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Reality 36 (Guy Haley, Richards & Klein Investigations #1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
In this near-future, posthuman, artificial intelligence detective thriller, the protagonists transverse a world fractured by the emergence of artificial realities and arcane laws relating to the rights of sentient intelligences in the attempt to uncover the identity of the one responsible for a multiple homicide of the same individual.  As this description might suggest, this novel attempts to grapple with some weighty moral and political issues in combination with a very complicated setting and intricate plot.  I liked the book a great deal, but I think that maybe the author was trying to do a bit too much all at once.  I can’t point to any one fault that undermines the work as a whole, but the overall feeling I left with was that the author was a bit scattered in what he was trying to do.  Despite this shortcoming, and a very unsatisfactory conclusion which presumably will be solved by the sequel, Reality 36 is really hard sci-fi at its best and most complicated and I would definitely recommend it to any hard sci-fi fan.
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Jumping Off The Planet (David Gerrold, The Far Side of the Sky #1)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Jumping Off The Planet attempts to meld a dysfunctional family drama with a hard sci-fi analysis of the ramifications of creating a space elevator in a very dysfunctional world.  Unfortunately, the drama feels manufactured and hollow, and the characters are so maudlin, uninteresting, and unlikeable that the book soon becomes a chore to read.  The sci-fi elements relating to the space elevator seemed all right to me, although I am by no means an expert on the subject, but the dour picture of the dysfunctional world economy either displays a profound lack of knowledge about fundamental economic principles or relies entirely on mechanics not explained within the book.  I was predisposed to liking this book due to my fascination with the concept of space elevators and the great amount of space devoted to writing about them, but the feeble characters and odious melodrama made the narrative laborious to get through, and the economic issues proved too distracting for the good space elevator bits, so I can’t really recommend this book to anyone. I declare it a failure in both concept and execution.
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Mad Skills (Walter Greatshell)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Mad Skills is a near-future sci-fi thriller exploring the possibilities of great intellect being thrust unknowingly upon an individual.  I really enjoyed this book.  It moves along at a good pace, the characters are fairly strong and intriguing, the sci-fi elements are very imaginative and gripping, and the plot has lots of twists and turns to keep you interested.  Unfortunately, it’s one of those books you look back on after finishing and then realize that a few things don’t make much sense once you have the whole picture.  I will still heartily recommend this book, but it is a shame that lack of editing or analysis of the story caused what could have been a great book to merely be very good.
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Amortals (Matt Forbeck)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Amortals is a near future sci-fi thriller that deals with the concept of longevity extending technology and its potential to stagnate society into a dystopia. This is definitely a thriller first and sci-fi second. You won’t get a lot of long winded explanations on society or philosophical spiels on the preciousness of life due to the fact that in every other paragraph the protagonist is tossed around in flying cars, shot at with missiles, or having fistfights. There is definitely a sci-fi component here, and some non fully articulated thoughts on the nature of man, but it’s kept mostly to the margins and serves more as set piece for the protagonist to fight around rather than the driving force of the book. As a thriller it’s good. The characters are interesting enough for you to invest in them without being overly complicated enough to slow down the story, the action is well visualized and exciting with actual tension, and the plot moves along quickly enough that you don’t get bored. I wouldn’t recommend Amortals to every hard sci-fi fan out there, but for someone looking for a quick action thriller with enough sci-fi elements to make you think a bit between fist fights, then I don’t think you’d go wrong with Amortals.

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