But that doesn't really do the story justice. Set in modern-day Kenya in a small village named Gichichi, Tandeleo is the oldest daughter of the village Episcopalian priest. An alien life form called the Chaga has landed on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and transforms the landscape in unthinkable ways. Luckily Gichichi is far from Kilimanjaro and Nairobi, and the people in the village are more concerned with their crops and animals and living their lives. But the Chaga is spreading and will soon reach Gichichi and Tandeleo's family home. What happens next to Tandeleo is a story of fear, adaptation, migration and acceptance.
Kress starts off with a simple premise: what if we could genetically modify our children so that they didn't need sleep? She follows all the complicated, society-changing implications from there. (Hint: there's way more than you'd think!) Honestly, after reading the Hugo-award winning novella, I didn't see how it could continue; I thought she had explored all the moral and societal issues with the Sleepless. How wrong I was! Each book has a new simple premise (or two or three) and explores the outcomes and knock-on effects from various individuals' points of view and the wider-reaching societal complications. The brilliance lies in each book presenting a different commentary on society - following a slightly different cast of characters, through new political, economical and emotional terrain.
Specifically about Beggars Ride: It was a good, satisfying conclusion to the series. Sadly, this is the weakest of the three books, but still holds up. For a book that has a couple of huge events, not much action happens. There is too much thinking and talking about stuff, and not enough doing. In most chapters we're inside a character's head, alone with their thoughts. That's just not very compelling. On the other hand, Kress explores new society-changing questions only touched on in the previous books. In addition, this book was grittier, dirtier with depressing elements and reluctant heroes. Yay for grit and dirt!(less)
Part of my "Finish the series already!" month. _______________________
I really, really loved this book! I don't use love very often with books - partly...morePart of my "Finish the series already!" month. _______________________
I really, really loved this book! I don't use love very often with books - partly because I can't choose a select few to elevate above the others. Mostly I don't say I love a book in a review because who am I to say that you will love it too? But this book? Loved it.
Like Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress focuses on societal development as seen through the eyes of different caste individuals in the United States. I don't want to give away any more details than that, except to say that the time period, time span, and layout of the story are quite different than Beggars in Spain. I half expected something quite different, mostly because Beggars in Spain started as a novella (first third of the book), then expanded to a novel, then expanded to a trilogy. What I didn't expect here is a totally different social commentary, and done so damn well. Right now in the hours after finishing it, I think I enjoyed this more than Beggars in Spain.
This is always the tricky thing with second-in-a-series: when the author chooses to do something so different than the beloved first book, she risks alienating folks that wanted more of the same. Despite the differences in Beggars and Choosers, the reader does get more Sleepless, more social commentary, more mind-blowing ideas of how small changes can effect the core structure and belief system of the country.
At any rate, if you've read and enjoyed Beggars in Spain, make the effort to find a copy of Beggars and Choosers. I don't think you'll be disappointed.(less)
I can't say this enough: I love stories that start with a simple premise (e.g. in Eifelheim aliens crash-land near a small 14th century German village...moreI can't say this enough: I love stories that start with a simple premise (e.g. in Eifelheim aliens crash-land near a small 14th century German village) then follow the characters as they react and interact with the situation.
I'm really wavering between 4 and 5 stars for Eifelheim. Yet another conundrum due to the Quantized GoodReads Ratings. Let's lay out the case for each:
Five Stars: I was really mourning the end of this book because I felt like I was so thoroughly immersed in the 14th century German village. I loved the characters, and even the minor ones had back stories. I wanted to share a mug of beer and natural sciences discussion with Dietrich on Frau Honig's porch and have Theresia blend me some herbs for my headache. I wanted to go to one of Herr Manfred's fetes and dance and laugh with Mannfred, Max, Gregor, Lorentz and Trude.
The aliens were well and truly alien: from their way of speaking, their systems of logic, their mating and their sense of justice. It made for a rich first-contact story.
I found the occasional use of German (and alien-translated German) really natural and entertaining. I spent a year in a German-speaking Kantonschule in Switzerland, so Tom's Germanglish felt amusing and natural. When Flynn literally translated German words into English, it made the Krenken really sound translated and foreign. One example was "to oversit" was used for "to translate", where the German term is Übersetzen.
Final evidence for giving 5-stars is Tom and Judy's modern day historical research fit the 14th century pieces nicely together.
The evidence to drop a star: Sharon and Tom's relationship in the modern-day interludes. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Why are these two together if they have so little respect for the other person and their life's work? I was so excited to read this knowing there was a female theoretical physicist (rock on!), but Sharon was self-centered, shrill and rude. OK, she's brilliant, but I'm shocked someone hasn't smacked her in the face sooner. This cosmologist emphatically does not want to be friends with Sharon.
Also, I was hoping for a little more stitching of Sharon's sci-fi discoveries with the alien race. The sci-fi end of the modern-day pieces felt wildly disconnected to the overall story until the last possible moment.
Since my gripes really are about a fraction of the modern-day pieces, I'm going to give Eifelheim the benefit of Quantized GoodReads Ratings.
Here's what my husband had to say about the book after he picked it up from the university library: "...morePart of my March 2010 Hugo Award winner bonanza.
Here's what my husband had to say about the book after he picked it up from the university library: "It appears to be about monkey-men. Therefore, it appears to be awesome." ______________
There's something to be said for a book that draws you in every time you pick it up. Each time it only took a page before I was fully in the "flow" - ignoring everything around me, forgetting my own life. And there are evolved Neanderthals and parallel universes! Neanderthal technology and Neanderthal cosmology! It's so silly and so much fun.
Even though Hominids is the first book in a trilogy, it is very self-contained, so don't worry that you will be left with tons of loose ends and teasers for the second book. (less)
***STOP*** Axis is the sequel to Spin, the second book in a trilogy. If you haven't read Spin, and want to read it unspoiled in the future, don't even...more***STOP*** Axis is the sequel to Spin, the second book in a trilogy. If you haven't read Spin, and want to read it unspoiled in the future, don't even think about reading my review or any reviews about Axis. Don't ruin your experience of Spin -- it's so, so good on its own.
Otherwise, if you've already read Spin or Axis, or have no intention of reading them, feel free to continue...
The vast differences between Spin and Axis make the sequel hard to digest and hard to rate. It has a different structure, different levels of characterization, a different narrative timescale, and so on. The biggest difference is the action in Axis takes place off-world, in the New World, Equatoria, the distant planet past the Arch. Perhaps Wilson was trying to make an entirely off-Earth book feel different? If so, he succeeded, but to the story's detriment.
Like Spin, the story in Axis is propelled by a single apocalyptic event. However, the vast dust storms blanketing Equatoria just aren't as compelling as the temporal membrane blocking out the stars in Spin. It just isn't a game-changing event for all of humanity. In addition, without a main character like Jason Lawton, we have little scientific discussion or evidence through most of the story.
In effect, Axis reads like much less of a Hard SF book than Spin. Whereas Spin opens up new scientific and sociological questions for the reader, the main question in Axis is just an extension of those posed in Spin. What is the nature of the Hypotheticals, and are they sentient? To me, the answers to these aren't answered in a satisfying way. The story remains in a philosophical, almost mystical realm. Maybe Wilson will continue the discussion in Vortex (as yet unpublished), with the type of scientific and sociological commentary that was so brilliant in Spin.(less)
In a near-future world, where genetic engineering of embryos is as possible as choosing the color and features of your new Prius, scientists create pe...moreIn a near-future world, where genetic engineering of embryos is as possible as choosing the color and features of your new Prius, scientists create people who lack the need (or ability) to sleep - for the right price. The knock-on effect is that these Sleepless are smarter, more emotionally stable, and more rational than us Sleepers.
Around the same time, a brilliant scientist creates a new power source, eliminating the need for fossil fuels or distributed power grids - a cold fusion fuel cell for every home and vehicle! America enters a long era of economic prosperity. However, the Sleepers and Sleepless have problems coexisting peacefully, both socially, economically, and philosophically.
Although it has genetic manipulation and technological advancement at its heart, Beggars in Spain is not just a fun cyber- or bio-punk story. It's more a study of social and philosophical consequences of creating a small group of superior humans. When the Sleepless are shunned and hated even as children, their reactions will set up a chain of events that spans generations.
The story is at its most interesting when Leisha, an original Sleepless child, interacts her twin sister Alice, a Sleeper. Theirs is a complicated sisterhood, full of misunderstanding, regret, jealousy, love, and more. The novel generally lacks a lot of characterization, however Leisha, Alice, and at the end, Miri, are the most fleshed out, dynamic characters and make the story sing.
As enjoyable as I found the epic story, I would warn that if pushing a philosophical agenda turns you off, you might well hate this book. Yagaiism, Kress's version of Rand's Objectivism could be considered to have the starring role, and she pushes the philosophy endlessly. Despite this, there are so many fun concepts and situations to think about long after you put the book down. Seriously, how much fun is that?!(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)
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)
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)
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)