I really enjoyed the premise of this book. It was snappy and fun to read, but not without flaws The three codas at the end were good, but felt a littl...moreI really enjoyed the premise of this book. It was snappy and fun to read, but not without flaws The three codas at the end were good, but felt a little awkward in some ways. I found myself wishing for a little bit more distinction between the characters, but in some ways that's part of the joke.
But for all my complaints, I still had a blast with this book. I can't really write about it without spoilers so I'll just say this: if you're in on the redshirt joke, you will love is book, but if you aren't behind the notion you might not understand why people are raving. I loved it.(less)
This is really more of a 3.5 stars book for me, but I'll give it the extra half star for the fun factor. I enjoyed this novel, and it's widened scope...moreThis is really more of a 3.5 stars book for me, but I'll give it the extra half star for the fun factor. I enjoyed this novel, and it's widened scope compared to Crystal Rain gives the book an expansive feel that the previous one lacked.
I blasted through this one pretty quickly, and dug it a lot, but the ending left me feeling a little flat.(less)
A brilliant novel with a fractal plot. It's rich with poetry and dream logic. You have to stop forcing into novel shape and go for the ride. This is r...moreA brilliant novel with a fractal plot. It's rich with poetry and dream logic. You have to stop forcing into novel shape and go for the ride. This is really 4.5 stars for me, and I only take the 0.5 off for a minor issue I had with the conclusion. (less)
I quite enjoyed this book. It takes place a couple years after the events of The Jennifer Morgue, and once again Howard is drawn into a dangerous and...moreI quite enjoyed this book. It takes place a couple years after the events of The Jennifer Morgue, and once again Howard is drawn into a dangerous and complex web of intrigue by his superiors. Armed with only his shiny new smartphone, Bob Howard is forced to face off against the undead, ancient horrors, and worst of all, the bureaucrats within the Laundry itself.
I think this book may even have flowed better than The Jennifer Morgue, and I was pleasantly surprised by the book overall. I was worried that Stross wouldn't be able to keep it entertaining without being able to parody the Bond mythos like he did in the previous book, but the book was fast-paced, well-written and quite funny.
He still does the occasional POV shift this time, but he does a better job of making it flow within the structure of the story.(less)
I was disappointed by this book. I had heard the author on a few episodes of Writing Excuses and had been impressed with what she had to say, particul...moreI was disappointed by this book. I had heard the author on a few episodes of Writing Excuses and had been impressed with what she had to say, particularly in this episode. As a result I had high hopes for the stories in this collection.
The stories are primarily character portraits, and don't mistake me, her characters are very well drawn and believable, and her description in the narrative is apt. However, the endings of all of these stories fall flat for me. It's always clear what feeling they are intending to leave me with, but with the possible exceptions of "Portrait of Air" and "Jaiden's Weaver", the latter of which is still too predictable and pat of an ending, the majority of the stories fail to earn the emotional response they seem to be striving to provoke in the reader. In particular, the titular story of the collection has an ending that is clearly aiming to leave the reader with a sense of dread and uncertainty, but the result is that the piece feels like the author got up and left the room mid-scene, never coming back to it.
I feel like there is great promise in her writing, particularly in her attention to detail with her characters, so I will take a peek at her novel when it comes out later this year, but this particular collection was disappointing.(less)
I enjoyed this book, which actually surprised me a bit. Typically with sci-fi I tend to prefer heavier fare, but Scalzi's light touch with his prose w...moreI enjoyed this book, which actually surprised me a bit. Typically with sci-fi I tend to prefer heavier fare, but Scalzi's light touch with his prose worked for me quite well. Its central idea is spectacular story-fodder, and I'm interested in seeing what he does with it in the later books of the series.
Unfortunately, there is a little bit of a strange disconnect in the story, which might have a lot to do with the fact that the protagonist seems to excel at everything, and never seems to face a real challenges, so the central conflict of the story feels almost superficial. Also, the alien species are painted in very broad strokes, and it gave me the impression (rightly or wrongly) that the universe was not fully realized by the author beyond the limited conflicts that are depicted. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I like to feel a bit more depth to the world, and I might have been able to ignore it had the protagonist faced more challenges.
Don't ge me wrong, I enjoyed the book, and will try out the next book in the series, but the disconnection I felt means I can only give it three stars.(less)
This was my first experience with Priest's work, and it was a pleasure. I found it to be a brilliantly imagined steampunk novel set during an extended...moreThis was my first experience with Priest's work, and it was a pleasure. I found it to be a brilliantly imagined steampunk novel set during an extended Civil War, and in Seattle, a catastrophic event has brought the Blight upon the city, which causes the dead to walk. The story focuses on a mother seeking to save her son, whom has charged off into the city to find out about his father. Along the way she encounters air pirates, zombie rotters, and the other people who choose to brave the Blight, living beneath the ground and in sealed vaults for protection. However, its also a mystery, for the son's quest will lead them both on a journey to answer the questions raised by the Blight, and to learn once and for all the real history of the experiment that started it all.
The book is well written, the action is tight, and it's just a hell of a lot of fun to read. The only complaint I have is that the last chapter seemed a little flat to me, almost an unnecessary epilogue, that answers none of the questions that still remain, but without actually building any sort of wonderment or cliffhanger. This is the only reason that I'm only doing four stars.(less)
I quite enjoyed reading this book, the writing is fast-paced and a lot of fun, with an undercurrent of humor throughout. Scalzi doesn't allow the humo...moreI quite enjoyed reading this book, the writing is fast-paced and a lot of fun, with an undercurrent of humor throughout. Scalzi doesn't allow the humor to overwhelm the book however, and keeps the story tightly focused on the political intrigue and the action.
Perhaps it is only because I started this right after finishing Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy, but I felt Scalzi could have spent more time developing his characters, and providing more description in his scenes. While the story moves quickly and it is a lot of fun watching situations escalate in the novel, there are really only one or two characters that undergo anything resembling a true character arc, and one of those is only a minor character. It seems strange that the primary characters would go through so much and still remain pretty much the same as when they started.
Regardless, this is a fun book and quite enjoyable.(less)
I really enjoyed this book. At the very beginning of the book, I felt like some of the characterization was a little forced, or possibly just done in...moreI really enjoyed this book. At the very beginning of the book, I felt like some of the characterization was a little forced, or possibly just done in too calculating a method. However, that's only within the first few chapters, and after that the individual voices of the characters were clear enough that I forgave the earlier issues.
The plot is tense and moves forward at a quick pace, as any great thriller should. The ideas behind this story are both fascinating and terrifying, the latter because the technology described in the book currently exists. In fact, the technology is so current, I almost hesitate the place the label science fiction on it.
My only real issue with the book is the abruptness of the ending, which does not resolve nearly enough of the sub-plots. Apparently, there is a sequel being released next year, titled Freedom TM, which explains why so many parts of the story are left unresolved. I've read that this book was originally at least twice as long, but he was asked to split it into two books for publishing, which makes sense, and is the only reason that I'm taking off one star.
This is an excellent read, and helps to shed light on just how vulnerable we have made our society by using homogeneous and centralized networks.(less)
Charles Stross' work can be really hit or miss for me. This book was enjoyable, but seemed almost rushed. I don't mean rushed in terms of pacing, but...moreCharles Stross' work can be really hit or miss for me. This book was enjoyable, but seemed almost rushed. I don't mean rushed in terms of pacing, but almost like there was a lot going on in his head that never actually made it to the page, which made it a far less thoughtful book than it could have been.
There are some interesting ideas in here, particularly the musing on how a society of robots designed to serve humanity cope with the fact that humans are extinct, and thus their primary purpose in life is obsolete. There's a lot of heady thought wrapped up in that idea, including questions of free will. There is also a lot to think about in terms of identity as each robot is based off of a template persona's memories and can trade their own memories with others of the same template. These difficult issues are discussed, but Stross seems worried that too much exploration of these existential problems would get in the way of the story, which results in some of these questions being simply glossed over, making them feel too much like simple plot devices rather than the central issues that they are.
One thing I will note here is that many of the robots (even the non-humanoid ones) have a particular fascination with sex. It's significant that Stross points out that as humanity attempts to make robots in our own image, it is only natural that they would end up sharing our preoccupation with sex as well.
To sum up: interesting ideas and an entertaining read, but not nearly as complex as it could have been. I had fun reading this, but on the whole I ended up feeling disappointed.(less)
The plot accelerates quite a bit in this volume, and the metaphysical portions of the story come into greater focus. I almost expected some sort of Ph...moreThe plot accelerates quite a bit in this volume, and the metaphysical portions of the story come into greater focus. I almost expected some sort of Philip K. Dick Valis moment when King Mob states that one of his names is Morrison, but that appears (at least now) to be a red herring.
The characters seem more likable now, but honestly some still seem crudely drawn (from a narrative, not art point of view) and function primarily for convenience more than anything. For example, King Mob: why do I care what happens to him or what he's doing? Yes, he's there to STOP THE BAD GUYS, but I don't really know enough about him to care. Certainly, not enough to care that he's the central figure in peril.
Speaking of characters, lets look at Dane McGowan who if you believe the casting text at the beginning of the volumes is supposed to become the next Buddha despite being one of the most unlikeable bastards in the books. That being said, there's some character growth here, and enough information to pique my interest in some of the other characters.
Honestly, if I hadn't bought the first three volumes at once I wouldn't have come this far in the series, but now I have to say I'll probably eventually buy the next book to see how things develop. That being said, if that one doesn't knock my socks off, I'll probably call it quits with this series.(less)
This book takes you deep into the depravity of the people in power, which demonstrates the importance of the war the Invisibles are fighting.
The cente...moreThis book takes you deep into the depravity of the people in power, which demonstrates the importance of the war the Invisibles are fighting.
The center of the story arc is the origin story of Lord Fanny, and I found her vision quest as a child to be quite fascinating. That being said, I'm uncomfortable how marginalized a character she is, and that her sexuality is portrayed in way that is almost freakish (forced into it, prostitution, heavy drugs).
This volume ends on a cliffhanger, and so I was compelled to pick up the next volume.(less)
An interesting work, filled with dark and mystical themes. It's a little hard to get into, there's a unique rhythm to the narrative that the reader ne...moreAn interesting work, filled with dark and mystical themes. It's a little hard to get into, there's a unique rhythm to the narrative that the reader needs to find before they can really flow with it. The world is being controlled by an alien (extra-dimensional) conspiracy that forces people into soul-less compliant behavior, and the Invisibles are a secret society of guerrilla cells that practice both physical and psychic warfare against said conspiracy.
It's an ambitious plot, and this first volume does an admirable job introducing the reader to the concepts, but the narrative suffers a bit as a result. It doesn't help either that at least in this volume the overall impression of the central characters on all sides is that they are either vaguely drawn (and I don't mean the artwork) or completely unlikeable.
There is some intersting ideas at work here, but if I hadn't picked up the next two volumes at the same time (based off of recommendations from numerous people) I probably would have stopped here.(less)
A decent follow-up to the first book in the series, although not quite as strong. I can't put my finger on it, but while I read the books and enjoy th...moreA decent follow-up to the first book in the series, although not quite as strong. I can't put my finger on it, but while I read the books and enjoy them I can't quite get engrossed in them. There's some very interesting ideas at work, and I don't have any issues with characters or dialogue. It may be the fact that because of the nature of the first two books, which both center around murder mysteries, there's a lot of long interrogation scenes. These were offset in the first book, but take up the majority of this book. This makes sense considering the main character's position is essentially an investigator/prosecutor, but it means that there is more exposition handled in the same room than there is anything else, which tends to get a bit dull and predictable.
I do also have a bit of a problem with the main character, there's something about Andrea Cort that I don't quite buy into, but yet for some reason I find myself compelled to read anyway.
It's an enjoyable novel, and their a number of interesting concepts explored with regard to free-will and identity. The novel is thought-provoking without being mind-blowing, but I still liked it, and will probably read the next one in the series too, which I guess is all that I really need to say in a review.(less)
I've tried to read Stross in the past, and this is the first one I've finished. Others I've started and then gotten distracted from, and after complet...moreI've tried to read Stross in the past, and this is the first one I've finished. Others I've started and then gotten distracted from, and after completing this book, I really feel I should go back and give them another chance. This is fun book that blends modern day techo-geekery, espionage and the Cthulu mythos. On top of that it has fun poking some fun at the James Bond archetype, and there is a rather interesting little essay about the Bond in the back of the book. The essay isn't groundbreaking, but it's an interesting read.
The story itself is enormous fun. It's not a life-changing book by any means, but it merits the fourth star for the entertainment value alone and the fun of having the hero be computer geek wielding bootable Linux on a USB key. The Bond angle is a fun bit of play, with more than a little joking at that titan of pop culture's expense although it isn't really a full deconstruction of the Bond mythos, so if you're looking for profound statements in that regard you will be looking in the wrong place.
I did have one complaint and that was that the Stross takes an obvious short cut in the narrative. Most of the book is told in the first person, with the exception of the prologue, which takes place in the past. The prologue bit, I'm fine with. But there is a moment midway through the book where it shifts to third-person in order to show two other events, one in the past and one in the present. The worst part is that the author steps in as a new narrator speaking directly to the reader (for the only time in the book) and basically says, "Let's go look at these other things for a moment and come back." It's really irritating and takes you out of the story, and it felt like Stross was feeling lazy and couldn't think of another way of getting the related plot points into play. It's only a brief interruption though and things quickly get back on track.
Final conclusion: an enjoyable book, a quick read, and worth your time. (less)