Niven’s classic award-winning 1970 science fiction story turned into a graphic novel.
Description: It is 2850 and space adventurer Louis Wu is celebrating his 200th birthday. Thanks to boosterspice he still has the physique and mental agility of a twenty year old, and he has wealth that allows him to do almost anything that he wants. But he feels like he has done it all already and he is bored.
Enter Nessus, a two-headed alien Pierson’s Puppeteer. He offers Louis the chance to join him on a mysterious and dangerous mission well beyond the boundaries of Known Space, using a secret new ship that can travel thousands of times faster than anything humans have experienced. Louis cannot refuse. They are joined by two additional carefully selected crew members, a fearsome catlike warrior Kzin and a human that has been genetically bred for good luck.
Initially they travel to Nessus’ home world where they are told that the mission’s destination is a strange ring-shaped world that circles a star. They are to explore the artificially created ringworld that is some 600 million miles in circumference and a million miles wide. The flat inner surface of the world is equivalent to some three million Earth-sized planets and it may potentially be habitable.
When their space ship crash-lands on the ringworld and they are apparently stranded, their adventures have only just begun.
John’s thoughts: Where to start with this one? I’d have to say that this graphic novel version of a classic science fiction story has probably not been created with me in mind. I’ve read the original book and loved it – and the graphic novel can’t really add anything. Indeed, one of the great things about the original was the depth and the detail of the story. In this format there is no chance of replicating that depth and many parts of the story leap ahead far too quickly for my liking.
I’d also have to say that the graphic representation of Nessus is quite disappointing – though goodness knows he is near impossible to satisfactorily translate into graphic form. I think he is one of those creations that just works better in your imagination than it possibly can in pen and ink. Louis Wu too doesn’t jive at all with how I pictured him.
That being said it is a great story and I’m sure that many newcomers to Niven’s novel will enjoy it. I’d rate the book 3 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction in graphic novel format; I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who has read the original. Any potential readers should be warned that this is only “part one” and covers just the first half of Ringworld. It isn’t a standalone story so don’t expect any logical conclusions to the plot at the end of this book.
A closing thought – I do love some graphic novels (Watchmen and Britten and Brulightly are two of the most highly-rated books that I have ever reviewed), but reading a graphic novel version of something you’ve already read in full and loved is probably not a great idea. It seems to me that you’re always going to be left wanting more. ...more
A science fiction novel that revolves around a seemingly fantastic concept – a space elevator that reOriginal review can be read at Layers of Thought.
A science fiction novel that revolves around a seemingly fantastic concept – a space elevator that reaches from the equator to geosynchronous orbit and will help to solve many of the world’s problems. The technology is based on reasonable extrapolations of today’s science.
Description: The earth is beset by a range of seemingly unsolvable issues that spell future disaster – environmental crises abound, oil supplies are dwindling causing oil prices to skyrocket, major economies are trying to overcome crippling deficits, and war is brewing in the Middle East. Meanwhile two brilliant and driven scientists have spent twenty years working on the science and engineering behind an incredible idea. They want to build an elevator that will reach 23,000 miles out into geosynchronous orbit, a project that would not only re-ignite space travel but would also help to solve many of the world’s energy problems – and ultimately help to abate environmental crises.
Gary and Eva Morgan have been quietly working under the guidance of their mentor, an ancient but revered rocket scientist who is something of a NASA legend. When they are told that the government can no longer fund their research budget, the project seems to be doomed and the Morgans are mortified. But their mentor has connections with dot.com legend Franklyn Smith, who has the vision, the immense wealth and the business savvy required to kick-start the project.
Slowly the team starts to turn the dream into a reality but they face huge odds – not just overwhelming technical challenges that need to be overcome, but also many powerful vested interests and some highly skeptical and vocal critics. The glittering goal cannot be reached without heroism, determination and sacrifice.
John’s thoughts: I do love the idea behind the story (and incidentally it is not a new one – Arthur C. Clarke wrote about the creation of a space elevator in his 1979 novel, The Fountains of Paradise). It involves great vision, huge technological obstacles and possible salvation from some of mankind’s most intractable problems. And yet Forstchen makes it sound like this can be done using some reasonable extrapolations from technology that is available today; he makes the idea and the story feel plausible. He also creates some interesting and three-dimensional characters, has an accessible writing style and has crafted a fast-paced and interesting plot. The technology was interesting, fascinating actually, but it didn’t clog up the read.
Where he loses me a bit is in his endless eulogizing of NASA. The book jacket does say that it is a “NASA-inspired work of fiction” so I guess I was forewarned, but I did find it a bit over the top. Certainly it would be nice to think that pure science and visionary goals can win out over blinkered politics and a short-term view of financial and business interests, but having to read so many times how great NASA was (and could be again) just proved to be a distraction from the story.
Still, I did enjoy this read and would recommend it to any science fiction fans who like their stories to be based in the near future and founded on plausible technology. I’d rate this book three stars. ...more
John’s quick take: Continuing the story told in the classic science fiction movie and novel 2001: A SpaceOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take: Continuing the story told in the classic science fiction movie and novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, this chronicles what happens when an international team is sent to Jupiter to investigate the fate of the 2001 mission.
John’s description: In 2001 the crew of the spaceship Discovery found a mysterious monolith orbiting Jupiter; it’s clearly an alien artifact. The spaceship’s computer (known as HAL) had started to act oddly and caused the death of all but one of the crew. David Bowman, the lone survivor, manages to disable HAL and then continues on with the mission. When he leaves Discovery and starts to explore the monolith he disappears, with his last words sent back to Earth being “My God, it’s full of stars!” But there is now a newly created version of Bowman, unobtrusively watching over Earth and humans, unsure of what his next steps should be.
Nine years later a joint Soviet-American team travels to Jupiter on a Soviet spaceship. The objectives are to find out all they possibly can about the 2001 mission from Discovery’s records, and to further investigate the monolith. A key to unlocking some of the mysteries surrounding the 2001 mission is to resuscitate Discovery and to delve into HAL’s memory banks – so a vital member of the 2010 mission is the scientist who created HAL. There are another two Americans aboard who are deemed necessary, but the rest of the crew is Soviet. There are ongoing political tensions between the two countries and neither is happy about having to partner with the other, but there are some necessarily tight deadlines that have to be met, and only the Soviets have a ship that is ready in time. Inevitably the relationships between the crew factions are strained as the mission starts out.
As the ship gets nearer to Jupiter there are some big surprises in store; there is also the horrendously dangerous braking maneuver which entails circling Jupiter and using its gravity to help slow the ship down. Finally they rendezvous with the dead US ship, Discovery, and then start the arduous task of trying to bring it back to life. They also have to carefully bring the powerful HAL back online, unsure of what they will find and how it might react to the newcomers. Meanwhile the huge monolith seems to be inert and unperturbed by their presence. But by far the biggest shock is yet to come. And “Bowman” continues his watch and starts to flex some of his newfound powers.
John’s thoughts:2001: A Space Odyssey was such a classic movie, which was groundbreaking in all sorts of ways. The ending left some audience members scratching their heads a bit, though the resulting novel did clear things up at least somewhat (the movie was a result of collaboration between Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, while Clarke followed up with the novel). In many ways it cried out for a sequel, but more than twenty years passed before Clarke released this novel.
It was a tough act to follow, but employing his usual gifts of huge imagination, technical credibility, and first-rate storytelling, Clarke did a terrific job. In common with most Clarke books, this is a really fine read. The futurism and science don’t get in the way at all, but rather add to what is a really cool story. This is an easy read – which is not to diminish the depth and complexity of the plot. And of course there are plenty of surprises to keep you turning the pages.
It is not unusual in many science fiction books to find that characters are rather thin and under-developed, taking a back seat to “gee whiz” plots and grand visions, but that is not a problem that I have found with Clarke – the characters in this novel are interesting and have some depth, as are those in most of his books. (Though I must admit that this is my first Clark read in a long time and it was in my student days when I voraciously read his books, so maybe my memory is playing little tricks with me).
All in all, this is a great read that I’d recommend to any and all science fiction fans; though of course it has been out for a long time now so perhaps most have read it already. You don’t have to have read 2001 first as the key elements are recounted in 2010 - but it will help to provide a little added background and color. I’d also say that for non-science fiction fans who want to test the water, Arthur C. Clarke is a great place to start. I’d rate this book 4 stars.
P.S. It only just occurred to me how apt it is to rate science fiction novels using a system of stars! ...more
John’s description: Long, bitter wars between EartOriginal review by John is posted at Layers of Thought.
Great science fiction story but a bad ending.
John’s description: Long, bitter wars between Earth and several other civilizations within the galaxy have finally come to an end and an uneasy peace ensues. Now a new religious movement has arisen inspired by a secretive prophet who talks of transcendence and an enigmatic machine that can take sentient beings to a whole new level. A starship embarks on a pilgrimage to the galactic edge to try and find the machine, taking a group of beings of many diverse species on a dangerous trip to the far reaches of space.
Among the pilgrims on the voyage is Riley, a bitter, cynical human war veteran who is anything but a pilgrim. He has been sent by a mysterious power player to try and identify and destroy the prophet and to discover the whereabouts of the machine. But as the ship pushes on ever further into deep space, one passenger after another falls prey to foul play. It seems that Riley is not the only secret agent among the pilgrims - the rulers of the various galactic powers must fear the consequences if the prophet and the machine come to light, and they are desperate to maintain the current status quo.
As the violence and skullduggery unfold, some of the pilgrims start to share their personal stories and the stories of their own alien races, rather like the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. But who can be believed and trusted? Riley needs help but is surrounded by aliens who are unfathomable and may be hostile. He also starts to question his own motives and desires though his unknown employer seems to have left him no option but to complete his secret mission.
John’s thoughts: This is an excellent plot which I loved. The story is complex, nicely detailed and unpredictable, and the characters - both human and alien - are well-developed and have real depth. Actually I really like how Gunn has created his aliens. The techy bits of the story are also credible and add to the story rather than get in the way of it. So what’s not to like? The ending sucks.
Did you ever take a school or college exam where you felt fully in control and thought you were doing brilliantly, only to realize that you only have two minutes left and still have a lot of ground to cover in your answer? Well, that’s a bit what it felt like reading this book or how I imagined the author felt writing it. As I got nearer and nearer to the end of the book I worried that there was still an awful lot of story that had to play out. Then in the last handful of pages everything is wrapped up in obscene haste with no apparent regard for the reader. Key pieces of the plot don’t come to a logical conclusion and some that are wrapped up are rushed and just don’t feel right.
I’m hard pressed to think of another book I’ve enjoyed so much but whose ending I disliked so much. Overall I’d have to rate this 2.5 stars. If you’re a diehard Gunn fan you may well love it. Otherwise, approach with caution, go with the flow and enjoy the story unfolding, but keep your expectations of the book’s finale really low. ...more
John’s quick take: An ambitious science fiction brain tease in which the protagonist “falls into an astonOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take: An ambitious science fiction brain tease in which the protagonist “falls into an astonishing metaphysical shadow play”. What is real and what isn’t? What does real even mean?
John’s description: Set at some point in the future, the story revolves around Heath Ransom who is a very special kind of private investigator. He is a former police psychic and machine-enhanced “endovoyant” who is able to travel into etheric worlds in order to answer puzzles and to track down missing people.
Ransom is hired to find the consciousness of an extremely rich but comatose old woman and to try to bring it back to her body. However, while trying to track her down in the etheric world he finds a terrifying, dark vortex. Falling through the vortex he soon finds himself inhabiting the body of a young man who has just been poisoned by his girlfriend. This in turn leads him into an ever-darker investigation involving government conspiracies, mutants, corruption, torture, self-aware artificial intelligence, androids and attempted immortality.
In deadly danger himself, Ransom starts to jump back and forth between the two worlds. He then finds out that much of what he thought was real is in fact artificial and as paranoia and conspiracy abounds, he starts to doubt his own sanity.
John’s thoughts: Where to start? Well, it is a very interesting idea on which to base a novel. I like how it started and was quickly pulled into the plot. Soon, however, two things started to happen. Firstly, I started to hit some dense pieces of text that were so full of obscure words and complex ideas that I didn’t comprehend them even after a few re-reads. There weren’t loads of sections like this, but there were enough to make it a difficult read. Secondly, as the novel progressed, the underlying (and interesting) story almost disappeared into the background, seemingly having become just a vehicle to explore some complex concepts and ideas.
Nonetheless I stuck with it as Nasir did create an interesting future world and I did like many of his ideas. Sadly, for me the underlying story didn’t come to any sort of satisfactory ending; in fact I really disliked how the novel ends. Having spent so long building details and ideas, I think the ending is rushed and a bit glib.
Part way through the book I thought this was going to be a four-star read, but having lost the plot (almost literally) and not liking the conclusion, I’d only rate this three stars. Who would like it? Well the jacket references Philip K. Dick, as do some other reviews that I saw out there. If you like Dick’s ideas and world view, this book might well appeal to you. ...more