The threads are coming together as the battle ramps up. This kind of plot always feels a bit contrived of course - how realistic is that the good guysThe threads are coming together as the battle ramps up. This kind of plot always feels a bit contrived of course - how realistic is that the good guys scramble together a sufficient defense with just enough time to spare? Timing tends not to be symmetrical, and this aberration is all the more exposed when the weaponry power is so starkly asymmetric, particularly as far as humanity is concerned. But, and it's a big but, there's plenty of suspense involved in the how: the emerging alliance of elementals and good terraforms forecasts romance over tragedy, but the many intrigues, deceptions and blind spots in the respective parties makes for compelling reading. It also seems that most of the stories belong to those who will end up being survivors - true enough to who writes history, but another asymmetry, which in this case constrains the suspense.
By taking time to unravel a complex plot, there is ample time to explore elements of ordinary existence. The difference between management and leadership. The benefits and risks of human independence and disunity and the same for deeply engrained unity and single-mindedness. Is evil inevitably rooted in irrational hatred and thereby destined to fail for the same reason? Is human programming any less deterministic than that we might conceive for intelligent machines? None of these are obligatory parts of the story - there are no Tolstoyan asides on philosophical matters - but they shape the characters and storyline to create tension at the plot level and depth should a reader choose to reflect further. (I know that classical texts are the preferred source for literary analysis in schools, but often requires deep immersion before adequate thought can take place. Could effective analysis not occur by using texts which are easily accessed but capable of facilitating deeper reflection?)
This should be the series' climax, but there are two more books left. I am not disappointed that there are more, however, I am concerned that some of the chapters which barely progress the story and to this point are minor, may become more frequent as each plot line is wound down to a fitting end. Perhaps. At the very last there's a hint which suggests that the pace may not recede too much....more
The next installment of the saga. I learnt during the period of this read that the author has written stories in the Star Wars Galaxy, and, as I knewThe next installment of the saga. I learnt during the period of this read that the author has written stories in the Star Wars Galaxy, and, as I knew already, prequels to Dune, based on Herbert's notes. Curiously, the former has been accused of ripping off the latter, but if that is taken seriously, the point is moot: since nothing is original, everything is an adaption, making novelty a measure of adaption freshness. I digress. In comparing The seven Suns saga with the others, some of the underlying mechanisms are revealed. Faster than light travel, telekinetic communication unimpaired by distance, unique drugs produced by strange life cycles, etc. lots of magic, without which, Galaxy spanning stories are difficult to construct, although not impossible. Out of the similarity comes the special features - to me, the elementals are a novel twist on the advanced alien idea, not just technologically, but in their very essence as almost spiritual beings that have transcended matter, or nearly so.
I felt that in this volume, the relationship of creator and creation is drawn out. Will our mechanized descendants be destined to inherit our personality? And will it be the trustfullness of the compies or the malevolence of the klikiss? The implication in this story is that flesh and blood creators cannot but create in their own image, although the jury is still out over whether machines are ultimately doomed to live out their programming rather than take a destiny of their own.
It was satisfying to see some plot lines reaching their expected path, the tension from what was unspoken now ready to become a more direct conflict. The story continues to intrigue and I have now noticed a second series on the bookshelves - a world with this much going on is bound to attract new storytellers - especially those already accustomed to using an established stage as a creative platform....more
Rankin does it again, this time upping the ante by bring two former soloists together. Rebus, independent, intuitive and motivated by ends over means;Rankin does it again, this time upping the ante by bring two former soloists together. Rebus, independent, intuitive and motivated by ends over means; Fox, isolated in the complaints, but methodical and by the book. Both dour in their own way with familial connections to grog, albeit in the manner Tolstoy describes all unhappy families: each different in their own way. As is often the case in music, the interplay of harmony and dissonance create the tension and resolve between the two men as they work on a case that threatens to implicate Rebus and the team of 'Saints' he first worked with.
The succinct banter between various characters is lovely to read. Dry wit is never far from the surface, even during confrontation, the self-satisfied, understated intelligence of British, even Scottish, expression. Like this one: "Eddie Duke had taken Boris the guard dog to a vet's appointment. "Nothing trivial, I hope," Rebus said." These exchanges are infused throughout the story and lighten the otherwise serious business of catching bad guys. And while I enjoyed the brooding melancholy of Rebus as a younger (40 something?) man, the suggested possibility of happiness in Rebus life is not unpleasant.
But the core of the story is the crime, in this instance a mixture of cold case complaints driven by political opportunity, set in the lead up to the independence referendum (which Scotland won in the end of course!) As usual, there are a variety of incidents which seem connected somehow, with the network of Rebus in pubs and clubs serving to identify the links which will unravel the truth. No hi tech forensics - just people giving up morsels of information, usually begrudgingly. Is Edinburgh too backward for scientific methods to glean the answers (unlike the U.S., where science is central to solving cases)? Are the people less sophisticated and too easily cooperating with the police? Maybe it's a statement about Edinburgh being a small enough centre that an experienced hand like Rebus could have knowledge of the way social networks operate to use it to his advantage. I wonder if the reality tends to be more like this than the Hollywood alternative?
The so-called fourth estate to the rescue. Australian ex-pat journo Jack Emery, deeply entrenched in a funk which may or may not have been his (soon tThe so-called fourth estate to the rescue. Australian ex-pat journo Jack Emery, deeply entrenched in a funk which may or may not have been his (soon to be ex-)wife's fault, calls on previous Pulitzer winning form to save the world from a formidable right wing conspiracy set on starting WW3. I read this for light (IPhone) entertainment, a freebie from Apple to contrast with 'The Art of War'. And it hits the spot in this regard, balancing a few povs with a quick moving plot, although the ending was somewhat shallow.
To suggest that this story seeks to tap deep philosophical ideas would be disingenuous, but it made me think and pushed me to learn something new. I have long felt the importance of journalism is a case of self promotion, primarily of American origin and the 'fourth estate' term plain hubris. This story, set as it is at the beginning of a war, reminded me of the 'truth is the first casualty' cliche rolled out because a newsman gets gaoled. The role of the media magnate is also looked at, a barely veiled rewrite of current goings on. And consistent with popular opinion, the magnate and his empire is depicted as some sole arbiter over the views of the masses, as if no other avenue for thought exists. As it turns out, the fourth estate was coined by a Brit, a politician at that, rather than a journo. And the view that the media has gained too much influence is not a recent idea, Oscar Wilde wittily remarking that none of the other estates are suing anything. If Wikipedia is to be believed - deep investigation in play for this review.... I don't know that this has changed some of my deeper leanings, but being better informed about my views might save me from looking like a goose.
Considering some of the global tensions in the western pacific at the moment this book plays out a fun scenario and in the end, the journalist perspective makes a nice change from the detective/ex military hero. ...more
An introductory free ebook by someone who has gone on to bigger, and I assume better, things. I rarely give 2 stars to a book I finish, but felt obligAn introductory free ebook by someone who has gone on to bigger, and I assume better, things. I rarely give 2 stars to a book I finish, but felt obligated in this case. It's not that it is written poorly, rather that for me it was generally unpleasant. The story is supposed to be an investigative crime/thriller, but it has all the features of a teen horror. Clues are suddenly discovered by the protagonist, who otherwise had no idea what was happening, but usually only in time to be the first to find the grisly remains of the latest victim. Furthermore, the guy is unlikable, unable to care for or respect the women in his life and says little that is not sardonic and devoid of any wit. And then, there's the setting of the story as a follow up to a previous incident - after this one I don't have much interest in reading a prequel or sequel. ...more
An exo-archaeologist signs up to track down illegal artifacts for a profit. In defiance of her father, a high ranking military official. Interesting bAn exo-archaeologist signs up to track down illegal artifacts for a profit. In defiance of her father, a high ranking military official. Interesting but not enthralling. The time in the ruins seemed to be boring rather than tense. Yes, the alien they find is curious, as might be the trilisk people if more about them was revealed. And the final scenes weren't convincing - surely an exhaustively equipped ship could do better against a battered old space station? I didn't mind this, and I normally give better ratings to free ebooks, written by 'new' authors, but this probably is only a 2 star book....more
A solitary beach house on the south coast, away from the city - a perfect place for an elderly couple to retire. At least that's what I envisioned befA solitary beach house on the south coast, away from the city - a perfect place for an elderly couple to retire. At least that's what I envisioned before reading this. From the beginning, there is a sinister element to the reminiscences and observations of Ruth, whose husband has recently died. From her clouded perception of reality, she introduces us to a tiger, a Fijian house help Frida, her two sons and an old friend. her perspective is not always easy to follow, capturing both the loss of mind in the elderly, and an unfolding and accelerating suspense as the full situation is revealed.
I found this slow going to begin with, and to some extent guessed what was happening at the beginning. But the ambiguity of motivations - it can be hard at the best of times to be sure what really drives others - created sufficient uncertainty to leave the initial hypotheses unresolved until the end. And while there is a thriller aspect to the story, at its core I suspect that it is an appeal for the elderly. There are only faint moralistic traces, suppressed judgement illustrating in part the societal detachment which enables vulnerable community members to be neglected.
A story that needed to be told. But who is the tiger?...more
The saga continues, with the secrets of respective factions becoming exposed, but full scale conflict is yet to come. The inability to resolve grievanThe saga continues, with the secrets of respective factions becoming exposed, but full scale conflict is yet to come. The inability to resolve grievances seems a bit contrived though. Would the human race really choose petty squabbles instead of some sort of alliance in the face of such an overwhelming opposing force? Indeed, the super-power and complete strangeness of the elemental aliens is an interesting speculation on the deduction of some exobiologists that concludes any aliens out there are likely to be far superior to is in technology. These are just that, with some magic physics thrown in. Not sure I got much more out of this one. Still a good ride, and still looking forward to the next one....more
This series has become my reading indulgence for the year. After getting the first-in-a-series free on iBooks, I happened on the second at the local sThis series has become my reading indulgence for the year. After getting the first-in-a-series free on iBooks, I happened on the second at the local second hand bookshop and snapped it up. By rights, I should have finished other books before starting this one - but I justified beginning this for a light lunchtime read at work, and couldn't put it down thereafter.
A note on series. They can be risky. Reading the first or second, enjoying them, but having to wait for the sequels... Ask 'game of thrones' fans about that one - I admit being concerned that Martin will not live long enough to complete the remainder. But it can be worse. Sometimes the first doesn't resolve without the second, the author warming to their task perhaps? However, it is not exactly a motivation to plough into another. When a series is already complete there is a risk that the concept is already dated. Then there are the gems, like this one (and Robin Hobb's come to mind also) where an unputdownable collection lies in wait!
At this point, the saga is not showing signs of clever metaphysical stuff that makes a scifi an epic. This has more the feel of a complex political drama, with the backdrop of ancient and mysterious alien conflicts. The utter powerlessness of humans in comparison to their foes is a nice scenario - we usually project our own technological future as superior to competing aliens. So, the political dramas between humanities factions take on an urgency fueled by desperation, hence, a fast moving story which, importantly, doesn't become frantic. And then some central characters are killed off - I will miss them but it makes for good saga!
Some aspects seemed strange though. With the superior tech of the enemy aliens, why did they not find and destroy the key humanoid planets? And surely, having seen the tech available, a frontal assault would be the last resort of any leadership even in dire political circumstances. Doesn't matter though, it's a great ride and well worth the occasional oddity. ...more
A different angle.... Historically, chaos has been seen as the domain where evil has overcome good, that the well being of the universe has been upset,A different angle.... Historically, chaos has been seen as the domain where evil has overcome good, that the well being of the universe has been upset, that the divine power/s are not in control of the material domain over which they rule. The cosmos is supposed to be ordered and functional. In genesis one, the creation story speaks of God bringing about the cosmos from the chaos, formless and void at least. Chaos soon ensues, however. The Christian belief that the God of the universe created things in an orderly way, encouraged European science to believe that there were systematic patterns behind the complex and seemingly random events which affect day to day life. And this has been an extremely fruitful exercise, with maths and observation in turn leading one another in forming our understanding of the cosmos. And so, it is no surprise that the mainstream recognition of chaos in the 60s (of course?), came up against much resistance. I have gradually understood more about the 'butterfly effect', but this seemed to be a problem of precision - fix this and there is ordered complexity, but not chaos. What surprised me reading this book was the fact that simple maths with feedback can be chaotic, regardless of the calculation precision available. The fact that this was common to natural systems was also surprising. I don't think I've fully grasped this, but the hint that chaos in some sense enables stability, and in some way uses entropy to create rather than destroy, has some profound challenges for how the world is viewed. So to indulge in some metaphysics again, does the underlying chaos of the universe suggest that Christian theology of godly order is wrong and the Christian God cannot be real? It does challenge the theology, but is probably because the desire for is, theologians included, to produce simple models, often misses some of the detail. Going back to genesis, before there was cosmos, 'the spirit hovered over the waters'. Along with many other references in the bible, the spirit of God is frequently present amidst the disruption of order, such as Pentecost for example. The implication being that a Christian perspective at least would hold God to be in control of both the cosmos and the chaos. Not that Gleick's book speaks of any of the metaphysical stuff I've mentioned here. It is very much worth reading and there are plenty of reviews around I'm sure which give the details directly. I figure then, that a different reflection might be more interesting than another plot description....more