**spoiler alert** This novel will repeatedly challenge your point of view. Armed with mind links, prostheses and mechanical extensions, multiple perso...more**spoiler alert** This novel will repeatedly challenge your point of view. Armed with mind links, prostheses and mechanical extensions, multiple personalities, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, self-regenerating spaceships and gene-resurrected vampires, the humans in the book often feel more alien and inscrutable than the mysterious structure they are sent to investigate - in particular because the main character and narrator is, himself, incapable of true empathy. On the other side is Rorschach, the mysterious living ship swimming in magnetic fields, whose drones are more powerful and intelligent than any human while, at the same time, completely lacking any sense of self. Reminding at the beginning of the man versus alien struggle of Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, one slowly realizes that the real battle in Blindsight is between sentience and intelligence, the conscious and the unconscious, until -in a peculiar, unexpected twist- you understand that the real threat to the human race does not come from outside...
This book presents a very powerful thesis -and several smaller- wrapped up as one of the most interesting sci-fi novels of the decade. It requires the reader to know its basic science and sci-fi tropes and, in particular, to pay attention to everything, because details are fundamental and skipping something will result in wrong conclusions - a theme that echoes the path of the main character, Siri Keeton, professional observer and 'chinese box'. That is not to say that I agree, completely or in part, with the underlying message of the novel: that is beyond the point. Sci-fi is at its finest when it provides new ideas and paradigms as well as good writing, and Blindsight is certainly a high example of that. (less)
I wrote an incredibly long review but Goodreads ate it and I'm definitely not up to write all of that again. So, summing up, a fast read and a page tu...moreI wrote an incredibly long review but Goodreads ate it and I'm definitely not up to write all of that again. So, summing up, a fast read and a page turner, set in a world where science has become quasi-magic and suddenly fails, leaving people to rebuild society around Renaissance faires and reenactor camps.
The setting is interesting, though it can be annoying that all the wonderful things that are set-up in the first fifth of the book are then suddenly destroyed and dismissed (in the beginning there are Changed people everywhere, after the Fall everyone is basically human). There is also a deep sexist streak running underneath the novel, though it does seem that the author didn't intend it as such. I also could've done without the forced USA imagery which, to me, seems more funny and uninspired rather than inspirational.(less)
I've been told by just about everyone that I have to read this novel and it's such a masterpiece and so on, but in the end I couldn't quite get into i...moreI've been told by just about everyone that I have to read this novel and it's such a masterpiece and so on, but in the end I couldn't quite get into it. There is a good premise and several good ideas, and it's interesting to see a dystopia where the world is still tumbling down and non a straight-out post-apocalyptic world, but most of the characters felt flat or rushed, and the story itself has an odd pacing, with the set-up for the "hero"'s journey taking up literally half of the book. The made-up religion of the protagonist is also so generic and uninteresting that it didn't seem to need all the space and importance it is given. This is not to dis made-up religions in sci-fi, or an "I already have a belief so I can't get into hers" rebuttal: as an example, I loved the religious elements in Dune or the Myst/D'ni saga because they were complex. Earthseed is just poor. I think Butler also couldn't find a balance between writing this story as a journal and the need for direct dialogue and a straighter narrative; it's hard to believe that the Lauren who introduces new characters as if we should already know who they are (I often thought my book was missing some pages) would spend so much time recording every single line of dialogue rather than summarizing it. I must add I'm also not a great reader of the survival/dystopian genre. This book was bleak enough for me as it is and, after reading a synopsis of the sequel, I don't think I'm going to tackle that.(less)
1.5 stars for the effort, but Colfer's book reads more like fanfiction set in the HHGG universe rather than a proper new novel and conclusion. Most el...more1.5 stars for the effort, but Colfer's book reads more like fanfiction set in the HHGG universe rather than a proper new novel and conclusion. Most elements and gags are recycled from older stories, giving it a feel of a 'best of' where you keep retreading the same tracks rather than visiting something new. It doesn't help that the notes from the Guide, an important part of the previous books, here feel like annoying intermissions that break up the pacing rather than well-thought diversions that integrate into the story. And what's up with Colfer's obsession with Eccentrica Gallumbits? But I could've readily forgiven all this if not for what seems like the greatest omission in an HHGG story: Arthur Dent. Arthur was the voice of the series and, while he didn't actually do much, we saw the universe as filtered through his eyes and thoughts, and that made it even more wonderful and eccentric and frustrating. In this book he doesn't appear much at all and, when he does, he's curiously jaded and un-British. If you look at this novel as an HHGG side-story about Thor and Zaphod it's not even that bad. As 'book six of the trilogy'... eh.(less)
The quality of the stories in this collection is varied and some of them sound inevitably dated, but the very good ones are well worth a 4 star rating...moreThe quality of the stories in this collection is varied and some of them sound inevitably dated, but the very good ones are well worth a 4 star rating.(less)
While the idea of infinite parallel worlds is not a new one, Pratchett and Baxter manage to give it a new spin, touching not only on the adventurous e...moreWhile the idea of infinite parallel worlds is not a new one, Pratchett and Baxter manage to give it a new spin, touching not only on the adventurous explorations and dangers that these new world represent, but also on the very real social, economical and political effects that such a discovery would have on our own world. The exploration thread follows mostly Joshua and Lobsang, a man with the ability to step naturally between worlds and a very peculiar AI, as they travel the Long Earth Jules Verne-style, while the social side is presented as vignettes and slices of life of several different characters, whose stories will all come together in the finale of the book. The ending is maybe the weakest part. It reads very subdued and a bit rushed compared to what actually happens, a bit like the pilot of a TV series where the tables are set for future instalments. This is maybe the part that worries me more, as we don't know how many years of writing Pterry has left in him and I'm not sure I'd like to read other books written only by Baxter.(less)
This book is a late novelization of a six-parter story that Douglas Adams wrote for Doctor Who, but which never...moreThree stars veering towards a fourth.
This book is a late novelization of a six-parter story that Douglas Adams wrote for Doctor Who, but which never got fully filmed because of a strike. Since then Shada has had a troubled history and nearly as many incarnations as the Doctor: bits of it were used in The five Doctors, Adams himself recycled some of his own ideas in Dirk Gently, then a VHS was released with the filmed bits and narration, then it was re-cast as an audiobook with the Eight Doctor, and now the novel as well.
This is not a bad book at all and, in fact, Gareth Roberts is extremely good at channelling his inner Adams throughout the book, so much that one would be hard put to tell apart his bits of the story from Adams' (take notes, Eoin Colfer, this is how it's done). He is maybe a bit too good, in that at times Shada reads more like a Hitchhiker's book with the Doctor in it rather than a Doctor Who story proper.
The whole thing is unfortunately brought down by the basic structure of a late '70s six parter, which means that every once every 60 pages or so there will be a cliffhanger, the resolution of which never veers too much away from "and with a jump he was free". The plot itself is thus burdened by several repetitions, a repeating of scenes from different points of view, a lot of running back and forth, and a dozen descriptions of the Doctor too many. Yes, it's faithful to the original, but a 2012 retelling might have benefited from a few trimmings, even at the expense of a few scenes.
It still remains a very enjoyable read, and possibly the best version of Shada released so far.(less)
I liked Infidel better than the first book, possibly because the world and the characters were already established, which helped push the plot along f...moreI liked Infidel better than the first book, possibly because the world and the characters were already established, which helped push the plot along faster and with less distractions (and trips to the dictionary). Maybe also because I got a little less squeamish about all the bug-based technology.
Being a middle book, is it true that the more things seemed to have changed, the more they stay the same. Nyx is still a wreck, Rhys is still torn and undecided, and the team members seem on the verge of breaking apart at any moment. Much of the plot is spent waiting and planning, with nothing but preparations happening for days even if they're under a strict deadline, which sometimes makes it feel more like a John Le Carré novel than one about a bounty hunter. Not that it's a bad thing.
Like with the first book, the one thing that occasionally threw me out of the story (even if, at one point, it actually becomes part of the plot) is how our favourite ex bel dame is able to survive in her line of job and throughout the book when every encounter with the enemy ends up in a bloody beating and a trip to the magicians to patch her up from scraps. Good thing the bugs can basically bring people back from the dead, or this would have been a very short book.(less)
I wrote a lengthy review but Goodreads ate it, so to sum up...
Rapture is more of the same as in the previous books, but in a wider scope. We get tanta...moreI wrote a lengthy review but Goodreads ate it, so to sum up...
Rapture is more of the same as in the previous books, but in a wider scope. We get tantalizing looks at Umayma's forgotten past, new nations, new enemies and dangers. It seems a bit odd to introduce so many elements so late in the game, especially since we only get a couple encounters with them before closure, but then there are many more stories to be told on Umayma even after Nyx's story has come to an end. My dislikes though are the same as before: there's almost no fun any more in watching Nyx and her team of screw-ups get through failure after failure by the skin of their teeth only to meet the sudden and inevitable betrayal. True, she's a survivor, but there's only so much beating a character can take before it stretches credibility.(less)
Twelve years have passed since the events of the first book, and the tension between the Datum US and the colonies, and between humans and nonhumans,...moreTwelve years have passed since the events of the first book, and the tension between the Datum US and the colonies, and between humans and nonhumans, is rapidly rising. The US sends a patrol of armed stepper zeppelins to patrol the worlds, the Chinese want to reach Erath East 20 million, the trolls are disappearing, and a new non-human threat... is vaguely annoying but only threatening because our characters make bad decisions? Yeah.
I'm afraid to say this is the first Pratchett book in decades I've found to be really unsatisfying. There is a lot going on on this book, several new characters are introduced, and a lot that could happen as a result of these events, but the storylines do not really gel in the end, or lead to any particular conclusion. Apart from a couple grand scenes, this book seems more an exercise in worldbuilding and setting for the next book - which, unfortunately, is a review that could apply to the first book as well.
Here be spoilers: (view spoiler)[ Joshua seems married only to give him a tether, a reason to hesitate before setting off for his new travels. He has previous little scenes with his family, and this has the unfortunate side effect of reducing his wife from the interesting character of the first book to a nagging stereotype who's just trying to keep his husband home against his duty. Weak.
And the Beagles... they're an interesting culture but they make for really lousy villains, considering that they can't step without kobolds, and that a couple of twains would probably be able to keep their whole nation under siege. When Sally went away to retrieve the ring, you have to wonder why she didn't come back with ships or armed help. That she trusted the Beagles not to hurt Joshua, if when/he showed up, is in sharp contrast to her words that she doesn't know this people or know what makes them tick. This whole subplot seems artificially arranged only to horrifically hurt Joshua, and distract from the fact that he wasn't really needed in this adventure: Sally found the trolls, and the Lobsang Light Show convinced them to come home.
The Chinese expedition is interesting, but that's about it. It seems more like a collection of vignettes or short stories interspersed within the main plot, except the main plot is really not that interesting after all. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
As with any collection from different authors, it's a mixed bunch of good and bad stories with a couple great ones.
1st: I haven't read any of Eoin Col...moreAs with any collection from different authors, it's a mixed bunch of good and bad stories with a couple great ones.
1st: I haven't read any of Eoin Colfer's series, but the work he writes in other franchises (like HHGG) reads like some awful teenager's fanfiction. Bad characterization and a terrible story.
2nd: Better characterization, though the story is mostly a Lovecraftian pastiche.
3rd and 4th : Good characterization and good stories!
5th: A nice story, but very Doctor-lite for an anniversary collection; I might have appreciated it more on its own.
6th: I know this story isn't popular (just like its Doctor, heh) but I liked it all, from the story to the characters to Peri's first person PoV. Pairing off Sixie with the Rani is getting a little bit tired though, like 3/5 and the Master.
7th: This Doctor is hardly my favourite, but this story just felt wrong; the chessmaster who's always two steps ahead of everyone really comes off as a petulant child in this one.
8th: Bland. True, there's not much TV canon to go on for this Doctor, but one could take a hint or two from the audios for characterization.
9th: Good idea, bad execution.
10th: Best story of the bunch, with nods to the Land of Fiction, and a Martha Jones that feels like a competent character rather than just pining for the Doctor.
11th: A great story from Gaiman, but incredibly visual with its treatment of time; oddly enough, I think it would have worked better as an actual TV episode.(less)
**spoiler alert** There are so many things I don't like about this book that I'm not even sure where to start.
First, the minor: I found out about thi...more**spoiler alert** There are so many things I don't like about this book that I'm not even sure where to start.
First, the minor: I found out about this book because of several illustrations that Kate Beaton made for it. Most of the articles about these illustrations fail to mention that they do not appear in the end product.
Second, the characters. Only a couple of them are more or less fleshed out, and the main character isn't among them. The rest is pretty much cardboard stock. Jo is the best friend, Rob is the geek, Brayden is the suspicious love interest, Sutton is the creepy villain, all other adults are mostly unhelpful. Jimmy and Odessa get some development only because of the virus that ages them, and their reaction to it.
Mia, the protagonist, is an egregious case of uninteresting flaw and genre-unsavvy. Yes, she fell down a well when she was little; then she overcame her fear of it by becoming a national-level swimmer. This is mentioned over and over but is never really relevant to the story, never becomes an obstacle, and is never tied (if not really really loosely) to the main plot. Then, she falls in love with a new guy at her school just the day before the lethal virus spreads. The guy is extremely suspicious, is seen talking with the main villain, and keeps on apologizing for things he hasn't done yet. So when he asks "Do you trust me?", of course Mia replies "YES", because she's never seen a movie or read a book in her life. Girl, I get it, you're in mad insta-love, but seriously? It's called "sudden but inevitable betrayal" for a reason.
Third, the plot: 80% of this book is about getting to this Cave, where in two densely filled chapters we're told about all the interesting stuff, which could have easily been a couple books into themselves. Yes, this is Mia's personal trip where she overcomes her fear of water and claustrophobia (which she repeatedly tells us she already overcame, so what?), but when the flashback is more interest than the main story, something's wrong.
Which leads us neatly into the last gripe, which is that this books ends on a cliffhanger. And not even a "this chapter closes and another one opens" kind, or even a "how are our heroes going to escape certain death?". No, the bad guys find the magical well, the main characters jump into it, Mia remembers something she had forgotten, they get to the other side -all of this in one page- and the book ends. Cut down with a guillotine right when it was getting interesting.
If there's a sequel coming out, I'm definitely not buying that. If this was supposed to stand alone on its own... Well, no.(less)
3.5 stars really, for two reasons that really amount to one.
The essays themselves vary from the exceptionally good to the simple but important insight...more3.5 stars really, for two reasons that really amount to one.
The essays themselves vary from the exceptionally good to the simple but important insight into the mind of the author as a writer, or a fan, or a person. It is an enormous job to wade through a long-lived blog, especially from a prolific author as Valente, to select a limited number of items that not only stand up by themselves, but together also offer a solid representation of her complete work both in theme and depth.
Now for the negative note: the book is riddled with typos, and the graphic design is basic even for an essay collection. Since most of the material in this book is available for free offline (only 3 articles do not come from her blog or a guest post) this collection is mostly retreading on old ground if you've been following Cat online for a while, and for 15$ I would have at least expected a little more editorial work to polish it all up.(less)
I had already read most of these stories separately, so reading them again together was like visiting a distant country for the second time: though th...moreI had already read most of these stories separately, so reading them again together was like visiting a distant country for the second time: though the overall panorama has not changed, some things have moved, some have changed, some touch you in different ways.
I will leave judging the poetry to someone else, as that is not really my usual field. I liked Tsukayama Park better than Mechagirl, though.
The short stories are great and raw and powerful, though the recurrence of the autobiographical themes is definitely more noticeable once you line them in a row, rather than reading them years apart. Killswitch, the Baku, Story No. 6, and The girl with two skins are the strongest of the lot for me.
The real gem of this collection is however the short novella Silently and very fast, a story set in the far future and inside the shared mind of a woman and an artificial intelligence. It touches all the themes of emergence of conscience, knowledge of self, identity, ego, sex, gender, memory, myth, family, and what any of those things even mean in the shared mind-world inside of yourself.(less)