**spoiler alert** This book is hideously outdated, sparsely written, yet gloriously pulpy. If there is such a thing as junk food reading, this would b...more**spoiler alert** This book is hideously outdated, sparsely written, yet gloriously pulpy. If there is such a thing as junk food reading, this would be my preferred brand.
"Slippery Jim" diGriz is a criminal -- and a wildly successful one, too -- working in a galaxy in which crime has largely dried up. He is the rat in their clean, shiny new society -- hence the book's title. We get to see him operate, pulling off a few stunts, before he is caught and enlisted by the cops. Ah, but on his very first mission, he decides to skip out and go it alone while chasing after his villainess -- and new love -- Angelina.
Sure, she's killed dozens of people -- murder: a thing the seemingly gold-hearted Jim likes to avoid. Sure she tries to kill Jim himself, shooting him several times at point-blank range, in cold blood. But they were meant to be! I kinda got that from the Wikipedia article referring to her as Angelina diGriz.
So follow along as the plot winds this way and that, always moving quickly. And though you might know when a new twist is just about due, that doesn't make the event any less enjoyable.
To be truthful, I only picked this up because I heard this series features Esperanto as the universal language (though there is no mention of the language in this, the first book). But I ended up rather enjoying what I read. I'd like to read some more in the series, though not immediately. I'll save 'em for a rainy day, or series of rainy days.
I just finished it and, eh, I have mixed feelings. When I started reading it I was immediately taken in. I just started easing myself back into readin...moreI just finished it and, eh, I have mixed feelings. When I started reading it I was immediately taken in. I just started easing myself back into reading SF last month and this is the first Clarke novel I've read in over a year. So I felt warm and fuzzy, glad to be back reading probably my favorite author.
I've never been a huge fan of sex scenes (and all the baggage that comes with them) in science fiction. I can put up with some as long as they don't hinder the progress of the main storyline, but this book went too far. The main plot line never went very far, with everything falling into place basically as anticipated from fifty to one hundred pages in. There wasn't even a cheesy twist at the end -- something I actually like to see in science fiction now and then.
I used to be a strictly "Hard SF" reader, but I've found myself leaning a little towards SF that deals with the soft sciences. So Clarke's attempt at a more "human" story didn't bother me too much, but clearly he's no master at it. Maybe he should have stuck with what he did best. Just what that is is debatable, but I always loved his ability to awe, to paint such a grand and usually optimistic (though I think fairly realistic) picture of the future. I always walked away from one of his books wishing I could live much longer, to see all the fantastics things that humans would some day accomplish. This book didn't really do that for me.
I did like the little glimpse into Clarke's life in Sri Lanka that this book afforded. The island paradise, the scuba diving and the marine biology sub plot, the somewhat open bisexuality: all seem to point at his own experiences. His attempts at creating his own little paradise are chronicled, at least partially, in this book. I guess we'll have to wait for the full story to come out with the "Clarkives," eh? (less)
At first I was intrigued by this novel's premise -- a wintry world inhabited by androgynous variations on the human species -- and all the possibiliti...moreAt first I was intrigued by this novel's premise -- a wintry world inhabited by androgynous variations on the human species -- and all the possibilities it promised, but it rarely met my expectations. It does occasionally dip into the sociology of such a people, among themselves and with a newcomer, a "normal" person from another planet who has come to coax them into an interstellar alliance called the "Ekumen." But usually it is little more than a cheap, well-worn fantasy story.
It divides easily into two main sections: the beginning, court and political maneuvering stage; and part two, the adventure story, traveling stage. Regarding the first, I feel like I have already read many dozens of novels that detailed the scheming and jockeying for position of some court in some far away land. I doubt I have read more than ten, but that hardly matters when reading such a poor take on the theme as this.
The second part uses an equally well-worn theme and I liked it even less than the first. It is the same as always: adventuring through a strange land and completing the mission against all odds. I would call that a spoiler if it wasn't so damned predictable from the outset.
There is nothing wrong with using these basic themes if they are done right, but both parts of this story seem very forgettable members of their respective sub-sub-genres. Combined, they are definitely not greater than the sum of their parts. I am rather disappointed since I've heard such great things about this book, but I suppose everyone can't love every so-called "classic."(less)
Don't quote me on this, but I seem to remember reading a little blurb on the dust jacket that said something like, "This book tells the story of how f...moreDon't quote me on this, but I seem to remember reading a little blurb on the dust jacket that said something like, "This book tells the story of how first contact with aliens would really happen." God, I hope not.
A disillusioned aerospace engineer happens upon the design plans for an alien aircraft inside a book he finds at a used book store. He sets about building this thing and, a decade or two later, he is off to unknown islands in the sky. He is accompanied through all this by the book shop's owner, a generally annoying older woman who has a bad habit of relating their crazy experiences to famous books.
She sails through space on a mysterious spaceship designed by aliens and later spends considerable time in their "lairs," yet she can't seem to tear her mind from the pages of "Alice in Wonderland" and the similar. There is nothing inherently wrong with a character occasionally mentioning hallmarks of literature, but Gunn's approach only annoys the reader and disrupts the story's flow.
So, yes, this is some goofy stuff, not recommended to anyone looking for a serious sci-fi experience. At the same time, I can't recommend this to fans of humorous or absurd science fiction, either -- it takes itself far too seriously.
Try as I might, I can only see Gift From the Stars as a poor attempt by James Gunn at recapturing the relative fame and glory attained in the Seventies by The Listeners.(less)