I wanted to like this book, but I found myself unable to finish it. The concept was intriguing; five nano-enhanced humans return to Earth from a VenusI wanted to like this book, but I found myself unable to finish it. The concept was intriguing; five nano-enhanced humans return to Earth from a Venusian terraforming expedition to discover the entire human race wiped out in an instant. But too much about the details of the novel, especially the science parts left me unable to finish the book.
Every human in the world is connected to a worldwide network through nans (nanotechnology), and through this their every thought is recorded. If, in the case of the main character, a person has strong sexual attraction to someone that is not their wife, this fact is emailed to everyone close to the person. Why would humans give up their rights to privacy in this instance? And why would both divorce and extramarital affairs be illegal in a world with no ability to hid the affair or even the desire for an affair?
The nanotech itself made everyone on earth superhuman, able to generate a magnetic field that protected them from even the dangers of open space, as well as allow them to fly great distances incredibly fast. This quickly took me out of the book, as the main character starts the day by commuting to Venus from Vancouver in an hour. Every human has the ability to fly interplanetary distances like Superman. I can't quite put my finger on why, but I couldn't buy this.
The terraforming ideas for Venus felt extremely illogical to me. The main character's idea of using a gigantic electromagnetic fan to drive the current atmosphere away from the planetary body was only slightly illogical. The competing idea of crashing an asteroid into the planet and using a rocket-propelled moon from another planet as a sunshield was even less convincing.
What really caused me to put the book away was the revelation of the main antagonist. This character spoke like a mustache-twirling caricature tying the damsel to the train tracks. The book isn't so bad that I feel the need to ridicule it. The author clearly has some ability to write. It's unfortunate that there were so many things in the first half of the book that kept me from wanting to finish it....more
His intelligence oozes through the book on every page, but unfortunately intelligence is not the only qualCharles Stross is more intelligent than me.
His intelligence oozes through the book on every page, but unfortunately intelligence is not the only quality needed to make a book entertaining. I won't rehash the plot as it's available above. Suffice it to say that this is Stross' concept of humanity's movements from a post-cyberpunk, connected reality through transhumanism into post-humanism, and our stumbling attempts to connect with alien intelligences as well as deal with the increasing hostility between transhumans and posthumans. The meta narrative, a accelerating rush towards the 'singularity' of humanity transcending its fleshy bonds into a pure intelligence, is an intriguing one, especially when that rush runs headlong into alien intelligences that have evolved along similar paths.
Unfortunately, the narrative lacks that most important of human qualities, characters the reader can actually care about. The most interesting character is the first we meet, Manfred Macx, and he spends half the book out of frame. The characters that are left, from his domineering ex-wife, to the daughter he has hardly ever seen in the flesh, to various copies of that daughter's intelligence along with other consciousness astronauts, are all either boring, one-dimensional or flatly annoying. I could forgive the lack of interesting characters if the meta narrative itself took center stage, but it is often lost.
SPOILER: The final chapter is especially disappointing in terms of this meta narrative. Finding out that the entire arc has been manipulated by the artificial cat cum artificial intelligence Aineko leaves the meta narrative about meeting post-singularity alien intelligences dangling in space. Were it a story about interesting characters, this ending might not have galled me so much. But with such uninteresting characters, the ending feels not only anticlimactic, it's downright irritating.
Finally, Stross' writing style grates. I feel he too often wanders into meandering discussions about posthumanism, chock full of buzzwords lacking context and overwrought terms that left me frankly confused. His continual use of such words as "gigaseconds" instead of months or days or years threw me right out of the narrative. I wanted to like it, and I certainly wanted more out of the story. It's not a terrible book, but not one I can recommend....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
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
I love Tolstoy and Russian literature of this period in general. War and Peace is most certainly a masterpiece, full of Tolstoy's traditionally eloqueI love Tolstoy and Russian literature of this period in general. War and Peace is most certainly a masterpiece, full of Tolstoy's traditionally eloquent prose, conflicted characters and sweeping plot lines. It is not, however, a perfect masterpiece. Tolstoy chose to add what amount to philosophical essays all throughout the piece, and they are at times jarring. While the pieces detailing the historical flow of Napoleon's campaign in Russia were necessary, as the book comes to a close, the essays become over long. The narrative following the characters ends abruptly and Tolstoy finishes the book with an arduously long discourse about the study of history and its failure to accept the doctrine of predestination. These essays, though not enjoyable, do not diminish the importance or enjoyment of the work enough to discourage my recommendation. It is a tough task getting through a book so long and dense, but ultimately, the reward is worth the effort....more
I gave this book two stars instead of one mainly because I do believe Card has the ability to write. However, after over 100 pages of reading this, II gave this book two stars instead of one mainly because I do believe Card has the ability to write. However, after over 100 pages of reading this, I found the same problem with it that I had with Ender's Game, only amplified. I didn't care one whit for any of the characters involved. Not only that, but every sentence of dialogue out of the characters mouths irritated me on a cellular level. Though intrigued by the story, I cannot stomach it through the eyes of these characters who seem to act in complete, conscious opposition to their own self-interests for really no good reason whatsoever. Ender, as in the first book, strikes me of the "Mary Sue" syndrome. He is always right, always the moral center of the book, and I form no connection with him whatsoever. I simply didn't feel my time would be well-spent by continuing to read the book....more
For those fans of the TV show wondering if they should read the book, the answer is YES. This was one of those fantasy series I wanted to read based oFor those fans of the TV show wondering if they should read the book, the answer is YES. This was one of those fantasy series I wanted to read based on the praise heaped on it by my friends. I preferred to wait until it was finished, however, not wanting to involve myself in another long yet unfinished series like the Wheel of Time. After having seen the show, I couldn't wait for the end.
This is a low-magic fantasy series based around the War of the Roses, only with the undercurrent of fantasy tropes like dragons, wights, magic and other fantastic elements. The characters are strong, interesting and well-developed and there are a host of them. From the moment I began reading, the language pulled me in. Martin is an accomplished writer and a though the book is a long one, it reads incredibly fast. Even after 800 pages, I wanted to read more. What separates this from typical fantasy is the author's ability to surprise the reader. Important deaths abound, despite the characters dying being of such importance, a typical fantasy reader will expect that character to be invincible. This series is well worth the read....more
This is my first experience with Ursula K. Le Guin's work, and I had no idea what kind of book to expect. Le Guin is an outstanding writer - the book'This is my first experience with Ursula K. Le Guin's work, and I had no idea what kind of book to expect. Le Guin is an outstanding writer - the book's language is intelligent and intellectual, making for slow reading at first, but never turning into a plodding exercise in over-thinking. With most fiction, I'm able to get a general idea of where the story is likely to go, but not with this book. The writer always kept me guessing. The book leaves a lot of food for thought, a lot of lofty ideas that I will be considering for quite a while. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for anyone that wants to read intelligent, thought-provoking science-fiction....more
Knowing the terrible state of healthcare in this country, much of what I read in this book didn't surprise me. While the depths of corruption, greed aKnowing the terrible state of healthcare in this country, much of what I read in this book didn't surprise me. While the depths of corruption, greed and pure idiocy this book highlights was surprising, the authors tended to belabor their points about how bad the system is to an almost shrill degree. I chalk that up to the time it was written (2004), before Michael Moore's Sicko and the endless debates about "death panels" from 2009-2010. It illuminates the problems, but unfortunately it's solutions are somewhat sparse on the ground, ending up as one chapter in the back of the book. Even worse, the solutions it offers, while almost entirely an effective solution, aren't even remotely feasible in the current political climate (i.e. with a Republican/Tea Party controlled House and a President and Democratic party more concerned with corporation-friendly centrism than doing the right thing by America). The book is worth reading if you are not already intimately familiar with the flaws in the American healthcare system, but only if you are willing to admit that perhaps our pay for play capitalist system isn't "the best in the world." If you have even the slightest inkling that our system is a good one, you are deluded and this book likely won't convince you. If you think government healthcare is automatically Soviet style oppression, nothing can help you....more