I find Charles Palliser difficult to review because his work is layered, nuanced, and thoughtful. It's also entertaining, so do I go with a scholarly,...moreI find Charles Palliser difficult to review because his work is layered, nuanced, and thoughtful. It's also entertaining, so do I go with a scholarly, analytic approach, or do I discuss what a fun read it was?
For the executives in the room, if you liked The Quincunx, you'll like this one. Same era, same vibe, same sense of looming peril.
If you haven't read Palliser, what you get is a story that immerses you in the world of Victorian England, with all the savagery of class and the crushing realities of economics that this implies. Our protagonist, Richard Shenstone, has been "rusticated", which means "thrown out of school" (Cambridge) and "sent back to the country". (It also implies "sent back down to the lower classes and denied the education that would pull you out of poverty" -- a subtlety that's one of the reasons I like Palliser so much).
Anyway, the book opens with Richard returning home to his Mother and Sister who are living in a dilapidated, moldering mansion perched on the edge of the marsh. Immediately, things are suspicious -- his Mother mistakenly calls him "Willy", there are increasingly suspicious circumstances surrounding his Father's death, and his Sister is playing some kind of game.
But what makes this story so wonderful is that Richard is no saint himself and not the most reliable of narrators. The circumstances of his rustication emerge slowly, along with the plot. And Richard makes decisions that are clearly less than wise. Mother mistrusts Son, Son mistrusts Sister, Village mistrusts family. And in this midst of all this is, of course, a murder that has to do with inheritance of great wealth.
The Quincunx is one of may favorite books of all time. It's one that I remember a decade later and how many books can you say that about? But it's also big and complex and daunting. If you're looking to give Palliser a try, then you can't go wrong with Rusticated.(less)
A lukewarm conclusion to Hugh Howey's excellent Wool series. The doings in Silo 1 continue to unfold as Donny's deception is uncovered and Charlotte b...moreA lukewarm conclusion to Hugh Howey's excellent Wool series. The doings in Silo 1 continue to unfold as Donny's deception is uncovered and Charlotte begins to take matters into her own hands. In Silos 17 and 18, religious zealotry and fear of the unknown begin to hamper Juliette's plan to save everyone. And both plotlines come together at the end with one last surprise.
I feel like this was less a labor of love and more likely a "labor" simply to complete the story. It felt somewhat mechanical, less inspired than its predecessors. But I've felt that way since we left the "Wool" series.
Overall, the entire series was a magnificent achievement. Sincere congratulations and appreciation to Mr. Howey for creating such a compelling world. If he chooses to write more about what's next, I'll be there to read it.(less)
A thought-provoking story that stays with me even though it's been a couple of weeks since I read it.
Dave Eggers has delivered a modern take on 1984 b...moreA thought-provoking story that stays with me even though it's been a couple of weeks since I read it.
Dave Eggers has delivered a modern take on 1984 by describing a world dominated by social media and one near-monopoly, The Circle. Think Google + Facebook + Amazon + Apple (but mostly Google). Everything the Circle delivers touches and tracks the lives of citizens at so many points, that they know *everything* about you. That they're hungry for more is not surprising. What was most compelling to me is that most of the population willingly submitted to such scrutiny.
Enter Mae Holland, new employee at The Circle. Thrilled to be there and awed by the opportunity to work at the world's most prestigious company, Mae throws herself into her new job at Customer Support (renamed Customer Experience) where her performance is tracked in real time. If she doesn't get a perfect score, she's encouraged to follow up to find out why. First danger sign.
Eventually, things start going wrong in weird ways. For example, one of her co-workers is very upset that Mae didn't event RSVP (much less show up) at an event for Fans of Portugal. How could she not have known about it? It's in the company social media feeds. And of course she's a Fan of Portugal -- she posted pictures years ago that were geo-tagged to Portugal, so she must be a fan, right? Danger sign number two.
Soon Mae is staying up all night working on her PartiRank (participation rank) by "liking" things and commenting on things and signing petitions and "smiling" at this and "frowning" at that...
I won't spoil the story, because it unfolds so nicely. The Circle invades more and more of Mae's life to the point where every single minute is watched in real time by tens of thousands of people. And in true Orwellian fashion, the Circle begins to espouse its unwavering belief that personal information wants to be free, must be free by expressing three twisted tenets:
"Secrets are Lies" "Sharing is Caring" "Privacy is Theft"
In the end Mae falls deeper and deeper into the extreme-extrovertist culture of the Circle despite several attempts by (former) friends to save her. And the leaders of the Circle begin to talk about "completion". What does that mean? How will it all end? You need to read the book to find out.
I really did enjoy this story. There were several parts where I felt the execution was somewhat uneven, but the strength of the plot pulled me through swiftly. And, more importantly, the story left me thinking hard about all the digital bread crumbs and personal clues I leave behind in my daily life. (And, no, the irony of posting this review to goodreads.com is not lost on me.) And should we be more worried than we are? I think this is a book I'm going to give for Christmas to some key folks.(less)
Picked this up for free in the Kindle Lending Library. I'm a sucker for "aliens-come-to-Earth-with-presents" kind of story.
This one was...OK. The alie...morePicked this up for free in the Kindle Lending Library. I'm a sucker for "aliens-come-to-Earth-with-presents" kind of story.
This one was...OK. The aliens bond with you to make you superhuman -- smart, fast, etc. And they let you control a bunch of nanites that let you build cook stuff. Of course, they say, we're giving you all this stuff because there are bad guys coming and you really need to pay it forward by finding someone else to help. Let's build a ship...
The drama comes with over-the-top bad guys from the US Government are seriously cheesed off that a) a civilian got control of cool parts of the technology and b) they can't use the technology to project American power around the globe (screw the altruistic motives of these simpering feel-good aliens!!!).
And so a battle ensues.
For my money (and there wasn't any), I give this story an A for imagination and a C for execution. And the C isn't an indictment of talent -- I just think the novel could have used more polish and refinement.(less)
Always wonderful. If you've read the first few (start with Quarter Share if you haven't), you'll know what I'm talking about. This time, Ishmael is th...moreAlways wonderful. If you've read the first few (start with Quarter Share if you haven't), you'll know what I'm talking about. This time, Ishmael is the captain of the fleet's worst ship. Can he turn it around? Do you have to ask?
Still, there's some sadness in this one as Ishmael is older and has made some life choices that he must deal with.
Nathan Lowell always leaves me wanting more of this series. I'll be sad when it finally ends.(less)
More from the former Syndics and Jack Campbell. While the first Lost Stars book dealt with the reality of seizing power, this one focuses primarily on...moreMore from the former Syndics and Jack Campbell. While the first Lost Stars book dealt with the reality of seizing power, this one focuses primarily on the keeping of power. How to defend your system with no ships and no sailors? How to deal with neighboring systems that are beginning to think for themselves? If you're a fan of the series, you won't be disappointed with this one.(less)
In my opinion, this is Alexander McCall Smith's best series. I'm torn. I keep hoping Bertie will grow up and free himself from the terrible clutches o...moreIn my opinion, this is Alexander McCall Smith's best series. I'm torn. I keep hoping Bertie will grow up and free himself from the terrible clutches of his mother. And I keep hoping he never will because the stories are so good. I honestly don't know how Matthew and Elspeth have managed to get married and have triplets and Angus and Domenica have managed to get married and have a honeymoon ALL while Bertie is still six. Something strange is going on here...(less)
Another candidate for my "Best Books of 2013" list.
Markus Sakey introduces us to a world where some people have abilities that, while not super-natura...moreAnother candidate for my "Best Books of 2013" list.
Markus Sakey introduces us to a world where some people have abilities that, while not super-natural, definitely give them certain advantages. A man who can see patterns in the stock market, so he amasses a fortune. A woman who can step to where people aren't looking. And our protagonist - a man who can tell what people are thinking or planning by reading their body language.
There is, of course, great tension between these gifted folk (called "abnorms") and the rest of the population. So much so that a new government agency has been created to ... "control" the threat. But of course, it's not that simple.
This is a thriller with a great science-fiction bent. And one that, I hope, will usher in a number of sequels.(less)
Max Barry gets very high marks from me for his novel Lexicon. It's a great idea first of all -- that there exists N types of personalities and, for ea...moreMax Barry gets very high marks from me for his novel Lexicon. It's a great idea first of all -- that there exists N types of personalities and, for each of these, there exist words that will allow a trained person (a "poet") to exert his or her will over another by using these words.
Emily's a homeless street hustler who may have the talent to be a poet, but her disregard for the rules lands here in Australia, where she discovers a "bareword" -- an artifact that exerts power over all who see it. Naturally, it's coveted by others...
This story is well told. It's well structured and it's well written. And I love the moral ambiguity of the various roles -- some people what are good become bad and some who are bad become good. Others change more than once. In fact, there's only one character who's bad the entire time.
Definitely a candidate for my "Best Books of 2013" list.(less)
Timothy Zahn's Blackcollar series continues with the rebellion growing. Oh, it's still a quiet rebellion -- the Ryquil still rule the Terran Federatio...moreTimothy Zahn's Blackcollar series continues with the rebellion growing. Oh, it's still a quiet rebellion -- the Ryquil still rule the Terran Federation served by their "loyalty-conditioned" human puppets while the rest of the human population has settled into quiet acceptance of their fate. Everyone except the Blackcollars. Caine, the newest recruit, leads his first mission -- back to Earth to search for the formula to Backlash - the drug that gave the original Blackcollars their fearsome speed, strength, and reflexes.
And, of course, our old nemesis, Prefect Galway is there to try and stop them.
Of the three Blackcollar books, I think this one's the slowest, which isn't a serious criticism considering the pace of the books. Suffice it to say you'll get your share of guerilla tactics, plot twists, and old military bases (another of Zahn's favorite themes).(less)
As a huge fan of Timothy Zahn, I find myself in a phase where I've become immersed in his writing. My latest is the Blackcollar series, in which Earth...moreAs a huge fan of Timothy Zahn, I find myself in a phase where I've become immersed in his writing. My latest is the Blackcollar series, in which Earth and its colony systems have been conquered by the Ryquil. Now, 30 years later, a handful of skilled, superfast human warriors (the Blackcollars) throw off their feigned acquiescence and begin the rebellion. It's a layered plot, with secrets and twists. It's a bit like Spy vs. Spy, only the good guys wear black.
This is one of Zahn's earliest works and you can see a) the themes that would define his best works emerging and b) how much he's grown as a writer when you compare this with his later works. Make no mistake -- this is a great story. It espouses one of my favorite (though too rarely used) literary devices -- the honorable adversary. I'm not talking about the Ryquil here -- they're the "foe who must be killed". I'm talking about Prefect Galway, a tactician almost as brilliant as Blackcollar Damon Lathe and who, but for his "loyaty conditioning" would be a worthy ally. In some ways, he's Moriarty to Lathe's Holmes.
This excellent dynamic (again, too rarely used) makes the story tense and really fun. (less)
Timothy Zahn ends the Quadrail series with a taut, well-delivered story that really picks up the pace of the series. In fact, Books 4 and 5 should rea...moreTimothy Zahn ends the Quadrail series with a taut, well-delivered story that really picks up the pace of the series. In fact, Books 4 and 5 should really be read back to back as they comprise a single story line with a meaningful plot twist. (Books 1-3 can be read separately.)
I'm not going to review the plot because, by now, you're either a fan of this series or you're not. In either case, what I say matters little.
Only two thoughts to close with:
1. This series continued to enhance my appreciation of Zahn as one of my favorite storytellers. True, he has a specific niche (tactical, star-spanning, battle theater (though Quadrail has a noir flavor to it)), which makes him, IMO, slightly less diverse than another of my favorites, Robert Silverberg, but no less enjoyable. I think their most famous works are on a par. In fact, I enjoyed this series so much, I set off into another of Zahn's works, the Blackcollar series.
2. It's been a long time since I ended a series really, really sad to see the characters disappear from my life. I almost gave this five stars for that alone. Please give us more Quadrail, Mr. Zahn.(less)
I just really like these books. There's something about train travel through the stars that's just so damn appealing.
However, in The Domino Pattern, T...moreI just really like these books. There's something about train travel through the stars that's just so damn appealing.
However, in The Domino Pattern, Timothy Zahn takes the story line to the next level. Yes, again, we're on a train searching for the Modhri. This time, it's a **six-week**, non-stop all the way across the galaxy to a Fillealian station, when the murders start. Ostensibly unconnected to the Modhri, Frank Compton must figure out who's doing the killing and why. In the end, (no spoilers), he learns two secrets that really change the nature of this series and take it to the next level. The first three books felt like preparation for this one and its successor Judgment at Proteus, which I launched into after closing the last page of this one.(less)
The Last Policeman is a brilliant story, marvelously executed. If you're pressed for time, just take my word for it and go read it. Oh, and it won an...moreThe Last Policeman is a brilliant story, marvelously executed. If you're pressed for time, just take my word for it and go read it. Oh, and it won an Edgar. In fact, I think you'll enjoy the story more if you DON'T know what it's about.
But, if you'd like a bit more, here goes.
The story itself is riveting. Henry Palace is a newly-minted police detective investigating the case of a man who apparently hanged himself in the bathroom of a McDonald's. He thinks it's murder, but nobody else can be bothered to look more deeply because there's this little matter of the world ending in seven months.
Ben H. Winters has layered several stories together masterfully. There's the macro story of a 6.5 km asteroid scheduled to hit Earth on October 3 and it's generally considered that it will be a extinction-level event. Then there's the medium story of how society breaks down in the context of impending destruction. Some hoard and hole up; others drop everything and go party until the end; an increasing number just kill themselves. Which makes the micro-story of Henry's investigation of the apparent suicide so rich with tension. Henry is young, dogged, by-the-book. He's like a man-sized puppy with a gun. Nobody takes him seriously, particularly when it's so obviously a suicide. It reminds me a bit of Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce novels -- neophyte investigator that nobody takes seriously. (But obviously should.) All three story lines weave together beautifully, making this a book you will not want to put down.
The challenge with reading this book is that it's so dark. There's such a rich aura of despair and impending doom that it's hard to know which storyline to care more about.
I enjoyed this book so much that I went right out and bought the sequel, Countdown City. I don't think I'm giving too much away by pointing out that this is a trilogy. I don't see an ETA for the third novel, but I'll be watching for it.(less)
More of the story from Ben. H. Winters. Again, I don't think I'm giving too much away by saying that the first book was March and this one is July. Th...moreMore of the story from Ben. H. Winters. Again, I don't think I'm giving too much away by saying that the first book was March and this one is July. The asteroid is four months closer and Henry Palace has another case to solve. This time, it's a missing persons case. Again, no shortage of those. But it's complicated by the further breakdown of society. Well, that and the fact that Henry's no longer officially a policeman. The military has taken over, so all Henry can rely on are his wits, his bicycle, and his Bichon Frise.(less)
I liked the concept -- red liquid suddenly begins to rain out of a clear sky. Six hours later, every animal begins to die. Except for Emily Baxter. Sh...moreI liked the concept -- red liquid suddenly begins to rain out of a clear sky. Six hours later, every animal begins to die. Except for Emily Baxter. She's left alone in New York City and has to make sense of this apocalypse.
While I liked the concept, I loathed the execution. If you're going to have a novel that relies solely on a single character for 90% of the book, please make it a competent, sympathetic character. Unfortunately, Emily Baxter is neither (in my opinion). For example, every time (and I mean EVERY TIME) she's in danger she a) falls down, b) hurts herself, c) drops whatever it was she was carrying, and d) has to feel around (usually in the dark) to find it while the monsters come closer and closer. OK, I know the author did this to increase dramatic tension, but, dude, come on. After the third one of these, I was honestly rooting for the monsters.
And let's not ignore that Emily spends lots of time planning out her escape from New York in idiotic detail. Clean underpants? Really? Even though it took me 24 hours to read, this book could have been, should have been much shorter.
Why, you ask, did I finish the book?
Because I enjoy strong, female protagonists and I could see this story being really good if Emily eventually grows into a total badass, like Sarah Connor or Ripley (from Alien). But, by the end of the book, there's no sign of this happening. Emily is forced by events to flee New York City, but she has retained her tendency to weep and throw up and fall unconscious because she just can't take it anymore. At least there's no more ice cream for her to eat while soaking in the bathtub (I'm not kidding.) I wanted to smack her.
So, while book #2 is apparently available, I'll be reading something else.(less)
This is not a complex book. In many ways, it reminded me of Nathan Lowell's Solar Clipper series, but with a grittier, more real...moreCouldn't put it down.
This is not a complex book. In many ways, it reminded me of Nathan Lowell's Solar Clipper series, but with a grittier, more realistic tone. It also made me think somewhat of Ender's Game, though I know I risk burdening the book with high expectations from such praise.
It is the "future". Humans have colonized dozens of worlds, but Earth is massively overpopulated. Andrew Grayson is a young man living in public housing on subsidized meals. There's no escape other than the military, so he joins.
And that's the plot, essentially. This is the story of Grayson's life in Basic, the Territorial Army, the hospital, and eventually, the Navy.
But it's so much more than that. This story was so well told that I couldn't gobble it up fast enough. It's eminently readable, it has engaging, realistic characters, and it's got enough promise that I can see myself staying with this author for the entire series. My only (very minor) criticism is that it could do with a real villain. We had a brief taste with Major Unwerth (Dickensian naming, anyone?), but he was overcome before he could become too much of a problem. And, of course, we have what happens at the end.
Part of this books appeal to me was that Grayson is a powerless cog in a great machine -- a picture painted so well that I have to believe Marko Kloos has lived it himself. I hope and expect that Grayson will grow and be able to exert more influence over his world in the next installments of this excellent series.(less)
So what was it about? Well, at its heart, it's a love story and a mystery, but with plot devices that are profoundly...odd.
Ben Mendelssohn loves his wife Marian. And when she dies tragically, suddenly, and, as it turns out, comically, his life utterly ends. He goes dark for a year, re-emerges to throw a party for what would have been his late wife's 40th birthday, and, at the end of the party, blows his head off with a gun.
Lest you think I've spoiled the story, oh no -- that's just the first chapter.
You see, there is life after death. Ben was convinced of this, so he kills himself to go find his wife and spend eternity with her. Only, she's missing. Everyone who's ever lived is housed in the afterlife, but he can't find his wife.
The story is ostensibly his search for her that takes twist after turn. It is quite skillfully told, but takes some patience on the part of the reader. You'll be reading along and there will be a chapter that seems to have NOTHING to do with the story. Patience. It will all become clear at the end.
But this book is really all about endings and beginnings. Ben is an "epilogist", meaning he writes writers out of impossible plot situations. In essence, he's trying to write the ending to his own life, but finding it's not really that simple. And, like a well-written piece of music, the ultimate ending to this book is just right.(less)
I discovered author Tom Holt on a trip to the UK several years back and am now seeing his books on this side of the pond. Mr. Holt is the latest purve...moreI discovered author Tom Holt on a trip to the UK several years back and am now seeing his books on this side of the pond. Mr. Holt is the latest purveyor of what I would describe as "British Absurdism". While he's often described as a comedic writer, he dials it up to 11, much in the same way that Douglas Adams or Monty Python do. And his stories always have a bit of the supernatural or other-worldly to them. They're still great fun, though.
In Doughnut, Holt gives us the sad tale of Theo Bernstein, who, among other things, lost the fortune his father left him, was divorced by this third wife, has a right arm that is there, but invisible, and is solely responsible for the destruction of the very, very large hadron collider and, consequently, most of Switzerland. This is where the story begins.
Where it goes from here is, well, odd. But that's what you get with Tom Holt. Turns out Theo is a brilliant physicist and our story begins when his mentor dies and leaves him a mysterious legacy. This legacy leads him to a hotel-that's-not-a-hotel and a series of self-contained, programmable universes in which no time passes.
Does that sound weird? Well it is. I find stories based on quantum physics hard to navigate even when it's taken seriously. But it's also good fun. As with most tales that rely on quantum physics as a plot device, this one has causality dependencies that require an infinite number of parallel universes to hold together. But if you can get past that, it's pretty straightforward.(less)
I have mentioned before that I have a love/hate relationship with James Lee Burke. His books are like a powerful drug -- ultimately good for you, but...moreI have mentioned before that I have a love/hate relationship with James Lee Burke. His books are like a powerful drug -- ultimately good for you, but not without gut-wrenching side effects.
It was with this knowledge that I decided I would (gradually) round out my coverage of the Dave Robicheaux novels, starting with the first one, Neon Rain.
The prose is ... indescribably lush. Evocative. You can feel the thick, morning air cling to your skin and see the mist caress the ancient oaks. This is what gets me every time. I don't think there's anyone better at this than Burke.
What also gets me is the characterization. In Neon Rain, we meet Dave Robicheaux for the first time and we can't tear ourselves away as he spirals downward in a tailspin of anger and bad judgment. It's yet another testament to Burke's talent that we willingly participate in this horror. And then, when we think we can't take any more, Robicheaux rights the plane, pulls out of his dive, and sails clear. And it feels really good, that you're getting the true potential of the character you always knew was there.
For me, the plot's kind of irrelevant. Though this is not to say it's bad. This story starts out with Robicheaux learning that someone's out to kill him for pursuing an investigation outside his jurisdiction. That just makes him more determined to get to the bottom of the story.
My only criticism is that the resolution was insufficiently visceral. I wanted more than a second-hand description of what befell the antagonist -- I wanted to see it and feel it and hear it. But that, too, is a testament to Burke's talent.(less)
Gritty, urban, and generally well-executed, CyberStorm is really not about a cyber attack on the American homeland. Well, that's what precipitates the...moreGritty, urban, and generally well-executed, CyberStorm is really not about a cyber attack on the American homeland. Well, that's what precipitates the story, but most of it is really about survival when the city services we depend on suddenly vanish. Move this south and shorten it to a week and it could have been about surviving Katrina's aftermath.
Mike Mitchell lives in Manhattan with his wife and young son as international tensions escalate. The worst happens, services go out (gradually, not all at once, which stretches out the tension) and it becomes a survival game.
Matthew Mather does a good job with characterization and tensions between characters, particularly between Mike and his wife Lauren. Theirs is not a happy marriage when the book begins and the discovery of a surprise, unplanned pregnancy just adds to the unhappiness. Then the lights go out and Mike must fight to support, and ultimately, protect his young son and pregnant wife.
The book has some twists and turns and I enjoyed the ending, but, for the most part, it's what you'd expect. As I said, well-executed and well-paced. I found myself racing through it.(less)
Another clever creation from John Scalzi. Not only does this book extend the story lines begun in Old Man's War, it does so as a series of independent...moreAnother clever creation from John Scalzi. Not only does this book extend the story lines begun in Old Man's War, it does so as a series of independent, yet related, short stories. All serve to advanced the overall story arc, but each one is entertaining, many with Scalzi's familiar tongue-in-cheek touch.
I both liked and hated the fact that this one did NOT end with a plot that ties up neatly. There is clearly more to come. At least Scalzi writes faster than George R. R. Martin (and is younger). Don't know about healthier as I've not met Scalzi, but I'll put my money on him.
Not Alan Bradley's best effort, I thought, but still quite good. This one seemed somewhat random, non-linear, where events kept happening to Flavia si...moreNot Alan Bradley's best effort, I thought, but still quite good. This one seemed somewhat random, non-linear, where events kept happening to Flavia simply because she was there. While it was a good story, I think it could have been tighter, more like his previous novels. This one seems to coast a little on the characters, forgetting that plot is what also moves mystery novels.(less)
Lee Child is today's king of badass and Jack Reacher is his avatar. I'd call this genre "revenge fiction" except that this is rarely about revenge --...moreLee Child is today's king of badass and Jack Reacher is his avatar. I'd call this genre "revenge fiction" except that this is rarely about revenge -- Jack Reacher usually just finds himself in a situation where something bad has happened to someone who didn't deserve it and he steps into right the wrong (and totally kick the bad guy's ass).
While Child has expanded his range from the earlier Reacher novels, in Gone Tomorrow, we have all of the best components of the series: a confined geographic scope, an antagonist with a fetish for knives and cruelty, a mini-army, and authorities on the wrong side of Jack Reacher's mission.
What's new in this book is the Congressman who may or may not be an ally and a mystery at the end. This may border on spoiler (view spoiler)[ but the artifact that everyone's fighting over, in the end, isn't found. Or is it? I'm wondering if maybe this is Child's way of creating a multi-book story arc -- something he hasn't traditionally done. (hide spoiler)]
At any rate, this story produces the heart-pounding, can't-put-it-down last 50 pages that are typical of these always-excellent stories.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This one consistently appears on "Best of Sci-Fi" lists so it seemed the time has come to take the plunge. And it's a very nice cautionary parable wra...moreThis one consistently appears on "Best of Sci-Fi" lists so it seemed the time has come to take the plunge. And it's a very nice cautionary parable wrapped in a post-apocalyptic story line. Well, perhaps not classic "post-apocalyptic" with ruined cities, stunned survivors, and the odd zombie. In this world, humanity has shrunk from a star-spanning Empire to a single city. The city is completely enclosed, and fully automated. Humans have nothing but leisure time and they've all been instilled with a phobia of leaving the city.
Except for Alvin who is compelled to find out what lies beyond the deserts that can be glimpsed from the high windows on the outermost towers. He burns to explore and to understand why humanity has become so timid.
Well, he does and the story unfold in a manner that's typical for this mid-20th-century science fiction, which is also part of its charm. I enjoyed the depiction of the "central computer" which runs Diaspar (the city) and the descriptions of space travel. I found the tendency to compress the timelines in the interests of story advancement also oddly charming (e.g., Alvin and his companion would stop at a planet, scan it, and move on in a matter of minutes) -- this is a style you don't see today.
But what I liked most about this was that it reminded me of so many other things, almost like I had discovered one of the original life forms of science-fiction evolution and could see, in this one story, the seeds of so many other great ones. Diaspar becomes the city in "Logan's Run". The mental powers of the people of Lys become the mental powers of the Mule in Asimov's Foundation Series. The robot companion becomes one of the other robot companions too numerous to mention.
I'm giving it four stars primarily for its value to the genre as it has grown over the last 80 years. Fans of science-fiction should certainly be familiar with this novel.(less)
Light at the end of the tunnel for Bertie, but I have no faith that it will actually last. Poor Bertie. And at what point is this poor child going to...moreLight at the end of the tunnel for Bertie, but I have no faith that it will actually last. Poor Bertie. And at what point is this poor child going to turn 7 anyway. Matthew and Elspeth have managed to get married, conceive triplets, and deliver triplets all while Bertie is six years old. Poor Bertie.(less)
Military, space opera. If you like this sort of thing, there are better examples, IMO. This one's got too much ground force action and not enough spac...moreMilitary, space opera. If you like this sort of thing, there are better examples, IMO. This one's got too much ground force action and not enough space stuff.
The Odyssey is sent back to the Priminae to open embassies and help train them on how to defend themselves. Then the Drasin attack and the entire rest of the book is spent fighting.
If you can put aside the moralizing and the preachiness about the virtues of military life, the story arc is interesting -- the Drasin aren't really explainable by the laws of evolution as we understand them and it's more likely they're a weapon. Who's behind them? What's the nature of the Priminae's central computer? Where does their limitless power come from?
I'll probably read the next one when it comes out just to find out those things.(less)
The closing volume of the galactic battle in which hangs the fate of planet earth.
OK, seriously. In volume three, Mark, Jennifer, and Heather use the...moreThe closing volume of the galactic battle in which hangs the fate of planet earth.
OK, seriously. In volume three, Mark, Jennifer, and Heather use the combination of the spaceship-granted superpowers and CIA-killer training to thwart the nefarious plans of the evil Dr. Stephenson, who is determined to open a wormhole so that aliens can invade our poor little planet.
This one just had too many plot holes, too many lame characters, and too much clumsy language to be taken seriously.
Volume two of the story of Wunderkinder Mark, Jennifer, and Heather who have been enhanced by the second ship and who have managed to thwart the agend...moreVolume two of the story of Wunderkinder Mark, Jennifer, and Heather who have been enhanced by the second ship and who have managed to thwart the agenda of the Rho ship (hence the series name).
This one jumped the shark a bit. Still readable, still fast-paced. But still one-dimensional characters and pretty lame prose. Plus it seemed to jump the shark when Jennifer is captured by international drug dealers and taken to Medellin, Colombia.(less)