This is one of those rare science fiction books that lets you wonder and imagine and forget that it's science fiction at all. Many sci-fi authors lean...moreThis is one of those rare science fiction books that lets you wonder and imagine and forget that it's science fiction at all. Many sci-fi authors lean too heavily on the science and speculation and not enough on the fiction, creating interesting premises but characters that are two dimensional. Wilson does not have that problem here. His characters are fully fleshed, flawed and realistic and it is these characters that move Spin along so well.
This is not to say that this book lacks in science and its implications. Spin starts with the main characters star-gazing as they whitness the night sky and all of it's stars vanish, due to a planet encompasing barrier that slows down time on the earth as eons pass outside. So much time passes outside the barrier that the sun itself grows old. This opens all kinds of possibilities and you wonder at first how Wilson will be able to reasonably explain a phenomenon on such a grand scope. Smartly, Wilson deals with the global implications of this as much as the science. He paints an eerie picture of the planet as it would be shrouded under something so large and unknown. Religions are formed around this phenomenon as well as economic disaster. Tyler, our main POV and the two other main characters live through these events and Wilson does a good job of making you feel as if you were actually there. These are characters you care about, which makes their ordeals feel all too real.
This is why I would recommend this book to anyone, to fans of sci-fi or not. There is plenty here for the sci-fi junky as well as fans of character fiction. In the end, Wilson does a good job of wrapping up loose ends and doesn't leave you unfulfilled. His explanations are smart and make sense, though they may leave some dissapointed that were hoping for something more conventional. Take from it what you will, this is great science fiction reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke and I'll count it among my favtorite sci-fi along with Dune and Hyperion. (less)
This is a Hugo winner if I ever read one. Old Man's War is sci-fi as it's meant to be and Scalzi may be one of the best modern science fictions author...moreThis is a Hugo winner if I ever read one. Old Man's War is sci-fi as it's meant to be and Scalzi may be one of the best modern science fictions authors I've read. As the critic praise has commented already, this book reads like Heinlein come again.
John Scalzi's writing style hooked me immidiately. I began empathizing with his main character, John Perry, almost instantly. He writes John (from the first person) in a way that expresses his emotion well as well as his sarcasm, making him a very entertaining character. By the time John enlists and joins up in the Colonial Defence Force, he meets other sarcastic characters like himself and the dialogue between them had be laughing out loud on numerous occasions.
In Scalzi's universe, no one can join the CDF until they are 75, as they want experienced and knowlegable human beings rather than young and immature ones. The book follows John and his band of self-designated "Old Farts" as they go to space for the first time, learn how they're going to be made young and battle-ready, head to combat training and then off to war with the numerous alien races who want to halt mankind's expansion into space. Every one of these aspects is very well written and very entertaining. The action scenes are fast-paced and intense and the scientific implications such as the Skip Drive are fascinating.
For me this book invoked nearly every emotion, from laughter to excitement to sadness. There may have been a couple of parts that I found a little hard to swallow ( actually, the inch-tall alien race is the only one I can think of), but nothing worth dwelling over. If you liked Heinlien's Starship Troopers, you may like this even more. All respect to the classic sci-fi writer, but this book is more entertaining in almost every way. Read it and enjoy. I'm on to read Ghost Brigades. (less)
After many failed attempts at starting up various fantasy series, Brandon Sanderson has delivered something refreshing and vastly entertaining. This i...moreAfter many failed attempts at starting up various fantasy series, Brandon Sanderson has delivered something refreshing and vastly entertaining. This is very nearly a five star novel, though there are a few simple discrepencies that keep Mistborn from being great.
Pros: - I was immideately pulled in by the bizarre world environment here. The idea of a land completely covered in ash at all times is strange and interesting. - The "magic" system, if it can be called that, is unique and a breath of fresh air. For me, a lot of fantasy is ruined by overuse of magic and lack of explanation about how magic works. His use of metals and Allomancy is genius and it's apparent that Sanderson invested a lot of time into this system. It's fun and believable. - Sanderson displays great world-building talents in Mistborn. Not only to we have a strange backdrop in the environment, but good history to fill it with. The mists and the Mistwraiths are weird and different. - There is no lack of action here. While I might have liked a little more description on the larger battle scenes, the Allomancy battles were just plain fun to read. With the characters using their abilities to push themselves through the air and hurl large metal objects, it was almost as if they were battling superheroes, and strangely enough this really works. He paid great attention to the rules and science of the Allomancy he created and applied them to these battle scenes well.
Cons: -Characterization could use a little work. While Vin, Kelsier, Elend and Sazed were descriptive characters, a lot of the others on the crew (Dockson, Clubs, Breeze, Yeden) felt a little too cookie cutter and I found it hard to remember exactly what those characters did and what their individual roles were. - Some of the dialogue is a little too typical as with many other fantasy books. This is one aspect that I rarely find to my liking in fantasy -as few authors seem to do it very well- and it isn't so bad here, but a lot of the conversations seemed a little unbelieveable. There were a lot sappy moments between the characters, some of which I find hard to swallow. (Perhaps I've become spoiled by Martin and Hobb, where distrust and hate between a lot of the characters make dialogue and character drama more believable.)
The flaws with Mistborn were hardly enough to keep me from thourougly enjoying it. Every great fantasy author has their strengths, and Sanderson's are apparent. This book is unique with a lot of great ideas. The only thing that's very typical is the tyrannical Lord Ruler and his thousand-year reign, but the author handles it very well and shows that cliche isn't always a bad thing. And the conclusion to Mistorn was fantastic. All of the plot threads were handled well and in clever ways, the action and final confrontations were great.
I will look forward to reading whatever else Sanderson has to offer. Read it, enjoy it and tell others. Good fantasy in a sea of mediocre deserves praise. (less)
I had very high expectations for this book and was dissapointed that for the most part, they were not met. I loved Startide Rising. The pacing was fas...moreI had very high expectations for this book and was dissapointed that for the most part, they were not met. I loved Startide Rising. The pacing was fast, the action was plenty and the scope was incredible. The idea that a lone ship crewed mostly by dolphins had accidently happened upon a derelict fleet consinsting of thousands of moon-sized vessels was fascinating. That was the main reason I read on through Startide and then to Uplift War, to find out what exactly it was that they found.
Unfortunately, as with Sundiver, Brin makes promises that he doesn't keep. He starts out with one idea that eventually transforms into something completely different and leaves the orignal idea unresolved. With Sundiver, it was the beings in the sun. They went on a mission to discover what they were but by the end, we don't find out and instead we learn of a Galactic plot against humans. In the Uplift War, a brutal (though it's hard to think of 4 foot squaking birds as brutal) alien race blockades the planet Garth, a fringe world leased to humans, to take hostages and try to get information from Earth as to what it was the dolphins aboard Streaker really found. By the end of the book, we don't learn anything new about that at all. It turns out that Earth doesn't know anything more than the Gubru do, so the book shifts coarse and focuses on the chimps and the Gubru's claim that they are not truly sentient. (I realize this is a bit of a spoiler, but for anyone holding expectations about this area, I think it is a good head's up.) This new dierection isn't uninteresting. I love Brin's universe. I find myself comparing other sci-fi universes to it because the idea of uplifing races into sentience is brilliant. This book focuses a lot on the moral implications of patronizing a new race and the consequences for taking that duty lightly. This was an entertaining subject, but it's not what I started the book intending to read.
I don't want to call the book boring, but it definitely is long. I don't necessarily have a problem with lengthy texts, but here there seemed to be a lot that could've remained on the cutting room floor. In particular there was a scene with Fiben (a lead character chimp) trying to escape from a bar/eating establishment being run by the enemy, and accidently getting on stage and making a show and entertaining the crowd. This went on for pages and pages and got to be pretty cheesy, almost to the point that it was emberassing to read it.
And for the length, the characters didn't seem as developed as I would have liked. Well, perhaps some were developed but I didn't really empathise with them. Robert for example, really the only human main character, wasn't a very interesting character at all. He was very knowlegable, very strong, good with weapons, a skilled tactitian, good with survival tactics, loved by women... yawn. I had a hard time not picturing him to look like a Native-American Rambo. The only time he seemed to be a human was when he was torn between his love for Athaclena and a human lover. Athaclena however, was an interesting character. She is of an alien species called Tymbrimi that greatly resembled humans but have strong empathic abilites and also the ablility to alter their bodies in subtle ways to adapt to environments and situations. Her character was complicated, always with conflicing emotions. She grew from the start of the book as a whiny teenage alien to a grown adult leading a resistance force. Her father and his hulking Thennanin friend were great characters as well. The chimps, while well developed, were to me, just too goofy to be taken seriously. Granted, they are chimps and they do chimp things like howl and pick parasites off one another. This is realistic but hard to believe in a starfaring race. I found a lot of the chapters revolving aorund them pretty boring.
There is a fair amount of action in this book, though not as much as the title would suggest. There is a brief glimpse of space combat in the beginning, followed by some guerrila (and gorilla) warfare through the first half of the book that was pretty cool. From there, the action was moslty absent until the end, and even then not much is really described. The Uplift Intrigue might have suited better.
So I liked this book, or I wouldn't have given it 3 stars, but it adds very little to the story that begun with Startide Rising. I haven't yet started the next the books, but I have a feeling that if I jumped from Startide to Brightness Reef, I wouldn't be missing much. It seems to be a pit stop on the way to the rest of the story. We go from a dozen alien races clashing in battle of the most important discovery in a billion years, to one race (and a rather silly one at that) holding a fringe world hostage that no one in the galaxy really cares about. The ending of Uplift War is a bit surprising and I liked it, but as a whole it didn't satisfy my expectations. Still, I like this universe and its concepts enough that I will continue reading. Brin is a good writer and I would still recommend him to fans of sci-fi. (less)
Spin was the first novel I've read from Mr. Wilson, and it was one of the most engrossing sci-fi books I've ever read. After reading that, I wanted to...moreSpin was the first novel I've read from Mr. Wilson, and it was one of the most engrossing sci-fi books I've ever read. After reading that, I wanted to look into what else he's written and I found The Chronoliths.
Much of what I loved about Spin was present here as well. I think Wilson's greatest strength is in characterization. His characters are fully fleshed and well realized and they allow his stories to flow as well as they do. Scientifically, The Chronoliths is also right on the money. Wilson's theories on time travel are complex enough to appeal to science afficianados yet he does a good job explaining everything in layman's terms.
As with Spin, the happenings in The Chronoliths are on an epic scale and he wastes no time jumping riht into it. Within the first ten pages, our POV character, Scott, whitnesses the arrival of the first chronolith, a monument hundreds of feet tall commemorating a military victory that happens more then twenty years in the future. These chronoloths begin to appear all over the eastern part of the globe, many destroying cities as they arrive right in the middle of them. As with Spin, Wilson deals a lot with the global implications of this crisis, both religious and economic and gives you a good sense that he knows a good deal about our world.
Where the familiarity stops is that there doesn't seem to be an actual conclusion to this story. I expected the whole time to find out exactly why the chronoliths were sent from the future and who sent them, and he doesn't really explain that at all. He simply leaves you with a few cryptic clues and seems to say "it could be this way, but it doesn't really matter." He more or less explains the science of the chronoloths but as far as the fiction is concerned, I wasn't entirely convinced. It gives me the feeling that he had this great idea about time and how it can be manipulated, but didn't quite know how to build a complete story around it.
So this book didn't leave me with a sense of satisfaction as did Spin. I still think Robert Charles Wilson is a great science fiction author and his strengths, even here, overthrow his weaknesses. I'll be reading more Wilson, and especially look forward to Axis, the sequel to Spin coming out this year. (less)
I’d like to think of myself as a well read person, as in I read a lot. But can I really be well read if I’ve hardly read any “classic” literature outs...moreI’d like to think of myself as a well read person, as in I read a lot. But can I really be well read if I’ve hardly read any “classic” literature outside of Lord of the Rings? I decided this year that I would pepper various books that could be considered classic literature into my reading plan. I want to read a lot of the books that every reader is presumed to have read, so when people ask me “did you read such and such?", I can say “why yes, I did read such and such.” If for no other reason, than to at least say that I’ve done it. I’ve started this new found reading goal with (you guessed it) George Orwell’s 1984.
I just finished the book and have had a few days to collect my thoughts about it and formulate an educated opinion. My opinion? It’s kind of depressing... But that’s fine! I like depressing (to an extent. This isn’t The Road or anything.) After all, this isn’t real life is it? Right? I mean, what happened to Winston isn’t really happening to us now is it? That question is not only what makes this book slightly depressing, but also a bit eye-opening as well. But enough of that kind of talk! Let’s get on to the book review.
Meet Winston, average every-man. Forty-something, divorced, tedious job, lives in a run down apartment. Except he’s not really average. Not in the society he lives in. A society in which everything you do is watched, every action and even thought, scrutinized. “Big Brother”, the only real thing that Wilson’s world has to an authoritarian/presidential type figure, is not really a person at all. Rather a presence personified in the form of a mustachioed man whose eyes follow Winston from posters, billboards and telescreens nearly everywhere in this dystopian version of London. Winston doesn’t like that Big Brother is always watching him. Winston knows he’s a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Somehow he’s always known. He’s not comfortable with the way people seem to ignore what’s going on around them. He wants to live in a society where people are free to think and do what they want and people don’t just disappear when they don’t fit in. Well, we’d love for Winston to break free of this oppressive society but the more we read on, the more we realize how bleak that outlook becomes.
Orwell wastes no time at the beginning of the book (actually throughout the entirety of it) making sure we know how his world works. There isn’t really much in the way of subtlety here. Through Winston’s eyes, we see children who turn their parents in for acting strangely. We see people rallying to telescreens daily for the “Two Minute Hate” in which people are forced to watch propaganda depicting Big Brother as the destroyer of all enemies. Nobody has privacy. Even in their own homes, people have screens that can see them. In fact, Winston has to hide in one little corner, a blind-spot of his telescreens, where he can write in his diary, something else people aren’t really allowed to do anymore, lest they write material that demotes the beloved Big Brother. Not that it matters what people write down, because the Thought Police will snag you simply based on treasonous thoughts you may have had, even in your sleep! Yup, this world is pretty bleak. It’s definitely not a future I’d want to live in. But, isn’t that the point of this book?
There are definitely comparisons that can be drawn to our present time, like the editing of facts and knowledge before it is released to the public. In 1984, this is done to the complete extreme, where ALL data that is printed, televised or otherwise is filed through a department called The Ministry of Truth, whose job it is to sculpt every fact to the Party’s liking, pertaining to the present and even the past. Did the Party invent the airplane? No, but that doesn’t matter because they say they did. Nobody will argue with them because these facts will be slowly taken away and changed until everyone forgets that there was once anything different. It is not that extreme in the present (at least in the United States, I can’t speak for all other countries) but we do have a government that can control what we watch on TV, what we see in movies and are working at controlling what we are allowed to see on the internet. And how about our privacy? There is definitely something creepy about the way that Orwell predicted this future before such things like cell phones and even computers were even invented. And I realize that it wasn't Orwell alone and that other great minds of the time had envisioned the way society could head. But specifically to predict the way surveillance is everywhere and our every communication could potentially be always monitored seems borderline prophetic. Of course George couldn’t have known that I’d be reading his book at a time when the NSA has admitted to reading millions of text messages every day, but that still doesn’t prevent the chills up my spine. Is there any text, phone call, email, search engine entry or chat message we can send that we can assure will only be read by the intended recipient?
Okay, I realize I’m getting a little heavy handed here and possibly off topic. Back to the book itself. As I said, Orwell’s writing may not be the most subtle. He throws some far-fetched ideas out there. I can’t believe that any government could ever truly go to the extremes that the Party does in 1984. But his writing is incredibly readable and for a “classic” it is instantly accessible. The setting here isn't just bleak because of what is happening, but because of how Winston is affected by it and how those emotions are described. We’re always in his head, so in a sense, we are oppressed by the same government. The only time in the book where I admit to being tempted to skim was when Winston gets a hold of some contraband literature that gives him in depth detail on the Party’s true history. Well not only does Winston read it, but YOU get to as well. An entire chapter of it (and a little bit of another chapter too.) This was interesting reading and provided a lot of insight into the world, but it was like reading a text book. I’ve never been too fond of information dumps in books and this seemed like a cheap way of unloading ideas and info about the world of 1984.
So, 1984 can be a little unbelievable in spots, and a little dense in others, but it’s still a very good book. I don’t regret reading it and the underlying message it sense will stick with me always. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see a security camera on the wall without having the words “Big Brother” appear somewhere in my mind. This will be one of those books I’ll want to acquire a second copy of, so I can always have one on my shelf and another to pass around from hand to hand. Quick, read it before the government finds out it’s too close to the truth!! *hides copy under the floorboards* (less)
If one were to gauge what makes a perfect science-fiction story, what elements would have to be in place? You could start with a very open question. F...moreIf one were to gauge what makes a perfect science-fiction story, what elements would have to be in place? You could start with a very open question. For example, who else is out there besides us? You could take realistic human beings, bound by the laws of science as we know it today, and throw them at that question. Throw in an epic journey through space, a nearly unstoppable adversary and a mind-warping ending that exceeds the wildest expectations. And to top it off, wild sex with beautiful alien women. 2001: A Space Odyssey has all of these elements but one. It is a nearly perfect sci-fi experience.
Now I’ll admit to one little bit of sci-fi fandom heresy. I’ve never seen the 2001 movie. I’ve seen countless other classic science fiction films, but for some reason just never watched it. I was just thinking recently that I should watch the film, but as I'm on a bit of a classic reading stint right now I decided to read Clarke's book first. Really I have no idea what took me this long. Aside from Michael Chrichton, Clarke was my introduction to science fiction. I read Rendesvous With Rama in middle school and absolutely loved it. Having returned to reading Clarke after so many years, I can say with a surety that he is one of my favorite science fiction authors.
If you asked who the book's main character was, I suppose I would have to say that it's David Bowman. But 2001 doesn't really follow a typical format where one character can be pinpointed as "it." The book has several acts, two just happen to be smaller than the last acts featuring Mr. Bowman. The book starts 3 million years ago, when humans handn't quite developed from man-ape... things. Our POV character here is Moon-Watcher, a man-ape that encounters a monolith, one such object that each "main" character will encounter in 2001. This monolith, obviously extra-terrestrial in origin, changes Moon-Watcher and sets in motion a change in the entire human race. Fast forward three million years, give-or-take some centuries or so. Our next POV character, Dr. Heywood Floyyd, a famous scientist, is called to the moon to view a new discovery. Yet another mysterious monolith has been revealed, hidden from the news-mongers on aearth under the pretext that it's a plague broken out on the lunar base. This brings us to David Bowman.
Fast forward nearly 20 years and Bowman and a few other crew members are hurtling through space in a new state of the art ship, on a mission whose purpose isn't revealed until the end of the story. Their constant, ever-awake companion is an on-board ship AI with an agenda of its own. ("What're you doing, Dave? I can't let you do that, Dave.") Though I haven't seen the movie, I've known about Hal since I was a child. Being surrounded by movie quoting nerds my whole life, it'd be impossible not to. Hal is an immediately recognizable sci-fi icon and it was entertaining to finally learn what it was all about, even if it wasn't the medium that most people first experienced "him" in.
I don't want it give anything else away for the few people like me who don't know the story. In summation, I will say that 2001 has everything I love and forgot I loved about science fiction. With a great mystery to look forward to, I was eager to know what was going to happen from the first few pages onward. Clarke's writing is fantastic. Not only was he a visionary (he wrote this book before the moon landing for frakk's sake!), his writing was incredibly detailed and gripping. I am absolutely never bored when I'm reading Arthur C. Clarke. He pulls beauty out of the plain and excitement out of the mundane. During Bowman's journey, you will have no trouble believing that this is exactly what mankind's first trip to the outer planets will really be like. I felt like I was really staring at Jupiter and Saturn and seeing it with amazement through Bowman's eyes. While the ending of the book is worth the wait (not that this is a particularly long book) and utterly mind-warping in scope, the true majesty of 2001 is realizing the wonder that already exists in our own non-fictional universe. Everyone who is even remotely interested in science fiction or who just loves a good story about human discovery should read 2001: A Space Odyssey(less)
To be fair, I would not call myself obsessive compulsive, (though my wife may have a tinge of it in her) so I cannot wholly relate to Mrs. Colas. Howe...moreTo be fair, I would not call myself obsessive compulsive, (though my wife may have a tinge of it in her) so I cannot wholly relate to Mrs. Colas. However, she knows how to entertain, and the book is full of wit and insight and makes the reader almost feel a voyeur by delving into Colas' eccentric mind. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions, partly because of her sarcastic writing style, and partly because some of the situations she writes about are so absurd, to think about them actually happening is funny (perhaps in a dark sort of way.) From the start of the book you'll realize how the author jumps from one topic to the next without following much of a chronological order. On the same page we will go from a scene from her early childhood to a scene where she's talking about her children. In this sense, the book seems random and that she is not really telling a story. But as you read on you realize that she is telling a story, but perhaps not very well. The main focus that she seems to always come back to is her relationship with her husband and how they both had to deal with her disorder. While there are many scenes that jump back and forth, for the most part this part of her story progresses forward, but not very clearly. (Possible spoilers, though with this type of book, it's not really ruining anything.) It started to become very confusing as to how many times she and her husband seperated, at what point in her scenes they were actually together, and weather or not they were even together in the end. But even the lack of explanations may not have bothered me as much as her complete lack of writing any kind of emotion. We get to read a lot about her disorder and how it affects her life, but she never really expresses how she feels about any of it. In one of the scenes in which her husband brings up seperation, he mentions that there is another woman he is interested in. Not only does the author neglect to write about how she feels about this, this topic of the book never comes up again (except once toward the end in a very passive way). Later in the book she talks about an ex fling of hers stopping by and sharing a kiss. She talks to her husband about that and explains how he becomes angry and this leads to them talking once again about seperation. We get to see read about her husband emoting quite a bit, but rarely so with her. The author talks about many aspects of her life, but only how they are affected by her disorder. She almost portrays herself as an ampty shell with the ability to emote nothing but fear and anxiety. The book did give me some insight into OCD, but really explained very little about it. But I guess that might be the perspective she was going for. All in all, it is an entertaining read, but frustrating at times. After 165 pages of someone talking about themselves, you think that you would come out knowing something about them, but despite an idea of how OCD can affect one person in the extreme, you don't really come away with too much knowlege at all. It's a lgiht and at times very humorous read, but don't look for anything too deep. (less)