I'd rate this book 3.5 stars if I could. In some places it was extremely intriguing, but in others was plain and pedestrian. Intriguing was the subjec...moreI'd rate this book 3.5 stars if I could. In some places it was extremely intriguing, but in others was plain and pedestrian. Intriguing was the subject matter dealing with what it would mean were humans to exponentially increase their brain power, what fields they would turn to and what the results might be. Pedestrian were some the cartoonish bad guy scenes and shallow dialog.
Overall though, it's an entertaining thriller with quite a few thought provoking moments, with more than a few twists and turns. (less)
Overall I thought this was an entertaining thriller with plenty of twists and turns and unexpected developments. Does it live up to the hype of its im...moreOverall I thought this was an entertaining thriller with plenty of twists and turns and unexpected developments. Does it live up to the hype of its impossible to follow predecessor, The Da Vinci Code? Barely. But what could? It certainly continues the formula, although I found it to be darker than DVC. At its heart, though, it's the same: the character Langdon hooks up with is of course connected extremely closely to the conflict, the conflict involves secret societies guarding some treasured knowledge of the ages at the intersection of science and religion, the fanatics die in the end while Langdon and his friends are left to reflect on some newfound understanding, and it all takes place in 24 hrs.. Good stuff. I would definitely read another one, although I think it could be a tad shorter next time.
At the very end the clue references became overly circular and repetitive to the point of overkill, but overall this was one hell of a read. Maybe 50 pages or so could have been cut. (less)
It's man versus machine in this epic apocalyptic adventure. Artificial intelligence(AI)driven robots declare war on all humankind. Set over the course...moreIt's man versus machine in this epic apocalyptic adventure. Artificial intelligence(AI)driven robots declare war on all humankind. Set over the course of several years in the future with a wide array of 'bots, smart appliances and technology in general, the story is comprised of a series of vignette-like accounts of the "New War" from different characters. These accounts are united by a common narrator, a human soldier, who explains how the account we're about to read came to exist.
The good: a riveting apocalyptic / war story, uniquely told. There are as many different types of robots here as there are dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, and they are just as (maybe even more so) scary and menacing, taking on real personas of their own. The theaters of war are also many and varied, from Alaska to the middle east to NYC to America's heartland to Japan. There are several levels of complexity that set this novel apart from a simple man-against-machine mega-battle. Not everything the robots try to do works out. There are robot traitors. There is infighting amongst the humans. And, in what I found to be a compelling sub-thread of the story, the robots have a fondness for the natural world. They want to preserve nature--just not humans along with it(with the exception of those they keep alive to work in the labor camps building more robots!). I particularly enjoyed the scene where the robots construct a biological research station. The technical aspects of robotics and machine learning are deftly handled and make the story more realistic without slowing it down. The novel's author himself has a PhD in robotics.
The bad: At first I found the vignette format to be choppy and a bit confusing, with the tense changing a lot, wondering when these disparate threads were going to be tied together. But soon enough they were, and from that point on it was maximum impact. The book is told (and pitched) as if this kind of robot uprising could happen any day now, but overall I found it to be a futuristic story. Seriously, when's the last time you saw a commercial robot walk into a public store by itself? (What's that--never? Yeah, same here.) Finally, for the squeamish, there are some extremely violent and gory scenes, but hey, this is a war story. The characterization is thin, but that didn't bother me--you know what you need to know about the characters (especially that they're human, with human emotions).
Ultimately, the story takes a pretty decent shot at answering the question, What exactly does it mean to be alive? (less)
So this book has been out for about 3 years now as I write this, and from what I've heard even longer than that in earlier incarnations. I'd seen that...moreSo this book has been out for about 3 years now as I write this, and from what I've heard even longer than that in earlier incarnations. I'd seen that it sold very well and have known about it for some time, but I really wasn't sure what it was all about. From the cover and the name I thought it was some kind of B-movie zombie affair--wasn't sure what all the fuss was about. Let me assure you, I couldn't have been more wrong. After picking it up on a 99 cent kindle special, even though I don't actually own a Kindle, I read this entire novel on a smartphone, it was that compelling. Would I rate it 4.5 stars if that were possible? Yeah, but don't let that scare you.
The book just starts right off with some kind of...well, Infection...without any explanation whatsoever of what it is or where it came from. This bothered me at first--I was like, wait a minute, what the heck is this thing, c'mon! But I kept reading, and I realized when I set the story down for the first time at around 37% done, that it just didn't matter what it is. It's there, and it's there in a big way. The reader is as in the dark as the CDC investigators trying to get a handle on this mysterious affliction that's making citizens go violently bezerk, and as clueless as the infected victims themselves.
There are, appropriately enough, 3 main sides to this story. One, we have the main character, Perry, whose infection we follow in excruciating detail from the very beginning. He's an ex-college football star who was bound for the NFL when his stellar career was cut short by an injury. He's a tough guy with a temper, characteristics that both help and hurt him in his epic struggle with his Infection. Two, there is the pursuit by Authorities (let's call them Columbo's: CDC + CIA + law enforcement...uh-oh there's 3 again) of the bizarre 'disease'. And third, there is the source of the infection itself--the Triangles. These horrid but sentient beings--biological machines, parasites-- possibly from space-- take on a life all their own, and are themselves a major character in the story.
The good: The plot, structure, the whole story, is tightly woven and well executed. The science having to do with parasitology and molecular biology is very well integrated--just enough to give us a sense of how these things function without going overboard into Lecture Land. I was pleasantly surprised in fact, how much science there was in the story overall. The 3D character of Perry is the absolutely perfect vehicle for the the story to present the Triangles to the reader. The pacing is quick, the character motivations are realistic and palpable.
The bad: Have to think hard here. For the squeamish, it is a very violent tale, filled with extreme gore, brutality and sadism. But this is never without purpose, and even the most brutal and vicious scenes serve to advance either plot, character or both. The ending is so obviously set up for a sequel that it may as well say, we're going to end here because this is the length of a novel already, but... Book 2 is coming, book II is comngf, this is the place (you'll get that if you read it!). Finally, the climactic scene does require a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief in that it is almost supernaturally impossible, but still, it works.
I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Contagious...(less)
I was looking for a good space thriller that involved the moon--something realistic and not totally science fiction with now-impossible traveling to o...moreI was looking for a good space thriller that involved the moon--something realistic and not totally science fiction with now-impossible traveling to other galaxies or planets and such. So seeing that (1) this novel was titled BACK TO THE MOON and (2) was written by real-life former NASA engineer Homer Hickam, Jr. (author of NYT #1 bestseller Rocket Boys), I decided to buy and read it. Overall, I was not disappointed (I'd rate it 3.5 stars if I could).
The good: authoritative and realistic writing on space, space technology, NASA operations and culture. Exciting premise (space shuttle hijacked to go to the moon for valuable minerals).
The bad: It's pretty slow-paced for a thriller, with long on-the-ground and administrative development scenes from multiple parties unfolding long before the action ever gets to space (okay, I know, I wanted realism and I got it--that is what it takes to get to space, after all). The love interest between the lead character, Jack Medaris, and Penny "High Eagle" (really, that's what people call her?!) is just plain silly at times, and even more painful is the "love-note--left-on-the-moon" by a former lover in her childhood, which supposedly provides part of Medaris' motivation to hijack the shuttle, putting many people at risk, and to return to the moon. Also irritating was the all-too-convenient post-script "3 years later" wrap-up where all loose ends are bluntly tied up, like the overlay script just before the credits of a movie where they write what became of each character. The ending overall is sort of a gung-ho NASA space enthusiast wet dream, with everything working out for the main characters and plenty of funding going to all the right places for all the right things.
That said, there's still a lot to like here. Published over a decade ago in 2000, Hickam predicts the demise of the shuttle program (although not for exactly the right reasons) and the rise of the private space industry. Also, as a diver myself, I enjoyed the minor SCUBA connection present in this novel, especially the ending scene with the moon rocks. (less)
THE ARK is a race-against-time quest thriller whose premise hinges on a clever biblical reinterpretation (one that I happen to think is plausible). Ov...moreTHE ARK is a race-against-time quest thriller whose premise hinges on a clever biblical reinterpretation (one that I happen to think is plausible). Overall, I found it to be a fun action-thriller. The author, an engineer, does an admirable job of weaving just the right amount of technical and scientific detail into the story without sacrificing readability.
I particularly enjoyed the climactic battle scene, which was very well executed with great sensory details to really put the reader into the moment, if not entirely unpredictable.
So if you're looking for a straightforward good-guys-against-bad-guys, world-at-stake thriller with lighter elements of puzzle solving, then this is for you. Also, fans of Clive Cussler will recognize the adventure team format, with the hero, Tyler Locke, having an ass-kicking, wisecracking sidekick along with a behind-the-scenes cast of support personnel. Locke teams up with a foxy archaeologist, and the rest, shall we say, is (unearthed) history. (less)