This novel has it’s bright points, and is a pleasant read, but it doesn’t really grab the imagination. And the twist at the end left me a little annoyed.
The story set in a small village in Northwestern India in 1947, during the division of India into India and Pakistan. The village is on the border with Pakistan, with both Sikh and Muslim inhabitants. The two ethnic groups have been living together in the village for centuries, but events in the wider world around them are forcing separation.
The book is rather short. More a snapshot of life during a troubled time than a story, since there is no clear beginning or end to the narrative itself. Various characters influence events in the village, such as the social worker from the big city, the chief of police, and the well-known criminal (almost a caricature of “the usual suspect”). The behavior of the characters is often absurd, and governed more by temporary feelings than by rational behavior. Many of the situations would be comical if not for their utter human tragedy. I think that Singh is trying to convey to the reader the absurdity of dividing people who have lived together for centuries in peace based on the thoughts of the rulers. In the village of Mano Majra, there is no conflict between Sikhs/Hindus and Muslims. The conflict comes to the village from the outside, forcing neighbors against each other, and resulting in displacement, despair, and finally massacre. The final sacrifice of the Sikh criminal Juggut to save his muslim lover Nooran is noble, but in the end only a drop in the ocean. Singh also shows how, despite a long history of being peaceful, a place can become the theater of bloodshed all too easily if the rulers (a purposefully vague concept in the novel) do not take care in their exercise of power.
The novel is touted as a portrait of what was actually happening during those troubled times on the Indian subcontinent. But it is not a history of rulers and armies in the traditional sense. The story revolves around simple villagers in a simple village. Villagers who, before the troubles, wanted nothing more than to live their lives in peace.
While the naif style of the prose sometimes grated on my nerves, I found that reading the novel sent a profound message about the responsibility of leadership, and the frailty of our heterogenous human society.
Non-fiction about “the truth” behind America’s fast food industry and its role in shaping American culture. Fascinating reading that goes through the history of fast food, then continues with the labor practices and the food itself. Schlosser is neither a vegan nor an anti-globalist. He just wants a healthy burger. Some of the facts revealed are pretty scary and it can be enough to put you off fast food forever. But this should not be seen only as a book about fast food, It also examines fast food as a metaphor for modern American (and global) society. If you have ever eaten fast food, you might want to read this book.
This series on the colonization of Mars is spectacularly wide ranging and epic. It is very well written and researched. While it is enjoyable, my big gripe is that Mr. Robinson leaves no stone unturned. He wants to explore so many things that the main push of the story gets lost. Or maybe this is less of a story and more of a chronicle. But even so, there is too much stuff going on. Admittedly most of that stuff is interesting but the whole thing just too ponderous.
This story is set about a thousand years after the events in the Posleen War series. The titular hero is a Darhel. The Darhel are known as being the puppetmasters of humanity a millennium earlier, and also for being incapable of killing. He is assigned to a Deep Reconnaissance Commando team due to his psychic ability to sense living beings. The rest of the team is made up of humans. They are sent on a scouting missions to a planet held by the “Blobs”, a mysterious enemy. While there, they find an Aldenata artifact, and the team sniper betrays the team, killing almost all of the members in a bid to secure the valuable artifact for himself. The Darhel now has to evade the sniper and eliminate him as a threat, despite his racial inability to kill.
This book is a very tight knit drama of a few individuals. The psychological aspects are very interesting, delving into motivations and character. The story itself was unfortunately somewhat weak. The first half is basically a set up for the chase in the second half. The chase, though interesting, felt a bit long-winded. If you are interested in special forces and sniper operations, it is a decent read, but despite its exposition on Darhel physiology and psychology, it does not add very much to the Legacy of the Aldenata universe.
This book is part of Ringo‘s Legacy of the Aldenata universe. It deals with the defense of Germany during the Posleen War. In what initially seems like a Faustian bargain, the Germans rejuvenate a whole bunch of old SS soldiers to form the cadre for their elite defense forces. They even resurrect the SS unit names and eventually the infamous double flash insignia. Much thoughtprovoking discussion ensues. The authors treat the subject matter in an adult manner. It’s a tricky subject, but they pull it off.
The action contained is great. The combat scenes are, as expected, intense and well written. The characters, major and minor, are all well fleshed out. The flashbacks into the past of various SS officers, especially Brasche, are excellent and used well throughout as a backdrop to the main action.
If you like the other books in the series, you will like this one. But it stands well on its own. No doubt many will loathe this book for the hated symbols it portrays and the notion of reawakening a buried evil. But as discussed in the text, symbols are not absolute. I urge readers to approach the text with open minds.
The story ranges from the fall of the CoDominium to the rise of Sparta and the First Empire of Man that replaces it. However the macro story takes a backseat to the battles.
This is solid military SciFi. However, the fact that the first two novels are in fact lashups of earlier works set to a common frame gives the whole story a somewhat disjointed feel. The individual episodes are good though, and so are the characters. Interestingly, these novels are set in the same universe as The Mote in God’s Eye, but centuries earlier.
In this novel, Olympic athletes are allowed to “enhance” their bodies, to the point that they will not survive more than a few years after the competition. Unless they win, that is, in which case they join the ruling council and are “linked” to a neural interface that fixes the issue. Mildly entertaining.
Shoogar is the greatest wizard his primitive village has ever known. Then a strange new wizard literally drops from the sky. Of course, they new wizard comes from a very advanced culture. Mayhem ensues.
There is a lot of humor in this book as magic meets technology. There are also many more or less good puns. I enjoyed it but it is far from a must read. The joke gets a bit old.
Set in the same universe as A World out of Time but only very tenously connected to that novel, these series of two should be read as a set. The novels are set in which is not really a world. A “smoke rIng” of atmosphere and biomass orbits around a neutron star, forming a huge but habitable donut-shaped space. In other words, no gravity. Humans have colonised this “smoke ring” in various ways. Enjoyable, but more for the wickedly cool setting than for the stories.
Note: These are now also published in an omnibus edition.
These three very loosely connected novels span thousand of years. Nagata writes competently about a future in which humanity is first technologically lifting itself off earth, and finally scattered about a hostile universe. I enjoyed them even though Nagata does two things which annoy me. The first is that the novels are in parts rather boring. Nothing much happens. The other thing is that she can be very depressing. Vast especially makes me feel just a bit too small in a vast (heh) universe.
Harry Dresden is a private investigator of sorts. He is actually a wizard living in modern Chicago. In this novel, a mysterious woman hires him to find her husband. At the same time, in his capacity as police consultant on “unusual” cases, he is called in to assist in investigating a mysterious murder and soon finds himself implicated. To make matters worse, the White Council, a governing body of sorts for wizards, thinks he is guilty of crimes against the laws of magic.
The novel reads like a noir detective story, down to the lack of funds and burning of bridges with the police. The wizard and magic aspect makes for an interesting wrinkle. Unfortunately, however, it does not make the book interesting enough. Dresden is a interesting character and well crafted, but after a while the book became a bit predictable. The whole thing is too deeply steeped in noir thriller cliché. Shame really, as the whole thing is based on a cool concept.
The Dresden Files series formed the basis for a short lived TV series of the same name.
This is the true story of the famous “milkshake murder” in Hong Kong in 2003. A rich, bitchy and spoiled expat wife kills her rich and boorish expat husband. The book tells the story all the way back to their parents, but mainly focuses on their life in Hong Kong. The whole thing is quite disturbing, and truly shows that money can’t buy happiness. Most of the characters seem mostly interested in money and power, and will do anything to have them.
As an expat in Hong Kong myself, I found it very interesting. Unfortunately, some things are written for dramatic effect. For example, Hong Kong International School, while a good school, is not “the most prestigious private school in Hong Kong”. And Parkview is certainly not “the most exclusive Hong Kong housing estate”. Still, a riveting read about some rather disturbed people, and the shocking events surrounding this notorious murder.
Humanity has discovered Collapsium and Wellstone, substances that have made possible immensely powerful computers, teleportation and even immortality. “Faxes” allow the creation of any conceivable thing, from food to servitor robots to spaceship components. “Fax gates” allow teleportation and even duplication of people. The inventor of said substances, Bruno de Tovaji, is now living in self-imposed exile on his own asteroid in the Oort Cloud. Here he conducts experiments aimed at “seeing” the end of time. One day he receives a visitor, the Queen of the Solar System, who is also his former lover. Apparently there is trouble in paradise. A grandiose ring around the sun, aimed at reducing communication lag among disparate locations, is under construction. But it is slowly falling into the sun. This starts a long series of adventures aimed at putting an end to what turns out to be the scheming of a mad saboteur.
I had high hopes for this book after the first fifty or a hundred pages. Interesting universe, grand designs, all the stuff you could find in a good Larry Niven yarn. Unfortunately it all became very tedious as the story went on. And on. And on. I kept waiting for the really interesting stuff to start but it was all a bit petty and small. Yawn.
This is hard science fiction. Very hard. The science content is all in there. And yet I often felt as if the author was plucking solutions to his problems out of thin air. One of the basic principles of science fiction is that and author must stay within constraints that he creates within his universe. Unfortunately, McCarthy keeps coming up with new ideas that neatly solved the posed problems. McCarthy also completely misses the opportunity to explain his society or give a decent guided tour of something apart from deep space structures. What is London like nowadays anyway? Surely a page or two exploring these things would have served the story well, and made it a bit less sterile. And that’s the main gripe I have with this book. It is all a bit sterile and bland. Mankind’s achievements are falling apart around him and de Towaji is pondering his love life. Seriously…
A girl gets sold into slavery by pirates. When she is older, she becomes a pirate hunter in the fleet. Mildly entertaining, but if you want this kind of action, you would be much better off with Weber’s Honor Harrington books.
After Laumer’s death, Baen thought to resurrect the Bolos with a series of anthologies featureing a variety of authors. There is some excellent, some good, and some less good, but the overall quality is surprisingly high. It is military SciFi in a very pure form, and many will probably be put off by this. I have read the first four books:
In preparation for a vacation to Japan, my mother gave me this one to read. Its main themes are about the loss of important Japanese cultural traditions and the uglification of both the body and the soul of Japan. The author is an art collector, calligrapher, Japanologist and long time resident of the country. Kerr decries modern Japan as filling with concrete, electricity poles, neon pachinko parlors and ugly rooflines while her inhabitants have become conformist, dull and unimaginative.
I found the book quite interesting in parts. His stories of finding and buying an old house in a secluded valley, of the inner workings of kabuki theatre, of unappreciated artworks and of the history of tea ceremony and zen are everything from fascinating to merely eye opening. Unfortunately Kerr does give a strong impression of being the kind of luddite who wishes for all old things to be preserved. By the end of the book, I had somewhat amended this initial impression. I think he does appreciate the need for change, even encouraging it. But he does not understand why there should be change for its own sake if the change only leads to worse things. As an ideal, there is of course nothing wrong with that. But in reality, things don’t really work that way. Change happens and decades or even centuries later people figure out what the actual causes and effects were.
One particularly annoying thing about this book is the constant name dropping. All the people described in the book seem to be maverick geniuses in their fields and Kerr is a close personal friend of every single one. It comes off as not a little pompous. Kerr has certainly led an interesting life, and it is through his life experiences that he can describe his “lost Japan” so deftly. However, this reader felt a bit put off by the tone.
I was also left wondering why, among all this horror at the disappearing culture of Japan, he does not spare even a moment for one of Japan’s most vibrant forms of modern literature, manga/anime cartoons. This art form is lauded the world over. One could even draw parallels to the kabuki described by Kerr, with its emphasis on single moments of resolution as opposed to the narrative continuitiy more emphasized in the west.
The episodic nature of the book works against it. It was originally a series of articles, and the disjointed nature of the whole is unfortunately quite glaring. All in all, the book gave me an eye opening view of Japanese culture through anectodes and strong opinions. I may not necessarily agree with the author, but I suppose that is as it should be. The text should serve as a brief and good introduction to Japanese culture through the eyes of a foreigner who has made it his own.
This novelette length story is Douglas Kennedy’s debut. Just as in The Big Picture, the protagonist is a middle aged man stuck in a rut. However, this character is very different from succesful family man Ben Bradford in The Big Picture. Instead, he is a commitment phobic journalist who drifts through life, never holding down a job for more than a few years, never “doing” anything. One day, midlife crisis strikes hard and he flies to Australia. But not Sydney or Melbourne. Darwin. His plan is to buy a car and drive to Perth. A great adventure. On his way, he runs into a girl named Angie. After a few nights of drunken debauchery, she kidnaps him and takes him to a crazy commune in the desert. A place that it literally off the map. He is a prisoner in all but name in a nightmare of a town with nightmare inhabitants who think nothing of beating him to a pulp if he doesn’t show the right attitude.
Douglas Kennedy writes very well, but his angst filled middle aged men aren’t the thing to fill me with any great desire to pick up more of his books. They are a bit pathetic in that way most people are afraid they will turn out to be. The moral, of sorts, is to do something with your life before you end up a prisoner of that life. In the book, the protagonist is an actual physical prisoner, as opposed to the more commonplace metaphorical one, but the lesson holds true nevertheless. I did enjoy this book. It is rather short, but then it doesn’t need to be longer. Any extension would just be filler. It neatly says its piece and then is done. It is very funny at times, in a tragicomical fashion. Kennedy’s sense of irony is razor sharp. However, this humor is neatly balanced by the tragic situation our hero finds himself in. Sure, he’s a bit of a loser, but no one deserves what he goes through.
Torin Kerr is now a Gunnery Sergeant. She is assigned to babysit a Major who has recently recovered from very serious injuries, and who has arm bones made of experimental plastics. They travel to Crucible, the Marine Corps training planet, and embed with a training platoon going through their rotation. Things soon start to go wrong as the Crucible systems go out of control. In parallel, Torin’s now boyfriend, a salvage operator she met in The Better Part of Valor, investigates a possible alien infiltration of the Confederation.
This volume was a disappointment after the well crafted fun of the first two novels. The plot is very contrived. The alien invasion infiltration elements do not mesh well with the action parts. Other seemingly random elements are neither entertaining, not pertinent to plot advancement or character development. The “how cool are we Marines” dialogue, fun in the previous installments, has gone totally over the top. It grated on my nerves constantly. The novel’s saving grace are the action scenes, which are up to the high standard set by the first two novels, and the strongly fleshed out characters.
Novel set in a world (well, New York …) which is severely overpopulated. As a result, there is starvation, tiny living space, and general crappiness for the growing group of poor. It is set in the year 2000, but that is forgivable. A decent yarn and the basis for the movie Soylent Green.
Set during the peak of the Age of Sail in the Napoleonic era, the books detail the exploits of Horatio Hornblower from Midshipman to Admiral. Full of action and adventure, they manage to include shiphandling minutiae without bogging down the story. Page turners for young and old alike. I would recommend starting with Beat to Quarters (AKA The Happy Return) since the earlier books by internal chronology (yet written later) tend to be of a slightly lesser quality.
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower – This short story collection covers the early career of our young hero, from his first onboard ship experience to his two and a half years of captivity in Spain. By the end, Hornblower is promoted to Lieutenant. Even though it is a short story collection, it flows quite nicely and is more of an episodic novel.
Lieutenant Hornblower – The still very young Hornblower has to deal with a tyrannous and insane Captain. He then distinguishes himself by helping in the destruction of a Spanish fortress and taking prizes.
Hornblower and the ‘Hotspur’ – Although the action is fast and furious, this one is a mite tedious. Hornblower spends a couple of years on blockade duty off the coast of France. This sort of duty was demanding and harsh, but also monotonous and performed in cold, dreary weather for much of the year.
Hornblower during the Crisis – The chronologically fourth novel is unfinished due to Forester’s death. Nothing much happens since only the first 100 pages or so are written. Hornblower is about to become a spy. Also included are a two short stories, the latter showing our hero in old age.
Beat to Quarters (known as The Happy Return in the UK edition) – The first novel to be written, this one is a masterpiece of plotting and action. Hornblower, in command of the frigate Lydia, heads to the Pacific coast of Central America in order to make life difficult for the Spanish colonies there. He also has his first encounter with Lady Barbara. The sailing and combat action is excellent, but one should not forget the evolution of the relationship with Lady Barbara. In the beginning, Hornblower strongly dislikes her, but in the end he loves her. And we see the process every step of the way.
Ship of the Line – Hornblower takes command of the two-decker Sutherland. He carries out five daring raids against the French, but ends up a prisoner after defeat against overwhelming odds. This one ends in a cliffhanger of sorts as our hero is imprisoned in French oppupied Catalonia. Great action, perhaps even better than in Beat to Quarters.
Flying Colours – This picks up immediately where Ship of the Line left off. Hornblower is on his way to Paris to be tried for purported war crimes. Napoleon is trying to score some propaganda points. However he manages to escape and makes his way back to England, where he finds a hero’s welcome. This one is quite introspective in some sections, with Hornblower’s cynicism and doubts coming to the fore. He hates himself in certain ways, not daring to realize how much he means to people. He is afraid of failure despite great success. And finally he cynically realizes how the British use him for propaganda as much as the French meant to. At the end of the book, we find Hornblower widowed with a young son. But Lady Barbara is also widowed. Opportunity awaits, perhaps.
Commodore Hornblower – Our hero is now married to Barbara, and in the landed gentry. He is sent on a mission to the Baltic to ensure that the Swedes and the Russians don’t join the war on the side of Napoleon. Action as usual but not a whole lot of character development.
Lord Hornblower – The action moves to the English Channel as the Napoleonic era draws to a close and the French mainland can now be invaded (ahem… liberated). The last part is pretty boring as Hornblower, together with his friends from Flying Colours, fights a guerrilla action against the new Napoleonic regime during the “hundred days” following the Emperor’s escape from Elba.
Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies – A short story collection in all but name. While mildly entertaining, Forester is basically treading water here. A disappointing ending after such great novels as Beat to Quarters and Ship of the Line.
This anthology began life as an electronic magazine, but the success was so great Baen Books decided to publish it in traditional format as well. Most of the stories and articles started as posts in the Baen’s Bar web forum. The stories are high quality fanfic from unknown and mostly unpublished. If you are not familiar with the Assiti Shards Universe, you will be somewhat confused.