Book Review: Raven Strategem by Yoon Ha Lee (Three Stars)

33811761

Book Review: Raven Strategem (The Machineries of Empire #2) by Yoon Ha Lee

(Three Stars)

“I would like to think that it’s possibly to construct a society where our orders don’t involve slaughtering our own people.”

Another masterful space opera set in the universe of the hexarchate featuring the four-hundred-year-old revenant of Shous Jedao. Readers unfamiliar with the hexarchate would profit by reading Ninefox Gambit first, however Strategem fills background as needed as the story develops.

“Immortality didn’t turn you into a monster. It merely showed what kind of monster you already were.” “Would it be such an evil thing to learn?”

Strategem features a Byzantine web of factions and players alternately attacking and defending each other. Corruption and betrayal are Continue reading

Advertisements

Book Review: The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (Four Stars)

18995861

Book Review: The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

(Four Stars)

“Travel is fatal to bigotry and prejudice and narrow-mindedness.”

In 1867 young Samuel Clemens joined one of the first cruises for an extended voyage from New York City to the Holy Land. He serialized his impressions as they went, then sold the aggregate as a book. It was his best-selling book during his lifetime.

“The impressible memento-seeker was pecking at the venerable sarcophagus [inside Cheop’s Pyramid] with his sacrilegious hammer.”

Regular readers of Twain will enjoy this cynical, but less bitter younger version. Despite distancing himself from the “pilgrims” (conservative New England Christians who were the bulk of the party), Twain betrays many of the prejudices of the day. He was particularly critical of the Americans defacing ruins, taking mementos.

“One must travel to learn. Every day now old Scripture phrases that never possessed any significance for me take to themselves a meaning.” (at Beth-El)

I affirm that many of his impressions of the Mediterranean and Levant are Continue reading

Book Review: Beyond this Horizon by Robert Heinlein (Four Stars)

23383307

Book Review: Beyond this Horizon by Robert Heinlein

(Four Stars)

“Easy times for individuals are bad times for the race.”

Utopias have their downside. A landmark science fiction novel by a dean of the genre. Written before the United States entered World War Two, yet amazing prescient of the next fifty years.

“But man is a working animal. He likes to work. … likely to spend his spare time working out some gadget which will displace labor and increase productivity.” (20th, not 21st century man)

Marred by lengthy exposition/preaching. While Heinlein was ahead of society in some ways and clearly foresaw many technology advances only made possible by the invention of the transistor some years later, he mistook then-current fads in economics and para-psychology as indicative of future trends. “The structural nature of finance is too deeply imbedded in our culture for pseudo-capitalism to return.”

“The only thing that could give us some real basis for our living is to know for sure whether or not anything happens after we die.”

The protagonist voice is like P. G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster. “I’m one long joke on myself.”

“An armed society is a polite society.”

Skip the post-script blather by Tony Daniels. “Which shows how much of the modern negative criticism that Heinlein evokes in the present day is not only completely mistaken and stupid, but pernicious and hatefully intended.” Denounces ad hominem attacks by “critics, most of whom I consider idiots.” Claims it “does not end with a twist” but with “an authentic answer.” Which is wrong on both counts. Dissuades reading any of his works.

“The only choices that matter are those that we responsibly made based on the evidence, not on anyone’s declarations, however well intentioned.”

(Finalist for Hugo retro award for 1943)

Book Review: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey (Two Stars)

31445891

Book Review: River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1) by Sarah Gailey

(Two Stars)

Great concept and background development. Interesting ensemble of characters. Love the map and cover art. What could go wrong? A lot.

Gratuitous sex and violence. That is, apparently injected to titillate, not to advance the story. Motives and actions were either heavy-handed or disconnected. Lack of proofreading (or something). For example, “then reached back into his saddle bag” appears twice in the same paragraph.

According to the map, the Harriet stretches 150 miles from the dam on the Mississippi (consider that for a moment) and the Gate near the mouth of the Atchafalaya River. Yet, Gailey writes Continue reading

Book Review: Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (Five Stars)

36223859

Book Review: Artificial Condition (Murderbot Diaries #2) by Martha Wells

(Five Stars)

“You need to make better threats.” “I don’t make threats, and I’m just telling you what I’m going to do.”

Love the voice! For having no emotions, he’s so funny.

“Being asked to stay, with a please and an option for refusal, hit me almost as hard as a human asking for my opinion and actually listening to me.”

He’s not a murderous rogue robot; he’s a security unit who has hacked his control module. Self-controlled. An augmented human, human-killing machine construct, a cyborg perhaps. But not a murderbot. Just as comfort units are not Continue reading

Book Review: “Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Win Prasad (Four Stars)

39697587

Book Review: “Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Win Prasad

(Four Stars)

“Have you ever met a human? This reads as if an alien wrote it.”

In the not-too-far-distant future Artificial Intelligences may be able to write science fiction “from a certain point of view” better than humans, and of course humans may not know the difference. In this Hugo year of abounding AI stories, Fandom distinguishes itself with a compact plot and wry humor.

“My lack of emotion circuits means I cannot be ‘happy’ about performing any actions.”

(2018 Hugo Award novelette finalist. Illustration is cover of magazine in which story appeared; has nothing to do with story.)

Book Review: “Children of Thorns, Children of Water” by Aliette de Bodard (Two Stars)

34851372

Book Review: “Children of Thorns, Children of Water” (Dominion of the Fallen #1.5) by Aliette de Bodard

(Two Stars)

“Magic pollution affected everyone.”

This short story bridges the gap between two previous novels. Opaque for first-time readers, it reads like an introduction or side-side to a bigger tale. Not much to recommend it either way. Hard to believe it was nominated for a Hugo Award; perhaps spill over popularity from the rest of the series.

“Intrigues are allowed, but nothing that threatens our unity.”

(2018 Hugo Award novellette finalist)

Book Review: “Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon (Four Stars)

38228127

Book Review: “Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon

(Four Stars)

“His grandmother had never been very good at being normal.”

A fun twist on the typical heroic fantasy opening. All the tropes one expects of a Star Wars-like farm boy ripped out of his normal by a magic sword and stranger to teach him its use. But … no. Even a touch of humor.

“Goats thought themselves extremely clever and it was always rather a surprise to them when they were wrong.”

Seem disingenuous to accuse an eight-page story of being wordy, but the preceding sentence could have said as much in half the words.

“Good earth knows when it is loved.”

(2018 Hugo Award novella finalist. Illustration is cover of magazine in which story appeared; has nothing to do with story.)

Book Review: “And Then There Were (N-One)” by Sarah Pinsker (Two Stars)

38251223

Book Review: “And Then There Were (N-One)” by Sarah Pinsker

(Two Stars)

(This review contains numerous spoilers.)

“Who discovers how to access infinite realities and then uses that discovery to invite her alternate selves to a convention?”

Great concept. How do you investigate a murder when the victim and all the suspects are the same person? Wanted to like it better. The point of view is one of the more pedestrian iterations of Sarah (yes, the author uses herself as the main character/almost-entire cast), but fails to grip the reader with the inner turmoil she describes as happening. Too focused on philosophizing and preaching.

“Divergence points were the key to everything.”

Figured out who-dun-it half way through, but find the explanation unsatisfying, though Pinsker provided several twists trying to make it suspenseful.

“We all built the future with our choices every day, never knowing which ones mattered.”

(2018 Hugo Award novella finalist.)

Book Review: Six Wakes by Mur Rafferty (Four Stars)

30120374

Book Review: Six Wakes by Mur Rafferty

(Four Stars)

“Having a second clone is highly illegal, right?” “Well, so is murder, but that doesn’t stop people.”

Thought-provoking science fiction about trust, murder, and what it means to be human. Rafferty dumps the cast and reader right into the first crisis–blood and bodies floating everywhere who-knows-how-far from earth on a colonization ship with hundreds of sleeping humans and a brain-dead AI. What else could go wrong? Plenty.

“The greatest gift a creature can give another is that of sacrifice. Clones can’t sacrifice.”

Classic locked-room murder mystery; almost everyone has motive and means. Then the lights go out. Despite a diverse crew, all shared Continue reading