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 MorgIf 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....more
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, downshiftI 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....more
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 CorEvery 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....more
I read this book after the Way of Kings got me liking Sanderson. This book is weirdly the opposite. Whereas the Way of Kings was terrible on the themaI read this book after the Way of Kings got me liking Sanderson. This book is weirdly the opposite. Whereas the Way of Kings was terrible on the thematic merits but made up for it with brilliant writing, this book is OUTSTANDING on the thematic merits but suffers from some bad writing habits.
The setup is genius. A few books (and graphic novels such as Kingdom Come/Watchmen) have explored the likeliest scenario of what happens when humans get superpowers. This one takes it head on: they all go insane with power and the world ends. To top it off, the protagonist is part of an anti-metahuman terrorist cell.
Unfortunately, Sanderson takes this genius concept and drags it through some pretty lazy writing conventions. Protagonist as plucky, boyish upstart. More experienced and initially hostile love interest. Whiz-bang contraptions. I get the feeling that he was trying to satirize the conventional action script, but most of the time it fell flat. It concludes with an implied explanation for the Epics inevitably being power-drunk monsters that was disappointing.
The strength of the concept and the overall writing carry the story past its flaws. I definitely will follow the series for another book. Hopefully the shortcomings in this one will smooth out with time....more
This is a fun book and I'm going to stick with the series.
It's basically what's on the box. The plot is your standard issue excession/big dumb object.This is a fun book and I'm going to stick with the series.
It's basically what's on the box. The plot is your standard issue excession/big dumb object. Mankind split into three factions, alien event shakes everything up, hijinks ensue.
There are two main characters on opposite ends of the moral/ethics spectrum, one the stuck up Hero and the other a broken alcoholic Nihilist. They clash! They make up! They show us many things about the nature of humanity in a post-human world!
The antagonist-villain is kind of underdeveloped but in the scheme of things it's not that big a deal. The main conflict is over the possibility of morality and the two protagonists have that covered anyway.
There's great space fights. Inertia is a really big deal in them and that's good.
In combination with the first Hyperion book, this is a pretty good space opera with a lot of wasted potential.
There's a lot to like about it. It has aIn combination with the first Hyperion book, this is a pretty good space opera with a lot of wasted potential.
There's a lot to like about it. It has a good narrative structure that breaks things up without getting disjointed. The characters continue their development arcs from the first. There's an epic struggle between man and meta machine with horrifying consequences and heartbreaking dilemmas.
It's just that two thirds of the way through it shifts gears from being a truly epic work of sci if with arresting moral and philosophical implications to a space time opera that is pretty cool but hollow. It's not bad, but it is disappointing.
The series revolves around the struggle for meaningful religion in a post space flight (ie post twentieth century) world. And right up to a certain point it's going someplace truly interesting. There's the possibility held out to reject the premise of faith completely, to essentially give God the finger and along with it the entire concept of mythos. To the religious framework around both humans and AI, the characters come right to the edge of rejecting it. As the scholar, Sol, puts it, to accept only terms of mutual respect and reason with the divine, or reject the divine completely.
It was a marvelous setup, and I could barely put the book down to see where Simmons went with it.
And then he stepped back. It turns out blind faith IS integral to human existence, that insane, horrifying acts based on unexplained dictates are the way to salvation and survival. And then space battles and explosions, et cetera.
Again, it's a good space opera, and it has a lot of good material with fantastic characters. But its conclusion was a disappointment for the wasted potential....more
It's a good read. A friend described it as Sci Fi written by an insane classics major which is pretty accurate. The characters are interesting, the woIt's a good read. A friend described it as Sci Fi written by an insane classics major which is pretty accurate. The characters are interesting, the world building doesn't extend into China Meiville levels of suffocation, and the plot has a fun structure.
It's Canterbury Tales in space. If that sounds fun then this is a book for you. Being the earliest book in the series there's a lot of promise and a lot of intriguing ideas to pursue.
Having said that, this book ends on the most rotten teaser I've ever seen. Writing TUNE IN NEXT TIME would have been more subtle than the last chapter. It's stylistically poor to the point of poor taste....more
At long last, I finally get a Culture book principally about lunatic ship Minds. It's hilarious, engaging and thought provoking.
Banks is somewhat uniqAt long last, I finally get a Culture book principally about lunatic ship Minds. It's hilarious, engaging and thought provoking.
Banks is somewhat unique in his ability to generate actually compelling conflict in an ostensibly post scarcity, perfect medicine backdrop. This time it's over the afterlife made possible by personality download, and the fact that for various reasons some civilizations build a virtual Hell.
I have some pro forma objections over this being pretty heavily cyberpunk (although in fairness the Culture is a fairly cyberpunk concept). But hell, it works. And did I mention the hilariously psychotic Rapid Offensive Unit?...more
It seems every third Culture book has the Get On With It Already problem- great second half but agonizingly tedious setup.
There are three charactersIt seems every third Culture book has the Get On With It Already problem- great second half but agonizingly tedious setup.
There are three characters in the story. One is Special Circumstances, so no shortage of excitement. The other two are a couple of princes in an early modern society that are, to put it charitably, hit and miss. It kind of works as a fantasy satire. It also makes for dull reading.
Also, the dilemma that gives the book its title is set up very nicely and then abandoned for a more run of the mill out of context event. Bad form after tackling that so ably in Excession.
It has a location type that is pretty interesting, and the ending is suitably spectacular. However it belongs in the same pile as Player of Games and Look to Windward....more
It's a mark of boldness to just to and call an out of context event what it is within an actual sci fi story. There are a lot of ways that sort of metIt's a mark of boldness to just to and call an out of context event what it is within an actual sci fi story. There are a lot of ways that sort of meta writing can go wrong. But Banks pulls it off here.
As one might expect, most of the story concerns how the Culture thinks about this out of context event rather than the event itself. It is, true to form, both fun and funny. We also get a look at how the Minds that run the Culture interact, with the to be expected complication that a lot of them are petty, pig headed or off their electronic rockers....more
Best book in the Culture series and one of the best I've ever read.
Whereas other books in the series allude to the moral flexibility of Special CircumBest book in the Culture series and one of the best I've ever read.
Whereas other books in the series allude to the moral flexibility of Special Circumstances, this one gets right to the point: they hire the sci-fi equivalent of Blackwater. In this case the mercenary is named Zakalwe and has his own story told in reverse chronological order, with the narration growing increasingly unsteady and unreliable. It's a fantastic format and works flawlessly. It superbly draws out the (mostly positive) strategic effects of SC actions against their tactical horrors.
Unlike some Culture novels I could name, Use of Weapons gets right to the action and keeps at it throughout. There is also a murderous and borderline psychotic drone, an unfortunately rare occurrence in the series but fantastic when Banks does it....more
On the scale of Culture books this definitely falls on the side of "taking a third to a half of the book to even begin to get to the point." That beinOn the scale of Culture books this definitely falls on the side of "taking a third to a half of the book to even begin to get to the point." That being said, it is nowhere near as much of a drudgery as Player of Games.
This iteration of the series returns to the longstanding theme of the Idiran War being an ambiguous enterprise at best, and adds another more interesting one: its backdrop is a Culture intervention that completely blew up and led to an interplanetary holocaust. In other books in the series Banks manages to drive these jarring, even searing ideas home with a requisite amount of battles, flashbacks, banter etc (I'm looking at you, Use of Weapons). Here, though...suffice to say that the opening promises great things, then we're treated to hundreds of pages of what life is like on an Orbital (brain-freezingly boring). It's tied up by the end, but for a book about the aftermath of a pointless, brutal civil war the plot is bizarrely slow....more