The basic plot of this young adult novel is ok; we are in the near-future, when the forces of fundamentalism have banned any activity deemed unChristian. The protagonist, Ember, is the daughter of an unmarried woman who has been taken away for trial because she had an illegitimate child. Ember is also taken, and the plot revolves around she and her boyfriend escaping. Again, while the basic plot is good, Ember just doesn't spend enough time looking at the obvious. I suspect that the reason why she has to spend so much time doubting her boyfriend is because that is the basic tension in the book. If it weren't there, there would have to be some other filler. I wanted to yell at Ember, "Think! If he is such a jerk, why is he here? Can't you figure out he loves you?"
Take a Hebrew myth (the Golem) and an Arabic myth (the Jinni) and juxtapose them in New York a century ago. Use excellent English and original phrases, and what you get is a very readable novel. I recommend this highly. The narrator was adept at changing accents.
As I said in my review of the first book in this series, I like the post-apocalyptic genre. Except I really prefer reality-based speculation. There were inklings in the first book that we might be moving into the realm of fantasy, and sure enough . . . . The Witch really is a witch. Brother Job really does have powers. The Queen-Bee really is a seer - as well as a breeder.
But for all of that, the book was listenable. Sure, it was an American-style ending (everything turns out ok), except that enough was left to ensure a third book in the series. The narrator does a good job with the various characters in the book.
But it's a novel about the end of the everyday technological world and a new world that has magic in it. Not really my forte.
Disease and other complications have returned the world to pre-petroleum technology - a traditional setting for this genre. We are in a town that is hobbling along, relying on tradition and custom, rather than any real government or law enforcement. Much of this book, the first in a series (I know there is another one out, but I haven't yet read it), is a great introduction to the protagonist, whose wife has died and whose son left town a few years before. He is in a relatively secret relationship with the wife of his best friend, the local Congregationalist minister (although it is apparently not a secret to the minister - they just never talk about it). A cultish group of men and women have bought the local high school and are fixing it up as a place to live. At times cooperative, they also demonstrate that they are willing to violate others' rights to get them to conform to their expectations and religion. At the same time, a group on the edge of town who supply materials gleaned from garbage dumps and demolition, are also demonstrating their unwillingness to abide by standard modes of behavior; they engage in an apparent murder, coercion, and theft. So with this - and an attractive young widow - as the backdrop, we become engaged in the protagonist's life, a life that is expressed in great detail. But as we get closer to the end of the book, and as we become to suspect that the science fiction in this story may not be limited to just the hypothesized near-future (indeed, it may creep over into fantasy, but we don't ever get to really know in this book), the detail starts to be overlooked. The book rushes to an end. Now I know that the details may come out in the next volume, but the way that the likely war was averted between the town and the inhabitants of the junk yard was just too easy. If the book just ended there, ok. But the protagonist relates a summary of the next few months, and somehow peace happens, his conjugal relationship with the young widow continues, and there is no mention of the reaction of his previous lover, the minister's wife. It just ends too smoothly. I would have preferred a cliff-hanger to the easy gloss that is provided. I happen to relish (and am writing a novel in) this genre, and I really enjoyed this book, up until the last - rushed - part. I have bought the next in the series, but I am a bit worried that the craft of the first three-quarters of the first book will not be achieved in the second. We will see.
Everything in this book is scientifically-based. The protagonist is a feisty, yet brilliant, botanist-engineer who manages to anticipate most situations that would kill him.
The protagonist is foul-mouthed and someone I want with me when I go into space.
Never a dull moment.
It took a while for me to get into this novel, but I got hooked and am happy I did so. It is a prequel to the uplift series, something I didn't realize. Brin has some interestingly unusual ideas about AI and its proliferation. Recommended.
This was the first Murakami I ever listened to. Since then, I have bought all of his novels. This was a mixture of American music, Philip K. Dick, Japanese mythology, Orwell, a bit of Lovecraft, and far more than I can expound upon. A superb novel for those whose taste runs into the bizarre.
OK, Scalzi writes readable (listenable) science fiction, stuff that is happily attended to while walking or sitting. And you, know, most series get really old. "Zoe's Tale" is not destined to be a classic, but it holds up well in his future history. I will always listen to another Scalzi. Not because it is great, but because it is fun.
Good science fiction does not bend the laws of the universe to make stories work (except of course for that pesky light speed barrier, which does not bear on the book). This is a solid work of fiction that dealt with the ethical dilemma facing the main character in regard to a newly discovered species. Interplanetary travel, aliens, nano-tech - who could ask for more? Recommended.
The end of the world, according to this novel, is not a whimper, but a long series of whimpers punctuated with occasional hope and a final resigned leap. As the ordinary expectations of life slowly drain away into drawn-out misery, revolutionary geniuses construct a scenario that may not be much better. Highly recommended.
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