An interesting sf take on a classic folktale monster--can you guess which kind? Though the story lags at some parts, C.S. Friedman's writing is quiteAn interesting sf take on a classic folktale monster--can you guess which kind? Though the story lags at some parts, C.S. Friedman's writing is quite good, and her characters are well developed.
As far as hard sf goes, Red Mars is an awesome book. Not only has everything been meticulously researched, but Kim Stanley Robinson's portrayal of theAs far as hard sf goes, Red Mars is an awesome book. Not only has everything been meticulously researched, but Kim Stanley Robinson's portrayal of the political tensions between Earth have some interesting and far-reaching implications. That said, I didn't fall in love with any of his characters, or feel the same sense of wonder that I do with Le Guin or Ray Bradbury.
If you're not already a fan of hard science fiction, I wouldn't recommend this book. If hard sf is your thing, though, this is a must read.
Absolutely stunning. The writing is beautiful, the characters are compelling, and the story is both thrilling and thought-provoking. This book changedAbsolutely stunning. The writing is beautiful, the characters are compelling, and the story is both thrilling and thought-provoking. This book changed the way I think about my relationships with other people and fed my imagination in ways that only the very best science fiction and fantasy can possibly do. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is one of the best works of science fiction that I've read.
A classic work of science fiction. Like most hard sf, it focuses more on ideas than on character development, but Clarke's writing is both beautifullyA classic work of science fiction. Like most hard sf, it focuses more on ideas than on character development, but Clarke's writing is both beautifully evocative and imminently readable. The last fifty pages in particular are earth-shattering.
This book is epic. Epic. I can’t begin to describe how incredible it is. Virtually every page, especially towards the end, is packed with meaning. A cThis book is epic. Epic. I can’t begin to describe how incredible it is. Virtually every page, especially towards the end, is packed with meaning. A cautionary tale of the folly of man in this fallen world, this story held me captivated right up to the chilling final chapter. Bravo.
As I understand it, Walter M. Miller Jr. wrote this book in the late 50s / early 60s, during the height of the Cold War. Science fiction at that time was both sweepingly visionary and frighteningly pessimistic about the future of mankind, and this book successfully captures both extremes. Like Asimov’s Foundation series, it reads more like a collection of elongated short stories, but Miller’s characterization and attention to detail is superior, in my opinion, to Asimov’s.
The most fascinating aspect about this book is the way that Miller hearkens to the past to give us a vision of our future. Many of his ideas are straight out of Augustine and Aquinas–indeed, in several places, the story feels like it’s set in 3rd or 4th century Europe, which only adds to the delicious irony.
Yet, while this book has a strong Catholic feel, I never felt alienated or excluded from its intended audience. Maybe it’s because my Mormon heritage is more compatible with Catholicism than other religious beliefs, but I don’t think it’s just that; the issues in this book are human issues, not just religious issues, and by focusing on that fact, Miller makes the story much more universal.
Even with all the deep, philosophical elements, this story is wonderfully entertaining. Irony abounds, especially in the first section, in which a young novice takes a simple electrical diagram from the pre-deluge world and, completely unaware of its significance (or lack thereof), spends the rest of his life making a beautiful illuminated manuscript of it. Even though the sections were short, I quickly fell in love with the characters in each one, and connected with them almost instantly.
The final scene, in particular, was incredibly touching. I won’t spoil it for you, but let me just say, if you are or ever have considered taking your own life, read this book, just for the final scene. The degree to which the last abbot clings to life, even in the face of so many good reasons to give up, is just incredible. And the final scene, in which…I won’t ruin it for you. Just read it!
A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the most powerful, meaningful books I have read in my life. It is more than a good read, more than epic. I class it as one of the best works of fiction this genre has ever produced. If you have ever wondered about the destiny of mankind, or the proper relationship between the secular and the spiritual in our modern age–read this book!
Trippy book, but in an awesome sci fi way. An unknown alien entity kidnaps three human beings and makes multiple copies of them, merging these copiesTrippy book, but in an awesome sci fi way. An unknown alien entity kidnaps three human beings and makes multiple copies of them, merging these copies with other kidnapped aliens in an attempt to defeat an evil copy of itself. I don't think I've ever read another book where the aliens are more alien. It can be a little tough to get into, but I loved it.
Ever since I met David Drake at World Fantasy 2009 in San Jose, I’ve been meaning to read one of his books. I must say, I picked a good one. With theEver since I met David Drake at World Fantasy 2009 in San Jose, I’ve been meaning to read one of his books. I must say, I picked a good one. With the Lightnings is the first book in his RCN Series, which is basically David Drake’s take on Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels. Think Napoleon-era naval battles and political intrigue … in space.
Does it sound good already? Yeah, I thought so.
I was a little surprised at first, because the first chapter started with a bunch of info dumps. It took until about the halfway mark for the action to really start, but when it did, it was awesome. A bunch of navy guys marooned on a hostile planet behind enemy lines, trying to survive a planetwide coup and blowing all kinds of stuff up along the way–yeah, it was cool.
The thing I enjoyed most about this book, however, was the insight into the minds of the officers and the way the officers and soldiers interacted. You can tell that David Drake has experience in the military–lots of experience.
It was evident in the little things the main character noticed–the colors and patterns of soldiers’ uniforms, competency among his own men and incompetency in men not under his command, leadership style and how he dealt with crises–stuff like that. The language was colorful, but when the soldiers swore, their language had a bite to it that went beyond the actual words. The people felt gritty, but very real.
At World Fantasy, I mentioned to David Drake that I’d read some of Joe Haldeman’s works, and knew they were both Vietnam vets. He remarked that Haldeman’s works are very much different than his own: Haldeman’s characters are constantly stabbing each other in the back, whereas in Drake’s works, there is always a sense of teamwork and unity, even when the going gets messy.
I could definitely see that in With the Lightnings–it’s one of the things that made the book so fun to read. Yes, things get pretty tough and a lot of people die, but there’s always a sense of loyalty within the platoon (or whatever the unit is called).
With the Lightnings is a great space opera action/adventure story. After reading it, I really want to read more books in the RCN series. If you want a good, fun military sf adventure story, this is a great one to pick up.
This was the last book in the Drenai Saga that I hadn’t read, so reading it was a very bittersweet experience. On the one hand, this one is just as goThis was the last book in the Drenai Saga that I hadn’t read, so reading it was a very bittersweet experience. On the one hand, this one is just as good as all the other books in the series, and made me want to revisit Legend and some of the others. On the other hand, I knew that once I’d finished it, there wouldn’t be any more Drenai books left. So I took it slow for the first half, but naturally I finished it at a breathless late-night sprint a day or two later.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I love David Gemmell’s books so much. There are many reasons, but I think the main reason is that his writing is honest. He strips away all the incidental stuff and gets right at the heart of the stuff that matters. He doesn’t pussyfoot around, either–if his characters do something despicable, he doesn’t make any excuses for them. He tells it like it is. This can make for a very brutal story, but it also makes for a very cathartic one.
The other reason I love his books so much is because he does such a good job depicting raw, unrepressed manhood–not the stupid stuff like driving big cars and eating meat, but manning up and facing your greatest fears. It’s about friendship, and honor, and fighting with all of your strength for something you believe in. It’s about all that raw, pent-up energy we all have, that animal urge that drives us to competitive sports and first person shooters, and channeling it for a heroic cause.
The craziest thing is that the fight itself is actually more important than whatever side the characters are fighting on. In this book, Druss is actually fighting to help bring about the rise of the Nadir khan who later invades his homeland and kills him on the walls of Dros Delnoch. None of that matters, though, because Druss doesn’t fight with malice. For him, it’s all about fighting for something, not against something, and the battle itself is just as important as the victory. I don’t think I can put it better than this:
“Can we win here?” Sieben asked, as the shaman’s image began to fade.
“Winning and losing are entirely dependent on what you are fighting for,” answered (view spoiler)[Shaoshad (hide spoiler)]. “All men here could die, yet you could still win. Or all men could live and you could lose. Fare you well, poet.”
The best thing about David Gemmell’s books is the fact that none of the characters–not even the bad guys–are defined by their own evil. The Nadir are supposed to be the evil chaotic race of the Drenai universe, but when you come to understand what they’re fighting for, their hopes and dreams for a better future, you can really see what’s good in them. Likewise, the more civilized Gothir are kind of like the evil white men who want to put down the savages and keep them in their place, but there are good and honorable men among them too.
And yet, even though the two sides clash, and good men die on both sides, it somehow isn’t tragic. That’s the crazy part. It’s almost like you can feel the characters salute each other as they die in a good cause, the way Ulric gave Druss a proper funeral in Legend, even though the two were blood-sworn enemies. In David Gemmell’s world, honor and courage are more important than life or money. Everyone dies; dying well is more important than living without honor.
This book is incredible. As I was reading it, I decided it was the best David Gemmell book I’ve ever read–which is something I do every time I read one of his books. I feel like I’m a better man for having read them. If he had written a hundred books in this series, I would happily read them all. The fact that there are no more new ones deeply saddens me, but I know I’ll revisit these stories again in the future.
This review first appeared on my blog, One Thousand and One Parsecs.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more