I started reading this book thinking that it would be entertaining and a light read. I had liked Robert Charles Wilson’s “Chronoliths” and I thought “...moreI started reading this book thinking that it would be entertaining and a light read. I had liked Robert Charles Wilson’s “Chronoliths” and I thought “Spin” was extremely good. So, when I got an Amazon.com recommendation for “Blind Lake,” I thought it sounded interesting enough to order. I expected it would be a three or four star book; it turned out to be amazing. The science part is good, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of the book. Wilson does an amazing job of developing his characters. And, the ending is just phenomenal. Wilson takes the incredible and makes it believable.
Where “Spin” is a novel about the Earth being cut off from the universe and what that isolation does to humanity, “Blind Lake” is about a community being cut off from the rest of Earth and what that does to the people who are trapped there. The town of Blind Lake is home to a government research facility observing alien life on a planet far, far away. The technology used in this research is so new that even its developers don’t understand how it works. As the novel progresses, we begin to guess how it’s working, but we never get the full picture until the end. One day, the gates to the community are locked. Robotic drones kill anyone who tries to get outside the perimeter. Food and supplies are brought in by remote-controlled big rigs. There is no explanation and no contact with the outside world.
Every action of every character is believable. The way Wilson gets inside the heads of control-freak Ray Scutter and his mildly autistic (maybe) 11 year-old daughter, Tessa Hauser, is especially good. Tessa is a very realistic child. She isn’t mature beyond her years like so many children in science fiction novels. In fact, she is slightly less mature than most children her age. Although she’s been diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome, Wilson doesn’t use that as a platform to teach us about autism. Instead, it’s just a small part of who Tessa is and it may be a part of the reason why she becomes so central to the climax of the novel. He treats her with the utmost respect and her attitudes and fears are completely authentic. I found myself identifying with her more than any other character. She reminded me a bit of myself as a child; a stranger looking in.
Ray Scutter is probably one of the creepiest characters I’ve met in any kind of fiction. He’s every divorced mother’s worst nightmare of an ex-husband. He’s a stalker. He refuses to relinquish ownership of his ex-wife or his daughter. He got a position at the Blind Lake facility and arranged it so he got there a few months before his ex-wife did so it would look like she was following him. He can’t even refer to her as his ex-wife; he calls her his wife. He’s a control freak and doesn’t handle contradictions to his world view very well. The longer the unexplained quarantine of Blind Lake goes on, the less of a hold on sanity Ray has. The more he tries to regain control, the more unstable he becomes. He ends up being every bit as frightening as any character I’ve met. Yet, he’s also pathetic. Wilson makes it clear that Ray is what he is because he’s really messed up. We fear him and hate him, but we also pity him.
I didn’t expect to be reading a five-star book, but that’s what I got. (less)
This three stars is really 3-1/2. "The Braided World" is a good piece of genre literature. It has plenty of action and human/alien drama. It kept my a...moreThis three stars is really 3-1/2. "The Braided World" is a good piece of genre literature. It has plenty of action and human/alien drama. It kept my attention and kept me reading. Kenyon created a very interesting world. But, it was very predictable and the story was populated by stock characters the seemed pretty unrealistic. I did like the fact that the action stayed with the central characters and didn't jump around from location to location. "The Braided World" is terrific if you want some science fiction entertainment that just lets you enjoy your inner geek. (less)
I'm officially giving myself permission to not finish this book. I'm only a few chapters in, but I've read it two or three times already, albeit more...moreI'm officially giving myself permission to not finish this book. I'm only a few chapters in, but I've read it two or three times already, albeit more than ten years ago. I just can't do it one more time.
I'm not saying "Dune" is bad. I think it's an excellent choice for the Science Fiction and Fantasy group. I think it's something every science fiction fan and everyone interested in science fiction should read. It's scope and influence are unmatched. Frank Herbert changed the course of science fiction and turned a whole generation on to the genre.
I did check the Wikipedia entry on "Dune" to refresh my memory for the discussion. One thing that interested me was a comment that "Dune" was an influence for "Star Wars". I had never seen the connections before, but they're there.(less)
I find it really hard to believe that Hammered was Elizabeth Bear's first novel. The plot was so tight; the characters were so interesting; and the st...moreI find it really hard to believe that Hammered was Elizabeth Bear's first novel. The plot was so tight; the characters were so interesting; and the story was both intriguing and exciting. It was one of those books that took great willpower to put down when I to go do other things. I have read and listened to a few short stories by Bear that I thought were fantastic. It's nice to see that she handles the novel format just as well.
Jenny Casey is a protagonist that I can relate to. She's a middle-aged woman. Like all us middle-aged women, she has a history that has shaped who she is. She has aches and pains that are related partly to cybernetic prosthetics and partly to just plain aging. She thinks of herself as old because she has been through a lot in her life and because she just plain feels old. Right now, I can really relate to that. You know that she's a better person than she thinks she is because of the loyalty her friends display.
I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more of Elizabeth Bear's work. This is hard science fiction that doesn't over-explain the science and has terrific characters.(less)
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 thr...moreI'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.(less)
I must be a real geek. I laughed my butt off at the phrase "opposition is unproductive." Only a real Star Trek geek would have been able to translate...moreI must be a real geek. I laughed my butt off at the phrase "opposition is unproductive." Only a real Star Trek geek would have been able to translate that to "resistance is futile." I'm in no way sure what "InterWorld" is. It's part science fiction, part fantasy, part allusion to all things in geekdom. Take some of "Ender's Game" and mix it up with "Neverwhere." Toss in some Star Trek, some Twilight Zone, and some Wizard of Oz for fun. I started this book at dinnertime last night and it's almost lunch time now. I stayed up too late; I overslept; and I missed church because of this book. Whatever this book is, it's terrific.n Best of all, I can hand it to my son without worrying about him asking me why I gave him a book with "adult situations" in it.
It's really hard finding books that appeal to young teen boys who are no longer into fantasy that includes dragons and wizards. I think this book fills a niche that really needs to be filled.(less)
I loved the movie based on this book. It was one of the best from last year. When the book came up on my Amazon.com recommendations, I thought I'd giv...moreI loved the movie based on this book. It was one of the best from last year. When the book came up on my Amazon.com recommendations, I thought I'd give it a read. There is no comparison between the book and the movie. They have maybe 4-5 plot points in common, that's it. The movie was great, and the book was great. They were just different.
"Children of Men" is a very thoughtful and thought provoking book. I'm not going to say any more. I don't want to give anything away.(less)
There's something interesting about reading a book that's the third in a series of which you've read later installments. I've read two of the books th...moreThere's something interesting about reading a book that's the third in a series of which you've read later installments. I've read two of the books that come after Mendoza in Hollywood, so I knew where this book was going. However, I had no idea how it was going to get there. Baker managed to keep me guessing even though I knew what was going to happen. Her story telling abilities are terrific. I even noticed a bit of foreshadowing of later novels. Mendoza in Hollywood is by far the best of the first three books in The Company series.(less)
It's such a shame that Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue wasn't picked up by one of the big publishing houses. It's really one of the best young adult...moreIt's such a shame that Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue wasn't picked up by one of the big publishing houses. It's really one of the best young adult science fiction novels I've read. I liked it so much more than Ender's Game. It's so well paced and the characters are so engaging. I can't believe how much action Hugh Howey packed into 283 pages. It never let up and there were surprising twists at every turn. Sadly, the big publications aren't printing much in the way of young adult space fiction. You have vampires, wizards and dystopias, but not many spaceships and alien cultures. You especially don't find much space fiction that have strong female protagonists who should appeal equally to girls and boys. I really loved that she spent absolutely no time worrying about her clothes or her makeup. Molly was a very realistic character. This is a great book if you have a teen you want to turn on to real science fiction, especially if that teen is a girl.(less)
It took me a really long time to get through the first half of this book. Once I did, it picked up a lot and went really quickly. I found the setting...moreIt took me a really long time to get through the first half of this book. Once I did, it picked up a lot and went really quickly. I found the setting fascinating--a depraved, degraded Arabic city where people change gender and personalities like I change shoes. Although it was written in 1987, it doesn't seem dated. In fact, it fits in with current science fiction better than the SF of 1987.
Jonathan Davis is the perfect narrator for this book. He does very well with books set in non-Western societies. He does accents well without sounding like he's faking it. He definitely does his homework with pronouncing non-English words. When Gravity Fails is the perfect venue for his strengths.(less)
As a native Southern Californian who has been to Disneyland a minimum of once per year since before birth, how could I pass up a book that combines sc...moreAs a native Southern Californian who has been to Disneyland a minimum of once per year since before birth, how could I pass up a book that combines science fiction with Disney?
I was really torn between giving this three stars or four. It scores high for creativity. It's got a very tight plot and some interesting ideas. It takes place at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. I've been there once, but it's so much like Disneyland that all the ride references made sense even if the geography changed. It's clear that Doctorow has a love and reverence for the Magic Kingdom. I even learned how they do the dancing ghosts in the Haunted Mansion. There were some interesting twists and turns in the plot that kept me turning the pages.
However, I think that the book suffers from a certain attempt hipness that only comes from true geekdom. Seriously, the "Bitchun" society? Crack smoking as normal? Popularity (whuffies) as currency? It came off as awkward and self-conscious. It was a good story and it was entertaining, but it wasn't one of the best I've read recently.(less)
I kind of got this by accident. I really enjoy Robert Charles Wilson’s books and saw this available for pre-order on the Nook. I waited for months for...moreI kind of got this by accident. I really enjoy Robert Charles Wilson’s books and saw this available for pre-order on the Nook. I waited for months for the release date, then decided to get the audiobook because a credit cost less than the ebook. I was a bit surprised that the Audible Frontiers version was released in 2009, but just thought that the ebook version was new. As I’m listening, it seemed a bit dated. The current-day events in this time travel story occur in 1989. I did more research on the book and found out that it was originally published 20 years ago and was re-released in late 2011. I’m just saying this for disclosure because it really didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story.
What did affect my enjoyment was this similarity between this novel and Stephen King’s newest, 11/22/63 which I listened to last month. I kept thinking that this book was so much like that one and had to remind myself that Wilson wrote it 20 years before King wrote his. In both books, an ordinary guy from the present travels back to the past. King’s protagonist to 1958 and Wilson’s to 1962. They both get jobs, rent apartments, make friends and fall in love in the past. The both face great danger because of their time traveling. As much as I enjoyed this, I felt like I was re-reading 11/22/63 and that really isn’t fair to “A Bridge of Years”. This book is worth reading, just don’t read it too close to King’s book.
This audiobook is one of Jonathan Davis’s better narrations. His voice is perfectly suited to the story and his tendency to talk like William Shatner wasn’t as bad as usual. (less)
I know that there is a lot of love out there for the Honor Harrington series. Frankly, I was not impressed with this first volume. I will definitely b...moreI know that there is a lot of love out there for the Honor Harrington series. Frankly, I was not impressed with this first volume. I will definitely be listening to the second book because I already have it, but if it doesn’t improve dramatically, I won’t be continuing with it.
I had many problems with On Basilisk Station. First, I thought that Honor was way too perfect. She’s too competent and too self-controlled. She doesn’t have any self-doubts or flaws to make her interesting. The other characters seemed quite clichéd also. I didn’t connect with any of them enough to care what happened to them.
Second, Weber has a tendency to talk too much about his tech and interrupt the action with incredibly boring infodumps. In a print text, you can kind of skim these sections, but I was listening to the audio and zoning out during discussions of nexus points and termini and how ships were armed and shielded. As a long-time science fiction reader, I wasn’t really encountering any new ideas and just wanted the story to move along. I really prefer the newer science fiction that hardly spends any time explaining how things work and just lets you figure it out on your own based on context. If I were reading a book in which someone was watching TV, I wouldn’t want the author to explain the circuitry and the broadcast frequencies even if I didn’t understand it. Even if I didn’t understand how an internal combustion engine works, I don’t need an explanation of it so a character can travel from New York to Los Angeles in a car.
Finally, I thought the story was fairly predictable. There were some deaths that I didn’t expect, but I wasn’t invested enough in the characters to get upset when someone died.
I think my opinion may be influenced by having recently read the Vatta’s War series by Elizabeth Moon. There are a lot of parallels between the two series, but Moon just handles it all better and creates a story and characters that I really cared about. She also had a lot of similar tech, but managed to convey it in a way that kept me interested.
Allyson Johnson seems to be a good narrator. However, she didn’t have much to work with here. (less)
I already had The Martian Chronicles on my GoodReads shelf with a four star rating. That was nostalgia. I read all of Bradbury's work when I was in ju...moreI already had The Martian Chronicles on my GoodReads shelf with a four star rating. That was nostalgia. I read all of Bradbury's work when I was in junior high and loved it all with a love that only a 13 year-old can muster. Fast forward nearly forty years and I got a copy of the audiobook for $4.95 through one of Audible's sales. It turns out that I'd forgotten nearly the entire book. I didn't realize that it was a collection of short stories. I didn't realize that there are about 5 different kinds of aboriginal Martians. I didn't realize that the book makes very little sense. I didn't realize that Bradbury's fascination with the government burning things wasn't limited to Fahrenheit 451.
There are parts of the book that are beautiful and poetic. However, the stories are extremely dated and they are very inconsistent. My older self just couldn't muster the love for this book that my younger self had.(less)
Wow. It’s no wonder Richard K. Morgan became such a phenomenon in the science fiction world so quickly. His first novel, “Altered Carbon” is so well c...moreWow. It’s no wonder Richard K. Morgan became such a phenomenon in the science fiction world so quickly. His first novel, “Altered Carbon” is so well crafted that it bears no hints of being a first novel. His imagination and story telling is absolutely amazing. Although it is absolutely full of graphic violence and has a few X-rated sex scenes, every part is so well written, it all fits. This book should have completely offended me. I can’t stand gratuitous sex and violence. But, the way Morgan writes it, the sex and violence come off as being necessary to the story and the characters. I don’t think I’ve ever run across such plausible characters and actions. The plot is a standard noir detective thriller, but it’s so well done that the mystery remains a mystery until the very end.
One thing Morgan handles very well is his technology. He really goes into the various implications of a transhuman world where people can upload their thoughts, memories and personalities to different bodies (sleeves), depending on their ability to afford the costs. The truly rich can afford to live for hundreds of years, switching to young versions of themselves when their bodies get too old for their tastes. Poor people just get the consciousnesses (known as stacks) stored until someone is will to pay the price to get them reactivated in a new sleeve. The quality of one’s sleeve is an indication of their wealth. Without ever going into lecture mode, Morgan shows us how nearly every aspect of this transhuman society works.
To keep my conscience clear, I will state very strongly that this is at least R-rated material. A few scenes are X-rated. Some readers may be very turn-off by the brutality of “Altered Carbon.” It's also quite difficult to follow, with a lot of twists and turns in the plot. More than a few times, I found myself wondering where a certain character came from or how we found ourselves in a certain scene. If you can handle the violence, sex and complicated plot, it is an excellent read and well worth the time and effort. (less)
I read To Say Nothing of the Dog about ten years ago and loved it, but I remembered so little about it. I was delighted to meet Connie Willis at the 2...moreI read To Say Nothing of the Dog about ten years ago and loved it, but I remembered so little about it. I was delighted to meet Connie Willis at the 2009 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and get a signed copy. It turns out that the book is just as entertaining as I remember and quite a bit more complex. I had remembered the frenetic search for the bishop's bird stump and that it was really quite ugly. I had forgotten all the explanations of how the net worked and how things all worked out. I remembered the cat, but not the dog.
Last year, I tried to read the book that inspired Willis, Three Men in a Boat, and didn't make it through. It was funny, but repetitive and soon became boring. Willis avoids the flaws of Jerome while maintaining the slapstick spirit. Ultimately, it was the slapstick that I had remembered best about this book. You really don't have to read Three Men in a Boat to appreciate To Say Nothing of the Dog, but it does give you an appreciation of Ned's fan-boy reaction when he actually sees Jerome K. Jerome and his buddies boating up the Thames. (less)
Julie E. Czernada is an author whose books I see on the science fiction/fantasy shelves all the time, yet I've never read any of them. "A Thousand Wor...moreJulie E. Czernada is an author whose books I see on the science fiction/fantasy shelves all the time, yet I've never read any of them. "A Thousand Words for Stranger" was her first novel. While I liked it, I strongly suspect that I'm not going to remember much about it a month or two from now. It took about 100-150 pages for the story to start congealing into anything that made much sense. I really disliked how it jumped from the main chapters narrated by Sira to "interludes" told by an omniscient third-person narrator. The longer Czernada stuck with Sira's viewpoint, the more compelling the story was. I think she would have done better to have chosen one point of view and have stuck with it.
This duology (Darwin's Radio and Darwin's Children) is what hard SF should be. It takes some really out-there science, in this case biology and evolut...moreThis duology (Darwin's Radio and Darwin's Children) is what hard SF should be. It takes some really out-there science, in this case biology and evolution, adds a great story and characters you care about, and makes you really think about what could be. As a Christian who loves science and thinks that Christians who deny all evolutionary theory are off-base, I really appreciated that Bear didn't use his story to declare that there is no God and that people who believe in Him are stupid. Instead, he leaves that up to individual interpretation. With the growth of radical atheism, that seems to be rather daring. I really liked his position that an extreme evolutionary shift doesn't mean that the new species of hominid has to usurp the old one. The two can live together once the older species gets over its initial fear. That was pretty cool.(less)