Ignition was written by one of the scientists working on rocket propellants from the 1940s to the 1970s. Back when there was a Cold War on, meaning missiles of various varieties, and a Space Race on, meaning rockets of various varieties.
The text stretched my high school chemistry to its breaking point, and then broke it. While I won’t pretend to understand much of the actual science, I was drawn in by Dr. Clark’s bone-dry prose and hilariously understated anecdotes, as well as his humourously cynical view of government research projects. When asked how to handle a certain unstable explosive compound, he writes “I recommend a good pair of running shoes”. The period described was a golden age for propellant research, and government agencies were throwing around silly money to projects with little or no chance of success, in the hope that something would stick. In that way it is very much a sideline commentary on a time where mankind went from Earthbound to Spacebound; a time when science and technology were the answer. Just a bit more research and we can crack just about anything.
After consolidating through the North Atlantic hurricane season, Wolf Squadron moves on to capture Guantanamo Bay and liberate the Marines trapped there. Our heroes then mow through a few Caribbean islands in search of vaccine production materials, a quest which eventually leads them to an unlikely place.
New Marines means Shewolf has to convince new people that her way is the correct way. Unsurprisingly, taking orders from a thirteen year old Second Lieutenant is hard for those who have not seen her in action. Unfortunately, interpersonal issues, and the organizational tangles stemming from them, take up too large a portion of the book. There are some very interesting discussions on leadership but they too often take the form of infodumps from senior officers, who always seem to have more knowledge than any average person. Having said that, this is Ringo and as usual with him the novel is a page turner, especially the last third where the action really picks up. The humor, also as usual with Ringo, is dry and hilarious.
Early on during the third mission to Mars, the crew has to leave prematurely during a storm. Mark Watney is hit by flying debris, specifically an antenna, and carried away from the others. The rest of the crew have no choice but to leave him behind. He is presumed dead due to his bio-monitor being disabled by the impact. But he’s not dead. And now he has to survive on Mars with no communications and limited resources until, somehow, he can be rescued.
From the very first page, I could not put this book down. It grabs the reader instantly and leads him on a long and arduous journey with Watney. Most of the book is written as log entries by Watney himself, and that’s what really makes it shine. “Watney’s” entries reflect his character, which is that of a wise-cracking, self-deprecating, profane, laugh-out-loud funny smartass who is forced to become MacGyver on a planet that, as he puts it, is constantly trying to kill him. Even chemistry becomes funny when written like this, and the almost flow of consciousness style allows frequent and often hilarious tangents. After a log entry about how he will need to use his botany skills and experiment supplies to grow food, the next day’s entry simply reads, “I wonder how the Cubs are doing”. This personal voice makes Watney feel like a real person, not a superhuman hero, and it makes the reader connect with him viscerally. I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed so often while reading a book, which is not bad considering that it is a story about a man who is an inch away from dying from the first page to the last.
Subtitled “The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must”, this is non-fiction detailing how and why man should colonize Mars. Zubrin is a rocket scientist and the founder of the Mars Society, and thus knows what he is talking about.
Fantasy/Science Fiction hybrid set on a world where one side always faces the sun and the other is always dark. The light side features science while the dark side is the realm of magic. Our hero Jack is a sort of spy/mythic hero and these are his adventures. Zelazny weirdness is all over the writing of this rather lighthearted tale.
The crew of a colony ship has set itself up as the Hindu pantheon, lording it over the descendants of their former passengers by controlling access to superior technology and enacting laws forbidding progress. This works well for a long time, until the Buddha appears.
A deep novel which is sometimes difficult to fathom, it is nevertheless considered a science fiction classic for good reason. The way in which Zelazny uses technology as a metaphor for spirituality is masterful.
So what happened after The Return of the Jedi? This series answers the question. If you are a Star Wars fan, you will want to pick this up. The writing won’t win any literary awards, much in the same way that the movies were not nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, but who cares? It’s action with all those characters that we have come to know and love. The series consists of :
Set in the same universe as Freehold but preceding it chronologically, this novel follows a group of bodyguards tasked with protecting the president of a nation wracked by civil war. The setting is very much inspired by present day Afghanistan and Iraq. Clan warfare and a lacking sense of national identity make the task of unification and pacification very difficult. To make it worse, the bureaucrats and military organizations of the UN (now a world and multiplanetary government) don’t care one way or another. They simply want their own agendas pushed. When it all hits the fan, the bureaucrats choose to simply “remove” the president, but the bodyguards have other ideas.
From the excellent action scenes to the realistic character studies, Williamson displays his impressive knowledge of military matters. The plot is a bit slow and perhaps even unfocused in the first half, but then picks up speed to end in a huge climax. If you are a fan of Williamson’s other work, you’ll like this one, but it is only really for the hardcore military fiction buff. That’s right, I didn’t say science fiction. In fact, this book could have been set in the present day Middle East with very few changes.
The second sequel to The Scope of Justice finds our two snipers, Monroe and Wade, dropped into the jungles of Indonesia, where they become involved in a power struggle between diverse anti-government factions, consisting both of terrorists and Indonesian Army. In a clever twist to the story, their new commanding officer, a born and bred bureaucrat Colonel, comes with them. Our heroes are Sergeants, but they have vastly superior skills and experience. This poses many challenges as the team attempts to complete its mission in a shifting local political environment.
I was afraid that this third book would be a mere re-hash or the first two in a new locale, but Williamson has managed to make it unique. The overall structure of a covert mission remains in all three books, but the missions themselves vary widely. Williamson also captures well, especially in this last installment, the good and the bad of the military. How some personnel is helpful, how some is annoyingly by the book, how some goes above and beyond. Most military fiction does not go very deeply into these interesting subjects. Overall, a satisfying read.
In the sequel to The Scope of Justice, the two snipers Monroe and Wade, have a new mission: Take out terrorists smuggling explosives through Romania for use in Western Europe. Once in place, they find themselves doing a lot of straight spy work, typically with little or no backup. To further complicate things, they are in place clandestinely, and must also hide from Romanian authorities.
The second book in the series is an improvement over the first. The prose is less stilted and the story flows better overall. The two main action scenes are very good. Williamson describes well how it feels to be a stranger in a strange land, needing to blend in but having a hard time doing so. I found myself caring more for the protagonists as Williamson explored their motivations in more depth. The technical parts about sniping are detailed and fascinating (at least to this reader). An enjoyable read if you have some interest in the subject matter.
This rather short novel follows a US sniper and spotter team on an assassination mission in Afghanistan. It is set after the Afghan war of 2001 and the target is a terrorist leader. Needless to say, the initial attempt goes to hell in more ways than one. The two Americans then have to use their own ingenuity and local resources to both survive and to complete their mission.
This is competent but not great military fiction. A rather straightforward story, exciting but without any really unexpected wrinkles. Interesting reading if you want to learn something about modern snipers and how they operate. The dialogue is pretty awful at times though.
The idea behind this novel is simple and rather ingenious. Just after World War II, a mysterious man calling himself Mr. Inconnu plops down on Earth claiming to be from a lost human colony. He warns the US government that aliens pervade the galaxy and that if these should discover Earth in her present state, the planet will become a low status protectorate. Kind of like an Amazon tribe discovered by super advanced Westerners. But Mr. Inconnu brings advanced knowledge, allowing the newly created Prometheus Project to both kickstart human development and fool the aliens into thinking that Earth is advanced enough to merit at least the attention given a barely civilized polity.
But there is a traitor in the Project.
I wanted to like this novel. The central concepts and the plot are well thought out. The beginning is quite entertaining, but once the novelty wears off it starts to get pretty dull. The alien cultures are described in a sense of wonder style that fails to convey a sense of wonder. White is trapped by his own storyline, as multiple infodumps thinly disguised as stilted conversation give the story a clumsy shove in the desired direction. The characters are all one dimensional, even the narrator. I skimmed through the last fifty pages just to find out what happens. I found it a pity that this book turned out less than well, because in essence it is quite a good story.
This is the second omnibus of Sector General novels, comprised of three such. It is very plain Space Opera stuff about a huge hospital serving lots of alien races. The premise is full of potential but the stories are both corny and dull. Yawn…
In the future, mankind is winning the war against the Kangas. But the enemy attempts to send troops back in time to Earth 2007. Only one Kanga unit, a deadly Troll, remains alive in 2007 after mankind tries to stop the plan. But a human from the future also survives… And so it begins.
The idea of only one “future human” surviving is entertaining, and Weber on a bad day is still better than many authors on a good one. However, I did feel that Mr. Weber was treading water here. The plot is predictable and somewhat prosaic. The ending is a bit too syrupy and well tied up. The good guys are a bit too good. A nice way to spend an afternoon or two, but nothing fantastic.
This is the first of a spin off in the Honor Harrington series. It starts off by dealing with the next generation of midshipmen. Helen Zilwicki, one of the characters created by Eric Flint for the Honorverse, is prominently featured.
I was disappointed with the first 300 pages but after that the book rapidly picks up the pace and shows true Honorverse form. It is a shame that Weber has descended into verbose overflow. Yes, David, I understood what you meant after the first sentence. You don’t need to re-explain and expand for another overly long paragraph. It slows down the action too much.
I would recommend this for the Honor Harrington fan, but not as a first taste of Weber. There is too much background information that needs to be known to make it enjoyable as a first foray.
Note: This series is also known as Saganami Island.
This is the first of a spinoff series in the the Honor Harrington Universe. My guess is that Flint is doing most of the writing since he is the one who came up with the Zilwicki characters in the Honorverse anthologies.
All the way through reading the book, I kept thinking that Weber and Flint can do much better than this. While the characters are engaging, the plot is lackluster. There’s a lot of interesting material here, but it just doesn’t feel like the high adventure it’s supposed to be. The whole thing is rather construed and feels forced. The first half is very dull, but the novel thankfully picks up during the second half. And then there’s the endless exposition; just as in the later works by Weber, the explanations drone on and on. If I hadn’t been a fan of the Honorverse, I would probably not have finished the book.
The final book in the Empire of Man series has the ever smaller band finally getting off the planet Marduk. But their problems aren’t over. The Empire is in the hands of traitors who claim that Prince Roger is the real traitor. The bad buys also hold Roger’s mother, the Empress, under psychological control. This one is a departure for the series, with space battles and high level political intrigue. While still a cracking read, it suffers from Weber’s datadump writing at times. The action will stop and one is subjected to two or three pages of long-winded explanation about some pet political or tactical point. Having said that, if you liked the first three books, you will enjoy this one just fine.
The third book in the Empire of Man series continues in the same vein as the previous two. The band discovers that their problems far from over even if they manage to get off Marduk. After a hefty bodycount (most of it in the last 100 pages) we are left hanging until the next book.
Note: This series is also known as the Prince Roger Series or the March Upcountry series.
The second installment of the Empire of Man series starts slow but gets much better towards the end. Weber’s obsessive verboseness unfortunately shows up here and there. Real people just don’t talk like that. There is lots of enjoyable discussion about weapons development, although a couple of drawings would have been nice for us mere mortals.
Note: This series is also known as the Prince Roger Series or the March Upcountry series.
In the first book of the Empire of Man series, Crown Prince Roger is a spoiled, annoying brat. When his ship is sabotaged and crashes in the wilderness on a backwater planet, he is forced to rough it towards civilization with a company of Marines from the Imperial Guard. Very enjoyable military science fiction.
Note: This series is also known as the Prince Roger Series or simply the March Upcountry series.