Even though it has won awards & receives "High" praise from all walks of life, I, for one, do not care much for this novel. Personally, I think it...moreEven though it has won awards & receives "High" praise from all walks of life, I, for one, do not care much for this novel. Personally, I think it's one of his worst.
& I am a huge P.K. Dick fan.
So why the 3-stars? Because it's Philip K. Dick. That's all.
I could go into the plot--alternate history, I Ching's influence on people, the man who wrote a book about the U.S. winning the war (which is fiction in their world's history), the Japanese Overlords, the Nazi Overlords, etc.--but I won't. As I've said in many other reviews, there are plenty of other reviewers who will give you a synopsis & Goodreads provides an adequate one as well.
The story--if there is one--is just... flat. There was nothing that captured my interest at all. I felt I was reading it just to say I did. & now that I've written it in a sentence, I realize that is the very reason: Just to say I did.
This book is not P.K.'s worst (that would be Lies, Inc.) but it definitely isn't his best (that would be Ubik & The World Jones Made). It bored me to tears & I kept reading--hoping it would get better. & just when he starts to build to a climax--one where he captures your interest again to make you keep turning the pages--he drops the ball making you feel cheated.
A lot of people don't like P.K.'s "Lesser works" (ie., Vulcan's Hammer or Clans of the Alphane Moon) but it is within those works that I feel the REAL P.K. Dick dwells. Those books are the ones with surreal, wild ideas that make Philip K. Dick feel like a kindred spirit.
This book goes for the "big idea" &, for me, fails miserably & ends without a BANG! but with a forgettable whimper.
Read The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch instead. It's on the bargain table at my home-away-from-home, Powell's City of Books. Enjoy.(less)
If you are a fan of Jodorowsky's THE METABARONS then this book is one you should pick up. It is not one of the best tales of the Last Metabaron &...moreIf you are a fan of Jodorowsky's THE METABARONS then this book is one you should pick up. It is not one of the best tales of the Last Metabaron & it is why I would say "for fans only". For the uninitiated, I would recommend you start at the beginning of the Metabaron's saga by picking up the first book in the series, PATH OF THE WARRIOR. Maybe you'll become a fan, maybe you won't. But I will promise you, the series will tear your mind up with it's metaphysical concepts, fantastic art by Gimenez (THE FOURTH POWER) & rip-roarin' gory action.
But with WEAPONS the story ended so suddenly I am convinced there are parts of it lying on a cutting room floor somewhere. Maybe it has to do with the weird disappearence of the book's artist, Travis Charest (WildC.A.T.S.), after he was assigned the project back in the 90s? Seriously, Charest flew off the radar & was never heard from again for almost a decade making some suspect he went on a massive drug binge outside of the U.S. Where? Only he knows. When he resurfaced amongst the living, he said he was still at work on the project & since he was given an advancement on the work, the publishers stuck with him. All this shows within the book--a symptom of the plot's illness.
The art--as with all of Jodorowsky's comix--is fanstastic & one of the many reasons why you should read the mad genius' comix. But within this book, the art was split between 2 artists; the 2nd one being the great Zoran Janjetov who had penciled/inked Jodorowsky's epic, THE TECHNOPRIESTS. Personally, I prefer Janjetov's art over Charest's & would've had him finish the project after Charest's Houdini act in the 90s. Maybe then the plot of WEAPONS would not have suffered as it did?
The story revolves around the Last Metabaron--the greatest warrior of the 8 universes--& his quest to aquire the 4 most powerful weapons of the 8 universes in order to make him the only living weapon with the power to destroy the 8 universes. Yes, it's a mouthful but then what makes Jodorowsky so great is how he challenges you to think about the comix he is writing. Again, this book is not where one should begin if you are just starting the saga of the Metabarons, but it is one for those who want more of this interesting character.
What I think would improve this book would be an editior's piece on the history of the project--especially discussing at great length about Charest's assignment to the book & his mind-blowing vanishing trick. Interviews with the author & the artists would also greatly improve this book & would help readers forgive how sparce the story is & how abruptly it ends within just 61 pages. The book should have been about the journey in which it was created & not just on the Metabaron tale alone. (less)
If you are a fan of Ludlum, you may like Brad Thor. If you are a fan of "24" & "Burn Notice" you may like Thor's novels. If you are a right-wing c...moreIf you are a fan of Ludlum, you may like Brad Thor. If you are a fan of "24" & "Burn Notice" you may like Thor's novels. If you are a right-wing conservative who believes in "might is right", then you'll like Brad Thor's novels. I like Thor because he writes a good thriller & keeps the criticism of liberalism on the down low (totally unlike author Vince Flynn's novels). In this thriller, counter-terrorism operative, Scot Harvath, sets out to prevent a Muslim caliphate from becoming a reality by stopping a virus from wiping out all non-Muslims. It's a very sci-fi like plot (I know what you are thinking: "How does a virus target a person's religious beliefs?") &, with patience, Thor manages to get every question answered--no matter how far fetched the plot device is. Again: fans of "24" will love this type of thriller. I enjoyed it but its not the best of its kind--Harvath is no Jason Bourne but then, who is? It's also better than a Daniel Silva thriller which is saying a lot. Will I read more of Thor? Yes. Why? Because he keeps the plot moving, provides a lot of action & his main character is not impervious to getting hurt (unlike Vince Flynn's characters). Does Brad Thor hate liberals & kiss GOP ass? Oh Lord, yes. But if the GOP are good for anything, they write fun thrillers if you can get past the right wing, flag waving politics.(less)
I have always been a fan of science fiction but I did not enter it in the "traditional" sense. Most talk about picking up their first sci-fi novel &...moreI have always been a fan of science fiction but I did not enter it in the "traditional" sense. Most talk about picking up their first sci-fi novel & the names on the covers were always the typical ones: Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Niven, Pohl, Bradbury, etc. This is where they started--the classic authors of The Golden Age of Science Fiction--with books that are considered "top-shelf" by historical literary standards. I did not start my journey into sci-fi with Foundation, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ringworld or A Stranger in a Strange Land.
"The Golden Age" gave way to "New Wave" where the counter-culture of the Beats & hippies bled into the world of science fiction and this is where I got my start. Moorcock, P.K. Dick, Vonnegut, Ellison, Farmer--these were the authors I was gravitating to. Their ideas were more social & political--where tech took a back seat to the development of the human condition into the future. This was far more appealing to a young person who was rife with questions about where we were going into the future as a society.
The Hard Sci-fi novels of the Golden Age the true sci-fi geeks gushed about--the brilliance, the vision of theses novels!--made me feel like an outsider to a clique I wasn't allowed to be part of. They were smug in their delivery as they pontificated that these authors were literary "giants" of the sub-genre of Space Opera. Furthermore, they would make claims that these novels are very complicated & could not be understood by someone of average intelligence--even hinting that I was part of the "someones" they were talking about. This pissed me off & made me give them my middle-finger--causing me to strike out on my own to find excellent, "alternative" science fiction. (Unfortunately an "alternative" aspect of sci-fi would piss me off as well. Hello Cyberpunk.)
Over the years, & about twelve P.K. Dick novels later, I decided to give Hard Sci-fi a try--taking on some of the Space Operas these "defenders of the faith" spoke about with great reverence. I found them to be okay--filled with what would be considered cliche by today's standards in science fiction--but wanted something more "modern" in its approach to the subject matter.
This is when I discovered the new sub-genre: New Space Opera.
From what I've gathered in my inquiries into this new sub-genre it started in the U.K. (I'm sure there is someone out there who can dispute this finding, but for now it'll do) because the big names within it are from Britain. Peter F. Hamilton, Neil Asher & Alastair Reynolds were the names I always came across when trying to find a novel to start with. I saw the huge doorstops that make up Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy--a thousand pages each!--& decided not to begin there. Neil Asher receives high praise but also gets an equal amount of criticism about how bad he is as a writer so I decided he wouldn't be my first either--though I have a couple of his books on deck. It was Alastair Reynolds who captured my interest. He, like Frank Herbert or Asimov, created a universe--dubbing it the Revelation Space Universe--& set a trilogy of novels within it. In addition to the trilogy, he also wrote a few stand-alone novels, novellas & short story collections set within this universe as well. This is where I decided to start with Reynolds--within the stand-alone novels--because I wouldn't be starting another series (God knows I have enough of those on my nightstand & don't need another one). But which one?
Chasm City won out in the end & I have to say I made a wise decision. This novel is a great place to start for those who have never read a book in the newly blossomed sub-genre, New Space Opera. It isn't mind-blowing nor is it a humongous snooze-fest either. Reynolds has built a universe which is so interesting, it'll make you want to return to it again to see what other wonders you can discover (I actually picked up the collected novellas, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, directly after completing Chasm City).
The bulk of Chasm City takes place in the novels title megalopolis, where a horrible plague has disrupted the entire structural integrity of the city, their technology & the populace themselves--known as the "Melding Plague". The once, grandiose thriving Chasm City was the jewel of the universe with the insanely rich gravitating to it on the planet Yellowstone--a remote planet that has nothing to offer except the city itself--& live in an almost pseudo-utopian state of existence that only social standing/money can buy. But the Melding Plague will "cure" Yellowstone society of this "malady" & Chasm City gets reduced to a living nightmare! & you would think this would be the focal point of the story. It is not.
In fact, the novel is a tale of pursuit--almost in tribute to roman noir. It is a story of revenge & not of redemption. It is also the story of the colonization of Chasm City's home planet, Yellowstone, the founding of Sky's Edge (the sector of the galaxy the planet is in) & the back-story of Yellowstone's founder, Sky Haussmann--the atrocity he committed & his crucifixion (yes, you read that right--crucifixion in the far-future).
Main character, Tanner Mirabel, is looking for Argent Reivich, in order to kill him for Reivich's murder of Mirabel's employer's wife. Mirabel was in charge of security to protect his employer but failed miserably & Reivich was able to carry out his murderous ambush which cost the lives of everyone Mirabel was assigned to. The chase leads Mirabel to Chasm City where he is confronted with the aftermath of the Melding Plague & the effects it wrought upon the populace & the Glitter Band (hundreds of thousands of man-made habitats which encircle the planet Yellowstone in orbit like a ring of Saturn). This makes his job very complicated & with the help of some Chasm City misfits, Tanner navigates his way through the megalopolis along a shaky path.
There is A LOT going on within this Revelation Space stand-alone novel. So much so that the above description is just a scratch on the surface. But the upside is it will keep you turning the pages to find out more about this weird, interesting universe Reynolds drops you in within the first chapter. Reynolds is no-slouch when it comes to the tech within his stories, but he doesn't make it so complicated the average reader can't grasp what it is he is driving at. He melds together the best aspects of Space Opera with the best trappings of Cyberpunk--completely without the cowboy hackers & mirrorshades--& pulls it off.
So why the 3 stars? Simple, like most astrophysicists/scientists turned sci-fi authors, Reynolds is not very good at prose. & I agree with another reviewer that the dialogue is simply horrible. It really is. But it doesn't stop you from wanting to keep going till the end. At no point did I want to throw this book down in frustration or disgust & the world-building is what kept me going. We never truly get inside the characters within Reynolds novels--even though memory reproduction & implantation is a major theme within the Revelation Space universe. Sure, we get inside their heads through technological advances but we never truly get INSIDE THEIR HEADS!--revealing their true natures. The characters are, basically, cookie-cutter with some special traits draped on them like robes of authenticity. This is NOT how you create characters but for Reynolds they serve their purpose despite this drawback. Yes, character development is not one of Reynolds strong points & they suffer due to the "Big Idea" Reynolds is working out in his novels. Thank the gods the "Big Idea" is always a good one because it is what saves Reynold's novels for me.
Will I read more of Reynolds books? As I've stated already in this review, I've read Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days & I just started The Prefect last week so I do see more Alastair Reynolds in my future. Now if those Peter F. Hamilton thousand page mega-monsters called novels would stop look so damn intimidating (& they do with each passing Reynolds novel), I'll take them on as well. (less)