8/27/08 Update--I'm downgrading my rating of this book. I still like it, but I realize it's not very original. I caught the beginning of "Resident Evi8/27/08 Update--I'm downgrading my rating of this book. I still like it, but I realize it's not very original. I caught the beginning of "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" on the SciFi channel a few days ago and it was deja-vu. The zombies are reanimated by a virus and you can only kill them by shooting them in the head. Since the movies (and video game) came first, I'm afraid my original rating was a result of ignorance.
__________________________________________________________ I avoid best-sellers and horror novels. I have found that there’s a lot of crap out there that ends up on the best-seller lists and I’m not a fan of horror novels. But, “World War Z” has generated a lot of buzz among people whose opinions I respect, so I decided to set aside my prejudices and give the book a try.
To set the record straight, in my opinion, this book is more apocalyptic science fiction than horror. Yes, it is about zombies going around attacking humans. However, the origin of the zombies is explained in a very scientific manner. A peasant in rural China cuts his foot while wading in a river and soon sickens. He dies, but his body is re-animated. He bites a couple of people and they go through the same disease process. It isn’t long before this virus is spreading faster than you can say “bird flu”. This disease is so virulent and so un-deadly, it makes Ebola look like a common cold.
The way the story is told is pretty unusual in fiction. It’s told through a series of interviews (oral histories) with Zombie War survivors taken shortly after the end of the war. The chapters are broken down into the stages of the Zombie War. Each interview is preceded by an introductory paragraph that tells who the interviewer is meeting and where they are. The subjects range from political and military leaders to soldiers and civilians. They come from all walks of life and from all around the world. He even interviews a feral child who ran away from zombies attacking her family and neighbors and was surviving on her own after the age of four.
As compelling as the concept is and as unusual as the narrative method is, “World War Z” suffers from some serious flaws. First, the oral history style decreases the dramatic tension of the story. Each history is short, anywhere from a few paragraphs to a few pages. The reader doesn’t get enough of each character’s story to really engage with him or her. Furthermore, because each story is told in retrospect, the reader doesn’t get a sense of immediacy. The characters also don’t have sufficiently different voices to make their stories convincing. Oral histories of real people work because they are real people and each has his or her unique voice. In “World War Z,” each character is the product of the author’s imagination. Brooks has an incredible imagination, but he only has one mind and that becomes obvious after the first few interviews. I think this book is one that would really work best in an audio book format with a different actor taking each part and giving it uniqueness.
Despite its flaws, I really liked “World War Z.” I like the way this fictional work reads like non-fiction. I like how the story is told through multiple first-person accounts. It’s unusual and intriguing. The author made some daring choices and it clearly paid off. ...more
When I was a teenager, I loved reading the romances written by Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. They were a step above the cookie cutter Harlequin rWhen I was a teenager, I loved reading the romances written by Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. They were a step above the cookie cutter Harlequin romances. They usually involved a lot of either historical detail or locale detail as well a a solid mystery along with the romance. "Griffin's Daughter" reminded me of these much-loved books from my youth.
I think what I liked best about this book is that it didn't follow the standard fantasy formula that includes a cast of thousands and 15 plot lines, 14 of which end in cliffhangers. Instead, it sticks primarily with the story of a half-elf woman who escapes from her human uncle who has sold her to be a fellow lord's concubine. She sets off to find out who her elven father is. In the process, she finds love, friendship and acceptance. The magic is secondary to these elements in the story.
Moore has left the story wide open for a sequel, the heroine hasn't accomplished what she set out to do. But, she wraps up the love story nicely and the book is very satisfying as it is. Hopefully, the next installment will be out soon....more
I'm probably a bad audience for this book. I don't read romance novels and I don't know diddly-squat about chess. I had a really hard time getting thrI'm probably a bad audience for this book. I don't read romance novels and I don't know diddly-squat about chess. I had a really hard time getting through the first half of this book. I didn't like either Tarrant-Arragon or Djinni. (However, Grievous was a terrific character.) I just couldn't fathom how a species that was so obsessed with sex could possible have become a star-faring race. About 1/2 way through though, the story picked up quite a bit. I really liked the secondary characters, J.J. and 'Rhett. Some intrigue developed and the main characters started interacting with the other characters. There were some truly amusing lines in the book. The second book involves J.J. and it looks like a fun read....more
This book is far, far superior to its predecessor, "Forced Mate." I am still wondering how a species so obsessed with sex ever made it into space, butThis book is far, far superior to its predecessor, "Forced Mate." I am still wondering how a species so obsessed with sex ever made it into space, but that receded into the background in this book. I haven't read romance novels in twenty some-odd years and the sci-fi romance was a completely new thing to me. I still prefer science fiction that may or may not have some romance thrown in as opposed to romance that has some science fiction thrown in. But, romances do have their place as escapist reading. "Insufficient Mating Material" was very satisfying escapism.
I especially liked the fact that the heroine, Martia-Djulia was not a skinny young thing. She is middle aged by Tigron standards and has two grown sons. She was far more interesting than the virginal Djinni-Vera of the first novel. I liked how the relationship between her and Djetthro-Jason developed. It was believable despite the outlandish circumstances.
I think I'm going to stick with regular science fiction, but I hope this book can get more women interested in venturing to the science fiction section....more
I have seen an episode or two of “The Dresden Files” on the SciFi Channel, so I thought I knew what to expect from “Storm Front.” I was completely wroI have seen an episode or two of “The Dresden Files” on the SciFi Channel, so I thought I knew what to expect from “Storm Front.” I was completely wrong. The TV series didn’t even come close capturing the essence of at least the first book. It wasn’t gritty enough or dark enough or exciting enough. What’s the best way to describe Harry Dresden and “Storm Front”? Combine Ellery Queen, Clint Eastwood, Jason Bourne and Buffy Summers. Throw in an evil wizard, a vampire madam, a talking skull, the Mafia and an illicit drug that makes people see magic. Add non-stop action and you have this book.
There’s nothing new in “Storm Front.” Every element can be traced back to some previous book, movie or TV show. Harry Dresden is the archetypal private eye, with a difference. The plot follows the typical private eye/film noir plot. The obstacles Dresden encounters are the typical obstacles any detective in any crime novel faces, with the added dimension of magic. He’s crime-solving techniques are the same, but with magic. What makes “Storm Front” work is the character of Harry Dresden. He’s smart, but not perfectly smart. He’s fallible. He seems real, not fictional. Furthermore, this book works because Butcher writes so well. While it is filled with clichés, it somehow seems fresh and exciting. I think Butcher’s treatment of magic as mundane rather than extraordinary keeps the events realistic.
Now, I realize that it’s a bit weird to keep calling a book that features so much magic “realistic.” I do know the difference between fantasy and reality. However, as long as I was reading, I believed that everything that happened in the book was possible.
I picked up a copy of “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon purely out of curiosity. This novel was nominated for, and won, the prestigiouI picked up a copy of “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon purely out of curiosity. This novel was nominated for, and won, the prestigious Hugo Award. The Hugo Award is for outstanding science fiction and I have never seen “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” on the science fiction/fantasy bookshelves in any bookstore. It’s only been in the mainstream fiction section. Now that I’ve read it, I still don’t understand how it won the Hugo. True, it is an alternate history; but it’s a socio-political alternate history rather than a technological one. Any differences in science and technology due to the events that veer off from real history aren’t covered in the course of this novel. In addition to it not being science fiction, I’m surprised it won the Hugo because it’s really not that good. I know that saying this book is not good, or is merely okay is heresy, but I’m saying it.
My problems with this book stem mainly from the semantics and the fragmented storytelling. I liked that Chabon implemented Yiddish into the telling of the story. I liked that he used sentence structure that mimicked Hebrew/Yiddish sentence structure. I thought the use of present tense was unusual and interesting. I know that in Hebrew, present tense is often used in storytelling to make it more immediate. What I disliked about the semantics of this novel was they way it went back and forth between present tense and past tense. I figured out that the present tense was used when the story was focusing on Landsman and what he was doing. The past tense was used for telling about things that were happening. That sounds pretty straightforward, but it isn’t. There were a few times when Chabon would be telling about something that happened to Landsman in past tense then pick up on the present and switch to present tense. The tense would change from one paragraph to the next.
Now, just the fact that I was analyzing verb tenses should tell you how tedious I found the story. It had so much potential. The murder mystery was a good one. Landsman had a lot of potential as a protagonist. The alternate history of millions of Jews being relocated to Alaska in 1948 because of the failure of the Jewish state in Israel was intriguing. The impending reversion of the Jewish territory to the United States and the uncertainty of what would happen to the Jews in Sitka added dramatic tension. However, none of the individual element gelled into a compelling narrative. It seemed like a lot of great ideas strung together with no real connection. The language had the potential to enhance the story, but ended up detracting from it. The characters seemed to be two-dimensional symbols rather than three-dimensional people. The author would go of on expository tangents that had nothing to do with the story. Towards the end, solutions to different aspects of the mystery came out of the blue. A heretofore-unseen character would show up and hand Landsman and the reader a huge piece of the puzzle, no deduction necessary.
For me, “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” was a book that had a heck of a lot of potential and a lot of great ideas. It just failed to put it all together in a way that was compelling and/or comprehensible. ...more
**spoiler alert** I may need to review my top-ten shelf and see what can be bumped. "The Speed of Dark" book moved me like few books ever have. I crie**spoiler alert** I may need to review my top-ten shelf and see what can be bumped. "The Speed of Dark" book moved me like few books ever have. I cried, I laughed, I didn't want it to end. Elizabeth Moon does an absolutely amazing job of making a reader walk many miles in someone else's shoes. In this case, the reader becomes Lou Arrendale, an autistic man in an era when autism can be cured in childhood. Unfortunately, he was born too soon for the treatment. A new treatment is developed for adult autists and he has to decide whether or not to participate in the clinical trials. At the end, I don't know that I agreed with his decision, but I understood it.
I now understand the term "genre ghetto". I think this book should be more widely read, but it probably won't be because it's classified as science fiction. Believe me, it's not a space opera or a tech-geek novel, it's a novel with real heart that would appeal even to those who never set foot in the science fiction/fantasy section of the bookstore....more
“Farthing” by Jo Walton is an engaging murder mystery with a style and setting that reminds me of an Agatha Christie novel. The twist is that it’s set“Farthing” by Jo Walton is an engaging murder mystery with a style and setting that reminds me of an Agatha Christie novel. The twist is that it’s set in a 1940’s Britain that negotiated a peace treaty with Hitler in 1939 to stop the Blitz. Hitler agreed to leave Britain alone and Britain agreed to let Hitler have the entire European continent. Now, it would be very easy for this alternative history novel to fall into a “Gee, look how different this is!” mode. However, “Farthing” works because it treats the alternate history as normal. It also works because it takes place in England, not the Continent; because it takes place only a few years after the novel’s history diverges from real history; and because the mystery surrounds the people who were responsible for the treaty with Hitler. Because of the involvement of the characters with the setting’s history, the divergent setting can be revealed without a lot of awkward exposition.
As engaging as I thought the story was, I did have a couple of issues with “Farthing.” First, this novel seemed to have a lot more homosexual characters than you would find in a typical real population. There were at least 4 major characters that were gay or lesbian out of approximately 20 characters. (I am counting Lucy’s brother, Hugh, because he is mentioned frequently.) The homosexual angle probably wouldn’t have bothered me if it really had anything to do with the plot. It was pointless, but it was brought up over and over again. I also found Lucy’s silly euphemisms for the other character’s peccadilloes to be tedious and off-putting. For the record; gay males are Athenians, gay females are Macedonians. Committing adultery is going to Bognor, but two women going to Macedonia aren’t going to Bognor even if one of them is married. (???) The whole thing gets quite ridiculous.
If we had half stars, this book would be a 3-1/2. I really enjoyed it with the exception noted above. And, the ending surprised me a little. Carmichael does solve the murder case, but the outcome was unexpected. Sadly, it probably went down the way it would have in the real world. I would really like to read about Lucy and David’s life after this story ends and I think Inspector Carmichael is one of the finest detectives since Hercule Poirot. ...more
I found the hardcover edition "Dark Side of the Moon" for $5.99 on the Borders bargain books rack. Sherrilyn Kenyon has a lot of books in print and seI found the hardcover edition "Dark Side of the Moon" for $5.99 on the Borders bargain books rack. Sherrilyn Kenyon has a lot of books in print and seems to be quite popular. I'm not into the whole vampire lover genre, but for $5.99, I figured I could at least see what made Kenyon so popular. I must now shamefully admit that I really enjoyed "Dark Side of the Moon". I could have done without the whole gods/daimons/Dark Hunters/Appolites/etc. back story, but I loved the character of Susan. I loved her sarcastic, spunky attitude. I liked how she reacted to the weirdness around her much like I would have. The romance between her and Ravyn was good too. It was entirely predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless. I rarely like sex scenes in books because 99% of them are so poorly written, they're both awkward and funny. However, the scenes between Susan and Ravyn were very well done. I blush to even say that.
In some ways, "Dark Side of the Moon" reminded me of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" TV series. It was sexy, funny and had girl-power. I don't know if the rest of the Dark Hunter books are anything like this. Frankly, I really don't want to read anything more about Acheron. I would like to read stories about Zoe or Belle, two Dark Hunters who appear only briefly. I'd like to know more about what happens to Erika. I'd like to follow up with Cael and Amaranda. I wonder if there's anyway to pick and chose the characters I'd like to learn more about.
By the way, I gave this only 3 stars because it's not particularly original and it's pretty trashy (in a good way). It would get another half star if we had them. ...more
"The Terror" really came close to that 5-star rating. However the last 75 pages or so were so out of character with the rest of the book, they really"The Terror" really came close to that 5-star rating. However the last 75 pages or so were so out of character with the rest of the book, they really seemed like they didn't belong. "The Terror" is 90% historical fiction and 10% horror. The historical part is much more terrifying than the horror part. Simmons obviously did a lot of research on 19th century Arctic exploration in general and Franklin's Lost Expedition in particular. He fleshes out what little is known about the fate of the Erebus and the Terror with some really great details. He captures the sights, smells and sounds of life on ships trapped in pack ice. I felt the cold as I was reading. The little details are absolutely fabulous. I think Simmons would have been well advised to write a novel that was strictly historical and leave the horror out. In the grand scheme of things, the monster was superfluous. The mythological ending was unnecessary and confusing. Despite it's flaws, "The Terror" was a really good book that will stick with me for years to come....more
In "Forced Mate" and "Insufficient Mating Material", the character that most interested me was Djrhett, the brother of Djinni Vera. Unlike his fellowIn "Forced Mate" and "Insufficient Mating Material", the character that most interested me was Djrhett, the brother of Djinni Vera. Unlike his fellow djinn, this guy is not ruled by his hormones. He's not susceptible to rut-rage. That makes him a much more believable character. In this book, he is paired unwillingly with Tarrant-Aragon's sister, Electra. She was a marvelously complex character who goes through a lot of changes in the course of the story.
Ah, heck, I can't really review this book. Face it, this is mindless entertainment. We all need mindless entertainment sometimes. It's the kind of book that my daughter calls "literary crack". It has absolutely no redeeming values, but you keep coming back for more anyway. It's the kind of book that you keep face down on the nightstand and hope that no one asks what you're reading because it's embarrassing to admit that you're caught up in it. It gets five stars for fun factor, but my conscience will only allow me to give it 3 stars overall....more
I admit it. I have absolutely no desire to finish this book. I'm so very close to the end, but I stopped caring somewhere along the way. I really don'I admit it. I have absolutely no desire to finish this book. I'm so very close to the end, but I stopped caring somewhere along the way. I really don't know what it is that keeps me from finishing it. Maybe it's because I only have about 120 pages left and I know that nothing's going to be resolved. Maybe it's because I've read 781 pages and have no idea what the heck is going on. Is there even a plot? Is this book about anything other than history? I can see why people do like it. In fact, I like it myself. I just can't bring myself to pick it up again....more
I read "The Traveler" a couple of years ago and I still think about it occasionally. The whole concept of what a Traveler can do was kind of New-Agey,I read "The Traveler" a couple of years ago and I still think about it occasionally. The whole concept of what a Traveler can do was kind of New-Agey, but I thought the idea of people trying to live off the grid (without anything connecting up to computers) was very unique. If you read the blurb, you'd think this was a science fiction novel. I suppose it can be argued that it is a science fiction novel. However, in retrospect, I consider it to be a fantasy novel that uses a lot of modern technology. It has an epic quest, a centuries-old battle between good and evil, swords, and a secret society of knights protecting people with special powers. I call that fantasy even if they use GPS systems, cell phones and computers.
NEW, EXPANDED COMMENTARY FOLLOWS:
"The Traveler" doesn't work quite as well on re-read. I think the biggest problem is the New Age ideas cloaked in the guise of science fiction. As I stated before, this is really a fantasy novel, but it's trying very hard to be science fiction. Unfortunately for the author, he just doesn't get that when one's "light" leaves one's body and crosses barriers that are related to the "elements" of fire, air, water, etc., that's not science, it's fantasy. He uses things like a quantum computer, monitoring cameras and GPS devices like magical items. In his world, the tools of the Vast Machine have no basis in real science and technology. This is essentially a New Age Conspiracy Theory novel.
However, I still found "The Traveler" to be an engaging read despite it's rather obvious flaws. The pacing is good and there's plenty of action. I did downgrade it from 4 to 3 stars though. Even though the whole New Age angle really ticked me off both times I read it, I still liked the plot and the characters. I have the sequel, The Dark River, in my to-read pile, and I hope that Twelve Hawks' writing style has improved....more
The City & the City is a book that defies explanation. On the surface, it's a murder mystery about an archeology student whose body is found in onThe City & the City is a book that defies explanation. On the surface, it's a murder mystery about an archeology student whose body is found in one city, Beszel, but she was murdered in the city that borders it, Ul Qoma. The two cities are very different from each other and it's very difficult to get permission to cross the border. Those who cross illegally are subject to Breach.
As the story starts, the relationship between the two cities seems kind of like the relationship between West and East Berlin during the Cold War. As you turn the pages, you slowly realize just how weird the relationship is and how unlike two bordering cities Beszel and Ul Qoma are.
The only thing that really bugged me about this book is that we never, ever learn why Beszel and Ul Qoma have the relationship they do in the first place. How and why did they get to be two cities instead of one? I'm very disappointed that the question never got answered....more
I liked Storm Front quite a lot. I wasn't as thrilled by Fool Moon. I figured I'd give The Dresden Files one more chance to suck me in, and Grave PeriI liked Storm Front quite a lot. I wasn't as thrilled by Fool Moon. I figured I'd give The Dresden Files one more chance to suck me in, and Grave Peril did get me hooked. The action never let up and the mystery was suitably complicated. I just got a 30% Borders coupon in my e-mail. Guess what I'm getting with it....more
When I read the first chapter of All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear, I thought I would be giving it 5 stars. The language is beyond beautifulWhen I read the first chapter of All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear, I thought I would be giving it 5 stars. The language is beyond beautiful. The story is told in the manner of an epic poem, without the verse. This is the stuff of myth and legend and that is reflected in the style. The reader doesn't really connect to the characters, but can one really ever connect to legends?
I ended up downgrading this story by one star for a couple of reasons. First, about halfway through the book, I realized that I was so caught up with the way Bear was telling the story that I missed some of the setup for the main action. I had to flip back a few time to figure out what was going on. Second, the time spans encompassed in this story were confusing and I it seemed to me that I never knew how much time had passed. Characters would be in one place for what seemed like months, but they got back to where they had been in a few days.
If you're one of those people who checks out where readers shelve books, you'll see that I've put this on both my fantasy and sci-fi shelves. All the Windwracked Stars is mostly fantasy, but it has the stuff of science fiction going on in it too. It's supposed to be the first book in a trilogy, but it stands well on its own. It's a challenging read, beautifully done. It reminded me a lot of Perdido Street Station by China Miéville. If you liked that book, you should like this one as well....more
ARRRRGH!!!! I had a great review typed and it got lost when I tried to save. I'll try again.
I couldn't resist Shatnerquake when it came up on my AmazoARRRRGH!!!! I had a great review typed and it got lost when I tried to save. I'll try again.
I couldn't resist Shatnerquake when it came up on my Amazon recommendations. It was as funny as the title and the main character promised. It's pretty gory, but a lot of fun. Burk does a great job of capturing Shatner's speech patterns in print.
The only reason this book gets 3 stars instead of 4 is that it's too darn short. It only took 45 minutes to read. But, it was one of the most entertaining 45 minutes I've spent in a long time....more
I'm just going to get my complaint about this book off my chest before I start talking about the contents of Bad Monkeys. I absolutely hated the physiI'm just going to get my complaint about this book off my chest before I start talking about the contents of Bad Monkeys. I absolutely hated the physical format of this book. By the ISBN number, it comes up in GoodReads as being a hardback. Now, that's probably what the publisher called it and the cover is harder than a paperback, but it's not quite as hard as a hard back. That wouldn't be bad if it weren't for the fact that the book is considerably narrower than a typical hardback or trade paper back and considerably taller (and less flexible) than a mass market paperback. The pages were also a lot smaller than the covers. The full result was a book that was physically difficult to read. It felt cumbersome and it was difficult to hold comfortably. I couldn't put it down on my table or desk without it closing. I certainly hope that future edition will be printed in a more tried and true version.
Now that I've gotten my griping out of the way, on to my review:
Bad Monkeys wasn't at all what I expected. It was a compelling read and it constantly challenged the concept of reality. It had more twist and turns than a Six Flags roller coaster. It's either the story of good and evil top-secret organizations and double agents, or it's the story of a woman who is so wracked with guilt she invents a world in her mind that allows her to be a superhero. In the end, it really isn't clear what the truth is. The best thing about this fast-paced story is that it doesn't give us the answers, but leaves the interpretation up to each reader....more
I admit it, I love post-apocalyptic fiction. I think my fascination with the subject has a lot to do with a book I got through one of those ScholasticI admit it, I love post-apocalyptic fiction. I think my fascination with the subject has a lot to do with a book I got through one of those Scholastic Book Club flyers when I was in elementary school. It was Daybreak 2250 A.D. by Andre Norton. I went on to reading Logan's Run and The Masque of the Red Death among other post-apocalyptic fiction that I no longer remember. Growing up in the Sixties and Seventies, apocalypse seemed like a very real possibility.
Naturally, a short story collection like Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse would pique my interest. John Joseph Adams has done an excellent job of selecting stories for this gem. The stories cover a wide range of plausible world-ending scenarios, none of which involve aliens, zombies or supernatural creatures. The story that really got to me was Speech Sounds by Octavia Butler. The apocalypse here is a world where people have lost the ability to communicate. Some people can't talk at all and others speak jibberish. Nobody can understand anybody else. The result is violence and chaos. The story ends on a surprisingly hopeful note. I also really liked the stories by Gene Wolfe and Jonathan Lethem, two well-known authors that I've never really gotten into.
Tim Powers is not an easy author to read. It took me two tries to get through Declare because it was so densely packed action and ideas. It required wTim Powers is not an easy author to read. It took me two tries to get through Declare because it was so densely packed action and ideas. It required way too much brain power the first time I tried to read it. The Anubis Gates was convoluted and required a bit of knowledge about English Literature (thank goodness I majored) and Egyptian mythology (limited, at best). Both were very good, but required a lot of work out of the reader.
With Three Days to Never, Powers manages to make his fantastically bizarre plot accessible and easy to read. Yeah! It's every bit as creative and weird as Declare and The Anubis Gates, but it's comprehensible without a lot of paging back. I think it's an excellent first choice for someone who is curious about Tim Powers work....more
The Passage by Justin Cronin is one of those books that generated a lot of positive buzz before it was even released. It was an instant best seller whThe Passage by Justin Cronin is one of those books that generated a lot of positive buzz before it was even released. It was an instant best seller when it came out a couple of weeks ago. This is pretty unusual for a relatively unknown author. Now, I generally wait for the buzz to die down on a new release before I read it. If I see it at the library, I'll pick it up. Otherwise, I'll wait for the paperback. However, the pre-release reviews were so good and the book is post-apocalyptic fiction, so I chose it as my first book purchase on my Nook.