Foundation wasn't a quick read for me. When I get a hankering for Sci-fi, I usually ere on the side of simple and straightforward. Foundation is a book with deep, layered ideas. And it is set so far in the future, and so far out in space, that it doesn’t offer many familiar trappings (for example, Earth). What is more, Asimov's narrative rarely hits you over the head. The high-stakes drama, the fascinating philosophy, the ethical dilemmas must be unraveled over the course of many chapters (and centuries worth of plot).
I enjoyed Foundation, but it wasn’t a quick or easy read. Plus it never really develops a fast pace. This is a book where I read a chapter, then paced around my apartment asking myself what the heck it meant to the overall plot. And that is why I recommend a new reader commit to reading the whole trilogy. Once you grasp Asimov’s key themes and allegories, the storyline becomes fascinating. These books require patience, but they provide great pay off to those who read closely. I expect to reread, and get even more out of the series again someday. (less)
For all the eye-opening/jaw dropping material this book delivers, I'm most fascinated with Mr. Cullen's arrangement. He weaves past, present, and futu...moreFor all the eye-opening/jaw dropping material this book delivers, I'm most fascinated with Mr. Cullen's arrangement. He weaves past, present, and future together, jumping back and forth, and across multiple perspectives. And it all seems to work. My sense is this book is Pulitzer worthy, given its intelligence, accessibility, maturity, and comprehensiveness. I think it is extremely significant that the book offers no photos to tell a story most of us only know from the flawed and often mistaken perspective of television coverage.
Be on notice. Columbine is a psychological affair. You are meant to experience the events as if first hand. Cullen puts you in the basement with the psychopath and the depressive. He allows you to peer over their shoulders as they write their apocalyptic/heartbreaking journals. And he places you in the library where the massacre reached its gruesome climax. Cullen doesn't spare you anything (except, wisely I think, photos). I read this book in a weekend. I will be thinking about it for a long time to come. (less)
I briefly interacted with Mr. Bodett when I was a listener contestant on NPR's "Wait Wait...Don't Tell me!" So I decided to try out one of his books a...moreI briefly interacted with Mr. Bodett when I was a listener contestant on NPR's "Wait Wait...Don't Tell me!" So I decided to try out one of his books and settled on this one. It has been awhile since I read a novel aimed at adolescent readers. It was a delight! Tom's style is light and optimistic, definitely 'feel good' prose even when it's covering serious topics. It was a chance to remember things I had forgotten about being an early teen. Part of the joy was becoming reacquainted with the ups and downs of my own childhood. As such, I recommend this book for adults as much as teens. (less)
This is a book that I really ought to read again. Like so many, I was assigned to read it in high school. It's not that I didn't fully appreciate the...moreThis is a book that I really ought to read again. Like so many, I was assigned to read it in high school. It's not that I didn't fully appreciate the book. More to the point, I didn't fully appreciate the effect the story had on my fledgling intellect and social sensibilities. At that point in my life, I was barely beginning to understand what racism really is, and how understandable disconnects between people can sadly escalate to violence. I'm grateful I was affected by this book. (less)
Per Mr. Blount's instructions in the Introduction, I haven't read this cover to cover. I skip around, enjoying the ubiquitous cross references.
This i...morePer Mr. Blount's instructions in the Introduction, I haven't read this cover to cover. I skip around, enjoying the ubiquitous cross references.
This is a great book for anyone who claims to have writing ability and/or command of the American English language. It is also fun reading, though I wouldn't characterize it as light either. Mr. Blount has a lifetime of experience with words and letters. His entries are sincere, well-researched, and academic. The brilliance is how readable Blount makes this reference-style work. Plus, it is full of reasons to chuckle at our use and misuse of English.
Bottom line, this one is good for an evening on the couch, or a quick gander when you have five minutes to kill. And before you put this book down you will know the meaning of the term "sonicky". (less)
If there were a Pulitzer Prize for being sheepish and noble in the same sentence, Mr. McClellan would have won it uncontested on the strength of his P...moreIf there were a Pulitzer Prize for being sheepish and noble in the same sentence, Mr. McClellan would have won it uncontested on the strength of his Preface. He establishes talking points of confession, apology, and reflection and presses them fervently upon the reader over and over throughout the book. It’s all for the best. Mr. McClellan was (mostly) inside the Bush Whitehouse and paid close attention to everything going on. With thoughtful prose he places a wiser man’s cherry atop the thick milk shake of talking points he’d heretofore served up at the pleasure of the President’s men. Keeping cynicism in check is needed, but this is a great book if you want to understand much of what went wrong during George W. Bush’s presidency. Thanks Scott. We learn much through your contrition. Still, I’m darn glad I got 40% off list price to subsidize your repentance. (less)
I’ve had a copy of this book in my possession for several years, but put off reading it until now. My decision to finally read it was sparked by a dis...moreI’ve had a copy of this book in my possession for several years, but put off reading it until now. My decision to finally read it was sparked by a discussion of psychopathy in David Cullen’s Columbine. I had also seen the movie Shot in the Heart about the relationship between Gary and Mikal Gilmore.
Coming from a Mormon background, The Executioner’s Song hits me hard on multiple levels. I read about half of this book and then had to take a break. Early in the story, a romance develops between Gary Gilmore and Nicole. It’s set against the backdrop of the Utah desert. Having once lived in Utah for about a decade, I know and cherish that locale. As Nicole and Gary fell in love, the novel became powerful, vivid and personal. When Gary gives into his urge to murder, I was heartbroken for everyone involved.
This is not light reading, physically or emotionally. Often it veers away from a personal tale into an exploration of the voracious media circus. These passages dragged a bit for me, but were nonetheless insightful in depicting the rat race to turn current events into books/movies. Much of the novel is a compilation of excerpts from original source material. And Mailer is good to list at length the many people who helped him write the book. Mailer’s raw and deliberately less-refined prose is an acquired taste for me.
You might say this book is the Gone With the Wind of true crime books. I recommend it, but suggest keeping some light reading handy so you can take a break now and then. (less)
This is one of several books I learned of by listening to NPR. It is based on a popular class the author teaches. And having now read the book, I'd lo...moreThis is one of several books I learned of by listening to NPR. It is based on a popular class the author teaches. And having now read the book, I'd love to take the class.
Dr. Muller tackles all of the hot button topics that utilize scientific inquiry: the environment, energy policy, space exploration, etc. His chief goal is to compile a handbook of rudimentary knowledge a President ought to have at his/her disposal when making policy decisions. Think about it. Should homeland security be governed by someone who has no practical knowledge of how "dirty bombs" work? (And why most terrorists don't bother trying to make them.)
Another of Dr. Muller's goals is clearly to point out popular, and deeply flawed notions the public has about issues like nuclear power and the environment. As it turns out, we all know many things that 'just ain't so.'
My only gripe with this book is Dr. Muller's pessimistic take on human space exploration. Of course he is against it. None of the research he is doing requires it. It serves his academic passions to focus solely on robotic space probes. Still, I think the book is great. And it is a sad certainty that the people who need to read this book the most, won't. (less)
I was introduced to this book as an intelligent and historically compelling alternative to “The Da Vinci Code”. But it’s a mistake to place these two...moreI was introduced to this book as an intelligent and historically compelling alternative to “The Da Vinci Code”. But it’s a mistake to place these two in the same genre. This novel is a grand multi-century tour and boasts characters with layered personalities. It depicts and champions the art of bookmaking and preservation. It highlights the varied but often amicable relationship Jews and Muslims have had in the past.
The action doesn’t proceed at break-neck speed. It’s not intended to. While there are action and thrills, there are also passages of deep reflection and debate. This is all to say that, yes it requires more intelligence to read than “The Da Vinci Code.” But if I were to compare them at all, I’d say "The Da Vinci Code" is a good cheeseburger combo, and “People of the Book” is a multi-course dinner at a fine restaurant.(less)
I was a bit disappointed with this book. Having read and loved Dan Savage's Skipping Toward Gomorrah, I anticipated another shameless romp through Am...moreI was a bit disappointed with this book. Having read and loved Dan Savage's Skipping Toward Gomorrah, I anticipated another shameless romp through America's sinful side. But if Savage's book is a hands-on, in your face exercise, then Sagal's feels like a PowerPoint presentation. There is an academic primness about The Book of Vice that is off-putting, dare I say conceity.
I guess I was expecting something bolder and tighter, like the candid material I love hearing each week on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!. The book comes off rather clinical. For something truly down in the trenches and literally in-your-face, I recommend Skipping Toward Gomorrah.
Nevertheless, if you are a Peter Sagal fan, don't pass this up. This is a good read too. (less)
Is it possible to be a working mother in the CIA? Yes. You can even bring your baby to work with you at Langley. This book is as much about being a mo...moreIs it possible to be a working mother in the CIA? Yes. You can even bring your baby to work with you at Langley. This book is as much about being a modern day mother as it is being a secret agent. She has many interesting anecdotes to share about her profession, and its effect on her home life. And she would have shared more if the CIA let her. I especially appreciate the rundown of reasons Saddam Hussein was a credible threat, even if he didn't have WMD. I think the book would have been more readable with a co-author helping smooth out Ms. Plame Wilson's sometimes choppy narrative (a narrative made even more choppy by the CIA blacking out whole sections). Still, I recommend it for the unique perspective and engrossing reflections the author provides. I found myself admiring her courage and patriotism. (less)
Cradle is a first and unsatisfying collaboration by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee. It is an uninspiring treatment of a well-worn Sci-fi topic: first...moreCradle is a first and unsatisfying collaboration by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee. It is an uninspiring treatment of a well-worn Sci-fi topic: first contact via an underwater oceanic alien hideout. Cradle also introduces readers to the rougher, more promiscuous writing style of Gentry Lee. Clarke has plenty of sexuality in his novels, but he usually spares readers the juicy details.
I would have enjoyed this novel more if Clarke and Lee had taken the story completely to the ocean. The too-brief passages describing alien oceans on far off worlds are wonderful. Instead, a great deal of time is spent on land, with the authors attempting character-driven plot. Inasmuch as Lee was a fledging novelist, this was a weak choice. Whole chapters feel like a bad made-for-TV movie about treasure-hunting.
Still, I have a positive spin to offer. I'm a big fan of Clarke and Lee’s Rama trilogy, which all sources agree is mostly Lee’s writing. My guess is he learned a thing or two on this mediocre outing, paving the way for a better-constructed saga based on Clarke’s masterwork Rendezvous With Rama. Many Clarke fans will disagree with my sentiments; however, I think Lee (who shows a love of great literature in his writing) is worth the time of day. (less)
Foundation wasn't a quick read for me. Nor was this second installment, with its deep layered ideas. Also, these books are set so far in the future, and so far out in space, that they don’t offer many familiar trappings (for example, Earth). What is more, Asimov's narrative rarely hits you over the head. The high-stakes drama, the fascinating philosophy and the ethical dilemmas must be unraveled over the course of many chapters (and centuries worth of plot).
However, once you grasp Asimov’s key themes and allegories, the storyline becomes fascinating. These books require patience, but they provide great pay off to those who read closely. I expect to reread, and get even more out of the series again someday. (less)
For my full review, check out the Signet Classics paperback edition of War and Peace at this link.
That is the edition I read first, back in 1996. When...moreFor my full review, check out the Signet Classics paperback edition of War and Peace at this link.
That is the edition I read first, back in 1996. When this new translation made a splash in the press, I decided it was time to read Tolstoy’s epic again. War and Peace is a wonderful work and a true masterpiece. My goal is to reread it once a decade at least. (less)
Back in 1996 I was coming off two years of only reading religious literature. Far from being burned out or stifled, the experience helped me develop a...moreBack in 1996 I was coming off two years of only reading religious literature. Far from being burned out or stifled, the experience helped me develop a taste for epic stories and challenging works. So at the age of 21 I decided it was time to tackle War and Peace. Honestly, at the time I only wanted to read this book for the bragging rights. I fantasized about all the parties and dates I would show up to where I would be able to say nonchalantly, “Oh, I’ve read War and Peace. It’s quite a great work. You might like it.”
To my delight, I fell in love with War and Peace. It was love at first sight, or first page in this case. The side character of Anna Pavlovna rebukes a guest at her soirée and decries a coming war with Napoleon. I didn’t understand the politics involved, or immediately know where the novel was headed. But I was struck by the image of this opinionated socialite. Immediately I was in the room with Tolstoy’s characters, wondering who would speak next and what they would say. Anna’s renunciation of Napoleon as the Antichrist cued me into the passion with which Tolstoy’s characters often speak. In short, I was enchanted.
What is more, I found myself as, or more, fascinated with the sections to do with “Peace” than with the sections depicting “War”. In particular, I came to feel deeply for the characters of Pierre and Andrei. A second reading has only endeared me more to both men. I found Pierre’s initial exploration of Freemasonry mesmerizing, and I experienced great empathy later as he goes overboard with symbols and codes. We humans are so…human. And Andrei is that tragic soul who bears the brunt of reality, while many around him cling to romantic and foolish notions--and get away with it.
In the last year I reread this grand novel. Now my goal is to reread War and Peace at least once a decade. I enjoyed the new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. My only gripe is Tolstoy’s philosophical treatise that closes out the book. Though full of gems, it is wordy, complicated and does not add to the narrative. Again, that is my only gripe. The rest of the novel is a brilliant exploration both of 19th Century Russian culture and humanity in general. Don’t skip this book or rush through it. (less)
I’ve never made a real effort to get into Ray Bradbury’s works. He’s one of those iconic writers that I’ve never gotten around to exploring in earnest...moreI’ve never made a real effort to get into Ray Bradbury’s works. He’s one of those iconic writers that I’ve never gotten around to exploring in earnest. However, I did seek out The Martian Chronicles as part of my ongoing hobby of following space exploration. It is one of a few books I’ve read that chronicle, in this case through fiction, the challenges of colonizing Mars. I would also recommend Ben Bova’s Mars in this vein.
This was an enjoyable read. I’d certainly recommend it to fans of other Bradbury works and/or Mars-related literature. It wasn’t especially memorable, though I recall a sadness running through much of it—the kind of sadness one might experience looking at a withering plant clinging to a patch of dusty soil on a sandstone cliff. (less)
This is one of those books I was assigned in high school. Notice I gave five stars? I loved it. I’ve never been into fishing, but I’ll go for a great...moreThis is one of those books I was assigned in high school. Notice I gave five stars? I loved it. I’ve never been into fishing, but I’ll go for a great fishing story any day. The Old Man and the Sea is a simple and direct tale, packed full of emotion and suspense. Yet it also captures, without losing my interest, the long drawn out process of waiting for a catch, and the arduous battle of reeling it in. I have had that experience, and felt the exhilaration of seeing the fish leap out of the water trying to break free of the hook. Yet, I was just bringing in a decent-sized blue fish on the Chesapeake Bay, not the giant Marlin that figures into Hemingway’s novella.
The Old Man and the Sea is a quick read, but full of all the drama one might expect from an epic. Still, it remains an intimate story about two characters (one with gills). I was touched by the explorations of pride, loneliness and the tragedy of a pyrrhic victory. If you like tales of life on the ocean, don’t skip this one. (less)
I was very pleased with the Ben Bova novel. It’s the first of his I’ve read. The accolade Arthur C. Clarke gave this book was a big selling point for...moreI was very pleased with the Ben Bova novel. It’s the first of his I’ve read. The accolade Arthur C. Clarke gave this book was a big selling point for me. After a couple of disappointing feature films failed to satisfy, I was interested in finding a good story that dramatized a first human mission to Mars.
I enjoyed what felt like a plausible enough depiction of visiting the red planet. The characters are conventional, but not boring. It’s not a fast moving storyline, but that’s fine. My interest was retained by proceeding through the major phases of the mission. Not necessarily a novel that will knock your socks off, but definitely a good read. (less)
A friend put me up to reading this. I've never been too interested in Napoleon; however, this was a great read. I like how the author places this part...moreA friend put me up to reading this. I've never been too interested in Napoleon; however, this was a great read. I like how the author places this particular campaign in the larger context of Napoleon's life and ambition. Far from being a quick trip out to play target practice with the Sphynx, the book reveals the vast scope and brutality of this campaign. And the author doesn't miss the chance to demonstrate the relevance of this failed conquest to the present day.(less)
This book is actually a series of lectures Carl Sagan gave. It also contains some transcripts of Q&A between Mr. Sagan and some attendees. The mor...moreThis book is actually a series of lectures Carl Sagan gave. It also contains some transcripts of Q&A between Mr. Sagan and some attendees. The more I read Carl Sagan, the more impressed I am at his ability to tread lightly and still make firm, direct statements.
Some of the science he discusses is over my head, but the majority of this book is very accessible and stimulating. A friend and I even used this as a jumping off point for our own e-mail conversation about religion and science.
Here is a favorite quote from Chapter Three: "...if we are merely matter...is this really demeaning? If there's nothing in here but atoms, does that make us less, or does that make matter more?"
If you haven't read Carl Sagan before, there may be better books of his to start with. Regardless, this is an incredibly worthwhile read. (less)
For the first half of my reading, I felt this book was heading for a three star rating. But gradually I became endeared to the subject material. Here'...moreFor the first half of my reading, I felt this book was heading for a three star rating. But gradually I became endeared to the subject material. Here's my main thought: This book is mistitled. If you look at it, the title gives homage to one sci-fi show (X-Files), and employs two titular cliches, "The Rise and Fall of..." and "America's favorite..." More importantly, the title is neutral. In reality, this book is a calculated defense of Mr. deGrasse Tyson's role in the changing of Pluto's planetary status. It took me half the book to embrace that fact, as the author's logic finally won me over. Also, the first half of the book is a rather cursory history lesson: some of it interesting, some of it sententious. Where the book really takes off is in the second half. There Mr. deGrasse Tyson takes a step back and lets the public hysteria have full voice. That's when this book becomes both thoughtful AND entertaining. By the the last few pages I was thoroughly engaged, and appreciative of the insights the book contains. It's a good read, a quick read, and has some fun cartoons to boot. (less)
This is one of my favorite all-time novels, and a tie for my favorite Arthur C. Clarke novel with Childhood’s End. The movie has a polarizing effect...moreThis is one of my favorite all-time novels, and a tie for my favorite Arthur C. Clarke novel with Childhood’s End. The movie has a polarizing effect on many viewers because of Stanley Kubrick’s signature approach to storytelling. Both the movie and book are masterworks. To me, the novel shows Clarke the novelist at his most thoughtful, profound, and efficient.
From the primal tale of Moonwatcher learning to hunt and invoke deity, to the birth of the Star Child in some far off galactic oasis, Clarke takes the story a layer deeper than the movie does. It’s all there in the movie, but if you read the book, Clarke discusses points the movie fails (or chooses) not to make clear. I highly recommend 2001. (less)
This is actually the first Arthur C. Clarke novel I read. After seeing and loving the film 2010, I plowed into this novel. In hindsight, Clarke was n...moreThis is actually the first Arthur C. Clarke novel I read. After seeing and loving the film 2010, I plowed into this novel. In hindsight, Clarke was never going to outdo his masterful work on 2001. Still this is a great odyssey in its own right.
The human heart of this novel is Heywood Floyd, a supporting character in 2001. In this novel he becomes the protagonist, haunted by the failures of the past, and obsessed with solving the mysteries of the doomed Discovery mission. Though not known for deep characters, Clarke creates a real human being in Dr. Floyd. Through him, we see the challenge of trying to balance professional and personal lives.
However, like the other characters, Floyd finds himself mostly along for the ride as the intelligence behind the monolith takes an increasingly invasive role in our solar system. Like the first odyssey, this book is at its best musing upon what encounters with superior beings might be like. Let us hope we meet a benevolent species.
This book instilled in me a fascination for Jupiter and its moons. And I was taken in by the tragic encounter with Europa, a moon crying out to be explored in real life. As is common with sequels, this novel feels bigger, grander, and less special than its parent work. That's okay. I love the tour of Jupiter Arthur C. Clarke provided me.(less)
This is my least favorite of Arthur C. Clarke’s odysseys. But you’ll notice I still gave it four stars. In the weeks leading up to Clarke’s passing, h...moreThis is my least favorite of Arthur C. Clarke’s odysseys. But you’ll notice I still gave it four stars. In the weeks leading up to Clarke’s passing, he said he was sleeping most of every day. And his sleep was filled with dreams of visiting all the real-life worlds he’d written about. Who knows how many odysseys those dreams could have provided readers? Regardless, I’m grateful for the four he gave me.
This novel lets the reader go up close with Halley’s Comet. But I got impatient for the storyline to head back to the mystery of the Monoliths. Sometimes the parts of the story a reader is most interested in are not the parts of the story the author was most interested in. That’s okay. Like I say, I’ll take a trip out into the Universe with Arthur C. Clarke any day. (less)
This is an especially important Clarke novel because its central plot is mitigating the threat of an asteroid impact. The prospect of such an event, w...moreThis is an especially important Clarke novel because its central plot is mitigating the threat of an asteroid impact. The prospect of such an event, which many scientists regard as inevitable, plays out as a subplot in other Clarke novels, including Rendezvous with Rama. But here it is what the novel is all about.
While I felt this novel lacked the philosophical depth of 2001: A Space Odyssey or Childhood's End, I enjoyed the science in it and Clarke's concise approach to plot development. The man never drifted into 1,000 page novels that say, "Hey, look at all my research n' stuff." He kept to the key issues he wanted to explore.
My favorite part of this novel is a speech describing the groupings of asteroids that exist in gravitational pockets on either side of Jupiter's orbital path. Invoking a sense of Greek mythology, this speech masterfully depicts the shooting gallery effect the gas giant has on inner planets. Don't miss this one. (less)
I love the C.S. Lewis quote printed on the backcover of my edition of Childhood's End: "...here meet a modern author who understands that there may be...moreI love the C.S. Lewis quote printed on the backcover of my edition of Childhood's End: "...here meet a modern author who understands that there may be things that have a higher claim on humanity than its own 'survival.'"
To Mr. Lewis's eloquent appraisal I would add: This novel is like Old Yeller, but y'know, instead of being about one dog, it's about the human race.
Of all the Arthur C. Clarke works I've read, this one feels the most literary. I mean that in the most positive sense of the term. This is Clarke grappling with human dynamics more traditionally explored in works by the likes of Leo Tolstoy and Victor Hugo. The primary thematic ambitions of Childhood's End are personal and emotional, not technological. Granted, it is a far simpler tale than War and Peace or Les Miserables. Yet Childhood's End affects me as deeply as those works do. More than any other Clarke story, it feels like something other than science fiction.
Heliocentric universe granted, I feel like humans still see themselves as the center of it all, at least existentially. Especially when claiming belief in an omnipotent deity, we wrap ourselves tight and cozy in the notion that this universe was set in motion for our benefit. Childhood's End reverently suggests another possibility. It asks us to consider a miraculous and wonderful universe where humanity is a supporting character.
For that and other reasons, I love this novel. It is the only science fiction story that has ever brought me close to tears (which brings me back to the Old Yeller comparison). I speak as someone who still maintains a tenuous grasp on the beliefs of my spiritual youth. Yet for all the sadness in Childhood's End, it also provides a sense of tranquility--a calm conviction that however tendrilly my status in the universe may be, I exist for the betterment of life's woven whole.(less)
I am a big Arthur C. Clarke fan. Still, this would count as one of his lesser works for me. The characters and plot aren't especially memorable.
The p...moreI am a big Arthur C. Clarke fan. Still, this would count as one of his lesser works for me. The characters and plot aren't especially memorable.
The premise is a faraway planet populated by humans who were shipped there as frozen embryos. So it is certainly a relevant topic. Passages of the novel have a lyrical quality. I like that. Still, on a deeper philosophical level it doesn't resonate with me the way 2001: A Space Odyssey and Childhood's End do.
Regardless, it's a good yarn in fine Clarke fashion. (less)
Rendezvous With Rama is a book I enjoyed even more the second time around. I first read it as a kid, and mainly just enjoyed being in Arthur C. Clarke...moreRendezvous With Rama is a book I enjoyed even more the second time around. I first read it as a kid, and mainly just enjoyed being in Arthur C. Clarke’s universe of ideas. Then came the problematic but enjoyable Rama trilogy coauthored with Gentry Lee. I love those too, but their focus and delivery are different by virtue of the collaborative process.
Almost two decades later, I picked up the original again. It was more riveting the second time. What makes the book riveting is not simply the plot, but the implications of such an event ever taking place. I’ve always felt Clarke’s greatest gift as an author was asking the right questions. The novel is fun to muse on.
Still, I really think my primary love for this book is just the mysterious spacecraft itself: Rama. I love to picture its vastness, its cylindrical sea and geometry-driven islands. And the plot unfolds as a mystery, an archaeological search. This is a good, focused story by a master of the form. It is one my top four Clarke novels, along with 2001, Childhood’s End, and The Hammer of God. (less)
The Ramans do everything in threes, including sequels. The trilogy preceded by Rendezvous with Rama is disappointing to many Arthur C. Clarke fans. I...moreThe Ramans do everything in threes, including sequels. The trilogy preceded by Rendezvous with Rama is disappointing to many Arthur C. Clarke fans. I happen to really like it. Beginning with Rama II, this saga introduces a cavalcade of alien life, a broad spectrum of exotic situations, and a scientist or two who hasn’t forsaken religion.
This book also introduces one of my favorite characters: Nicole Desjardins—doctor, mother, explorer, fulfiller of prophecy. Her mystical upbringing makes for some fantastic flashbacks and epiphanies over the course of the trilogy.
The inner workings of the Raman spacecraft are rather plain and boring, but the aliens housed aboard provide some great subplots and mystery. In contrast to typical Arthur C. Clarke fare, the content of these coauthored books is raw, even crude at times. So be prepared for language and sex presented without apology.
I’m quite fond of this trilogy, though it has its weaknesses. I’ve read it through three times and plan to read it again. It’s an epic journey into space and alien cultures. (less)
The lingering gripe I have about this series is that with each new installment, it becomes more of a melodramatic expose on humankind’s shortcomings a...moreThe lingering gripe I have about this series is that with each new installment, it becomes more of a melodramatic expose on humankind’s shortcomings and less of an innovative sci-fi mystery/thriller. In short, to the extent that this series focuses on humans, it taxes my interests. The curious alien species depicted help keep a sense of mystery going.
My two favorite characters step forward in this installment: Nicole des Jardins and Max Puckett. Max is a bit overdone as a loose-tongued farmer, but that makes him a delightful contrast to all the other humans in the novel.
A central theme in this saga is that human sexuality drives all facets of our lives--our predilections to imperialism, excess, paranoia, and self-destruction being prime examples. The grand morality play that ensues strikes me as valid, but also tiresome and less fun than the original Rendezvous With Rama. In short, I’d love these novels more if they were a little more Star Wars and a little less Star Trek. (less)