GENRE: Science Fiction, Alternate History, Planetary Romance, Space Opera, Low Fantasy with a historical setting
PUBLISHER: Night Shade Books and AudibGENRE: Science Fiction, Alternate History, Planetary Romance, Space Opera, Low Fantasy with a historical setting
PUBLISHER: Night Shade Books and Audible
PLOT: When Lt. Jain and her JSC team tries to conduct a Martian routine geological survey, the amount of unexplained and illogical phenomena starts mounting. Add to that a book that writes itself and the only plausible explanation is that physics laws don’t apply anymore.
That is, Terran physics laws, because everything makes perfect sense in an alternate reality, where people use alchemically-enhanced frigates to travel between planets.
COMMENTS: This is one of those books that eludes genre, or, better said, mixes so many genres that it almost falls under the new-weird territory. Half of it reads like hard science fiction, while the other reads like an adventure novel about Magellan’s travels. It shouldn’t work, but somehow it does, and the result is a wonderful investigation about how the two seemingly incongruous worlds could make sense.
TECHNIQUES: This is a multiple narrative story told in the past tense.
I got this audiobook as a promotional freebie from Audible (as I write this review, they still offer it for free). Let me mention that I am not familiI got this audiobook as a promotional freebie from Audible (as I write this review, they still offer it for free). Let me mention that I am not familiar with the Galactic Center Saga Series and hence starting with book #5.5 might not be the best way of getting acquainted with a series.
So, for those readers in the same boat with me, here are some of the author's notes related to this series:
The series comprises six novels, composed over a twenty-five-year span. The events stretch from the early 2000s to A.D. 37518, an immense scope imposed because its central focus, our galactic center, is 28,000 light-years away, and characters had to get there to take part in the galaxy's larger games.[...]
The themes of the series resolve in favor of humanity as unique and worth saving, even in as hostile a galaxy as I envisioned. But I suspect that if natural life is as foolish and vulnerable as we seem to be, quite possibly machines may inherit the galaxy, and thus sit bemused, watching us with cool indifference from afar.
This added story deals with an essential question asked of humans at the beginning of their decline, about A.D. 36000. It also reveals several aspects of the dreaded Mantis I never found room for in the novels." (Gregory Benford)
The question Mr. Benford talks about (or so I understood from bits and scraps of conversations) is why the Mantis, a superior machine or mech, harvests humans. And the answer is a rather unexpected: it sees humanity as an endangered species and tries to chronicle its existence through "art." What the mech understands by "art" is something each reader has to find for himself/herself.
What I think it's interesting about A Hunger for the Infinite is the fact that humans have nearly forgotten the concept of artistry, while the machine dwells in the "happiness" of creating statues. Hence Mr. Benford points our to a direct correlation between the development of a civilization and the existence art.
The story itself is rather episodic (it spans about 100 years in 50-or-so pages/2 hours of narration). I understand that this technique was intentional, as the author tried "to convey the huge scales of both time and distance that a galaxy implies" (Gregory Benford). Yet, at times it felt scattered, in spite of the rich, effusive writing.
Welcome to the real estate of the galaxy, a.k.a, the Zones of Thought, where everything from teReview Subtitle: "Location... location... location..."
Welcome to the real estate of the galaxy, a.k.a, the Zones of Thought, where everything from technology to the cognitive process itself is a function of the distance from the galactic center. That is, the further away from the center, the more advanced the potential civilizations and the forms of life. So advanced in fact, that the Transcend, the outermost region, is the home of the gods or Powers (entities whose intelligence is omnipotent), while the Slowness, the innermost region, is a galactic ghetto and home of... the Old Earth (modest technology, human-equivalent of intelligence). Mr. Vinge truly creates a fascination and original landscape of our galaxy.
Still, A Fire Upon the Deep is not a story about the Old Earth (by now, an almost forgotten planet), but the story of Tines, a backwater world located even further up in the Slowness and hence stuck for millennia at a Medievalistic level of technological development. It is also the story of Relay, of Straumli Realm, of Sjandra Kei, of Harmonious Repose (humorously nicknamed "Rest in Peace"), all worlds of of the Beyond, the middle zone of the galaxy, and all of them (view spoiler)[destroyed (hide spoiler)] by the Power called Blight that is accidentally brought to life in the first chapter of the novel. And in the same time, it is a profoundly human story of a handful of characters, whose life is threatened by the newborn Power and who try to find a way to annihilate it.
The amount of information that streams in front of us is incredible, and since he used to be a professor of Mathematics, that information is quite often strewn with abstract details. Most often the facts help advance the plot, but at times, I felt that the novel would have done better with 50 pages less. Also, and this is the reason, I down-rated the book, I found some of the characters' motivations a bit weak, Ravna's particularly.
To end, I didn't believe that the solution to expunge the Blight was morally questionable, as it's been suggested. In fact, I believe that a free civilization, even crippled, is superior to a civilization who lost its freedom and selfhood. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
3.5 stars. I feel sad to write a less-than-laudable review for anything that Ms. Bujold wrote, but this book was a little disappointing.
First of all3.5 stars. I feel sad to write a less-than-laudable review for anything that Ms. Bujold wrote, but this book was a little disappointing.
First of all "Ethan of Athos" is very short, a novella of barely 180 pages. Obviously the size is not a problem in itself but the cause of other issues, as for instance the flat and bidimensional characters. If someone else wrote this story I would have rated it higher, but I got to expect so much more from Ms. Bujold's actors. The other novellas from this series build up on the information from the previous novels and on Miles's character; but "Ethan of Athos" is a stand-alone story with (for all practical purpose) completely new characters, who don't have the time to "mature" in only 180 pages. Granted, Ethan is better profiled than Elli, but even him lacks in depth.
Second, there is the tension-issue that I can't charge to the number of pages. I just started reading "Falling Free" (the self-contained prequel to the series, set 200 years before the events of the main novels) and in less than 40 pages it already grabbed my attention much more than "Ethan of Athos" ever did up to the end. For a thriller, "Ethan of Athos" lacks quite a bit in suspense, and Ethan, as a character, is rather irresolute. We are told that he is stronger than he gives himself credit for, but I personally don't see that strength manifested very often, and I most definitely don't understand how (view spoiler)[turning Athos's population telepathic would serve the greater good of his home planet (hide spoiler)].["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I always thought that boys of Miles age (his age as in "The Warrior's Apprentice," that is) are particularly chafing in their self-centeredness, in thI always thought that boys of Miles age (his age as in "The Warrior's Apprentice," that is) are particularly chafing in their self-centeredness, in their self-absorption which prevents them from understanding that their inoffensive acts of "proving themselves" are in actuality harmful to the people they love. Ms. Bujold creates such a believable character that two thirds of the book, I wanted to castigate and point out to him the consequences of his "quest." He is young, consumed by self-doubts and lack of identity, frantically searching for a sense of direction, and in his search making mistake after mistake. Ms. Bujold's main character is decidedly real.
When I first pondered at the message of this novel and how to write my review, I planned in touching the fact that Miles creates a word in which he belongs, a safe harbor for "broken" people like him, in need of a second chance. But now that I'm writing it, I feel that it's more important to talk about Miles's honor.
He starts his journey a virgin, not sexually but integrity wise. His is a fool, but an innocent one, who yet has to break his word. Despite wading in a river of blunders, he somehow succeeds to hold on to that most important principle he inherited from his parents. When he finally understands that doing the right thing means favoring the loved ones' happiness over his own happiness, he is put in the distressing situation of choosing between his word (which at the time he equals with his honor) and the right thing to do. For Miles, failing to keep a promise is a rite of passage, his transition from childhood to manhood, from phantasms to reality. And in his decision, he neither fails nor loses his honor.
(view spoiler)[***** Post Scriptum: It is interesting that up to the end Ms. Bujold, through Miles's eyes, seems to believe that he forswears. However, since he bestows the mercenaries (led now by Baz Jesek) upon the Emperor, Elena's husband becomes indeed an imperial officer... Which of course means that Miles both, does the right thing by freeing Elena and keeps his word to Bothari. :) (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more