I've always enjoyed Baxter's stories, and this one is no different: very good, from beginning to end, and I can highly recommend it. The ending, while...moreI've always enjoyed Baxter's stories, and this one is no different: very good, from beginning to end, and I can highly recommend it. The ending, while not too satisfying, did lend itself to making you think, "...yep, it's over...". But he also left plenty of things with which to create one or even two more books. Heh, the more I think about it, the more I guess I'm expecting a two or three volume series. For example, the "Hatch technology" is completely without any explanation other than "it's there," which is similar to the "Kernel technology", but both probably have the same origin.... whatever it is. There are a lot of questions left for the reader to ponder. Generally, the characters were reasonably dimensional, the pace was very good, and the broad brush strokes for describing interplanetary society (and extrapolation from our current political arena), as well as deep space travel, are respectably done. The flora and fauna description of the alien world that some of the characters find themselves stuck on... well... it's pretty mediocre, and sometimes alarming in how all the critters are similar to each other. To his credit, he did try to make them truly alien, rather than extrapolate from Earth evolution, so hat's off to Baxter in that regard.
A nice, short story about how the feelings of faith can have biological causes, and the challenge of determining if that is inconsequential or not. Go...moreA nice, short story about how the feelings of faith can have biological causes, and the challenge of determining if that is inconsequential or not. Good read.(less)
From what I understand Crichton did not finish this book. I'm not quite sure he started much of it, either. The characters were strictly of cartoon di...moreFrom what I understand Crichton did not finish this book. I'm not quite sure he started much of it, either. The characters were strictly of cartoon dimensions, and the general plot was lame. Some bits of the biology were interesting, but not nearly enough to redeem anything, except keeping it from being a -total- waste of time. (less)
This was an easy-to-read, moderately light-weight modern spy story with good characterizations, interesting scenery, with revealing details about how...moreThis was an easy-to-read, moderately light-weight modern spy story with good characterizations, interesting scenery, with revealing details about how the role of spy's and spying is changing. I was particularly interested to learn about "black hotels." Recommended reading overall.(less)
There has been so much written about Siddhartha, that I doubt anything I could write would be considered anything more than just pedestrian. I have me...moreThere has been so much written about Siddhartha, that I doubt anything I could write would be considered anything more than just pedestrian. I have meant to read this book for, oh, 45 years or so. Even at 60, I doubt I can add much to the tens of thousands of reviewers before me. I do think it's interesting that there were many parallels in my life -- and thought -- to what Siddhartha went through. As a story, the most compelling part was Kamala's death scene; that was touching.
I do think this should be required reading for anyone with a thinking head on their shoulders (even if it takes you 45 years to get around to it). It provides a lot of ideas in a very short space, and you can contemplate them for many years.
This is a very massive tome, yet doesn't ever feel like you've had to read so many pages to get to where you are. Despite how much I've loved Hamilton...moreThis is a very massive tome, yet doesn't ever feel like you've had to read so many pages to get to where you are. Despite how much I've loved Hamilton's other books, this one has bested them because everything about it was -just- -right-. The pacing, the characterizations, the sense of space and time, the balance between action and exposition, the big ideas and the small ideas, the use of technology in realistic ways, a good extrapolation of current science... this book has it all. And I mean ALL. Plus, the whole plot line is almost more mystery than it is sf. Yes, there have been other books where one thing was better than the same thing in this book, but none that were better in such a well-rounded, thoroughly comprehensive way. Highly, highly recommended reading. (less)
Egan's tale of an alien species, in the process of cultural transcendence triggered by resolute need, is really in...more(3.5 stars would be a better rating)
Egan's tale of an alien species, in the process of cultural transcendence triggered by resolute need, is really interesting. It's hard to complain about characterization when you're reading about aliens, their thoughts, actions and words, but Egan did a fairly good job with that. While the tiny world of the aliens, the Splinter, is fairly simplistic, I was 90% of the way through the story before I really had a good picture in my mind about its nature. Whether that was by design or not, I'm not sure. It distracted me a bit, but I forged on through the story and didn't let it bother me too much. The ending wasn't very satisfying, but I can't fault Egan for it, because I couldn't think of anything else he could have done. It would be easy for him to write another story with the same plot-line/characters, but I didn't sense it was intended that way (a practice I loath).
(A side note: in my mind, anyway, I could "sense" two different plot resolutions to the way the story was going, and I found it intriguing Egan didn't use either of them.)
I can definitely recommend this for true hard-sf fans. (less)
This is an amazingly detailed look at the personal, political and emotional life of probably the greatest American who wasn't ever president. The auth...moreThis is an amazingly detailed look at the personal, political and emotional life of probably the greatest American who wasn't ever president. The author made it clear that no other single individual is more responsible for how our government operates, than Alexander Hamilton. A close confidant, assistant and friend to George Washington, Hamilton's frenetic intellect was better governed by that association, and we are all the better for it. What struck me most was how very little different the political squabbles we see today on a daily basis, were essentially the same 200 years ago. It underscores the oft repeated truism that democracy is messy. Hamilton said, "I never expect to see a perfect work from an imperfect man" and so democracy, the creation of man, is itself as imperfect as its creator.
Profoundly detailed, the book does seem slightly biased toward favoring Hamilton, but that is to be expected. But rather than gloss over his trials and failings, Chernow pulls them out of the muck, provides an in-depth context, and examines them in bright light and in powerful microscopic detail, allowing you to decide for yourself.
Highly recommended reading. Be prepared, though, for a marathon read. If you are, like me, fairly uneducated on financial theory, comprehending some of the information is slow going. (less)
Excellent and eye-opening account of Ulysses S. Grant's life, showing how ordinary he was and how he struggled and was close to poverty... and then th...moreExcellent and eye-opening account of Ulysses S. Grant's life, showing how ordinary he was and how he struggled and was close to poverty... and then the meteoric and phenomenal rise in status. Through a series of chances, he ended up in the right place and the right time, at the start of the Civil War. It demonstrates how truly remarkable it is for just an ordinary man to have courage and principle, when all around him his "betters" would quail and back-down from action. Two words Lincoln used to describe why he liked Grant so much: "He fights!"
Brands doesn't sugar-coat anything, and you see the mistakes as well as the successes. Like George Washington, Grant would rather have been anywhere but where he was, doing anything else, but because of fate and the fact that the country needed him, he did his duty and saved the Union. This is an top-flight read... highly recommended. (less)
The Hydrogen Sonata is very much a Culture book... it reads and feels like all the others and is a fairly good tale. But it's funny how, right about t...moreThe Hydrogen Sonata is very much a Culture book... it reads and feels like all the others and is a fairly good tale. But it's funny how, right about the time the ship Minds were wondering if all the to-and-fro was worth it, I was wondering the same thing. If this book had a subtitle, it would be "Much Ado About Very Little." That doesn't mean it's not a good read, and anyone having immersed themselves in the Culture novels will thoroughly enjoy it. I dare say, even if someone not familiar with Banks picked up this book and read it, they would also enjoy it -- at a level below a Culture reader, but still, they would enjoy it.
The characterization of the principle protagonist was very well done, thoroughly 3-D, believable and endearing. (You know it's good when you wish you knew someone like that in real life!) She is an "everyman," thrust into martial episodes way beyond her training and experience. The story proceeds at a good clip, so it's never lagging or wanting for some action. What makes her more believable is that she doesn't suddenly turn into SuperWoman or even does much beyond the capabilities she has when she's introduced to us. She simply puts up her best effort, keeps up with events as they roll at her at sometimes a frightening pace, and manages to hold up her end of the story. I appreciated it, not turning her into more than she fundamentally was.
If there is any lesson Banks tries to teach, it's something you see fairly frequently in the other novels: it's not enough to just be capable, but you have to have that capability in the right place at the right time. It was interesting to see even the god-like ship Minds struggle with that. And they struggle with morality, too, which I find simultaneously interesting and a bit uncertain as to how that would really happen, were there such beings of phenomenal intelligence. Banks feels that the more sophisticated the mind, the more reasonable it will be... so a Mind, billions of times more sophisticated than a human mind, should be billions of more times reasonable. I'm not sure I buy it compeletely, but it does make me feel good.
A worthwhile read... highly recommended, especially for hard-sf fans. (less)
A short but interesting sf novel of First Contact, and dealing with intelligence's so far above our level, and so different, it's almost impossible to...moreA short but interesting sf novel of First Contact, and dealing with intelligence's so far above our level, and so different, it's almost impossible to communicate with them. My rating would normally have been a bit lower due to characterizations that were a bit shy of being truly 3-D, but because the book was originally written in Japanese, I gave the author, and translator, the benefit of the doubt. I appreciated the concise writing style, taking a good idea and NOT turning it into grand space opera... very much appreciated!(less)
This biography of George Washington was detailed and fascinating. The author took great pains to be truthful and honest in his descriptions, and kept...moreThis biography of George Washington was detailed and fascinating. The author took great pains to be truthful and honest in his descriptions, and kept a very even hand when describing his faults as well as his better nature. Through his eyes, you get to see George Washington as a person, not as a legend. Stated in the book, you can know the General better than any of his contemporaries ever did, as the author had a wealth of resources to pull from. Despite being a very lengthy book, it's amazing it wasn't longer.
It's tempting to compare this author with the author of the biography of Benjamin Franklin, H. W. Brands, which I just read recently. Suffice it to say that Chernow does a very good job with Washington, but Brands is easily a superior story-teller. Many times when reading Washington: A Life, it felt there was so much information, that Chernow would put weakly-related information in line with a topic, and it felt forced. It was as if he were thinking, "this is really good info, and I really want to put it in the book, but to give it a proper write-up would take another 100 pages, and that just won't do, so, I'll just stick it in ~here~." I never had that feeling with Brands book on Franklin. But both were excellent reads, and I definitely recommend them both. (less)
I liked it more than my rating would indicate, but I only marked it that way because even many people that like hard science fiction would have a toug...moreI liked it more than my rating would indicate, but I only marked it that way because even many people that like hard science fiction would have a tough time with Schild's Ladder. I was a math major and this made my head hurt at times, trying to keep up with his concepts. The sections where he emphasized the relationships between the characters was very good, which made up for some of the starker, conceptual sections. Overall, a good read, good story, good characterizations, but a tough row to hoe, conceptually.(less)