Doctor Who: Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams by Gareth Roberts

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on November 20, 2015 @ 10:39 am

Doctor Who: Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams by Gareth Roberts

This book started as a script for TV written by Douglas Adams. The script does not follow what we think of as Doctor Who cannon. Production did start on an episode (or movie?) but (apparently) not completed. Gareth Roberts took the script and expanded it into a book.

The book is an adventure story, it seems to be based on the Tom Baker version of The Doctor, but it isn’t explicitly stated. It does have a good feel of Doctor Who, the deviations are pretty obvious and appear early, and it is easy to get past them and enjoy the story. The flavor of Douglas Adams is obvious, especially toward the end of the book.

The characters are interesting, although the relationship between the two primary human characters felt contrived. The plot is interesting and has enough twists to keep the interest up.

Reality Check by David Brin

Filed under:Science Fiction,Uncategorized — posted by Randolph on May 3, 2015 @ 8:32 pm

Reality Check by David Brin

A rather dull, short story. It didn’t have time to develop anything of interest.

Legacy by Greg Bear

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on April 1, 2015 @ 7:43 pm

Legacy by Greg Bear

The plot is the exploration of the relationship between a small human society and a new life form. The author seems to have envisioned a new idea for a new life form and used the book as a device to explore it. That said, the book is enjoyable.

Olmy is sent by the Hexamon to spy on the humans on Lamarckia, a planet with a unique life form that was to be left alone. As soon as he arrives, the focus turns to an exploration of the life, itself.

There is almost nothing that is really explored. Although Olmy sets out on a travel, which did not seem to fit with his mission, almost everything we learn about the life is provided by other characters. As the story progresses, the reader encounters characters more and more knowledgable.

Another plot line involves the relation of two factions on the planet. We open with outright warring, and eventually learn the underlying history behind the war, and the people leading it. We also learn a little about the cultures involved in this war. Personally, I found this more interesting than the life exploration.

Besides Lamarkia, referring to the planet and the Lamarkian-style evolution that seems to predominate its life forms, the author has thrown in references to mythologies. Other than just names dropped, there isn’t really a clue that there is a reference. I suspect I missed most of them, if there were more than a couple.

Early on, the book dragged. I really couldn’t identify with any of the characters in the book, the main character seemed to make some very odd decisions. The book really picked up in the second half. If the first half were just a little better, I would rate the book much better.

1632 by Eric Flint

Filed under:History,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on February 8, 2015 @ 8:04 pm

1632 by Eric Flint

This book tells the story of a West Virginia mining town being transported into the year 1632. The story is about the clash of cultures, mostly in how the locals react to the American philosophy and technology.

The Americans immediately decide to impose democratic and egalitarian philosophies on the locals, who take to it rapidly.

This should make for a great story. But there are many shortcomings.

First, the writing is fairly weak. The author has no idea how to tell a backstory. I almost gave up on the book within the first 20 pages. For example, when he introduced one of the characters early in the book, he provides a decent description, then provides the backstory in a short paragraph:

"So, Doc. Did the judge give you a choice? Between the Army and the Marines, I mean."

Most of that was never explained in the book.

Often, when describing an action, he’ll switch between describing events in process and describing them after the fact. It is somewhat unsettling, and would be more interesting if he stuck with the present.

His segues often consist of a comment by one of the characters that is extremely out of place. A lot of the dialog feels awkward or forced.

The locals are far too accepting of the Americans and the Americans are far too ready to come to consensus in their decisions. There is almost no internal conflict. Their skill set is far too broad for a mining town and they seem to figure things out too quickly. Some of the characters are a bit over the top.

Generally, all conflicts in the book are resolved within a few pages, except for military conflicts which can carry out for a while. He misses numerous opportunities to have issues build tension and develop characters. He introduces major characters in the book who take on backstage roles. Some could have been major characters providing a lot of tension and interest.

The pacing of the book is fairly fast. It is more of an action book than science fiction. But the pacing doesn’t vary enough. Almost the entire book runs at this same pace.

On the positive side, the pacing is good, not too fast, and the story is interesting.

The history is good. This is an interesting and pivotal time in history, one we should know more about. With the inquisitions going across Europe and the thirty-years war, there is a lot to be involved in. These are some of the events that led people to cross the Atlantic for the Americas, now the Americas have come to Europe.

I did enjoy the book, but was sorely disappointed because it could easily have been so much more. If you enjoy alternate history and can put up with the weak writing style, you will probably enjoy this book.

Fleet of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on November 9, 2014 @ 10:29 am

Fleet of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

This is another science fiction novel set in Known Space. It takes place in a fleet of Puppeteer worlds, this novel delves deeper into the Puppeteer society and psychology than any previous novel, at least that I’ve read.

The story involves a small band of Humans among the Puppeteers who take on the risky tasks that the Puppeteers shun. They uncover a dark secret that the Puppeteers have kept, and wonder where that information will lead.

Although the story is interesting, it has a different feel from the other stories set in Known Space. It is darker. It shows a darker side of Puppeteer involvement in Human affairs, although this has been suggested, it is now part of the story.

Some of the characters seemed poorly developed. A relationship developed between two main Humans, Kirsten and Omar. Although Kirsten had rebuffed Omar’s advances, there wasn’t an adequate explanation of her change of heart. Other than that, there wasn’t really any character development. There were social changes at the end of the story, but the characters didn’t seem to change.

Although I did enjoy the story, I feel that the character flaws will keep me from recommending it. There isn’t much character development in Niven’s stories in general, and the stories are good. Perhaps the co-author introduced them, but they are inadequate and I feel they detract from the story due to their inadequacy.

Scatterbrain by Larry Niven

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on May 4, 2014 @ 6:43 am

by Larry Niven

This is a collection of short stories, some good, some not. Several were excerpts from other books and were not meant to stand along. They felt like the chapters at the end of books that were to entice you into buying the next in a series. For this, I felt cheated.

As the title suggests, scaterbrain, there is no theme to the book. The stories are random and varied. Even the introduction, which fit the theme, was lacking and of no value, even as literature in my mind.

This is ok if you’re a Niven fan, otherwise skip it.

Brightness Reef by David Brin

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series,Uncategorized,Uplift — posted by Randolph on May 3, 2014 @ 7:24 pm

Brightness Reef by David Brin

This book takes place on an abandoned world intended to be natural and develop its own races, who would hopefully be available for uplift. A small population of each of six races, in turn, have landed small colonies on the world. Their intent is to devolve and be re-uplifted, and hopefully to avoid attention and possible punishment from the stellar community. Humans are one of the six.

These races have ancient antipathy for each other. And each brings unique skills and histories. They have overcome their differences, and their are pieces of culture of each that has worked its way into the others, yet they do maintain separate communities.

The story revolves around the arrival of a spaceship or renegade humans. Their intent is unknown, and seems sinister. They aren’t an official envoy, so they shouldn’t be here, either.

This story shows us a different side of each of the races, including the humans. It maintains its suspense on the invaders, and latent tension among the six races.

Unfortunately, this book mostly sets up the series and doesn’t resolve much of anything. The story is interesting, and a must read if you’re interested in the Uplift series.

Foundation’s Fear (Second Foundation Trilogy) by Gregory Benford

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series,Uncategorized — posted by Randolph on March 2, 2014 @ 6:52 pm

Foundation's Fear (Second Foundation Trilogy)
by Gregory Benford

This is the first of a trilogy billing itself as the second foundation trilogy based on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. Although a three-book set, each can stand on its own very well.

The author explores some elements left up in the air by Isaac Asimov, and fills with more current knowledge and philosophy, such as addressing why there are no non-humans in the galaxy.

Some of the topics he addresses include expanding on Dor, who she is and giving her a little background. Her character is expanded, and perhaps changed a bit, at least from what I may have imagined. In general, he adds a lot about computers and robotics that Asimov didn’t go into, or couldn’t because the technology wasn’t available. Philosophically, he approaches the topic of computer intelligence and what could constitute life. In this, Hari creates two simulated people, Voltaire and Jean of Arc, to help him understand society and to help further his psychohistory, Voltaire and Jean of Arc act as a yin and yang, who’s arguments are designed to answer questions. But they evolve their own desires and take on life beyond their programming.

I found the book difficult to work through at times, but still an interesting addition to the Asimov series. I believe those fond of the Asmiov trilogy will enjoy this and find it interesting. It adds background to the trilogy and brings it a little more into the present. Otherwise I don’t think it may not be worth the effort.

Science Fiction and Philosophy edited by S. Schneider

Filed under:Philosophy,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on December 4, 2013 @ 8:11 am

Science Fiction and Philosophy edited by S. Schneider

This is another of the popular culture and philosophy books, but not part of that series. Perhaps comparing it to that series is a mistake, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. Although similar at some levels, it didn’t have the same depth as the other series.

The book posits that science fiction is closely tied to philosophy. Science fiction often poses questions originally posed by philosophy. Sometimes these questions are raised directly, and other times they just form a foundation for a story. One of the strengths of this book is that is lists the stories most of the works are drawn from, this makes for easy reference and one can find the books for more information.

One interesting approach taken by this volume is that each section begins with a science fiction short story that exemplifies the topic of that section. It really helps bring home the point.

The book touches on topics such as machine intelligence, the possibility of super intelligence, what machine ethics might mean, personality and personhood, and time and the logic of time travel. Naturally, the book discussed Asimov’s laws of robotics, why they are insufficient, and what is needed in their place.

A couple of the topics didn’t touch much on philosophy. The authors used the opportunity to discuss their own research and goals. I found these of interest, but overall detracted from the book. They felt out of place and sometimes didn’t even discuss real philosophy.

Although I found the book enjoyable, I cannot recommend it either as science fiction nor as philosophy. I’m inclined to seek another book on the same topic for comparison, I feel a much better job could have been done.

Eureka: Substitution Method by Cris Ramsay

Filed under:Eureka,Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on November 12, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

Eureka: Substitution Method by Cris Ramsay

This book is based on the TV Series, Eureka. Set in a small Oregon town whose citizens are all descended from top scientists, and are all super-geniuses. And every day seems to encounter some disaster that threatens the world, or at least our comfort levels.

In this story, flowers, then people. and finally buildings start teleporting about. Sheriff Carter and Dr. Blake need to keep it quiet and avoid any military involvement. When a building teleports with its occupants, how do you keep them in the dark? They, and the rest of the crew of Eureka have to solve this problem quickly, and return the buildings to their proper locations before anyone becomes aware.

This isn’t hard science fiction, and has more than a few holes. But it is a fun and fast read, and it is true to the series. If you enjoy the series, this book fits in with the same color and pace.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace