Read Books This will provide a list of the books I've read with a brief review. Users are blocked, contact me for access. I welcome discussions, but I'm tired of spam.

January 20, 2024

Star Wars: Darth Vader by Greg Pak

Filed under: Science Fiction — Tags: , , — Randolph @ 1:13 pm

This story tells how Darth Vader looks into his past. It is a comic book telling his story from his perspective, he’s the good guy in this one.

It’s an amusing story worth a little time to read. It has good pacing for a comic with good art.

November 8, 2023

Negative Return by Jessie Kwak

Filed under: Science Fiction — Tags: , — Randolph @ 4:27 pm

Manu Juric is a bounty hunter, or ostensibly a hit man. He is a bounty hunter of mediocre skills who gets hired to take smaller targets, usually by killing them. He has a talent for reading people and enjoys explosions. He gets a break, a hit on a major crime boss, Jaantzen.

He botched the attempt on Jaantzen’s life and through circumstances, he ends up working for Jaantzen on a heist. Manu’s work on this heist and a through a myriad of twists and plot turns is the focus of the book.

This book is part of a 3-book set by Jessie Kwak set in the Durga System. The books are different stories set in a unique socio-political environment.

The book is decent, but I found the setup unbelievable. For a bounty hunter/hit man, is seems almost incompetent and it is difficult to see why anyone would hire him for this job. Then when he as a kill shot on his target, he tries to show off which leads to his botched attempt, which seems very unprofessional. Then why Jaantzen spared his life and had him join is his team is also questionalbe, arguably he wanted Manu’s people-reading skills, but to know that he would have to have those skills himself and the problems would not have occurred.

Once you get past the problems, the book is ok. It’s a quick read, so far I’ve enjoyed the others more.

September 1, 2023

Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem

Filed under: Humor,Mystery,Science Fiction — Tags: — Randolph @ 3:51 pm

This is a science fiction-mystery-noir-humor story with a hard-boiled detective, I think I missed a category.

The setting is poorly defined and that is part of the reader’s exploration. Conrad Metcalf is a detective, a private inquisitor in a world where (not-private) inquisitors spy on people doling out or removing credits. Drugs are commonplace and. tailored, people use them to create moods, to forget, to enhance experiences, it seems endless and very personalized.

Society has created intelligent animals, educated babies and a few gadgets. These are revealed slowly through the book.

At the beginning, the book felt like a detective noir story, it read like a Raymond Chandler story. Conrad is approached by a man panicked, being framed for a murder and no means of payment and low on credits. During the investigation, he encounters kangaroo muscle, holographic houses and a few others.

The extensive use of drugs made me feel like the whole book is a drug-induced illusion. The author reinforces this by making use of bizarre idioms and metaphors that get increasingly peculiar as the book goes on.

The title is a reference to a gun that plays music whenever it is drawn, something to do with advertising.

The book started off amusing and new but started to get old toward the end. It ended just in time.

April 19, 2023

Parallel Realities: A Turing Fiction by K.R. Simms

Filed under: Science Fiction — Randolph @ 2:35 pm

This book is billed as a psycho-mystery that explores the possibility of AI implants rewriting some of the human experience.

The protagonist, Dawson, undergoes a major brain injury. The only way to help him have any kind of meaningful life is to implant an ai-on-a-chip in his brain to help him.

The book takes us through is journey from his perspective as the AI seems to modify his perception of reality, giving him experiences of multiple realities with no control of his shifting between them.

Another aspect of this book is that an AI wrote sections of it. I’ve been playing with several ai available on the web, it is clearly beyond what I have access to, yet I think this task is a bit premature. I found it’s writing poor, it almost always uses the present tense where, although it seems grammatically correct, it feels unnatural and uncolloquial. It is overly repetitive and doesn’t grasp human nature. For instance, on female character repeatedly covers her mouth every time she laughs or blushes, several times in a few pages. I can’t speak to the author, whom I haven’t read nor heard of before, who may have been writing down to the level of the AI to make the book more homogenous. In any case, it could have done with a good editor.

I did find the story itself interesting enough to work through the book. It is a fairly easy and quick read, but not one I’d recommend.

December 4, 2022

Tiamat’s Wrath by James S. A. Corey

Filed under: Science Fiction — Tags: , — Randolph @ 8:44 am

July 3, 2022

Persepolis Rising by James S. A. Corey

Filed under: Science Fiction — Tags: , — Randolph @ 8:02 am

This is the seventh book in The Expanse series, it takes place thirty years after the events in Babylon’s Ashes. Earth and Mars are part of a coalition and the Belt has come into its own power governing trade through the gate.

The Roci is sent on an incidental mission to Freehold, where Holden renegotiates the Transport Union’s demands on Freehold, who would have died from those demands. Holden brings back Houston, their leader as prisoner. On returning, Holden and Noami decide to retire leaving the Roci to Bobbie as captain.

The main plot revolves around Laconia, who has been experimenting with the protomolecule and developing new technologies. The Laconians invade with one ship, quickly taking over the Medina station, leaving Santiago Singh as governor, then heading for the inner planets, with another ship on-way to the gate. The Roci crew don’t have access to their ship and join Saba in the underground. Jim Holden is ultimately taken prisoner and transported to Laconia. The first Laconian ship was defeated in a costly series of battles, but not destroyed. The book closes with Holden arriving on Laconia as prisoner and the Laconians still a looming thread with their second ship near to arriving.

Another twist is that when the Laconians use their protomolecule-based technologies, an odd black sphere appears on their primary ship and moves completely with the ship. Holden identified it as belonging to the people who destroyed the civilization that made the protomolecule.

One problem is that after 30 years from the last book, the characters have aged, but there doesn’t seem to be any character growth in that time. It’s still the same characters, the book could have taken a month and it would be the same, the time frame only seems to provide an opportunity for the Laconian technology development.

Aside from that, this is one of the better books in a while. It is a lot of action with some weird technologies thrown in.

June 19, 2022

Artemis by Andy Weir

Filed under: Science Fiction — Tags: — Randolph @ 2:15 pm

Set at a Lunar colony in the near future, this is the story of Jasmine Bashara (Jazz), a smuggler fighting for a small life in the colony, who is drawn into a grand plot to control its resources.

The strengths of the book are in the action and most of the science. The book is a page-turner that will keep the reader guessing as to what’s coming.

The writing is simple, grammatically correct but uninspired. The characters are somewhat flat, there is no real character growth in the book.

Jazz is a young girl, very intelligent but uninspired. I found her unlikable, she is untrusting and doesn’t make good decisions. Her skill sets, though they are explained in the story, seem a very odd assortment and somewhat contrived.

The science is mostly good, the reader can learn a lot from the book in this regard. But he misses the science in a few points, these oversights bothered me in the ending, although they wouldn’t affect the ending. The book includes an analysis of space travel costs. In this instance he goes into a good in-depth analysis of fuel costs comparing it to air travel then extrapolating to space travel. However, when he talks about the cost of descending to the Moon’s surface from Lunar orbit, he accounts for the difference in air resistance and gravity, but forgets to account for the cost of moving the fuel from Earth to Lunar orbit.

Overall, I did find the book enjoyable, mostly because of its pacing and I enjoyed picking up the science of a lunar habitation through the reading.

May 12, 2022

The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted by Harry Harrison

Filed under: Adventure,Humor,Science Fiction — Tags: , — Randolph @ 10:41 am

This is on of the later books but set early in his career. The story opens with James DiGriz, prisoner, being shipped to some planet to face charges of bank robbing, after lamenting his misfortune he escapes from the pot into the fire.

James finds himself on a military planet and promptly gets drafted. He learns a nemesis of his, formerly Captain Garth, is now General Zennor, planning an invasion of an unknown planet and is enlisted by the League Navy to identify that planet – if he can’t kill General Zennor first.

The target planet turns out to be a utopian planet with no government and practicing a philosophy of Individual Mutualism, which seems to be a rather libertarian approach to life. There is no army, no police and no problems. On such a world, how do you defeat a heavily-armed invasion force?

As usual, he goes from one problem to another finding the most unusual solutions to problems in amusing ways and finds a most unusual solution to outwitting an invading army.

January 12, 2022

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Filed under: Adventure,Science Fiction — Tags: — Randolph @ 6:08 pm

This book is about the investigation into an attack on a Mercury outpost. The main character, Swan Er Hong, is on Mercury during the attack and is lead on a mystery from her recently deceased relative, Alex. Swan is an expert in building ecosystems, mostly in Asteroids. Alex had left her a message that leads her to Fitz Wahram from Titan who Swan describes as a toad, big chest, big stomach, short legs. He is the main supporting character we don’t really know much about except he seems to be an official of some sort and had access to a lot of resources.

Earth’s global warming had destroyed most ecosystem and most of the animal life. During the investigation, Swan and Wahram take it upon themselves to fix the Earth by parachuting animals throughout the world in aerogel bubbles. I’m guessing Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR) doesn’t understand either aerogel nor bouyancy.

Swan, as a protagonist, doesn’t seem to make many decisions. During the majority of the book she is a passive observer and just goes with the flow of events. I understand that KSR writes a lot about politics and our pollution issues, but the Earth repopulation seems to be given more thought than the main plot. And it seems peculiar that Swan and Wahram are of one mind on how to go about a solution. It’s even more surprising that this simplistic action would actually work without first restoring ecosystems for the animals.

The pacing of the book is odd. For the most part it is very slow. This is compounded by the tendency of KSR to use unusual words that you either have to look up or ignore. Admittedly, many of them are interesting, but the habit just slows the reading process. Too often there are simpler synonyms that would have worked just as well, except for slowing down the reader.

The other issue in pacing is that between paragraphs too much can happen. After leaving Mercury for Pluto, there is only one blank line between being barely underway and arriving, there is no indication of time passing.

Clear to the end, I was expecting the book to pick up, I’ve liked other books he’s written. This one just didn’t pan out and the ending really felt anticlimactic.

December 16, 2021

I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole

Filed under: Science Fiction — Tags: — Randolph @ 5:32 pm

I wanted to like this book. It is rated very well but I don’t see it. The book is too long, over 600 pages where I feel that less than half of that would have been adequate for this story.

The book is set sometime after the movies. Han and Leah have their twins. It has a few settings, all new places to this universe.

The book starts of very poorly. It felt like the author was putting words down just to get past the setup. Corran’s wife is kidnapped. He knows she was kidnapped and is held in stasis, but nothing else. This started off feeling wrong. Maybe the stasis is explained in the end, but it doesn’t seem rational. Nor why he can ascertain that and nothing else. It was just a setup so he has ample time to mess around becoming a powerful Jedi.

Other characters from the movie appear. Luke, the most prominent, doesn’t seem reasonable from the movie settings. He seems to fall out of character when Corran needs to make a point – mostly to the reader.

Backstory for Corran is often provided through dialog. As in “You remember when…” Then two characters discuss something in detail that both of them know.

Corran encounters lots of odd characters. Yet many of them appear only briefly and provide a critical skill or give him equipment he direly needs and didn’t realize he needed.

The writing is mediocre. The story line seemed interesting, but someone else should have told it. He goes to excess in making up words to create an otherworldly feel. It mostly just slows down the reading, although I do believe he has some skill at creating words that provide a good feel for the situation or thing described.

It felt contrived and overly dragged out with weak supporting characters.

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