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
When (unnecessarily) reviewing a book as widely read as To Kill a Mockingbird it is interesting to consider why it is generally considered one of theWhen (unnecessarily) reviewing a book as widely read as To Kill a Mockingbird it is interesting to consider why it is generally considered one of the all-time greats. The prose style is pleasant enough but not extraordinary, the story is fairly simple and straightforward, the characters are quite lively and believable but some lesser-known novels also have those. What this book has in spades that all too few works of fiction is heart. At the risk of sounding “totally gay” I find this book wonderfully charming, heartwarming and compassionate.
The book is a mixture of the "Southern Gothic", and a coming of age "Bildungsroman" story of two kids Scout and Jem. The gothic part features a creepy neighbor who is possibly some kind of flesh eating mutant. This aspect of the story is intermingled with a charming story of day to day childhood in Maycomb, Alabama, then the story takes a dark turn as they gradually become aware of man's inhumanity to man. The weirdo next door become much less interesting under the circumstances.
We often talk about world building in genre books on Goodreads, escapism into alien worlds, fantasy lands and such, what Harper Lee has done here with the setting of Maycomb Alabama is even more remarkable. There is a vividness, a sense of place in this book, that immerses the reader into the story. The narrative is full of warmth, wit and wisdom, the book is brimming with wisdom and quotable lines like:
“There are just some kind of men who—who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”
I love books that touches the emotional core, that make me feel something. Most novels I read are just for entertainment and if I get that I am a happy customer. However, this book puts me into a state of reverie after finishing it, by so doing it has transcended from being just another novel to read until the next one to something to cherished. It is a mystery and a shame that Harper Lee never wrote another novel, but the single book she has written is worth more than most authors’ entire bibliography....more
Whenever new readers of science fiction ask for book recommendations they often include one proviso that the books recommended should not be older thaWhenever new readers of science fiction ask for book recommendations they often include one proviso that the books recommended should not be older than 20 years. This constraint is a crying shame, while there are many great scifi books that written since the 80s, in my estimation the very best scifi of all time were written prior to the 70s, and these books generally stand the test of time. Some readers are put off by old sf books because the science or technology portrayed in these books did not come to pass or just turned out to be plain wrong. I do not think it is the job of science fiction to predict the future, I think the whole point is to speculate about possible futures. For me the "thought experiments" are the real joy of reading science fiction.
Fahrenheit 451 was first published in 1953, how is that for old? Yet the themes it tackles remain relevant today. Even though Bradbury never set out to "predict" future technology, this book is surprisingly prescient in the tech department: portable audio players, enormous flat screen TVs, electronic surveillance, and ATM machines are all mentioned here. That said Bradbury was always been more interested in how technology affect people. It is often said that Fahrenheit 451 is about censorship but the author refuted this when he talked about this book (see Wikipedia entry). He was more interested in how technology, particularly television and radio, can turn people into mindless, self centered individuals.
“I plunk the children in school nine days out of ten. I put up with them when they come home three days a month; it's not bad at all. You heave them into the 'parlour' and turn the switch. It's like washing clothes; stuff laundry in and slam the lid.” Mrs. Bowles tittered. “They'd just as soon kick as kiss me. Thank God, I can kick back! “ The women showed their tongues, laughing.
That little quote sums the theme up nicely. I doubt Bradbury in his 90s was at all happy about the prevalence of reality TV shows and Facebook. As for censorship I would say it is one of the themes but not the overriding one by any means.
As is the norm for Bradbury the prose style of this book is lyrical without ever being inaccessible, with that wonderfully unique Bradbury rhythm, it seems to be more metaphor-laden than his other works that I have read though. The characters do not seem to be as vivid as those found in Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Martian Chronicles. The protagonist Guy Montag is sympathetic but he seems to be somewhat aloof to me. More interesting is Captain Beatty, the main antagonist (if I can call him that), considering his anti-books stance he is very well read, intelligent, and enigmatic. He reminds me of the smooth talking villains of the other well known dystopian books, O'Brien from 1984 and Mustapha Mond from Brave New World. The major difference is Beatty is not really a bad guy.
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!
This is the first book of Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle. As I write this review I am in the middle of The Wise Man's Fear, the second book ofThis is the first book of Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle. As I write this review I am in the middle of The Wise Man's Fear, the second book of this series. I just happened to look back at my review for the first book and realized that I never wrote one. The Name of the Wind is Rothfuss' first published novel, since publication it has won legions of fans and became a New York Times Best Seller. Most ardent fantasy readers have probably read it by now. Still, my reviews are for my own reference and if anybody else find them interesting that is always a bonus.
The Name of the Wind has the advantage of simplicity in structure, this is basically a bildungsroman, a sort of David Copperfield - or perhaps Oliver Twist - with magic ( "David Copperfield with magic" is misleading - see what I did there? ;).
The book (and probably the entire series) is the story of Kvoth a young lad whose entire family of travelling performers was killed by mysterious beings, after being orphanized he scrapes a living as a street urchin until he was inspired to join The University to learn magic and perhaps means of avenging his family. He is extraordinarily talented with magic, music, words, and probably basket weaving if he were to dabble in it. The book is nicely structured with a "frame story" featuring the "present day" Kvoth running an inn and telling his story to a chronicler (biographer). Most of the book is written in first-person narrative, except for the "frame story" told in third-person. The major part of the book is the aforementioned bildungsroman about young Kvoth and his experiences.
I believe the huge popularity of this book is due to the author's sheer writing skills. Rothfuss' prose is clear, warm and evocative, it touches on the lyrical from time to time. He takes care in creating and developing his characters, most of them are thoughtfully fleshed out, believable and interesting. He is particularly good with metaphors (I can't quote you any sample, didn't make any notes!). His magic system is very logical with causes and effects taken into consideration, entirely believable within the context of a fantasy novel. The accusation that the protagonist suffers from a severe case Mary Sueism is understandable as he does seem to be good at everything he turns his hand to. In all fairness though he is presented as far from perfect and prone to the usual human foibles like the rest of us, he is often foolish, rash, arrogant and ill mannered. Not all the girls love him and none of the boys want to be him as far as I can tell.
I am not sure whether this is an "epic fantasy" as the scale so far does not seem very epic, I am however sure that this is a vastly entertaining and well written book, well worth your time and expense. I shall now get back to finishing the next volume The Wise Man's Fear....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
The first science fiction book I have ever read was All Flesh Is Grass by Clifford D. Simak. I was so astonished and entertained that I immediately loThe first science fiction book I have ever read was All Flesh Is Grass by Clifford D. Simak. I was so astonished and entertained that I immediately looked for more sf to read and to this day I still prefer reading sf than any other form of fiction. Yes, I should broaden my horizon and read more literary fiction or classics which I do from time to time but I will always favor sf. So I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Simak for helping me find my reading comfort zone. Any way, All Flesh Is Grass is not Simak's best book as I soon found out, Way Station is.
Way Station won Simak a Hugo award in 1964, in a nut shell it is a story of a man who runs a way station for intergalactic FTL traveling network, Earth branch. For his services he does not age while within the station, which is his house completely modified by alien techs. He also gets a lot of alien freebies and gifts from travelers and as much alien technology, info and knowhow as he can manage to comprehend, not to mention a virtual alien safari for target practice. What's not to like eh? The downside is that his neighbors think he is weird and outrageously immortal but they don't inform the media or the authorities because they don't want the press, the military etc. disturbing their idyllic rural lives.
This is a reread for me, I reread very few books, there are just too many books in the world that I have not read. Fortunately (or not) I have a memory like a sieve so rereads are generally more than worthwhile. Coming back to this book I was skeptical about Simak's FTL travel idea. Basically the travelers teleport from one planet to another via stations. What then - I thought - is the point of of having way stations? Why not just teleport directly to your destination? Simak dealt with this issue nicely, there are areas of high ionization that distort and disrupt the travelling pattern. There is still a flaw in the idea though, travelers are duplicated from the point of departure to the point of arrival leaving a corpse behind. They don't simply dematerialize and rematerialize. So the tech is more like cloning than transportation and the travelers are actually committing suicide! I would not want to travel like that, to hell with my clone, he can't have my life! Unfortunately Simak did not deal with this issue.
But I digress, the story is more concerned with loyalty to the human race, mankind's tendency to make wars, a brotherhood of man (and aliens), and what it means to be human (always a good theme). Simak was not a sophisticated wordsmith like Jack Vance or Gene Wolfe, he writes fairly simplistic prose, not inarticulate, just without much in the way of verbal flourishes. I believe he was well aware of this and used the simplicity of his prose to maximum effect. The strength of his prose lies in its clarity and visual quality, so reading his stories you never have to reach for a dictionary and it is easy to picture the scenes he is describing no matter how otherworldly. Another constant feature of his works is his compassion, warmth and optimism. His characters are rarely prone to violence and while recognizing how flawed the human race is he was still optimistic that our over all goodness will pull us through.
Way Station is fast paced without actually being action packed. A lot of the technology is outdated, Simak was never a hard sf writer, he was no Arthur C. Clarke. Also, neologism was not his bag, for example the alien communication machine is simply called "message machine", and his mention of "the thaumaturgists from Alphard XXII" made me snigger a bit (sorry Cliff). At the end of the day though you have to indulge Simak a little given that he wrote this in the 60s. If you are fans of modern sf by the likes of Iain M. Banks, Alastair Reynolds and Neal Stephenson the simple fares that Simak has to offer may not be for you, but if you are in the mood for a simple, uncomplicated, pastoral science fiction reading Way Station may be just the ticket. Also highly recommended for young readers and new sf readers.
You don’t have to be crazy to read this book but it helps.
Nah, I jest. The basic idea of this book is not hard to understand but it is a springboard tYou don’t have to be crazy to read this book but it helps.
Nah, I jest. The basic idea of this book is not hard to understand but it is a springboard to an extraordinary level of weirdness. The book is set in two cities that occupy the same geographical space. Imagine two cities existing side by side and then whisk them so that they are all jumbled up. That is one way of looking at the setting. The citizens of Besel* and Ul Qoma are not permitted to interact with the citizens, objects, or ground space of the other city. They are not even allowed to sense them except to avoid collision. Of course actual seeing and hearing cannot be helped but they have to “unsee”, “unhear”, “unsmell” etc., a kind of mandatory constant denial.
The main story is basically a murder mystery where a body of a “Jane Doe” is found and it is the job of a police detective to find her killer. It turns out that both cities are involved and maybe even a third secret city also occupying the same location. The world of The City & The City is actually Earth apparently in the present day with references to the internet, MS Windows and Tom Hanks movies to vaguely indicate the time period. The two city-states are located in what appears to be Eastern Europe.
Usually I try to avoid reading a book’s synopsis before I start reading it. I enjoy discovering the plot, the setting and characters as I read, but as far as The City & The City is concerned this may not be such a good idea, Miéville does not start the narrative with any kind of exposition to set the scene. The readers are pretty much left to immediately fend for themselves from the first page. This is not really a problem if you already have a little prior knowledge of the very odd setting from a summary.
Reading this book is not a walk in the park, China Miéville made an effort to create such a bizarre world and culture for you to explore and some exertion is expected from the reader. As can be expected of any China Miéville book the writing is excellent, the characters are interesting (though take a little getting used to) and a little dry humour is scattered in several places. The climax is mind bendingly imaginative and the ending is rather poignant.
The City & The City defies simple categorization though “speculative fiction” is the most suitable as it is a very broad term that encompasses both science fiction and fantasy, and anything else that falls in between (maybe the fiction & the fiction?). This review is of a reread and it made me realize that the major disadvantage of rereading a whodunit is that I already know who did it as soon as the character’s name is mentioned in the book, fortunately the why of it in this case is fairly complicated and has to be rediscovered. More importantly The City & The City has much more to offer than a conventional crime fiction novel. This is not a breezy read but it is a book that I would like to recommend to everybody; give the ol’ little grey cells are nice workout, and while it is challenging it is not overly formidable and certainly an enriching experience for the mind.
*The name of the Besel city seems to be spelled differently in some editions. ________________________________ Note: I just realised that I have to do some "unseeing" all the time when I am typing on my English/Thai keyboard:
When I am typing in one language I have to "unsee" the alphabets of the other language. It is very disorienting when I switch from typing in one language to another. Living in either Besel or Ul Qoma would quickly drive me insane....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
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
I didn't expect to like this book all that much, it seems to be too easy to read for its own good. I usually like to struggle a little bit to come toI didn't expect to like this book all that much, it seems to be too easy to read for its own good. I usually like to struggle a little bit to come to terms with a book so that I feel like a solid relationship has been formed. Books which are easy to read from page one where no effort is needed to understand the settings or the characters tend to be quickly forgettable. Fortunately not the case with this book. The protagonist (Arlen) becomes more complex and interesting as the books goes on. The "magic system" is not wildly original but quite interestingly employed. What is perhaps missing is an intimidating main nemesis (Boss Monster in games term) though not having a Dark Lord is a nice change. The book is not free of fantasy tropes and cliches though. A scene near the end even reminds me of the movie Braveheart. Still, at the end of the day this is a very entertaining and often gripping fantasy novel. I have already bought book #2 "The Desert Spear"....more
Wow! that book flew by! Very immersive book with lots of cool tech, a sense of wonder, and a sense of humor (though some of the jokes fall flat for meWow! that book flew by! Very immersive book with lots of cool tech, a sense of wonder, and a sense of humor (though some of the jokes fall flat for me). This is not a "comedy sf" book however, there is some pathos, sentimentality and romance also. Initially I though it was going to be a Starship Trooper ripoff, but it is much more than that (also reminds me of Ender's Game a little too). The best thing about this book for me is how ideas pile upon ideas and the main protagonist is worth rooting for (not a Mary Sue).
Edit Sept 24, 2013: Some books mature like fine wine and get better with rereads, a few become less likeable in retrospect. This is one of those few. There are some laughs in this book but the glaring juvenile humour just weakens the book. So a reduction of one star seems appropriate, I'd still recommend it as a good read though....more
Oh Jabber! what a pugnacious book! (Sorry, a little in-joke for those who have already read this book.)
I normally prefer to read books that are aroundOh Jabber! what a pugnacious book! (Sorry, a little in-joke for those who have already read this book.)
I normally prefer to read books that are around 400 pages long or shorter because I am too impatient to slog through long books. However, I do make the add exceptions for books that really interest me. The thing with long books for me is that they must be *immersive* because once I am immersed in the story the length of the book become irrelevant. Delving back into the book feels like coming home.
Such is the case with this book, it is very imaginative and the world the author created is quite vivid and amazing. Skipping the synopsis entirely (as is my wont) I would describe this book as part steampunk, part fantasy, part sf and all rather wonderful. My only complaint is the abrupt ending and what happened (or failed to happen) to two favorite characters (one male, one female, neither are human).
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
First sf book I ever read, stumbled upon it in the local library, got me totally hooked on the genre. Great sf starting point for any young reader (noFirst sf book I ever read, stumbled upon it in the local library, got me totally hooked on the genre. Great sf starting point for any young reader (not actually YA). A little bit like Stephen King's Under The Dome but without the violence. Simak's compassion shines through in all his stories....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
Hyperion gets a lot of love but I seldom see any mention of this amazing book. It is very different from Hyperion but that is not unusual for SimmonsHyperion gets a lot of love but I seldom see any mention of this amazing book. It is very different from Hyperion but that is not unusual for Simmons as he is a very versatile writer. Carrion Comfort is sf/horror of the highest calibre, something Stephen King may write when he is on top form (but with better prose). This book is about people with mind control abilities of different strengths. A lot of riveting plot is generated from this simple premise. I won't go onto any details, I'll just recommend that you do not miss this book even if you don't normally read horror....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
A few months ago I posted a question on Reddit's Print SF forum about three free e-books that I was interested in reading. Accelerando by Charles StroA few months ago I posted a question on Reddit's Print SF forum about three free e-books that I was interested in reading. Accelerando by Charles Stross, Blindsight by Peter Watts and this one, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. I received quite a few replies which are generally very helpful. Since then I have read Blindsight which I found difficult but very clever, attempted to read (but failed to finish) Accelerando which I could not get along with, and now Little Brother which I like best of the three. However, there were some suggestions that I should avoid Little Brother like the plague (there were some positive comments also). This I duly did until I saw Neil Gaiman’s rave review of this book. I like Gaiman’s books a lot so I want to read this, especially at this price tag.
This book seems to be more of a YA techno thriller than sf, the technology seems to be already in existence, although for all I know some aspects may have been imagined by Doctorow. Any way, apart from the fascinating tech the book also has a lot of heart and a plenty to say about liberty and freedom. I would not hesitate to recommend this book....more
Robert Silverberg is one of science fiction all time greats, there is no doubt about that in my mind. He belongs up there with Asimov, Clarke, HeinleiRobert Silverberg is one of science fiction all time greats, there is no doubt about that in my mind. He belongs up there with Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein etc. If you have never heard of him it would be because he is the most criminally underrated sf authors ever. I have said virtually the same thing in my previous review of his book Nightwings, and I will probably be saying the same damn thing again next time I review one of his books simply because it bears repeating.
Among long time avid sf readers Silverberg is in fact quite well known and Dying Inside is often regarded as one of his very best books. I just reread it today for discussion at Reddit SF Book Club where it is the selected title for October 2012.
"He who peeps through a hole may see what will vex him."
This old proverb is quoted a couple of times in the book and sums up the basic plot about the life of David Selig, the protagonist of the book, quite well. David Selig is a telepath who is slowly losing his telepathic powers. He regards his telepathic gift/curse as a separate entity residing within himself, the gradual loss of this power is like a part of him is dying inside. Dying Inside puts the reader inside Selig's head much like his probing into other's people's mind. Silverberg puts in a lot of attention to details of a telepath's life, and reading this book is a visceral experience.
I used to imagine having telepathic power is bound to be a lot of fun and come in very handy. This novel shows how it can lead to a very miserable existence depending on the personality and outlook of the person with the power. Selig feels guilty about using his power to spy on other people but is addicted to doing it.This results in a severely conflicted individual, and the deterioration of his power only compounds his misery. In contrast his friend Nyquist who has the same ability is well adjusted and is having a whale of a time using it. While the general tone of the book tend to be rather melancholy there are humorous comments and witticisms scattered trough out the book which saves it from being too leaden. Selig's attempt at jive style Greek tragedy is particularly hilarious.
What makes Silverberg special among sf authors is his prose style, it is eloquent and lyrical yet it is not like the style of other lyrical sf authors such as Ray Bradbury, Jack Vance or Gene Wolfe. Silverberg has his own unique voice which can veer from elegant to hip and sarcastic as the narrative demands. The novel has a non linear timeline but it is easy to follow even without any indication of the date at the beginning of each chapter due to the clarity of his narrative. Unlike Silverberg's other sf novels there is no mind blowing sci-fi technology in this book, no aliens, space travel, no world building to speak of etc. The setting is "contemporary America" in the 60s/70s and there is no climax in the conventional sense. I believe this book is essentially about how people relate to each other, especially those who are (or should be) near and dear to us. The end result is one of the most beautiful, exquisitely written sf novels I have ever read. ...more
David Gemmell is a legend (much like the title of one of his books). I know GRRM, Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson are all the rage but Gemmell is a giaDavid Gemmell is a legend (much like the title of one of his books). I know GRRM, Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson are all the rage but Gemmell is a giant among men. His books are always action packed, intelligent and passionate, extra points also for them generally of being of medium lengths (300-600 pages). I love every one of his books that I have read but for the purpose of constructing my top 20 goodreads shelf I choose Lion of Macedon as being representative of his greatness.
Lion of Macedon is based on Greek mythology with Parmenion being the main protagonist, his development from a lowly half-Spartan into "The Death of Nations". The story is full of magic, strategies and tragedy, the complete story spans just two books, this one and the sequel Dark Prince, which features a semi-possessed Alexander the Great. There is no question of reading just the first volume and abandoning the rest of the story, I can not imagine anybody wanting to do that....more
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