I was *so* excited to get this book as a gift. It won the Hugo Award back around 1992 and I thought the library would have every single Hugo winner evI was *so* excited to get this book as a gift. It won the Hugo Award back around 1992 and I thought the library would have every single Hugo winner ever, but alas, no. So, somehow my husband found a paperback copy complete with truly awesome embossed cover art depicting some kind of weird sting-ray shaped spacecraft that I'm not sure I actually recognize as appearing in the story. Oh well, minor quibble, he wins best husband of the year award.
As for the book, it is an amazing piece of world-building---the author invents a whole new hierarchy of physics in the galaxy AND some of the strangest aliens ever. There are numerous planets and alien races that play roles in the epic story, but the strangest by far are the aliens that are actually made up of three to six dog-like bodies telepathically connected. Yeah, weird, huh? Also, there are Norwegians, and a strong female character, and a weird male character that almost crossed over into hero territory but not quite.
But, the whole point of the story was to stop the bad guy, and the explanation of why what happened would actually stop the bad guy was perty thin. There was some fighting and rescuing and bravery, but the ending didn't make any sense. Which is maybe the worst possible flaw in a book because you don't know until you've finished the whole darn thing that you are *not* going to love this book.
All in all, I don't regret reading it, but it doesn't go on my favs list.
Ann Leckie is definitely on my favorite sci-fi writers list thanks to *Ancillary Sword* and its predecessor *Ancillary Justice*. According to a blurbAnn Leckie is definitely on my favorite sci-fi writers list thanks to *Ancillary Sword* and its predecessor *Ancillary Justice*. According to a blurb on the book cover from Publishers Weekly "[Ancillary Justice] succeeds in making Breq a protagonist readers will invest in" and I enjoyed investing another 354 pages getting to know Breq in the second book and watching a very interesting conflict develop around the basic question: When is a person a person?
The second book in the series is slower paced than the first, and would not stand on its own if the first book hadn't created such engaging characters and a tantalizingly plausible but disturbing world. But despite the slower pace and a plot slightly distanced from the empire-wide conflict started in the first book, *Sword* addresses that fundamental question from a new perspective through the eyes of Breq, an AI that previously controlled a starship and hundreds (thousands?) of "ancillaries." Ancillaries are human bodies that were (involuntarily) joined to an AI via implanted hardware and shared a group consciousness. *Ancillary Sword* develops Breq's character as she tests the limits of her single remaining body. I think this is the most engaging aspect of the book. I don't usually go for space opera, but I enjoyed the exploration of the psychological effects of a hypothetical and seriously creepy technology.
I am anxiously awaiting the third book in the series, due out this year. ...more
This novel mixes three stories from three time periods---1732, 2006 and 2032---to incorporate a Heart-of-Darkness-esque history, contemporary action/mThis novel mixes three stories from three time periods---1732, 2006 and 2032---to incorporate a Heart-of-Darkness-esque history, contemporary action/mystery story and near-future sci-fi---all in the service of revealing a grandiose theory of everything.
As usual, McDonald embraces the book's setting, in this case Brasil (obviously) and the addition of the historical layer to a sci-fi novel is a real treat. He even includes a glossary of terms, many from Portuguese, at the back of the book.
The “theory of everything” was not too convincing for me and the three stories required varying degrees of suspended disbelief to swallow multiple series of fantastic events, but his three protagonists were interesting, engaging and solidly drawn, and the weaving of the storylines together was dexterous and entertaining. If you aren't too particular about the plausibility of your sci-fi, this would probably be a four- or even five-star book....more
I burned through this trilogy like a thermite sword through Terran armour. Author Rachel Bach creates a really convincing portrait of a kick-ass womanI burned through this trilogy like a thermite sword through Terran armour. Author Rachel Bach creates a really convincing portrait of a kick-ass woman mercenary interacting with her space-faring feudal culture with futuristic weaponry and a boatload of strange aliens. I normally don't go for books with wild casts of alien creatures, but protagonist Devianna Morris rolls with the punches so I went along for the ride. If you don't enjoy reading about one-on-one fighting, this book is not for you because the vast majority of Devi's interactions are seriously one-on-one.
I love sci-fi that shows basic human nature throwing itself against new and intriguing culture and technology. Tweaking those basic constants can produce crazy new behaviors, habits, beliefs, values and emotions. Devi interacts with her armour and weapons the way you would expect a mercenary to, but since the armour and weapons have features that exist only in the Paradoxian world created by Rachel Bach's imagination, watching the results is a heck of a lot of fun. ...more
I wanted to like this book because the author put a lot of thought into the technology, but in retrospect, I should have abandoned it right after theI wanted to like this book because the author put a lot of thought into the technology, but in retrospect, I should have abandoned it right after the really, really repulsive bad guy was introduced--or preferably, before, if I had only known. There were actually several featured bad guys, but the hacker/identity thief/carder Gragg in particular was initially over-the-top disgusting and evil, but then the character only appeared later as a rather uninteresting minion. It's as if the author created a whitepaper outlining the exploits required to execute a technical attack, and wrote fairly convincing psychological backgrounds for the actors, but had no real plot to hold the whole thing together and thus no character development or even convincing relationships. Technically interesting but, as a novel, unsatisfying....more
It is hard for me to write a review. It's not really fair to say the book didn't seem that original when the truth is, the book has been credited withIt is hard for me to write a review. It's not really fair to say the book didn't seem that original when the truth is, the book has been credited with such powerful influence on the sci-fi world that it created or at least legitimized the then new and now pervasive subgenre of cyberpunk. So the fact that it seemed somewhat predictable is simply because I had already read so many derivative works before I got to the original.
The female character Molly was substantial enough that I wish she had had more independent action in the story. The relationship between Molly and Case seemed like an obligatory nod to male readers early in the story and not particularly titillating. It didn't confuse him later, didn't make his decisions more difficult. It was very business-like. Did I just describe the ideal relationship for men who read sci-fi?!
I definitely should have read this book a long time ago....more
The Star Diaries really defy comparison with anything I have read before. Although the dry humor I expect from Eastern European fiction is there, theThe Star Diaries really defy comparison with anything I have read before. Although the dry humor I expect from Eastern European fiction is there, the story lines and philosophical wanderings are idiosyncratic in the extreme.
Lem's diarist Ijon Tichy is a starship pilot, galactic explorer and self-styled diplomat whose adventures around the universe lead him into frequent philosophical and religious discussions and even more frequent menace to his strange-by-comparison-to-aliens earthling body, menace mostly avoided by laying low and making quick exits. Tichy is no starship trooper.
His various voyages range from the prosaic to the profound. In one he loses a penknife and can't find his way back to the planet where he lost it thanks to an appallingly disorganized planetary system. In another, he visits monks still preserving their faith in a world where the lines between organic and inorganic, mechanical and natural have been utterly obliterated as in the "furniture grove" where armchairs and desks are grown from specially designed seed. On yet another voyage, Tichy directs a bungling future bureaucracy charged with improving earth history by traveling into its past and inadvertently causes natural and human disasters from the extinction of the dinosaurs to the Spanish Inquisition.
The book is illustrated with Lem's simple sketches of some of the stranger body shapes and technological gadgets of the future. Although some of the stories tend to get a little wordy, the themes are still shockingly fresh, an amazing accomplishment for science fiction written in 1972.
Lem's very best stories feature time travel and Ijon Tichy's best moments come when he fights with his own self, literally, in the flesh, caught in a time loop. After all, aren't we all our own worst enemies?...more
This book ended up driving me crazy. It was like those annoying Bourne movies, always jolting around in the not-very-self-reflective-head of the mainThis book ended up driving me crazy. It was like those annoying Bourne movies, always jolting around in the not-very-self-reflective-head of the main character. My daughter devoured it in a single summer vacation day, and that was probably the intent of the author, but could the pacing not alter even a tiny smidgeon during the entire time period of the book? Could the characters not just relax for even one little minute?
And worse, the first chapter of the sequel was included at the back of this book and, yes, this book featured violent creatures that were a hybrid of mechanical equipment (think knives and hooks) and flesh (think giant bulbous maggots, ugh) but the next book features a roomful of human rescuers (the only sympathetic adults in the story so far) hanging (literally, as in from the gallows) from the ceiling. Too much for "young adult" in my book. That's just gross and unnecessary. This from someone who enjoyed The Hunger Games. There was some social commentary that redeemed the portrayal of violence and gave you something to think about in THG, and maybe TMR is heading toward some kind of moral lesson, but the maze itself is utterly senseless, the solutions the protagonist comes up with are random and obvious at the same time, and the cast of characters is not sympathetic at all.
Also, apparently this is all engineered by evil, heartless, grey-faced scientists. Give the scientists a break!
So I'm glad I read this before the daughter can start the next book. We had put it on hold at the library, but it may just take a really, really, really long time for that one to become available....more
I am baffled as to why I liked this book and the previous one in the series, at least I am baffled as to how to explain it. This is about as conceptuaI am baffled as to why I liked this book and the previous one in the series, at least I am baffled as to how to explain it. This is about as conceptual as it gets. There is no protagonist, or maybe the protagonist is the human race, which might sound kind of original and exciting, but it really isn't. The characters themselves don't really get that much characterization, they are pawns in a game with no players and they're only "on stage" for a brief episode and then the epic sweep of time swats them into oblivion. But, the idea of "psychohistory" being able to predict the future of huge numbers of people even though psychology fails to predict any single person's fate is catchy, and the book is full of that kind of conceptual messing around. This is number two in the series and nothing new to be added that I didn't say about number one previously.
So, I can't think of a single person I know to whom I would confidently say "oh yeah, you're going to looove this series" but yet it is supposedly a sci-fi classic and looooved by a whole bunch of people. I just don't know any of them, except the person who recommended it to me, and she already read it, so....more
Got this collection just for "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" which was the basis for the movie Bladerunner. If the concept of lifelike androidsGot this collection just for "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" which was the basis for the movie Bladerunner. If the concept of lifelike androids was Dick's, the atmosphere and dystopian vision was magnified and instantiated by the art director in the movie. The movie was dark and gripping; the book struck me as almost comic in places. Dick also wrote Minority Report which was followed much more closely for its incarnation as a movie....more
Lots of "gee whiz" concepts, not much action, and what action there is merely gets us to the next "gee whiz" concept. It takes about as long to read tLots of "gee whiz" concepts, not much action, and what action there is merely gets us to the next "gee whiz" concept. It takes about as long to read this book as for the fictional Ringworldians to walk across their half-million mile world. Also, annoyingly gratuitous female character apparently included solely so that a 200-year old man can have sex, another "gee whiz" concept that makes me say yuck. ...more
I had high expectations for this novel, reinforced by the proclamation on the cover of the version I read that this is "the most famous science fictioI had high expectations for this novel, reinforced by the proclamation on the cover of the version I read that this is "the most famous science fiction novel ever written" but I'm afraid I was disappointed. I consider myself to be a science fiction fan but my tastes require more action apparently. The story was slow moving. The main character is slowly, very very slowly, revealed to be a Christ figure but he sort of inadvertently and conveniently zaps any bad guys out of existence right up until the very end. He is supposedly able to read and remember verbatim volume after volume of earthling literature and legal documents, but his speech is still stilted like a foreigner's. And the vision of heavenly peace on earth brought by this martian messiah is a little too much like an adolescent boy's fantasy to resonate with me. The book must certainly have been groundbreaking when it was published but sci fi often does not age well and I would say this is the case here....more