For anyone who reads Michael Crichton for his wonderful play of mind on the "what-ifs" of science and technology, you'll be sadly disappointed with th...moreFor anyone who reads Michael Crichton for his wonderful play of mind on the "what-ifs" of science and technology, you'll be sadly disappointed with this one. Nothing exceeds the bounds of human capability in this story.
As usual, Crichton did his research. If this were a textbook, I'm sure it would be quite a page-turner. And based on my education in environmental studies, I agree with most of what he says. But please, eco-terrorism and dry environmental debates (supported with pages of charts and footnotes) do not a thriller make. Add to that a main character who is led by the nose, a know-it-all abrasive genius/law enforcement agent who does all the talking, typical eye-candy female characters with no important role in the story, and the political-correct minority character (again with no important role), and you get "State of Fear."
The plot and characters simply cannot support all the scientific data that Crichton throws at you. (less)
As a fantasy reader, I've read my share of tedious books. I have a high tolerance for world building, flowery descriptions, and long expository prose....moreAs a fantasy reader, I've read my share of tedious books. I have a high tolerance for world building, flowery descriptions, and long expository prose.
_A Meeting at Corvallis_ went far beyond my tolerance level. I picked up the book assuming that it was the first in the series; so thoroughly did the author rehash everything in past books that I did not realize it was the third until after I finished reading it. Nothing was left up to the imagination; every rock, tree, grass blade, hair, fold in fabric, cloud, you name it was described in painful detail. Long descriptive passages interrupted the action so often that I frequently forgot what was happening and had to flip back pages to remind myself.
Increasing my frustration was the constant rehashing of incidents in the characters' pasts, explanations of character motivations (usually through preachy dialogue), and introduction of so many minor characters that my head was reeling.
Despite the incredible amount of detail, the author still made painful errors in the narrative. Once, a figure pulled out an arrow shaft--which had penetrated through armor and into the ribcage--with his thumb and forefinger. Another time, a horse at full gallop somehow managed to see and avoid a tripwire stretched across the road.
Adding to the level of incredulity the reader was supposed to sustain is the whole "Change" itself. Perhaps I overanalyze, but if natural laws change, I want the new laws to make sense. Electricity suddenly stops working. Okay, sure. High-pressure combustion also stops working (i.e. guns). Um, okay. That's a bit weak, considering low pressure combustion still works, like fire, but whatever. Nuclear reactions suddenly stop working. Wait, what? Nowhere does it say that the earth is suddenly enveloped in darkness and ice, so I'm guessing the sun still works. Are these changes then limited to Earth? If so, that's hardly a universal change in natural laws. Magic didn't work before the Change, so magic couldn't have caused it. This leaves me to assume that some intervention of deity, some deus ex machina, caused the Change, purposely changing only those laws that would allow the creation of a world ideal for medieval playacting. Give me a break.
An author who respects his readers leaves some things up to the imagination. He does not feel it necessary to spell out a character's motivations. He keeps suspension of disbelief within reasonable bounds. S.M. Stirling did none of these things in this novel. I felt like he created an unbelievable world so he could play out his own ridiculous fantasy wherein the medieval model reasserted itself. Except for hamburgers, which everyone cooked.
The only reason I gave it two stars, instead of one, is the writing is not abominable. It's lazy and self-indulgent, but it is not impossible to follow. Regardless, if I hadn't wanted to leave a review on the book (I always finish books I review), I would not have wasted my time reading it. (less)
The Stark series, and in particular this final book, cemented Hemry as an author I admire. He managed to create a believable resolution to a complex a...moreThe Stark series, and in particular this final book, cemented Hemry as an author I admire. He managed to create a believable resolution to a complex and realistic situation. Even more, he created characters who face similar problems to what I face every day and whose decisions I look up to.
Throughout the books, the characters are faced with leaders who only lead for their own selfish interests and profits, at the expense of those beneath them. Sound familiar? It did to me. Stark's people are able to develop a better system, where the people on the front lines are given latitude to make their own decisions, rather than being micromanaged. In Stark's system, leaders function as broad decision makers who are there to facilitate the "grunts" and provide a buffer against outside repercussions.
I actually feel like a learned a lot from this series. While Hemry does not depict a Utopia, his solutions to the leadership problems facing us today--political, social, and military--are incredibly reasonable. I wish all the management at my work would read these books and take them to heart. The theme is not hard to pick out (it is still a bit preachy in this last book), but I think it is worth preaching: Leaders should serve the people, not themselves. (less)
Stark's Command picks up where Stark's War left off, and it doesn't disappoint. The scope of the book spreads from pointing out the problems with the...moreStark's Command picks up where Stark's War left off, and it doesn't disappoint. The scope of the book spreads from pointing out the problems with the military (which accurately reflect real problems in the military and corporate America) to include how Stark deals with these problems.
With the broader scope, civilian problems and politics are introduced into the mix. Stark is forced to determine where his priorities lie, why he is fighting the war, and how to lead without hurting the people he cares about. Characterization is much richer in this book than the last book, and when soldiers die, the reader can feel Stark's upset and pain.
Also presented in the book are the author's ideal civilian (one who respects the sacrifices of the military and helps as much as possible, rather than ignoring and reviling soldiers) and the ideal politician (one who serves the people and does not try to line his pockets).
The archetypes are poignant and realistic, while at the same time being sympathetic and retaining some individuality. The book is still a little preachy about the theme, but it is less noticeable than in the first book.
For the action junkies, there are more explosions and battles, too. (less)
Stark is faced with the problem of his superiors working only for promotion, using the soldiers as pawns without considering their lives, and ignoring...moreStark is faced with the problem of his superiors working only for promotion, using the soldiers as pawns without considering their lives, and ignoring input from the people on the front who really know what is going on. I've never served on active duty in the military, but I related completely. It was simple to replace the military in my mind with corporate America, their dehumanization of the workforce as "resources," and their casual disregard for our livelihoods.
If you are looking for a lot of heart-pounding action, you probably won't enjoy this book. However, if you like action mixed with accurate predictions of the future, give Stark's War a read. It's a short book, but the thoughts and predictions packed into it eerily reflect what is happening today, and not just in the military. I laughed out loud at some points, not because what was happening was necessarily funny, but because it was so true.
My two biggest complaints with book were the time jumps and characterization. I have a hard time investing in a story when years pass between scenes. Also, the theme Hemry was trying to convey took over his characters so thoroughly in some cases that I felt like I was reading about talking heads reciting a script.
Regardless, this is a good book and I would recommend it, if only because the series gets better, and Hemry's points are well made and accurate. (less)
My favorite part of Dean Koontz's books is not knowing what to expect. Sometimes, the stories have perfectly logical and scientific explanations. Some...moreMy favorite part of Dean Koontz's books is not knowing what to expect. Sometimes, the stories have perfectly logical and scientific explanations. Sometimes, everything is driven by something supernatural. Most times, it's a delightful blend of the two. Part of what keeps me reading is to find out which it will be: logic or supernatural.
A portion of my disappointment with this novel was he reveals that mystery so early in the book. There was some nice minor surprises throughout, but I figured out the identity of the bad guy and his methods chapters before the main characters did. Also, I kept waiting for the twist, the science-gone-bad or supernatural-world-collision...and it never happened. What you figure out in the first half of the book is all you get. It was a terrifying idea, don't get me wrong, but once revealed, the book should have ended quickly. And it kept going.
I was also disturbed by the graphic images of horrifying things happening to children, but that's a personal preference. If you have problems with children being tortured and killed, you should avoid this book.
Of course, a good Koontz novel is like a great novel from just about any other author, and I didn't want to put it down. But I won't reread this one, like I do so many of this others.(less)
Remember all those articles you've read on writing? Some were useful, some were not. If you're like me, you've collected those useful articles for yea...moreRemember all those articles you've read on writing? Some were useful, some were not. If you're like me, you've collected those useful articles for years. Yet I always wished they could be collected in a single place.
"Writing Fiction for Dummies" does that! It is by far the best, most comprehensive book I've read on the subject of writing fiction (and I've read dozens). Highlights that I found especially useful:
- How to create (or fix) characters so they resonate with readers. - How to balance the structure of the novel so it never lags. - How to write a novel that creates a powerful emotional response. - How to revise and edit a novel for essential elements. - How to interpret feedback you may receive on a novel and apply it.
The structure of the book makes it possible for the authors to pack large amounts of information into a relatively short space. First, the principles are presented and explained. Then, examples from literature are presented so you can see the principles in action. Finally, exercises are outlined so you can apply the principles yourself.
If you are a serious fiction writer (published or not), this book should be on your shelf. Better yet, this book should be open by your computer or notepad as you write. (less)
I don't normally read "Mormon fiction." I had some painful experiences early on with the genre, involving terrible dialogue and smack-my-head plots, a...moreI don't normally read "Mormon fiction." I had some painful experiences early on with the genre, involving terrible dialogue and smack-my-head plots, and I've avoided it ever since. So it was with much trepidation that I approached Heroes of the Fallen.
If David West's book is any indication, the genre is finally, happily evolving into something readable! It preaches less and shows through example (positive and negative) more. It doesn't pretend religious people are perfect while their non-religious counterparts are evil. It faces real-world issues head on.
Best of all, it doesn't insist tragedy is uplifting. I have never felt inspired from reading about a character that is completely torn down by life and yet somehow is comforted with hollow platitudes. Instead, the characters in Heroes sometimes allow life to get to them. They make mistakes. They pull themselves back up by their fingernails.
I would have liked to see a more detailed map of place locations. I get turned around easily, and I had a hard time keeping track of where each group was in relation to the others. Also, I was a bit confused by all the characters at first, but their unique personalities soon help me set things straight in my mind. My favorite plotline was Bethia's. She reminded me a lot of myself as a teenager: naive, determined to see the world on her own terms, and resistant to the advice of her elders.
Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot. It leaves the reader on a cliff-hanger, and I can't wait until the next book in the series comes out! (less)