What's the short and skinny of it? Following the events of Hyperion, war is brewing between the Web's Hegemony and the Ousters. As political leadersWhat's the short and skinny of it? Following the events of Hyperion, war is brewing between the Web's Hegemony and the Ousters. As political leaders and military officials prepare for battle, secrets and betrayals are revealed. Meanwhile, on Hyperion, the Shrike pilgrims fight for their lives as the Time Tombs continue to play tricks on their minds and bodies.
Tell me more. Though I personally enjoyed The Fall of Hyperion more than the first book in the series, it still had a lot of ups and downs. I can't help but think that if Dan Simmons hadn't have create such an interesting setting in the planet Hyperion and frighteningly original monster in the Shrike, I wouldn't be as impressed as I am.
The Hyperion Cantos is a big series with many characters and many ideas—too many, in fact. While the general theme found in this book explores the relationship between creator and creation, there's a lot of jumping around before any message is to be found. The pacing is uneven and sometimes slow when you figure something out far sooner than the characters do, and there are more loose ends than there should be.
A sizable portion of The Fall of Hyperion is told from a new character's first-person perspective. While the consciousness of the cybrid "reincarnation" of John Keats lives on in the implant Brawne Lamia carries with her on Hyperion, a second cybrid has been created back in the Web with a slightly altered version of this same persona. He goes by the name of Joseph Severn, a painter and the historical John Keats' friend. Joseph finds his persona overlaps in surprising ways with what's left of the first John Keats' cybrid data as Joseph's dreams take on the shape of the Shrike pilgrims' waking reality. These dreams of the others are relayed in separate chapters in third person.
As in Hyperion, Simmons plays with narrative perspective and tense. It's interesting, but I'm not sure I found it comfortable to read, particularly for the first half of the book. It took time for me to warm to Joseph and the world in the Web he inhabits. It's a rather dry world that mostly consists of flimsy characters talking about military logistics and planets you never see enough of to care about. Then, for me, his "dream connection" to Keats made me pass that strange and completely arbitrary point where I could no longer suspend disbelief. (Apparently portals and organic metal monsters are okay for my brain, though.) It was just far too convenient that the Shrike pilgrims were always awake and doing something of note when Joseph was asleep to "watch" them through the first John Keats. Right, sure.
Still, I was glad for his dreams because I continued to care the most about the Time Tombs and pilgrims he saw in them. There are some really great scenes where they face the Shrike, who only becomes creepier and more mysterious as the pages turn. The only negative thing I can say about this part of the plotting and world-building is that sometimes, in an effort to keep everything mysterious, Simmons never gives the reader answers. Alternatively, if you do find an answer to a question, it may be unfortunately anticlimactic. There's a very good reason TV Tropes includes this series in its Kudzu Plot page.
This is most frustrating when it comes to Colonel Kassad and Sol and Rachel's stories, all of which fall flat merely, it would seem, for convenience. There's room for more information about these and other characters, but whether Simmons can give them the story arcs they deserve over the next two books is questionable—especially since the next two books aren't focused on any of these characters.
Finally, philosophically speaking, The Fall of Hyperion goes into some strange places I don't really like. I enjoyed much of Simmons' exploration of the relationship between creator and creation: who controls whom, chicken and egg. But I see any reason why that theme had to go in the direction of gods and religion. By the end of this book, the series has moved further away from science fiction, to venture into some messianic fantasy, prophecies and all. There's no need for it, and I'd argue there's little lead-up to it.
As the next book in the series, Endymion, mostly features different characters, I'm thinking readers never get real answers to a number of remaining questions. Though I enjoyed The Fall of Hyperion more than its predecessor, I'll skim-read the rest of the series, if that, just to know more about the Shrike. Reviews for those books aren't likely to follow.
======================================== Quotes From the Book (Apply your own positive/negative connotations.) ========================================
Tyrena was a dinosaur who refused to become extinct--her wrists, palms, and neck would have glowed blue from repeated [anti-aging treatments] if it had not been for makeup, and she spent decades on short-hop interstellar cruises or incredibly expensive cryogenic naps at spas too exclusive to have names; the upshot was that Tyrena Wingreen-Feif had held the social scene in an iron grip for more than three centuries and showed no signs of relinquishing it. With every twenty-year nap, her fortune expanded and her legend grew.
He pulled and struggled and twisted even as the creature hugged him more closely, pulling him onto its own blades as if he were a butterfly being mounted, a specimen being pinned.
"A less-enlightened personage once asked Ummon, 'What is the God-nature/Buddha/Central Truth?' Ummon answered him, 'A dried shit-stick.'"...more
What's the short and skinny of it? With planet Sadira destroyed, the few remaining Sadiri—mainly men—seek refuge on Cygnus Beta, a veritable melting pWhat's the short and skinny of it? With planet Sadira destroyed, the few remaining Sadiri—mainly men—seek refuge on Cygnus Beta, a veritable melting pot of refugees, races, and cultures. It is here, with the help of biotechnician Grace Delarua, that they search for distant Sadiri cousins with whom to reunite and potentially marry. Their journey takes them far and wide into different places and cultures, all of which have some relation to the now lost Sadira. Along the way, Grace connects with and befriends the reserved Sadiri people, changing her life and theirs forever.
Tell me more. Karen Lord's debut, Redemption in Indigo, has been on my reading list for quite a while, but having never gotten around to it, I jumped at the chance to receive a review copy of her latest book, The Best of All Possible Worlds, and was lucky enough to receive one from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. When I read the official book summary and saw Lord's writing was compared to Ursula K. Le Guin's, I thought this was going to be an enjoyable reading experience, one I could easily give three or more stars to, but, alas, some things are not meant to be. The Best of All Possible Worlds is not anything like what its cover and official summary suggest.
There's no doubt this book has a target audience, and it's already received other early reviews that are mostly very positive. I just don't think I'm part of that audience, and I have doubts as to whether most other science fiction readers will be either. Outside of a few humanlike aliens with "psychic mind-linking" capabilities, this is very fanciful science fiction—and, sadly, not that interesting of a fantasy. Certainly, it's a far cry from being the social commentary on genocide and racial/cultural integration I thought it would be. Stripped of all its needless subplots, the story is primarily a run-of-the-mill romance, right down to its overly-emotional female lead, Grace Delarua.
Joral leaned forward and said earnestly, "You seem to be very sad about leaving. It is all right if you wish to cry, First Officer Delarua. We will not think badly of you. We understand this is common behavior for many Terran females."
"Well, I'm Cygnian," I snapped. "And I wasn't going to cry." I swear, nothing irritates me more than being overemotional in front of a Sadiri. They make me feel so silly.
It's Grace Delarua's first-person perspective you're mostly stuck with, with occasional (better written) stints in a third-person perspective that focus on the activities and feelings of her eventual (obvious) love interest, Dllenahkh. I unfortunately found it difficult to care about either character, though, never quite connecting to Grace's unrealistically haywire emotions or Dllenahkh's forced alien qualities. (He is similar to Spock from Star Trek.)
It doesn't help that countless one-dimensional minor characters come and go for no good reason, leaving the plot tangential. This unfocused plotting means that by the first quarter of the book, Grace has had multiple jobs, taken numerous trips, and made a visit to her sister, the latter of which give soap writers a run for their money.
"You bastard," I said. "I warned you: if you hurt her, if you hurt any of my family, I will deal with you!"
"I'm not hurting them," he protested. "I take good care of them. They're happy."
"Happy little puppets," I spat, gripping my right wrist in an effort not to slap him. "I should report you to the authorities."
"You won't," he said simply. "You love me. Never stopped."
Such melodramatic scenes are common in the book.
The problem with The Best is that it's just too superficial, and no amount of melodrama or tangents can mask that. There's not much in the way of world-building, there's little effort to flesh out certain characters, the dialogue tends to be awkward and forced, and the story is too predictable from the beginning. Maybe I'm being too harsh. Then again, in a book that is at least somewhat about people being displaced after genocide, it's awfully lighthearted. It feels as though you're meant to find it cute and amusing that many of the men are looking for wives who more closely match their genetic and racial makeup so they can produce, I suppose, purer babies. I find that creepy, not cute.
Qeturah almost laughed out loud. "Relax, Delarua. It's a compliment ... I think. She was saying that you should be registered on the special list for potential Sadiri brides, and when I pointed out that there was an upper age limit for that, she suggested that extending your fertile years would take care of objections."
I was already dazedly shaking my head at the wrongness of it all.
"Don't worry. I told her that with the amount of Ntshune heritage you have, you'll probably be able to have children for quite a bit longer than the average Cygnian. I estimate you have another twenty-five years, maybe even thirty."
Because, really, what's the value of a woman who can't birth children?
This book needed more work and more editing, and I don't know why it seems like it didn't receive it. The Best feels a lot like a first draft: something with some glimmer of potential that hasn't been realized. For all these reasons, I can't give this book the positive review I was hoping to, and I think it will be some time before I try another novel by Karen Lord.
Aside: It appears Del Rey / Random House rather distastefully opted to use a white woman on the book cover, even though Grace is said to have "cedar-brown skin" (chapter eight, "The Faerie Queen").
Sometimes you get to the final book in a series, and it feels like a different author is writing it, that the real author who began the story back atSometimes you get to the final book in a series, and it feels like a different author is writing it, that the real author who began the story back at book one packed a suitcase and got a one-way ticket to some far-off place. This is how I feel about Monsters of Men, which is really the proverbial nail in the Chaos Walking trilogy's coffin.
I've read several glowing reviews for this book, and I admit I struggle to see many of the things those readers are seeing. While everyone's entitled to their own opinions—enjoyment is subjective—I believe readers are less likely to enjoy this trilogy when the books are read consecutively. I can see how waiting a year between books might result forgetting the little bits and pieces Ness inserted into his world, and so their absence might not be so frustrating and noticeable. I don't believe I'd like this book with such a wait period between readings, but I suspect I wouldn't find the problems as glaring as I do now. When reading the books back to back, the numerous technical flaws with Ness' writing are impossible to ignore.
By far, Ness' biggest problem in Monsters of Men is technique. It's strange to say that, considering I so love his technique in The Knife of Never Letting Go, but there's a vast difference, and I would say declining quality, between the first and last books of this trilogy.
Ness continues his sloppy perspective-switching from The Ask and the Answer—and it unfortunately gets worse. Whereas most of the perspective-switching in book two was between chapters, it's between scenes in Monsters of Men. One 400-word scene switches to another 400-word scene from a different perspective, then back again, and on and on. If not for POV headings, readers would struggle to keep up. (Although, the characters spend so much time screaming each other's names that you're never entirely lost. VIOLA! TODD! VIOLA! MARCIA, MARCIA, MARCIA!) Typographical differences are meant to exist between the different points of view, too, but I found this was a little inconsistent for me in the ebook format for Nook. In other words, if you're dying to read this, do so in print.
There's eventually so much perspective switching that Todd and Viola not only don't sound like themselves from previous books, they halfway morph into some near-schizophrenic first person point of view. Either Todd has an educated, though immature, female alter ego or Viola's got an illiterate, redneck boy living inside her. Neither feels quite right. Worse yet, Ness adds in another first person perspective. It should be said that not everything needs to be known about everyone at all times in a book. If a writer thinks otherwise, to any degree, he or she should almost certainly be writing in third person, not first. This is basic stuff, and I'm dismayed Ness had no editor come to his rescue.
It's difficult for me to look past technical issues to see positives in character development, but I think Ness fails to deliver on this front, too. For Todd and Viola, I can see where he attempts to show development, but it's lost in the perspective chaos (no pun intended) and the ever-conveniently-changing plot device that the Noise becomes.
Character development is far worse with Mayor Prentiss, Chaos Walking's bad guy who's meant to disturb readers with his near-unending cruelty and unhinged understanding of the world. I waited and hoped for some deep revelation about Prentiss and his behavior, but he really only becomes an idiotic, grinning sideshow. I should have known not to expect much when the book opened with this dialogue:
"War," says Mayor Prentiss, his eyes glinting. "At last."
Mistress Coyle is a better-written bad guy. She's all about control and power, and readers know enough about her history to know some of the reasons why she behaves the way she does. But Mistress Coyle is not the bad guy readers were introduced to in book one, and though she's of a similar nature to Prentiss, she is the lesser of evils, whether Ness intended for her to be or not. (view spoiler)[Yeah, she chooses to be a suicide bomber to prove a point, but she didn't try to kill every woman on the planet, now, did she? (hide spoiler)]
That Mistress Coyle is a mildly interesting and believable bad guy doesn't really matter, though. The whole trilogy falls flat and ultimately makes no sense if we don't understand Mayor Prentiss' history and motives. The previous war with the Spackle, the genocide of women in Prentisstown and his subsequent rise to power there, the connection to Preacher Aaron's religious fundamentalism, the chasing of Todd "for his innocence," the chasing of Viola, his overtaking of all settlements between Prentisstown and Haven, his continued hatred of Spackle and women, his love of war, his interest in Viola's people, his ability to control minds, and countless other things make no sense if readers aren't given details. He doesn't seem to care about fame or fortune—or even power, really—just mind games and war. Without more behind his behavior, he becomes a stock character, mere decoration for Ness' moral and political messages, and a placeholder for true conflict.
I'm going to "spoil" the big "secret" about Mayor Prentiss for you: He's crazy and bad to the bone. That's it.
That brings me back to Ness' philosophical messages against war and violence. An inadequate handling of Mayor Prentiss muddles the message Ness is trying to get out to young people. Prentiss is not a realistic portrayal of real-world evil, and so any pacifistic messages surrounding him crumble. Everything's made more awkward when Ness pulls out the old Noble Savage trope for the Spackle. They are glorified Native Americans, right down to their peace-seeking chieftain and his elaborate headpiece. Todd and Viola's response to the world they live in can't deliver important life lessons because their world no longer mirrors any sort of reality by the end of this book. All the good and evil has been created using cookie-cutter stereotypes.
Other young adult authors have better communicated how difficult it is to understand and cope with the hows and whys of people's behavior, as well as how unclear appropriate courses of action can be. While Ness accomplishes some of the latter in Monsters of Men through Todd and Viola, he struggles to portray the former because of his poor development of Mayor Prentiss. If only the evil men of our world were more like Ness portrays Prentiss: void of political, moral, and financial motivations and connections. It wouldn't be so difficult to know how to respond to them.
These are just some of the problems with this book. Questions are left unanswered, too many characters prove to be unimportant, and the ending can only be described as an anticlimactic showdown reminiscent of every bad superhero movie ever made.
I still think The Knife of Never Letting Go is a fun read, which is why I can't bring myself to give this book the one-star rating it may very well deserve, but The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men are disappointing followups. This trilogy had potential, but Ness ultimately doesn't deliver.
======================================== Quotes From the Book (Apply your own positive/negative connotations.) ========================================
That’s the nasty, nasty secret of war- When yer winning- When yer winning, it’s ruddy thrilling—
And then I turn to the Mayor and I’m filled with her, with her love for me and my love for her- And it makes me big as an effing mountain-["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
What's the short and skinny of it? In the distant future, Old Earth has died, humans have spread throughout the universe, and technology has blossomedWhat's the short and skinny of it? In the distant future, Old Earth has died, humans have spread throughout the universe, and technology has blossomed to both our advantage and detriment. As large-scale war looms, several people are called on a pilgrimage to the planet Hyperion--so named after English Romantic poet John Keats' unfinished work. It's on Hyperion that the mysterious and deadly Shrike can be found near the Time Tombs, a place that confounds archaeologists and physicists alike. As the travelers make their journey, each recounts his or her life story, revealing the many ways they are all connected to each other and their destination.
Tell me more. The universe that author Dan Simmons has created in Hyperion is expansive, with many characters, worlds, and technological devices. Entering such foreign, future territory tends to go one of two ways in speculative fiction: Either the story begins very slowly as it introduces you to the mechanics of the world, or the author opens a floodgate and hopes you'll keep up. Simmons chose to unleash the flood, and there's a lot of techie jargon at the beginning of Hyperion—some of it dated—that might put off readers who aren't usually open to science fiction. (Tree ships? Fatline messages? All Thing? Farcasting?) Still, if you can roll with this brand of immersion, the book is mostly rewarding beyond its lexicon of buzzwords and occasional pitfalls.
Hyperion is separated into several parts. The book's present-day story, where war looms on the horizon, is told in a limited third-person perspective, but most of the book is made up of several first-person accounts, á la Canterbury Tales, from each of the main characters who are on the Shrike pilgrimage. Each character is on the pilgrimage for either personal or political reasons; all are guarding secrets and frightened for their lives. There is the priest who is physically tied to Hyperion in a most horrific way, the famed colonel who's had inexplicable visions, the brash poet whose muse is a monster from nightmares, the scholar who hopes his daughter's heartbreaking illness can end on Hyperion as it started, the detective who carries the memories of a reborn writer, and a government official who is weighed down by his knowledge of endless corruption and conspiracies.
These first-person accounts are a mixed bag, in my opinion. While I loved the stories the priest, poet, and scholar told (4-5 stars, easily), and the government official ended up having some things of interest, I was less intrigued by the tales the war general and detective had to tell (2-3 stars). I did some skimming with them. Perhaps that's a matter of taste, though, and Simmons does deserve credit for giving each character a clear voice, regardless. He's also pretty good at bending genres.
For me, where Simmons falters most is in thinking we need to know about all of the elements of his world. Presumably, this is the reason he chose to write the book in a way that allowed him to tour the universe. As much as I enjoyed some of the characters' backstories, I would have preferred Simmons stayed out of the past more than he did and instead focused on what was only relevant to the third-person plotting that surrounded each backstory. The fact is, despite the largeness of the world and some of the individual character's histories, this book has a very small story itself: some people journey to another planet. Enjoyable or not, the detours into each traveler's past seriously detract from the book's present. As such, Hyperion feels a little like a teaser for the real story that's set to unfold in the rest of the series.
So what makes me generally like this book and want to continue reading, as I most certainly plan to?
Above all, it's the Shrike, which is one of the best, creepiest monsters I've encountered in science fiction or horror. I'd rather not spoil the details that exist about the Shrike because how they are revealed through the character backstories in Hyperion is really great. Simmons kept my skin crawling every time the Shrike—and the mysterious cult who follows the monster—came into the picture. I suspect much of the acclaim for this book and the series is based on the creative bogeyman.
This book has its problems, I think, both technical and creative, but I'm looking forward to seeing what befalls my favorite characters and the Shrike that lies in wait. (I have so many questions. Is the Shrike just misunderstood? Is the whole world going to end?!) Whether Simmons can hold me for the entire series depends largely on the next book, The Fall of Hyperion.
======================================== Quotes From the Book (Apply your own positive/negative connotations.) ========================================
In the beginning was the Word. Then came the fucking word processor. Then came the thought processor. Then came the death of literature. And so it goes.
The lieutenant took his time scanning their visa chips, letting them wait in the drizzle, occasionally making a comment with the idle arrogance common to such nobodies who have just come into a small bit of power.
And Sol awakened half laughing, half chilled by the dream. Amused by the thought that the entire Talmud and the Old Testament might be nothing more than a cosmic shaggy-dog story....more
What's the short and skinny of it? Todd Hewitt, the only remaining boy of Prentisstown, will soonNote: This trilogy does not end well, in my opinion.
What's the short and skinny of it? Todd Hewitt, the only remaining boy of Prentisstown, will soon become a man in a world without women. Of course, despite women's absence, he knows of them. He hears men's painful, disturbing memories of women in the Noise, a thing which enables all men (and animals) to hear one another's thoughts, regardless of whether they want to share or listen. It's a loud, confusing, and angry place to grow up. It's also a place filled with lies. Todd hopes everything will make more sense when he becomes a man, but when he discovers an anomaly, a "silence" in the Noise, the men who serve as his parents send him away as quickly as they can. With the men of Prentisstown on his heels, Todd must survive a hard life on the run, all while discovering the truth along the way.
Tell me more. The Knife of Never Letting Go has all the trappings of a good book for young adults (and in general). The setting is immersive, the characters are interesting and different, and the dialogue is mostly believable. Though I do typically think there are no original ideas, Ness has worked hard to deliver something that hasn't quite been done before, and it shows right down to his stylistic choices, which thankfully even look good on an e-reader. This is an author who has put a lot of thought and effort into his story.
Ness changes font types and sizes to indicate words in the "Noise," capitalizes words or phrases according to how loud or far away they are, and uses sentence fragments to aid his pacing. He's also written the entire story from Todd's perspective—and in his dialect. All of these techniques, which feel natural and not the least bit forced, help pull the reader deeper into Todd's world and mind, and would likely be a good introduction for teens to some of the odder stylistic choices in fiction.
The genre for this book—dystopian science fiction—is accurate. The reader joins Todd in a dark world with all the usual horrors, injustices, and angst that come with such a setting. But there are few explanations for this world; those, it would seem, Ness is saving for the next two books. That could be good or bad.
Ultimately, I only have two real complaints with this book:
The first is that, despite its being an enjoyable read, 80 percent of The Knife of Never Letting Go is simply "We ran and ran." See Todd. See Todd run here. See Todd run there. Run, Todd, run. That is the action and adventure in this book, even if there is a larger plot for the trilogy. Even the revelations are cut short by all the running or are too predictable to be considered revelations by the time the reveal occurs—which means Ness is a little too good at foreshadowing sometimes.
My other complaint is purely philosophical, and other readers may disagree with me. A major theme in The Knife of Never Letting Go is pacifism, that no matter how close you come to killing someone for what they've done to you, it's still not an appropriate course of action—that there's never a right time to kill another being, that when murder is committed, it changes a person forever. It's an idea I staunchly agree with in a world of semi-sensible governments, (hopefully rehabilitative) prisons, and due process. We should encourage young people to recognize the importance of life and the value that comes from holding it dear enough never to destroy it, even when we might desire to do so.
But Ness has created a "Wild West," a world filled with early settlers and settlements, where organized systems of justice are largely absent or fledglings at best. When this world is coupled with the bad guys, who are serial murderers and dictators, in The Knife of Never Letting Go, I'm not sure pacifism works. I can appreciate Ness' overall message to young people that is against war, murder, and (I think) capital punishment, but I have trouble—even as a fellow pacifist—understanding what other option such a world or society provides the innocent with to defend themselves. If there is no government, no prison or rehabilitation, and absolutely no hope for safety if some of these evil people live, what option is there beyond killing the bad guys? The problem is that, if Ness' themes are what they seem to be, he actually shows the flaws of pacifism, not its merits.
These are minor complaints, however, and perhaps I am misreading Ness' intentions or will see them more clearly in the next two books of the trilogy. If you enjoy character-based soft science fiction, you should give this book a try.
---------- Quotes ----------
There’s pictures, too, pictures that come to yer mind in a rush, no matter how much you don’t want ’em, pictures of memories and fantasies and secrets and plans and lies, lies, lies. Cuz you can lie in the Noise, even when everyone knows what yer thinking, you can bury stuff under other stuff, you can hide it in plain sight, you just don’t think it clearly or you convince yerself that the opposite of what yer hiding is true and then who’s going to be able to pick out from the flood what’s real water and what’s not going to get you wet?
What else is there to say? Everything and nothing. You can’t say everything, so you don’t say nothing.
“War is a monster,” he says, almost to himself. “War is the devil. It starts and it consumes and it grows and grows and grows.” He’s looking at me now. “And otherwise normal men become monsters, too.”...more