So this one has an awful lot of Minds talking to one another, which I like in theory, but I should have taken notes because I could never remember whi...moreSo this one has an awful lot of Minds talking to one another, which I like in theory, but I should have taken notes because I could never remember which was which. Their names are just phrases, and they mostly talk alike and there's no context to any of them. So that made it hard to remain engaged.
Also a big part of the plot hinges on an overly-dramatic chick about whom I did not care; I found it hard to believe that a Mind would care about her. A zillion people have experienced the "terrible" (those are scare quotes) betrayal that she did and handled it better (or worse!) What makes her so special? She's a nucking futter. Who cares? Not me!(less)
So somehow, this book was the most violent but also nothing really exciting happened. We see the reality show side of the war, instead for actual acti...moreSo somehow, this book was the most violent but also nothing really exciting happened. We see the reality show side of the war, instead for actual action, except until the very end, and then it's all pretty terrible.(less)
I did not care for this book. It was super-boring and predictable (and yet overly complex and confusing!) and he uses a lot of similes and metaphors a...moreI did not care for this book. It was super-boring and predictable (and yet overly complex and confusing!) and he uses a lot of similes and metaphors and they are mostly pretty terrible. "It shone like sunlight through trees." Seriously?
So there are potentially interesting things about the worldbuilding here, but I'll never know because it all takes place in San Francisco on boring old Earth. People can be "sleeved" into other peoples' bodies (or synthetic bodies) and those sleeves can be enhanced with "neurochem" that gives you heightened senses and responses, but that's the only new and/or interesting thing here. Everything else is just plasma guns and flying cars, aka bo-ring. And I guess this is "noir"? I fucking hate noir, if that's what this is. The hard-boiled detective meeting gorgeous dames and fucking them (with his PENIS, who says penis? The sex scenes were hot but also gross, but I guess I hate sex scenes) and working with the cops who are sort of dirty (or play by their own rules, I guess) and being tough and drinking a lot and getting in fights and killing pimps for the whores with hearts of gold and UGH give me a fucking break. It was all just so cliche. And the writing, as I say above, was no great shakes. Apparently this dude was a teacher until he wrote this and sold the film option? Fuck man I could do that! He makes it look easy.
So yeah, the only thing that was potentially interesting about this was Harlan's World, where the protagonist was from. But we only get limited flashbacks. But yeah, on the one hand the story was written with broad strokes that are predictable and familiar, but on the other it's cluttered up with too many characters I don't care about, and criss-crossing motivations and storylines that I also don't care about and don't make sense. Also I pretty much guessed the "mystery" in the first . . . hour or two. Before it was even done being presented. I mean it was cluttered up with dumb details that I couldn't have known at the time, but generally speaking, I had it figured out. I don't like to be smarter than the books I'm reading. __
The production of the audio itself was not great. It was sort of . . . muddy, not crisp, and it was hard to discern the words if you turned it up too high. I couldn't listen to it on a boom box. What good is an audiobook if you can't listen to it on a boom box, I ask you? Also the pauses between sections and chapters weren't long enough. The narrator himself was pretty good, but he didn't blow me away or anything.(less)
So, the most fun thing about the world that Iain M. Banks has created is the ship mind. Minds are hyper-intelligent AIs, onl...moreI love the Culture series.
So, the most fun thing about the world that Iain M. Banks has created is the ship mind. Minds are hyper-intelligent AIs, only they don't want to kill us, they want to just zip around doing things that interest them (which may be sitting around staring into stars, the ship equivalent of staring into a fire) and helping us out. (They also have awesome names.) In The Hydrogen Sonata there are a BUNCH of ships and they all, like, hang around talking to each other! Trying to figure stuff out! If you haven't read any Banks before that might not sound awesome, but trust me, it is. The most cleverest minds in the galaxy, shooting the shit? Come on!!
I enjoy reading these books so much that I'm tempted to give this one five stars, but it's just FUN and never makes my heart hurt, really, you know? So just 4.5.
By the way, a month or two ago Mr. Banks let us know that he is dying of cancer and probably won't live out the year. (That makes my heart hurt.) This is incredibly sad, and I hope that when he goes he leaves to us, his readers, his long master list of ship names. Because you just KNOW he has one squirreled away somewhere.
[Oh wait, I forgot to review the narrator!] Peter Kenny does all of the Banks audiobooks to which I've listened, and I think he's great. He uses different (actual, existing) accents for different alien species, which works well. He makes me think of ships as male instead of . . . neutral, but he's a dude so I guess that's not his fault. Also his "American" accent isn't quite right (in an effort to pronounce all of his R's, he adds some in at the end of words, like my mom does) but it tickles me rather than annoys me.
Listening to Banks books can be a little confusing, however. If I were reading them in print I'd be flipping back every once in a while, and I can't really do that with an audiobook. This was less of a problem here than it was with Transition though, and I think it'll be good in the long run because then I can re-listen to stuff and still be interested. (Especially important now that we know that there are probably no more Culture novels coming.) Also one interesting thing about an audiobook, which came to light a few times here: there were several chapters/sections that began with just dialogue. So, if you're reading the book, you have to look for clues to figure out who's speaking; but if you're listening to the audiobook, you can just recognize the speakers' voices. Neat.(less)
It wasn't bad, per se, but it was a little boring. And certainly there is not enough to discuss for two hours! Oh well.
I was surprised at all of the l...moreIt wasn't bad, per se, but it was a little boring. And certainly there is not enough to discuss for two hours! Oh well.
I was surprised at all of the legit (though outdated) science in it. I thought this was going to be more like The Time Machine, and that they were going to discover an entire civilization under the earth or something. I'd've been interested in an annotated version that talked about all the science presented, in terms of a) what was thought to be true at the time it was written and b) what is known to be true now. Some stuff is obvious, but some (at least to me) isn't.
It's funny, I read this right after I finished Les Miserables. Both were written in French within two years of each other, but they couldn't be more different.
At one point in the very beginning I thought the girlfriend was going to get to come along, but then she didn't. Because she's a girl. And I was a little disappointed.
I liked this one a little less than I did the first one, Hyperion.
He goes a little overboard with all the Keats. So much poetry. And the conceit tha...moreI liked this one a little less than I did the first one, Hyperion.
He goes a little overboard with all the Keats. So much poetry. And the conceit that we are only seeing different stories because the guy is "dreaming" them -- it seems unnecessary. Just tell the story. You're a writer, write the story, I'll buy it. I dunno.
The seven "pilgrims" from the first book are archetypes. The scholar, the poet, the priest, etc etc. I believe this is intentional, but after a while it becomes a little problematic because they are people who have to interact with each other, but they don't act like people, they act like . . . caricatures. It starts to grate. But it's not a dealbreaker or anything.
There's a novel end to it and I'd recommend it to anyone who read Hyperion, and I recommend Hyperion, so there you have it, I guess.
Oh the dearth of female characters is also a little irritating.(less)
So, I liked this book, and I would recommend it. (Jeff.)
So these seven "pilgrims" are going to see some crazy pointy monster called the Shrike. And ea...moreSo, I liked this book, and I would recommend it. (Jeff.)
So these seven "pilgrims" are going to see some crazy pointy monster called the Shrike. And each pilgrim tells his or her story. There's the poet, the scholar, the solider, yadda yadda yadda. Each character is quite one-dimensional, which works better for some (the scholar) than others (the detective.) I figure this is purposeful -- they're archetypes -- but sometimes when they interact with each other I don't buy it. Especially the interaction between the detective and the poet, it always seemed so contrived and overwrought.
I especially don't like Brawne Lamia -- she's the detective, and the only female. First of all, her story is told like a "hard-boiled detective novel" and I have zero interest in reading a hard-boiled detective novel. (See also: Louisa Rey in Cloud Atlas.) But I liked the stories of all the other dudes, even if they were all dudes. Which is lame.
Hyperion takes place six or so hundred years in the future; humans have colonized many worlds, but they haven't met any aliens. I like those sorts of sci-fi novels. (Like Dune.) I also think that Simmons introduces all of the various technologies elegantly. He doesn't throw every new, made-up word at you at once, he gives you time to figure everything out. Like, it isn't clear until we're pretty far in what "farcasting" actually is, but it's mentioned in passing for a while before it becomes important to a story, so you're like "oh, okay," when you finally figure out what it is (well, that happened to me, anyway.) That's just one example, it's all done very well.
Also I wanted to talk about one story in particular, that of the scholar. He speaks of his daughter, who was involved in an accident of some kind and is made to age backwards -- each morning when she wakes up she's one day younger, and has one less day of memory.
Now, as a person who does not have any children, I am sometimes frustrated by the laziness of writers who feel they do not have to show me that a parent loves their child. I recently read a book in which a woman has very strong feelings about her unborn child, but I never bought it. Why? She didn't try to get pregnant, she didn't even know she was at first, and all of a sudden she'd do anything for this pre-person? Why? I'm not saying that's not realistic, I'm saying you have to show me why THIS woman loves THIS unborn child. Don't just tell me that she does and expect me to believe you.
This book did the opposite of that. The story seems like it's sad just to make you sad, seems like it should be manipulative, but I just found it sincere and heartbreaking. I was truly devastated for this man, and it made me think about having children of my own. (I mean, just made me think about it.) It takes a lot to make me do that.
The story ends abruptly, sorta, which I can see driving some people crazy. It's very clear that there's a sequel somewhere. But I think that even as a standalone book, (view spoiler)[describing the journey to the Shrike if not the interaction of the pilgrims with the monster, (hide spoiler)] it's still satisfying.
I don't get it. I don't get why everybody thinks this book is so great, and I don't get the book itself. I don't understand what the connection is...moreEh.
I don't get it. I don't get why everybody thinks this book is so great, and I don't get the book itself. I don't understand what the connection is supposed to be.
Okay, first of all, for those who have not read it: the supposedly remarkable way this book is written is as such: there are six stories (novellas, I guess.) You get the first half of #1, the first half of #2, the first half of #3, etc, until the sixth story, which is sorta long. Then you get the conclusion of #5, the conclusion of #4, etc etc.
Big whoop. Much is made of what an amazing job Mitchell did, writing in so many voices! He did a fine job I guess, he's a good writer (as opposed to John Scalzi, which is what I'm listening to right now, good god) but I wasn't, like, impressed or anything. Writers are supposed to write well, that's their job.
I also was bored by some of the stories. The Louisa Rey one (#4) was terribly boring and cliche. The Cavendish one (#3) was extremely boring too but it wasn't a cliche because I couldn't figure out what the point of it was. Nos 1 and 2 were somewhat interesting just because they were period pieces and I like reading about rich people in olden times, but the stories themselves were nothing. The only ones that held my interest were #5 and #6. Probably because they take place in the future and I like thinking about the future. I thought #6 was going to be interminable because it's written in a dialect (or whatever you call it when it's written as the person is actually speaking) but it turned out to be the most interesting; although again it was also kind of boring? Like, the worldbuilding was good, but the actual plot was (again) a cliche.
Taken individually, none of these stories really had any point.
Taken together, I still don't see it.
Some stories had a theme of slavery and poor vs. rich, and that was fine, but then some . . . didn't. The threads that connect the stories are completely superficial. "Oh, I read half of this manuscript that I found!" "Oh look, I found the second half and will read it now!" Okay? But the manuscript didn't RELATE to anything in the reader's life. (The one exception was Louisa reading Sixsmith's letters -- because she actually met Sixsmith (which is an awesome name by the way, I like saying it, Sixsmith) -- but she barely talked about them, didn't tell us how it humanized this guy she barely got to know.)
I don't know, everything seemed so superficial. Give me two people who find each other one lifetime after another. (Or maybe that was what he was trying to say, but I'm too dense to see it?) Show me how society evolves (or rather, doesn't, and everybody is shit from beginning to end) and how one era leads to another. Give me SOMETHING besides "oh I have a weird birthmark," which signifies nothing. But I was given none of this. I tried, oh I tried to connect the slavery thing together, he had potential there, but then what of #2 and #3? They didn't have ANYTHING to do with that shit. Again, unless I missed it. Maybe I'm just not smart enough for this book.
But so yeah. I wanted to like this book because my main bro Sean loves it, but I just wasn't feeling it. He said it took him some time (after he had finished it) to come around, so maybe that will happen to me. But I dunno.
I really, really liked this book! You could not at all tell this was written in 197X until he got back to earth. That is pretty good I think. And then...moreI really, really liked this book! You could not at all tell this was written in 197X until he got back to earth. That is pretty good I think. And then he left earth again pretty quickly so hooray for that.
The business with the homosexuality (oh, that was after the earth interlude) made me squirm a bit, but it could have been worse, considering. And it acknowledged that he only THOUGHT he was tolerant. So maybe it was all right.
But yeah, great science fiction story about war! Generally I like my dystopias corprocracy-based (and my utopias Communism-based) (P.S. the former is stealing a term from Cloud Atlas, so there's that) because that's the way my politics swing, but you know. Again, that's just the earth bit, and the rest is clearly anti-war. Because war is terrible.(less)
I honestly don't know how to feel about this book. In some ways it was so compelling and wonderful and in others it is SO BORING. And not, like, at di...moreI honestly don't know how to feel about this book. In some ways it was so compelling and wonderful and in others it is SO BORING. And not, like, at different times. At the same time. I don't even know.
So much of it is pure dialogue, and he is SO TERRIBLE at writing dialogue, so how come I still like it?
I would not recommend this to anyone who has never read any Gene Wolfe. But if you have, and you know you like him, then maybe you can handle it. And think that it's great?
It was seriously either a two or a five so I gave it a three. I don't even know!(less)
I like Iaian M. Banks, and this one is no exception. I don't think they ever quite make it to "love," though. There's just . . . something missing, so...moreI like Iaian M. Banks, and this one is no exception. I don't think they ever quite make it to "love," though. There's just . . . something missing, some hook that isn't there.
It was good when it was science fiction and it was tedious when he was trying to be all deep and poetic. "Who am I?? Oh, shut up and make with the plasma guns.
I read this one right after I read Surface Detail, which is his most recent Culture novel. As this one began I thought "finally, a perspective which thinks that the Culture is not really all that!" It turns out that this is his first Culture novel. So this is where he started out. Interesting.
And, once again again, I should be an editor. What's with the mountainclimbing chick who is smarter than a Mind? She had like three scenes total and turned out to be completely ineffective. The only explanation is that she is in a future novel.
So, yeah. Good.
(Oh and once again the narrator does a fantastic job.)(less)
Of *course* it only gets interesting at the very end, in an attempt to get me to start the next half. Well I don't think so, Wolfe! I've got book club...moreOf *course* it only gets interesting at the very end, in an attempt to get me to start the next half. Well I don't think so, Wolfe! I've got book club books to read!(less)
Too much, just too much. Dude kept introducing enormous new concepts more than halfway through the book, and I'm not sure what the point of that was,...moreToo much, just too much. Dude kept introducing enormous new concepts more than halfway through the book, and I'm not sure what the point of that was, except to say "hey guys here is this other thing that I thought of!" Seemed like another example of an author who has all these neat concepts in his head, and is forced to come up with some lame "plot" to string them all together, since no one wants to buy a 700-page bulleted list of interesting concepts. I mean really, it all boils down to is "escaped powerful monsters can only be caught by the scrappy troupe of adventurers!" Gee, how novel.
I also didn't like the constant shift of perspective. In the beginning we're just seeing the views of some regular, low-level citizens (ugh, don't even get me started on Yag's italicized internalized monologues, those chapters were so high-falutin' and over-dramatic that I could just barely force myself to skim through them, and what a mistake to begin the entire book with one) and then all of a sudden there's a scene with the four caterpillars in the high-security facility, and it just felt so odd and out of place. And you don't hear of this mayor specifically for a while, but then you do, and then we actually get scenes from inside his office? Really? It just seemed out of place. I feel like I say this a lot: just because you think something up, that doesn't mean it belongs in the book.
And in the end, I'm not sure what I was supposed to take out of it. Whatshisface was basically the protagonist, I guess, and he was all right, but not really charismatic enough to carry the book. Because he was kind of a jerk. The khepri were sort of fascinating in some ways but mostly just so absurd that it was hard to take them seriously. I mean come on, a bug in place of a head? What? What's wrong with an intelligent insectoid creature? The design of the khepri sounds like something a twelve-year old (boy) drew in blue ball point pen in the margin of his notebook paper.
I mean, listen: I don't need everything in a science fiction story to make immediate sense to me. One of the things I like about the first few books of Dune is that he doesn't feel the need to explain every little thing, and how it got that way. But at least I feel like HERBERT knew. Like there was something to figure out. With this . . . is this earth in the future? Are these aliens? Are they mutants tens of thousands of years in the future, who are now treated as separate races? That seems most likely, but we never get any clues, no bones thrown. I like trying to figure that sort of stuff out (that's sort of my favorite part of science fiction) but if I feel like the author doesn't even know -- that there ISN'T an underlying logic to any of it -- then I quickly lose interest. To my mind, the whole point of elaborate worldbuilding is that readers (or viewers, in the case of Star Trek) can extrapolate from what's shown to imagine what isn't shown. Perdido Street Station doesn't give me enough internal logic to make that possible (the later books of the Dark Tower series had a similar problem, it just got DUMB) and that's where I lose interest. I never felt myself IN that world because I could never get a good grasp on what that world WAS. All I know is that it was really dirty and everybody was really poor and mean to each other all the time. That's not that fun.(less)
I guess this is "military" science fiction? Didn't really think about the existence of such a genre, but okay. Also it's good to know that I...moreYeah, no.
I guess this is "military" science fiction? Didn't really think about the existence of such a genre, but okay. Also it's good to know that I have no interest whatsoever in "military" science fiction. I listened to the first disc of this, and it was boring and they talked about guns and ships and shit, and so I stopped.(less)