Book Review: The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Red: First Light (The Red #1) by Linda Nagata (Three Stars)

“Our goals are to stay alive, to avoid civilian casualties, and to kill anyone with an interest in killing us.”

Tom Clancy meets Terminator. Originally published in 2013, First Light seems prescient of current politics. Nagata warns the reader of the GI language, but it’s pretty rough.

“What must be done, will be done, Lieutenant. Whether it’s possible or not, is not our concern.”

Told as if seen as a series internet docu-dramas, it includes the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist. Excellent character development.

“Married? Marriage is for people like you, Shelley. No one I know gets married. There’s no military benefits for it anymore. Marriage costs too damn much.”

Nagata reflects the growing disillusionment among authors and citizens with the current government-military-industrial complex. (Instructive that Eisenhower’s warning about all three has been truncated to just military-industrial.)

“Weird events are everywhere, the kind that we describe with words like ‘precognition,’ ‘intuition,’ ‘coincidence,’ ‘luck,’ ‘miracle,’ ‘blessing,’ ‘curse,’ ‘perfect timing.’ These are the words we use when chance goes non-random.”

Quibbles: I can’t talk about Nagata’s army hardware, but she makes numerous mistakes about airborne equipment. (I’m a 30 year USAF veteran.) “The Chinook’s engine cranks up.” Chinook’s have two engines. “Kendrick’s old Blackhawk” and “An old C-17 Globemaster.” Developed in the 1950s, the CH-47 Chinook is even older.  “A night that will last for the duration of this flight, that will follow us all the way to Africa.” No, they’re heading eastward; they will fly through a dawn and a dusk, though the day will be really short.

“It’s about perspective. It’s not that what we know is necessarily wrong or incomplete. It’s that what we know and what we believe to be apparent to everyone, isn’t.”

Book Review: Make Room! Make Room! By Harry Harrison (Three Stars)


Book Review: Make Room! Make Room! By Harry Harrison

(Three Stars)

“By the end of the century, should our population continue to increase at the same rate, this country will need more than 100 per cent of the world’s resources to maintain our current living standards.”

Cutting-edge social commentary then. On the bandwagon bleating about over population and over consumption, followed by a huge die off. So incorrect as to be ironic. By 1973 they rewrote the plot for the movie Soylent Green because the over-population red shirt had worn thin.

“You know well enough that birth control has nothing to do with killing babies. In fact it saves them.” No unwanted children, they promised us.

Not a bad story. It only drags when Continue reading

Book Review: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig (Four Stars)


Book Review: Zer0es (Zer0es #1) by Chuck Wendig

(Four Stars)

“Everything is connected. And all of it is vulnerable.”

Ready Player One meets Terminator. A chilling morality tale about life in a connected society. Well-conceived and told. Complex cast of stereotypical, but believable characters, designed to rub sparks from each other. None of them fit, one doesn’t even belong among them, and then there are the cops.

“What I do these days is a victimless crime. Money isn’t money anymore. It’s all just ones and zeroes.” “We’re all just ones and zeroes. The trick is figuring out which of us are ones and which of us are zeroes.”

Why not five stars? Didn’t care for the framing story–told too much and served no purpose except as a hook to book #2. Over-the-top profanity–unnecessary and lazy.

“Feels as solid as a paper airplane. It’ll fly, but I don’t know how well it’ll land.” “Relax. That’s hackers for you. We kinda make the parachute after we jump out of the plane.”

Quibbles: Brains may be computers, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all wired alike or that you can just plug in and upload and download thoughts. Twice refers to Sidewinders as air-to-ground missiles; they aren’t.

“If Typhon was designed to protect America, she must first invokes chaos … because they have to be willing to accept us, she said. Because in chaos is opportunity.”

As we become more connected, not only does privacy, but accountability disappears. The real power in Washington lies with the bureaucracy, not the three constitutional branches. And a scenario such as Wendig describes–out-of-control AI concocted by quasi-official agencies two or three times removed from public visibility or control–is possible. Or soon will be.

Quis custodiet custodes?” Juvenal (“Who will guard the guardians [themselves]?”)

Book Review: Death’s End by Liu Cixin (Four Stars)

Book Review: Death’s End by Liu Cixin

Four Stars

“In the end, the real power is wielded by time.”

Loved it. As usual with Liu’s books, took a couple hundred pages for the story to get traction, but once it’s out of the station this train builds lots of momentum.

“Twice … she passed the world into the abyss in the name of love.”

Main character is so flawed in a Sesame Street-way that you can’t help loving her–even as you yell at her for her stupid decisions.

“forty five kilometers below the [Earth’s] surface.”

Lots of Quibbles: 1. Europe is not “on the other side of the Bosporus” from Istanbul. 2. Peacekeeper missiles were decommissioned in 2005. 3. “Known universe is 16 billion light years across.” It’s Continue reading

Book Review: Song of Time by Ian R. MacLeod (Four Stars)


Book Review: Song of Time by Ian R. MacLeod

Four Stars out of Five

“Life … is a series of acts which we eventually grow tired of performing.”

Thrilled and disappointed simultaneously. Subtle future technology juxtaposition with timeless issues of living and dying. Literary post-apocalyptic science fiction. Unfortunately, self-consciously literary.

Brilliant imagery, clumsy storytelling. Occasional homophones or similar faulty word choice. Several epigrams could become catch phrases for the culture were they not so ineptly worded. As if it was dashed off, but not re-read. Knocks the reader out of the story’s spell. Needed a good editing, if not a rewrite.

Two threads, before and after the collapse. Lots of forward and back flashes. Sometimes confusing. Many clichés. The usual suspects (both cultural and personal stereotypes); little originality in characterization. Excellent evocation of a pop culture fifty years in the future. Believable future developments in technology, ecology, culture and legal issues.

“No wonder people believe in God, now that they’ve realized just how useless politicians are.”

Will read differently depending on the age of the reader. After reflecting a while, I may adjust my rating up or down.

Paradox: While reading this book, terror attacks struck Paris. Dinner conversation turned (in a different context) turned to the potential for a Yellowstone cataclysm.

“If you don’t believe in hope, and in love as well, what was the point of anything?”