It's far from inconceivable that an author can embrace his hero's flaws, but I've never seen an author so eager to draw such attention to them. But heIt's far from inconceivable that an author can embrace his hero's flaws, but I've never seen an author so eager to draw such attention to them. But here, on several occasions, Holden will come to some obviously erroneous conclusion. Other characters, who have proven shrewder and more trustworthy, will point out the flaws in his arguments, but he'll stick to them, even as it becomes more and more apparent that he's wrong. Finally, his mistakes will be irrevocably thrown in his face, launching him into a cycle of self-doubt, from which he is rescued when his shipmates, inexplicably, praise him for his idiocy.
It's not that he's a bad person; frankly, that would be preferable. Surrounded by the Smartest, Toughest, and Most Skilled people in the galaxy, he's an anomaly. You can't hate him, because it's clear he's trying to do good, despite failing over and over again. But there's no reason he should be the captain, or the primary protagonist, no matter how many belabored justifications Naomi, Amos, or Alex give. Any one of them would be a better choice than the guy who's "so good at talking down a situation" that he's basically started the two biggest wars in human history.
And Corey doubles down here by introducing Prax, who fits the same mold of a good person trying and failing to do good, but getting a pat on the head from everyone else who should know better.
As for the rest of the book? Eh. It's fast-paced, and I want to see how it turns out, but I don't find it a particularly realistic look at how humanity will spread across the solar system. As a side note, I think I misinterpreted Corey's space flight concept. Instead of accelerating to a constant velocity and coasting, they continually accelerate? That seems ... wildly fuel inefficient. I no longer remember the details of their drive system, but I'm not sure I can accept the plausibility of its fuel requirements. And I don't care enough to go back and figure it out. ...more
Part space opera, part detective fiction; but to be honest, I kept waiting for it to be something more than what it is. It's fine. Nifty premise, fastPart space opera, part detective fiction; but to be honest, I kept waiting for it to be something more than what it is. It's fine. Nifty premise, fast-moving, and lots of action. The characters are paper-thin, of course, and Holden's naïveté gets a bit grating (but he's the hero, so everybody eventually follows him, despite his constant poor decision-making). Also, the romantic entanglements for both him and Miller are kind of embarrassing.
My biggest gripe? (And I could be terribly wrong about this) I can't shake the feeling that Corey completely misunderstands spaceflight. Maybe I'm misinterpreting, but I think he's confusing velocity with acceleration. If shipboard gravity is based off thrust, then it would only work when ships were accelerating or decelerating, yes? Once a steady velocity was attained, no more gravity. It makes me think that the asteroid-spin-based gravity system he's got is also probably nonsense. And it's not just that. It seems like travel times are vastly underestimated, along with the consequences of orbital mechanics. Getting to Earth or Venus from the asteroid belt isn't simply a matter of pointing at the Sun. I mean, it's silly to complain about fictional science (and again, maybe I'm wrong about this), but it is still science fiction, and I'd appreciate at least a nod toward plausibility. ...more
Great Twitter account. Terrible book. Some things are not meant to be longer than 140 characters.
It's a combination of things, really. For one thing,Great Twitter account. Terrible book. Some things are not meant to be longer than 140 characters.
It's a combination of things, really. For one thing, a lot of the book is nothing more than stretching out a concept. "Dr. Crusher goes on a date with a sentient virus" is funny, but actually going to the trouble of describing the date and making up a reason for it ruins the joke. The other problem is that the characters are all pretty one-dimensional. Sex-machine Riker, killing-machine Worf, and precocious adolescent trouble-maker best friends Geordi and Data get tiresome pretty quickly.
The truth is that the central joke behind the Twitter account isn't really about Star Trek, but rather about the way that television episodes are constructed: struggling to find a reason for peripheral characters to appear in every episode, and having to fill a pre-determined number of minutes every week, regardless of the requirements of the plot. It makes me wonder if this book shouldn't have gone in some totally different direction, but I don't think that McMahon is really the writer to pull that off. ...more
Damn. What a read. Couldn't put it down. Can't wait to see the movie.
But it's not a very good book, is it?
Frankly, I was a little put off by the firsDamn. What a read. Couldn't put it down. Can't wait to see the movie.
But it's not a very good book, is it?
Frankly, I was a little put off by the first person narration, which reads like ... well, a blog, which, admittedly, is what it's supposed to be, but it's so sterile and functional that it didn't really feel like a book. There's some humor, and the plot is exceptional, but with the exception of the asides about 70s television and music, it's essentially the same formula repeated: there's a problem; here's how I'm going to fix it; here's what happened; and now here's the next problem. I liked the bits set back on Earth a little better, although that feels woefully incomplete. The resolution of the book is Mark's rescue, so why bother wrapping up any of the other characters. And what was with the three or four odd bits of third-person omniscient narration towards the end? Maybe he just wanted to avoid repeating himself, but it came out of nowhere and seemed totally inconsistent. 'The traveler'? Weird. And despite the ticking clock of the chapter headings, there's really no sense of the passage of time. Maybe it's just because I flew through the book in a few days, but it certainly doesn't feel like Mark was alone for almost two years. A little 'color' would have leeched some of the unrelenting tension, but it might have played up the horror of his situation.
But that's all nit-picking really. Weir really managed to tap into something primal here. One man against an entire planet while the rest of the world watches is an epic setup for a book, and the focus on intellectual solutions feels disappointingly fresh. How sad that all our idolization seems reserved for those who can jump or fight or throw well, rather than those who can figure out how to make jet fuel out of urine. I really wish I was more capable of vetting the science, although it all seems plausible. Regardless, what an antidote to the brain-dead vacuity of plot that has been my recent reading....more
It's nice when a concept is so exciting and the book manages to do it justice. Oddly, I kept thinking of the first season or True Detective, and wishiIt's nice when a concept is so exciting and the book manages to do it justice. Oddly, I kept thinking of the first season or True Detective, and wishing that the stereotypical creepy inbred serial killer had been replaced with something more along the lines of Harper. It feels like the serial killer genre has been pretty well picked over by this point, but Beukes manages to bring something new to it. The use of time travel and the disjointed narrative manage to give you a sense of the killer's psyche without glorifying it.
I really liked Kirby as the book's hero, and the many victims were mostly interesting enough that I wanted to spend more time with them. There was a lot of interesting visual imagery, and I especially liked the idea of Harper as a man able to see the fourth dimension -- seeing the objects and their absence simultaneously. Dan was the book's one real disappointment, unfortunately, as I could have done without him and the entire romance subplot. ...more
An exhilarating mixture of A Confederacy of Dunces and Rabbit, Run, but with a little bit more of something to say than either of those. (Actually, thAn exhilarating mixture of A Confederacy of Dunces and Rabbit, Run, but with a little bit more of something to say than either of those. (Actually, that's not fair; it's been so long since I've read either, that more than likely I'm just forgetting). Yet at the same time, it feels wildly incomplete. I'll credit that to Smith's skill rather than her flaws, though. She's created a world and characters so precisely that it's hard not to imagine a much larger world around them that no book could ever supply.
I feel like I should have more to say about this, but really, it was just a lot of fun to read. Smith writes with verve. ...more
I've been thinking about the apocalypse. The end of all things, followed by the post-apocalypse, the beginning of something new and awful. It feels liI've been thinking about the apocalypse. The end of all things, followed by the post-apocalypse, the beginning of something new and awful. It feels like we've been living in the age of the post-apocalypse, with our zombies and our disaster films and our Mad Max, and my gut tells me it's something to do with 9/11, but I don't trust my gut.
The appeal, I think, is that we'll finally be useful again. No more will our lives be governed by the invisible and the unreal. We'll stop living as abstractions and begin to exist. Life and death and food and shelter matter, but our tweets and our jobs and our cultural commentary and our 24-hour news cycle are soulless phantoms, and yet we've somehow gotten that twisted backwards. It will take the end of all things to restore the balance.
Anyway. The book. I liked it. I liked that it skipped the obvious story beats in favor of character. The horror and the panic of the epidemic and its aftermath clearly exist, but the book skips around it, focusing instead on art and feeling. The story is surprisingly subdued, and when it tends towards a traditional post-apocalyptic storyline with the prophet, it feels like a huge misstep.
The paradox for me then, is that while I'm glad that the book has this weird perspective, I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that it's woefully incomplete. The death of the prophet feels like it belongs in a different book and the discovery of the airport and the reuniting of the Symphony feels like just a step along the way to something more of a climax. I don't want a sequel, and I'm not sure there's enough meat left on these characters to merit one, but I suspect there's supposed to be a lot more here. Shouldn't Kristen and Jeevan cross paths in some fashion once again? Miranda just dies on a beach? And Arthur ... there's got to be something more there. Clearly, there's a King Lear thing going on. Three ex-wives instead of daughters, the emphasis on how he's dividing up his property ... there are some thematic resonances about the idea of not giving up on life before your time, but Arthur just isn't an interesting-enough character to pull it all together. I kept waiting for some revelation that would make it clear why he's the sun around which all these other characters revolve, but I just don't get it....more
I liked the stripped-down, allegorical simplicity of it, but it also runs head-on into the issue I have with a lot of spiritual books. Faith isn't easI liked the stripped-down, allegorical simplicity of it, but it also runs head-on into the issue I have with a lot of spiritual books. Faith isn't easy, and faith isn't always rewarded. Most people don't get any kind of mystical guidance. I felt like I was supposed to identify with the main character, but really isn't life for most people more like that of the shop-keeper, whose big dreams have atrophied under the weight of necessity and reality? Sure, we all have skills and gifts, but only in books do those skills and gifts match up so perfectly to the perils we face.
I had something more cogent to say about this when I finished the book, but I procrastinated too long in writing this. Cute book, but thematically galling, I guess. Or maybe I'm just a hopeless cynic. ...more
A lot of fun. I think after a while that Kamala's giddy excitement about her newfound access to the world of superheroes might grow cloying, but for nA lot of fun. I think after a while that Kamala's giddy excitement about her newfound access to the world of superheroes might grow cloying, but for now, it's joyous. She's a wonderful stand-in for me as a reader as well as a reminder of the fact that newness, even new obligations and responsibilities, can be exhilarating. She glories in the changes that are happening to and around her; lately, I'm crippled by the changes in my own life.
I don't like the art, but at the same time, it's a style that works for this subject matter. It's not to my taste, but that's far from the crucial thing about it. ...more
It's strange reading this in conjunction with the TV show. Especially now that the show is poised to lap the books, it's frustrating to see what the sIt's strange reading this in conjunction with the TV show. Especially now that the show is poised to lap the books, it's frustrating to see what the show runners feel they can skip, with the implicit suggestion that they're irrelevant to Martin's final conclusion.
The first three books, of course, are propulsive, and while the final two are a big let down in terms of the plot, it's interesting how much more on-message they are. Thematically, they seem stronger than their predecessors, which might explain why they seem like they're meandering without any kind of goal.
Regardless, the wait for the next book will be interminable. ...more
I've heard about the differences between Ellison's script and the aired episode, but I have to say that I very much preferred the show to the script.I've heard about the differences between Ellison's script and the aired episode, but I have to say that I very much preferred the show to the script. The script does a better job with the love story, but all the surrounding material with space drugs and Yeoman Rand fighting space pirates is just kind of out-of-character for Star Trek....more