Book Review: Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds (three stars)

Book Review: Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds (three stars)

(There be SPOILERS here.)

“One thing I’ve never got straight. Are we musicians supplementing our income with a little detective work on the side, or is it the other way round?”

Engaging and entertaining science fiction-detective crossover tale. Male lead stereotypical not-too-bright, but good-hearted private detective, with the twist that he’s a frustrated jazz musician. Female lead is head-strong, smart, and opinionated archeologist. Most other characters are stereotypical.

“Do I count as sensitive business?” “No, [redacted]. You count as a pain in the ass. If there’s one thing I hate more than civilians, it’s having to be nice to them.” “You mean this is you being nice?”

Excellent character, plot, and world building. A bit of humor amid a lot of mystery, angst, and bloodshed. Parallel worlds. Sort of. Violence of action and language. Paris. “Casablanca” homages.

“But it was only designed to look convincing from the vantage point of the Earth’s surface, and close to they saw how its shape was distorted by the sphere’s concavity.”

Quibbles. Mistakes an astrophysicist shouldn’t make. (Edwin Hubble made many of his discoveries in the 1920s.) Observers on E2 would notice the sun, moon, and stars weren’t positioned right. Parallax. Optical interferometry would reveal the light angles wrong. Most of the smart guys of the twentieth century were alive and at the height of their powers and fame before 1940.  “… picking out the lethal gleam of the electrified rails.” Electrified rails don’t gleam. “… stuffing her own soiled and ripped garments back into the bag.” No blood? There should be lots of blood.

“Thinking we can fix one technological mess by throwing yet more technology at it, when every attempt to do that already has just made things even worse.”

Delivers the goods, story wise. Would like to rate it higher.

“We never deserved this second chance.” “But sometimes you get what you don’t deserve.”

Book Review: His Master’s Voice by Stanisław Lem (three stars)

Book Review: His Master’s Voice by Stanisław Lem (three stars)

‘What is taking place is a certain play of forces perfectly indifferent to man.’ 

Excellent short story hidden among the philosophic musings of protagonist and narrator as Lem’s hand puppet. Like most character-driven novels, starts slow. Extremely slow.

‘In the course of my work … I began to suspect that the “letter from the stars” was, for us who attempted to decipher it, a kind of psychological association test, a particularly complex Rorschach test.’ 

Skip both prefaces. Prepare to wade through pages of self-referential bloviation. The story starts in Chapter Five.

‘From the moment I landed on the roof, through all the meetings and conversations, the feeling never left me that I was playing a scientist in a grade-B movie.’

More an alternate history of post-World War Two America than genuine historical fiction. I liked it, but your mileage may vary.

“One who puts a digital tape in a player piano is making a mistake, and it is entirely possible that we have taken precisely such a mistake for success.”

Book Review: A History of What Comes Nextby Sylvain Neuel (four stars)

Book Review: A History of What Comes Next (Take Them to the Stars #1) by Sylvain Neuel (four stars)

Was all of it for nothing? Every cell in her body was aching for an answer. She needed to know if our lives meant anything.

Quantum Leap” through post-World War Two history. A different sort of alien contact story. Excellent research and integration of a single set of players into actual history.

Take them to the stars, before Evil comes and kills them all.

A few quibbles, such as mistakenly thinking layers of glacier ice equate to years, but over all a nuanced and engaging story.(Spoiler: The protagonist started the Space Race. Both sides. Intentionally. Well done.)

I’m nineteen years old and I dream of being seventeen. I would trade places with a child right now if it meant I could be normal.

Makes a point of demonstrating how profanity is offensive but beats that stake all the way into the turf. Lost a star.

“Because you don’t do that, you pudding-head! You never give up on the people you love. When the storm comes, you hold on to them and you don’t let go.”

Book Review: Borrowed Time by Jack Campbell (Three Stars)

Book Review: Borrowed Time by Jack Campbell (Three Stars)

“Playing god isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

An anthology of time travel short stories “Campbell” wrote 1999 through 2007. Variable quality. Nice cover art.

“Some details changed, that’s all.” “But . . . but . . . someone once said God is in the details!” “They did? They were wrong. God doesn’t care about details. Neither does the Universe. Ask a quantum physicist. Historians used to care about details, which is why all the inconsistencies in the historical record drove them crazy.”

My favorite was “Crow’s Feat.” “Joan” was disappointing. As was the “Betty Knox …” story; rife with errors. (Campbell confuses the 50s with the 60s; I was in high school circa 1960-1964.) “These are the Times’ ended exactly where it should have, but only after a tangled web was woven.

“It’s not my fault causality is circular through time.”

Book Review: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

(Four Stars)

“We were shackled and splintered and separated; the Many Mothers could not teach their daughter the Stories. Without stories there is no past, no future, no We. There is death. There is Nothing, a night without moon or stars.”

An extraordinarily original, well-told story. Bolander took two unrelated historical events and related them. It’s that simple. The voices of Topsy and Regan are especially good.

“It’s amazing I can breathe with my foot lodged in my windpipe the way it is.”

Sadly, the real Topsy was murdered in a publicity stunt by Thomas Edison to demonstrate Continue reading

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


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