I’ve done a fair bit of reading in lockdown, so here’s a selection of reviews! It only takes me back to my birthday this year, in fact B-)
So I could have found reasons to dislike this series – derivative, and bit simplistic, unfeasible at several levels – BUT it grabs you and doesn’t let go!
Look, it’s got wildly twisting plot shifts, and I think there’s too much made of a super-villainess who seems near-omnipotent, but there’s that BUT again – it’s seductively compelling and I enjoyed all four volumes.
A great holiday read – but DO read all four. Good twist at the end there B-)
The Vela: A Novel (2/5)
I bought this in some expectation of it being really good – because it has a REALLY good author list, and it sounded like a good idea.
I was VERY disappointed. REALLY disappointed.
Oh, it wasn’t the writing: that was excellent, as I had some reason to expect it would be. Characterisation was acceptable (except for the whiney child of the planetary President – they were just annoying, and then over-competent at what they did). It was the huge, gaping holes in the background to the whole thing that just soured it for me from the start, so that even while I enjoyed the adventure (well – some of it…also a little over-written, with some seriously dubious holes in the physics), I just couldn’t get away from the fact that the whole premise of the story was badly, badly flawed.
WARNING: LOOK AWAY NOW TO AVOID SPOILERS AND DISILLUSIONMENT
The first thing is the central thing: the whole solar system of six planets (six? How big was the Goldilocks Zone on this system, anyway??!) is at risk from decreasing solar radiation because of hydrogen mining from the sun by ONE of the planets.
HYDROGEN MINING: yes, you read it right. I am sorry, without even having to calculate it (and I could, if I tried hard enough), there is no way at all that ONE civilisation which appears to be at a pre-fusion stage of technology (no mention of it), could mine enough H from a STAR in just a couple of hundred years to supply just themselves to make ANY difference at all to its light and/or heat output – which pretty much KOs the central premise of the whole proposed series. And they’re using it to make WATER?! For which they have to mine oxygen: in what form are they doing that? Carbonates, oxides – what??
Second, the system has SIX HABITABLE WORLDS: again, how does this work?? REALLY difficult to have that number in ANY system except maybe a red dwarf with them closely spaced, and they are distantly enough spaced that travel between them is premised upon convenient conjunctions, which sound as difficult as trying to get from Terra to Saturn on a regular basis. And Saturn is NOT habitable, and neither are any of its moons.
It’s a pity: if they’d simply made it a problem with the sun in terms of alien tech sapping its energy, and having habitable moons on gas giants, it might have been believable. As it is – I will not be renewing my option on this franchise (read: I won’t be buying the follow-ups) becauseI simply can’t suspend enough disbelief to read any more of it.
Oh, and UK Le Guin invented feasible alternatives to the use of “they” as a singular pronoun over 50 years ago – as have many others. Pity they weren’t taken up; the non-binary hero becomes even more annoying with “they”.
…or it will: the Water Wars. When California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona start fighting over where their water comes from – and the refugees start moving. I’ve been to Phoenix, and marvelled at how a place like that flourishes in the absence of water. Las Vegas too: they have no right to be there, brash and big and water-hungry, with their golf courses and watered gardens.
This is a brutal, stark book. It pulls no punches, and throws a lot in your face – but it’s very good. I don’t give it five stars because it’s just a bit TOO bleak.
Leviathan Falls: Book 9 of the Expanse by James S. A. Corey (5/5)
I have been waiting for this book, since I first became aware it was a series, and not a standalone. WAITING for it – while loooong story arcs slowly swung towards their conclusions, and a couple of what felt like books just designed to mark time came past…and now we’re here – and it’s finished! It’s all finished B-(
Look, it’s been an amazing ride, and it finished as well as one could wish for – but it’s FINISHED, and the universe will not be the same again. Oh, there’ll be movies, I am sure – they have to get up to the end of the book series, after all, and we’re not even 2/3rds of the way through the books as far as the TV series goes – but the books are over. They have resolved The Things in the Gateway, wound up The Laconian Threat, sort-of given us a happy ending….
It was a great universe. I will miss it. And the ending is SUPERB!
I have chanced upon a couple of pretty weird, standalone books recently, and have been willingly transported to some VERY strange places. This has just happened again- except it appears this is not standalone, but part of a series, and one that I will very willingly submerge myself in.
Let me be clear: this is STRANGE, and very physico-philosophical (it does help to have a decent grasp of modern physics, cosmology and some aspects of philosophy – but then, I read New Scientist B-), and yet very approachable and well written. It details the love of an academic archaeologist for his strange Bulgarian mathematician wife, how she apparently abandons him, and – how the Universe changed. It does it well. I am looking forward to the sequels B-)
I really enjoyed this: the spare flesh put onto mysterious bones, so that there’s just enough to understand the background of the Elder, and the clash of cultures that results in everything he says being interpreted against a background of magic, because of a loss of technology. Clever. But I wanted it to be longer!!
I have always been a sucker for clever time travel stories, and this is one such. The premise is very novel: time travel nodes from the Ordovician era?? And having a to-and-fro jump every chapter between an older and a younger protagonist, and having a rather surprising revelation as to who they are – clever.
The book goes into a fair bit of detail discussing theories of time editing, and the protagonists attempt to do a fair bit of their own, and it is all worthy, and Good…and then you think about it a bit, and the absurdities jump out and bite you, and you think “What, really? Historical eras carry on, with time machines embedded in them, with travellers arriving from the future AND NOT INFLUENCING SOCIETY?
Hmmmmm…nope, doesn’t work. But SF is about willing suspension of disbelief, and I’ve disbelieved bigger things, so – I liked it.
I do like Alastair Reynolds. I will pretty much buy anything he writes, even when the characters speak like old-timey pirates in the far future – and this new adventure in the Conjoiner-Demarchist universe is another great addition to the pantheon.
It is flawed – I think hemi-semi-demi Conjoiners are a bit far-fetched in terms of being near omnipotent, and Scythe (you’ll meet her) is a bit advanced for a civilisation flung precipitately into ruin, but…. Reynolds has a way of grabbing you by the vitals, and pulling you along with him, headlong into the relativistic wolf-filled void, just to see what happens next.
Is good. You read B-)
Hate it when that happens: read a book that really submerges you in the plot to the extent that you actually have no real idea what’s going on, but you gamely plod on…and get lost, but enjoy it because it’s written so well. OK, it happened again (first time was with Peter Watts): I am officially boggled by the brilliance of they who are known as qntm, who has constructed a book of surpassing wonder out of…out of…OK, magic that seems to be a kind of mathematical logic, then reconstruction of whole planets and everyone on them, and a recurring space shuttle Atlantis story, and….you’ll just have to read it.
Really, not much like anything I’ve ever read before. Disjointed, bewildering, mesmerising – it gathers you up in a manifold embrace, and whirls you off to…somewhere. A lot of somewheres. Astonishingly well constructed, impressively well and fluently written, exhibiting a casual knowledge of just about all the physics you’ve ever heard of – read it. You’ll remember it 😁
I had no expectations of this book – so I was VERY pleasantly surprised to meet characters of the same ilk as Martha Wells’ Murderbot, AND AI-written poetry, to boot! The story hung together pretty well, and…a twist I didn’t see coming, came, and everything suddenly got a lot more interesting. Clever, well written, I look forward to more from this author!!
I had been looking forward to this – a LOT. I am recently new to Adrian Tchaikovsky, and I REALLY like his grander visions.
This does not disappoint. Galaxy-spanning, apocalyptic, space operatic – it has it all. And sassy, irreverent mechanical folk, also a differently abled human with attitude, female clone warriors, weird technology that lets you bend space, or sculpt everything from atoms to planets – I want more. And it’s coming 😁
…and I’m loving…orchids? Appropriate. A great little story. I can see a hole or two, hence the 4 stars (humanity can leave Earth but not nuke an asteroid?!), but beautifully and tenderly written. I will remember it fondly 😍
The Murderbotverse, that is: many things skillfully implied without ever being described; many parallels with our present that have you nodding at how bad something is without consciously acknowledging the analogies…I want more. A LOT more. But thank you, Martha Wells!
All we could expect from Murderbot, and more: many asides, internal dialogues, serious plot twists – and an inherent humanity leaking out through the seams. More, please!
You know, I quite liked the first one – bad puns and not THAT likable a protagonist aside. The next – mmmmmmm… This one: a few puns too far, a few too many cutesy “virts” with coffee and cats, and, of course, Bobs…one Bob too far I suppose, even if he ended up as a Borg.
It’s OK. The details are good, even most of the purported physics. Good book for smartish YAs. But OLD YAs? Not so much.
I was impressed by Long Way…less so by the next one (see, I cannot even remember the title). But THIS one: this is is the sort of thing series and reputations are made with. Well fleshed out, really well written, beautifully structured and laid out – kudos! A really good look at a well imagined society, a glimpse of what happens to generation ships when they basically just end up at a roadside halt – and what happens to their people.
Now I am a an amateur connoisseur of time travel stories – I have been reading them for over 50 years, after all, from everyone from Bob H to Clifford Simak to Harrison, van Vogt, de Camp, Asimov, Anderson – and this is a VERY worthy addition to the pantheon.
I mean, a curmudgeonly farmer with a pet allosaur that eats time travellers; fractured time lines, carousing with Homeric sailors – what’s not to love? It is clever, funny and grim in equal parts and the ONLY thing wrong with it is that it was too short. Or maybe just long enough – I don’t know, I just know that I wanted it to be longer. Great operetta, Mr Tchaikovsky!