Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Dark Forest, by Cixin Liu

The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2)The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There are a lot of glowing reviews on here, which makes me wonder if these reviewers actually read books. Shades of Edward Bulwer-Lytton! The Three Body Problem was not that smooth either, but Ken Liu's translation gave it a bit more help than Joel Mortensen's workmanlike effort. Not to mention the fairly obvious misogyny and stereotyping pointed out elsewhere. Should I mention here that Cixin Liu is one of Vox Day's (of Hugo trolling Rabid Puppies fame) favorite authors? He tells a story the old fashioned way.

That means there are some ideas in it that are relatively fresh, or at least give us a different, uniquely modern Chinese perspective. The idea that the political officers are an overworked and vital part of Earth's defense is something you wouldn't find an American author writing. Liu makes a case for this.

There are a lot of ideas in all, more than the book really needs. I am going to go ahead and read Death's End, hopefully we get something decent for persevering.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Sudden Appearance of Hope, by Claire North

My Goodreads review -The Sudden Appearance of HopeThe Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first experience with Claire North, and I'll look forward to reading more. The book has a logical clarity that really works well with the literary experience. North has come up with an excellent form of invisibility, in that having people forget they have seen you is just as good as not being seen in the first place.

The story is really just a vehicle for this exploration. How Hope Arden gets by in life ties into really overly efficient self-help software, but even though the author makes it clear that Hope is really invested in the outcome, the story line and the exploration end up sitting side by side rather than integrating. The book is all told in the first person, and we really get a sense of the voice of someone who can talk with others, interact with them, but never be real to them.

We even get some interesting exploration of the boundaries of the phenomenon. Can you remember that you have interacted with someone you can't remember? Not easily, you have to make a lot of notes and in some way doubt your own sanity.

The book is well-written and a deep exploration. I would recommend it to anyone really trying to get into the gears of building speculation, because they are somewhat exposed here, in a good and artful way.

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I think it's a real contender for the 2017 World Fantasy Award.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Story of Kao Yu, by Peter S. Beagle.

My LibraryThing review.

Foxfire, Foxfire, by Yoon Ha Lee

My review on LibraryThing.

Red as Blood and White as Bone, by Theodora Goss

Here's my review on LibraryThing.

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2)A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky  Chambers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a thoroughly entertaining book that shows Chambers' skills well. We have two parallel narratives, one with Lovelace the embodied AI living with Pepper in current time, and a flashback to Pepper's origins. The stories weave together well and keep things fresh. It's an excellent followup to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. Have fun with a classic SF piece

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky  Chambers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like to read the major award nominated novels each year. Chalmers' A Closed and Common Orbit was nominated for the Hugo award this year, and now that they've gotten their act mostly back together I take them seriously again. So I wanted to catch the series up.

I would describe the Wayfarer's setting as an alternate, less heroic version of the Star Trek universe. The GC (Galactic Congress?) is the equivalent of the Federation, a group of spacefaring races that took in a faction of the human race that left Earth when it collapsed environmentally. The alien species are closely related, most having some kind of symmetric body plan, a central nervous system including a brain, and DNA. Interspecies sex is just as common but brought up to date.

The author shares a reflection of Roddenberry's vision of Federation goals--an inclusive grouping dedicated to helping all, but prone to mendacity in the details. That mendacity drives the plot, as the GC prepares to take in a new, perhaps not very stable, race.

The protagonist is Rosemary, a woman from a different (wealthy, escapist) faction of the human race that was found later. She is fleeing her past. She joins the ensemble cast of the Wayfarer on their part in working with this new race.

The strength of the book is in its deft, solidly competent weaving together of the stories of the crew and the current situation. The characters are easy to care about. Chalmers makes a solid case for Federation (er, GC) values through characters' actions, so it's only mildly preachy. And the writing carries you along, you're never bored waiting for something to happen.

Original? Not so much, but that's pretty hard to achieve now. This is darned good storytelling, and I'm excited to move to the next book in the series.

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