John Scalzi gave hope to fanfiction writers everywhere when he took up this project, initially just a personal aside he started for kicks. It's essent...moreJohn Scalzi gave hope to fanfiction writers everywhere when he took up this project, initially just a personal aside he started for kicks. It's essentially a "reboot" of a book by H. Beam Piper titled "Little Fuzzy" (which I have not read), and it does a delightful job. The main character is inherently unlikable but still manages to be charming, the writing is deft and clever and often humorous, and by the end you'll want to adopt a fuzzy for your very own. (less)
I'm biased towards John Scalzi because he stops in my town on a book signing tour every year, and he's always such an interesting, funny and entertain...moreI'm biased towards John Scalzi because he stops in my town on a book signing tour every year, and he's always such an interesting, funny and entertaining individual.
This book goes a long way in breaking down the barriers that insist Douglas Adams is the only person who can make sci fi funny. Behind the humor however are some surprisingly thought provoking and even moving themes which make it a lot more than just laughs for the sake of laughs.
Star Trek fans will enjoy it for obvious reasons, but I really feel it's accessible to a wide audience of scifi and non-scifi zealots alike.
Science fiction is all the better for having John Scalzi in it.
The long-spanning nature of this series makes it interesting to look back at the first book, because there is such a stark difference between King's w...moreThe long-spanning nature of this series makes it interesting to look back at the first book, because there is such a stark difference between King's writing style and abilities in this book verses the later books. Even after some slight revisions, it's easy to identify this as one of King's early and even unpolished works. When read alongside the others, it almost feels like the work of a different writer. The dense, often overwrought prose that I often criticize King here is absent, almost too absent, as in many cases I could not figure out where I was or what was going on - I had to retrace pages, sometimes more than once, to get my bearings again.
Though the comment I am about to make is not predicated on this book, it applies to the series as a whole, and if you are thinking about starting The Dark Tower I figure you're looking at reviews of the first book. So, here is my recommendation: if you are a huge fan of Stephen King, read it. The later books are full of Easter eggs that would make any knowledgeable fan giddy, and this is clearly the work that is closest to King's own heart. Therefore it is significant to any Stephen King fan. But if you do not have much exposure to Stephen King and wish to check out some of his novels, do not start here. These books are not representative of King's overall work, and quite honestly the passion and devotion he has for the Gunslinger, which I empathize with and applaud, is often a detriment to the work. If you want to know why Stephen King is such a big deal, start with "Carrie", "The Shining", or "The Stand." Read these when you've inhaled his other novels, and be prepared. You're in for a journey. (less)
This book moves slower than its predecessor, as plot lines start to diverge as more characters emerge. There is simply so much going on in so many dif...moreThis book moves slower than its predecessor, as plot lines start to diverge as more characters emerge. There is simply so much going on in so many different places that what seemed like a breakneck pace in "A Game of Thrones" slows to a relative crawl in the second installment. I do see several seeds being planted for some far more interesting developments that will hopefully occur over the rest of the series.
What seems like a largely uneventful book (again, relative to the first book) in fact rushes to quite an eventful conclusion, rewarding the reader who is willing to stick with it. It is a testament to Martin's abilities that you can care enough about these characters to wait it out, a remarkable feat when you consider how despicable some of these people are. [Perhaps I am just hoping that these evil people wind up dying in horrible, creative ways to restore my faith in karma.]
It is not as shocking as "A Game of Thrones," though in the end I feel it is actually a bit more satisfying. (less)
Outside of Lord of the Rings, I am generally not terribly interested in fantasy, but between a few subliminal messages, rumors that this series appare...moreOutside of Lord of the Rings, I am generally not terribly interested in fantasy, but between a few subliminal messages, rumors that this series apparently provided inspiration for BioWare's Dragon Age: Origins, and the fact that my brother sent me a gift set as a birthday present, I gave it whirl.
I'm not so sure I would want to take a tour through George R.R. Martin's head. I plowed through this book with steadily increasing horror, because I honestly had no idea people could be this horrible, not just on occasion but all the freaking time. It was a lot like reading a train wreck; I was unwilling to look away no matter how much I wanted to.
I don't exactly mean this is as a criticism, either. I tip my hat to Martin for his commitment to this world and its inhabitants, for overseeing it would be an extremely daunting task. His prose does not dazzle or exhilarate, but line by line he is as solid as they come. If you want to experience the underbelly of humanity or remind yourself why you're thrilled you did not grow up in medieval times, this is for you. In a twisted way it is also refreshing to encounter an author who is willing to take the notion that good triumphs over evil, nice guys finish first, etc. and trample all over it with a grin on his face and a happy tune on his lips. (less)
As a biased and rabid fan of Alastair Reynolds, I think I am kinder to this book than I would be had someone else written it. This book has several el...moreAs a biased and rabid fan of Alastair Reynolds, I think I am kinder to this book than I would be had someone else written it. This book has several elements to it that are quite frankly brilliant. It does not lack for ideas. The problem is, that most of these ideas are too big or too interesting on their own to be forced to work with others, and therefore none of them are fully realized. It reads like a first draft - a first draft with a lot of potential, mind you, but a first draft all the same. As a finished work it largely disappoints, both in story and in the characters, as I'm not sure the characters know which story they are supposed to be in. (less)
In the rare event that we get to see each other, a very good friend of mine and I have an awesome habit of wandering around bookstores and pointing ou...moreIn the rare event that we get to see each other, a very good friend of mine and I have an awesome habit of wandering around bookstores and pointing out books we think the other should read, sort of a Live and In Person version of Goodreads. I read this book as a result of one of those wanderings, and it serves to emphasize why I love them so much.
This book is a terrific read. It's not nearly as dense as some of the space operas I love so much, yet it manages to create just as rich and rewarding an experience. It's not a conventionally told novel as such, as there is not necessarily a central plot that drives the narrative. It almost reads like a series of vignettes, all from the perspective of John Perry, who is an extremely enjoyable narrator. Scalzi threads brilliant humor with genuine horror almost effortlessly, which is an enviable talent in a writer.
It's the first and strongest entry in a series, and a must read.
Also, if you are not familiar with John Scalzi and like Old Man's War, you should most definitely visit his blog, whatever.scalzi.com. It's now a daily stop for me. (less)
First, let me disclose that I am a rabid fan of Alastair Reynolds, and always on the lookout for books that read a little on that level. I say this so...moreFirst, let me disclose that I am a rabid fan of Alastair Reynolds, and always on the lookout for books that read a little on that level. I say this so that you can take this review in the proper context, because this is the first time I really feel like I found something that can sub in for Alastair Reynolds. Not surprisingly, I devoured this book. To put it quite frankly, it's good science fiction, with a "world" that has been crafted by someone who took a hard look at the capabilities that humanity might one day possess and built the future accordingly. The landscape is impressive, the scope of the story is ambitious, and most importantly the characters are interesting people you don't mind hanging out with. They come armed with flaws, some more sympathetic than others, as well as some genuine likability. What's really enjoyable is how the main characters, from completely different, unrelated backgrounds, never completely intersect when forced to interact. When two unlike protagonists are thrown together against a common enemy, the standard formula has them putting aside their differences and fighting for the common good. While a grand romantic notion, that's just not how it necessarily works in the real world, and I feel like this is a rare story that acknowledges that.
This was truly a fluke find for me; it was the subject of a "The Big Idea" post on John Scalzi's blog, and when I was walking through Half Price Books a day or so later I happened to spot it. Once I had finished it (blistered through it, is probably more accurate), I was almost angry to find out that it was the first of a trilogy, and since it had just been published in June I have a long, long wait for the next one. (less)
Considering I am currently writing my own series of shorts/novellas for an epic universe, I'm a sucker for collections like this. A couple of the stor...moreConsidering I am currently writing my own series of shorts/novellas for an epic universe, I'm a sucker for collections like this. A couple of the stories, such as "Grafenwalder's Bestiary" are pretty great reads, others like "Great Wall of Mars" are fun reads for people who have read the "Revelation Space" novels and get to see glimpses of characters in those novels as they were before we met them. It's also neat to see the evolution of this universe, as several of these stories predated the novels, something the author forewarns, so several of the concepts have not yet reached their final form.
Overall, this is a collection for fans of the author and the universe he created. If you have not read the Revelation Space books, I would definitely enjoy them first, as they make these stories much richer than they would read on their own. (less)
I was eager to find out for myself what caused the controversy this book has inspired, and for majority of the book I couldn't figure it out. All I sa...moreI was eager to find out for myself what caused the controversy this book has inspired, and for majority of the book I couldn't figure it out. All I saw was a very well written, well imagined book with interesting ideas and a spectacularly written main character. Lyra's character leaps of the page and it utterly enjoyable. She's feisty, clever, but still very much a little girl who isn't sure what to do when she's thrown into an adult world she doesn't understand. On her character alone, this book should be a winner.
It's when the source of the controversy kicks in that the problems start, turning what begins as a terrific read into something that borders on ridiculous, and utterly ends as a disapointment. Do be forewarned huge spoilers follow.
Christians everywhere have been denouncing Pullman and his atheism, claiming these books are anti-God. How far that really goes in the trilogy I can't speak for, as I have only read this one. But normally, I am all about a good controversy as long as a) it's written well and b) it serves the story well. The DaVinci Code failed A but not B, and the Golden Compass almost fails A and definitely fails B, all in the last chapter or two.
The controversy is this: dust turns out to be synonymous with original sin, and that by eliminating it the church can eliminate original sin. To do this, though, the essentially mutilate children. That in itself might be interesting, but here's the catch: Pullman, whether purposefully or un-purposefully, incorrectly defines original sin as something that does not affect children until they hit puberty, which is definitely not the traditional definition, at least by Catholic standards, which dictate original sin is upon you from the moment of conception. He also does something in the book that I really have trouble with, and that is quoting directly from the Bible, altering certain passages to fit the "world" the story inhabits. To me it rang false, and seemed more of a mockery than good story design. If this story is indeed his personal attach on Christianity, it can’t have elements that don’t correctly echo Christian beliefs. Even if he is not intentionally taking on the church, it reads as sloppy attention to detail.
Again, let's be clear that you can offend my Christianity all you want if the story is good and does not read like a thinly veiled mask for your own personal propaganda. Oddly enough, the DaVinci Code didn't feel like anti-Christian propaganda at all to me; rather it read like a really good story written by a terrible writer, which I thought was unfortunate. That’s not what happened here. Here, an otherwise good story took a misstep at the end, which makes it difficult to summon enthusiasm for the next book.
So anyhow, the mis-representation of original sin, not to mention the inexplicable turn of Lord Azrael's character from intriguing to downright evil and despicable, made the ending of this book a real disappointment. (less)
If you've seen the movie and are wondering about the book, don't expect a written version of what you saw onscreen. The book is very science-minded, a...moreIf you've seen the movie and are wondering about the book, don't expect a written version of what you saw onscreen. The book is very science-minded, and rather than some robot catastrophe, it explores (among other things), the 3 laws in a problem-solving sort of way. In other words, each chapter, which is essentially a short stories, does things like take a problem that has arisen with the robots, and trouble shoot it to determine how and why it happened.
It's extremely interesting and a very worthy read for sci fi fans, but it's not for anyone looking for a conventional narrative. (less)
There's not a whole lot you can say about Discworld other than it's hard to go wrong. Of Pratchett's usual suspects, this book focuses on the Watch an...moreThere's not a whole lot you can say about Discworld other than it's hard to go wrong. Of Pratchett's usual suspects, this book focuses on the Watch and San Vimes, with a brief cameo from Death and none from the infamous Rincewind.
I always feel that the Watch books operate differently than the others, because Sam Vimes comes across as a more well-rounded character who doesn't follow the same mold as someone like Rincewind. He's easier to take seriously, and therefore the Watch books (and there are several I haven't read), tend to be more solemn than the other off the wall hijinks of other Discworld notables. Now, solemn for Terry Pratchett is still a pretty far cry from the normal definition of solemn, as the book is still full of satire and laugh out loud moments. But if you prefer the more carefree version, you might want to defer to a book like Hogsfather or The Last Continent. Or anything with Rincewind. (Or Death, who is my personal favorite). (less)
The translation gets a little rough in parts (when you're being picky), but there really isn't much not to like about this book. The characters are in...moreThe translation gets a little rough in parts (when you're being picky), but there really isn't much not to like about this book. The characters are interesting, the plot is engaging and the Russian setting was refreshing and added a lot to the story. Highly recommended. (less)
This book is the sequal to The Sparrow, and while not nearly as good, really does complete the first book in a way that makes it a must read. There ar...moreThis book is the sequal to The Sparrow, and while not nearly as good, really does complete the first book in a way that makes it a must read. There are too many characters who aren't very well written, but the 'holy crap' revelation at the end is amazing, and it answers a lot of questions about the first one that really needed to be answered, and it adds more meaning to it as well. Basically, you owe it to the first book to read this one. (less)