With all the clones running around, and given that this is the fourth Widowmaker book but the only one I've read, it could have been really confusing....moreWith all the clones running around, and given that this is the fourth Widowmaker book but the only one I've read, it could have been really confusing. I was able to follow it pretty easily, though, so kudos to Resnick for that. The bounties hunted down by the various Widowmakers in the story were really interesting and I really liked the way their special abilities and weaknesses were explored. The futuristic technology was well handled. It all seemed plausible, and enhanced the story without bogging things down in a lot of convoluted technobabble. I know some people like a lot of technobabble in their stories, but for me, a little goes a long way.
The story in general is very dialogue heavy. Nighthawk in particular spends a lot of time explaining things, usually to Kinoshita who, despite his many years as a bounty hunter and Widowmaker "sidekick," asks an awful lot of questions. In spite of this, I always felt like something was happening throughout the book, perhaps because much of the story revolves around Nighthawk's plans and way of thinking.
One thing I would have liked to see more of was the alien races. There are a number of them alluded to, but rarely do we hear more than the species name. Granted, this is the fourth book, so it's possible more detail about the various types of aliens can be found in the other stories, and for the most part they had no significant bearing on the story, but I would have liked to see them fleshed out better anyway, if only to provide a richer backdrop.
Some of the themes and ideas Resnick explores in his book are really interesting, the kind to make you stop and think. What kind of morals can a man uphold when he kills other people for a living? When a clone is created with all the memories of the original man intact, how does he manage to accept that he's not, in fact, who he thinks he is?
I really found myself enjoying the story, and it's easy to see why Mike Resnick has won more major science fiction awards than nearly any other writer. I finished the story feeling completely satisfied and closed the book with a smile. It's hard to ask for more than that.(less)
The Family Trade is atrocious. It remains to date the worst book I've ever read.
Nothing is resolved, or even close. This isn't a case of a few loose e...moreThe Family Trade is atrocious. It remains to date the worst book I've ever read.
Nothing is resolved, or even close. This isn't a case of a few loose ends, this is a case of the author was as annoyed as I was with the plot and characters and couldn't be bothered to finish the rest of this disaster. The major story Miriam was investigating and that the novel starts off with? We never hear about it again after Paulette assures Miriam she's got backup files if they want to keep pursuing the story as freelancers. The romantic interest, Roland, is completely incidental, someone you could write a full plot summary without mentioning. He's some distant second cousin of Miriam, has been through schooling in the "real world" and like her, longs to change things in the Clan. Initially, she sleeps with him more or less to rebel against the Clan head, her uncle, and then suddenly both she and Roland are going on about how they're madly in love. If you're confused, well, that's only because it makes no sense at all.
Things in the world are meant to be medieval European, but they smuggle things over from our world, like televisions and cell phones. I can't for the life of me figure out how a tv would work, though. How do they generate the electricity to run the thing? Did they smuggle an electrician with it? And why, if they're open to the idea of modern conveniences like this, do they not wear more comfortable clothes, instead of insisting on elaborate dresses with corsets that take three hours to put on?
The writing itself is awful. I can't count the number of times I read a phrase that made me stop and silently whimper to myself. Allow me to share a few, since I can't simply be content to suffer alone. Some of my personal favourites are from what's meant to be an intimate scene between Miriam and Roland. I swear, I haven't altered a thing in these sentences:
"He stroked her flank silently." "She felt his nod: It sent a shiver through her spine." "She felt lips touch the top of her spine."
Now that's a sexy scene.
Even the characters were poorly handled. Not a single one of them was particularly likeable, and none of them were convincingly consistent in their personality. Paulette is introduced as an incredibly smart, slightly naive woman, never having considered that one of the companies involved in the money-laundering scheme she and Miriam uncovered was something her boss worked with. Later, when the locket's abilities are revealed, Paulette is the one who realizes the implications something like that could have to someone criminally minded, and Miriam is horrified at the possibilities.
There really is nothing redeemable about this book. It took me twice as long as it should have to get through this sludge, because I was just slogging through it. Only the thought of putting up a review and preventing others from making the same horrible mistake as me and picking up this book got me through it.
I suppose there is one way it could have been worse: I could have paid for this thing instead of taking it out of the library. At least now I can give it back and let the healing start.(less)
The book is written in first person present tense, usually a double whammy for me. I generally approach novels written in the first person warily, sin...moreThe book is written in first person present tense, usually a double whammy for me. I generally approach novels written in the first person warily, since so much of the story weighs on the protagonist. If I'm not taken with the character telling the story, it just doesn't fly with me, since there's no hope of separation. Third person narrative with an annoying protagonist can be saved by interesting sidekicks or a tightly woven plot, but something written in first person ends up colouring everything else with the voice and perceptions of the main character. Fortunately, I really liked Jax (in case that hadn't been made clear yet), so I had no trouble with the lively narrative.
A lot of stories written in present tense I find awkward, stilted, like the author's going too gimmicky and it's just not working for them. Honestly, though, I didn't even realize Grimspace was written in present tense until I got to about page 30. At which point I kind of figured if it took me that long to notice, Aguirre must be doing something right. The language was smooth, the story involving, and really, something about the present tense narrative just seems to suit Jax.
Jax herself is a wonderful character, someone easy to relate to and root for. By turns strong and vulnerable, she carries the narrative with a sense of humour and a sizable dose of humanity. In short, I dig her.
The plot starts at a run in chapter one and never lets up. I had a really difficult time putting the book down, and wound up finishing it within a day of starting it. One of the subplots kind of wrapped itself up in a slightly disappointing and anti-climactic turn of events, making me wonder why that particular detour had been taken, but by the time everything came together in the end, I was satisfied with the way things had turned out.(less)
Based strictly on the packaging, I was expecting more humour than I found in the story, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it. I'm not sure I could...moreBased strictly on the packaging, I was expecting more humour than I found in the story, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it. I'm not sure I could even really explain why I thought it was comical. Perhaps I was on cold medication at the time. It's entirely possible.
I found the idea of a man who accidentally stumbles into a people willing to worship him as a god, regardless of his intentions or desires, something really interesting to explore. Flinx is a very sympathetic hero, as well. It's easy to understand the decisions he makes, even when you know it'll end in disaster. His wry observations and tendancy to self-effacement make him very human.
In the very beginning, I actually wasn't sure if I'd make it all the way through the book. I'm really not big on hardcore science fiction, simply because I have a hard time following it. I don't understand how my computer works, let alone some imaginary super machine in a book. If I have to understand the mechanics to follow the story, it's just not going to happen. The beginning of the book looks like it's going to get pretty mechanically specific, with plenty of invented and "alienese" words, but that's really all they are. That being said, a lot of the alien or technological terms were hard to pronounce, even in my head. Note to fantasy and science fiction writers: if I can't say it, I can't really remember it, either. And if you're going to be coming up with a whole load of names, whether it be for characters, places, races, or whatever, please please keep it simple. If not, I'll be forever doomed to confusing Pyrrpallinda with Pakktrine and Peryoladam. What's wrong with words that are one or two syllables long and aren't overly dominated by consonants?
The writing style in general was uneven. The tone was very light and modern, with big words randomly thrown in on occasion, as if for good measure. A number of the metaphors made me pause, too. Unfortunately, these were not good pauses, relishing the beauty of the phrase or the succinctness of the thought, they were generally me being confused as to what exactly the author was trying to say. "...like the caressing hand of a beautiful woman, he would know it when he felt it." What does that mean? How can you tell the beauty of a woman by her touch? Couldn't it be a dude with soft hands? At best, the metaphor is very awkwardly worded.
At 280 pages, this was not a long book, although I felt it should have been one chapter shorter. Chapter 16 had nothing to do with the rest of the story, and just felt like it was tacked on to sell more books in the series. The packaging and the enclosed excerpt of the next book at the end was more than enough to tell me the story continues. I really don't need a full chapter that was really just one of those previews at the end of the tv show. "How do our heroes get out of this sticky situation? Tune in next week, to the Continuing Adventures of Pip and Flinx, same bat-time, same bat-channel!"
So overall, I'll have to give Running From the Deity a middle-of-the-road rating. Some really interesting ideas with a thoroughly likeable protagonist, but so many of the little mechanical things bugged me, I wasn't able to enjoy it the way I should have. Which is a shame, really, because it has some great potential.(less)
Altered Carbon is another example of an awesome story concept badly executed. The narrator wasn't particularly memorable and the plot may sound intere...moreAltered Carbon is another example of an awesome story concept badly executed. The narrator wasn't particularly memorable and the plot may sound interesting, but it's incredibly hard to grasp in between all of the tangents the story manages to run off to. If this book had been about half the length, it would have been a tightly-written book that was hard to put down. As it was, there was so much meandering I kept forgetting what the actual plot was supposed to be. Honestly, when I closed the book, I couldn't remember what it was about. The entire prologue, for example, was confusing and utterly unnecessary. It's never explained what Kovacs and Sarah are doing, why they're shot down, who's doing the shooting... I don't even really know who Sarah is, other than she's apparently a friend of Kovacs. There'd be several chapters of some random adventure Kovacs would go on, and then it'd be over and we'd be back to our regularly scheduled program, leaving me going "...huh?"
I'll admit Morgan has some interesting ideas, but they're poorly integrated. Exploring the effects of finding yourself in someone else's body, what it's like to suddenly wake up as a member of the opposite gender, how much of attraction is physical and how much is psychological... sadly, none of these ideas are explored very far. Which surprises me, actually, since these are the sorts of ideas you'd think would be featured pretty heavily in a science fiction novel.
I found just about everything uneven. Morgan would get going on the plot, and it'd be fairly interesting, and then suddenly we'd be reading several pages of a wild kinky romp in the sack that was both sudden and random. Even the tone swung wildly. For the most part, Morgan's tone is that of a gritty cyberpunk, and then there'd be a paragraph where he'd stick in some poetic, rambling description of how the setting sun looks like melted honey or something. I enjoy beautifully written descriptive passages, don't get me wrong, but they really didn't mesh with the rest of the writing. Even Kovacs was confusing in this manner. The body he landed in was that of a long-time smoker, and he mentions it many times, but not with any consistency. Later in the book, he mentions several times that he's quit, and every single time, it's only a few pages later that he lights up again.
Kovacs himself is probably a good part of the reason why I didn't enjoy the book as much as I wanted to. He didn't strike me as a very likeable protagonist, and you're we don't get to see very deep into him. It might have helped if I understood a little better why he was doing the things he was doing. For someone with such hardcore military training as he expresses to have he wasn't a very stable individual. I've read books where you're not supposed to trust the protagonist, where they're unreliable in some way. I didn't get the feeling Morgan wanted us to think that about Kovacs though, which left me a bit confused every time Kovacs did or said something completely off-the-wall illogical. Which wasn't infrequent.
About halfway through the book, Kovacs is abducted and forced through some rather graphic torture scenes. While torture isn't exactly my favourite thing to read about, especially in the brutal detail it's outlined with here, but I'm not particularly squeamish, so fine. I'll get through it. What really bugged me, though, is that the torturers put Kovacs into a woman's body just for those scenes. As soon as the torture was over, he was back in the body he'd been in for the rest of the book. I am livid over this. The book gives some attempt at explanation that is so lame, it just makes things worse. They talk about how a woman's pain threshold is higher than a man's, except just before her period. Which, fine, I can accept that, but then why not use a man's body, which has the lower threshold at every point of the month? In reality, the gender switch was only made for one specific, outrageously sexist bit of torture, written in a way that was meant to be as sensual as it was horrific. Torture is not sexy, folks, and I find the attempted depiction to be more horrifying than the torture scenes themselves.
Personally, I don't think I'd read the second book in the series unless I was being paid. And I'd better be paid well. Even getting a free copy wouldn't be enough to make me delve into book two.(less)
The quote on the front cover claims A Small and Remarkable Life is "one of the most original first-contact novels ever," and I have to agree. Nick DiC...moreThe quote on the front cover claims A Small and Remarkable Life is "one of the most original first-contact novels ever," and I have to agree. Nick DiChario is primarily a short story writer, with this being his first novel, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I stuck it in my pile of books to borrow from the library last week. But when he comes enthusiastically recommended by sci-fi giants like Mike Resnick and Robert J Sawyer, I figured it couldn't hurt to take a look. Which, by the way, was a good decision on my part.
At the back of the book, there's a section of questions designed to be used as discussion fodder for a book club. This is that sort of book. It's eloquent, though-provoking, and an excellent start to all sorts of interesting conversations. Tink, being an permanent outsider, has a different view on people, their motivations and their desires. DiCharnio tackles some big issues here, seen through Tink's eyes: euthanasia, racism, life after death, and what it is that makes us human. At only 231 pages, this book is very short, but it packs a powerful punch.
Initially I thought the way the narration flips back and forth between time periods (from 1845, when Tink and his parents arrive on earth to the 1860s, when the book ends) would be distracting, but it had an easy flow to it and the two stories worked together nicely to build up to a pretty intense climax. The twist at the end fitted naturally, more of a satisfying "oh, of course!" moment than a "wait... whaaat?!?"
When it comes down to it, this is not just a book for fans of science fiction; this is a book for people who like to read, especially those who like to think about what they're reading.(less)
Since from the very beginning of the story, we know who the killer is, The Blue Nowhere is less of a mystery and more of a thriller. While most of the...moreSince from the very beginning of the story, we know who the killer is, The Blue Nowhere is less of a mystery and more of a thriller. While most of the criminal hunting is done through computer work, you don't have to be a computer expert to follow the plot. On the contrary, I think Deaver dumbed things down more than he needed to. Aside from having the terms explained in the context of the story (usually Gillette explaining what he's doing to Bishop), there's a full glossary of computer terms. This book has been out for a few years, but I'm pretty sure even back in the stone age that was 2001, people didn't really need to have it explained to them that a "machine" is a word substitute for "computer." (No, seriously, I'm not exaggerating. That's really in there.)
The characterizations were well done, especially Gillette and Bishop. Their backstories and motivations are revealed slowly, the reader gaining perspective as the two get to know each other over the course of the story. Their decisions made sense, as did their reasoning, and that's rare enough for me to appreciate when it's done well, as it is here. The plot takes a number of twists, one of which actually surprised me; Phate's partner and informant wasn't who I expected it to be. In general, the plot is tightly woven and paced well, and the shifting perspectives were handled smoothly.
I enjoyed myself while reading, and kept picking up the book to see what was going to happen next (in spite of my giggling at the binary chapter headings). I'm keeping my copy to read again sometime, and I'd recommend it to anyone keen on plot twists or just in the mood for a good thriller.(less)
On the front of the book is a quote from Locus, which says The Heart of Valor is "A great mix of military action and mystery with lots of twists and f...moreOn the front of the book is a quote from Locus, which says The Heart of Valor is "A great mix of military action and mystery with lots of twists and fun characters." I don't think I could sum it up any better, but hey, I'll try anyway.
The book is pretty classic Huff, which is a synonym for awesome. (No really, it is. Look it up.) It's tightly plotted, full of action, with strong characters in a creative setting. There's a lot going on, but Huff manages to keep things moving without overloading the reader or losing things in the shuffle. Torin is a strong female protagonist and more than competent at her job, surrounded by a colourful cast of aliens and humans, all with memorable quirks of their own.
The military action is put together with the deft hand of someone who understands how these things work, and the character's decisions always make sense, something more than a few books wind up lacking. Huff's sense of humour is threaded through the book, shining through just often enough to keep the book from getting too heavy.
Do I sound like a slobbering fangirl? Because this book is a perfect example of why I obsessively stalk Tanya Huff. Highly recommended to scifi readers or just anyone who likes a heroine who can kick butt and crack wise at the same time.(less)
Czerneda has quite the story here to tell, full of twists and feints and possibilities. The plot is one of those "can't wait to find out what happens...moreCzerneda has quite the story here to tell, full of twists and feints and possibilities. The plot is one of those "can't wait to find out what happens next" types, and on its own is enough to ensure I'm itching to get my fingers on the other two books in the trilogy.
The characters are as involving as the story itself, and I found myself really caring about what happened to each of them by the time they got swallowed in the events surrounding them. Brymn was especially well drawn, balancing his completely alien reasoning with enough "humanity" (so to speak) to make him sympathetic.
It's clear Czerneda put a lot of work into her aliens, and every detail is there. No, I mean it. Every detail. There were times I lost track of the story because of the great detail of the Dhryn race or world. These were the sections I found the book easy to set down or skimming over, because they were often really long. We're not talking Tolkien levels of over-descriptiveness, but it was enough to discourage me, and as a result, this book took me a lot longer to finish than it should have, especially because I really liked the story and the characters. Granted, this is the first book in a trilogy, and a certain amount of worldbuilding is to be expected if the story is going to last more than a few hundred pages. I have high hopes that the second and third books will skip over some of the lengthy descriptions that Survival suffered from, since we've been through them already.
I really loved the way the book ended, I have to say. It was fully satisfying and it may not have been the way I wanted things to go, but it was the only way the story could have ended. There aren't many things I enjoy more than a book that can elicit an emotional response from me as it ends, and this definitely counts as one of those.(less)
When I reviewed Grimspace, I mentioned that Jax is made of forty-two different kinds of awesome. Well, ok, I didn't put it in those words, but it was...moreWhen I reviewed Grimspace, I mentioned that Jax is made of forty-two different kinds of awesome. Well, ok, I didn't put it in those words, but it was true then, and it's true now. The voice is really what makes this series so addictive; I don't sink blissfully into the pages, I'm yanked in forcefully.
Wanderlust is a little slower-paced than its predecessor, more introspective and less with the non-stop action. It's a little episodic, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. There's a lot going on, plot-wise, and the slower pace keeps it from growing overwhelming. Even when she's thinking or worrying, Jax is intense and urgent, and the characters she's surrounded with make any situation interesting.
Speaking of characters, there was a really nice mix of familiar faces and new personalities. Dina, the unapologetically homosexual mechanic who refuses to pull her punches is back and as much fun as ever. I really dig Vel, the enigmatic and uber-skilled alien, and am hoping to get a little more into his character in the next book. Jael is an interesting new character, and for fear of going all spoiler-ific on you, I won't say what makes him stand out, but I have to wonder what Aguirre has planned for him, all things considered.
Readers who pick up Wanderlust without having read the first book will have no problems following the story, although they might wonder about March and his relationship with Jax. The two have some issues here, and anyone who hasn't witnessed them getting together in the first place might have issues with the romantic portions of this book.
Wanderlust is clearly the beginning of a much larger story arc, and since Aguirre is contracted for two more books in the Jax series, I'm eager to see where the story goes from here. I think it's pretty clear I've been thoroughly enjoying these books, and right now my only gripe is that now I'll have to wait a full year to see what happens next.(less)
Ember is a wonderful setting, a unique and intense world with vivid details. The steampunk mixture of electricity in a very low-tech world was fascina...moreEmber is a wonderful setting, a unique and intense world with vivid details. The steampunk mixture of electricity in a very low-tech world was fascinating, and the growing sense of desperation came through clearly, right up to the (supposed) cliffhanger ending.
Doon and Lina are likeable protagonists, although they seem to rely more on their respective roles than their personalities. They each had their own place to fill, and acted accordingly, and although that could be an interesting analysis of human behaviour, I never got the impression that's what DuPrau was aiming for. While the two are likeable enough, they lack the life-giving details given to the city itself, and wind up ultimately forgettable once the book is finished.
The prose is simple, a little too much so, even considering the age group the book is aimed at. The sentences are very short, and at times it felt a little like reading about Dick, Jane, and Spot. "See Spot run. Run, Spot, run!" The story's concept, however, is brilliant, and The City of Ember wound up being a short, satisfying read. One of the quotes on the back cover calls the book "Science fiction for those who do not like science fiction," and while I'm skeptical as to whether or not that's actually a compliment, it's true enough. Fantasy fans will enjoy this as much as science fiction readers, and while it's very definitely written for pre-teens, older readers looking for a quick fix will find themselves wrapped up in Ember, too.(less)
Derek, a highly trained secret agent, has just come off a controversial and incredibly challenging mission. He's returned to headquarters to prepare f...moreDerek, a highly trained secret agent, has just come off a controversial and incredibly challenging mission. He's returned to headquarters to prepare for his next mission, which includes having his face changed to render him unrecognizable. While he's unconscious, he's connected to the brain of an alien his superiors have secretly been keeping and studying for years. When Derek wakes up, he has all sorts of alien knowledge in his brain, and isn't quite sure who he can trust with all the information he's been given.
Fortunately, Derek has three friends, all of who are also agents, who he routinely contacts in between missions. They aren't supposed to speak with other agents outside of mission necessities, but Derek has made a pact with these friends, and they always keep tabs on each other. When he manages to catch up with two of them, he discovers he isn't the only one who's been connected to the alien; one of the others has, and the third has been assigned to keep an eye on both of them. The fourth member of their group was the first to be hooked up to the alien brain, but it made him go insane and he's now been locked away.
To make matters worse, Derek can feel the alien infuence on him, changing the way he thinks and perceives the world, and the other man who was connected shows even more drastic changes. They aren't exactly secret agents anymore, but trying to get out could be almost as dangerous as staying in.
First things first. There are some compelling ideas in Carbon Copy, but it takes some wading to get to them. I think my biggest issue with the book is that in its excitement to share all its concepts, it missed out on exploring most of them fully. A number of ideas were sort of brought up and then glossed over, and in general the passages with secret agent action were written with more enthusiasm than the science fiction bits. I like spy thrillers, but the heart of the book is with the aliens and the origin of man and life on Earth, so the glossing over made things feel a little unbalanced.
Turcotte seems very fond of short sentences. In moments of drama, this can be a really effective tool, heightening the suspense, but when it's used throughout the entire book, it starts to feel like a reader about Dick, Jane, and Spot. A few conjunctions would have turned the halting prose into something far more readable and sophisticated.
The other issue I had was with the long blocks of exposition. Since Derek had the alien information shoved into his head and others hadn't, he spent a lot of time explaining things, and while these ideas were kind of neat in their own right, it quickly grew tiresome to be told everything in big chunks. Had the mysteries of the aliens and their knowledge about the genesis of the human race been unfolded slowly, it could have been something I raced through, but the execution here ultimately just failed for me. Which is sad, really, because presented in another manner, some of the ideas are thought-provoking ones that might have stuck with me.(less)
Newton's Sleep is set in 17th century England, and follows the stories of three main protagonists, who brush across each others' paths in only brief a...moreNewton's Sleep is set in 17th century England, and follows the stories of three main protagonists, who brush across each others' paths in only brief and occasional moments until everything pulls together at the end. Most of the story focuses on Nate Silver, a man mysteriously risen from the grave as a youth. His mysterious benefactors, those he deems angels, gift him with a glowing egg that whispers wisdom to him, and he gains a reputation as both a philosopher and scientist. Determined to do good with the second life he's been granted and enthusiastic in his endeavors, Nate finds himself wrapped up in secret societies and intrigues far beyond his imagining.
Part of the Faction Paradox, Little Sister Greenway is still a novice of the sect, caught up in events she doesn't fully understand. In her struggle to prove herself to her faction cousins, she becomes intricately woven in the sequence of events that will change history forever, one way or the other.
Then there's Aphra Behn, a spy for the Service who since girlhood has pledged herself to an otherworldly, red-headed nymph. This nymph is keeping track of Aphra and pops into her life at random moments, determined to follow the spy who she believes will lead her to what she hunts.
For those who don't know (I didn't!), Faction Paradox is a Doctor Who spinoff, a sect of Time Lords who like to go through history and tweak things. You don't have to be familiar with Doctor Who to get through the book, though, which is fortunate for me, since I know almost nothing about the series. I know, bad genre fiction fan! Slap on the wrist for me.
O'Mahony has put a lot of wonderful historical details in here, with a clever use of language. Covering about 50 years during the tumultuous mid-to-late 1600s, there's clearly been a lot of research done, and it's a pleasure to visit some of these historical places and people, particularly Aphra Behn, who was a real woman.
The complex storylines, woven and intermingled in surprising ways, involve a whole lot of politics and scheming as well as the edges of an intergalactic war. A lot of this is spoken in subtleties, especially considering most of the characters are from the time period in which the book is set and have no concept of time travel or worlds outside their own.
Between the sophisticated, occasionally overwritten language and the non-linear flow of the narrative, this is decidedly not a quick or fluffy read. Actually, I spent more time than I would have liked completely confused, trying to figure out where and when this part of the book was set. That whole last chapter I read, did that already happen? Or is that in the future compared to the bit I'm reading now? Wait, did that bit of history just get erased, as in the characters won't remember any of this for the rest of the story? Bwuh?(less)