This sequel to The Risen Empire wraps up the Succession duology. I usually associate this flavour of militaristic, big concept space opera with Britis...moreThis sequel to The Risen Empire wraps up the Succession duology. I usually associate this flavour of militaristic, big concept space opera with British authors like Iain M. Banks and Peter F. Hamilton (to name but two) so it’s good to see this work coming from the other side of the Atlantic. The military actions depicted here are really interesting and it’s obvious that quite a bit of thought have gone into them. The same goes for the tech concerned. Westerfeld was clearly thinking out of the box when he conceived all of this. The characters are fairly interesting, although I never cared a lot for any of them. The book does attempt to sympathise with both sides of the coin where the Empire and the Rix are concerned, although the story’s focus is on the Empire and its internal politics (the Rix remain somewhat enigmatic throughout). If you don’t know by now, the Empire and the Rix are the two opposing factions of Westerfeld’s story. Although there are some clichés or tropes here (the one faction opposes artificially intelligent "minds" while the other deifies them, for example) there are some ideas that are certainly exclusive to the series. The undead cat collection, for example, comes to mind.
The story continues directly from the cliffhanger ending of The Risen Empire and launches into one of the most knuckle whitening space battles I have ever read. It takes up quite a chunk of the book too, which bolsters the pacing quite a bit. Before you know it, you’re halfway through. Then there’s the wrap up and the final reveal of the enigmatic “secret” which has been hinted at since the early pages of The Risen Empire. This plot device does lend itself to quite a bit of suspense. In the end, it’s a pretty solid story. It probably won’t shake your foundations, but it’s a reasonably quick read for this kind of thing, with some great ideas. Recommended.
I actually hope Westerfeld eventually gets around to writing some more of the same… (less)
There are any number of things not quite right with this book. The characters aren't as fully fleshed out as they could be. The science bits are a bit...moreThere are any number of things not quite right with this book. The characters aren't as fully fleshed out as they could be. The science bits are a bit odd at times. The 'interstellar' politics are laughably simple. Why then, is it such a blast to read? Well, the pacing is flawless. Despite the fact that the novel isn't saturated with action or adventure scenes it reads surprisingly fast for a novel exceeding 500 pages. That, in itself, is an accomplishment. Also, there is a rather fascinating mystery at the heart of the story.
I'm thinking that perhaps this is the kind of novel that would be a good read for younger readers wanting to dip into the sci-fi genre. It's typical Timothy Zahn fare, and he is a pretty popular author, especially in the Star Wars universe. The novel does provoke one or two thoughtful moments as well, especially concerning free thinking and the effects of fear on the human psyche.
Golden Age Science Fiction goodness. I can see from other reviews that not everybody enjoyed this, but I really enjoy Van Vogt, his stories tend to tw...moreGolden Age Science Fiction goodness. I can see from other reviews that not everybody enjoyed this, but I really enjoy Van Vogt, his stories tend to twist and turn and venture off into unexpected territory. The logical next step is almost never what happens. Slan has had a massive influence on the genre, as seen in Marvel Comics' X-men and the writings of Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). Slan actually deals with a rather complicated theme, but in an almost simplistic fashion, the quick pace of the novel is testament to this. Latter authors, like Dick, instilled a much greater emotional impact into the same kind of thing. This, however, is fun. Anachronisms? Of course! I'd expect no less of a Science Fiction novel published in the 1940s. There is a feverish quality to much of the Van Vogt stuff I've read, and perhaps that's why he's not everybody's cup of tea. Me, I'd recommend this any day of the week. Some of it appears silly now, but Slan has certainly made its mark!(less)
I have been busy with this book for a long, long time. I am now officially abandoning it. What started off as funny, funky and innovative has failed t...moreI have been busy with this book for a long, long time. I am now officially abandoning it. What started off as funny, funky and innovative has failed to live up to my expectations. The story gets heavily, heavily bogged down halfway through. Also, in my opinion, this book just tries too hard to be funny and smart. I appreciate what the author has tried to do, and if the other reviews are to be a benchmark he appears to have succeeded, at least somewhat. I also appreciate the fact that this is, supposedly, a piece of cyberpunk history. I liked Neuromancer. This, I didn't like.(less)
It's quite easy to like this book if you approach it with the correct attitude. Yes, it is based on a video game franchise, and the downside is that r...moreIt's quite easy to like this book if you approach it with the correct attitude. Yes, it is based on a video game franchise, and the downside is that readers will not really know how the story unfolds from here unless they play the game. It's a pity that the story of the first Mass Effect game has not been novelized as a sequel to Revelation. There is a sequel (Mass Effect: Ascension), but it takes place after the events of the game. I would have loved to read a novel featuring Commander Shepard, and the story is so well done it wouldn't have hurt. On the other hand, it remains to be seen how this affects the overall story arc as I haven't yet read Ascension.
Anyway, as for Revelation itself. It is a prequel to the events that are set in motion in the first Mass Effect game, and it is quite an accessible Science Fiction novel. An amalgamation of light Space Opera and light Military Sci-Fi, this novel will likely appeal just as much to people who aren't normally readers of the genre. And that is perhaps the whole idea. The Mass Effect universe is extremely well realised and there is much to enjoy, to newcomers and regulars alike. Also, the writing is very competent.
It reads pretty fast, and doesn't get bogged down in too much detail. You could do worse than give this a try. Of course, if you have played the game and enjoyed it, this is mandatory reading.(less)
Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40K novels certainly deliver. This is the second Gaunt's Ghosts novel, and I enjoyed it even more than the first (First and Onl...moreDan Abnett's Warhammer 40K novels certainly deliver. This is the second Gaunt's Ghosts novel, and I enjoyed it even more than the first (First and Only (Warhammer 40,000)). I'm not an expert on the Warhammer 40K universe. I read the books because they come highly recommended by my brother in law. With good cause, I might add. I guess it all comes down to specific taste, but these novels do exactly what they set out to do, and there is no pretension to anything else. What we have here is military Sci-Fi from a front-line perspective. The closest you'll likely get to a comparison, outside of science fiction, are infantry memoirs from a total war perspective. Something like If You Survive: From Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge to the End of World War II, One American Officer's Riveting True Story. The locales are exotic and the action takes place on desert worlds, ice worlds, water worlds, swamp worlds and any kind of other world you can quickly call to mind (no gas giants so far). A veritable testosterone fest, with cool world building as foundation. Oh, and did I mention the atmospheric Gothic vibe of the whole setting? Mr Abnett is probably one of the most important writers in the W40K stable. His action scenes are visceral, economic and riveting. The cast of characters, from the Tanith First and Only to Commissar Gaunt himself, are truly entertaining. The reader often finds himself caring when they die, which is probably not the norm in this kind of fiction. This is 'The Expendables' of military science fiction. Now - on to Necropolis (Warhammer 40,000).
Note: According to goodreads, this is book #3 in the series, with Necropolis being book #2. According to The Founding (Warhammer 40,000), it is the other way round. Anybody care to comment on that?(less)
This was good, again. I rated it slightly lower than I've been rating the series so far. Considering the cliffhanger ending of Courageous, I thought t...moreThis was good, again. I rated it slightly lower than I've been rating the series so far. Considering the cliffhanger ending of Courageous, I thought this book took too long to get into. On the other hand, I was also distracted. I wasn't planning on reading Valiant immediately after Courageous, but I was curious to see what was going to happen at Lakota. There is a noticeable shift in this novel. Expect more intrigue and conniving at the cost of space warfare. Anyway, the series is still going strong. There is some more plot progression regarding the mysterious aliens, but still not enough to make me jump for joy. There are still a lot of things that need resolving here, and with only two novels remaining, I reckon the fireworks are about to start. It's been an enjoyable ride so far, here's hoping Relentless and Victorious wrap things up in style!(less)
I love these art books. There's a lot of art in here, as well. All in all it's exactly what you would expect from an artist showcasing his work. Book...moreI love these art books. There's a lot of art in here, as well. All in all it's exactly what you would expect from an artist showcasing his work. Book covers, concept art for games, some personal ideas etc. Now if only there were some descriptive text accompanying each picture, as in Stephan Martiniere's Quantumscapes. I would have liked to know what the artist was thinking. Did he read the book for which he was doing the cover? What kind of feel was he going for?
Anyway, if you enjoy feasting your eyes on alien landscapes, spacecraft, fantasy worlds, warriors and the like, this is a good art book for your collection. It's smaller than some other art books I own (physical dimensions), but it's jam packed with pictures.
I liked the little description accompanying each artwork. It's good to be able to identify with the artist and the inspirations, emotions or thoughts...moreI liked the little description accompanying each artwork. It's good to be able to identify with the artist and the inspirations, emotions or thoughts invested in each work. In all truth, I should probably have given this 4 stars, but I was a bit disappointed in the fact that the book covers section was so small, in comparison with, for example, the section on game art. I love looking at different book covers, especially of books I've read, and comparing artist interpretations. Martiniere certainly has some excellent book covers out there, very few of which are actually showcased here. Still, this is worth a look if Sci-Fi art is your thing.(less)
Very few books manage to convey a true sense of wonder these days. Everybody is so caught up in characters and plot that we sometimes forget to just s...moreVery few books manage to convey a true sense of wonder these days. Everybody is so caught up in characters and plot that we sometimes forget to just sit back and look at the sky. Or, more specifically, the stars. This book is a rare beast. It manages to juggle story with backdrop very efficiently. In this book space, or the universe, is as vast as you could want it to be. It is also magical and mythical and marvelous. There are mysteries out there!
This is the fourth book in a series. I haven't read the novels preceding Sunborn, and they are apparently out of print so I'll have to trawl the second hand shops. I would certainly like to read them if they're anything as good as this.
Sunborn is a Space Opera with a difference. The cast of characters include some very fascinating beings, ranging from somewhat conventional aliens and, of course, humans, to other life forms that are everything but conventional. The novel depicts what is, in essence, a rescue mission. Stars in a star nursery (nebula where suns are 'born') are being destroyed by an unknown force (or forces) and our protagonists set out to put an end to it. It's good stuff all round, and reminiscent of the best of the old school. Highly recommended. (less)
I'm rather enjoying this series. The author writes action sequences with a casual confidence that make the space battles a delight to read. I can see...moreI'm rather enjoying this series. The author writes action sequences with a casual confidence that make the space battles a delight to read. I can see why some reviewers would, at this stage, complain about a repetitiveness that has crept into the series. I can see, but I disagree with the general assessment that this is a bad thing. To me, it adds to the sense of being trapped, behind enemy lines so to speak, for an indeterminate amount of time, fighting engagement after desperate engagement, with no quick solution in sight. The very nature of the plot demands a certain amount of repetition. What would be the point of fighting one battle and going home? Where is the desperation in that? Anyway, the last few pages of this novel hints at a change in course as far as certain plot elements are concerned, and elaborates ever so slightly on a mystery that has already been hinted on in Fearless. I believe things are going to get even more interesting from this point forward.
The military engagements depicted in this series (space battles) are certainly well thought out. Perhaps they're not 'over the top' enough for some, but they suit my tastes just fine. Campbell introduces a labyrinthine quality to space which I found interesting.I also enjoyed the 'old school' feel of the novel. While not written in the first person, the narrative is centered squarely on the protagonist, John Geary, and we know very little of what's going on in the rest of the fleet. Despite the grandness of the plot (a fleet lost in deep space), this is really one man's story of coming to terms with himself and the legend he inspires.
If you enjoy military Science Fiction, this series is compulsory reading. (less)
I’m going to give you one last piece of advice. Get it together, or get taken apart.
This is another of those novels that’s been receiving a measure of...more I’m going to give you one last piece of advice. Get it together, or get taken apart.
This is another of those novels that’s been receiving a measure of bad press; some reviews here on Goodreads are quite scathing, to say the least. A possible injustice that has been done the book (and the author) is the comparison to Neuromancer (Necromancer?), because, frankly, it really isn’t the same thing. I’m fairly convinced that readers have been charging into The Mirrored Heavens, only to find themselves somewhat bewildered… hence all the negativity.
They’re upping their game. Rapidly.
The one thing I will say for this novel: it’s in high gear all the time. See, this is one of those over-the-top books that I inevitably end up enjoying, even though I probably shouldn’t. Mirrored Heavens is a novel about intelligence and counter-intelligence, and at its heart of hearts it attempts to be a political techno-thriller. However, it’s rather easy to lose sight of all this, because in practice what this novel really is about, is big explosions.
They’re warped here and there. They’re far from broken. He means to change that.
One of the actual problems here is that the writing sometimes borders on cryptic. More than once I simply had to wonder what exactly the author was trying to say. It does convey a measure of atmosphere, and I never really struggled to follow the plot, but I’m not sure whether this tactic actually works in the book’s favour.
They don’t seem to have spotted him. They’re about to, though. He releases the safeties of his wrist-guns. And the combat starts up.
Mirrored Heavens contains some pretty decent power-armour action, although some fight scenes did seem to go on indefinitely. The story is built on the premise of the Mechanic (combat component) and Razor (hacking component) team, and the tactics that can be deployed in such a combination.
Textbook procedure: the razor’s wreaked havoc with the base’s security and surveillance systems, allowing the mech to move untracked inside the perimeter and reach the inner enclave, where the house node itself is situated. Sometimes both razor and mech aren’t necessary. But this base is well-protected.
Not quite cutting edge; not quite grimy used-future – but the novel does have its charm, occupying a fairly edgy middle-ground where nothing and nobody is what it seems (there really is a bewildering array of factions and agendas). The novel isn’t entirely sure what it wants to be either, skirting quite a few genres in haphazard fashion, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I quite enjoyed the mix.
It comes down to this. It always would. You always knew it. This is your moment. This is your time.” “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
The novel is grotesquely violent on occasion – expect some blood.
“What have we unleashed?”
We’re left with: a ludicrously convoluted futuristic Anime-like Mission Impossible that takes place on both Earth and Moon with elements of Tom Clancy / Robert Ludlum and Total Recall … add to that some Sci Fi tropes like power armour, hacking, Artificial Intelligence, cybernetics and memory implants and a smidgen of Horror. Now you have an inkling...
“Open the door while I cover you with the house weapons.” “The house weapons?” “Gatling guns mounted in the ceilings.”
Thankfully I read The Fall of Reach before I attempted this, otherwise I would have been hard pressed to understand how Master Chief could survive the...moreThankfully I read The Fall of Reach before I attempted this, otherwise I would have been hard pressed to understand how Master Chief could survive the sheer amount of carnage in this novel. The background provided on the Spartan project and, probably more importantly, the MJOLNIR armour, goes a long way in justifying some of the madness in this book. Those of you who have read Dietz before this will know that he is no slouch when it comes to writing military science fiction. I refer, especially, to his Legion of the Damned books. So, an obvious choice then for the novelization of Halo - Combat Evolved. Again, like its prequel, this is a military science fiction novel, but with the emphasis squarely on action. I did enjoy the fact that Dietz wrote some sequences from the Covenant point of view. Reading this book in conjunction with Halopedia (the Halo wiki) is actually a great deal of fun, especially for someone (like me) who hasn't actually played the Halo games. This is a good way of finding out how the pesky aliens look, for example. The whole back story is pretty epic too.
So, pros. The action scenes are solid, although I enjoyed the battle scenes with the marines more than the scenes with Master Chief. I was reminded of the Legion books, but also of some of David Drake's stuff, maybe Redliners or something from the RCN series. The Halo construct, or array, is still fascinating, and we learn rather a lot in this novel as to its purpose. The Flood of the title, especially the despicable infection types, evoke emotions usually reserved for Ridley Scott's Xenomorph facehuggers. Revulsion and Fear, anyone?
And of course, cons. Yes, being based on a game, this book is pretty frantic, with mindless engagement following mindless engagement like clockwork. It's all here, from 'reloading' to 'weapon swapping'. Master Chief outdoes himself in this one, as far as the alien death toll is concerned. Coherence gets lost somewhere in the mix. In Dietz's defense, he was doing what was expected from him, writing the game (or re-writing someone else's story, if you will). Perhaps he should have another shot at a Halo title somewhere along the line, where he can have some creative freedom.
This is by no means a bad book, as far as I'm concerned. It's exactly what you would expect. I think Dietz has done as good a job as anyone could, given the same material. The series so far is truly enjoyable and I'll be digging in for Halo: First Strike soon.(less)
Downbelow Station reads like a classical historical epic, with a large cast of characters, many of whom are family, lots of intrigue, shifting allegiances, backstabbing (sometimes quite literally), and of course, tragedy. I'm mentioning this, because many reviewers complain about the novel's slow pacing. It does take a while to get into its stride, but once it does the pace picks up noticeably.
So, a novel about interstellar conflict? Yes, and also no. There are space battles here, but they don't fill a great many of the rather intimidating number of pages of this novel. Neither is this a military science fiction novel from a tactical point of view. Space Opera probably comes close, but refer the quote above. This is a very good novel that just happens to be a Science Fiction novel. The thing is, it is a really good novel. The emphasis, however, is on social sciences, economics, logistics and the importance of family. It is one of the most realistic science fiction novels I've read, too, in its depiction of life on a space station. The reader is right there in the corridors with the rest of the cast, smelling the fear, breathing the often stale air, stomach knotted with tension, while events on a grander scale and totally out of their control determine their fates.
This novel concerns itself with things like Martial Law and the abuse of military power. Reminiscent of cold war era intrigue (the novel won the Hugo Award in 1982), there are also scenes that might be re-enactments of Germany's Kristallnacht during the Second World War. People dragged from their homes, riots, collateral damage.
The resolutions to problems, plot dilemmas, were often vastly different to what I had foreseen. In some cases the suddenness surprised me. I would recommend this novel to anybody, especially science fiction readers, with a decent attention span. Oh, and especially those who don't need to be spoon-fed. It wants to be read! (less)
Took me while to get into this one, even though I had a very good idea what I was letting myself in for. It's a bleak, claustrophobic account of men a...moreTook me while to get into this one, even though I had a very good idea what I was letting myself in for. It's a bleak, claustrophobic account of men at war in space. The emphasis in this novel is on the harrowing circumstances under which these men operate and the subsequent psychological effects. There are one or two nifty action scenes, but the book mostly concerns itself with the building of tension. This is military science fiction, but it is very contained. The depiction of events is limited solely to the inside of a cramped spaceship. As such, it is often a bit bland, compared to other works depicting war on a grand scale. There is no intrigue here, only tension. Lots of tension. I was going to give it 3 stars because of the slow start, but the book redeems itself nicely towards the end.(less)