This series starts strongly: the original two Norton books were better than I remembered. Lyn McConchie took it pretty quickly downhill. Her first wasThis series starts strongly: the original two Norton books were better than I remembered. Lyn McConchie took it pretty quickly downhill. Her first was decent, the second so-so, and this one is really pretty bad. Nobody's actions are believable (especially the unknown person who leaves the least responsible character a spaceship in his will...), and they spend far too much time debating how to get around this civilization's version of the "Prime Directive" instead of thinking about why there might be such a thing in the first place.
First, let me say that I last read this in a pirated e-copy. Somewhere, I lost my paperback copy, and it's out of print, and the only way I could re-rFirst, let me say that I last read this in a pirated e-copy. Somewhere, I lost my paperback copy, and it's out of print, and the only way I could re-read it was to download an illegal copy from the net.
So sue me! Tom Ryan, if you contact me, I'll send you twice your legitimate royalty payment. And the epub I downloaded, which is MUCH better formatted than most books of a similar vintage that I get from legitimate publishing houses. It was a labour of love for somebody, while must of the traditional publishers who put out e-copies of backlists put no effort into it at all.
So, to the story. This is an extremely flawed book. For the technical reasons, see Rob Sawyer's review. There's a lot of hand-waving about how a computer actually achieves consciousness. On a more personal level, having been at the University of Waterloo just shortly after the events set there, I'm ticked that he sets UW in Kitchener (an adjacent city) and clearly knows nothing about the area (though I'd say he was in the Math faculty computer center)—London is not six miles south of Kitchener, that would be Cambridge (or maybe, at the time, Preston). London is more like 60 miles west.
On the other hand, there are moments that are sublime. When Burgess is first talking about hacking an IBM mainframe, his roommate says it can't be done.
"Have you ever tried?" Gregory asked "No. And I don't have to try to know that I can't fly without an airplane."
That's brilliant, as it reflects the belief, less than a century earlier, that heavier-than-air flight was equally impossible.
Sawyer's own books about emerging consciousness in a networked computer (WWW: Wake & sequels) are technically better, but this tale is absolutely seminal! For all its faults, it's the progenitor of the computer-gains-consciousness-takes-control-of-the world genre. Other authors had had intelligent computers, but Ryan was the one who actually tried to explain how it could happen (he was wrong, but at least he tried!). Programming an AI is far more difficult than Ryan would have us believe (which is why there still isn't one, 40 years later), but at the time of writing it sounded believable. I suspect Ryan never got as far in Computer Science as Moore's Law, because he just doesn't think nearly big enough. P-1 is planning a new crystalline storage medium that can contain 4 billion "addresses" in a 150mm x 400mm cylinder. Even assuming an address points to a 64-bit word, that would only be 256GB of memory. In something that's actually much larger than my current laptop, which in one tiny portion of the entire machine has a terabyte hard drive.
But even knowing how badly he got some things wrong, and cringing at his American understanding of Canadian geography, the scope of his vision, and the things he got right make this utterly compelling. And he leaves us completely hanging! These days (or even a few years earlier with Colossus) there'd be a trilogy. A must read!...more
It's entertaining, but there are so many ghosts in this machine that it needs an exorcist. I was goingVegetarian fare. That is, there's no meat to it.
It's entertaining, but there are so many ghosts in this machine that it needs an exorcist. I was going to say that Miles Vorkosigan is the biggest Mary Sue ever. But he's not, because he doesn't have talent, he just has more luck than anybody else in the universe!
Having just finished the hugoly disappointing Vor Game in my quest to read all the Hugo winners, this was a welcome breath of fresh air.
It was controHaving just finished the hugoly disappointing Vor Game in my quest to read all the Hugo winners, this was a welcome breath of fresh air.
It was controversial in its day (but probably not so much now), with its polyandrous and polygynous (why does my computer's dictionary accept the former, but not the latter?) family relationships, people who have sex for fun, and a female lead who enjoys male companionship but doesn't need it.
Apparently, it rubbed some readers the wrong way that in a quest story set in a post-apocalyptic—and sometimes still radioactive—world, our "Mad Max" character is not only not a fighter but a healer. Personally, I loved the fact that while she carries a belt knife, it never even occurs to her to use it against an attacker.
McIntyre is, by background, a biologist, so even though her method of using snakes to cure disease was pure fantasy at the time, it was grounded in solid science. Unlike so much older SF, what was then fantasy only seems more plausible now, not less....more
Here ends my quest to read all of the Hugo award winning novels.
It's a shame to end on such a disappointing note, but I can only imagine that going fuHere ends my quest to read all of the Hugo award winning novels.
It's a shame to end on such a disappointing note, but I can only imagine that going further would be worse, as I'm missing two more Vorkosigan novels (hated the first), one Uplift Saga (ditto), and something from Connie Willis (very hot and cold on that series, but more cold).
I understand that the Hugo is only a popularity contest, and that thousands of Fantasy fans attend WorldCon, but they only get to vote for SF, so in voting for Leiber many were probably voting for his great fantasy, but this?
An earth-sized planet suddenly pops out of hyperspace next door to our moon, and begins to eat it. OK, sounds interesting and novel...
But Leiber spends a third of the book just setting up the science for the whole scenario (very badly, at that! His physics is awful). The too many point-of-view characters all spend far too much time just moving from place to place, and we don't get even a hint of the reason for the sudden appearance of this planet until we're 80% of the way through the book.
Finally, near the end we think that the characters have managed at least a little self-realization. (view spoiler)[And when both guys discover that they've lost the girl, Don (who was married to her) tells Paul, "I think you always loved her more than I did." (hide spoiler)] He's just admitted to being a narcissist, and marrying Margo just so that Paul couldn't, and Paul brushes it off with "you have to love yourself before you can love somebody else." Get a grip, Paul! Sure, that's true as far as it goes, but some people have to learn to love themselves less!...more
Years ago, somebody recommended Willis The Doomsday Book to me, and I found it impossible to get into. But then, I kept getting more recommendations
Years ago, somebody recommended Willis The Doomsday Book to me, and I found it impossible to get into. But then, I kept getting more recommendations for Willis, and particularly this one. This time, I found her funny and engaging and the history is interesting. It's somewhat reminiscent of Fforde's Thursday Next, but without the over-the-top silliness.
Riveting play on Schrödinger's cat. If a detective can see all potential universes, does it make her job easier? The twist at the end was a complete sRiveting play on Schrödinger's cat. If a detective can see all potential universes, does it make her job easier? The twist at the end was a complete surprise....more
As with the previous entry in this series, my biggest objection is poor editing. Weber has published, literally (if not literarily) dozens of novels w
As with the previous entry in this series, my biggest objection is poor editing. Weber has published, literally (if not literarily) dozens of novels with one of the largest SF houses on the planet. They should be able to edit his books!
I'm not even sure if this one: "[the] flag briefing room was on the small size" is the author's error initially, or just a typo. I've heard too many people say exactly that, so perhaps Weber really thinks it should be "size" and not "side", but dammit! His copy editors should have got it right. But that was nothing compared to seeing: "Here, here!", when nobody was calling a dog.
I still enjoyed the story, but Baen Books should be able to produce something that looks a little better than the most recent self-published works...
This is a book that I've been intending to read for a while... right after I knock off the other 120 unread books. But apparently our meetingOh. Wow.
This is a book that I've been intending to read for a while... right after I knock off the other 120 unread books. But apparently our meeting was fated. My mother accidentally checked it out from the library, the day before I was to leave for home. My mother despises SF, so I had to read it, and I had 24 hours to do it.
This is one of the few books I've ever read that I wanted to restart as soon as I finished (though, part of that is because I had to read it too fast in the first place). Unfortunately, that's going to have to wait, now, as the book and I are about to part ways!
I felt it started a little woodenly, but wasn't sure whether that was an artifact of the translation or intentional on the part of the author—since I've never read a Ken Liu original that I didn't love, I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt as a translator. Pretty soon, I was immersed and it stopped mattering.
It's a far-from-classic alien invasion story—after all, the aliens in question won't be here for 450 years—with a lot of hard mathematics & physics thrown in (the math is all virtual: be not afraid!). He almost lost me at unfolding protons into two dimensions—I mean, why? We don't work in two-D, we work in three, so it makes far more sense to unfold an 11-dimensional proton into three-D. In any case, conceptually it should be possible; practically, maybe not so much.
Early in the book, a physicist commits suicide because she's discovered that the immutable Laws of physics are not-so-immutable. Ted Chiang did this in Stories of Your Life and Others—somewhat more believably. In Chiang's case, a mathematician couldn't cope with finding a proof that 1=2. That really would undermine everything we think we know. In Liu's case, particle physicists are finding that their experiments are not reproducible. OK, I'm no graduate physicist, let alone one of the top minds on the planet, but that just says to me that at a quantum level, there's chaos: which we already knew. otoh, maybe my reaction is like that of the husband of the mathematician in Chiang's story, who essentially says "So what? Mathematics still works, right?"
Later on, we meet Mike Evans, a disciple of Peter Singer (Animal Liberation). Mike's supposed to be a bad guy (such as there are, in this story: Liu really doesn't judge anybody), but I'm predisposed to judge him as worse than he probably is because of the Singer connection. It's not that I really disagree with everything Singer says, but I had to take a Scientific Ethics course in university where I failed to realize until it was too late that I wasn't supposed to debate Singer, but was required to swallow his propaganda whole. I'm a little biased...
Liu manages to discuss politics, man’s inhumanity to man (and other creatures), the advance of science, and just about anything else under the sun (or suns), all in the context of the three-body problem (a real “holy grail” of physics), and all, apparently, without upsetting the censors of what is still a totalitarian state. A tour-de-force, and well worth all the attention it has been getting around the world. ...more