out if you really want to explore the cannon of posthumanism and solar system-centered space opera....more
A bit different in pacing and scope than the previous two, with much less emphasis on the crew of the Roci, but those aren't failures, just differenceA bit different in pacing and scope than the previous two, with much less emphasis on the crew of the Roci, but those aren't failures, just differences. Damn, this is good book. Fascinating, smart, fun, thrilling. A take on the classic space opera trope of the first encounter with strange, godlike, alien technology, but of course, the real threat comes from the short sighted and petty humans come to investigate....more
The Quantum Thief throws you into the middle of far-future, post-singularity humanity that has become digitized, immortal, and spread throughout the sThe Quantum Thief throws you into the middle of far-future, post-singularity humanity that has become digitized, immortal, and spread throughout the solar system - yet still remains petty, loving, selfish, artistic, and confused. Rajaniemi doesn't really seem to care if you know your way around this strange new world or not. In a way, it reminds me a bit of Neuromancer, where again you're just dropped into the middle of a future version of humanity and you can either sink or swim as the story rushes along.
All in all, some of the most amazing and inventive worldbuilding I've ever read. The characters aren't particularly deep, yet they are still believable and relatable in this bizarre post-human tale of thieves, detectives, vigilantes and quantum gods.
I'd being lying if I said that I definitely understood all of what happened, but I know I loved it. If you're looking for something bold and new, and you aren't afraid of a challenge, then I highly recommend it....more
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.
There are several amazing concepts played with in here, and those were the strongest aspects of the novel. The glimpse into the chaos and heartbreak oThere are several amazing concepts played with in here, and those were the strongest aspects of the novel. The glimpse into the chaos and heartbreak of the Chinese Cultural Revolution were compelling. However, the vast majority of the story takes place in a very near future through the eyes of rather flat and uninteresting character. The protagonist in the future has no real character arc and even completely forgets about his family after the first few chapters. Overall, I thought Three Body Problem held great concepts and vision but loses plot and character momentum very early on. I may eventually read the sequels, but I'm in no rush to get to them....more