Every reader should read a tiny bit of Lovecraft to get exposed to his distinct style. He is well known for his stories of dread that invoke terrors bEvery reader should read a tiny bit of Lovecraft to get exposed to his distinct style. He is well known for his stories of dread that invoke terrors by describing them as indescribable. I found myself thinking it was a shame that he got stuck in his own little sub-genre, because he had a powerful gift of discernment and vocabulary that worked just as well when he creates a scene of a New England town who's fishing industry has collapsed as when he creates a scene of the Indescribable Horrors of the Unknown....more
Big SF ideas + strong aliens + interesting humans, what more could you want? The core SF concept is imagining that the speed of light is faster as youBig SF ideas + strong aliens + interesting humans, what more could you want? The core SF concept is imagining that the speed of light is faster as you get farther from the galactic center. This leads to increasingly fast/intelligent computers as you move further from the center, but at the same time these powerful intelligences cannot even function if they were to travel deeper towards the center. This supports a story ranging from the highest tech (if an evil AI was taking over the internet, how could you trust the internet news reporting on it?) down to a world with a pre-gunpowder feudal culture. I most liked that the alien species were different than humans but just as smart and capable, and that the humans while being a crucial center of the storytelling are not the center of the galaxy or the plot.
I'm a little hesitant about giving this 5 stars, but it is almost as good as it could be and it's not like I'm going to run out of stars. Still, I personally like the author's A Deepness in the Sky better....more
This is one of those few books that I don't feel adequate to review...
Consider a hall of mirrors. Enter from the Nevada end, where you can see Lake MeThis is one of those few books that I don't feel adequate to review...
Consider a hall of mirrors. Enter from the Nevada end, where you can see Lake Mead and the Mojave Desert and Las Vegas with its never ending shuffling of cards and odds and money. Turn left at the first mirror and see the reflection mutate from a lake into Mother/Isis/Queen, from the desert into Father/Osiris/King, from the cards and odds into the Tarot and magic. Spin away as the unreal reflections turn disturbing, to see new images of a Mother sacrificing herself for her children, a Father consuming his children to increase his life, and children playing a Poker game with a life of its own -- offering power or freedom or solace or health...but most likely death.
Yet have I missed the core...the skill is the multiple layers blended together, but the genius is that as the world morphs from the man Scott Crane who lost his wife and turns to drink into the Jack of Hearts Scott Crane who is caught between Death and Bacchus, it ever and always remains the story of the man....more
A hallmark of new age science fiction, with experimental prose (drawing heavily on John Dos Passos) and massively detailed world building coming togetA hallmark of new age science fiction, with experimental prose (drawing heavily on John Dos Passos) and massively detailed world building coming together to create a vibrant tale of a overpopulated future with an omnipresent caldera of violence that frequently erupts forth at the cracks in society.
The book is structurally fascinating, but I will force myself to hold off and first lay out some of the plot. The stress of overpopulation has led to increasingly restrictive regulations. Couples are only permitted two children, and every region is constantly passing eugenics laws that disallow parents with an ever increasing list of genetic defects. Most people deal with stress through recreational drugs and fruitless promiscuity. An unstable Asian country Yatakang announces without evidence that its scientists can fix genetic defects and create a perfect population, and other nations are suspicious and displeased. The tiny African nation Beninia makes a bid to be protected from its neighbors by essentially selling itself to a huge multinational corporation, and other nations are suspicious and displeased. The two main characters encounter all of the above and more and...and...ugh, I'm not describing this well enough. Okay, breath, okay. Donald Hogan is wrenched from his life as a minor intelligence analyst to an unsuitable covert ops roles. Norman House takes a very different journey from a black executive in a white dog-eat-dog General Technics corporate world to a subtly yet strongly different leadership role in Beninia.
But the main character arcs probably are only one structural mode that probably doesn't make up much more than half the book. There are three other interwoven chapter sequences. One subset relates small stories from a vast array of minor characters. Another subset collects short paragraphs of news and analysis from pundits. The final subset contains brief snippets of conversation representing man-on-the-street reactions to the world. All four sequences entwine with one another. Donald Hogan meets people from the minor stories, is delayed by train sabotage described in a news paragraph, and attends a cocktail party that is also expressed as the conversation snippets section delineating the half way point of the novel.
It is so common in book (especially SFF) to know the main characters and the world within 500 meters of them, but have little sense of the 99.9999% of the world and people outside of that. Stand on Zanzibar with its multiple narratives and techniques really adds that flesh onto the usual plot skeleton. Images of a few powerful scenes and of the world as a whole are going to stand out in my mind for a long time.
Now, of course 5 stars doesn't mean "will work for everyone" or "without literary flaws". The book is long and the chapters of collected snippets or paragraphs can be a slog. I wouldn't call the novel dated but it is very much of its time (1968). Even after accounting for the intentional sexism of the depicted dystopian future, the female characters tend towards the shallow and shrewish. Finally, it is a difficult start until the separate contexts start to mesh together. ...more
A story of modern Faerie. The author uses an interesting stylistic twist that rubs me the wrong way. She keeps using descriptions or phrases and thenA story of modern Faerie. The author uses an interesting stylistic twist that rubs me the wrong way. She keeps using descriptions or phrases and then almost immediately contradicting them, I believe in an attempt to imbue the impression of Faerie as not obeying the normal rules of the world. For example, she'll declare something as impossible and then have it happen in the next paragraph. She'll describe someone who we think is human doing an action requiring three hands. She'll say things always occur in threes, and then immediately have something that happens only twice. Since this is a acclaimed fantasy writer, I'm assuming this is a deliberate choice and not that she is a sloppy wordsmith. Unfortunately my brain can't handle this style. There doesn't seem to be any pattern to the contradictions, so rather than inculcating a sense of other-worldliness it impresses me as a series of unforced errors. However I'm not certain whether this is a bad style or just not for me, so I'm choosing not to give a score to this book....more
I am given this first volume a reluctant three stars, but I don't recommend the series.
In the mid 80's Weis and Hickman wrote the first Dragonlance noI am given this first volume a reluctant three stars, but I don't recommend the series.
In the mid 80's Weis and Hickman wrote the first Dragonlance novels which were very popular. I quite liked them as a teen (although after rereading this series, I'm afraid to revisit them). Since Dragonlance they have worked on a number of other series but never as successfully as the first. Perhaps the most ambitious is The Death Gate Cycle, seven books set across five worlds each with its unique ecology and politics. And it fails miserably.
I think the root cause of the failure might be too much world building, so much that all the other elements didn't receive enough attention. All of the many characters beyond the main two are invariably shallow. The prose frequently hits speed bumps as the authors force in explanations of their world building that aren't needed by the story. The "humor" is a one note act recycled from Dragonlance that would be booed out of open mic night. And the plot...the plot resolution after seven volumes is that we should choose love and friendship over hatred, delivered with the subtlety of a Saturday Afternoon Special....more
A book about the politics of climate change, not the science. Centers around a few environmental and corporate leaders willing to grudgingly compromisA book about the politics of climate change, not the science. Centers around a few environmental and corporate leaders willing to grudgingly compromise with each other over the years (who achieve progress comparable to a snail in a hamster wheel), but also follows many other players including extremists on all sides and the Bush and Obama administrations. It does a decent job of treating everyone fairly, with the understanding that fairly does not mean "in the most positive light". The multi-year building of relationships and common ground is agonizingly slow but very realistic.
The heart of the issues always seems to return to moral dilemmas. Is it right to reward polluters with $$$ to help solve the problem, or can you risk waiting years for more and more consequences to change public opinion? How much do you value business or your election chances versus how much do you value your grandchildren? It is disheartening that we East African Plains Apes have such difficulty dealing with complex long term threats, but on the other hand we are out-competing the heck out of those tigers....more
Spider Jerusalem (a future Hunter S. Thompson) meets presidential politics and urinates on it. Normally I find this series a bit too harshly cynical,Spider Jerusalem (a future Hunter S. Thompson) meets presidential politics and urinates on it. Normally I find this series a bit too harshly cynical, but since I read this right after the Nov 2010 election cycle it sadly didn't seem cynical at all....more
I think slightly better than #1, still leaves me with the same nagging concerns. I don't find the POV character complex/interesting enough to carry thI think slightly better than #1, still leaves me with the same nagging concerns. I don't find the POV character complex/interesting enough to carry the book on his own, and I don't find any of the secondary characters to have much depth at all. Still feel there is a weird disconnect with "he is an ex-car thief" being sufficient training for "he battles supernatural creatures that threaten all life on Earth". Still expect that "super-duper-immortal-invulnerable-magic-enforcer gets knocked out" so that ordinary-person-sidekick can save the day will get old soon....more
A secret society seeks to destroy magic use, because magic eventually attracts Cthulian monsters that will absorb all life on Earth. Dark, repeatedlyA secret society seeks to destroy magic use, because magic eventually attracts Cthulian monsters that will absorb all life on Earth. Dark, repeatedly asking the question of if stakes are that high, can you justify letting anything, including the lives of innocent bystanders, get in the way?
Refreshing in that it is told from the POV of the ex-car thief sidekick of the big tough magical enforcer. Less refreshing is that it looks like the enforcer will always coincidentally get knocked out of the action and the ex-car thief will be able to complete the mission just fine without help....more