See my reviews for the individual novels: Deathworld 1, Deathworld 2, and Deathworld 3. I actually re-read these novels with short breaks betweeSee my reviews for the individual novels: Deathworld 1, Deathworld 2, and Deathworld 3. I actually re-read these novels with short breaks between them, and I read them from the recent Benbella hardcover, which includes "The Mothballed Spaceship", a Deathworld short story that Harrison wrote as a memorial to John Campbell, Jr. when Campbell died. (One of my good friends gave me this older edition after he got the Benbella hardcover.)...more
Why I Reread This Book: I enjoyed rereading Deathworld and Deathworld 2. Also, I wanted to be able to return this omnibus volume to Gregory ;-)
This isWhy I Reread This Book: I enjoyed rereading Deathworld and Deathworld 2. Also, I wanted to be able to return this omnibus volume to Gregory ;-)
This isn't as fun as Deathworld 2, but I liked it better than Deathworld.
In this one, Jason tries to convince the people of the title planet that they need to leave. He does manage to round up some volunteers who hope to homestead on a planet with valuable mineral deposits. Sure, the native humans are hostile and wiped out a visiting mining company, but they're primitive nomads and couldn't possibly stand up to galactic-level warriors and (hand) weapons. Right?
This is another fast, fun, and suspenseful book. It paints a vivid picture of life in constantly-warring nomadic tribes. Their leader is named Temuchin...
I probably appreciated this a lot more as an adult than I did as a teenager, since I'm a bit more aware of the tensions between nomads and agrarian cultures. Also my inner physics geek got a huge kick out of Harrison's treatment of a scene were men (and horse-analogs) are lowered on really long lines down the side of a really long cliff; I can't think of any other piece of fiction that depicts long-rope climbs and included harmonic motion....
Finally, my inner 14-year-old is a real sucker for the kind of ending this book had.
(Finished 2010-11-11 22:41:39.5 EST +/- 0.14s. I think; the timezone is messed up in Timestamp.)...more
Why I Reread This Book: My good friend Gregory posted spoilery messages about this book on our SF discussion mailing list, so I decided to reread it.
TWhy I Reread This Book: My good friend Gregory posted spoilery messages about this book on our SF discussion mailing list, so I decided to reread it.
This is my favorite of Harrison's Deathworld books; I'd rate this about 9 out of 10 (4.5 if Goodreads allowed it). I suspect I didn't care as much for it as a kid; neither this nor Deathworld 3 spends more than a few pages on the title planet. In this one, Jason gets kidnapped by a humorless prig to face trial and execution for cheating at gambling on a faraway world; he manages to shipwreck himself and the prig on a primitive world of constantly-warring technological guilds.
My inner 14-year-old ate this up, and some of the more cynical touches that I would have disbelieved (or missed) as a younger reader seem all too plausible now. (One of my favorite episodes of Firefly wasn't based on a few sentences near the beginning of this book, but it very easily could have been ;-).
If you approach it with a more adult mindset, you might be as appalled as the prig by Jason's cavalier disregard for the wars that will almost certainly follow from his actions. On the other hand, you might be appalled by the lengths Jason goes to to keep the prig alive and kicking ;-). But if you approach it with about the same lightheartedness that the author seems to have done, this is fast paced, funny, suspenseful, and a little thought provoking.
(Finished 2010-11-08 13:53:53.4 EST +/- 0.03s . I think; the timezone in Timestamp is confused.)...more
Why I Read This Book: I'd been fond of this book for a long time—someone dear to me gave me the hardcover as a birthday gift—but I'd never read it. ThWhy I Read This Book: I'd been fond of this book for a long time—someone dear to me gave me the hardcover as a birthday gift—but I'd never read it. The Red Cross annual book sale had a copy of the paperback in very good condition, so I bought it; somewhat to my surprise, I ended up reading it cover to cover.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, at least as much for Asimov's reminiscences as for the limericks themselves.
Why I Read This Book: A friend of mine had posted a note about this book on our SF mailing list with a spoiler warning, so I decided to (re)read thisWhy I Read This Book: A friend of mine had posted a note about this book on our SF mailing list with a spoiler warning, so I decided to (re)read this book so I could read the note. ;-)
The book is available via Project Gutenberg, and thus was very convenient to load into Stanza on my iPad.
I read and enjoyed this book (actually, the entire trilogy) as a teenager, but remembered very little about it now. (Well, except for the main character's name, talent, and the customary weapon on Pyrrhus.) I enjoyed this again (I'd rate it 6 out of 10) but it strikes me as rather more cynical than (I suspect) my teenaged self noticed.
Hmm, I guess I need to (re)read Deathworld 2 before I read the note. Luckily my friend has given me his extra dead-tree copy (that's much easier than me trying to find my old copy ;-).
(Finished 2010-11-04 0:30:51.3 EDT +/- 0.12 s. Approximately.)...more
Why I Read This Book: I'm a big fan of Greg Egan, and had been on my local library's waiting list for the hardcover for about a month before it arriveWhy I Read This Book: I'm a big fan of Greg Egan, and had been on my local library's waiting list for the hardcover for about a month before it arrived. Then I saw that it'd been added to the Kindle store—and, more to my tastes, Baen's ebook store (where it's cheaper, can be downloaded in several formats, and has no DRM).
I'd rate this 9/10. Egan's previous novel, Incandescence, is set in the far future and is somewhat inaccessible as a result. Zendegi has two parts; the former is set in the very near future (2012) and is arguably the most accessible (and one of the most readable) things Egan has done. The second part is set a few decades later; it's slower-paced, but reaches a very satisfactory conclusion.
(Finished 2010-10-25 23:59:16.1 +/- 0.06s. Approximately ;-)...more
Why I Read This Book: It was the SFDG book for 2010-10-28.
I didn't like this book much. I'd rate it 3 out of 10. My two main problems:
1) If I go intoWhy I Read This Book: It was the SFDG book for 2010-10-28.
I didn't like this book much. I'd rate it 3 out of 10. My two main problems:
1) If I go into something with high expectations and they aren't met, I get downright vicious.
2) I could not suspend my disbelief.
Concerning 1), Brian Aldiss wrote decades ago that Frankenstein was the first modern science fiction novel, and several of my (well-read) friends agree. I disagree with some vehemence; in a number of ways, Frankenstein is almost the opposite of my idea of what SF is.
In particular, I expect SF to bring something new to the table (the "idea" or ideas) and to describe it clearly and in some detail, raising issues of the new thing's implications and impact. In Frankenstein we are deliberately not told how the creature was created; I had no idea, not even a hint, of how the title character succeeded, nor the issues involved.
Concerning 2), Here's an example (and a minor spoiler!). The creature is entirely self-taught in spoken language; it observes people through a chink in the wall of a hut over the course of a few months. Our five-year-old son was carefully taught spoken language by the members of his family, and his first words were along the lines of "amma" (Tamil for mother) and "iPhone". The creature's first words? "Pardon this intrusion. I am a traveller in want of a little rest; you would greatly oblige me if you would allow me to remain a few minutes before the fire."
If that isn't bad enough, the creature is also self-taught in written language, again as a result of watching people through a chink in the wall of a hut for a few months.
Some other problems: The book has the ultimate idiot plot (and makes me wonder to what extent it was plotted at all). It also presents an unbelievably naive view of the world, and of the people in it.
On the plus side, there is some nice, vivid imagery ... about landscapes and storms ;-). Also, it's clear that this book was hugely influential (though seemingly less so than the many works derived from it).
It's possible that I'm being particularly harsh because of some of the works I'd finished reading recently. Ted Chiang's The Lifecycle of Software Objects isn't great fiction, but presents the state of the art in modern thinking about artificial life. Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay also felt similar in some ways, but is far less naive. (Or perhaps it's just more in tune with modern styles and sensibilities?)
In general, the book reads more like a teenage mother's vivid fever dream than my idea of SF.
(Finished 2010-10-23 10:31:12.0 PM EDT +/- 013s. Approximately ;-)...more
Why I Read This Book: A friend of mine gave it a positive review on Goodreads ;-)
I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I'd hoped. Partly that's becaWhy I Read This Book: A friend of mine gave it a positive review on Goodreads ;-)
I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I'd hoped. Partly that's because my expectations were too high; I spent a *long* time on the library's waiting list before the book got to me (and I need to return it promptly today ;-). Another reason is that I was creeped out by its depiction of a large variety of persons of my gender (I *hope* young girls aren't as much a magnet for statutory rapists as they seem to be here). Yet another quibble I have is that the book falls between two stools for me; it isn't as coherent a memoir as e.g., Steve Martin's, but isn't as hilariously random as e.g. David Sedaris's books.
Having said that, there are parts of the book that had me bursting out laughing; just not as many as I'd hoped.
This is (probably) a great book, but it does have one significant barrier for the reader. I don't consider bringing it up to be a spoiler, since it'sThis is (probably) a great book, but it does have one significant barrier for the reader. I don't consider bringing it up to be a spoiler, since it's an idea and not a plot point, but if you hate even minor spoilage, you should stop reading NOW.
Time Enough for Love consists of a framing story, set in (our) far future, about the oldest man in the universe, and his reminiscences. The final section merges the two. It's less a solid, streamlined novel than a fixup. Which is fine with me; fixups are my favorite strategy for long-form fiction. The reminiscences (and the last section) are extremely readable, and I (mostly) found them hard to put down. The parts of the book that aren't centered on the main character are often tedious, cringeworthy, or both. (For instance, the leadup to the last section took me many days to get through; by contrast, the last section, which was perhaps 3x as long, was hard for me to put down.) The most famous of the reminiscences is the centerpiece, titled "The Tale of the Adopted Daughter"; it's often referred to among Heinlein fans as "The Dora Story", and Virginia Heinlein wrote that when Robert died, she turned to it for consolation.
The main character would be horrifically unlikeable in real life but, due to Heinlein's considerable skills, comes off as a charming, eccentric old coot rather than one of the hectoring lecturers who inhabit far too many of Heinlein's novels. (Of course, your mileage may vary.) One of the things I like is that he is clearly an unreliable narrator; he claims that some of the stories aren't about him, but about one of his friends, and the stories are larded with inconsistencies with each other and with the real world. (Or "our timeline", anyway.)
Why do I say this is "probably" a great book, and what is the significant barrier? This is a book about incest. Heinlein leads up to it gradually, and in a gingerly fashion, but it becomes more and more central to the story. (If there is a form of heterosexual incest that isn't featured here, I missed it.) I borrowed a copy of this book from a friend who's a bigger Heinlein fan than I am, and he warned me that it was a book he hadn't been able to finish (and he didn't want me complaining later that I hadn't warned him ;-). If it hadn't been for that warning, I might not have been able to finish the book (motivated slightly, perhaps, by my desire to finish a Heinlein book that he hadn't ;-). I therefore extend the same warning to anyone reading this.
I'm a big fan of Ted Chiang's work. While this isn't my favorite, it's an amazing book in terms of ideas; it certainly represents the state of the artI'm a big fan of Ted Chiang's work. While this isn't my favorite, it's an amazing book in terms of ideas; it certainly represents the state of the art, as of 2010, in SF's thinking about artificial life, and perhaps the state of the art outside SF as well; Chiang brought up some wrinkles I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere. On the downside, the characters aren't as sharply defined and memorable as in some of his other work.
(Finished 2010-08-23 09:02:56.9 +/- 0.03s. Approximately ;-)...more
Why I read this book: It looked interesting on the library shelf near Silverfin. The mention of Judge Ooka on the flap made it a must-read.
I'd rateWhy I read this book: It looked interesting on the library shelf near Silverfin. The mention of Judge Ooka on the flap made it a must-read.
I'd rate this 9 out of 10. Once you get past the setup, which felt longer than it actually was, this is a fast paced and entertaining mystery. The authors do a good job of presenting it from the point of view of a culture that's rather different from ours, in a way that we share the characters' puzzlement at the odd behavior of (e.g.) Westerners.
As a child, I read and loved I. G. Edmonds's The Case of the Marble Monster, a collection of stories about Judge Ooka, so it was very nice to see him here, though we don't get to see him as closely as we do in the Edmonds book, and he's presented somewhat differently. I suspect the Hooblers' rendition is more historically accurate.
This book reminded me of Barry Hughart's Chinoiseries, which is very high praise from me. It's aimed more at children, and isn't as violent as Hughart's books can get—apart from one rather bloody and tragic death.
I see that this is the first book of a series, and the third won the 2005 Edgar for Best YA mystery. I'm definitely going to read more of these.
Why I Read This Book: I'd enjoyed reading Pirate Latitudes and was intrigued to read about this book in the Wikipedia; it was an early novel that CrWhy I Read This Book: I'd enjoyed reading Pirate Latitudes and was intrigued to read about this book in the Wikipedia; it was an early novel that Crichton wrote under a pseudonym, and it won the Mystery Writers of American 1969 Edgar Award for best mystery novel.
The story is narrated by a Boston pathologist whose obstetrician friend is accused of having committed an illegal abortion that killed a young woman. The fact that the obstetrician performs abortions is something of an open secret at the hospital, but the narrator is convinced his friend is innocent in this particular case, and is being railroaded.
To paraphrase TV series Life on Mars, reading a book about 1968 Boston is "like I've landed on a different planet". Abortion is illegal and angrily denounced among Boston's large Catholic population. Racism is rampant; the obstetrician friend faces some bias because he's Chinese American, and a hate crime (to use the modern terminology) affects the outcome of the story. Further, one character refers to a place as "where the n------ go." (That pretty much made me recoil from the page, but since it's the only occurrence of the N-word [again, to use modern terminology:] that may have been the intent.) There's also a strong undercurrent of casual sexism, and the relations between the sexes seem strange.
On the plus side, the book has tremendous narrative drive (as I expect from Crichton) and the usual amusing footnotes and appendices explaining the slang and culture among doctors in 1968.
Ultimately, I found the book a bit unsatisfying because the solution seemed awfully complicated and a bit contrived, and some of the stereotypes got a bit much. Still, it was hugely entertaining—and awfully hard for me to put down—for most of its length.
Why I Read This Book: I'm not 100% sure. I *think* I sampled The Science of Michael Crichton from the Kindle store, and then this, and was hooked byWhy I Read This Book: I'm not 100% sure. I *think* I sampled The Science of Michael Crichton from the Kindle store, and then this, and was hooked by the sample of this ;-).
I'd rate this 9 out of 10 (!). It's very fast paced and highly entertaining, and I learned lots of amusing things about the life of 17th century Caribbean privateers. I *will* confess to being annoyed by—how shall I put this without spoiling it?—a rather unlikely event that dominates Chapter 33, but the last words spoken in that chapter almost make up for it.
Why I reread this book: I put the EPUB version on my iPad recently, took a look at it ... and found myself hooked, all over again.
This is probably myWhy I reread this book: I put the EPUB version on my iPad recently, took a look at it ... and found myself hooked, all over again.
This is probably my favorite of the Judge Dee mysteries I've read. Like the others, it has pleasant viewpoint characters (the Judge and his "lieutenant" Tao Gan); unlike the others, this has a whiff of horror about it, both in the atmosphere (the setting feels a little like a haunted house, with ghosts and secret passages) and the final revelation, which is a bit unpleasant but certainly unforgettable.
One gripe: I bought this as a Fictionwise Multiformat book; as such, it has rather slipshod formatting and is missing all the illustrations. I'm glad I also own two dead-tree copies.