For some reason I always find Larry Niven much better with Jerry Pournelle than without; Inferno, Lucifer's Hammer and Footfall are all winners (theyFor some reason I always find Larry Niven much better with Jerry Pournelle than without; Inferno, Lucifer's Hammer and Footfall are all winners (they have collaborated on quite few other titles but I have not read them yet). The Mote in God's Eyeis generally considered to be their partnership’s best book (have a look at Larry Niven’s Goodreads page).
I believe the blurb by Robert A. Heinlein that appears on many editions of the book’s cover* has been around since its first publication in 1974; and it has undoubtedly helped to shift thousands of copies (mine included). I guess it is a little like if you were a guitarist and Jimmi Hendrix tells people you can shred like a demented mofo. Who can resist that kind of recommendation? Is it just hyperbole though? Is The Mote in God's Eye worthy of the accolade?
Yes it is.
This is a first contact story rendered very believable and engrossing by the authors’ skills and attention to details. The “Moties” are one of the most well conceived alien races I have ever come across. They are very alien, very strange yet they have enough human character traits to be understandable. Of course completely inscrutable aliens are fun but the more understandable aliens can be more emotionally invested in.
As the novel was written in the 70s its age inevitably shows in places. There are terms like “hyperspace” and “pocket computer” that we do not see in modern sci-fi. Today’s authors tend to invent new words for “hyperspace” and “pocket computer” sounds very quant as they are now commonplace in the form of smartphones and tablets. These few terms notwithstanding I would argue that The Mote in God's Eye stands the test of time very well. The alien’s design and their extreme specialization are just as wonderfully “SF-nal” on this reread as it was when I first read about it decades ago.
I have no idea who write what in the Niven / Pournelle partnership but they clearly work very well together, there is a unified voice in their highly readable prose style. The characters are better than just flat plot devices, though the book is clearly more about the plot than the characters. Both authors are excel at writing hard science fiction and the science details make the story that much more vivid and believable without ever bogging the book down with excessive infodumping. The “dramatis personae” at the beginning of the book kindly provided by the authors to help the readers keep track of a fairly large cast of characters is an interesting feature. However, the book is written so well that I never found it necessary to refer to it at any time.
The central and very human theme of this book seems to be how difficult it is for different races to coexist peacefully when there is a conflict of interest and when negotiations are hampered by deceptions. The issue is not entirely resolved in this book but leaves a lot of room for the readers to speculate and draw their own conclusions. There is a less well received sequel called The Gripping Hand which I am not sure I will read as I am more than satisfied with this book’s ending.
One of the all-time greats IMO.
* Heinlein’s blurb reads “possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read”....more
I seldom reread books because there are too many interesting unread books in the world to catch up with but some books just haunt me, demanding to beI seldom reread books because there are too many interesting unread books in the world to catch up with but some books just haunt me, demanding to be reread because I have forgotten too many details. I was walking around in a lush garden and I was reminded of this book and felt the need to reread it. This book is set on a far future Earth near the end of its existence, the sun is imminently going nova, human society and civilization have crumbled long ago. Plants and vegetable reign supreme, and human beings have devolved into primitive little green people the size of monkeys.
"Only five great families survived among the rampant green life; the tigerflies, the treebees, the plantants and the termights were social insects mighty and invincible. And the fifth family was man, lowly and easily killed, not organized as the insects were, but not extinct, the last animal species in all the all-conquering vegetable world."
As you can see, things look pretty grim for mankind! This book gives us a fascinating look at devolution in action, beside the little green people who are our direct descendants, there are subspecies of man who are presumably descended from crossbreeding of unknown origin.The most interesting example being the tummy-belly men who have a symbiosis relationship with a tree that feed and control them through a tail which function like an umbilical cord. When this is cut the tummy-belly men become clumsy, floundering and almost mindless; with a speech pattern which is particularly hilarious (much funnier than Yoda's). Aldiss' plant dominated Earth is full of ambulatory mostly carnivorous plants, John Wyndham's Triffids would have some very stiff competition here.
The best thing about this book is the vivid world-building that you can really submerge in. This is the most fascinating post-apocalyptic future Earth I have ever seen depicted in science fiction. I almost want to be there, except I don't fancy my chances in that environment, certainly I would like to see it portrayed in a decent movie. The aggressive environment reminds me of the action-packed Deathworld 1 by Harry Harrison (long-time collaborator of Brian Aldiss), the aforementioned The Day of the Triffids, and - strangely enough - my favorite computer game Plants vs. Zombies. The naivety of the human protagonists remind me of William Golding's Lord of the Flies at times. The characters are not "deep" but they are believable, the weird plants tend to have oddly whimsical names in spite of their deadliness, and the whole thing is written in very nice literate English prose.
I am not sure about the profundity that some other reviewers mentioned in their reviews of this book, if there is a subtext it is not obvious to me, but for sheer escapism you can not beat this one. A very firm 5 stars rating from me....more
My third Culture book, a series of epic space opera about a post-scarcity human society in the far future. If you are not familiar with this series yoMy third Culture book, a series of epic space opera about a post-scarcity human society in the far future. If you are not familiar with this series you may want to read this Wikipedia entry first and come back (or not, as you prefer). I love Consider Phlebas but I followed that up with fan favorite Use of Weapons and it nearly put me off the entire series. I don't want to go into why I do not like that book, if you are curious you can always find my review. Still, I love Consider Phlebas so much Use of Weapons could not completely eradicate the goodwill I still have for Mr. Banks and the Culture series. The Player of Games then is the book that will make or break the rest of series for me.
Make it is.
The Player of Games is complex, intelligent yet easy enough to follow, none of that mucking about with multiple timelines or switching to and fro between "the present" and flashbacks in some weird reverse order sequence. The story simply revolves around a single protagonist Jernau Gurgeh, possibly The Culture's greatest games players. That is saying something given how important games are to the indolent citizens of The Culture who are supplied with every material thing they can possibly want. Gurgeh is approached by the "Special Circumstances", the Culture's secret service / black ops type organisation to take part in an "Azad" game tournament at The Azad Empire, a rival civilization just a few light years away. This game is so important that it is the cornerstone of The Azad Empire. The winner is elevated to the Emperor status. As to why the Special Circumstances want Gurgeh to take part in this tournament you will have to find out for yourself by reading the book. You can thank me later.
The most fascinating feature of this book for me is the Azad game, it seems like a hyper-chess game with various card games and philosophy thrown in. Its is so complex it makes Quidditch look like Snakes & Ladders. Though the author does not describe the game in so much detail that it would be playable if you had the mega-board, the pieces, the cards and other things to hand, the description is done so well that you can imagine such a game existing. As with the other Culture books I have read Banks has populated the novel with quite a few well developed characters, though most of them tend to be AI or wee robots ("droids"). The central character Jernau Gurgeh is complex and interesting though not particularly likable, a typical trait of Banks' protagonists it seems. Still, at least he is not a tough-as-nails anti-hero, which is getting a bit old for me, his extreme focus and obsession makes him quite vivid. I also love the humorous moments interspersed throughout the book, these are mainly based around an indignant droid in a clunky disguise. The grand finale which takes place on a planet regularly burned by a perpetual wave of fire is wonderfully exciting though little plot twist at the end is not particularly surprising. Iain Banks' prose style is as literary as ever and is a pleasure to read.
This book has made me re-commit myself to reading The Culture series, I look forward to reading many more volumes....more
The idea that earth can resist an alien invasion is fairly ludicrous given that the aliens would have to travel light years across the universe to getThe idea that earth can resist an alien invasion is fairly ludicrous given that the aliens would have to travel light years across the universe to get here, so their level of technology and weaponry must be vastly superior to ours. Poul Anderson, a scifi legend, was well aware of this, and he carefully created an amusing scenario where such a thing is at least plausible. Anderson was a versatile author, books like Tau Zero and Brain Wave and The High Crusade are all very different (not to mention his non-genre and nonfiction works).
The premise is fairly straight forward. In 1345 AD a huge spaceship lands in Ansby, a small village in Lincolnshire just as Sir Roger de Tourneville an English knight was raising an army to fight a war with France. This is a scout ship from the Wersgorix Empire who are always looking to expand their dominion. As luck would have it their technology is so advance that they have forgotten how to fight hand to hand and falls prey to the English soldiers who stormed their ship and basically hacked them all to death except one rather shady character named Branithar. Thinking that the "flying ship" will give them a huge advantage over the French Sir Roger orders Branithar to fly the ship to France, Branithar readily agrees but activate the pre-programmed autopilot to take them to the nearest Wersgor colony instead.
In spite of the rather farcical premise the book is very enjoyable, it is more humorous than the other Anderson novels I have read (well, I have not read that many of them). Fans of the ultra hard sf Tau Zero will be disappointed if they are expecting more in that vein, those looking for a quick read entertaining sci-fi romp are in for a treat. The book is written in the first person, narrated by a monk who follows Sir Roger on his space adventures. The medieval style English is wonderful, I can not vouch for its authenticity of course but it is very amusing to read especially when describing alien technology. For example:
"I have studied the principles of their star maps a little, sire," I answered, "though in truth they do not employ charts, but mere columns of figures. Nor do they have mortal steersmen on the spaceships. Rather, they instruct an artificial pilot at the start of the journey, and thereafter the homunculus operates the entire craft."
Ha! Love that stuff! The main alien race the Wersgorix are a little old school in that they are blue skinned bipeds who communicate through vocal speech and gestures, thus conveniently facilitating the establishment of communication. Other alien races show up later who are less like anthropomorphised creatures but really not all that strange by today's sci-fi standard. You may find that the idea that a bunch of medieval Brits resisting and conquering alien races with vastly superior technology ridiculous. It is basically done through bluff and bluster, with a lot of luck thrown in:
"But how could that be, sire?" asked Sir Owain. "They‘re older and stronger and wiser than we." "The first two, granted," nodded the baron. His humor was so good that he addressed even this knight with frank fellowship. "But the third, no. Where it comes to intrigue, I‘m no master of it myself, no Italian. But the star-folk are like children."
In any case Anderson has written the book and developed the characters with such skill that you are likely to be swept away by the story and jettison your incredulity out the window.
Tremendous fun and takes no time at all to read, a must....more
I had no idea what Kindred is about prior to reading it, I previously read Octavia Butler's Wild Seed and thought it was marvelous, and Kindred seemsI had no idea what Kindred is about prior to reading it, I previously read Octavia Butler's Wild Seed and thought it was marvelous, and Kindred seems to be her most popular work judging by Goodreads ratings. So buying a copy of Kindred without knowing anything about it was a no-brainer. I even deliberately avoided looking at the book's synopsis before hand, I just wanted to get to know the book as I read on. I hoped for a pleasant surprise, which I did get. This is only the second Octavia Butler book I have read and I already worship her.
Kindred is about Dana, an African American woman who finds herself time travelling involuntarily to Maryland in the early nineteenth century. It is not explained how or why this happen to her, the mechanic of it is entirely irrelevant to the story. The novel is about her experience of slavery in the past. Her fate becomes intertwined with Rufus, a white ancestor who is the only son of a plantation owner and who somehow triggers her time traveling trips every time he is in mortal danger, a situation that arises more frequently to him than to most people. While there she experiences the woes of slavery first hand, including whipping, beating, degradation and humiliation.
This is a harrowing and emotional read, I almost cry manly tears during some of the chapters. I never pondered what it may have been like to be a slave, it is not exactly a contingency which is at all likely to ever arise. However, Ms Butler - genius that she was - made me feel it through the eyes of her protagonist. The pains and humiliation of slavery resonates with me even though there ought to be nothing to resonate. I kind of winced every time a stroke of a whip is described. This is not a comfortable read but highly engrossing and thought provoking. The book is very much character-centric, the relationship between Dana and Rufus is very complex and fascinating. Dana's husband Kevin who also become embroiled in time traveling and is marooned in the nineteenth century for years without his wife adds to her complications, his reaction to returning to the present time (1976) is entirely believable and again resonates strongly.
The book reminds me a little of Connie Willis's excellent Doomsday Book, which is about time travelling to the fourteenth century and also a harrowing (yet wonderful) read, though the emphasis of that book is on poverty, hardship and diseases rather than slavery. The involuntary time traveling aspect of the book reminds me of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, though Kindred predates it, and Kindred is certainly not a romantic book.
Octavia Butler was not one of those literary writers who try to avoid the science fiction label like the plague even while using sf tropes in their works, she has always loved sf and gladly embraced the genre (see image below).
That said, Kindred is also not science fiction. The author described it as a "grim fantasy" and deliberately did not put any science in it, it is described by some literary critics as a "neo-slave narrative". I did consider why the book was written as a fantasy (or almost sf) instead of historical fiction, then I realised that it was probably done so the modern reader can experience the nineteenth century Maryland through the protagonist's contemporary eyes, this makes the book very visceral.
While the book was written to make the reader ponder some serious issues such as man's inhumanity to man, inequality and courage in an environment where you are made to feel worthless, at no point did I feel like being lectured to. The author knows the importance of communicating through the story, and I was completely swept away by it. Whatever I read next will likely suffer from being compared to this book. This goes in my all-time greats list....more
"I had already seen dozens of empires come and go, blossoming and fading like lilies on a pond, over and over, seasons without end. Many of those emp
"I had already seen dozens of empires come and go, blossoming and fading like lilies on a pond, over and over, seasons without end. Many of those empires were benevolent and welcoming, but others were inimical to all outside influences. It made no difference to their longevity. The kind empires withered and waned as quickly as the hostile ones."
The above passage from House of Suns serves to illustrate the author's grandiose scheme for this book. The story spans millions of years and hundreds of them often pass in the blink of an eye. Talk about fast moving narrative, this book almost break the FTL barrier. That said the story is not hard to follow providing you give it time to unfold and settle you in its very far future settings. In spite of the grand scale there are not that many characters to keep track of. The first person narrative is split into that of three protagonists, actually only one protagonist in a way. It all starts with this one girl Abigail Gentian who grew up in a weird shape shifting house and later cloned herself a thousand (+/-1) times for space exploration purposes. These thousand clones meet up every thousand years or so to celebrate, compare notes and basically party like it's 1999 (+ many kilo centuries). On one such occasion they are attacked and almost wiped out...
My inadequate synopsis barely scratches the surface of the immense story. This is my second Alastair Reynolds book, the first being Revelation Space which is his debut novel published 8 years before House of Suns. I rather like Revelation Space but in a muted sort of way, I thought the characters were on the flat side and a lot of the science went over my head. Well, I am glad to report that in the intervening years (while I was in suspended animation) Mr. Reynolds has acquired the arcane skills of character development. The central characters are likable and believable and the robot characters are just wonderful. While some of the science still goes whoosh! right over my head this is to be expected as I have difficulty figuring out how dental floss works. That said, most of the science and inventions are explained quite clearly and still comes across as ingenious.
Interestingly some very odd beings appear in this book but none of them are aliens. Which brings me to another quote from the book:
"Yes, humanity fractured into a million daughter species, some of which were scarcely recognisable to each other. But scratch beneath the scales, the fur, the tin armour, they were still humans at the core, and no amount of primate babble could ever drown out that silence completely."
TL;DR: No aliens! All the weird blighters that show up in this book are post-humans, though a mysterious alien race is referred to they never actually drop by at any point. The post-humans weirdos more than make up for them though.
There are mercifully brief fantasy interludes (inside a virtual reality) which I don't really care for, it reminds of scenes from Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer which did not appeal to me (the scenes, not the book). This book could also do with a bit more humour and levity, but the poignant finale tugs nicely at the heartstrings.
I really should stop rating books at five stars or I shall have no credibility left. I don't want to be the Paula Abdul of Goodreads or something, but really at the end of the day this is a great mind expanding read and to rate it less than five stars seems churlish. I think I will rate the next book I review at 4 stars max, regardless of how good it is!...more
That was my first thought upon picking up this book. Still with all the recommendations I have been getting from the good people at RThis book is fat!
That was my first thought upon picking up this book. Still with all the recommendations I have been getting from the good people at Reddit's science fiction books community ("r/Print SF") and other reviews I wanted to give it a go. With a book this long I would end up either rating it one star for wasting so many hours of my time or five stars for entertaining me for those many hours. I think I'll be magnanimous once again and go for the 5 stars option! This is not to say the book does not contain too many calories, or is entirely free of saturated fat. I believe it could have been somewhat thinner, there are superfluous characters and scenes here and there but generally book's length turned out to be one of its strengths. Considering the book's epic scope a 200 pages volume is unimaginable. Also, beside the epic sf plot the book contain elements of several genres of fiction: murder mystery, police procedural, a bit of courtroom drama, espionage, terrorism, fanaticism, a dash of soap opera, a smidgen of romance, and of course the entire kitchen sink.
From my discussions with other sf readers there are a number of detractors who criticized Hamilton for writing two dimensional characters. I feel this is understandable but not entirely justified. There are at least three characters that I care about or find interesting, and one of them is an alien incapable of speech or hearing as it lacks any faculty to handle sound and can only communicate through images, gestures or graphics. For all that he manages to be an endearing, lovable character. That said characterization is clearly not the forte of this author, there are far too many beautiful people walking about, though this is probably due to "cellular profiling" a sort of futuristic cosmetic surgery and other modifications.
Stylistically Hamilton's prose is utilitarian rather than elegant or poetic, but this is seldom a requirement for a space opera. His straight forward style does serve the material very well for propelling the story and communicating scientific details. There is one particular scene that I think is like a virtuoso sequence, a scene where a human being is described from an alien's point of view. While reading this I could suddenly imagine how strange a human being would look to an alien.
Unlike Iain M Banks' Culture books nobody is going to call Pandora's Star a literary work of art he is not a wordsmith in the way that Banks is but I think it is unfair to dismiss his work as simply "big dumb fun adventures" as he has clearly put a lot of thoughts into the world building and intricate plots, I can imagine him plotting complicated graphs to tie the myriad plot strands together.
Unfortunately there is no closure at the end of this book the story continues and concluded in the next book Judas Unchained. Well, at least it's not a trilogy, though subsequent books are set in the same common wealth universe.
This book is phat!
(Actually at 991 pages this is one of Peter F's shorter books!)...more
I am not normally a fan of Arthur C. Clarke, he's brilliant with the science but I personally find his writing style a little too dry. However, ChildhI am not normally a fan of Arthur C. Clarke, he's brilliant with the science but I personally find his writing style a little too dry. However, Childhood's End is very much an exception, it is so uncharacteristic that it makes me wonder what Arthur was smoking when he was writing this book! There is less science in this book than most of his other titles, and it is fast pace, exciting and spectacular from beginning to end. The spaceships hovering over the skies of Earth cities formed a very vivid imagination when I first read this book (decades ago). The idea has since been ripped off by movies and TV shows like Independent Day and V. However, the spaceships are just the beginning, the book develops into something very grand and ends on a truly epic note. Everybody in the universe should reread this wonderful book....more
I love parallel world stories, the idea of a version of our world that is a bit off in some interesting details. West of Eden posits a world similar tI love parallel world stories, the idea of a version of our world that is a bit off in some interesting details. West of Eden posits a world similar to ours but very off! This is an Earth where dinosaurs did not die off but evolved into the dominant intelligent species with their own weird bio-technology. In this world mankind is an up and coming species but still at a very primitive state of development. Clearly the reptiles are going to give our upstart species us a hard time because nobody likes a competitor. This is a fascinating, entertaining and memorable book. You can even pick up some biology factoids from reading it. Well worth anybody's time....more
Ender's Game is one of those rare sf classics that are placed in the top 5 of most "All-time best sf books", I have seen it occupy the pole position i Ender's Game is one of those rare sf classics that are placed in the top 5 of most "All-time best sf books", I have seen it occupy the pole position in a few such lists. Such accolade is not undeserved as Ender's Game is a great book, and one of the best military sf novels ever published, alas military sf has never been my favorite sf sub genre so Speaker for the Dead is much more to my taste. What makes this book very special are the existential and philosophical issues raised by this book. I also love the Pequeninos (piggies) alien species and their highly unusual stages of growth. Their culture is very alien and this leads to a terrible misunderstanding and a couple of tragic human deaths, that said, there are some recognizable human characteristic in their behavior. Characterization has always been a particular strength of Orson Scott Card and this is very much a character-centric book, though the sf element, the sense of wonder and immersion is very strong. The character of Andrew Wiggin (Ender) is very different from the previous novel he has grown up, grown old and attained a lot of wisdom. Some of the alien piggies characters such as Rooter and Human are as vivid as the human ones. For me this book has a lot more emotional resonance than its predecessor as I can identify with some of the problems the characters go through. This book epitomizes all that I look for in a perfect sf novel.
Since Ray Bradbury passed away (about a month ago at the time of writing) it occurred to me to reread his books that I have read before, and read theSince Ray Bradbury passed away (about a month ago at the time of writing) it occurred to me to reread his books that I have read before, and read the others that I have missed. After rereading Something Wicked This Eat Comes last month I thought I'd read Fahrenheit 451 but as it turned out The Reddit SF Book Club chose The Martian Chronicles as book of the month (July 2012) so in order to keep up with the Joneses here we are! How about that for a useless intrro?
This book is a fix-up novel which is something between an anthology and a novel, and it benefits from both of its sibling formats. The stories are interrelated with only a few recurring characters but read together the whole is certainly greater than the sum of its parts. It is also worth noting that while the table of contents look as if there are almost 30 stories in the book, quite a few of these are not really stories in themselves but brief passages that lead to the next story or provide background information to move the major story arc of the book forward. In general the book tells the story of the colonization of Mars, which in a sense is a little bit like the reverse of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds in that we invade Mars and they fight back in their quiet ways only to meet the same fate as their counterparts in Wells' book. The major difference is that there is no interplanetary war and it is only the first part of the Chronicles.
I just want to make a few notes on the main stories, the brief interludes are also great but too short my noting purposes.
Ylla (February 1999/2030*) A Martian woman dreams (or have a premonition) of an Earthman's arrival. The actual First Contact does not go well.
The Summer Night (August 1999/2030) Name that tune! suddenly an Earth song becomes a hit on Mars but none of the Martians can name it because they pick it up telepathically. The song's lyrics remind me of Stairway to Heaven a bit.
The Earth Men (August 1999/2030) This one starts off as a comical First Contact story, with the Eathmen not getting the rockstar welcome they expected. It soon becomes rather tragic and ends on a dark melancholy note. Wonderful story.
The Third Expedition (April 2000/2031) A little creepy in a nice sort of way, reminds me a little of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. No point noting specially that it is a great story because they all are in this book.
And the Moon Be Still as Bright (June 2001/2032) Us Earthlings do have a tendency to ruin everything we touch with our inconsiderate and uncouth ways. Love that teeth knocking ending!
The Settlers (August 2001/2032)
most men felt the great illness in them even before the rocket fired into space. And this disease was called The Loneliness, because when you saw your home town dwindle the size of your fist and then lemon-size and then pin-size and vanish in the fire-wake, you felt you had never been born, there was no town, you were nowhere, with space all around, nothing familiar, only other strange men.
I just love this passage, so evocative!
The Green Morning (December 2001/2032) Mirraculous bit of terraforming.
Night Meeting (August 2002/2033) A sort of meeting in The Twilight Zone, feels like a ghost story but is not one. More of a time travelling tale but who is doing the time travelling?
The Musicians (April 2003/2034) Damn kids using Martian bones as xylophones!
Way in the Middle of the Air (June 2003/2034) Wonderful heartfelt story about the Black Americans who have had enough of being lorded over and just want to emigrate to Mars.
Usher II (April 2005/2036) This really does read like a Poe story, or a cross between Fahrenheit 451 and Theatre of Blood (old Vincent Price movie).
The Martian (September 2005/2036) Poor little Martian boy. One of the best stories herein.
The Watchers (November 2005/2036) En masse de-colonization.
The Silent Towns (December 2005/2036) A comical story about the last man in the world and the girl he is almost fated to marry. LOL!
The Long Years (April 2026/2057) I like the robo-family.
There Will Come Soft Rains (August 4, 2026/2057) I am not sure if this story is in the public domain (though I doubt it) but the full text seems to get posted online a lot. The first time I read it was as a standalone and I did not really appreciate it. For me reading this story out of the context of The Martian Chronicles does not quite work because I did not know what led up to the abandonment of the automated house at the centre of the story. Now having read the preceding chapters this story is has stronger impact.
This is Bradbury at his poetic best.
The Million-Year Picnic (October 2026/2057) Nice optimistic ending.
I am useless at deciphering themes but it seems that there is a subtext that we as a species have a nasty tendency to ruin everything, but we are not completely hopeless, if we would only try harder to live in harmony with each other and with nature.
Fantastic from beginning to end, and effortless 5 stars.
Note: * A 1997 edition of the book advances all the dates by 31 years (thus running from 2030 to 2057) (from Wikipedia)...more
This review is for the novel version of Nightwings, which is comprised of three tightly linked novellas.
Robert Silverberg is possibly the most underraThis review is for the novel version of Nightwings, which is comprised of three tightly linked novellas.
Robert Silverberg is possibly the most underrated sf writers of all time considering how long he has been at it and the numerous awards he has won and been nominated for. For some reason he just does not seem to be "in vogue" these days. It is a pity that most of the younger generation of sf readers today have never read anything by him.
What Silverberg does better than almost any sf authors writing today is to write short stand alone novels with very strange plots and excellent characterization. His special talent us to drop the reader right in the middle of a strange place and time of his imagining and gradually acclimatize you through his story telling skills rather than just making an infodump.
Nightwings is set on Earth but in a future so far flung and strange that it may as well be an alien planet. There are many guilds and mutants and genetically modified humans populating the earth which is about to be invaded by rather reasonable aliens! This novel is both post-apocalyptic and dystopian. It all ends rather optimistically with redemption for the flawed but lovable protagonist. It is astonishing how much plot, grandeur, ideas, subtext and characterization Silverberg managed to squeeze into one short novel. This book easily goes to my all time best list!...more
I love good short novels, more than good long ones (nobody likes bad novels at any length). The way I see it the reader gets so much more from each peI love good short novels, more than good long ones (nobody likes bad novels at any length). The way I see it the reader gets so much more from each percentage of the book. For the amount of time put into reading the book it just seems more profitable to me. YMMV of course, long books have their own advantages.
I first read "More Than Human" decades ago, I clearly remember liking it very much. However, thanks to my sieve-like memory I have forgotten practically all the details about the book. I vaguely remembered (somewhat incorrectly) that it has something to do with a mutant with some kind of psychic abilities. I was close, but undeserving of a cigar. The book is basically about *homo-gestalt*, a sort of hive mind with each member performing the role of a body part in a super-body. It is about much more than that of course. The themes include the importance of morality (or ethics), accountability, and compassion.
Sturgeon's prose is poetic, his style is more akin to Ray Bradbury than Asimov. That said, the book is not at all hard to follow, except for a chapter where events kind of move backward, which I found a little puzzling but it is totally clarified later on.
What amazes me is why Theodore Sturgeon is not more popular or well known today, most of his books are out of print. A single paragraph from this book is worth more than the entire Twilight trilogy put together....more
Good short books are profitable reads, therefore great ones are greatly profitable. I am thinking of the time invested in reading the entire book andGood short books are profitable reads, therefore great ones are greatly profitable. I am thinking of the time invested in reading the entire book and the pleasure, inspiration or education gained from them. This book clocks in at 189 pages but Le Guin made every word count.
Like most of Ms. Le Guin's works this is a thought provoking story. What happen when we introduce evil into a hitherto innocent and passive culture? The Athsheans are very vivid creations, the story of their enslavement and exploitation by humans is heartfelt and all too believable. Real life examples of man's inhumanity to man is plentiful, what would we do (or not do) if we encounter a less advanced and weaker alien race? I shudder to think of it. I suspect the movie Avatar is inspired by this book because of the similarities in the main theme. Le Guin's story is much more sophisticated of course.
This is the third Le Guin book I have read this year (2011), the other two being The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia and The Left Hand of Darkness. Of the three The Word for World is Forest is my favorite. A book of this quality at this length ought to be read by everyone.
Note: If you are in the mood for short but great sci-fi novels have a look at this for plenty of suggestions (and do join us at PrintSF for sf books discussions)....more
This book comes highly recommended by Redditors and several "best of sf" lists. However, seeing that Vinge is a scientist I did not expect much from tThis book comes highly recommended by Redditors and several "best of sf" lists. However, seeing that Vinge is a scientist I did not expect much from this book, some cool, believable sf concepts at the most. The book did not start well for me with silly names like "Wickwrackrum" popping up and a confusing first chapter. However, once I begin to follow the book (about 30 pages in) Vinge really surprised me with his talented authorship. He has the ability to create characters worth caring about and rooting for, some of them are not even human (love those Skroderiders). Then there is his wonderful world creation and general sf skills, he is so great at this I wonder if the author has transcended. The Tines are some of the most imaginative aliens I have ever read about, the details of their biology and culture are beautifully worked out; yet Vinge has managed to imbue these creatures with personalities. I haven't even gone into the cosmic plot involving singularity and the god-like Powers yet and I'm not going to because I could spend all day extolling the virtues of this book and never get anything else done.
TL;DR: This is a definite must-read for any connoisseur of quality sf!...more
Since reading this book I have read two more Neal Stephenson novels namely The Diamond Age and Anathem.I'm just updating this review I posted in 2011.
Since reading this book I have read two more Neal Stephenson novels namely The Diamond Age and Anathem. Of the three I think Snow Crash is the most fun book. It is not as deep or thought provoking as the other two (Anathem especially) but the most wildly entertaining. I can still remember the "the greatest pizza delivery scene in world literature" and YT's "harpooning" cars as if I was there.
The experience is like reading about being in VR while being in a sort of VR myself. To me a good book (novels specifically) is like virtual reality, being immersed in a book takes me away from wherever I am. The people or the environment I am in does not register, if I had anything cooking on the stove it would get burned, telephones and door bells go unanswered.
Snow Crash is one such book and I heartily recommend it to anyone who want to take a quick leave of their current reality. ...more
Philip K. Dick is generally very welled loved by the sf readership, nobody writes quite like him. His novels tend to mess with my head andMind blown!
Philip K. Dick is generally very welled loved by the sf readership, nobody writes quite like him. His novels tend to mess with my head and leave me WTF-ing, wondering where I am and what is going on. In a good way of course.
It is difficult for me to choose a Dick favorite, I have never read anything by him that I did not like. Still, if I must choose one I would choose Ubik. The different layers of reality remind me of The Matrix, Inception and Ursula Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. None of them are very similar to this book though, nothing is.
Dick tend to be criticized for poor writing style and characterization, I have no such issues with his work. The prose of Ubik is straight forward which is great for conveying the weirdness of the story, if Dick wrote this book in complex poetic prose it would probably render this book incomprehensible to me. As for the characters, they seem like pretty odd individuals to me, they tend to do and say the most unexpected things, I like that about them.
If you have never read any PKD book before you need to rectify the situation ASAP, Ubik is a great one to start with....more
Robert Heinlein is my favorite of the Big Three of Science Fiction (Assimov/Clarke/Heinlein), simply because I think he tells better stories and is moRobert Heinlein is my favorite of the Big Three of Science Fiction (Assimov/Clarke/Heinlein), simply because I think he tells better stories and is more proficient at creating interesting characters (yes yes, YMMV!).
Stranger in a Strange Land is Heinlein at his best, creative, provocative and controversial. I may not necessarily agree with the ideas and philosophy put forward in this book but I had a blast reading about them. The protagonist Michael Valentine Smith with his weird ideas and psychic powers may be focus that drive the entire novel but his adopted father Jubal Harshaw is the standout character for me, the one that stays with me to this day. I just love the way he pontificates, nobody write pontifications like Heinlein! This is one of those rare sf books that "mainstream" readers deigned to read in droves, most of them probably never understanding its value as sf or gain a lasting appreciation of the genre.
In any case this book needs to be read not because it is a classic, but 'cos it's like far out and groovy man!