Peter F. Hamilton irritates me and annoys me in many ways, but he has some damn good ideas and puts together some mighty fine stories.
The Good: GreatPeter F. Hamilton irritates me and annoys me in many ways, but he has some damn good ideas and puts together some mighty fine stories.
The Good: Great SF ideas, great SF settings, and characters I grow to love.
The Bad: Way too long, and some really unnecessary explicit sex scenes.
The Ugly: As in his other books, the women are always really hot, look 17 even when they're not, and are very horny. I don't think a fat, middle-aged woman has ever made an appearance in any Hamilton book I've read. Without the sexism, I would have given this book five stars. There is one really terrific female character in this book, but the first half it always brings up how hot she is because she has only aged one year for every decade since she was 17. Fortunately, she spends the last 1/3 of the book (view spoiler)[in a situation reminiscent of Dan Simmon's The Terror. I guess even Hamilton couldn't describe how hot she was when she was bundled up in blizzard conditions. However, she gets to be hot again as soon as she's out of danger. (hide spoiler)]
Fortunately, the positives outweigh the negatives. I spent the first 18 hours of this 36+ hour audiobook thinking I would never read another Peter F. Hamilton novel again. I finished anticipating his next release. However, can he please get a feminist editor to slap him into shape?...more
This is a really good addition to the Odd Thomas series. It's meant to be a small bite in between the larger meals of the novels. It really should beThis is a really good addition to the Odd Thomas series. It's meant to be a small bite in between the larger meals of the novels. It really should be read before Odd Apocalypse even though it was released later.
I have read most of these books in print except for this and Odd Apocalypse. David Aaron Baker does a terrific job capturing Odd's strange combination of youth and wisdom. Odd is always making profound observations on the world around him and Baker makes it seem completely natural. I will definitely be continuing this series in audio format....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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
"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
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
“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
**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
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
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.