Intense by any standard, especially by that of video game-based fiction. The characters are surprisingly realistic and believable, the story rockets b...moreIntense by any standard, especially by that of video game-based fiction. The characters are surprisingly realistic and believable, the story rockets by, and the original comical dialogues between the robots in the mine are a nice change of pace. One of my favorite books. It's very difficult to find anymore.(less)
Much better than Debatable Space, especially without the incredibly long personal journals (there are personal journals in this, too, but they're much...moreMuch better than Debatable Space, especially without the incredibly long personal journals (there are personal journals in this, too, but they're much briefer). Some might get confused if they haven't read Debatable Space, since this has quite a few references to it, takes place in the same universe (it sometimes suggests itself as a prequel), and a couple of times mentions characters from the novel. Debatable Space's biggest problem was inconsistency and the overly frequent and lengthy personal logs, and since that's no longer a problem, Palmer's unique and intense style of writing can come through in full.
The ending is awfully anticlimactic and doesn't seem to end in the right place, though, and a few characters seemed underdeveloped. There's also way too much graphic sex, comparable to Debatable Space, which got annoying. Still, I really enjoy Palmer's style of writing and storytelling. I look forward to his next novel.(less)
Not as good as Red Claw, and about on par with Debatable Space. Palmer's intense writing carries the story as always, and his graceful portrayals of e...moreNot as good as Red Claw, and about on par with Debatable Space. Palmer's intense writing carries the story as always, and his graceful portrayals of extreme violence are entertaining.
While not a bad novel, this really doesn't get very far in terms of reader involvement because the characters are so stiff. Macawley, Aretha, the Sheriff, Filipa--they're all there for most of the story, but none develops a personality that feels like it's worth following. There is little character development in anyone except the different Versions.
I didn't get the same "epic" feel that Red Claw and Debatable Space had, which really dragged it down for me. But I will give credit to the Hive-Rats, who are a fascinating idea for a race hell-bent on the destruction of humanity, yet are still, ultimately...rats, albeit very intelligent and powerful rats.
In any case, the novel didn't live up to my expectations. It wasn't a bad read, but since I've read Red Claw twice, I don't think this will be held in the same esteem.
I'm still looking to Palmer's fourth novel, though. A word of advice for Palmer: Learn how to develop characters we can care for. Learn that and we'll all be good.(less)
The novel is totally carried by its main character, Zoe, but her development is inconsistent and not totally believable. The first part of the novel r...moreThe novel is totally carried by its main character, Zoe, but her development is inconsistent and not totally believable. The first part of the novel relies on her wit and humorous commentaries, which works pretty well, but the second half is less about humor and more about the actual story. Unfortunately for the reader, she becomes totally unbelievable later when she shows herself to be an expert diplomat, despite being a teenage girl still in grade school. Out of nowhere she develops advanced diplomatic skills, which just doesn't work. It took away from the final chapters and her credibility as a character.
I also didn't like that the action scenes are described briefly after the fact. Quite a few times, the novel jumps ahead in time with Zoe describing what happened in the time in-between, but the scenes she describes don't work when told that way. Critical events, rather than being told as they happen, are told without flair after they've happened, destroying any suspense the events might have had. I don't want to constantly play catch-up with the story, I want to read events as they happen. I can't understand why Scalzi chose to write this way, since it destroys the opportunity to wonder what was going to happen next.
I can't recommend this novel if you haven't read the other Old Man's War books, since I didn't read them, and it came through clearly that I was missing out on some things that would have really helped me understand the story. Scalzi tries hard to make it as effective as an alternate-perspective novel can be, but he can't do that without telling the same story over again. Consequently, he has to leave some stuff out or briefly sum up events that happened in previous books that he knows just can't be recreated to the same effect. Now, again, I've never read any other Old Man's War novels, but it wasn't hard to see that that was what was going on.
I think that even if I had read other Old Man's War books beforehand, I would still be bothered by this novel's faults. Zoe's wit carries the entire novel, and Scalzi portrays Zoe as a likable, somewhat unbelievable character, whose commentaries on things are entertaining. Without Zoe narrating everything, this would be a terribly boring novel not at all worth following. It works for the most part and I usually enjoyed reading it, but it could have been much better.(less)
If it weren't for the last third of this novel, this would have gotten five stars easily. But, somehow, the author manages to throw out everything tha...moreIf it weren't for the last third of this novel, this would have gotten five stars easily. But, somehow, the author manages to throw out everything that made the novel interesting until that point in favor of a subplot that dominates until the end. It was infuriating. I wanted to love this book so much, but I just couldn't stand the new focus the author decided to inject into the last third. Along with that, one of the most interesting characters in the story dies completely by accident, and pathetically, which made the last third even more depressing to slough through.
It's hard to recommend this overall, since the last third seems to reject everything that made the first two-thirds so exciting to read, and the main male protagonist is an unlikable, needy dolt. Be warned.(less)