To borrow a criticism someone else made about Foucault's Pendulum, this is an exciting, thought-provoking sci-fi novel buried in an infuriating 1,000...moreTo borrow a criticism someone else made about Foucault's Pendulum, this is an exciting, thought-provoking sci-fi novel buried in an infuriating 1,000 page tome.
What's good is really good. The built-out world is great. The murder mystery is a head scratcher. The economics metaphor- in which the richest people in the universe clone lesser versions of themselves to dominate all levels of the market and government- is a bit self-indulgent but amusing nevertheless.
It even progresses fairly well through the first half of the book. Then at about 500 pages the wheels come off.
Hamilton likes flashbacks. A lot. And he tells them in episodes, which is fine. But at a certain point he lobs a flashback series from a hitherto minor character without explaining why anyone should care about it. That's a fine move...early in a 1,000 page book. Halfway through it was just odd.
And it got worse from there. Most of the second half of the book is taken up following an expedition's trek through an alien world during an unexpected blizzard. The pathos and drama wore out after one chapter. It's a blizzard. It's cold, it's hard to get through, food and fuel and such are thin. Okay, I get it. Even the introduction of a mystery killer picking off members of the team didn't improve things, as the team stumbles over itself in the same Keystone Cops routine every. Single. Time someone new is killed. It's a bizarre inverse of the parallel investigation going on back on Earth. If this was an intentional juxtaposition, I'm not sure what it was supposed to tell me, except that Hamilton desperately needs a better editor.
I don't regret that I read this book, but finishing it was a chore barely justified by the story's conclusion. I get the feeling that Hamilton's writing would be vastly improved if someone held a gun to his head and made him reduce his page count by 60 percent.(less)
If I had to describe Richard K. Morgan's writing in one word, it would be "gleeful."
He doesn't write in one genre, he writes in two or three. And Morg...moreIf I had to describe Richard K. Morgan's writing in one word, it would be "gleeful."
He doesn't write in one genre, he writes in two or three. And Morgan dumps those genres on you by the truck load. He doesn't write sci-fi, he writes FREAKING SCI-FI. With NOIR. And CYBERPUNK. And HARD-BOILED CRIME. If you're into that sort of in your face reading experience then this is great.
I tried out this book after starting Morgan's fantasy series, A Land Fit for Heroes. It's the same basic principles at work. Everything is dialed up to 11. The organizing concept- uploadable consciousness, functional immortality for those who can afford it- is not new, but Morgan infuses it with grime that would make George R.R. Martin flinch. Even the term for bodies people inhabit, "sleeves," seems vaguely dirty.
The story comes down to noir dressed up in blaring sci-fi clothing: former law enforcement/soldier type turned freelancer is dragooned into crime solving. There are femme fatales, crooked cops, terrible people from his past and so forth. The protagonist is tattooed with ANTI-HERO from the very first sentence of the book. Abandon all hope, ye who like morals to your stories. The only noble gestures Kovacs makes will leave you uneasy at best, and the antagonists' various misdeeds sometimes seem only to be there to out-do Kovacs' own compromises and/or outright malice.
At times the story felt like it was drifting a bit. After reading the second book in the series I chalked this up to starting a new series and occasionally wandering into a corner. Similarly, there are times when the humorously over the top style drifts into lurid sillines, particularly during the sex scenes. However, it doesn't spoil the story and overall I'm sold on the series.(less)
It's not...bad, per se. But the sequel to The Steel Remains has a definite drop-off in quality and I feel ambivalent about reading the conclusion.
The...moreIt's not...bad, per se. But the sequel to The Steel Remains has a definite drop-off in quality and I feel ambivalent about reading the conclusion.
The same basic structure is there. The three main characters kill/maim/degrade their way across the story, and if there was any "hero" left in their anti-hero natures from the first book, it's gone now. The sarcastic jerk gods return, as does the seemingly endless black humor. Within that context it's a fun read.
On the other hand, the book doesn't really go anywhere. A good third of it is taken up by another walkabout by Ringil through the Margins. While the first had at least Seethlaw and figuring out what exactly they were, this time it just drags.
Where the first at least had a cohesive goal for Ringil, this time he's just as aimless as the other two main characters, and it's not an improvement. The story doesn't end on anything like a satisfactory note; it seems more like Morgan wrote a 800 page book, said oops and cut it neatly in half.
Finally, I do like the broad narrative over the two books: Ringil turning from anti-hero to outright villain. Except Morgan puts it together haphazardly to say the least. The interesting formative events in Ringil's life- the execution of his boyfriend, his disownment, the war- all happen prior to the series and are recounted in brief, halting flashbacks. And that's fine, except that his "downward slide" just sort of happens. He acquires magic powers just because, and it happens so rapidly even Ringil doesn't understand what they are or how to use them. There's no progression from Ringil the burnt out veteran at the beginning of the Steel Remains to Ringil the terrifying sorceror-warrior lunatic at the end of Cold Commands. It's not the sort of nonprogression where Ringil/the reader doesn't NOTICE his slide. There's not even a slide; he just starts picking fights and killing people in a notably more asinine way than he had before in one chapter versus another.
This might be middle book syndrome and go away with the third/final installment in the series. All the same it was a disappointing encore to The Steel Remains.(less)
I was looking forward to this book after reading the first in the series. Sanderson has stepped up his g...moreGod is dead and his replacement is an asshole.
I was looking forward to this book after reading the first in the series. Sanderson has stepped up his game here. The interaction and dialogue are superb. The battles are intense and the personal conflict is gripping.
Best of all though is a thread he picked up that didn't get much play before. The first book opens to horrors, with the heroes of millennia ago so disgusted that they give up and break their divine oaths. The implication is that they, like the later Knights Radiant, betrayed mankind. However, I saw it more as the gods of the Stormlight world are just lousy. I was pleased to see this theme pursued in the second book. The Stormfather is petulant and unhelpful. At best the spren are sarcastic allies. The Parshendi actively fled their gods, and consider it heresy to worship.
That's the way to do it. On the one hand one has a perpetually modernizing humanity. On the other, an apocalypse cycle that sets the world back to the Neolithic. The involvement of the divine is unwelcome, even monstrous.
I was happy to see that some of the more tired conventions from The Way of Kings have faded or disappeared. The main characters bear a resemblance to the Mistborn Trilogy, but not to an obnoxious extent. The size can be daunting but if you're reading this to begin with you're already on board with the hundreds to thousand page long fantasy tome.
I still like the series and it's a good read. However it's lost some steam from the first two books.
The action, or more accurately the plot, downshift...moreI still like the series and it's a good read. However it's lost some steam from the first two books.
The action, or more accurately the plot, downshifts a bit in this one. Whereas before the series was based off of immediate, in-your-face threats from an excession event from two billion years prior, in Abaddon's Gate the macguffin is...just a gate. There are interesting things about it. People fight over it in the usual petty/disturbing/entertaining ways.
But where the first book featured vomit zombies from an ancient supervirus, and the second featured hybrid super soldiers created from the same, this time it's...a gate. It doesn't really do anything besides be a gate. Its inanimate nature is even a point of contention in the book: several people note that it hasn't really done anything malicious or dangerous.
It feels like a midpoint book, and that's fine. It clearly is setting something up for the next few books. There's more of a focus on psychological and spiritual drama than existential threat. But like all plot midpoints it's vulnerable to stalling out and I feel like that happened a bit.
Having said that, it's still an excellent story and I will continue to follow the series.(less)
Every time I see a review of sci-fi or fantasty that includes gushing over POLITICAL INTRIGUE, I roll my eyes so hard I see my own sinuses.
And yet Cor...moreEvery time I see a review of sci-fi or fantasty that includes gushing over POLITICAL INTRIGUE, I roll my eyes so hard I see my own sinuses.
And yet Corey pulled it off in this one. I kind of hate myself for admitting it but it's superbly done and a great addition to his sci-fi arsenal that started one book back.
There's the same business: great space and ground battles, the morality v. amorality conflict, the looming excession event. On top of that Caliban's War features a high-level operative in Earth's government. A foul-mouthed grandmother to be specific.
If you're going to stick politics in sci-fi this is the way to do it. The interactions- petty, self-involved and self-destructive as they are- feel right and even familiar.
Finally, the surviving protagonist from Leviathan Wakes is back and he's slowly losing his mind as he staggers through one atrocity after another. It seems a little delayed considering he started the giant intra-system war to begin with but it's a welcome development. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with it in subsequent books.(less)