Non-Work 2011

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Non-Work 2011

Non-Work Readings 2011

2k11/12

  • Mockingjay. Collins.
  • Catching Fire. Collins.
  • Pirate Latitudes. Crichton. This book is pretty strong through the first half, but then it devolves into a series of strange, disconnected, largely unresolved incidents. I think this is a product of the novel not actually being finished. The text as a collection of sentences is solid enough, but it becomes pretty weak. I think it's clear why this was still sitting in Crichton's files when he died, he hadn't gotten back to finishing it.
  • Hunger Games. Collins.

2k11/10

  • Terminal World. Reynolds. The last third of the book loses its drive a bit and relatively little is wrapped up by the end of the novel. However, this is still a very imaginative and well written sci-fi novel that does a good job mixing together some post-apocalyptic, post-singularity, western, steampunk, zombie, and noir fiction. More: http://rocketshipgames.com/blog/?p=1075
  • The Informationist. Stevens. Not a terrible novel, but not good. The ending wraps up fairly predictably and uninterestingly. Worse, the protagonist is essentially all powerful. Despite having no training and little background, she's a super human killer with speed and skills unmatched by any of the mercenaries, soldiers, or thugs she meets. To make things worse, her internal monologue whines endlessly about "her demons" and what they do (kill people). Combined with some similar background like being the daughter of inattentive missionaries, the character's an annoyingly obvious foil and avatar for the author, herself a previous captive of the Children of God.

2k11/9

  • Rising Stars: Volume 3. Graphic novel. Straczynski.
  • Watchmen. Moore. Graphic novel. One of the best pieces of literature I know of.
  • Redwall. Jacques. These probably age well in absolute terms; I was surprised to look now and realize this was written in 1986. However, they don't age well beyond being young adult or even perhaps children's fiction. Redwall moves quickly enough, has a well envisioned world, and is entertaining, but is definitely not rich enough for adults. All of the good characters are good, regardless of what they do, and all of the bad characters wicked, cowardly, and uniformly incompetent. There's no reflection here about what the good characters actually do, and an almost shocking level of comfort with graphic violence when you stop to think about it. It's not necessarily unjustifiable, but it's not really ever considered by the text, particularly as the Abbot abdicates so quickly. The story is also very predictably. It teeters on the edge of having tiresome descriptions at times---I don't particularly care about each detail of their many and lavish feasts---but stops short of dragging on.
  • Flashback. Simmons. This should be an awesome book, but is overwhelmed by its simpleminded, dogmatic right wing ideology. The story is good, writing is good, but there's such an overt Republican bias being continually, explicitly and preachily thrust in your face that by the end it's actually something of a chore to finish. SF World has a good review discussing these problems at length. Notably, the review does a good job delineating how the bias clobbers the story, as opposed to just being something to disagree with. The ending is also fairly frustrating and unsatisfying, as it is fairly unclear how it has resolved---are the concluding sequences all a dream, or not? You could argue persuasively either way.
  • Echo. McDevitt. This is an ok sci-fi novel. It struggles a bit in that the characters don't have a lot of distinguishable feel to them. They all kind of speak the same way. There are also a number of points were the plot feels like it didn't quite line up. Most are nothing super major given the relatively light nature of the book. However, the main plot point revealed at the end doesn't quite make sense. None of the character's historical actions and moral reasoning quite makes sense on its own, or in particular compared with how they have been portrayed throughout.
  • Ministry of Space: Omnibus. Ellis. Graphic novel.
  • Rising Stars: Visitations. Graphic novel. Straczynski.
  • Rising Stars: Volume 2. Graphic novel. Straczynski.
  • Rising Stars: Volume 1. Graphic novel. Straczynski.

2k11/8

  • Supreme Power: Volume 2. Graphic novel. Straczynski.
  • Supreme Power: Volume 1. Graphic novel. Straczynski.
  • The Road. McCarthy. A bleak but nonetheless great read. The use of language is fantastic, particularly through the first half, with many short, choppy sentences; awkward grammar; and unusual word selections really helping to evoke a destroyed landscape of ruin and wreckage.

2k11/7

  • The Hobbit. Tolkien.
  • Starship Troopers. Heinlein.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Verne. Translation by Bonnet (Bantam Classics). This hasn't aged as well as some other classic fiction. I think Verne gets too wrapped up in the naturalist aspects of the voyages. Huge portions of the book consist of nothing but long, dry, easily skipped and therefore useless lists cataloging the fish they observe. The characters don't really develop at all, and the primary protagonists essentially saved by a deus ex machina at the end, with a huge setup for a sequel to boot. I remember loving this as a kid, but it's not super compelling now beyond its historical importance.

2k11/6

  • Good Omens. Gaiman and Pratchett. Very much in line with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Absurd humor and not enough theology to get tedious. The book is actually fairly long given how light it is, but it never gets tiresome. Characters are all interesting and mostly likable, though there's not a ton of actual meat here.

2k11/5

  • Starlight 1. Hayden, editor. Anthology of original short science fiction. Some interesting things in here, with a very wide variety of timeframes and settings. Most of the stories are fairly novel and there's no standard genre or military sci-fi. None of them are terribly mindblowing, although a large portion of the stories have just enough meat yet just enough mystery and things left unsaid to leave you wondering and thinking about them for some time after.
  • Ender's Game. Card. Pretty disappointing. This is basically just one long nerd power fantasy, with Ender crushing opponent after opponent without any real challenge but lots of whining. It makes sense why a variety of people in high school really really loved this novel... More: http://rocketshipgames.com/blog/?p=644
  • The Terror. Simmons. Awesome historical fiction, taking a true life classic doomed polar expedition and working in a well done fantasy horror aspect. Comes through better in the end than many of Simmons' books. Fantastic detailing and good suspense. More: http://rocketshipgames.com/blog/?p=639
  • The Half-Made World. Gilman. Good combination of Napoleonic Europe, the Wild West, aboriginal mythology, and more in essentially a clash of governments. Very well done world, good plot, ends weakly, blatantly setting up for a continuation novel. More: http://rocketshipgames.com/blog/?p=639

2k11/3

  • The Island of Dr Moreau. Wells. Timeless classic, ages well with every read.
  • War Dances. Alexi. Another great Alexi book. Like most it has a fairly eclectic set of material, and at least one killer story. The knockout success in this one is the tale of the crossword puzzler, followed by the video editor. A quick read, definitely worth it.
  • All Tomorrow's Parties. Gibson. Pretty trippy and loose at times, more a light show in words than anything else in most of the Laney parts. Elsewhere though is pretty concrete action. All of it is very symbolic, and plays greatly off coincidences and connections. The ending is actually fairly understated given all the buildup, though you're given room to wonder at what exactly happened and how big a change it might represent. Not necessary to read the previous parts of the trilogy before this, but probably helpful.
  • Ex-KOP. Hammond. Solid, not amazing. Not particularly graphic in depiction, but tons of violent sex throughout the plot. Good, fast page turner though with solid murder mystery foundation, reasonably interesting universe. Not as strong as first KOP book, but worth reading.
  • A Star Shall Fall. Brennan. Pretty solid. Reasonably good universe of faeries living under London. Good amount of character complexity.

2k11/2

  • Judas Unchained. Hamilton. The follow-up to Pandora's Star. Both are kind of a let down. I think this gained some notoriety because it is certainly large in sweep and grandiose in a Star Wars without the music sort of fashion. But is it impressive? No. It's detailed, but the details try too hard to prove too much. It has action, but the action's all fairly standard. It has tons of characters, but none of them are particularly compelling. Most of the larger story sweep is fairly predictable. In any event, not a bad read, but not an awesome one either.

2k11/1

  • Pandora's Star. Hamilton. Definitely disappointed by this after some of the hype I've caught. It's serviceable, and enjoyable to read. The world is well imagined and detailed, and the story has an epic sweep to it. However, it's not super imaginative. Most of the elements are fairly standard science fiction stock. The characters are reasonably well portrayed and have just a little depth to them, but they're hard to care about. For one, there's just so many that it's difficult to really get too attached. They're all also driven largely by exposition, with mostly annoying occassional displays of feelings. Since little is resolved in the book as a whole, little also resolves for individual characters, so they don't really progress much. It's telling that the character I definitely care about far above all others is an alien who not only can't talk, but spends the bulk of the book literally unable to communicate. As noted, the story doesn't resolve at all. It even ends in a literal cliffhanger for the only important characters, and the rest of the galaxy is little better off. Just short of 1000 pages and we couldn't wrap up a fairly simple, plot driven mystery? Disappointing.
  • The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul. Adams. Just as good as when I was a kid. I'm a big fan of the Dirk Gently books, and would easily put them in the same place as the Hitchhikers books. Same basic humor, slightly less random and a little more rounded in some sense. Biggest disappointment here is that it doesn't end particularly well. It's just not clear how the story goes from A to B, and I mean more than in the typical Adams' ridiculousness kind of way. It seems like about 20 pages fell toward the end to the editor's floor and should have been picked back up.
  • Singularity Sky. Stross. Much better than some of Stross' other novels. Pretty good look at interstellar warfare, and the spread of humanity post singularity. Shades of Haldeman's Forever War in some of the issues encountered, but deemphasizing tactical infantry combat and instead focusing on spaceship combat a bit but mostly economic and information issues along the same lines.
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