The first 4 or 5 stories are of the weird horror variety, similar to Lovecraft only more weird and less supernatural. The last half of the book is a pThe first 4 or 5 stories are of the weird horror variety, similar to Lovecraft only more weird and less supernatural. The last half of the book is a puzzling series of Parisian romantic stories that didn't really interest me all that much. ...more
The author's solutions are mostly good ideas, though probably utterly unworkable with the broken political system we have in this country. I do take iThe author's solutions are mostly good ideas, though probably utterly unworkable with the broken political system we have in this country. I do take issue with his assertion that U.S. corporations pay the highest tax rates in the world. This is only true if you don't count all the deductions and such that many of the larger corporations take advantage of so that a company like GE makes billions in revenue and profit but pays no taxes whatsoever. Other than that, an interesting read....more
The best description I can give of this book is that it's a great novelization of a Michael Bay space war action movie. It's not as brain dead as a BaThe best description I can give of this book is that it's a great novelization of a Michael Bay space war action movie. It's not as brain dead as a Bay movie would be, but it doesn't really strive to be more than one would expect from the source material. There were a few "WHUUU???" moments and a few good moments and a lot of words in between....more
When the author asked me via email to provide a cover blurb for his upcoming self-published novel, I was hesitant. For any who have read my reviews beWhen the author asked me via email to provide a cover blurb for his upcoming self-published novel, I was hesitant. For any who have read my reviews before, I am a brutally honest critic. Even when I pull punches, I have a tendency to be more brusque than many people are prepared to deal with. I knew that if I didn't like this book, I couldn't provide a blurb because nothing I say would put it in a favorable light. I agreed, but only with that caveat that if I didn't like it, there would be no blurb. The author agreed and sent me the eBook.
I'm happy to say that not only did I provide a cover blurb, I did so because the book exceeded my expectations. E.C. Belikov is a fantastic writer, the kind of writer that disproves the adage that "self-published authors are untalented cranks." Belikov juxtaposes weighty metaphysical issues and blistering action with the deft touch of a master of his craft. While the book isn't perfect, those who like their science-fiction action-packed but with thought-provoking philosophical implications will not be disappointed.
The main plot device of this novel is the titular Destiny Engine, a sophisticated computer network that allows those sharing its neural link to experience the future, or more specifically various possible futures that could change depending on the choices the viewer makes. The farther in advance they gaze, the more possibilities they must experience, and the less predictable the results are. The technologies frightening implications have the Mars government struggling with impending legislation that will outlaw the technology and the consulting firm that controls it, which some view as a religious cult. Religions having been banned after a particularly nasty series of religious wars, the protagonist Kiera has to walk a fine line between defending and evangelizing for the firm's technologies. When a prominent Mars businessmen/mobster has his child kidnapped, the firm sends Keira and her ex-boyfriend to help the local authorities find the kid before its too late.
While there are parts of the book that dragged, particularly in the middle of the book with the section involving some of the romantic subplots, a patient reader is rewarded with a fantastic finish. I was able to predict the ending, but I won't say it was telegraphed, and it certainly didn't hinder my enjoyment. The book earned every one of the four stars I give it, and I look forward to more from Mr. Belikov in the future....more
Anathem is the kind of brilliant book that nevertheless frustrates the reader constantly by being so utterly unapproachable. As a big fan of StephensoAnathem is the kind of brilliant book that nevertheless frustrates the reader constantly by being so utterly unapproachable. As a big fan of Stephenson's, I gave this book a lot more chances than I might have had I not been familiar with the author's work. It wanders from opaque to engage then back to off-putting before wandering back into page-turning territory like a drunken mathematician spouting obscure formulas between anecdotes about his sexual exploits in Delta Phi Delta.
Boiled down to its purest essence, Anathem is the story of a first contact situation with extra-dimensional aliens by a group of not-quite ascetic monks whose devotion is to mathematics instead of religion on a parallel world that might have been Earth except for various divergences in history. While it sounds simple, the author takes over 200 pages just to give us the first glimpse of that plot. He moves along at an incredibly slow pace, obsessing over small details while fleshing out the parameters of the world in exhaustive detail. This is an extremely dense work, full of words the author made up himself. It takes at least 200 pages just to get a grip on the language through his copious sidenote definitions and context. The author's clear love of mathematics and meta-philosophy is evident, though it devolves into over-written self-indulgence at too many points in the story.
All that said, I enjoyed Anathem greatly. Yes, it's a chore to get through at times, and I had to stop reading the appendices at the end of the book that were nothing more than narrative solutions of mathematical word problems. Stephenson has often been criticized for poor endings (The Diamond Age in particular was an abrupt, frustrating ending) but I felt the ending of this one actually worked and wrapped up the narrative neatly. If you can manage to make it through the first twenty or so pages without wanting to through the paperback across the room, keep at this. It will reward you for your dedication....more
King Solomon's Mines is the only book of the Alan Quatermain stories that I've ever read, despite knowing of the character from the League of ExtraordKing Solomon's Mines is the only book of the Alan Quatermain stories that I've ever read, despite knowing of the character from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie and comic series. As a fan of the pulpy "Lost World" genre that this novel spawns, it's amazing that I've waited this long in life to read this sort of thing.
The first thing that struck me about the novel is the blatant colonialist racism that permeates the whole work. Any modern reader who didn't know the time period it was written in would be shocked by the attitudes of the white men towards the black, but that is only because the modern reader should be uncomfortable with such anachronistic attitudes. As a historical document of cultural prejudice, it is extremely instructive, and something I think any modern reader would benefit from viewing. With the doctrine of American Exceptionalism being such a prevalent part of our current political and racial discourse, seeing the more blatant aspects of such imperialist attitudes as expressed through the "Rule Brittania" sort of Victorian ideals about colonial Africa is an unsettling mirror image of modern day prejudices towards the Middle East. What is surprising, however, is how culturally sensitive the main character actually is in spite of the prevailing attitudes of racial inequality. A number of the African characters are considered on an equal par with their European counterparts, and one of the main characters, Capt. Good, actually falls in love with an African tribeswoman, though Quatermain bemoans the doomed nature of such progressive interracial romances should Good return to England with her at his side.
The story itself is the the kind of dashing, madcap adventure we've come to know and love through cliffhanger serials and later works like the Indiana Jones series of films. At times, Haggard's language is surprisingly stark, lacking the flowery wordiness of most Victorian literature. There are passages, however, that feel like the most egregious of Dickens' work, where the reader can imagine the author being paid by the word. The story never bogs down, though, and I found myself cutting through it fairly quickly.
While not perfect, it's certainly an enjoyable read, and for fans of the genre, it's a must if only to see the foundations for so many later cliches being laid. I give the novel 3.5 out of 5 stars....more