Book Review: Faraday’s Cage by C. Sean McGee (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Faraday’s Cage by C. Sean McGee

(Three Stars)

“He was, by all accounts, halfway through the race and by the looks of him, his laces were still untied.”

Don’t read this review or the blurb. This is a story best experienced without preconceptions.

“Happiness could be feigned … but disappointment … was as impossible to mistake as it was to hide.”

Ironically McGee’s protagonists struggle with just that humanity to which their science has nothing to contribute. The very things they seek—maturity and meaning along with value—are not subject to their scientific inquiry. The story is fleshed out with very real people, often in conflict, in ways that feel uncomfortably close to reality. Great inner voices.

“It’s just the board, and really enrolments [sic] in general, are leaning more towards … alternate science.” “Grievance studies?” “It’s a changing world, Graham.” “Is this a university or a thrift shop?” “Without students, we’ll be neither.”

Pornography and profanity represent the bankruptcy of moderns for dealing with the vital issues of life. Vocabulary and imagery have slumped to the lowest common denominator of smut. That said, it still cost him a star.

“It was as if the future was a horror movie that he was constantly playing in his mind.”

A visual work: Dozens of sentences begin “Were this a movie …” or “His [or Her] face looked like …” The reader is engaged to fill in the blanks. The enigmatic cover image is appropriate. Needed another proof reading, too.

“What good is diversity if everyone thinks the same?”

Book Review: And Then the Town Took Off by Richard Wilson (Three Stars)

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Book Review: And Then the Town Took Off by Richard Wilson

(Three Stars)

“Behold,” he said. “Something Columbus couldn’t find. The edge of the world.”

For its time, published in 1960, innovative science fiction. Characters and plot are mediocre. Pop corn for the mind then and now. Not politically correct by current standards.

“The old town’s really come up in the world, hasn’t it?” “Overnight.”

Pattern for many subsequent science fiction tales, though in most the patch of earth is displaced temporally, not spatially.

“That sums up why you’ve never been a howling success in politics. You don’t give a damn for the people. All you care about is yourself.” Refreshing; today it’s a given that Continue reading

Book Review: Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s #1) by Jodi Taylor

(Three Stars)

“Gripping the edge of the console, I shouted, ‘No, no, no, no!’ and began to thump the panel. Strangely, this failed to work at all.

A fun time travel fantasy told from the point of view of a “disaster magnet” protagonist, who is too stupid to live. Unfortunately, it’s those around her who die. Fascinating to see what new ways she invents to endanger herself and everyone around her.

“Always nice to see someone who’s even more of a disaster magnet than I am. ‘Maybe we’ll cancel each other out,’ he whispered. ‘Like white noise.’ Fat chance!”

Perky, snide inner voice which adds perspective as well as humor. Clear, conversational prose propels the reader forward; that and curiosity of Continue reading

Book Review: Questing Beast by Ilona Andrews (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Questing Beast by Ilona Andrews

(Three Stars)

“Sean Kozlov … groped the surface of the desk for a pen. The pen felt moist and cold. Suspiciously like a nose.”

Competent short science fiction about folks in a jam who find a creative—perhaps too creative—solution to an apparently insolvable problem. And the clock is ticking. (Nice, if inaccurate cover art.)

“There are only two ways to break down a third-order AI like Nanny: a chaotic protocol or a goal-oriented protocol.”

Creating a chimera on a newly-discovered—perhaps develop-able, perhaps left as a sanctuary—world would be irresponsible. But it may be the only solution. What could go wrong?

“…sheathed its body. A long silky man flared on its sinuous neck.”

Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi (Second Reading)

(Three Stars)

The following is my 2014 review (with non-spoiler quotes added):

“I’ll try, sir,” Dahl said. “Try’s not good enough,” Abernathy said, and clapped Dahl hard on the shoulder. “I need to hear you say you’ll do it.” He shook Dahl’s shoulder vigorously. “I’ll do it.”

Sometimes the practice of offering early chapters of a book free backfires. I read the first chapters of Redshirts and, assuming I knew what it was all about, decided to pass on the whole novel. Wrong. This book is great, and it’s so much more than a send-up of science fiction television series. I can’t believe I waited to read it.

“If Q’eeng’s leading the away team, someone Continue reading

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

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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: Sewer Gas and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy by Matt Ruff (Two Stars)

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Book Review: Sewer Gas and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy by Matt Ruff

(Two Stars)

“But Aristotle has written—” “Forget Aristotle. [He] only covers research and development. This is consumer marketing.” “Which philosopher should I have studied to comprehend consumer marketing?” “Munchhausen.”

Absurd? Of course, it’s absurd; that’s the point. But better written than many similar tales of the silliness of modern life. Better-than-average advocacy fiction.

“So you lied to yourself.” “The first symptom of true intelligence. Selective self-deception. How’s that for a Turing test?”

Still, I don’t recommend this to sensitive, introspective readers. It’s satire, as subtle as a Mack truck. Rude, crude and full of platitudes, though Ruff allows viewpoints other than his own stage time—if only to knock down their strawmen. And lots of profanity.

“What makes war terrible isn’t that the soldiers are men; it’s that men are soldiers. Let women become soldiers—or politicians, or diplomats—and you haven’t changed war at all.”

Ironic. What actually happening in the first two decades of the twenty-first century was as improbably as what Ruff wrote. (He mentions Cray PCs several times. Many may not recognize that reference to the super-computer pioneer, killed in a stupid auto accident about the time Ruff published.) And wrong. Remember when faxes were a big deal? Remember faxes?

“Thanks to the New York Times, newspaper of record, for confirming that even in a rational universe, ‘far-fetched’ is a relative term.”

Book Review: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3) by Ann Leckie

(Four Stars)

“In the end it’s only ever been one step, and then the next.”

Satisfying close to the trilogy. In fact, some readers may simply wish to read books 1 and 3. Little is missed by skipping 2; a lot of swimming in place.

“You really have gotten better, but you can still be an enormously self-involved jerk.”

Leckie develops her characters well. Despite most of the story being told through the point of view of one character, readers have no trouble identifying much of the supporting cast.

“You don’t need to know the odds. You need to know how to do the thing you’re trying to do. And then you need to do it.”

Not surprising that Leckie returns to the Rasch universe in later books, but so far no word of the Provisional Republic of the Two Systems.

“There is always more after the ending.”

Book Review: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2) by Ann Leckie

(Three Stars)

“Betrayer! Long ago we promised/ To exchange equally, gift for gift./ Take this curse: What you destroy will destroy you.”

Not nearly as good as the opening Ancillary Justice. In fact, the reader in a hurry could read that book and skip to the trilogy-concluding Ancillary Mercy and miss very little. Except development of who Breq is and the odd people and events swept along in her wake.

“Water will wear away stone, but it won’t cook supper.”

The writing is good, if repetitive. Way too much recapitulation of what’s gone on before. Breq sounds more like Yoda or Computer as the stories progress.

“Memory is an event horizon. What’s caught in it is gone but it’s always there.”

Book Review: Treason (Star Wars: Thrawn #3) by Timothy Zahn (Four Stars)

Book Review: Treason (Star Wars: Thrawn #3) by Timothy Zahn

(Four Stars)

“May warrior’s fortune be ever in your favor.”

A fun read, if shallow and obvious. Hey, it’s Star Wars. The question is never whether Thrawn will outsmart most everyone, but how.

“I don’t think he said no,” [she] said. “Just not yet. So stop pouting, Senior Lieutenant, and get your crews ready.” She looked out the viewport. “The universe is about to get interesting again.”

Timothy Zahn is exceptional in the Legends (formerly Expanded Universe) of Stars Wars (both BD and AD: Before Disney and After Disney) for creating new characters and stories which really do expand the SW universe below the basic story thread. (Karen Traviss is another.) Characters he created, most notably Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Mitth’raw’nuruodo, contribute richness and depth to Legends. Jade was an unfortunate casualty of the Disney buyout; Thrawn weathered the transition intact: to the point that this series ties into SW Rebels series as well as the central SW thread.

“Learning about each other’s ways and learning how we’re alike despite our differences is a way to enrich our lives.”

This rating is relative to other Star Wars Legends stories, not an absolute scale against all literature.

“Waiting was always a chore. Waiting for combat was excruciating.”