Infinity Beach

3 1/2 Stars

Have you ever noticed that the Mystery and Science Fiction sections are always together, way at the end of the fiction books? That makes sense to me because Sci-Fi books usually have some type of mystery in them. Not necessarily a whodunit sort of story, but a what’s-really-going-on-here type of thing. All the Jack McDevitt books I have read feature this element, Infinity Beach more so than most. Kim Brandywine sets out to discover what really happened thirty years ago when her clone sister disapeared amid interesting circumstances. The book is very good until the end, where is really slows down.

This is a common complaint I have with a lot of books and movies, where they will be very interesting and exciting almost right until the climax or big reveal or whatever, and then go pfft. Sometimes this comes from writers not really having a good explanation for all the weirdness that has been going on (the TV show Lost, for example), but often it seems as it they just get tired of telling the story and give up. It’s disappointing.

ben

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Published in: on April 16, 2008 at 9:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Ender’s Game

5 Stars

When a science fiction book wins the Hugo and Nebula awards, you know going in it’s gonna be good.  Ender’s Game has all the hallmarks of good sci-fi: a future setting, space battles, neat-o technology, relativistic and gravity considerations.  It also has a well written and engaging story about brilliant children training as soldiers by playing war games.  Imagine Lord of the Flies without all the boring bits.

ben

Published in: on April 15, 2008 at 1:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Storm Front

4 Stars

Book One of the Dresden Files! That was my favorite TV show of last season, so of course it got canceled. Then someone told me it was based on a series of books, so I had to check it out. Not surprisingly, I liked the book version too.

Harry Dresden is a professional wizard, using his magic to solve real world problems, in a private eye sort of way. He also, on occasion, consults for the police when they encounter the unexplainable. Storm Front is a fun read because it explores Harry’s attempts to straddle two worlds, the mundane and the magical, without getting into too much trouble in either, and it mixes in a compelling whodunit in the meantime. I look forward to reading more.

ben

Published in: on April 13, 2008 at 8:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Interesting Times

4 Stars

So my Discworld kick of the last couple months (it’s over now) all started because I got this book from the library. It is the fifth Rincewind story, and made some references to his previous exploits, so I thought I ought to freshen up on his earlier adventures. It turns out that was not necessary. Except for the familiar characters, Interesting Times is its own book entirely. Rincewind gets sent to the counterweight continent, the Discword’s version of Asia, where he gets caught up in a variety of ridiculous and hilarious predicaments. This is the best of the Rincewind books so far.

ben

Published in: on April 8, 2008 at 7:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Eric

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3 1/2 Stars

From the cover art it appears that this is a parody of Faust. I do not know Faust, but I sure enjoyed Eric. It is about a fourteen year old boy who tries to conjure a demon, but gets Rincewind instead. They travel around and have ridiculous adventures, with a pissed off Luggage following them every step of the way. This is the ninth Discworld book, and it exhibits all the irreverent humor and ridiculous disregard for narrative cohesion that I love about the series. This is an improvement over the previous Rincewind novels.

ben

Published in: on April 1, 2008 at 7:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Sourcery

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3 1/2 Stars

More of Rincewind and the Luggage!  As far as Discworld characters go, Rincewind is not my favorite, so why am I reading all the Rincewind books at once?  Well I got an omnibus from the Science Fiction Book Club called Rincewind the Wizzard, which has the first four Rincewind-centered Discworld books.  It was sitting on my bookshelf for a while–since I had already read three of the four books, I was in no particular hurry to reread them, but it was something I was planning to do eventually.  Then I rented from the library the fifth Rincewind book, which makes mention of the chaos of Rincewind’s previous adventures, many details of which I could not remember, so I decided to go back for a refresher.

Anyway …. Sourcery is the story of an eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son, who is by definition a source of magic, AKA sourcerer.  His extraordinary power sends the Disc all bonky and threatens to really mess things up, and it falls on the shoulders of hapless Rincewind to stop the sourcerer and save the Disc.  Hilarity ensues.

ben

Published in: on March 22, 2008 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  

The Light Fantastic

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3 Stars

Rincewind is back! This book is a direct sequel to The Color of Magic, perhaps the only direct sequel in the entire Discworld lexicon. This time Rincewind, Twoflower and the Luggage race across the Disc trying to stop it from crashing into a giant red star. Actually, Rincewind, as per usual, just tries to stay alive, while everyone around him goes crazy about the star. In the process we meet interesting characters and experience satirical adventure. Hilarity ensues.

ben

Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  

The Colour of Magic

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3 Stars

I am in the middle of a crazy Discworld kick.  Normally after two or three, I get sick of the style and stop reading them for a year.  But now I have read, like, six in a row and I am still going strong.  It’s weird.

The Colour of Magic is the first entry in the Discworld series, and this reading of it for me is actually a re-reading.  The story features Rincewind, an untalented wizard and practicing coward who has an uncanny ability to stay alive.  He meets friends and escapes enemies and has all sorts of adventures–like any Discworld book, the plot isn’t really important.  The first time I read this book, I absolutely loved it.  This time I only liked it. It’s not that TCOM is any worse now than it was back then, it is just that the newer books in the series are often better, so in comparison…

Oh, well.  It is still a fun book to read and a good introduction to the series.

ben

Published in: on March 18, 2008 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  

A Man Without a Counrty

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3 Stars

This collection of anecdotal stories shows off Vonnegut’s writing flair without involving the reader with anything to thought-provoking or memorable. It’s like at the end of an excellent symphony piece when to soloist comes out for an encore. You think, “Oh, that was nice,” but it doesn’t stick with you like the rest of the performance.

ben

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Building Harlequin’s Moon

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2 1/2 Stars

Larry Niven is famous for writing the Ringworld series, the first book of which I have (mostly) read and not much liked. However I have enjoyed reading other books of his which have been co-written with other authors. This book he wrote with someone named Brenda Cooper, but I did not like it. I takes place in a future where artificial intelligences and nanotechnology have run amok. A bunch of people flea Earth for a far away planet called Ymir, but run into some engine trouble on the way and have to make a pit stop in a barren star system, at a gas giant called Harlequin, where they can spend some time terraforming one of it’s moons into a livable enough planet to build a supercollider, with which they can create antimatter to power their ship the rest of the way to Ymir. Unfortunately, after a generation or two, some friction develops between the moon born labor and the bosses on the ship. This all sounds pretty interesting to me, but after this set-up nothing happens for most of the book. It’s like The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress without all the good bits.

ben

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Deepsix

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3 Stars

This is the second book I have read in Jack McDevitt’s Academy Series, about 24th century humanity and their experiences in space exploration. It is also the second book, chronologically. This one is about a planet about to be swallowed up by a rogue gas giant, and the people who try to learn what they can from it before it’s gone. Of course things don’t go according to plan, and drama ensues.

Like the other books in the series, Deepsix is not for you, if you are not a fan of the genre. It can get bogged down in pseudo-sciency detail, and the swashbuckling adventure sequences can get a little repetitive at times. But I really like the picture it paints of future humanity, and McDevitt has a real gift for imagining alien worlds and creating engrossing stories in which to explore them.

ben

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Odyssey

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4 Stars

This, the fifth book (the third I’ve read) in Jack McDevitt’s Academy Series, is my favorite so far. The story has the Space Academy setting out to investigate sightings of spherical alien ships, and discovering a few nasty surprises. In this novel you will find all the imaginings of alien wonder that have made the series enjoyable, with extra helpings of adventure an mystery.

Odyssey may end up being the last book in this series, since at the end of the novel the series protagonist, Pricilla Hutchins, retires from the Academy. But you never know.

ben

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Maskerade

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4 Stars

I love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. There are a lot of them, and they are all pretty similar, so what happens is you’ll read a Discworld book, think, “That was awesome! Gimme some more,” read another book or two, then suddenly become sick of it for a few months or years. Right now I am in a Discworld groove, currently reading my third book in two weeks. Maskerade is the book that got back into the groove.

In this one, the Lancre witches travel to Anhk-Moorpork to track down and recruit into their coven Agnes, who is pursuing a career in the opera, but who really came to the big city just to get away from the witches. Of course, as in all Discworld novels, the plot is just a vehicle for the side-splitting hilarity. With a Phantom of the Opera parody as a backdrop, and seeing as how I work in theater, I found this episode to be especially entertaining.

ben

Published in: on March 1, 2008 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chindi

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3 1/2 Stars

This here’s a decent science fiction story. It’s a little slow at times, but it has an engaging setting and a decent plot. I don’t think, however, that a non-sci-fi fan would enjoy. It’s about space-faring humans, way in the future, who stumble across some intriguing remnants of older space-faring civilizations. There follows great adventure and intriguing mystery.

This is the first book I read in a series of novels written by Jack McDevitt.  They are not story-dependent upon eachother, but they do involve a lot of the same characters and take place around the same time (24th century).  I am enjoying the series, from which I have read two more books since Chindi, and I expect to read more of them in the future.

ben

Published in: on February 22, 2008 at 11:44 am  Leave a Comment  

The Anansi Boys

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5 Stars

Neil Gaiman is everywhere!  I just picked up Good Omens, a classic collaboration he did with Terry Pratchett (I haven’t read it yet, but soon).  I recently saw a delightful movie called Stardust, which was adapted from a Neil Gaiman book.  And now this.  I actually “read” this audio book about a month ago while I was packing/unpacking (unfortunately the book was too distractingly good for me to get much work done while listening to it), but I haven’t had time until now to catch up on my book reviews.

This my second audio book, but the first one where I felt the media actually added something special.  Previously I considered audio books to simply be a lazy man’s way of reading, but in this case the reader, Lenny Henry, does a fantastic job.  His timing and cadence are perfect for delivering the humor of the novel, whether he is doing the voice for a stodgy British middle manager or an elderly Caribbean witch lady.  This will be the first audio book to live on my bookshelf.

I am sure the paper book is good too.  The story is chalk full of humor, with healthy doses of adventure and magical realism thrown in as well, and the character are amazing.   I look forward to reading a bunch of other Neil Gaiman books in the future.

ben

Published in: on February 22, 2008 at 11:28 am  Leave a Comment