Reamde is Stephenson writing a current day (or very near future) thriller, a genre he hasn't visited for a while. The novel definitely delivers on act...moreReamde is Stephenson writing a current day (or very near future) thriller, a genre he hasn't visited for a while. The novel definitely delivers on action, but in a more thoughtful character-driven way than most thrillers. It's not my favorite Stephenson story, but it doesn't have to be in order to get a five star rating from me.
Reamde has all the earmarks of a Neal Stephenson book; it's large, it has multiple concurrent plots which unfold from the point of view of many disparate characters and, while it primarily focuses on the themes of interactive gaming and geology, it still contains many other themes Stephenson has dealt with before, currency manipulation, cryptology, spies, the underworld, exotic weapons and hacking.
It also contains a few of Stephenson's arguable flaws. At just under 1000 pages, with a story line that makes an abrupt shift midway through, it could easily have been released as a two book serial that would have been more digestible to a broader range of readers. There will also be many reviewers, as there usually are, who claim that Stephenson needs a good editor to cut down on superfluous text. I happen to like big, long, complicated books and have no problem with Stephenson's writing style. Give me all the detail and texture I can handle.
Like all of the other books by Neal Stephenson that I have read, I thought about the story and characters long after I closed the covers, and can't wait until his next dictionary-sized novel is published.(less)
A common everyday American couple stumble upon an abandoned child and adopt him as their own. But gradually they learn that he is not like any other c...moreA common everyday American couple stumble upon an abandoned child and adopt him as their own. But gradually they learn that he is not like any other child. He has a unique destiny, and they realize that they must nurture him for the day that he will change the course of the planet.
This could be the Superman story. Steve Jobs was weird enough to be an alien from another planet, with his bizarre eating habits, his powerful body odor, his penchant for psychedelics and turrets-like abusive explosions at anyone or anything that disappointed him. He probably would have been an outcast if it wasn't for his superpower — a reality distortion field.
This book challenged everything I thought I knew about Jobs. He was not just another overachiever. He was eyeballs-rolled-up-in-the-head, antennas-rising-out-of-his-skull different. And he took humanity on another path.
Someday I expect historians will look on the transformative nature of Apple and Steve Jobs and come to the exact same conclusion. He opened a cross-dimensional left turn on the path to the future. In Jobs' dimension, we can control the disruptive nature of technology for the common good.
Jobs had his demons, and seemed to know that he had a lot to accomplished in a tragically short time on this planet. Every waking hour was devoted to his quest. His impatience with those that got in his way was was legendary. He was not adored by everyone at his passing, but the world wonders how it will do without him.
Regardless, of whether you come to the same conclusions, you won't be disappointed with this book.(less)
Found this book at a book sale, and it had a cover note from John Scalzi saying he'd been "reading Chris Roberson for years ... Welcome. Enjoy."
Well,...moreFound this book at a book sale, and it had a cover note from John Scalzi saying he'd been "reading Chris Roberson for years ... Welcome. Enjoy."
Well, I couldn't pass that up. And it turned out to be a great book.
I particularly liked Roberson's concept of the Human Entelechy that exists 12 thousand years in the future. Not only do AI's coexist with humans but so do uplifted apes, lions, killer whales and just about anything else, because sentience can inhabit any form — and for any of them not to be considered "human" would be discriminatory. This provides for some wild speculative fiction with interesting character interactions and fantastical imagery. Very fun reading. All the more so with Roberson's wit.
As the book progresses, it becomes more familiar. The plot and scenarios take on a Star Trek-like quality. Roberson's wit and some edgy villains are the only things that keep it fresh. Still, all in all, I liked it to the end, and agree with Scalzi. I'll read Roberson again; probably for years, and enjoy.(less)
This is a truly underrated and largely unknown book by Douglas Adams, famous for the Hitchhikers Guide series. Both of the Dirk Gently books, this one...moreThis is a truly underrated and largely unknown book by Douglas Adams, famous for the Hitchhikers Guide series. Both of the Dirk Gently books, this one and The Long Dark Teatime of the Gods stand head and shoulders above the Hitchhiker books in my opinion, with stronger plots, characters and less sophomoric (yet equally as funny) humor. I highly recommend them, if you can find them.(less)
When I pick up a Terry Pratchett Discworld book to read, it's just as gratifying as picking up a candy bar or a bag of cookies at the grocery story. B...moreWhen I pick up a Terry Pratchett Discworld book to read, it's just as gratifying as picking up a candy bar or a bag of cookies at the grocery story. But I don't feel anywhere near as guilty, because I know that all Pratchett's work is very thoughtful stuff. Good for the soul. His purely delightful humor skewer's every modern institution and conceit with panache and laugh-out-loud humor.
If you thought Mark Twain was the world's greatest cynic or that nobody equals Douglas Adams in the wry humor department, reading Pratchett will be an eye-opener. Read any Discworld book, I recommend them all. I thought Night Watch was one of the better ones. Perhaps it is because it has all my favorite characters in it (Havelock Ventinari, Sam Vimes and the usual cast of miscreants in The Watch). Maybe because, once it gets rolling, the story is really an action adventure. Or maybe it's because Pratchett outdoes himself with pointed insights into everything from what goes on in a cop's mind to how a city manages to sustain itself.(less)
It took perseverance to get through this book but after finishing it I can't get it out of my mind. Flynn has imagined an intricate scenario that comb...moreIt took perseverance to get through this book but after finishing it I can't get it out of my mind. Flynn has imagined an intricate scenario that combines and explores dozens of intriguing philosophical and cosmological ideas.
The story is divided between two timelines; one is modern while the other takes place in the mid-14th century Germany. A present-day physicist and her statistical historian boyfriend spend much of the book on the verge of world-changing discoveries, which are ultimately linked to the hidden fate of a remote medieval Barony where the local Lord, priest and villagers must come to grips with the frightening appearance of shipwrecked insect-like aliens and the arrival of the Black Plague. It takes almost the entire novel for the two plot lines to converge but Flynn ties things up nicely in the end.
Eifelheim is so dense with ideas that it offers much more than what one might expect. Ironically, the modern reader will have greater affinity for the mentality of the shipwrecked aliens than their human ancestors from 700 years ago. This is disorienting, but effective. Intellectually, this is a novel that satisfies on many levels.
To bad the same can't be said for Flynn's character development. All of the main protagonists engage almost entirely in philosophical thought processes throughout the book. Flynn implies their motivations with thin back stories that don't build enough empathy. His secondary characters tend to be emotionally driven and more interesting, but the reader is never invited inside their heads. The end result is a book that is chocked full of ideas and nicely plotted, but has all the drama of a PhD thesis.
Flynn obviously researched history, science, quantum physics, logic and religion meticulously for Eifelheim and treads a similar path as Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle in that it occurs in the right place and time to integrate the historical birth of logic and natural philosophy into the plot. Unfortunately, Flynn doesn't have Neal Stephenson's gift for drama. There's plenty going on, but it doesn't get the juices flowing. I would rate it a 5 star book otherwise.
Still, I'm glad I read Eifelheim and recommend it to anyone who loves challenging speculative fiction and has the tenacity to see it through to the end.(less)
Like many time travel stories, this one doubles back on itself — only it does so in a literary sense. I can't really say any more without a spoiler.
Th...moreLike many time travel stories, this one doubles back on itself — only it does so in a literary sense. I can't really say any more without a spoiler.
The Map of Time is actually three combined stories, ingeniously written and well translated from the original Spanish manuscript, using H. G. Wells as a unifying catalyst. After reading the first segment, science fiction and steampunk fans may feel vaguely disappointed that Map doesn't appear to fit nicely into their favorite genre, but stick with it. You will be rewarded.
The series continues with a second book Map of the Sky. I enjoyed this one so much I plan to read it.(less)
Wolfe is a unique writer. Especially in this series. He not so much tells you the story as lets you discover it through eavesdropping on the conversat...moreWolfe is a unique writer. Especially in this series. He not so much tells you the story as lets you discover it through eavesdropping on the conversations between his characters. Very little descriptive scene building, no exposition ... he forces your unconscious mind to supply all of this between the lines. Thus, one becomes deeply and inextricably engaged.
The way Wolfe is extolled as today's penultimate literary genius in the cover blurbs on his novels might put some readers off. But he lives up to it.(less)
I recently discovered author Stephen Hunt, reading The Court of the Air (the first book in his Jackelian series) and couldn't wait to get into the sec...moreI recently discovered author Stephen Hunt, reading The Court of the Air (the first book in his Jackelian series) and couldn't wait to get into the second book, The Kingdom Beyond the Waves.
Hunt's intoxicatingly creative characters are, once again, rendered in full force in Waves, but the lush post-apocalyptic/steampunk/fantasy milieu that so defined the previous book receives less attention. This is primarily due to the plot, which is largely centered around a submarine river trek into uncharted jungle dominated by a hive mind, as well as the ravings of the story's megalomanic antagonist. Without Hunt's fantastic characters (and there are some real gems here), there's not much to differentiate Waves from a garden variety adventure movie script ... Tarzan meets James Bond. I found myself occasionally losing interest and putting the book down.
Things pick up in the last several chapters, with a rousing high-altitude battle fought over the fabled and futuristic city of Camlantis (which, once again, departs from steampunk to more sci-fi aesthetics). Hunt writes good battles, on a grand scale.
I give Hunt an A on this one for his diverse and often bizarre cast of characters, and his articulate, witty writing style. Unfortunately, the "been there, done that" megalomaniacal movie-like plot didn't quite measure up to the standards of the first book in the series.
Still, I like this author and will continue to read everything Jackelian.(less)
I was the cover illustrator for the first release hardcover and paperback of Tuf Voyaging (cover shown here). It was my break-in assignment from Jim B...moreI was the cover illustrator for the first release hardcover and paperback of Tuf Voyaging (cover shown here). It was my break-in assignment from Jim Baen at TOR. And, as an avid science fiction reader for years, I couldn't believe my luck when I read the book in manuscript form. To this day it is one of my favorites. Haviland Tuf is one of the most distinctive characters in science fiction. As I read the stories, I kept thinking this would make a great film. I still think so today.
I only wish they had let me run with the cover design I first submitted. It had dinosaurs. Read the book and you'll understand why. Instead, they wanted a more iconographic design showing Haviland, his cats and the interstellar seed ship on which all the action takes place. (less)
This is the first time I've read anything by Robert Charles Wilson and I was impressed. Outside of a dramatic celestial event in which the stars and m...moreThis is the first time I've read anything by Robert Charles Wilson and I was impressed. Outside of a dramatic celestial event in which the stars and moon disappear from the sky on near-future earth, there is very little science fiction content in the beginning of the story. This may leave some readers cold, but Wilson is a sophisticated writer and the early chapters are character-based literary fiction reminiscent of The World According to Garp and The Great Santini. Sci-finatics will be glad to know that as the story evolves, a highly conceptual science fiction premise unfolds with multiple grand revelations on a galactic scale. By the conclusion, Spin reminded me most of works by Arthur C. Clarke at his best. I'm definitely looking forward to the following books in the series as well as other Wilson novels.(less)
This is the first of Stephen Hunt's work I've read and I was more than impressed. I will be reading everything Jackelian from here on out. Hunt truly...moreThis is the first of Stephen Hunt's work I've read and I was more than impressed. I will be reading everything Jackelian from here on out. Hunt truly has a way with words and a punish sense of humor. His twisted alt-universe British Empire is filled with recognizable yet quirky allusions to our own history and present day politics that evoke a smile and a nod.
I love Hunt's uncontrived blending of Elvish fantasy and the mythic journey into a fresh new take on the Steampunk genre, a genre which is already beginning to seem a little hackneyed. The characters are larger than life and the epic plot is both sweeping and horrifying. It's a romp from beginning to end. At different times, Hunt's writing was reminiscent of L. Frank Baum, H. Rider Haggard, J.R.R. Tolkein, Neil Gaiman, and, of course, H. P. Lovecraft. With those kind of bones you can't go wrong. A complete delight from cover to cover.(less)
I would give this novel four stars, if I hadn't read so many five star novels by recently deceased Kage Baker.
Baker's more recent novels, set in the s...moreI would give this novel four stars, if I hadn't read so many five star novels by recently deceased Kage Baker.
Baker's more recent novels, set in the same universe as her Company series, are not nearly as satisfying. That is too bad, because she was an excellent author. The innovative overarching plot of Baker's eight-book Company series was a wry twist on the science fiction time travel genre which provided elements of danger and uncertainty that made the motivations of her characters more compelling. It also allowed Baker to thoroughly blend Twainish cynicism, science fiction and historical fiction into a heady brew. I highly recommend them. Especially, the first five.
The Empress of Mars is an expansion of her earlier novella of the same title. Still, it reads more like a series of short stories and vignettes that have been loosely cobbled together into a single plot. The story takes place in a struggling Mars colony where the protagonist's brew pub functions as just about the only communal meeting place. Fans of Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon may feel some love here. The colony and its challenges are well conceived. The story stumbles in places, though ever buoyed by Baker's trademark wit. Ultimately, the book left an ardent Baker fan disappointed.
Another recently released post-Company series/Company universe book, Not Less Than Gods, left me feeling the same way. I suppose, from a publishing standpoint, it makes good sense to delve into the back stories and ephemera of the Company Series and release more titles. Certainly, fans will appreciate more fully flesh out characters and settings. But ever since Baker tied up the original series with a satisfying conclusion, her wonderfully creative and innovative Company plot and humorous take on the ridiculously politically correct human race of the future have appeared in subsequent books as minor elements ... little more than faded background scenery and comic relief. And that leaves a void.(less)
The story, as described on the cover notes, was intriguing, so I picked this one up to read. If I'd read the Author's Note inside the title page, I mi...moreThe story, as described on the cover notes, was intriguing, so I picked this one up to read. If I'd read the Author's Note inside the title page, I might have thought twice about it though. In it Sam Leith says, "I don't know any maths," and "People may also complain that I have taken liberties with both the laws of physics and the geography of the United States of America." Too bad these things were crucial to the story.
The best I can say for Leith's story is that he started with some really interesting ideas. His writing was unable to make any of them bear fruit, however. The characters seemed almost contrived to be boring. The plot is literally driven by a cross country interstate automobile trip, with stops only for bathroom breaks and overnight sleep in nameless motels. The catalyst, an eccentric genius physicist (is there any other kind) who supposedly invented a Coincidence Engine that is warping reality across the U.S. of A., is a digression that leads nowhere. In endless conversation, he spouts gobbledygook that is supposed to allude to multiverse string theory, but seems to have more in common with New Age philosophy. In the end (Ooh, is this a spoiler?) the whole story is explained away as a wild goose chase.
Oh, well thanks, Sam. Sorry I wasted my time on it. See if I ever do that again.(less)
My 27-year-old daughter passed The Hunger Games trilogy on to me and told me she thought I'd like them. I had seen some of the marketing for the film,...moreMy 27-year-old daughter passed The Hunger Games trilogy on to me and told me she thought I'd like them. I had seen some of the marketing for the film, so I was familiar with the title, but little else. By the time I was half way through the first chapter, I realized I was reading a YA book written for teenage girls. It didn't matter, I was already hooked by the story.
Suzanne Collins is a good writer. Real good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say she's a proper heir to Anne McCaffrey or André Norton. Her spare and straightforward sentence and paragraph construction is packed with subtle meaning, emotion and action.
Aside from simplicity of vocabulary the only other clue that these are YA books is the propensity by Katniss Everdeen, the 16-year-old girl protagonist, to be overwhelmed by emotion and want to shoulder the blame for everything that goes wrong. These scenes are awash with teen hormones but, instead of being a cliché, they ring very true.
I thoroughly enjoyed these books, perhaps volume one and three a bit more than two, and would recommend them to anyone of any age. In fact, if you are a local friend, I have thee volumes I'll lend you.(less)
Part 2 of the Wizard Knight series tended to drag a little toward the middle-end. But slightly dragging Wolfe is better than the best work of just abo...morePart 2 of the Wizard Knight series tended to drag a little toward the middle-end. But slightly dragging Wolfe is better than the best work of just about anybody else. I can't wait for another dose from this series.
Wolfe is a unique writer. Especially in this series. He not so much tells you the story as lets you discover it through eavesdropping on the conversations between his characters. Very little descriptive scene building, no exposition ... he forces your unconscious mind to supply all of this between the lines. Thus, one becomes deeply and inextricably engaged.
The way Wolfe is extolled as today's penultimate literary genius in the cover blurbs on his novels might put some readers off. But he lives up to it.(less)
I was excited to read this book. I always love reading Niven, no matter who he collaborates with. This time he has teamed up with Edward M. Lerner to...moreI was excited to read this book. I always love reading Niven, no matter who he collaborates with. This time he has teamed up with Edward M. Lerner to ostensibly polish off the Ringworld series ... and I have always especially loved the Ringworld series. Fate of Worlds promised to conclude the four decade-long series. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see these characters and more about the Ringworld again. Fate of Worlds actually does more to bring together many concepts and characters from other stories and series' in Niven's Known Space than provide a rock solid conclusion to Ringworld. For this reason, I'd recommend that you read the other Ringworld books before this one. If you're a newbie, it won't be nearly as satisfying without experiencing the others first. That's alright though, don't think of it as an assigned reading chore, because we're talking about some of the best science fiction ever written. I gave Fate of Worlds 4 out of 5 stars because, to my mind, Niven and Lerner were not able to generate the same level of wonderment as the earlier Ringworld books with already established characters and settings. Also, I found the plot motif of jumping back and forth in time during the first half of the novel to be too distracting. Still, Fate of Worlds is a complex, satisfying and sometimes riveting tale. Everything you'd expect from Niven.(less)