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Candle (John Barnes)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a hard sci-fi exploration of identity in a world dominated by technology that intrudes both into the human environment and also the human psyche.  The hard sci-fi treatment of an interesting issue is very intriguing, and you can’t help but appreciate the fact that there is real imagination here and the author is venturing way out of familiar sci-fi environments.  Unfortunately, the characters feel a bit empty; they just acquiesce to the environments and situations they are placed in without any significant internal struggle or motivations or impetus of their own.  Overall, I would definately recommend this book, but with the notable caveat that it will appeal almost solely to people interested in big-idea hard sci-fi books and not people interested in rich characters or intriguing social interactions.
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Finity (John Barnes)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This should have been a fairly deep, hard sci-fi treatment of alternate realities and identity in a universe where everything but the individual is constantly changing.  Unfortunately, the effect is ruined by boring disposable characters, a premise that isn’t self consistent, and a story that sort of meanders about with mostly unnecessary scenes that feels more like a travelogue than than the action-packed, exciting story the author is trying to write.  We are left with a decent attempt at high-concept hard sci-fi that explores some interesting concepts and is imaginative, but fails in execution.  I would not recommend it.
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