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3.40  ·  Rating details ·  259 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Colonization is the theme of this exciting, complex page-turner that provides a provocative and entertaining look at Thoreau's classic eco-text Walden. Eccentric billionaire Jack Winter has bought the planet Beekman's Pea, renamed it Walden, and created a utopia in which members renounce the technologies of human civilization. Marginalized by these newcomers, the planet's ...more
Hardcover, 178 pages
Published November 1st 2005 by Tachyon Publications (first published January 1st 2005)
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3.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  259 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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May 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-shelf, sci-fi
I was perfectly willing to suspend judgment on this book... and I did, refusing to look up any reviews until long after I was thinking about what I read.

I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. I don't mind pastoral-type SF all that much, but it has to be rich in the internal life and lots of great ideas being bandied about. The fact this was a reaction to Walden, a perfect Luddite if there ever was one, was also fine by me. I had problems with the guy, too, but not all the way. I like natur
Nov 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobooks, sf
Engrossing, but not challenging. Interesting, but not intriguing. Charmingly weird, but not wondrously strange. There's nothing wrong with this little book (it will draw you in to its very believable world), but there's nothing exemplary that will leave you stunned.

Does it have to be awe-inspiring to be worth the time it takes to read? Not necessarily. I particularly enjoyed all the forest-fire-fighting descriptions. (But then, I have prior experience in fighting forest fires, having spent the f
Jun 14, 2018 rated it liked it
James Patrick Kelly is an excellent craftsman of the short story, but this novella introduced too much while resolving too little. I found the behaviour of the protagonist's wife inexplicable, and it was unclear what anyone wanted or was trying to achieve - nor did anyone seem to achieve much.

It seems to have been primarily intended as a (excuse the pun) burn on Thoreau, but there was no real substantive critique of the utopia built on Thoreau's ideas, and not much exploration of its ideology,
Noah M.
Aug 11, 2008 rated it liked it
I read this because I thoroughly enjoyed one of James Patrick Kelly's short stories in a Nebula Awards anthology. This book didn't quite live up to that promise. Whereas the story was bombastic with its futurisms, this is subdued and gentle.

I was generally unimpressed until about thirty pages before the end (it's only 170 pages). At that point, a forest fire kicks up and his world suddenly becomes a lot more interesting. There's very little at stake up to that point, and while the world he draws
Michael Burnam-Fink
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, sci-fi
Burn is a tense novella that manages to stay one step ahead of the fireline of literary collapse, right through the end. Prosper "Spur" Gregory Leung is a firefighter in the Transcendental State of Walden, a planet that has rejected most technology in favor of a historical human lifestyle and the virtue of simplicity. Walden is locked in a guerrilla struggle with the puk puks, the previous inhabitants of the planet who still want automation. The battlefield are the immense planetary forests, gen ...more
Tyson Adams
Jul 13, 2018 rated it liked it
On the Upside, no one will take your calls.

Prosper Gregory "Spur" Leung wakes up in a hospital. All he can remember is the fire and his skin burning. After the docbot patches him up he makes a few calls and heads home to his farm on the utopia of Walden - a planet being gradually terraformed to forest, orchards, and farms. Those few calls make the homecoming... interesting.

Every time I put this book down I made the same comment, 'I don't know what this book is about.' Even now that I've finished
Ralph Blackburn
Jul 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Burn by James Patrick Kelly- Winner of the 2006 Nebula Award, this novella takes place on an already settled planet in a recreated utopia called Walden, where the latest arrivals have decided to cover the planet in dense foliage and seek a simpler, gentler sort of life.( see Thoreau). The original settlers don't agree and decide to rebel by burning great swatches of forest. The main character is a fireman, who's job is to stop the burning but is becoming weary to the task. He contacts an alien p ...more
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short and sweet story of a different kind of sci-fi society, lovingly imagined with a plot and characters that last long enough to be developed but which never outstay their welcome. I'm impressed by how much is packed in to what felt like a short story, though that could be partly because I was enjoying it enough to read it quickly too!
S.r. Algernon
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked the worldbuilding and the quirky characters. I think if it were a bit longer, it could have explored the ideas that it raised more deeply. Overall, a nice look at the clash between the human need for simplicity and the complexity (ecological and technological) of the larger world.
Kavita Favelle
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
Characterisation and interactions between communities is at the heart of this short book, far more than the typical science fiction tropes of technology, but the story is a good one, with lots of tension and a fast-paced and exciting ending.
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The worldbuilding here was amazing to me, especially considering the size of this book. Great story on both the micro level with Spur and his village and the macro level with the universe as a whole. Reader gets enough information to infer a whole lot more than what is actually told. Good stuff.
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s an interesting blend of inspirations, Walden and the Dalai Lama and Backdraft and suicide bombers. Comes together nicely.
Very well written, but not what you'd call a happy book.
Leif Moldskred
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I liked the main character and found the setting interesting and the writing kept me invested, but once I'd gotten to the end I felt the story hadn't gone anywhere.
Juliana Rew
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm a long-time fan of James Patrick Kelly, but have only been exposed
in the past to his shorter works, such as the Nebula-winning short
story, "Mr. Boy."

What distinguishes Kelly is his ability to create worlds that are
*different* from the ordinary. Of course, that is natural for science
fiction, and world-building is expected. Kelly's skillful at it, of
course, but it is his imagination that takes it to the next level.

Burn is set on a planet 400 years in the future that has decided to
simplify life
John Wiswell
May 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Burn covers a lot of weirdness in a very short period. Until the end I couldn’t discern if it was meant to be a drama or comedy – if we’re lucky, Kelly intended it as a hybrid. We have Planet Walden, inspired by the philosophies of Henry Thoreau, which instead of amounting to a culture of transcendental individualists instead consists of luddites fighting the pyromaniac natives. Our main character suffers harsh burns and, while loitering in hospital, accidentally dials a foreign child ruler “Hig ...more
Michele (Mikecas)

Un racconto lungo (o romanzo breve?) di un autore a me sconosciuto, perche' ha scritto sostanzialmente solo racconti, ed i racconti sono di difficile reperibilita' in Italia. Inoltre, a parte pochissime eccezioni, li gradisco anche molto poco.
Questo non e' una di quelle eccezioni, nonostante sia indubbiamente scritto bene, si legga scorrevolmente e abbia dei momenti di "partecipazione" emotiva non trascurabili. Ma, a differenza di quanto dice la present
Apr 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook
This is an interesting take on the Sci-FI story of clashing cultures. Our main character, Spur is a resident of what a appears to be an agricultural society with the technology standards similar to our own of the 20th century, though they appear to practice more of an "Amish" life style, living in simplicity. The main story revolves around an "upsider" or someone from space who comes to this world, due to the inadvertent actions of Spur and we see the story play out from there. However, this is ...more
Fantasy Literature
James Patrick Kelly’s Burn (2005) was a finalist for the Hugo Award and won the Nebula Award for Best Novella in 2007. As Kelly explains in the afterword, the story was inspired by his dislike of Henry Thoreau’s Walden which depicts a pastoral utopian society where simplicity is valued and technology is shunned.

In Kelly’s version of Walden, an entire small planet has been purchased and terraformed into a forested utopia in keeping with Thoreau’s vision. Those who move there from Earth adopt a si
Matthew Gatheringwater
High expectations heightened my disappointment in this book. It isn't a bad book of its kind--more a young adult selection than thoughtful science fiction--but it just didn't live up to its premise.

Walden is one of the books that has made me who I am so, when I heard there was a book about space colonists inspired by Thoreau, I was naturally eager to read it. I was prepared, even eagerly anticipating, for a critical look at Thoreau's idealism, but Kelly really doesn't have much to say about Tho
Maura Heaphy Dutton
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Like many of the reviewers, I discovered James Patrick Kelly when I read his amazing novella "Mr. Boy." In "Burn" (which I think I would describe as novelette), Kelly demonstrates all of his usual flair in worldbuilding -- creating a future and an alien planet. and a social system that is both familiar and satisfyingly strange. The world of Morobe's Pea, the Transcendent State, the character of Spur and his fellow strivers for "simplicity," the sort-of alien L'ung, and their leader, the High Gre ...more
I picked this up knowing nothing about the author or the book. And, having read it, I am not sure I know anything more about it.

I would describe the book as profoundly weird - maybe this book is set in an existing universe, given how developed the various things felt. But it was WTF in a way that pulled me in and kept me reading even after my eyelids were closing, rather than the sort that just made me think I was wasting my time and quitting.

It is certainly a small book, which maybe contribut
Stuart Aken
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
Of course, I'm not American, so Walden isn't in my consciousness as it may be for many from that land.
I tried to read this twice and on both occasions reached a point where I was skipping passages of tedious description. I found no real depth to the characters, and none were engaging. Time is too short to read a book that doesn't either engage or grip the reader. For me, this did neither, so I never reached the end.
Kae Cheatham
Jan 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
[From my Public Library]
In this SF of future times where myriad worlds have been discovered and settled, firefighter Spur recovers from burns he received on duty. He begins to contemplate the realities he perceives in his community and the planet Walden. Is the Simple Life, too simple? Dynamic characters and good sense of place on a world of violent dichotomy.
Simon C
Jun 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Nicely drawn world and characters and the whole thing was pretty enjoyable. I did find parts of it quite confusing and felt that there was an exciting setup and we were off to one side while the real action was happening elsewhere. This was addressed to some degree in the end but the pace was still pretty stately for most of it.
Sep 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
There was a warmth to this book that I didn't expect, and I'm not trying to make a joke on the title. I was genuinely interested in the protagonist's relationship to his wife. The book was well-paced, and the world was well-drawn. This isn't high literature or a great, life-changing read, but it was fun, interesting, and moving.
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a very fine little book! Nicely done; science fiction on a small scale (relatively speaking). The protagonist, Spur, lives in a culture pledged to simplicity and low tech solutions, but avoiding the high tech universe is easier said than done.
Feb 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Actually, listened to it rather than read it a couple years ago. I very much enjoyed it, but wasn't on Goodreads at the time. One of those books where you enjoy the exploration and education in a world with the protagonist.
Jul 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting and thought provoking. I listened to it as an audio book whilst driving and it really passed the time. I'm thinking that I might not have got the full multi-layered impact of this book. Interesting constructs about human interactions.
Jun 29, 2011 rated it liked it
3.5 star book. I liked this one - thought the world was well done (even if the "upsiders" and their involvement wasn't well explained). I liked the characters and the story. I think a longer novel would not have been as good - this was just the right amount.
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James Patrick Kelly (please, call him Jim) has had an eclectic writing career. He has written novels, short stories, essays, reviews, poetry, plays and planetarium shows. His short novel Burn won the Science Fiction Writers of America's Nebula Award in 2007. He has won the World Science Fiction Society’s Hugo Award twice: in 1996, for his novelette “Think Like A Dinosaur” and in 2000, for his nove ...more
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