Set in Larry Niven's world of The Magic Goes Away, story follows Whandall Placehold as he grows up in Tep's Town, a city where the fire-god Yangin-Ate...moreSet in Larry Niven's world of The Magic Goes Away, story follows Whandall Placehold as he grows up in Tep's Town, a city where the fire-god Yangin-Atep rules and alternately protects the city's denizens and allows his followers to go on a massive arson-spree called "the Burning".
The characters are well thought out and the plot is very engaging - you really get into the mind of Whandall and feel like you know him. The class structure set up with Lords, Lordkin, and Kinless is interesting and the historical derivation of the structure gets explained as the story progresses.
The fantasy plotline is believable, innovative, and keeps you reading. I've read this a couple times and am planning to keep it around for a future read or two.(less)
Lois McMaster Bujold can write a mean sci-fi story (check out the Vorkosigan series if that interests you), but is equally adept at writing an excelle...moreLois McMaster Bujold can write a mean sci-fi story (check out the Vorkosigan series if that interests you), but is equally adept at writing an excellent fantasy novel. Her characters are three-dimensional, and her plots always take you somewhere interesting, even if you can occasionally see what is coming around the bend. Her writing is filled with vivid imagery and the pacing, while not resorting to chapter-ending cliffhangers, keeps you wanting to turn the pages. Please be warned that this is more of a romance novel in a fantasy world than you might expect from other books by Bujold - if that bugs you, you probably shouldn't read it.
The Sharing Knife Volume One: Beguilement opens up a new fantasy world of Bujold's own creation. There's a social dichotomy between "Lakewalkers" (wandering bands of patrollers) and "Farmers" (to the Lakewalkers, this term applies to all non-Lakewalkers). The Lakewalkers on patrol appear to rely on the goodwill of the Farmers as they scout through the populated areas, looking for signs of supernatural creatures called Malices (or Blight Bogles). Since one Malice left alone has the potential to destroy the world, the Lakewalkers strive to kill any and every one of them as soon as they know of their existence.
Beguilement focuses mainly on a pair of protagonists, one a Lakewalker and one a Farmer, who, through a series of events, are bound up in their fate through a Lakewalker "sharing knife". I should probably point out
The world Bujold has created is well thought out and full of mystery and fraught with adventure, with a touch of magic thrown in here and there. Definitely an enjoyable read, and I'll be looking to get my hands on the rest of the series, post-haste.(less)
Hold the phones, stop the presses - Robert Heinlein is writing new novels from beyond the grave!
Well, technically, it's a collaboration, but Variable...moreHold the phones, stop the presses - Robert Heinlein is writing new novels from beyond the grave!
Well, technically, it's a collaboration, but Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson reads like a Heinlein novel, and delivers everything you could want from a book written by two of the greatest writers of modern science fiction.
Set in the not-too-distant future, just a little while past Heinlein's Crazy Years period, the protagonist is a young musician (saxophone) and composer named Joel Johnston. Joel's pride and stubbornness (and a whirlwind series of events) cause him to book passage on a colony ship destined to become the Earth's 20th colony, on a planet 85 light-years away from everything he held near and dear to his heart. The novel is as much about humanity, kindness, love, music, and hope as it is about the Joel's experiences on his voyage to the stars.
The novel feels like a Heinlein juvenile, and for good reason. During the period that Robert A. Heinlein was writing his juveniles, he put together a very dense-but-unfinished outline of eight typed pages and fourteen 3x5" index cards of extensive handwritten notes about Variable Star. And then, for some reason, he never wrote the novel and instead put them in a desk drawer, where they sat undiscovered until members representing his estate went through all of his works, and in 2003 asked Spider Robinson to turn the outline into a full novel.
Spider Robinson, first called "the new Robert Heinlein" by the New York Times Book Review in 1982, eagerly accepted the challenge to turn the outline into a novel that would make the Grand Master proud. He managed to follow faithfully in the classic model of a Heinlein Space Opera, complete with RAH's own trademark phrases and quips. Yet Robinson also poured his own life and soul into the story, bringing about a depth to the characters and scenes that only Spider Robinson could dream up. Although he restrained himself somewhat compared to other of his novels (like his Callahan series), Robinson still managed to sprinkle a liberal dose of puns throughout the story - but rarely, if ever, do they appear to be puns for punning's sake.
Readers should be aware that Robinson does bring a bit of the contemporary to the stereotypical '50s style of Heinlein's earlier works. There are some references to sex & drugs, and some minor profanity that you wouldn't expect if the novel was solely authored by Heinlein. However, these are not very graphic at all, and I would say the book is a safe read for anyone 13 years and older.
This book is a fantastic read that kept me up way too late for many nights in a row until I devoured it from cover to cover. As a long-time fan of both authors, I could not think of a more enjoyable story to cap off Heinlein's long writing career. This is a definite must-read for anyone who is a fan of Robert A. Heinlein's books, and fans of one of Heinlein's greatest students will not be disappointed with Spider Robinson's latest creation, either.(less)
Interesting fantasy world where the youngest sons (non-heirs) of royalty join a monastery-like environment in the hopes of becoming "poets", or indivi...moreInteresting fantasy world where the youngest sons (non-heirs) of royalty join a monastery-like environment in the hopes of becoming "poets", or individuals who can capture some intangible embodiment of an idea ("Andats") and turn it into a human-like being capable of being harnessed for some use. For example, the Andat "Seedless" is used by his poet (Heshai) to make all the seeds fall out of the cotton that is harvested in his country to allow the weavers in his land to hold an edge in the industry over those in surrounding lands.
The book follows the plot of a group of people who are trying to break Heshai's spirit and force him to release his Andat. The planning, enactment, and follow-up of their actions is interesting to read about and is really what kept me moving through this book. The character development is pretty strong, but I don't feel like the author always characterized the main players consistently.
It was an interesting read, and the struggle/dichotomy of the enslaved Andats is an idea I'd like to see explored more. With that said, I probably wouldn't want to go purchase any books in the series myself - more of a library read for me.
Triplanetary is the first book of the Lensman series by E.E. Doc Smith. Like the rest of the series, it's a pulp-era space opera full of action, adven...moreTriplanetary is the first book of the Lensman series by E.E. Doc Smith. Like the rest of the series, it's a pulp-era space opera full of action, adventure, and "state-of-the-art" inventions and technology rolled into a non-stop ride through the galaxy (and beyond).
Like a lot of the genre at that time, the book's characters are a little wooden and stereotypical. There's the brave, quick-thinking, and capable secret agent Costigan, the stolid-yet-capable ship's Captain Bradley, the brilliant scientist-cum-engineer Lyman Cleveland, and the brave and not totally helpless damsel-in-distress Clio, who falls in love with Castigan during his many efforts to save, rescue and/or protect her from space pirates and then later, invading/kidnapping aliens.
Despite its shortcomings, Triplanetary is a quick and enjoyable read that envisions one possible way things could go with our first alien contact - assuming humanity is quick enough on the uptake to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and determined enough to dig in when the going gets tough. I personally like the rest of the series a little bit more, but it's important to read this book to get the background for the next few in the series.
Hal Spacejock is the kind of guy who always wanted to be a space pilot, but doesn't really have any of the qualifications for it. That doesn't stop him from trying though!
The first book of a series, this one introduces you to Hal Spacejock and the rusty old robot who joins him early in the story as he attempts to dodge repossession of his junkheap of a space ship by transporting (smuggling) a load of cargo from under the noses of a war fleet on an embargoed world. When one of his employer's main competitors tries to steal the cargo, things get really out of control.
The book itself was a fun read, but nothing stood out to me as extra-special. I found the characters likable but not extraordinary, and sometimes it seemed like Hal was a little too stupid for even his character. It would make a pretty good series for a younger teenaged reader, I think.(less)
Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie, is the first Christie novel I've ever read. Surprisingly, it's one of those stories that I've always...moreMurder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie, is the first Christie novel I've ever read. Surprisingly, it's one of those stories that I've always heard the title of but never knew anything about (never seen any of the movie-versions either).
In the book, Detective Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective, is a passenger on the fabled Orient Express train as it travels from Istanbul to Paris. During the lengthy train ride, someone murders a much-hated millionaire, and all 13 of the suspects on the train with Poirot may have had reasons to commit the crime. When the train is stalled on the tracks due to inclement weather, Poirot takes advantage of the isolation to investigate the crime, vowing to determine the identity of the killer before the train gets to Paris.
The novel was quite interesting. I'm sometimes in a mood for a mystery, although I haven't read any of this style (apparently it's a variation on the theme of the English house-party mystery) The style seemed a little dated & quaint by today's rough-hewn murder mystery plots, but it was well done.
The book definitely left me guessing all the way up until the very end. Minutiae mentioned in passing are somehow mentally tucked away by Poirot until he can make sense of them all and come up with a reasonable explanation for the events that have occurred. The ending itself left me with a lot to think about as well, bringing up issues of morality, justice, and society in a way that left all judgments on the issues to the reader.
Orient Express was a quick read, as I'm sure most of Christie's mysteries would be. I'll be looking into more of her stuff when I go on trips or to the beach, as it's very suitable for times you just want a lighter, but still entertaining mystery. (less)
The Earth is invaded, but not War of the Worlds style - this is infinitely worse as they send targeted strikes down on damns, railroads, military base...moreThe Earth is invaded, but not War of the Worlds style - this is infinitely worse as they send targeted strikes down on damns, railroads, military bases, highways and industry sources - effectively subdividing the world up into sub-fiefs where people struggle to survive while the alien invaders slowly take over and plan to enslave/integrate mankind into their "herd".
Typical of Niven/Pournelle stories, the science is real, the people are real, the techniques they use to survive and fight back are real (except for those that are yet to be developed). The scope of events has to be read to be believed, and immerses me in this world every time I read the book.(less)
Some of the best short stories I've ever read, by Spider Robinson or other. Sometimes of a sci-fi bent, sometimes not, these stories usually gift-wrap...moreSome of the best short stories I've ever read, by Spider Robinson or other. Sometimes of a sci-fi bent, sometimes not, these stories usually gift-wrap a philosophical, moral, or ethical dilemma in a very tasty plot package. Light reading but stays with you long after you're done with it.(less)
Some of the great short fiction from Niven's "Known Space" universe - just enough hard science to make you believe this could all happen one day, and...moreSome of the great short fiction from Niven's "Known Space" universe - just enough hard science to make you believe this could all happen one day, and more than enough engaging writing to make this a book I read again and again.(less)
1st Archy McNally novel I've read. My wife says they're all a pretty light but fun read, to which I have to agree. I'm not sure I really like the Arch...more1st Archy McNally novel I've read. My wife says they're all a pretty light but fun read, to which I have to agree. I'm not sure I really like the Archy McNally character, but the mystery itself was intriguing and there were enough fun descriptions of gourmet food sprinkled through the book to keep me always wanting to go nosh on something.(less)
I was surprised to find another book in the Phule's Company series in the bookstore, as I hadn't heard anything about it. Apparently it was published...moreI was surprised to find another book in the Phule's Company series in the bookstore, as I hadn't heard anything about it. Apparently it was published in 2006, which makes me the latecomer to the party, but I expect I didn't hear much about it because it's a lackluster addition to the Phule series.
The novel itself follows in a similar vein to the others in the Phule's Company series, but just doesn't have the same sparkle or life to it. In all the other novels, the whole Omega company of the Space Legion (misfits of the most misfit branch of the military) has to adapt to a new assignment on a new planet, and succeeds, thanks in part to a bit of dumb luck and the willingness of their Captain (Willard Phule) to spread his inestimable wealth to give his company the best operating equipment and facilities in the new location.
This novel focuses less on the Omega Company and more on only a handful of members. Phule has to rush offplanet in attempts to catch his butler, who has gone on vacation but didn't leave his security-code for Phule to access his financial records. A couple of his soldiers surreptitiously follow to aid Phule in his efforts, but always end up a step behind their commander, who in turn is always a step behind his butler Beeker.
The hijinks on their tour to four new planets are tired and leave the reader wishing the novel was over. The parallel plot of General Blitzkrieg performing a surprise inspection while Phule is gone is almost as uninteresting, although it is tempered a bit by a little interaction with various members of the Omega Company.
As (I'm assuming) this is the final book in the Phule's Company series, this was a sad way to cap off the stories about Captain Jester and his ragtag band of misfits. I know it may not have been planned to be the last in the series, but it still felt like it was a "straight-to-video" addition to the series tacked on just to take advantage of the name and characters Asprin worked so hard to develop in the early 90's.(less)