This is one of those books that I knew I'd put off reviewing. When a book is classic, or popular, or iconic.. you just know you'll never find anything...moreThis is one of those books that I knew I'd put off reviewing. When a book is classic, or popular, or iconic.. you just know you'll never find anything original to say that hasn't already been said, or that'll do the book justice.
We is set in a future utopian paradise, The One State, ruled by their glorious Benefactor. Everyone is a number, not a person, the emphasis is on cohesion, not individuality. Happiness has been reduced to an equation, but as such it it is solved, plug in the numbers and all citizens can live happy, well regulated lives. All wake at the same time each day in their transparent houses, dress the same, chew their food 50 times, go to their assigned work, and on their assigned day they get to draw the shades for 1 hour exactly for conjugal relations with their registered partner (sexual requirments calculated for each number based on their hormonal readings of course).
D-503 is the 'author' of the novel. He is the architect of the Integral, the space ship which was commissioned to take the expansion of their One State into space. All numbers have been called upon to write poetry and prose to extol the virtues of the One State to any alien species. D-503 is no poet, but a mathemetician, so he chooses to write a sort of diary, a collection of his daily thoughts on the one state, explanations of things which he believes uncivilised readers may not have the benefit of... and then as it progresses and he meets the inexplicably fascinating and frustrating I-330, who is not like other numbers.. She angers D, but he obsesses over her. She takes him beyond the Green Wall to the ancient house, where artifacts exist from the uncivilised time before the One State, and things begin to change for D.. well. I'll try for no spoilers here :)
D-503 is a very interesting narrator to have. He begins so innocently content with everything, and despite being no poet, the way he writes certain things when he is truly exstatic is almost psychadelic in it's poetry. At times he is frustratingly unaware for a protagonist, never quite being in the right place at the right time, and always one step behind the plot, reading through his thoughts I felt just as confounded as he was by I-330, by the secrets at the ancient house, by the disease of having a soul.
I can see clearly how this was the inspiration for 1984, there are many parallels between the two. The utopian communist style government. Their insular society, that is unaware of anything of interest outside of their walls. Then there is the Great Benefactor, who for the most part of the book is never seen, but comes across like a mysterious G-d (but of course he has to be a real person, but we never really know anything about him).
The book left various things unexplained and open. I wanted to know more about what was beyond the wall, about how the One State came to be, about who the benefactor was, and most of all how we come to read D-330's diary after what unfolds in the book. But the open-ness sort of leaves room for hope and it's good to imagine the various options for myself, it's not so much disappointing as it is frustrating.
But it's definately a brilliant novel, definately worth 5 stars, possibly worth a favourite. If you love dystopian fiction, and love to have the fear of tyrannical governments struck into you, then read it!(less)
William Mandela is one of the first humans drafted into an intergalactic war. The enemy are the Taurens, an alien race that no one has ever actually s...moreWilliam Mandela is one of the first humans drafted into an intergalactic war. The enemy are the Taurens, an alien race that no one has ever actually seen. We first follow Mandella's training, a very harsh six months on a barren asteroid, where he and his fellow soldiers learn combat, and base building in mech suits, in a very alien environment. Not all survive the training. As soon as training is over Mandella is shipped off to the first strike against the Taurens, who suprisingly never see it coming, yet the battle is still brutal.
One of the many aspects of sci-fi that most novels and tv series choose to ignore or bypass - relativity - is actualy utilised in this novel for great effect. Mandella spends most of his 4 years of service travelling at high speeds through space, and so time for him passes differently than time on earth. When Mandella arrives home after his first tour of duty, 20 years have passed on earth. Mandella tries to settle back in to civilian life, but find things too greatly changed, it's a massive culture shock for him, and eventually he signs back up again, and is dispatched back out to the front. As the war is taken further and further out in space, and the technology enables faster and more far reaching travel, the passage of time on earth increases, so that each time Mandella returns home, 100s of years have gone by, and the civilisation that he was born into is all but unrecognisable. The only thing that remains the same for Mandella, is the war.
The Forever War was greatly different from my usual sci-fi. Space travel is greatly different from the luxury galaxy class starships of star trek. No replicators, no holodecks. Just the gritty realism of military life, spending months at a time in cramped quarters in space, with brief periods of time spend asleep in pressure suits while the ship accelerates and deccelerates. It really brought home to me the vastness and alieness of space.
It also gives food for thought on the way wars affect civilisations. The war was always far distant to earth, but the changes were still felt. The portrayal of things on earth when Mandella came back after his first 4 (or 20) years, showed many parallels with life today, and showed how many things could change in future.. consider my country has been at war in the east for 10 years now, but like this most people don't think about it, we don't see it, but we will feel the effects.
I understand that this is somewhat of an anti war novel, Haldeman wrote this after his turn in the vietnam war. Some people may find the underlying moralism a bit patronising. But for me, I'm young enough that I never had a close connection to any wars, I don't even having living grandparents thaht remember the world wars. So for me, this is insight that I never had.
I finished this book feeling quite depressed. I didn't agree with Haldeman's chosen ending, I'm cynical enough to think that realistically things would have gone quite differently. But nevertheless the ending was enough to make me cry. I can't help but give this book 5 stars. And if the rest of the books chosen for the SF Masterworks are up to the same standard, I think I'll end up buying them all.(less)
Judging from other reviews, this is one of those marmite books, that you'll either love, or hate. Luckily for me I'm in the 'LOVED IT' group.
New Crobu...moreJudging from other reviews, this is one of those marmite books, that you'll either love, or hate. Luckily for me I'm in the 'LOVED IT' group.
New Crobuzon is an immense city which is both filthily squallid and amazingly vibrant. Filled with a fantastic plethora of people and cultures. Artists and Scientist, Thieves and politicians (often the same thing), rich and poor, bug-people, cactus-plant-people, bird-people, generic humans, steampunk cyborgs (called re-made) and countless other wierd and awful things.
Issac Dan der Grimmnebulin is a sort of free-lance Scientist, who picks up an intriguing new client. A Garuda (bird-person) called Yagharek, who commissions Isaac to give him back the power of flight. Isaac throws himself into the scientific task, spurred on by three things; A love of impossible problems, the fascinating mysterious character of Yagharek himself, and a ton of money. (Yeh that would probably get me too).
Whilst investigating many different scientific options, Isaac comes into possession of a strange rainbow coloured caterpillar that refuses to eat anything but a psychotropic drug called 'dream-shit'. And with these two set-ups for the main plot line.. how could things ever NOT become interesting?
Big thanks to Nancy for recommending this book to me; I got completely hooked into this book. It took me a week to get through - it's fairly massive, and a bit tough to get into a first - but well worth the effort involved.
All the characters were brilliant and detailed, but my absolute favourite was Yagharek, the wingless Garuda. he's such a mystery in the beginning. And I found myself rushing through inbetween sections (as interesting as they were), hurrying to his next appearance and then reading voraciously for any hint and suggestion as to his background. Why and how did he lose his wings? What crime would be so great as to fit that punishment? Why do I have a crush on a fictional bird-person? These things kept me up at night until I closed the last page of the book.
I can't say the book didn't have it's flaws. The one thing that did bother me, was the the concept of the bug-people. (The other races I could actually accept). But the bug people.. the problem for me was that in this race, the females have a human female body, but their head is a bug. And the males are just a bug (no human parts). I find it impossible to imagine a species that could evolve this way, and I kept waiting for this to link in to some wierd science experiment in the manner of the re-made, which I thought would fit so well into the universe that it HAD to be the explanation. But either I missed it, or rendered it illegible whilst drooling on the pages reading about Yagharek, or it just wasn't there. A great pity.
A few words of warning for those who have not yet read this masterpiece; The imagery is so vivid and the setting so much a contrast of filth and colour that you may feel the need to wear gloves while reading, or store it in the fridge. There is a distinct lack of happy endings, please have a pack of kleenex to hand whilst reading. If a book is akin to a desert, I would term this a chocolate fudge sundae with sour skittles on top. NOM NOM! Enjoy :)(less)
Yet another classic I've been meaning to read for a long time, and was glad I got around to!
The Melniboneans are an Ancient race of humans, characteri...moreYet another classic I've been meaning to read for a long time, and was glad I got around to!
The Melniboneans are an Ancient race of humans, characterised by their self importance, hedonistic ways, and distinct lack of compassion for others. Very similar to the traditional fantasy dark elves, although of course their appearance is human. Elric is the last in a long line of Melnibonean kings, he's a sickly albino that has managed to sustain his health and keep up appearances by the heavy use of drugs. He's the one melnibonean that has doubts on the melnibonean way of life. His thoughts on morality is somewhat heretical in his society, and it also make him somewhat of a weak king, although he has friends who support him, he also has many enemies, notably his Cousin Yrkoon who would rather do away with Elric and sit himself on the throne. But then how does Elric choose between his ideals of morality, and his need to deal with Yrkoon and keep his throne?
I must admit I liked this more than I thought I would. The style of writing is very traditional fantasy, as in Tolkien style etc, but it's very easy to get into, and it's a great little story of adventure and magic and a bit of political intrigue. I could easily find myself steaming through the whole series, as they're very good fantasy and short too.
The 5th and penultimate in the Elric series, like the previous books it's divided into 3 short stories. In the first The stealer of souls, Elric has a...moreThe 5th and penultimate in the Elric series, like the previous books it's divided into 3 short stories. In the first The stealer of souls, Elric has another run in with the sorceror Theleba K'aarna, who is still insanely mad at Elric for 'making' Yishana fall in love with him. But of course it's not Elric's fault, he's just naturally good with the ladies, and he doesn't even want Yishana. Then Kings in Darkness, where Elric finds and falls in love with Zarozinia. It must be love this time, as Elric decides to give up his sword Stormbringer, and go back to supporting his life with drugs instead of the stolen life-force that his sword shares with him. In The flame bringers, Elrics companion Moonglum warns Elric of a Warband who are laying waste to various cities and on their way to the city where Elric lives with Zarozinia. The warband have a captured their own sorceror, by subduing the cat in which he attempted to hide his soul.. Then we have an Epilogue To Rescue Tanelorn, which is a short story, not about Elric, but about one of his previous companions Rackhir the Red Archer, who lives now in the eternal city of Tanelorn. Tanelorn is about to come under attack by forces of Chaos, and so Rackhir goes in search of the Grey Lords, who server neither Law nor Chaos, but may be willing to aid Tanelorn.
These Elric novels are always so hard to review, because so much happens in such a short space of time. To me, Moorcocks style of writing, is like the opposite of a politicians.. where a politician will try to say as little as possible in as many words as possible, Moorcock has a very good go at writing as much as possible in as few words as possible. And yet his writing is still so creative and descriptive. It's hard to see how he manages to cram so much in without messing up the story, but he does. At the end of this book I was quite knackered really!
The second book in the Elric series. Elric decides he needs some self improvement, and that he should take a year out from being Emperor and travel th...moreThe second book in the Elric series. Elric decides he needs some self improvement, and that he should take a year out from being Emperor and travel the lesser kingdoms. I think his idea is that he could better understand the younger human races by living amongst them, but hatred of melniboneans is so rife that Elric has little luck, and instead ends up wandering despondently on some random lonely shoreline. When up rolls the mist and a mysterious boat! And this boat travels the seas between all times and universes! Ah Elric, here is your ticket to adventure!
There were many things I loved about this book, but to describe too much would be to give away important plot parts, but suffice to say there were many wierd things in many stranges places and it was all very exciting and fun :)
I am still dying to find out what happened to Melnibone in all the time Elric was away, cos he went and left his traitorous cousin on the throne, I guess that'll make in interesting 3rd book.