Cheshire, CT USA | Member Since 2012
I loved the charming tone of this story, imparted by the 19th century protagonist, a quiet man entrusted with the upkeep of a Galactic way station. The language used is calm, and refreshingly free of techno-babble, preferring to remain vague on the workings of alien tech. The narration provided by Eric Michael Summerer, is likewise sedate and not given to emotional outburst. The character voices are differentiated nicely with occasional minor accents, but nothing too jarring.
With the exception of perhaps only 2 or 3 scenes, the entire action of the novel takes place in one room of one house, where we learn the secrets kept by the way station keeper, our protagonist Enoch Wallace. The plot's conflict is high-stakes, but resolved rather too quickly and tidily for me. In fact, that leads to my greatest criticism of the story: that the situations, characters, and their motivations are all too altruistic and uncomplicated. Overall, however, I enjoyed this quaint 'palate-cleanser' read, and think it provides just the right amount of wish-fulfillment and wonder.
Just as many have noted, it combines the best of “Apollo 13” and MacGyver and filters it through a wisecracking and down-to-earth protagonist who helps translate all the technical NASA-speak into something the layman reader can understand. The harrowing story seems completely believable due to its near-future setting, the realistic voices, and the aura of NASA to authenticate all the tech. I was completely drawn in to the main character, stranded astronaut Mark Watney, whose humor and resourcefulness will win over all readers. The roughest edges of this story would have to be all the endless math computations that Weir felt compelled to include and walk us through, but even they helped raise the stakes of the drama. R. C. Bray's narration provided various distinct character voices, and masterfully matched the wit and tone of Watney.
This story, about a rogue with a golden heart who suddenly finds both his fortunes and role reversed overnight, is equal parts courtroom drama and light sitcom. Aside from the setting- a vaguely described backwater jungle planet, and the newly discovered alien which resembles Spielberg’s Mogwai, there isn’t an awful lot of Science Fiction in the novel. Hollywood could substitute a remarkably intelligent species of primate from a faraway jungle and film the movie on the cheap. Nonetheless, the witty dialog and legal twists are entertaining enough to hold the reader’s attention through to the end. There’s a fair amount of wish fulfillment as Scalzi sets up the pins of his unlikable villain characters, only to knock them all down in the end with their deserved comeuppances. One personal pet peeve was the overuse of the dialog denoting words “He/She said”. I would have found it less distracting and more descriptive if the verb choice was more varied. This is most noticeable during rapid exchanges, and when experiencing the story in audiobook form. Wil Wheaton, incidentally, does a terrific job narrating and his performance absolutely drips with snark. Overall, I enjoyed the story quite a bit, but would recommend Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War” series to those seeking thicker SF concepts, or “Redshirts” to those who want a good laugh at the genre’s many clichés.
It's fascinating to see in this collection of Clarke stories, the evolution and refinement of his work. Some of the earliest stories such as "How We Went to Mars" (1938) read like HG Wells's "The Time Machine" in that an amateur gentleman assembles a remarkable machine that resembles a Victorian sitting parlor with wings and recounts a fantastic voyage. Thankfully, this is not requiring any attention to minor details such as hostile alien environments, zero-G and high-G acceleration, etc. I can excuse this because the tone of this particular story is tongue-in-cheek humor. Other stories however, wave the magic wand of "Atomic-Power" to explain away any technological need the narrative may face- obviously anticipating much future success with the newly arrived science. The title story "Lion of Comarre" probably has the best example in the Atomic cutting instrument which is included in a list of common tools alongside a universal screwdriver. In other more serious stories, such as "Nightfall" (1947), Clarke addresses the terrifying self-destructive potential of Atomic power in the hands of mankind. The final story in the collection, "Breaking Strain" (1949) which contributed some of the ideas later seen in "2001: A Space Odyssey", makes a great bookend to "How We Went to Mars" in that it pays exquisite attention to the hard science details of orbital mechanics, the effect of weightlessness on the human body, psychological dangers of prolonged isolation, and more. The collection is at its best, however, when Clarke wrote in the freely fantastic realm of the unknown and unknowable extra-dimensional, such as "The Wall of Darkness" (1949) and "Technical Error" (1946). I found myself pausing after finishing each to wonder for awhile at the implications, as all good Space Opera SF should do.
A great character-centric space opera with central theme of split and conflicted identity. It explores the inward dilemmas we all face by extrapolating such a conflict into a society where consciousness can be distributed or duplicated across multiple bodies. Heavy tech and descriptions of aliens, spaceships, machines, and ray guns are all glossed over in favor of more person-scaled narrative. Leckie also weaves in some secondary themes of language and culture shock by dropping the protagonist, the human-embodied A.I. Breq, the product of a gender-neutral society, into a foreign setting where she (the default pronoun they adopt) needs to take the gender of the people around her into account when speaking their language. Breq’s quest and motivation are compelling, and the alternating past-and-present narrative timelines keep the pacing interesting, although I would have preferred to read little more about non-human societies and locales. One audiobook-specific comment I feel compelled to include (and I usually avoid doing so except in extreme cases), is that the narration is very dry and modulated. While there is a healthy effort made to differentiate character voices, and there were no instances of the em-PHA-sis placed on the wrong syl-LAB-le, I found myself too often pulled out of the moment when the emotion of the narration didn't match the contextual words.
The key to my enjoying this PFH novel was to disassociate everything I’d previously read by the author in the Commonwealth Saga series. Here there are no alien threats or exotic stellar locations to explore. This story takes place in a far less optimistic, multi-point dystopian future where twin environmental and political disasters have stratified the class differences in society. The gritty tone is exemplified in the protagonist, psychic freelance mercenary Greg Mandel, a two-dimensional tough guy who uses the phrase “no messing” to end far too many sentences. The strength of this story is in the unraveling of a corporate mystery with turns and twists which explore most corners of Hamilton’s dark future. It’s a bit like watching a police procedural with psychic cops and some minor near-future SF tech peppered in. It compares quite similarly to Hamilton’s other, separate, story- Great Northern Road- which features a similar investigation but has the added element of off world alien settings and more examples of action scenes. Much of the crime and conspiracy here are strictly white-collar, and it was hard to identify with the Mandel character or even sympathize with him during the only truly high-stakes, dangerous moments he endures in the climactic ten percent of the story, no messing.
As with the previous book in the Expanse series, Leviathan Wakes, this sophomore story takes a very hard-edged approach to Space Opera, leaving out the physics-defying tropes and tech of most of the genre. Instead, we have a universe where acceleration and Coriolis matter, where interplanetary communications have hours of lag, and system travel can take months. On the other hand, there is a new alien threat about which ignores all of the above. Thankfully, returning to save the day are a familiar cast of characters, the crew of the Rocinante, who more than ever, have become a small family. Half of the crisis in the story comes from the human-scale drama that unfolds between these characters, and yet I still found myself breathlessly hanging on every word. For the remainder of the story, Corey (pen name of collaborative authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) bounces between four character POV’s for the narrative of an unfolding mystery at Ganymede, "breadbasket of the outer planets”. As the story progresses, the four characters gather into two groups of two, and finally one collective group, but still alternate POVs for each chapter, which leas to many amusing Rashomon Effected retellings of events. Also reliably hilarious is the dialog between friendly characters, which again seems just a little overly-clever between many of the characters. I also wish we could have had a closer look at he alien view of things, but that seems covered in the following story in the series, “Abaddon’s Gate”. As for the title of this story, Caliban’s War, the reader is left to figure out what, exactly, the title means/references- something I still haven’t managed.
This classic SF story avoids the trap of feeling dated by avoiding careful description of the technologies and wonders displayed in its imaginative future. Instead, the story sticks close to the personal impact of world-changing contact with alien species, told over decades. Written during the opening years of the Cold War, this story brings a swift solution to Mankind's dangerous new abilities by introducing an irresistible alien authority which bans such self-destructive behavior. Clarke then gradually reveals more of his hidden alien Overlords as the decades pass; first their long-concealed physical appearance, and finally their purpose for interference. With an ending neither optimistic nor pessimistic, the reader discovers the meaning of the promise in the story's title. The parade of human characters whose POV we experience the story from are largely forgettable here, instead eclipsed by the benevolent aliens who care for their charges with obvious patience and anguished, reluctant secrecy. The reader will ironically find themselves more closely identifying with the sparsely described aliens than with the story's humans, because their emotions and motivations at least are given. Another minor criticism with the narrative style is a tendency to "tell" rather than "show" with descriptive scenes, which comes to feel as a time-saving device, but impoverishes the story a bit.
Beholden to a star-faring alien race called The Shoal for all of it's interstellar transport, humanity finds itself divided and perpetually powerless in the galactic community of Gibson's story. When a derelict ship of unknown but ancient origin is discovered, opportunists race to exploit it's secrets for humanity's "Escape", but wrapped up in the same technology that makes transluminal travel possible is a dark secret that The Shoal is determined to preserve. The protagonist, Dakota Merrick, is a fiercely independent pilot, and works to uncover the truth while being coerced into helping an ambitious politician claim the prize. I enjoyed the final chapters of climax and plot revelation, although it seemed a long slow narrative road to get there, with frequent moments of déjà vu dialog. However, knowing this is the first part of a trilogy of stories, I am optimistic that the subsequent stories will open up onto a vaster canvas of settings and characters, and with any luck, explore the Shoal and other alien races more closely.
Having read this novel after previously reading the three Spatterjay series books by Asher, it's unfortunate that this decent story is by comparison, made to feel underdeveloped and linear. It has plenty of ferocious action and exotic alien species which are the hallmarks or his writing, but too few parallel converging narratives and plot twists that I have come to expect after those more refined works. While the story's climax had a clever surprise that I found rewarding, it felt like a few more would have been welcome along the way.
An entertaining standalone story that draws on the fashionable genre of Steampunk without diving in entirely. By arranging his world and setting into 'zones' of technological disparity, Reynolds allows narrative room for various SF sub-genres and characters. I enjoyed it most when he was in fully far-future Space Opera mode, which was sadly the minority of this story. My opinion of the protagonist, Dr. Quillon, slowly soured, too, as the character became unconvincingly pure-hearted.
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