Book Reviews

Quick Book Reviews Update: Part II Extended Edition Plus

Perdido Street Station

By China Mieville

My new favorite book.  Seriously — this book is both wonderfully written and incredibly exciting;  I couldn’t put it down for a week.  (Yes, a book can be wonderfully written but incredibly boring — anything by Charles Dickens comes to mind.)

I guess you’d call China Mieville’s novels “steampunk-ish,” because they’re not exactly steampunk, as I understand — Perdido Street Station doesn’t take place in Victorian England, for one thing — though it’s very much like it.  Think steampunk mixed with a small bit of magic and elementalism, with many types of creatures other than mankind.

The story centers (somewhat) around Isaac, an overweight scientist, and his half-human, half-insect lover (yes, lover), a “khepri” called Lin.  (Though, they wouldn’t say they’re half-human, half-insect — they claim humans are “khepris with the heads of gibbons.”)

Isaac is approached by a creature known as a Garuda — think half-man, half-bird — who has had his wings ripped off by his people as a form of punishment.  Isaac does not know for what, and doesn’t pry — the Garuda has sought him out, due to Isaac’s small bit of noteriety in the field of biomechanics.

…and that’s just where the bloody story begins. The world of Perdido Street Station is absolutely huge, even though the entire story takes place within just one city!  I found myself constantly referring to the map at the beginning, just to try and figure out in what section of the city a part of the story was taking place in.  (It’s not necessary — I just like looking at maps.)

The book is just absolutely filled with amazing characters, places, and descriptions — Mieville is able to describe this dirty, decrepid city amazingly.  You can almost smell the raw sewage, garbage, and shit lining the streets.  (The world of Perdido Street Station isn’t quite falling apart, but the people who live there have both forgotten many different scientific subjects, all while learning new ones.)

I’ve already got his other book Iron Council waiting to be read on my bookshelf, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it as much as this one.

Book Reviews

Quick Book Reviews for July 14 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review — life has been pretty busy lately.  I’ll try to catch up — luckily, most of what I’ve reading has been part of a big series and I can pretty much review the whole thing in one go.

Tetrasomy Two

by Oscar Rossiter

Another classic science fiction novel, Tetrasomy Two reminded me very, very much of Chuck Palahniuk.  (That probably should be the other way around, of course — this book was published 20 years before Chuck ever published anything.)  It had that gritty, sarcastic first-person dialog written in short, bursts of sentence fragments that I just love (another author I love who writes like this is my personal favorite, William Gibson, of course).

The story centers around a character who’s somewhat of an introvert — he’s a first-year doctor working in a psychiatric ward.  He finds himself receiving “messages” in the form of one-word sentences from a particular patient, and soon begins to doubt his sanity.  However, as this catatonic patient seems to somehow “feed” off of our protagonist’s wants and desires (including delivering an attractive nurse at the ward into our main introverted character’s bed), he decides to just go along with whatever is happening to him and make the best of it.

I won’t spoil it for you, in case you ever come across this book, but it’s definitely a good read, and one of the better out of the “classic” old SF novels I’ve managed to randomly find.

The Forgotten Realms Series

by R.A. Salvatore

Might as well just get the whole series out of the way at once, eh?

I’ve been being told to read these books for years, both by a good friend of mine and by my brother.  I avoided it for as long as I could — not because I had anything against Mr. Salvatore, but just because I didn’t want to start another hugely long series of Fantasy novels!  (I think I’m up to three, now.)

However, the books are good.  Salvatore’s a good writer — even if he claims that his books are mostly based upon his experiences in playing Dungeons and Dragons. :P

The series is somewhat centered around a character named “Drizzt Do’urden” (you’ve probably heard that name before, even if you’ve never read these books) — an elf from an evil race of elves, yet one who’s trying to avoid the dark ways of his people.

Salvatore’s description of Drizzt starts off somewhat differently than it is in later novels — in the earlier novels, I almost swear that Drizzt is described as a semi-sane dark elf that, though he’s forgone the demon-worshipping, sacrificing ways of his people, is still somewhat cruel and less than honorable.  This seems to change in later novels, as Drizzt seems to become more and more “pure” in his actions and thoughts.

The books have all the staples — dwarves, orcs, goblins, wizards, paladins, several different types of elves — I’m starting to see plenty of influence from these novels present in World of Warcraft, that’s for sure. ;)

Triton (also published as Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia)

by Samuel R. Delany

Phew boy.  What can I say about this book.  If you know Delany, and you know how he was, then you’ll love this.  It’s seriously one of those books that when you get done reading it, and you know it’s not part of a series, that you’re left saying, “What the fuck?  I want more!”

The book is beautifully written, full of humor, and the development of the main character couldn’t have been done better.  Bron Helstrom is an incredibly introverted man (emotionally wise — this could also be described as being “narcisistic,” I guess), and this is shown beautiful through the third-person narration, which, as an interplanetary war is unfolding, all Bron seems to care about is himself.  The world of Triton is a wonderfully libertarian (culturally) utopia, where anyone can be happy, yet Bron is miserable.

And when he goes through his “change,” well, I’m just going to go ahead and tell you that I didn’t see it coming from a mile away, even though it’s HUGE.  I’ll let you figure it out for yourselves.

Book Reviews

Quick Book Review — Review Books Quick!

*the third ear*
_by curt siodmak_

A quick book — I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a translation, but it almost reads like one. In it, a psychologist/scientist searches for a chemical substance that is extruded by psychics/mind-readers in the hopes of synthesizing it.

The book is written from the first person, and the doctor’s sense of paranoia really comes through to the reader — you can’t tell if he really _is_ being hounded by government agents and rival scientists, or if he only _thinks_ that he is.

A very good book, though it doesn’t really have an ending — it’s just, event-event-rising-action-end. No conclusion or anything — just… _ending_. You’d have to read it to know.

_By John Lange_

Not really a SF novel, but a sort of really quick Tom Clancy-esque super-government-agent novel, where a CIA agent has to stop a terrorist from killing all of San Diego! No, really, that’s what it’s about.

But it’s not as black-and-white as that — the book really gets into the the agent’s life and the meanings behind the terrorist’s plot, really making you think.

*From this Day Forward*
_By John Brunner_

A collection of short stories — the book was printed very weirdly in that none of the short stories told who the authors were… all I could tell from the index pages was that one of them was either written by or edited by Harlan Ellison.

Had quite a few good stories in it, including one about Vietnamese terrorists striking the United States in retaliation for the horrors committed during the Vietnam War, and one story (which I take it to be one of the first in this genre) featurning, literally, “Men in Black.”

Book Reviews

Quick Book Reviews: Triple Edition!

*Stranger in a Strange Land*
_by Robert Heinlein_

What can I say about his book that hasn’t already been said? Just read it, if you haven’t already.

I’ve heard of people describing Heinlein as fascist, conservative, authoritarian in his writings — I am now of the conclusion that these people have never read one of this books.

_Stranger in a Strange Land_ is so far removed from those ideals as to be almost from another planet — much like the protagonist of the story! Hurr hurr!

Quick summary (if you _must_ have one): it’s about a man raised in an environment alien to Earth, and who suddenly comes to our planet as a sort of emissary. But, seriously — that’s like saying the Bible is about some people wandering around in a desert for a bit. Just read.

*Freezing Down*
_by Anders Bodelsen_

A classic SF book from the 70’s, _Freezing Down_ is a translation from the original Danish — I mention this, because the translation gives the entire thing a sort of “eerie” quality that I can’t quite put my finger on.

It’s not _badly written_—not at all—you’d just have to read it to know what I’m talking about (or if you’ve read other direct, only partly-edited translations of works before, you’ll know what I’m talking about).

I loved reading this book for several reasons, the main one being the different ideals and ways of living that were put forth by the author, who grew up in a very liberal Northern European country — the views present on sex, in particular, are very interesting. Sex is treated as just another part of life — not particularly special, but not particular forbidden either. This is doubly noteworthy, in my opinion, since a large part of the book takes place in (the author’s) present day, so there’s no “Oh, that’s just the way things are in the future” kind of thing going on.

*Nova 2*
_by Harry Harrison_

Well, _compiled_ by Harry Harrison, at least. This is a collection of about a dozen or so short stories from the early 70’s — there’s somewhat of a theme of environmentalism in a few of the stories, a theme that was just as prevalent in early 70’s society as it is today.

One story is a translation by a Brazilian author (André Carneiro), and as even Mr. Harrison describes of it in his foreword, it’s of a decidedly different nature — you’ll just have to read it and see what I’m talking about.

Book Reviews

Quick Book Review: Double Star

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_by Robert Heinlein_

Another great Heinlein book. I’ve only read three of his (_Starship Troopers_, _Stranger in a Strange Land_, and _Double Star_), but all have been great. _Double Star_ is about a down-and-out actor who’s clandestinely hired to fill in for a high-ranking political leader who’s been kidnapped — just temporarily, at first, but then various events keep putting off his leave date, and it begins to look like he might not have a chance to ever leave the role!

While I love Arthur C. Clarke’s books for the technical specificity, I love Heinlein’s for the _writing_. His writing style is very “lively,” to say the least — hell, his dialog could even be described as “hokey” sometimes, but that’s just part of what makes it so fun to read!

If you _ever_ get to read one of his books, though, please—please, please, please—please make sure it’s _Stranger in a Strange Land_. There’s a good damn reason why that book’s called by many to be the greatest science fiction novel ever written.

Book Reviews

Quick Book Review: Debt of Bones

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_by Terry Goodkind_

An enjoyable read, even if I finished it in one day. More like the _old_ Terry Goodkind, and not the haughty, _full-of-himself-after-just-having-read-Atlas-Shrugged_ Terry Goodkind.

One issue, though — for one thing, the book is richly illustrated with very nice drawings every so often dealing with the events happening on those pages. Now, if you know anything about the “Midlands” in Terry Goodkind’s world of the _Sword of Truth_, you know that it was a land where a woman’s status in society (her class) was apparent by how long she could grow her hair — the higher in class society you were, the longer you could grow your hair.

The protagonist of the story, Abby, remarks in the first few pages (after seeing the Mother Confessor with her waist-length golden hair) about how _her_ hair “covered her ears but no more.”

Then a few pages later, you see an illustration showing Abby walking into the Wizard’s Keep on her errand… *with her long hair reaching past her shoulders*.

…is it that bloody hard to coordinate some sort of communication between a writer and an artist? Did anyone even look at these pictures (however nicely drawn they were) before they went to print?

Book Reviews

Quick Book Review: The Postman

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_by David Brin_

Damn good book — not at all like the movie. Very well written. Starts off as a neat post-apocalypse movie and turns into an examination of the reasons behind man’s inherent need to destroy (and how it can be stopped).

Definitely worth a read.