If you liked the first two Laundry books, you'll enjoy this one, too. If you didn't like the earlier Laundry books, well...you probably won't like thi...moreIf you liked the first two Laundry books, you'll enjoy this one, too. If you didn't like the earlier Laundry books, well...you probably won't like this one, either.
That being said, Fuller Memorandum is my favorite of the Bob Howard books so far - the James Bond tropes in Jennifer Morgue went a little overboard for my taste, and the pacing issues in Atrocity Archives bugged me. This third book in the series hits a sweet spot in terms of pacing, as the action starts in the first chapter and doesn't let up much throughout. It's also the first Laundry book that really felt like it was set in a world where the eldritch nightmares are real; the horror is a lot more, well, horrifying than in the previous two books. In the first one I think you get distracted by the campy space Nazis, and in the second you get distracted by the Bond gimmicks. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, despite the series being set in a Lovecraftian world, this is the first book that actually feels Lovecraftian, like Stross turned up the levels of madness-inducing horrors and blood-drinking cultists and zombies and the like. (less)
More than anything, Yellow Blue Tibia reminded me of Atwood, or Orwell. Equal parts a meditation on the nature of science fiction - why people are so...moreMore than anything, Yellow Blue Tibia reminded me of Atwood, or Orwell. Equal parts a meditation on the nature of science fiction - why people are so drawn to these types of stories, what they reflect about the human experience - and on the nature of the Soviet regime, this book is full of misleadingly simple prose that masks a density and surrealism that's consistent with the very best of dystopian literature. I have some quibbles with the pacing and the plot, which cost Roberts a star, but I would heartily recommend it nonetheless.(less)
This is probably my favorite Lovecraft collection, and it's mostly because it features (almost) all the Randolph Carter stories, of which the titular...moreThis is probably my favorite Lovecraft collection, and it's mostly because it features (almost) all the Randolph Carter stories, of which the titular novella is my favorite. Rather than horror, I would classify these stories as surrealistic fantasy - while there are horror elements, Carter is basically an action hero, and the dreamscapes though which he travels are as fascinating as they are strange.(less)
I picked this book up because it looked ridiculous, and it did not disappoint my expectations in the slightest. I mean that as a compliment - in the g...moreI picked this book up because it looked ridiculous, and it did not disappoint my expectations in the slightest. I mean that as a compliment - in the genre of trashy action/adventure SF, Necrom is an absolute standout. Fast-paced, creative, and frequently funny, it hits a lot of cliches and invents a few more. Well worth my time.(less)
Not nearly as difficult to get through as Fabulous Riverboat, mostly because of the introduction of a new narrator, Jill Gulbirra, which at least gets...moreNot nearly as difficult to get through as Fabulous Riverboat, mostly because of the introduction of a new narrator, Jill Gulbirra, which at least gets us away from the boring, embittered ranting that characterizes Farmer's Sam Clemens as a narrator. There are a number of terribly problematic things about Gulbirra, of course, just like there are incredibly problematic things about basically everything in the Riverworld books. I give Farmer credit for attempting to represent diversity in his books, as he seems well-intentioned, but his white male privilege frequently blinds him to the misogyny and racist caricatures which permeate his writing. Gulbirra's character is more of the same: she's queer, so she's ugly, man-hating, and a feminist, but her feminism is the irrational, reactionary kind that exists only in the minds of its detractors. She evolves throughout the book, and I frankly found her a breath of fresh air in a series where the only female characters with speaking roles are the sexual partners of the actual, male protagonists (none of the Twelve we've encountered thus far are women, you'll note).
That being said, this book is exactly like all the others thus far, in that it is huge sections of enormously boring, dry narration and over-exposition juxtaposed with chapters where Burton gets into exciting scraps, which are always glossed over in favor of more exposition.
I'm mostly sticking it out because I need some kind of explanation for the central mystery - I want to know who the damn Ethicals are, and I want to know who double-crossed whom, etc etc. (less)
**spoiler alert** This was a very different book from the straight up action/adventure novel that is To Your Scattered Bodies Go, and honestly, I didn...more**spoiler alert** This was a very different book from the straight up action/adventure novel that is To Your Scattered Bodies Go, and honestly, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much, for a few reasons.
The thing which totally gutted my enjoyment of the plot was the blatant, frustrating racism in the characterization of the Soul City citizens in general, and Elwood Hacking in particular. Hacking's every decision is reactionary and irrational; his speech is rambling and unclear; his "reverse racism" is so over-the-top and unrealistic as to be funny - every sentence of his dialogue is punctuated by him calling white people "honkies" and "whitey." Hacking reads, painfully obviously, as the paranoid fantasy of the white man afraid of black nationalism, and this greatly damages the second half of the plot.
Also, the title is rather disingenuous, as the riverboat is finished for barely ten pages of the novel. Instead, the book follows Clemens' attempts to get his riverboat built - first journeying with the treacherous Viking Bloodaxe, and later ruling over a small kingdom with King John of England. Bloodaxe and John are functionally the same character - they're both portrayed as backstabbing, violent, and hedonistic - and the only plot reason for Bloodaxe's exit from the story and John's entrance is that Bloodaxe's murder creates an ethical dilemma for Clemens, and an opportunity for him to angst (which is his favorite activity in the novel, despite seeming like an odd characterization of Sam freaking Clemens).
That's another problem with Riverboat - there are brief periods of action interspersed with long sections where Clemens dialogues, either internally or to others, about how difficult his choices have been, and how he despairs of his dream, and how much he misses his wife, Livy, who has taken up with Cyrano de Bergerac (who is actually pretty cool). The exposition is worked in even more clumsily than it was in To Your Scattered Bodies Go, and the metaplot - the actual resurrection question, the infighting among the Ethicals, etc - doesn't develop at all.
I'm going to continue the series, because I miss Burton (who evidently reappears in The Dark Design) and because I've now invested quite a few hours of my life, and I want to know who the damn Ethicals are. (less)
So here's the thing about Star Trek tie ins - most of them are precisely what they sound like, which is fairly entertaining Star Trek adventure storie...moreSo here's the thing about Star Trek tie ins - most of them are precisely what they sound like, which is fairly entertaining Star Trek adventure stories with really uneven writing quality. And then there are Star Trek books like Strangers from the Sky, which is basically an interesting, original science fiction novel about first contact, with Spock, Kirk, and McCoy as bizarrely epic guest stars. And time-travel, which I unabashedly love as a plot device, so...
Basically, I read this book a lot of times when I was fifteen, and upon re-read, it still makes me smile a lot. I don't know how many other TV show or movie tie-in novels I can say that about.(less)
This collection is a little uneven, and in keeping with that, it highlights all my most and least favorite things about Hamilton's writing - the sexis...moreThis collection is a little uneven, and in keeping with that, it highlights all my most and least favorite things about Hamilton's writing - the sexism is a little more visible, the techno-exposition is a little more random, the world-building is a little more startling. All the stories in Second Chance at Eden are set in the same world as the Night's Dawn trilogy (Reality Dysfunction, Neutronium Alchemist, Naked God), across a wide swathe of the future timeline.
The title novella is actually my favorite of the collection, though I don't know if I would've felt the same way if I hadn't read the rest of the series. While it is a perfect introduction to the affinity technology that's central to the Night's Dawn trilogy, I'm not sure I would have been so engrossed immediately in the plot if I hadn't already been interested in Edenism. A couple of the stories - "Sonnie's Edge" and "The Lives and Loves..." - were actively disappointing, not to mention dripping with (different kinds of) sexism. "Deathday" is a really effective horror story about revenge and isolation, but it's also a really interesting SF story about how genuinely other alien life would be. "Candy Buds" is a standout, whether you're familiar with Night's Dawn or not, and the central concept is so damn cool I can barely stand it. "Escape Route" is a solid, engaging action story, even if the final twist is a little deus ex machina and a little ridiculous, and "New Days Old Times" is an engaging slice-of-life story about a normal woman on a normal colony planet, separate from all the macro-political shenanigans going on elsewhere in the collection. I have my issues with Hamilton's "ethnic-streaming" colony concept, but at least with this story he makes a reasonable argument for why it would've been a popular strategy. I just have trouble believing that anti-Semitism and other forms of racism will still be so prevalent in the year 2245 that the kind of harassment portrayed in "New Days..." would be possible.
All that being said, if you read and enjoyed Night's Dawn, I would recommend A Second Chance... without reservation, as a gap-filler for the trilogy. If you haven't, I'd still recommend it, but with the annotations noted above.(less)