Blog Archives

Touched By An Alien (Gini Koch, Alien Novels #1)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a fairly standard sexy woman empowerment urban fantasy, with the requisite romance side plot. This is the first in a series, and it really shows. There is a lot more establishing material than really deserves to be in one book, there are too many characters for too little plot, and the story feels a bit like something the author mushed together as an introduction without disturbing the real plot. Books like this make me think the author is just following a checklist of things usually included in the genre rather than trying to create anything unique. I wouldn’t recommend this book because if this were the only urban fantasy ever written I suppose it would pass muster as it outlines most of the ideas in the genre, but when there are other books out there that are simply better in every way, I don’t know why anyone would bother with this one.

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The Age of Ra (James Lovegrove, The Pantheon Trilogy #1)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
I’m not really sure what category to put The Age of Ra in. The story is basically what I would think of as military sci-fi, and it has quite a few elements of that type. That said, it also has an active sentient Egyptian pantheon that powers most of the weapons. I suppose I will just call it both fantasy and military sci-fi and move on. The story isn’t great, as is common with military sci-fi. There’s a lot of exciting fighting, which is fairly well done, but it is described in that genre’s typically detached, removed manner that lessens the excitement somewhat. The characters aren’t great either. The protagonist is a bit flat, and the love interest is barely there. I don’t hold any particular fascination with the Egyptian pantheon of gods, and someone who does might have a lot more interest here, as they are portrayed very well for their traditional strange personalities from what I can remember. Everything comes together in this book fairly well, but the elements it is composed of just aren’t good or interesting enough for me to recommend the book overall.

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Hunter’s Run (George RR Martin, Gardner Dozois, Daniel Abraham)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Hunter’s Run is an anomaly in my experience, a book that was worked on for several decades by several authors that actually came out well. I’m not a particular fan of any of the authors involved in the project, and yet together they managed to make something that I really liked. The story is a straight up hard sci-fi adventure, but there are a lot of more subtle psychological elements thrown in that give the book real emotional hooks to sink into the readers. The setting is standard profligate expansionist, capitalist, ecologically disastrous, humanity exploiting a beautiful, pristine, wild, alien world, but other than this tired device, everything is quite original and interesting. The protagonist shows real character growth throughout the book, and while initially the bizarre alien scenery is more interesting than his personal journey, eventually the psychological element proves to be the real strength of the book. I would definately recommend this book to any hard sci-fi fans and I hope you will pick up a copy yourself.

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Peacekeeper (Laura E Reeve, Major Ariane Kedros #1)

0.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Peacekeeper is a future sci-fi novel that has the distinction of being one of the worst books I have ever read. I am frankly baffled that this is the first in a series, as I don’t know how any publisher could possibly want to read anything else by this author. It starts off all right initially, but soon descends into an abysmal morass of stupidity and lazy writing. The protagonist does nothing for the first 100 pages. The author just keeps spewing uninteresting exposition at us about her poorly conceived space/Cold War parallel universe and really nothing happens. After that, every single story element is dependent on gross incompetence or ridiculously contrived coincidence. I’m not sure how anyone could look at a plot summary of this book and see it as at all reasonable or something that anyone would want to read. I would not recommend this book, because if I was trapped on a deserted island and removed from all human contact for the rest of my life I would derive more enjoyment out of reading a discarded gum wrapper than I would this book.

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Germline (TC McCarthy, The Subterrene War Trilogy #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Germline is a near future war thriller taking the form of a gonzo journalist stuck behind the lines of a horrific future conflict in Kazakhstan. This is a well written and well researched book, but honestly I’m not sure who it would really appeal to. It’s very violent and graphic, and the main thrust of the book is to depict how horrible war is in all its forms. Without any attempt to glamorize or excite the reader with its violence, it won’t exactly appeal to people looking for action, and there really isn’t enough of a sci-fi angle to interest anyone in the technology or man’s relationship with it. I liked the book, but I wasn’t exactly ever excited to get to read more of it just because it was so dark and violent and the situations the protagonist are placed in are so unpleasant. I guess I would recommend the book in general based on the fact that it was imaginative, well written, and interesting, but I’m not exactly sure who I would recommend it to.

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Murphy’s Gambit (Syne Mitchell)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Murphy’s Gambit is a hard sci-fi, traditional faster-than-light travel spaceship themed adventure story. The protagonist is unique, I think this is the only sci-fi story I’ve read where the protagonist is adapted to zero gravity and has trouble under normal Earth conditions. The supporting cast isn’t quite as engaging, and the villain borders on being evil for the sake of evil even though there are much easier ways to accomplish their goals of supervillainy. The setting is a standard corporation-controlled space dystopia, which I wasn’t especially thrilled with, but was serviceable for the story the author was trying to tell. The pacing is good, and the author keeps the stretches of exposition brief, which is a definite mark of distinction among far-future sci-fi. I would recommend this book as good hard sci-fi that’s very accessible.

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The Quantum Thief (Hannu Rajaniemi, The Quantum Thief Trilogy #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Quantum Thief is a far future mystery/thriller sci-fi novel. I’m not a big fan of the extreme far future sci-fi stuff, but The Quantum Thief was definitely interesting enough that I enjoyed it. It is really a beautiful novel visually. The scenes are incredibly vivid and dramatic and almost operatic. I found the plot and frequent perspective shifts to be disorienting, though, so you are left with something very unique in my experience, a crowded, busy, distracting morass of a novel from which these poignant, visually arresting scenes suddenly emerge, then suddenly vanish. This is the first in a planned trilogy, so some of the awkwardness might stem from that. I would recommend this book as a somewhat frustrating but unique experience.

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Saturn Returns (Sean Williams, Astropolis #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Saturn Returns is the first in a series of very strange far future sci-fi mystery/action novels.  It has one of the stranger interpretations of far future technology I have seen: people exist in multiple bodies, copy themselves, can alter how they experience time at will, and can be recreated based purely on data.  As you might imagine, this makes the story take some very strange directions.  I was a bit conflicted on whether to recommend the book or not.  I didn’t feel like the characters were particularly strong, the plot sort of meanders around demonstrating that there is probably a bit of filler, and the conclusion was entirely unsatisfying.  On the plus side, though, the setting is incredibly rich, unique, and imaginative, so overall I am inclined to recommend the book for readers who read sci-fi for exotic experiences more so than character driven adventure.
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The 13th Immortal (Robert Silverberg)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The 13th Immortal is an old fashioned far future dystopian sci-fi adventure story. Although I often enjoy looking at the roots of sci-fi history to see how they have influenced modern authors, The 13th Immortal proved to be overly simplistic and something of a pain to get through. The protagonist is a generic amnesiac strong man, and he basically just wanders around through an uninteresting dystopian world going through a series of uninteresting encounters with its unmemorable inhabitants that don’t really contribute much to an overall story arc despite filling up pages between the introduction and the exposition-spattered conclusion. Even if your interest in the genre is composed entirely of digging through the works of sci-fi’s golden age looking for forgotten treasures, I wouldn’t recommend The 13th Immortal.

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WWW:Wake (Robert J Sawyer, WWW Trilogy #1)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
WWW:Wake is a contemporary hard sci-fi coming of age story. Apparently it is the first in a trilogy, but I was rather surprised to learn this, since this book stands so well on its own. This is one of the best hard sci-fi books I have read. I’ve read quite a lot of sci-fi dealing with the emergence of machine intelligence, but this is first one I found at all believable or well thought out. The human side isn’t neglected, either, as it often is in hard sci-fi; the author also does well here. The characters are vivid and unique, deep without a great deal of exposition. The author does a great job of condensing an intrinsically complicated story until it is both manageable and quick moving. With the exception of one brief scene (fairly PG, but non-consensual, groping) which might disturb some readers who are sensitive to such things, I would unhesitatingly recommend WWW:Wake to anyone with even a passing interest in sci-fi; I doubt you will be disappointed by this book.

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