As orangutans are to humans, dogs are to calines, a genetical modified canine designed to be the absolutely perf...more[Originally posted at Android Dreamer]
As orangutans are to humans, dogs are to calines, a genetical modified canine designed to be the absolutely perfect pet. The caline business is shaken when Madeleine, a caline, allegedly kills it's owner by biting him on the neck. The widow of the departed Ivan Frithke does not believe that their beloved caline is the culprit, and she hires talented private detective Aidra Scott to investigate what seems more and more like a frame job.
Although mystery is generally not our forte, there was enough of an interest based on the genetic modification element and a really strong sample that The Caline Conspiracy couldn't be resisted. The pair of writers that work together under the shared psuedonym M.H. Mead write really well and have created a really remarkable protagonist in Aidra Scott. Not only is she a great character because of her cleverness and general likability, but she has a dimension that most detective stories leave out: a family. Rather than a lone investigator working out of a seedy office, she is a family woman with a son she loves. Some of the most interesting parts of the book were seeing how she interacts with her family, as it is so different to see that kind of thing in a mystery like this.
The Caline Conspiracy is apparently the second book in the series, but with zero knowledge of the previous novel it is still easy to grasp and extraordinarily likable. There is a sort of cyberpunk sheen to everything that goes on here, but without being weighed down by the darkness that usually comes with that particular subgenre. The mood could have used a little darkening, even, as there were some scenes with a bit of grit that would have been better served by a darker tone. That being said, it is a minor qualm in a very well-written novel.
Although strong throughout, the story saves its absolute best for the final act. The last ten percent or so of the novel is so intense that the idea of any of the characters surviving is wishful thinking; it isn't until the end of the epilogue that the reader is even sure who made it and who didn't. Combining strong writing throughout with a great build to a really spectactular final scene, The Caline Conspiracy is an absolutely worthwhile and enjoyable novel. It would be hard not to read the other books in the series after this.
Strong female protagonists in science fiction have become a good genre trope, probably thanks primarily to franchises like Alien. It seems that far to...moreStrong female protagonists in science fiction have become a good genre trope, probably thanks primarily to franchises like Alien. It seems that far too often however that these characters are generic archetypes that are pretty poorly handled and generally lacking in depth. This is not the case with Alex Grosjean, the protagonist and narrator of Robin Burks‘ debut novel, Zeus, Inc. The most important part of the believability and overall likability of Alex is that she is flawed; she is not a perfect hero, and the depth of character lends itself to realism despite a fantastic setting.
Zeus, Inc starts off sort of like a Chandler-esque detective story, with the obvious difference that Alex Grosjean couldn’t really be accurately portrayed by Humphrey Bogart. She mostly deals with small time private detective work, but finds herself investigating a missing persons incident because of a close connection she has to the aforementioned missing person...
In the canon of science fiction, few works are better known and respected than Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series. Being unfortunately uneducated when...moreIn the canon of science fiction, few works are better known and respected than Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series. Being unfortunately uneducated when it comes to the works of Asimov, I felt this the place to start. As someone writing a science fiction blog, I felt like this is one of the books I needed to read for my opinion to be worth a damn.
The first book in Isaac Asimov's series is not without its flaws. There are parts where it drags, and it has the unfortunate circumstance of the first story within the book being absolutely the best of them, thus the remainder never quite lives up to the first chapters. However, each of the stories contained in the book have their own merits.
Although the peripheral characters are fairly wooden, the main characters in the novel are outstandingly memorable. Among these is Hari Seldon. Although he only appears in the first story in the book, Seldon is the hero of the story--the founder of the Foundation, and the man to whom all of society turns in times of strife, even years after his passing. Also worth noting are Salvor Hardin, a great politician in the Foundation, and trader Hober Mallow, a hard-nosed merchant with a penchant for getting through a sticky situation.
Being that the book is told in a handful of short stories rather than a continuous novel, there were points where I found it hard to swallow. It seemed like just as I was finally getting into a new story, it would have its climax, wrap up, and I would be stuck with a story set years later with a new set of characters that I would need to get to know.
Where the novel redeems itself is in the political turmoil and overall concepts it discusses. Asimov's prose is excellent, and he masterfully critiques many aspects of the political situations of our past, while juxtaposing them with a far future in which things really haven't changed all that much. Even when the separation of nation lines becomes the separation of space, the politically squabbling is always there. Asimov seems to have a bit to say about religion, as well, as the religious leaders of the universe play a pivotal (and I would suggest heelish) role in the latter half of the book.
"Foundation" is not one of the greatest books I have ever read, but it was certainly very good, and I can see it form the basis for a great series that I will eventually dig deeper into. I was not nearly as struck and flabbergasted by the work as I expected to be based on all the hype, but I was not disappointed either. Although it is not perfect, its a damn fine piece of sci-fi that deserves many of the accolades that it gets. (less)
Having now read three of Isaac Asimov's and been thoroughly disappointed by two of them, I feel comf...more(Cross-posted to my sci-fi blog, Android Dreamer.)
Having now read three of Isaac Asimov's and been thoroughly disappointed by two of them, I feel comfortable in saying that in my opinion Asimov is a writer of great ideas and worlds with rather poor actual execution. Foundation and Empire is a terribly boring novel. The series as a whole is high concept, with one of the more memorable characters of the medium in Hari Seldon, but I feel as though the first book is really all that is necessary.
Asimov's prose is strong and his dialogue is pretty good, but the biggest problem with this book (and is one of the issues of it's predecessor) is that dialogue is pretty much all there is. This was pretty much the case with I, Robot, as well. There just aren't any action scenes at all, so it is essentially just reading over two hundred pages of people talking about a problem that is coming, or later talking about a problem that just happened. You never really actually get to see anything resolve itself, you just kind of have to take their word for it.
The basic premise for the Foundation series is that a brilliant scientist Hari Seldon has developed the art of psychohistory; he can basically predict the future movements of humanity and the ebbs and flow of history within a reasonable margin for error. He sees that the galaxy will regress to barbarism, but by establishing a foundation of scientists and other intellectuals to work on a world encyclopedia and preserve the knowledge of the current empire, the period of barbarism can be reduced dramatically. Of course, he can't live forever, so he predicts as far ahead as he can, and records holograms of himself to be viewed by future generations so that they can partake in his knowledge and thwart whatever evils will come to them.
If you're like me, this sounds like a really incredibly awesome concept, and it really is. The problem is that it just doesn't work out to be as exciting as it sounds. In the first novel, I liked the idea, but by midway through this, the second, I decided it actually limits the series entirely. To base the series on the idea of the future being predictable, Asimov essentially created a crutch the leads to there being no actual drama whatsoever. If you know the good guys have everything worked out ahead of time, is there ever really any question how things will turn out in the long run? I don't think so. Of course, there are going to be minor problems to create a little bit of conflict, but it seems pretty clear that the good guys are going to pull it out.
The first novel was essentially made quite good by the first story, the only one to actually feature Hari Seldon. It is absolutely brilliant, and it's description of the planet Trantor, covered in one giant city, obviously is hugely influential; without it, there probably would have never been a Coruscant in Star Wars. The rest of the novel had it's lulls, but was still solid. Unfortunately, I don't feel like Foundation and Empire really has anything there to hold interest. The first section is better, as in the previous book, but it's not nearly as good as Foundation. I already own Second Foundation (funnily enough, the third novel in the series), so I will probably read it, but I wouldn't be going any further if that one wasn't already sitting on my shelf.(less)
I have never been quite so sucker punched and left feeling absolutely depressed as I am from having finished Daniel Keyes much-loved semi-sci-fi class...moreI have never been quite so sucker punched and left feeling absolutely depressed as I am from having finished Daniel Keyes much-loved semi-sci-fi classic "Flowers for Algernon." Keyes weaves a perfect story, through the eyes of the main character Charlie Gordon.
"Flowers for Algernon" tells the story of a mentally handicapped janitor, Charlie Gordon, who is chosen for an experimental procedure to be the first human test of an operation that would make him brilliant. The story is told through "progress reports" that Charlie writes in the time leading up to and during the experiment, as he goes from a dim-witted but kindhearted child to a man of brilliance that even surpasses that of the professors responsible for his transformation.
The major turning point in the story is when the most successful animal test subject, a little white mouse named Algernon, suddenly begins to experience severe adverse affects to the experimentation. Charlie is forced to accept the fact that his new-found brilliance might not be permanent, while fighting through an emotional immaturity that doesn't go away as his I.Q. rises.
I can't stress enough how much I loved this book. I love this book so much, that I don't think I will be able to trust or relate to at all anyone I ever meet who says that they DIDN'T like this book. I am skeptical of even recommending this book to friends, because I am afraid I won't like them anymore if they don't like this book. I hope that feeling subsides after a while, but right now, I think it exhibits exactly how outstanding this book is.(less)
[Review originally from Android Dreamer, a website dedicated to mostly indie sci-fi & fantasy.]
Samuel R. Delany is the perfect example of a write...more [Review originally from Android Dreamer, a website dedicated to mostly indie sci-fi & fantasy.]
Samuel R. Delany is the perfect example of a writer’s writer. Although he won two Hugo Awards, his fame stems mostly from the respect of his fellow science fiction and fantasy writers, as evidenced by his winning four Nebula Awards, including one for this novel, Babel-17.
The novel follows a poet, linguist, polyglot, and code breaker named Rydra Wong, who is tasked with translating Babel-17, thought of previously as a code before Wong discovers that it is actually a language. Not long after the story begins, she gets a crew together with the intention of traveling into space to find the origin of the language in an effort to complete her translation.
Had no idea this was intended as a tribute to Heinlein. Never read any Heinlein aside from Starship Troopers, but despised that, so naturally Saturn's...moreHad no idea this was intended as a tribute to Heinlein. Never read any Heinlein aside from Starship Troopers, but despised that, so naturally Saturn's Children didn't do much for me. Solid ideas and a decent plot, but came across as slightly misogynistic at times, although that obviously wasn't the authors intention. Definitely would pause before reading anything else by the writer, at least for a while.(less)
This was a really good collection. Each story had a unique feel, which makes for strong diversity, and almost all of the stories were really solid. As...moreThis was a really good collection. Each story had a unique feel, which makes for strong diversity, and almost all of the stories were really solid. As with his novel, "The Windup Girl" I think Bacigalupi's strength is in his world-building. That isn't to say that his writing isn't strong; it is. And that isn't to say that he doesn't create interesting characters; he does. But what separated Bacigalupi from other hordes of sci-fi writers is that his worlds are unique; they are never bog standard sci-fi settings. They are each rich, and vibrant, and that is remarkable.
There is only one story in the collection that isn't science fiction, and that is "Softer." I would call it my favorite story in the collection, but favorite isn't really the word to use. I would say it gave me the strongest visceral reaction of any of the stories, in being that it is singularly the most fucked up thing I have ever read. You have to read it for yourself to see, though.
Among my other favorites are "A Pocketful of Dharma" about a young street urchin in a bio-city, "The People of Sand and Slag" a far-future militarstic sci-fi in which immortality has been reached through evolutionary technology, and "Pop Squad," in which people are immortal from use of a medication, but overpopulation is so severe that it is illegal to reproduce.
Highly recommended sci-fi collection, especially if you read and enjoyed his novel, "The Windup Girl."(less)
Having previously read David Llewellyn's other Doctor Who novel, Night of the Humans, I had a pretty good idea that I was going to enjoy The Taking of...moreHaving previously read David Llewellyn's other Doctor Who novel, Night of the Humans, I had a pretty good idea that I was going to enjoy The Taking of Chelsea 426, at least a little bit. Luckily, I was correct, as I really enjoyed the novel despite its frankly groan worthy title.
Both of Llewellyn's Doctor Who novels have their figurative feet firmly planted in old pulp sci-fi paperbacks-- the kind you would get off of a spinner rack for a quarter if you are old enough to remember that sort of thing (I'm not). I love this and thus, his novels appeal to me with all their distinctly sci-finess. There is no history here, nothing bumping in the night, just a straight forward romp with lasers, explosions, and quips.
Big fans of Doctor Who will probably find most of the appeal here in the fact that you actually get to see a battle between Sontarans and Rutans, something that is talked about very often but rarely shown (if ever). Being a fan of the Sontarans as a villain, this appealed to me, and formed the majority of the appeal of the novel. Couple that with the clever way the Rutans infiltrate the base, and it's above average. It also doesn't hurt that the supporting cast are generally pretty likable, especially the twins and a character known as The Major.
There are a few issues, most annoyingly that the Doctor's catch phrases are so obviously shoehorned in that I wanted to give David (or his editor) a bit of a smack upside the head. Yes, yes, we know-- the Tenth Doctor often said "Molto bene!" and "Allons-y!", but this does not mean he need use these phrases in every tie-in. Quite silly, actually. Still, this was a lot of fun, and is just what I would like to be able to expect from these tie-ins: a bit of something you wouldn't see on TV, strong characterization, and just fun.(less)
The strength in the Nebula winning novel "The Windup Girl" by first-time novelist Paolo Bacigalupi lies primarily in an outstanding job of world build...moreThe strength in the Nebula winning novel "The Windup Girl" by first-time novelist Paolo Bacigalupi lies primarily in an outstanding job of world building. The novel is set in a near-future Thailand, where agricultural companies are racing to churn out food products that are resistant to the plague-like food-borne diseases that plague the region. Calories are traded like currency, and Thailand is on the brink of war between the environmental agencies and the military order.
Although not a perfect book, Bacigalupi's debut is extraordinarily well-written and quite enjoyable. I tend to like literature that is a bit on the dark side, but "The Windup Girl" is absolutely pitch black. I would never recommend this book to someone who isn't okay with a dark feel, graphic violence, assault, etc... This is not a kids book.
The biggest hurdle in the early going of the book is that none of the characters are likable off the bat. They all remained flawed people, but I would say that teach shows redeeming qualities eventually, which I think makes them stronger characters for it. People are flawed, and the people in this book are flawed, but they are not there to be nothing but unlikable, either.
Not every storyline is exciting to start. It isn't until about halfway through the book that I felt like I was into each thread of the novel, but Emiko's (The windup girl) story gripped me from the early going, and there were interesting aspects to Anderson Lake (American businessman working for one of the agricultural giants) early on. The other story lines, including Hock Seng (Chinese survivor of genocide in Malaysia), and Jaidee (member of the environmental army) tend to drag early on, but interesting revelations finally come around and they pick up as well.
Despite pacing issues and occasionally being a little too dark, even for me, "The Windup Girl" is certainly an excellent novel and deserving of its Nebula Award. It probably won't win the Hugo because it hasn't been read by as many people, (see that Mieville's "The City & The City" and Priest's "Boneshaker" have twice as many ratings on Goodreads) but it probably should. I prefer it over Boneshaker, but it remains to be seen about the others. Very good dystopian novel.(less)
In some cases, a spiffy cover can make me read it and be very impressed. Case in point: Cherie Priest's "Boneshaker," which I was drawn to from awesom...moreIn some cases, a spiffy cover can make me read it and be very impressed. Case in point: Cherie Priest's "Boneshaker," which I was drawn to from awesome cover art alone. In other cases, a great jacket design can make me read it, and feel like I wasted several hours of my life. "The Dream of Perpetual Motion" is one of these cases.
Although it is not the worst book that I ever read, Palmer's debut novel fails on so many levels. It manages to try to do too much, while managing to accomplish nothing. The novel expects a lot of the reader; if you do not have a strong familiarity with Shakespeare, especially The Tempest, a lot of this won't even make sense. It also is a bit scattered in terms of vision. At times, it seems like it is trying to be a steampunk adventure, and at others, it is trying to be heavy literature. It ends up being muddled, and despite 300+ pages, doesn't go anywhere. The plot goes nowhere, and if I liked to write spoilers, I could tell you the entire story in about a paragraph or so.
To make matters worse, the characters are completely uninspiring. They are plain, simple-minded, with predictable changes in personality, and really nothing good to say about them. The story is strange, goes nowhere, and is hard to follow, but the characters are cookie-cutter. I find it really difficult to say anything positive about this book at all. The prose was really nice in parts, and it is clear Palmer knows how to write, I just think this was entirely a misstep. Maybe Palmer's next book will be better, but it would take a lot to get me to sit down with another book of his.(less)
Ian Tregillis has managed to create a wonderful bit of alternate history in his debut novel, "Bitter Seeds." It is a well-written work full of excitem...moreIan Tregillis has managed to create a wonderful bit of alternate history in his debut novel, "Bitter Seeds." It is a well-written work full of excitement, twists, and extraordinary characters. Perhaps the most interesting thing about "Bitter Seeds" is that, although it is a story about Nazi super humans and British warlocks fighting in World War II, nearly all of the scenes that I find most memorable about the novel are the simplest ones. The scenes involving Marsh, the primary protagonist and neither a warlock nor a superhuman, are touching and really the parts that stand out most in the book.
The plot is really no more complicated than previously mentioned; The Nazis have a program going back a couple decades of raising children from infants to being superhuman in adulthood, and when the German army unleashes its menace against Europe, the British enlist the aid of a collection of warlocks, who make demonic pacts with beings known as Eidolons to slow the Nazi invasion.
Although it starts out a bit slow, by the time the 75 page mark rolls around, things are really exciting, and it rarely lets up. It reads like a Hollywood movie, with several extraordinarily memorable scenes, great dialog, and moments of utter shock and sadness. Its a book that does an excellent job of keeping the reader's attention, without resorting to cheap thrills or cookie-cutter plot lines. It has some pacing issues, especially early on, but "Bitter Seeds" is a really excellent book and looks like an early contender for the major science-fiction and fantasy awards.(less)
This was easily the weakest of the three in the first batch of Eleventh Doctor books. It was pretty awful, and never grabbed me the way the other two...moreThis was easily the weakest of the three in the first batch of Eleventh Doctor books. It was pretty awful, and never grabbed me the way the other two managed to. I found myself spending most of the book frustrated at sub-par characterization of Amy Pond. The Doctor was played fine, not great, but good. Amy, however, seemed like another character entirely, far too in-your-face and basically unlikable, which isn't what Amy is like in the show. Granted, these writers did these books before much of the Eleventh Doctor had aired, so there wasn't much to work with, but the other writers did a better job, and they DID at least read scripts or see a few episodes, because they are alluded to in the books.
Essentially what this novel boils down to is poop jokes. Potty humor everywhere, with humorous inch-high aliens that are often dealt with by stepping on them. The aforementioned miniature aliens arrive in a fake wooly mammoth, which makes its debut by pooping everywhere. Seriously. If you like Doctor Who at its most absurd, with poor characterization and the kind of humor you would expect out of MTV's Jackass, then this is the Doctor Who novel for you.(less)
Although I was nervous about how well the Doctor Who novelists would be able to capture the personality of the Eleventh Doctor in the new series of no...moreAlthough I was nervous about how well the Doctor Who novelists would be able to capture the personality of the Eleventh Doctor in the new series of novels, I am happy to report that Justin Richards knows his Doctor Who, and some how knows the Eleventh Doctor. It is really easy to read "Apollo 23" because it feels like an episode of the show, with strong characterization of the main character. Amy comes across as pretty generic, but that doesn't seem so much a fault of Richards as a compliment to Ms. Gillan's portrayal on screen. Its hard to pinpoint a character after so short a time, and its remarkable he manages to do it for the Doctor.
The story is pretty simple, and is pretty close to a previous Doctor Who serial from the Second Doctor's run, "The Seeds of Death." The majority of the story takes place on a moon base operated by the United States government. A two-way portal from the Texan desert to the moon base is something like T-mat, but not quite, and it has been sabotaged. Everyone knows something is wrong when an astronaut appears in a shopping mall, and the bodies of a woman and her dog appear on the surface of the moon. Conveniently, The Doctor and Amy are there to step in and figure things out.
"Apollo 23" starts out very strong, and manages to maintain interest throughout although it does get a little slow towards the middle. It is an overall fun story, though it could have used a few more "character" moments for the Doctor and Amy. These are new characters and for many of us, the books are here for us to get a better view of their personality. Perhaps both the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of "Apollo 23" is that it is just like an episode of the show. It won't blow any minds but it is certainly fun, and a very quick read.(less)
While the first Eleventh Doctor novel, Justin Richards' "Apollo 23" was fun, albeit a bit paint by numbers and borrowed heavily from a previous story,...moreWhile the first Eleventh Doctor novel, Justin Richards' "Apollo 23" was fun, albeit a bit paint by numbers and borrowed heavily from a previous story, David Llewellyn's "Night of the Humans" was a wholly original and overwhelmingly entertaining Doctor Who story.
Llewellyn's characterization of the featured characters was no better or worse than Richards, with a strong grasp of The Doctor and perhaps a slightly improved feel for Amy Ponds character. Where Llewellyn managed to surpass "Apollo 23" was in creating an outstanding supporting cast. The new characters introduced in the novel are instantly distinct, and in the case of most, quite likable. By the end of the book, there are new characters that I felt genuinely sad to be gone, and I really hope they're along for a future installment in the series.
"Night of the Humans" follows The Doctor and Amy as they arrive on The Gyre, a flat planet created by space junk from nearby galaxies combining in an area of high gravity. It is an interesting and jagged terrain of metal scraps, so vast it has its own atmosphere. The Doctor is quickly abducted by a society of barbaric humans, while Amy is taken by a gray, bald race of humanoids called the Sittuun. When Amy realizes that the humans are the ones to fear, she persuades them to aid her in rescuing the Doctor, while dealing with the minor problem of a gigantic comet on a collision course with the planet.
I would highly recommend "Night of the Humans" to anyone interested in going from a Doctor Who watcher to a Doctor Who reader. It is consistently fun, engaging, well written, and quite memorable.(less)
I fully expected to dislike this. Having thought that Oli Smith's recent Eleventh Doctor audio adventure "The Runaway Train" was absolutely garbage, I...moreI fully expected to dislike this. Having thought that Oli Smith's recent Eleventh Doctor audio adventure "The Runaway Train" was absolutely garbage, I rightly expected Nuclear Time to not be my cup of tea. As it turns out, Nuclear Time is my new favorite Doctor Who novel, with the only other one coming close being Steve Lyon's Second Doctor adventure The Murder Game. Smith's prose is strong, and his grasp of the main characters very good, but more notably the plot and supporting characters of Nuclear Time are outstanding.
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory find themselves in Appletown, a mysterious and quiet little cookie-cutter village out in the middle of the Colorado desert in early 1980s. They quickly realize something is awry: all the residents of the idyllic neighborhood happen to be androids, and the village was built for the sole purpose of being nuked to wipe out the robot threat. In trying to escape and prevent the nuclear explosion that could lead to the escalation of the Cold War, The Doctor gets trapped in a strange time phenomenon, and begins going backwards in intervals through time as he tries to peace together all the information he needs to change the course of events once his backwards motion through time crosses the point at which everything goes to hell.
I was thoroughly impressed with the two major supporting characters of this novel. Doctor Albert Gilroy is a brilliant scientist well ahead of his time who invented the androids that have now become a menace. Gilroy has spent the majority of his adult life dedicated to these androids and struggles with the idea of their destruction, no matter how much trouble they have caused. Major Geoffrey Redvers is a military man involved in the project, and the closest thing Albert has ever had to a friend in his adult life. Isley is the first android, and the most sophisticated, of whom Albert is most proud and dedicated, who Albert may try anything to save from the blast.
I was astonished at how well Smith developed the supporting characters; I genuinely felt invested in the stories of Doctor Gilroy and Major Redvers by the end, and was really left wanting more. I feel so strongly about this novel that I would say, despite series five been excellent, if this were an episode from that wonderful year, it would easily make my top two or three episodes. Any Doctor Who fan should read this novel; it is an absolutely indispensable tie-in.(less)
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory find themselves on England, 1936, where an archeological dig has unearthed a space ship that has rested dormant for thousand...moreThe Doctor, Amy, and Rory find themselves on England, 1936, where an archeological dig has unearthed a space ship that has rested dormant for thousands of years, with its inhabitants in stasis. The Doctor and his companions' memories seem to be affected by some strange force, with Amy thinking the Doctor is from Mars, for some reason.
Trouble is to be had when another alien race of people who were chasing this ship show up looking for them. They wreck havoc along the way, and a pretty much big ol' meanie heads. Pretty standard story overall, but I still quite liked it because of excellent characterization of Rory as a companion. Gary Russell actually seems to write Rory better than the TV writers do, which makes this something of a breath of fresh air in the world of Doctor Who companion characterization. There are a lot of references to other things in Doctor Who lore (Bernice Summerfield, a past incarnation of the Doctor, among other things) that will keep tie-in nerds happy, which is kinda neato.(less)