What a fun read! A gripping science fiction romp that will leave you dazed, thinking about the size of the Universe, the effects of world-wide crises,...moreWhat a fun read! A gripping science fiction romp that will leave you dazed, thinking about the size of the Universe, the effects of world-wide crises, and our small place in both of these.
The difficulty is being able to tell you much about the book. Every chapter contains either a huge game-changing twist, an important turn in the characters' story, or both. The twists start happening so early on, that I can't even breathe a word of them, lest I ruin the fun of the surprise.
The best I can do is give you the setup. In a very near future, the Earth is suddenly surrounded by a temporal shield, the Spin, that blocks out light from the stars and moon, replicates the sun and tides, but otherwise leaves the Earth intact. Outside the Spin, the Universe is aging at a rate of 100,000 years to one year back on the Earth. The consequences of this disturbance are complex, both scientifically and sociologically. We follow the story of three characters as their personal stories intersect with those of the Spin and its aftermath for decades after the event.
There is so much cosmology, astronomy, exobiology, sociology, and evolution to keep you thinking and guessing at each turn.
Seriously, I haven't had this much fun being absorbed in a science fiction story since I read Darwin's Radio.
I just wanted to add that Spin is the first in a planned trilogy, the second volume, Axis is already out. The ending sets up the second book, so it might come across as unfulfilling. (less)
Fans of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction who haven't yet read A Canticle for Leibowitz, RUN, find yourself a copy and read it now. It's fascinat...moreFans of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction who haven't yet read A Canticle for Leibowitz, RUN, find yourself a copy and read it now. It's fascinating to read the inspiration and precursor to other great novels in the genre. (Margaret Atwood's speculative fiction really springs to mind.) Really, it should be an imperative to read such a well-crafted epic story.
I'm a wholly inadequate reviewer for Canticle. The central issues of religion vs. society and recurring history feel way beyond me - not to mention that I don't know Latin. I'm not surprised to find out scholars have been picking apart Walter M. Miller's novel for decades.
It's clear that Miller was meant to write this book with his background in WWII and later conversion to Catholicism. I was sad to find out that Canticle was his only novel published during his lifetime. He wrote another novel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman later in his life, but wasn't able to finish it. He asked Terry Bisson to finish the book, and it was published posthumously.
Some other interesting things I want to mention: A Canticle for Leibowitz was received and reviewed in non-science-fiction publications, putting it on par with straight-up literature. I can completely agree with this since it is so well written. The three sections translate to "Let There be Man," "Let There be Light," and "Let Thy Will Be Done."
______________ Part of my March 2010 Hugo Award winner bonanza.(less)
I wish I had read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" in 1988 - I was in high school, totally into TNG and Asimov. It's a pulpy, fun, sci-fi law-an...moreI wish I had read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" in 1988 - I was in high school, totally into TNG and Asimov. It's a pulpy, fun, sci-fi law-and-order-esque romp. Each chapter is like a mini-story with a little twist.
Read this when you want a robot & android filled escape. It would be perfect for a cross-country flight, or staying at home with a cold, or avoiding the family when you're home for Christmas. It's fun, but I wanted more background, more detail, just more. It was over too quick!(less)
I feel a bit guilty giving Dirk Gently #1 only 3 stars. After all, it's wickedly clever and chock-a-block with crazy, colorful, and differentiated cha...moreI feel a bit guilty giving Dirk Gently #1 only 3 stars. After all, it's wickedly clever and chock-a-block with crazy, colorful, and differentiated characters. But I sadly think I just wasn't in the mood for all the absurdist situations and comedy. It was all just a little too random. I'll have to try a re-read when I'm feeling particularly goofily giddy with 1980s British nostalgia.
Just two quotes that struck me: They are not the funniest nor the most famous, just ones I'd like to remember:
"Shapes that we think of as random are in fact the products of complex shifting webs of numbers obeying simple rules. The very word "natural" that we have often taken to mean "unstructured" in fact describes shapes and processes that appear to unfathomably complex that we cannot consciously perceive the simple natural laws at work. They can all be described by numbers."
"The things by which our emotions can be moved—the shape of a flower or a Grecian urn, the way a baby grows, the way the wind brushes across your face, the way clouds move, their shapes, the way light dances on the water, or daffodils flutter in the breeze, the way in which the person you love moves in their head, the way their hair follows that movement, the curve described by the dying fall of the last chord of a piece of music—all these things can be described by the complex flow of numbers. That's not a reduction of it, that's the beauty of it. Ask Newton. Ask Einstein."
Those two quotes pretty much sum up why I felt so compelled to study physics after years of intending to get an art degree.(less)
I love stories where the world is effectively our own, but then one weird, amazing thing happens that turns the world upside down. Contact has this in...moreI love stories where the world is effectively our own, but then one weird, amazing thing happens that turns the world upside down. Contact has this in spades, exploring the political, religious, scientific and personal reactions to an alien signal from outer space. The story doesn't unfold simply or with too many contrivances. And you can be amused at Sagan's inability to predict some technological advances.
I had a tough time rating Contact. On one hand the science, concept and consequences of actions are amazing! On the other hand, the writing can be tedious with too much exposition and background on many characters. Even with the background, the characters mostly feel flat, which is a bummer. It's really the kind of book I'd imagine a high-level science professor to write. And it is!
Read the story to be transported to a world of "what-ifs" and possibilities and wonders of the Universe. Read the story if you really enjoy physics and astronomy.(less)
Thanks to a smart GR friend, I recently found out that Solaris was made into a movie long before the 2002 George Clooney/Soderburgh release. And it wa...moreThanks to a smart GR friend, I recently found out that Solaris was made into a movie long before the 2002 George Clooney/Soderburgh release. And it was in 1972 in the Soviet Union! And it gets great reviews over at IMDB. (What ever did we do without IMDB?) And if World Cat isn't lying to me, it looks like the library one town south of me has a copy! Well, well, well, a project for 2011.
Anyone out there seen it?
(Update! March 7, 2011 - I saw the Tarkovskiy adaptation last night. Check out my mini-movie review in comment 20 below.)
At any rate --- I'm wavering between 3 and 4 stars for this. The star demotion is only a failure on my part. I think I might have read this at the wrong time and place. I should have been fully awake and in a comfy, quiet place where I could contemplate the depth of the concepts.
Solaris is a short book. (My copy has a skosh over 200 pages.) But it covers more than a century of science and exploration on the eponymous planet Solaris. Lem tells the reader about all the history through the lead character Kris Kelvin as he reads books on the science station that hovers above the planet.
More than half of the book is exposition. Lots of heady exposition. I guess it was the only way for Lem to fit such a huge story into such a tiny book?
Oh, but the ideas! The ideas are fabulous! Amazing! I'm always in love with authors who can imagine an alien entity that is really nothing at all like is portrayed in pop culture. Lem does this in spades. All the while, he deftly covers the philosophical and religious implications.
A fair warning: if you're a sci-fi lover who doesn't care for internal struggles and emotions, Solaris most certainly isn't the book for you. There's minimal action. It's a fabulous book of ideas. Just make sure you're in a place to concentrate.(less)
There are things I really, really love about The Algebraist, a detailed space-opera in the extreme. The variety of aliens are fantasmagoric while the...moreThere are things I really, really love about The Algebraist, a detailed space-opera in the extreme. The variety of aliens are fantasmagoric while the spot-on science, and unusual locales excited the astronomer side of my personality. I particularly loved the concept of Slow species vs. Quick species - i.e. species in the galaxy that live on vastly different time scales. I also laughed at a couple of the geeky jokes. When referring to the surprisingly few number of all-out Dweller wars, the number barely reaches the double digits, and that's in base-8! Ha!
After finishing the book earlier today, I'm really left wondering more about the Dwellers - the ancient Slow species that live in/on Gas Giant planets. They are an example of a long-lasting anarchy that appears to function despite their maddening laissez faire culture and self-indulgences. I love that Banks didn't give us definite answers to to the reality behind-the-scenes of the Dweller culture. There were hints at hidden organization/s and benevolent cooperation, and I'm left imagining and wondering what the "truth" was.
Ultimately, though, I found the story too hard to pick up again at each read, and the climax (or was it climaxes?) felt muddied by the changing points of view. (These are probably more a failure of the lowly reader, though.)
The Albegraist is probably best for a fan of Space-Opera romps, complex narratives and/or fans of Banks.(less)
Questioning moral of the story: Is life worth living if it's without some strife?
Slant is not, strictly speaking, the second in a series, but follows...moreQuestioning moral of the story: Is life worth living if it's without some strife?
Slant is not, strictly speaking, the second in a series, but follows the events and several characters from Queen of Angels. Although Slant is a better story than its in-universe predecessor, sadly you need to read QofA to really be able to easily fall into the story. As others have reviewed here, Bear does not explain most of the background information, language and culture of this near-future world. So things like hellcrowning, Emmanuel Goldsmith, Hispanolia, the combs, transforms, history of Jill, etc, will be left mostly to your imagination if you haven't started with QofA.
At any rate, Slant is a fairly tight story in typical Bear fashion. Several (7, 8, or 9?) relatively unconnected threads of story-line are followed in each chapter until they slowly start to intertwine and connect until there is a testosterone-laden cyberpunk confrontation. I quite liked some of the concepts: the lego-like nano-spray, the "thinker" computer, the conservatism/religious reaction to the state of the world, the therapied vs. high-natural castes, and the personal and societal consequences of living a perfectly healthy, therapied life.
Neat stuff, but not so well executed in the overall plot line. There were too many initial story-threads, several of which were given short-shrift. I think he could have accomplished the same story line while stropping or integrating some of the threads. I was also disappointed that the idea of physical transforms, so important to QofA is mostly ignored in Slant. Lastly, the all-out cyber-warfare-porn was just not my cup of tea, and I found myself getting lost amongst the yeasty smells, heat and smoke.
If you're trying out Greg Bear for the first time, give Slant a miss. Go for Darwin's Radio instead.(less)