This is another of those novels that really gives your imagination a workout. The universe Baxter envisions here is probably as weird as they come. Wh...moreThis is another of those novels that really gives your imagination a workout. The universe Baxter envisions here is probably as weird as they come. What I really liked about Raft, was that the reading style was actually quite accessible, considering the science behind all of this. Hard science it is, too. Infused with wonder, the world of Raft is discovered little by little as the reader follows the revelations and discoveries of the protagonist, who starts the story with about as much knowledge as the reader. That is, zilch.
Make no mistake, though. Despite the hard science fiction classification of this novel, more than a little suspension of disbelief is required. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to do, thanks to the brisk pacing and reasonable scientific assumptions. Of course, just what defines reasonable in a case like this, is difficult to gauge. Character development takes a distinct back seat. In a novel of ideas, however, that isn’t too big a problem.
Stephen Baxter, who apparently holds degrees in mathematics and engineering, poses some interesting challenges to his characters and utilises the physics of his universe to great effect. The universe revealed here is both a marvel and a threat, and this two-edged sword is central to the story. Baxter also seems to have a flair for the macabre, at least as far as the Boney world is concerned. Grim!
This is the first published novel in the Xeelee sequence, despite the fact that the Xeelee are, well, absent. That’s right, the Xeelee don’t feature in this novel at all. I’m not sure how it all ties together, but answers might be forthcoming in Timelike Infinity, which I certainly plan to read in the near future.
If you enjoy Larry Niven’s books, you may want to sample Stephen Baxter. Raft was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1992. I especially enjoyed the final pages of the book. In the words of one of the characters: “any minute now we'll get the really spectacular stuff!” (less)
A missed opportunity, if you ask me. The premise of this book appealed to me. A massive derelict alien space ship preying on some hapless humans? Alwa...moreA missed opportunity, if you ask me. The premise of this book appealed to me. A massive derelict alien space ship preying on some hapless humans? Always fun, one would think. One would be wrong. Despite the promising first half of this novel which contains some genuinely creepy and atmospheric scenes, the book fails rather epically in the second half when repetition and humdrum sets in. Oh, it isn't all bad, I did after all feel compelled to finish it, it just could have been so much more. It really could have. All the ingredients are there.
The coolest part of this book is the cover. Yet, it does have a certain pulpy charm, and as such at least garners two stars. I think I'll go check out Hull Zero Three, perhaps that will scratch my itch for this kind of thing a bit better.(less)
The levels of carnage and mayhem in this novel are something else. In that respect, I have to agree with another reviewer – this final instalment in the Apotheosis trilogy does lean towards the Military side of Science Fiction. In the same breath, Messiah is not as accessible as Prophets or Heretics. There is a lot going on, and some of it I found hard to follow, especially where the Proteans were concerned.
One thing I appreciated was that the cliff-hanger ending of Heretics was quickly dealt with. As an action-adventure Space Opera this novel works quite well. Unfortunately the ending didn’t quite work for me. It had such potential and I was really into it up to the final few pages. It’s still a good book though, and, as a whole, I quite enjoyed the trilogy. (less)
This is total war on an interstellar scale. Also, the antagonistic aliens are evil. Period! So not a lot of page time is spent in trying to defend or...moreThis is total war on an interstellar scale. Also, the antagonistic aliens are evil. Period! So not a lot of page time is spent in trying to defend or rationalise their actions. What? They actually eat their enemies? They look like spiders? Kill them all, says I! Yep, that’s more or less the gist of it. These vile alien invaders are following humans into federation space, butchering everything in their path. Humans respond in kind. Only, it seems that the aliens are rather single minded and purposeful when it comes to their food source, and trounce the humans at every turn. Perhaps trounce is not a strong enough word: thesaurus recommends decimate or slaughter as alternatives. Thus, the scene is set for spectacular space battles and alliances with (other, more agreeable) aliens to try and stem the tide of destruction.
A lot of thought and detail have gone into these engagements on a tactical as well as a strategic level. I suppose it can become a bit much, so it’s fortunate that the battles are handled with quite a bit of flair. Each race has their own unique attributes and as a consequence their own strengths, and these play a part in the depicted battles. Personally, I liked it quite a bit. It’s pretty hectic, to be sure, but it is a fine example of good military science fiction.
In Death Ground has received many favourable reviews and I tend to agree with them. This book does exactly what it sets out to do and moments of nail-biting suspense counterpoint the battle sequences nicely. It is, however, a rather hefty work for this kind of thing and there’s even a sequel weighing in at about a hundred or so pages more (The Shiva Option). If I were to complain about something, this is where I’d start. It would have been nice if the story concluded here. On the other hand, it's so compelling I have already started with the sequel. (less)
Ha. I quite enjoyed this. Good old fashioned cowboy comic fun. I would have omitted the story with the Skrulls, though. Both Arizona Annie and the Skr...moreHa. I quite enjoyed this. Good old fashioned cowboy comic fun. I would have omitted the story with the Skrulls, though. Both Arizona Annie and the Skrulls served only to annoy me. Cowboys and Aliens aren't always cool. Other than that, this is a very good way to while away a few minutes. (less)
A muffin between the shoulder blades? That certainly had me laughing out loud!
When I first read the synopsis for The Myriad I thought “Hive? Insectoid...moreA muffin between the shoulder blades? That certainly had me laughing out loud!
When I first read the synopsis for The Myriad I thought “Hive? Insectoid alien menace? That sounds like it might have been done before? Once or twice or maybe a hundred times.” However, the novel comes highly recommended (read the reviews) and I do enjoy military Science Fiction, so I went ahead and bought it anyway. The fact that it has gladiators in space had absolutely nothing to do with it...
As it turns out I underestimated this book. The Hive is actually treated quite unlike the aliens in all those other Mil-SF novels. Quite. I will say this: some of the action seemed a bit absurd, but it suited the general feel of the book, which is fun, fun, fun. Not that The Myriad isn’t a serious book. It does, after all, have that Alien thing going (dark and brooding corridors and the like). The interplay between the captain of the Merrimack and his Roman intelligence officer is excellently portrayed.
I'm not sure why other reviewers are so intent in advertising their ignorance. This is not Meluch's first book, folks. Sorry to disappoint, but it is in fact her eighth novel! (or something like that)
Anyway, I digress, that's neither here nor there. Speaking of which: did anyone see that ending coming? No, look, read this. That’s all I have to say about it… …except that there are sequels, which I’ll certainly be reading! (less)
At last – it’s come to this. The final instalment in the Lost Fleet series, except I see there is a new sequence that’s just kicked off with Dreadnaug...moreAt last – it’s come to this. The final instalment in the Lost Fleet series, except I see there is a new sequence that’s just kicked off with Dreadnaught. Not quite sure what that is about even though I can garner a good guess, but for now, this is where the metal meets the meat.
For a final book in a military Sci-Fi series, Victorious is perhaps a bit subdued, at first glance. There are none of the huge space battles, which pretty much defined the series up to this point, for the full first half of the book (and a bit). Yet, the pacing is still pretty good and it never gets boring. There is a lot of tactical and strategic maneuvering leading up to the expected, and inevitable, engagement with the Syndics, but when it comes it’s all over so fast that it’s almost a bit of an anti-climax. Um, if you think the Alliance and Syndic fleets meeting in battle is a spoiler, then you haven’t been paying attention in class. Of course, and fortunately, things don’t end there. There is the little matter of the Enigma aliens that has to be dealt with.
I’ve been itching to know what the aliens' story is since they were first alluded to in the earlier Lost Fleet books, but the author seemed very reticent about the issue, skating around the subject book after book until, well, now. This part of the novel is arguably the more suspenseful and more enjoyable part of Victorious.
All told, there is no new ground broken here and no real surprises. This is the sixth and final instalment in a series that has been pretty consistent in both presentation and content. Again, the novel reads really fast, and if you’ve already read books one through five, you’d be silly not to read this. As for the series as a whole: was it worth it? It sure was. (less)
Heretics ties up quite a number of the threads left hanging in Prophets. It’s a solid second novel in the Apotheosis trilogy, which is well worth your...moreHeretics ties up quite a number of the threads left hanging in Prophets. It’s a solid second novel in the Apotheosis trilogy, which is well worth your time if you’re a fan of Space Opera with a hard edge. Word of warning though: you’ll want the third instalment (Messiah: Apotheosis: Book Three) close at hand at the end of this.
Swann has enough confidence in both himself and his readers to tell a story that contains some very big ideas without chapters and chapters of exposition. This is all about story. Not to mention enough gosh-wow sense of wonder to placate most SF fans. The narrative is fairly tight and the no-nonsense dynamics of the novel makes for a breathless read. Fun! Fun! Fun! (less)
It is probably true that this story could have been handled over fewer books, although I don't think that it was a bad idea to spread it over six book...moreIt is probably true that this story could have been handled over fewer books, although I don't think that it was a bad idea to spread it over six books. For one thing, the length of each novel is extremely manageable, and for another, the pacing and readability of these books are such that you can fly through them. Also, there are six books. Six. And then the story is wrapped up. This is good news for fans of genre fiction where writers periodically keep adding "just another" book to their series, ad infinitum.
I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. There was more plot progression than in Valiant and a good return to form for the series. Some mysteries remain, most notably the aliens, which was a bit of a disappointment. I really want to know what their story is. Although these novels aren't the most complicated science fiction tales around, they're great fun. The battle sequences didn't impress quite as much as in the previous books, mainly because, by now, I've gotten a bit used to the formula. Without providing any spoilers: there is a great resolution to at least one of the main plot threads.
The last novel in this series (Victorious) has its work cut out. Let's see how this ends.(less)
I can’t believe the rubbish job Del Rey (Ballantine) has done on the current reprints of the well beloved Pip & Flinx novels. Gone are the magnifi...moreI can’t believe the rubbish job Del Rey (Ballantine) has done on the current reprints of the well beloved Pip & Flinx novels. Gone are the magnificent covers illustrated by the likes of Michael Whelan and Bob Eggleton. Replaced by blurry monochromatic photos of... what's this? A Justin Bieber clone in coveralls? And isn’t Flinx, like, 17 years old? This kid looks about 11. Also - where's Pip? Presumably they were unable to locate a flying snake for the studio sessions? It's ATROCIOUS to say the least. Numerous generations of ADF-fans are weeping into their hands. What's more, on the very first page of The Tar-Aiym Krang there is a glaring typo. No Del Rey, no! Shame on you! What would Lester say?
Now. The book. I appeal to all readers of speculative fiction not to judge this book by its cover. The Pip & Flinx novels used to be extremely popular back in the days and it's easy to see why. The Tar-Aiym Krang is very, very readable and conjures up fond memories of some of the early science fiction I'd read as a teenager, although this book is certainly not limited as far as target audience is concerned. In fact, some of the content is arguably not suitable for younger kids (there is some sex & nudity although it is pretty mild). It's a great adventure with grand imagery and every self respecting Space Opera lite fan should find something in here to enjoy. Long dead alien civilizations, majestic ruins on uncharted planets, the search for an important artifact with astonishing capabilities... what's not to like? It even has the sense of wonder sadly lacking in some of today's stuff. Flinx is easy to identify with and Pip is, well, Pip. As far as flying, venomous mini-drag(on) alien pets go, he’s pretty standard I suppose…
The novel is certainly not without its faults. I found the pacing a bit uneven, but not so bad as to really bother me. It’s unlikely that this novel will change the way you look at the world, but it will in all likelihood put a smile on your face.
A note on chronology. This is the first book in the series in order of publication. A prequel (For Love of Mother-Not) was published later on and many people have taken that to be the first book. Alan Dean Foster wrote The Tar-Aiym Krang first - therefore I shall take it to be book one in the series until he personally orders me to do otherwise. Thank you very much. (less)
Despite the inordinate amount of time it took me to finish this, I could make a strong argument that this is the best Wheel of Time novel I’ve read so...moreDespite the inordinate amount of time it took me to finish this, I could make a strong argument that this is the best Wheel of Time novel I’ve read so far. It has its oddities, make no mistake, not least of which being the deceptive title (The Dragon Reborn! Where?) - well, actually, it makes a lot of sense once the book reaches its inevitable climax. What The Dragon Reborn has more than a generous helping of is atmosphere. There is a real sense of menace to be found here, even more so than in The Eye of the World. The stakes are higher and our Dragon reborn (I’ll refrain from naming him just in case anybody reading this hasn’t read The Great Hunt yet) is starting to come into his power. Also, the prophecies are starting to come true, and that is really what this is all about.
The world that Jordan has created is fascinating, with its own mythologies, history, legends etc. It is really a remarkable example of world building at its finest. The point is driven home here just how ambitious this story is. References to the characters’ past in Two Rivers and Emond’s Field really seem like a long, long time ago, despite the fact that a lot of it took place only two books earlier. A lot has happened since then.
There is quite a lot of character development in The Dragon Reborn, especially where Perrin Aybara and Mat Cauthon are concerned, and I enjoyed both their plotlines immensely. It is very clear that this story isn’t going to revolve around any one person, Dragon reborn or not. The plot following the three girls, on the other hand, was the weakest, which wasn’t really too much of a surprise. I also thought that the fighting scenes were really good, especially those featuring Mat and his new quarterstaff. Boys will be boys, I guess.
All in all, this one comes highly recommended. Epic Fantasy indeed. However, you absolutely can’t jump in at this point – you have to read The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt first.
This is a fascinating novel. It is, for the most part, a military science fiction story. Then again, it’s something else entirely. Steakley actually j...moreThis is a fascinating novel. It is, for the most part, a military science fiction story. Then again, it’s something else entirely. Steakley actually juggles two stories here, both of which read like a novel in their own right. However, it soon becomes apparent that there is only one tale here, even if it takes two to get it told.
The novel opens like a fairly standard MilSF novel, reminiscent of Starship Troopers or The Forever War. This first sequence introduces us to Felix. There is a lot of momentum generated in these first chapters of the book. This is important, because this momentum carries the novel even when the pace slows down. Then we get to the Jack Crow sequence, which starts off fast and frenetic, but evolves and becomes, well, the something else entirely referred to earlier. The narrative of the novel alternates between Felix and Jack Crow. Of the two, the Jack Crow bits are often unevenly paced, varying between surprisingly violent scenes and slow, dream-like scenes of introspection. Yet this didn’t seem to bother me. The Felix bits, mostly visceral combat scenes, barely ever let up in intensity, and will likely appeal to testosterone junkies. Like I mentioned, these two tales appear to be unrelated, but there is one thing that connects them: the Armor of the title. The how and why of this is serious spoiler territory so I won’t go there.
Honestly though, it’s a really interesting story. It’s also an interesting way of telling a story. Perhaps because the story was written in the early 80s there is a bit of residual seventies weirdness apparent. At times the characters appear positively stoned and act in inexplicable ways. You’ll find yourself asking “why?” on more than one occasion, when Jack Crow does something totally out of character. On the other hand, we could argue that it signifies character development. But it’s all good really. No really. In fact, it’s really good. According to sources on the net Steakley was working on a sequel when he passed away. It’s a real shame. I would have loved to see where the story could go from here. There are some really cool revelations about the mystery that is Felix, and much of it is left unexplained. For example: what is The Engine that allows him to function under such extreme duress? And all that stuff about the Archon Guardian and the Masao? …and who was Angel?
I hope I’ve piqued your interest. This novel comes recommended, because it's good, but also for its novelty value. (less)
What a gruesome and disturbing outing this is. While I enjoy Dick Grayson as Batman, this one fell a bit flat. For one thing, how many new villains do...moreWhat a gruesome and disturbing outing this is. While I enjoy Dick Grayson as Batman, this one fell a bit flat. For one thing, how many new villains do they want to introduce in one comic book? For another, how obnoxious must Damian become before Dick Grayson just caves his despicable little skull in. The change in art midway though the book was a bit jarring, even though I much preferred the second artist's work. And did I mention that this book is gruesome and disturbing? If you want to read a graphic novel with Dick Grayson as the caped crusader, may I suggest Batman: Long Shadows.(less)
Please take note: this is not the graphic novel that brings Barry Allen back. As such, the title is a bit deceptive. By the time this novel opens, Bar...morePlease take note: this is not the graphic novel that brings Barry Allen back. As such, the title is a bit deceptive. By the time this novel opens, Barry Allen is already alive and well, much to my chagrin, since I was interested in seeing how DC brings him back. It seems he already returned from the dead in the Final Crisis arc. So, disappointment there, but it's not a total disaster. The art in this book is nothing short of magnificent and the story isn't bad either. I have to admit, though, that it gets quite complicated and if it weren't for the explanatory notes at the back of the book I might well have been a bit lost. Why on earth are there so many speedsters in the DC universe? I seem to recall two, being Barry Allen and Wally West. Tone it down guys. We don't need a dozen speedsters, it seriously diminishes the novelty!
Flash: Rebirth is from the same team that gave us Green Lantern: Rebirth, but it doesn't live up to the same standard. However, while this isn't really a rebirth, it certainly is a re-introduction. The one thing this book does quite well, is set up the character for the rest of the series. No doubt it will be something to look out for.(less)