Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on April 15, 2019 @ 2:09 pm

Aurora is the story of the first interstellar colony ship from Earth. The story is in several parts describing latter parts of the trip, arrival, initial landings, and others that would give away too much.

The story is both good and weak. The general plots are excellent and told well, but the story breaks down for me at several points.

The first part of the story involves a lot of AI and training it. Then this is abandoned is parts of the story where it seems it would be relied on. It is ignored when problems and conflicts arise, then appears again acting on its reasoning that should have happened earlier in the conflicts.

The author has a good story and tells it well when characters are interacting. Then he has a very different style when trying to convey actions of large groups of people, resorting to telling the reader about events rather than showing him or having characters reacting to the events. At these times, I found the writing much weaker and felt much less involved in the story.

At one point in the story, people 3-D print guns which explode when they need them. I couldn’t imagine someone not trying them out before hand and just learning to shoot, learning how the weapons will work. After the guns failure, they resort to using available tools as clubs rather than printing better weapons or armor when a bow or a sword would be very useful.

During these crises, it becomes apparent that the ship has no police forces. On a ship of around 2000 people over several generations, I find it hard to imagine one not being needed. Yet they do have a court system.

The science was inconsistent. I can accept new science for the sake of fiction and suspend disbelief, but when it isn’t consistent, that bothers me. The big case in point is that the starship had magnetic fields to deflect small particles in space to avoid damage. Yet when flying through a planetary atmosphere to decelerate, they aren’t there long enough to generate heat. Clearly he doesn’t understand thermodynamics, great amounts of heat should be generated due to the high speeds.

I was also disappointed in the ending. I know he was trying for symbolism with Freya adapting to open spaces, but it didn’t work for me.

Overall, it started off well. I found the middle of the book interested and enjoyable, but it went downhill from there.

Outlaw by Edward W. Robertson

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on March 11, 2019 @ 6:48 pm

This is the first book in the Rebel Star series. It is a free book available from a large number of sources by a self-proclaimed best-selling author. The plot looks interesting. It did look promising but failed to pan out.

I found the characters flat and uninteresting. The writing was unimaginative with artificial and cumbersome analogies thrown in in the wrong places. Information was injected into paragraphs at arbitrary places breaking the flow of the text.

DNF.
If someone can convince me it is worth reading, part of me would like to finish it. But it seems there are too many good books to spend much time on a bad one.

The Postman by David Brin

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on December 27, 2018 @ 2:42 pm


The Postman  by David Brin

In The Postman, David Brin tells the story of men in a post-apocalyptic world. Set in the near future (but an alternate past for today), the protagonist, Gordon Krantz, is traveling west looking for a place in the world.

It is set in Oregon almost two decades after a nuclear war where the young have no memory of the pre-apocalypse. Early in the book, it is Winter when he is robbed by three men who take everything of value that he has. Cold and seeking shelter, he finds a wrecked mail car with a dead mailman. Taking the dead man’s clothing and a mail sack so he’ll have something to read. This action determines his fate and that or Oregon.

In order to gain food and shelter, he presents himself as a mailman of a reformed USA. Shuffling through his bag, he is able to find a few letters to deliver to local survivors. His conscious bothers him for the lies, but his subconscious compels him to continue the farce.

In trial after trial, he is only trying to survive, but the uniform and his subconscious call him into action, he, or rather his uniform, becomes a symbol of a united country. Where he goes, people are inspired and form their own post offices. In spite of his own desires, he is making a truth out of his fiction.

David Brin has built a compelling picture of this world and its characters. The story is compelling and very well-told.

The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on November 21, 2017 @ 2:51 pm


The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett

I was disappointed in this book. It is part of a series known as The Long Earth, I wasn’t aware of that when I started the book. The premise is that there are a large number of parallel universes that can be stepped through, they are mostly similar with minor differences, mostly involving plants and animals. The plot involves an alien invasion in one of the parallel-Earths.

It felt like the world wasn’t thoroughly thought through. It is easy for people, either individuals with abilities or with devices, to step between the worlds. Yet, in a world, almost all thinking is normal within the world. Rather than build a house, then step into a parallel farm to work, they would build a normal farmstead. It would seem more interesting with four-dimensional dwellings and working environments.

The other problem was that the solution was just handed to the main characters. Someone showed up, this is how we solve it, and bang. There was a moral dilemma associated with the solution, but this, too, was solved to easily. And there wasn’t sufficient explanation about why it would actually work, muchh less discussion. Some of this could have been explained in the three earlier volumes that I haven’t read.

I would say that the series isn’t worth the time to read it, but I’d first like to have a discussion with someone who has read them.

The Lazarus War: Artefact by Jamie Sawyer

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on October 17, 2017 @ 10:21 am


The Lazarus War: Artefact by Jamie Sawyer

This story is told in first person, from the perspective of an elite soldier named Conrad Harris, he has earned the nickname Lazarus because he keeps coming back from death. The book examines the future of warfare, in this story, Conrad leads an elite team of sims. This team uses enhanced clones of themselves to go out on missions, they die and wake up again. The book looks like it’s going to examine this and its meaning to humanity, but doesn’t get there.

The writing is mostly plain. The author’s descriptions go from good and interesting to the kind of bland writing you want to race through. He uses only an occasional metaphor or similie, but it feels contrived.

The characters are one-dimensional. The author does use backstory to try and fill out Conrad’s life, but it doesn’t work. Often, the actions, and more so the dialog, of Conrad and his team feel more like amateurs playing soldier than elite soldiers. The descriptions of action on a ship during combat occasionally belie an ignorance of shipboard procedures.

If action and military sci-fi appeal to you, you will probably enjoy the book. I could not finish it.

The Barsoom Project by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

Filed under:Adventure,Mystery,Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on May 19, 2017 @ 4:16 pm


The Barsoom Project by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

This books is a follow-on to Dream Park. In this, the Dream Park business is running a new simulation, an end-of-the world scenario with mythological connections. But things are going on behind the scenes. When a player dies before it should be possible, an investigation begins turning up murder and conspiracy – and a return character operating under an alias and with a hidden past.

The dream story is interesting. It was well-researched and involves some Inuit history and mythology, and we see the players drawn into an interesting culture.

However, I didn’t feel the story was as good as the previous one. The characters are a bit shallow, which is moderately typical for Niven. But the story is very creative, which is also typical. In the end, I didn’t feel as if everything was adequately explained, such as the code modifications which had to get around security and have a very good understanding of their technology. The mystery player seemed to be far to uninteresting in the end, she had a lot of potential and should have been more complex. With the weak ending and the lack of character development I can’t recommend this book.

Bloodline by Claudia Gray

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on April 28, 2017 @ 3:09 pm


Bloodline by Claudia Gray

This is a story of Princess Leia’s political life. The New Republic is facing new threats from within, the Centrists, a political party wanting to increase control over the galaxy in the name of preserving peace, have created a new role of First Senator. This person has much increased power and my be one step away from another emperor.

In addition to the political issue, Leia is investigating an underground military buildup. But no one believes it is possible. With the help of a Centrist, Ransom Casterfo, they travel across the galaxy to try to find proof of the existence of this army.

I found Ransom to be an interesting and complex character. On his first meeting with Leia, he comes across as an Empire apologist. This created a lot of tension between them. Yet his complexities reveal another side to him which warrants sympathy.

I listed to the audio version of this book. I found January LaVoy to be a good reader, and Random House has done a good job in the production. They have provided good background sounds that really enhance the book experience.

even though neither the political situation nor the military situation reach resolution, the book has good characters and interesting situations. It calls for a sequel.

Gateway by Frederik Pohl

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on April 15, 2017 @ 3:06 pm


Gateway by Frederik Pohl

This story tells about exploration, about the fear and wonder of it. It is told in first person, and we deal with his anxieties, passions and fears. The protagonist, Robinette “Bob” Broadhead, won a lottery, enough to got to Gateway and become a prospector. Gateway is an asteroid with Heechee ships, ships capable of faster-than-light travel.  The Heechee disappeared millions of years ago leaving, besides just their ships, valuable artifacts scattered about the universe. People risk their lives to find these artifacts on the possibility of achieving financial independence.

There are only a few key characters besides the main character, most of these have very little development. The exceptions are Gelle-Klara Moynlin, Dane Metchnikov who are important to Bob and are key to his character development and his psychosis.

The author does a good job of describing life in a low-gravity asteroid, I found the descriptions interesting and insightful, although I think he missed a point or two. 🙂 Moving a heavy object would be very difficult, it may not have weight, but it’s inertia would be greater than the friction you would have with the floor. It recurred during the fight scene, it seems like it would be very difficult to maintain footing while struggling with someone. The problem did not detract from the book.

The story unravels along with a parallel path in the future where Bob is seeing a robot shrink, Sigfrid. These sessions provide a harbinger of events to come, but they aren’t very clear. At first, they seemed unimportant, but they help develop both Bob’s character and build to the climax. I found Sigfrid very interesting, even though a very flat character. Bob’s actions later in the book reinforce that Sigrid isn’t an individual, but he seems to walk a line between human and robot.

There are also one-page entries that help build an image of life on Gateway. These include classified ads, personal communications, rule and contracts.

Overall, I found the book very enjoyable and difficult to put down. There is something looming around the corner that needs resolving. The final revelation is unique and thought-provoking.

Tales of the Jedi by Tom Veitch

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on March 31, 2017 @ 4:05 pm


Tales of the Jedi by Tom Veitch

This is a small collection of short stories about the Jedi Knights in the age before the movies. These are stories of adventure of young jedi facing their first conflicts. I listened to the audio version of the book.

Unfortunately, the dialog is pretty bad. The characterization of the young Jedi is weak and poorly written. The author explains thing to the reader by using ignorance, often in the jedi, who do know know some of the basics in how the force works. I suspect the reader knows far more than the young jedi.

So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish by Douglas Adams

Filed under:Humor,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on February 13, 2017 @ 10:13 am

So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish by Douglas Adams

The fourth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series was a bit disappointing. That is not to say it was bad, but it didn’t seem to hold up to the previous books. Arthur is on the Earth 2, about 8 years after the destruction of the original version. The book was disappointing to me because the plot was weaker and many of the characters weren’t as interesting as in the series.

Arthur falls in love with a girl, that seems to be a major plot point, but doesn’t develop. The girl’s reactions didn’t seem reasonable to me at times.

Another plot point is discovering why the dolphins have disappeared. But this point is just dropped in favor of another plot point – discovering god’s final message.

On the positive side, Adams displays his peculiar brand of humor quite well. Each turn of events is pretty much unexpected and often funny.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace