Flynn's The Wreck of The River of Stars was generally disappointing, though I otherwise have to give the overall effort itself a high mark. His flawed...moreFlynn's The Wreck of The River of Stars was generally disappointing, though I otherwise have to give the overall effort itself a high mark. His flawed characters were very good, but there were just too many of them, and the veritable catalog of missteps made even before we are dropped into the story, when added to the many catastrophes slowly evolving from page one of the narrative, created a lumbering slow-motion train wreck that unfortunately was just not very gripping until the morbid, moribund end.
In regards to characters, though well-conceived and written, Flynn was missing even one good character to root for, with even the young and inexperienced characters being flawed - or at the very least horribly inexperienced or indecisive - in such a manner as to make them slightly distasteful. This may have been the point, as I'll discuss a little later here, but it made it difficult to stay with the story when the reader doesn't really care whether any of the characters survives or not.
Plot-wise, the author does a good job putting together an every-day, ordinary sort of nightmare scenario for a the "working class" type of spacefarer, one in which understandable, ordinary, day-to-day and year-after-year mishaps and egos and human frailties and failings can add up to a total disaster. This is the story of the Titanic's life had it survived its maiden voyage to become a tramp freighter, suffering its fatal night far towards the end of its useful life, its tragedy restricted to a much smaller scale, with a more intimate setting and more complex set of causes. It just took too long to get there to be enjoyable even as a tragedy
Thematically, I think Flynn may be exploring some sort of Nietzschean scenario where God is dead, in the form of deceased captain Evan Hand, and in the resulting aftermath of a debilitating incident the strong but flawed personalities on board each try to exert their own will to power; in this light the novel seems to be something of a thought experiment, criticizing both the competence and foresight of the god who left the situation behind him as well as those who would espouse "the strong survive" anarchist theories without giving thought to where an unordered struggle for power could lead.
So while I applaud Flynn's overall effort, and can recommend the book on its technical merits, I'm still left with a bit of a sour feel for the book, it not having entertained me sufficiently to allow me to enjoy the reading experience along with the good technical execution. After reading Flynn's Eifelheim, I had been hoping for and expecting a more enticing narrative, though I will say that Flynn does seem to have a style for positing unique ideas in his works.(less)
Infoquake has a few interesting ideas - "fiefcorps" as the future of entrepreneurial ventures, "bio/logics" software paired up with nanotech to help...more Infoquake has a few interesting ideas - "fiefcorps" as the future of entrepreneurial ventures, "bio/logics" software paired up with nanotech to help people modify or amplify their bodily functions, vestigial government entities reduced to marketing their sign-on promotions and benefits packages to attract clientele. The majority of the novel seems to be a rather long read with little actual content, however.
The main character is the largest problem for the author, as he tries to portray some sort of genius anti-hero and explain how he came to be such an ambitious, morally ambiguous player... however the author's biggest problem is, and continues to be, providing some sort of rationale for why the reader should care. More could have been done with the secondary characters and why they choose to hang around with and work for this emotionally immature tyrant, and this would have possibly shown him to be not necessarily more likable, but maybe worthy of being concerned for.
The plot drags until the end, being a mostly empty tale illustrating the main character's ambitions and sort of how he came to be in the position he's in. Towards the end of the novel, the action picks up and it appears as if something interesting is actually going to happen - and then the main character is dropped out of most of the end sequence with little explanation, as a teaser to further novels I suppose.
I had a hard time grasping what exactly the author was trying to say with this novel, unless maybe it was all a lead-up to the one bit of wisdom at the end that actually stuck out from the rest of the novel, perhaps because it was the clearest, truest statement of a goal or ideal in the entire book:
You see this happen every day. A business triumphs over its rivals and gets stronger. Others become jealous and resentful. Eventually, the company's enemies conspire together to bring it down, or it rots from within. It's the same thing that happens with animals...plans...trees. Why? Because there's some mystical force guiding our actions? No, because too much power concentrated in one place creates stasis. And stasis is anathema to a universe that desires constant motion and change. (379)
Overall Infoquake is well-written, but the characters, plot, and timing could use another revision.
Robson's Keeping It Real is a well-written, fast-paced page-turner, and very good for entertainment purposes though it comes up just a hair short from...moreRobson's Keeping It Real is a well-written, fast-paced page-turner, and very good for entertainment purposes though it comes up just a hair short from the larger picture
The characters are unique and interesting, with a hint of backstories that lend them the depth needed for one to believe the character is real and worth considering. The problem is that while we know the characters are flawed, we don't get much into the meat of who they are and how they came to be in this first novel, and these potentially rich peices of information are primarily glossed over as the narrative moves quickly to becoming a sexy action flick.
Plot-wise, Keeping It Real does just fine as an action story, with enough potential conflict inherent in the setting to promise more interesting mayhem as the series progresses, but again the author seems to gloss over points which could be vastly more serious and interesting, in the interest of pushing forward the action sequences. What could be an interspatial political firestorm having far-ranging implications is treated as nothing more than a brief day-in-the-life of this unique special agent and her charge, and short-changes both the character and the story.
Thematically, the author makes some interesting points about our world in comparing normal human experience against the speculative world of Alfheim, and could possibly do some real justice to the psychology of an accidental warrior class trapped into a game they don't understand and have limited control over. The theme of this first novel, however, seems to be pretty blasé - insularity for the greater good, at any cost, is a flawed plan for survival in the face of change.
Overall I enjoyed the book a great deal, but was just a little disappointed with how it skated over quite a few things to pursue an almost purely action story - and was also a little let down with the "James Bond" ending. For as complex as the two main characters appear to be, the ending seemed a bit trite and not as powerful as it could have been.(less)
Unfortunately I was sorely disappointed in Judson's The Martian General's Daughter. Despite this theoretically being a novel about the fall of an empi...moreUnfortunately I was sorely disappointed in Judson's The Martian General's Daughter. Despite this theoretically being a novel about the fall of an empire, whereas Fitzpatrick's War was supposedly about the rise of an empire, this short novel actually seems like nothing more than leftover material from his first book, despite there not being any allusion to this being the same empire as was founded in the first book.
I was somewhat glad to see a female persona in this novel, something that was lacking in Fitzpatrick's War, but there wasn't anything particularly contributed by the narrator that couldn't have been said or done by a male heir - though I suppose a general's son would have had more pressure to join the army, rather than being an unpaid advisor in that army. This unpaid advisor status was a further detriment to the story though, in that the narrator wasn't actually present at a number of the personal meetings described in the book, and rather than being made into an interesting portion of the story, was simply glossed over. The other characters - bland and uninteresting - seemed to have been recycled from Judson's earlier work, with even the general being such a boring, uninteresting character that it was difficult for me to see why the narrator, who was a potentially interesting person, felt any affection for him whatsoever.
The plot honestly felt like some sort of extenuation or cast-offs from Fitzpatrick's War - mad emperor, failing technology, poorly choreographed wars and logistics, and the narrator and her family merely trying to make it through. Nothing new was advanced, nothing interesting really ventured, other than a poorly-explained decision about how the empire deserved a madman as emperor, to ruin it completely, with no thought to the terror it would cause the numberless innocents caught in the resulting bloody implosion.
Thematically I think the author's opinions as expressed in his body of work to date - that empire is inevitable if unchecked, that empire creates monstrosities, and that empire is the only choice in the event of a technological catastrophe - were interesting in Fitzpatrick's War, but belabored and fatuous in The Martian General's Daughter.
Overall, the novel feels more like a scam than an honest literary attempt, in that the author seems to be recycling characters, plot and materials from his first novel, and in the fact that Mars and the narrator's gender have so little to do with the rest of the novel - nothing momentous even occurs during their brief stay on Mars - as to make it seem like those portions of it were added or reworked just to give this boring peice of work an interesting, eye-catching title. I really wanted to enjoy and like this next effort of the author's, based on what I had seen in his initial foray, but unfortunately had quite the opposite reaction.(less)
Briggs delivers another page-turner, staying true to her characters and keeping enough grit and reality in her mix so that we can empathize with her c...moreBriggs delivers another page-turner, staying true to her characters and keeping enough grit and reality in her mix so that we can empathize with her characters at the same time that we admire them - though they exhibit supernatural powers, it is really these characters' humanity - their mixture of human failings and strength of character - that keeps the reader's interest.
Again, the big action in the novel seems secondary to the characters' unfolding lives and relationships, but in this one I did definitely feel that the plot was rushed. The dark new villains in the novel got the bare minimum of screen time needed, and this time I was left expecting and wanting more than the seemingly trademark abrupt ending.
I particularly appreciated Briggs' handling of Mercy's dilemna from the last book in the series, the conflict between her moxie and the very real trauma she needs to deal with, and the shocking ending from the last novel was mitigated with Mercy's following reaction when the storyline was picked up from where it ended.
An outstanding effort, and I once again look forward to the next installment of the series.(less)