The text is written as a combination of a letter to scientific peers in the small community of early twentieth century explorer scientist and a scientists journal. Lovecraft writes with a poetry and scientific rigor missing from Verne's work. To the modern reader many of the "reveals" are seen from far off, i am sure this is partially due to the influence of this book and author on the genre. Interestingly, Lovecraft anticipates and acknowledges that the reader, from their vantage point will likely have reached many conclusions faster than the narrator, and also acknowledges that the reader would quite likely have responded differently if in the same situation as the narrator. It is a small gesture to engage the reader in this way and did allow me to engage the story as presented without second-guessing and cynicism.
While definitely must be viewed in the context of the era in which it was written, it was a very enjoyable read. Posing unique divergences from standard assumptions of sentient life, and insight into their motivations.
I love this book. One of my pet peeves is when we are smarter than our character (when perceiving knowledge obtained through the character). That never happens here. These are smart people making smart choices. In fact, this is probably the “hardest” “hard sci-fi” book I have read. Mark Watney (the primary character) is part Wall-e, McGuyver and John McClane rolled into one. He (and others) utilizes chemistry, mathematics, physics, botany and engineering to overcome the many, many obstacles of which they are confronted, but it never feels like a lecture. This is a page-turner, edge-of-your-seat, [insert your own cliché] thriller. It is also very funny. Both through the personality and dialogue of the characters, but also through the pacing and transitions; this will definitely end up as a film. It jumps off the page. I love that this exists; a thriller where a gun is never fired and the greatest weapons are ingenuity, courage, determination, patience and a positive mental state. It amused me that when thinking back over the book, how it achieved my every metric, that it actually fails the Bechdel test. But if you factor in that while the two women are discussing a man, they are themselves badass astronauts discussing how to rescue the man through feats of incredible daring, intelligence and resolve; I think Alison Bechdel would approve.
Hugh Howey was able to draw the series to an end nicely with optimism and closure. A lot had to happen in a short book, but it felt like all the key points were touched on. The ultimate condition of the wider environment is still left open, but there is enough to provide hope and chance for a better life. What I find most surprising is Howey's ability to take what was clearly a short story then expand the world in geographic, political and historic scope. He then provided multiple points of view throughout time and station and wrapped it back up with such a lean word count. It may lack poetry, but The Silo Saga is well executed and managed world building with a beginning, middle and end (although not necessarily in that order).
Timebound is a young adult sci-fi/fantasy, which I think is important to note for a few reasons. The science fiction aspect is time travel and handled adeptly with complex parallel realities and paradoxes, but the mechanism of time travel is left (at least to Clarke's supposition) as magic. I like that it has an implied technology (similar to the recent Thor films) that would allow scientific explanation. By keeping science light it opens the book up to a broader young adult audience and still gives plenty of meat to the inquisitive mind in following the non-linear timelines. Rysa Walker provides a rich background and sets large enough goals to open up the world for future stories. I wish more was discussed regarding geographic in addition to temporal teleportation, but at least for this book it accepted without explanation. I wish more time was spent at the Colombian Exposition. It is a perfect backdrop for time travel stories, but was somewhat wasted on a story which was tasked with establishing the world, technology, characters and stakes.
The description of this book is a bit off. It describes Jake Sullivan as a hard boiled detective, which he may become in future novels, but at this point he is a convict strong-armed by Hoover into government service. He gets pulled from that role (just as it starts to take shape) into a "dirty dozen" type unit working for a secret society. It all ends up being fun stuff, but the blurb writer set me up for a completely different genre then the book actually delivers.
The other primary character is Faye, a simple farm girl who happens to be the most powerful "active" in our little band. I have concerns, but to describe them would be spoiler-y or at least reveal-y, and that is simply not how I roll.
I feel like Larry Correia didn't know how to get into the action. The run-up, especially for Sullivan, felt chaotic. Once the team is assembled and he could unleash his vision of how these powers work and can be wielded, it really takes off. The kinetic energy and spacial language deliver exciting battles. The ultimate stakes are still a little hazy and the system of magic is somewhat loosely defined, but it appears to be in step with the characters similarly vaguely defined understanding. There is enough here to bring me back for future stories in this world. (I also bought the books 2 and 3 before I bought book 1, so Larry Correia was going to get the benefit of the doubt regardless.)
Conrad's prose is gorgeous. It has a lyrical quality and is hugely satisfying, but other aspects range from uneven to inadequate. There is such an imbalance between Conrad's progressive views against colonialism and treatment of indigenous people to his blatant dismissal of women. Similarly the attention to describing the exact circumstances and intentions of the narrator, but poorly rendering Mr Kurtz. This last is the most troubling because the character (Kurtz) is absolutely revered by all the of others characters, literally idolized by several. The physically and mentally diminished Kurtz we interact with is a shadow of legend and the deeds are too thinly detailed to engender similar awe in the reader.
Side note: The value of ivory has always escaped me and shades the reading with a gaudy, gory connotation. I wonder how my experience would have been altered if the precious resource was sapphires or similar precious stones which while still not personally valued would carry less baggage.
Elizabeth Vandiver's lectures focus on why we create myth, and what we can infer and deduce from from the historical and contextual references within classical mythology. Through the lectures she does outline several examples of specific myths, traces ancestry of both fictitious and historic persons, and the psychology of myth-making. This was all fun and educational material, but the clear take-away was that I need to read some works by Ovid. He was the Oscar Wilde of ancient Rome and a total badass.
If you aim for Douglas Adams, you are going to miss, but not necessarily land in a bad place. In this case Rob Reid landed in John Scalzi's backyard, the obscure genre of "science fiction legal comedy". For the most part it all kinda works. There are quite a few loose threads and dead ends which don't fold back into the narrative as they might in more practiced hands, but as a first science fiction effort it is quite clever and enjoyable. The only glaring miss-step was the epilogue section's lengthy interview with one of the nine undocumented aliens hiding on earth. This equestrian necro-fu is so tone-deaf that it taints the otherwise good energy and good will of the actual conclusion.
Gun Machine is a dense and fast-paced work, which is perhaps expected from a author who traditionally writes comics and graphic novels, but what most struck me was how complex the characters were and the attention to agency and venue (how they modulated their personalities based on their company, location and situation). It really became apparent in Talia's house, but is seen throughout and is quite remarkable. Similarly this story is a great example of umwelten (overlapping, unique environments created by the perceptions of the characters). Serial killer novels rely heavily archetypes and Warren Ellis does a superb job rendering both the damaged hero and killer's method, mythology and madness.
Nice stand alone story which still interacts with the Asimov universe. The Currents of Space has all the hallmarks of Asimov works. Good science foundation, interesting science speculation, social commentary, awkward dialog, too many characters without arcs, overlapping and convoluted agendas, and reveals which alternate between obvious and unguessable based on information given. The good out weighs the expected and the speculative aspects ended up working for me. I recommend as a quick read if you are feeling sentimental for classic science fiction.
Harry's character arc is one of the most impressive feats in genre fiction. It is why I adore this series, and Skin Game is no exception. Harry continues to develop as a man, father, friend, mentor, leader, and protector. He continues to learn from his mistakes, learns to trust others, begins to allow others into his life and become vulnerable to them. Jim Butcher does a superb job reweaving aspects of previous stories into the narrative, enriching the fabric. The majority of this story is a caper which is seemingly divorced from the primary foreboding conflict in the series, but does serve to complete Harry's return to Chicago, friends and family and to acknowledge and nudge the story back toward the conflict revealed in Cold Days. Butcher gives each character a moment to shine, to reveal themselves and the growth they have experienced since we last saw them. No one is static in this universe, and that is unique and rewarding.
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