Oh how the mighty have fallen! Some of my favorite novels are The Hunt for Red October and Executive Orders., products of a true master. By the time he wrote this novel, though, Mr. Clancy seemed to have lost it his touch. Red Rabbit was at best passable and The Teeth of the Tiger continued the decline. Full of platitudes (“if possible, the service in Vienna was even better than in Munich”) and repetitions, it makes one believe the rumors that he does not write anymore, and the novels are group efforts by his staff. Supposedly, Clancy supervises and approves. It’s very sad to see what was once a great author who has declined so much.
Having said that, The Teeth of the Tiger is still a somewhat entertaining novel, arguably worth a read for the Clancy fan. The story is about a US agency so deep undercover that it is not even part of the government (insert worrying comments about vigilantism here) and terrorism against America. Unfortunately it is predictable to the point of annoyance on the part of this reader., I really wanted to like this book, and was having a pretty good time. Unfortunately the ending, while in fact coming to some sort of conclusion, does leave a lot of stuff just hanging there.
A somewhat enjoyable story of a young Jack Ryan, also featuring the Foleys during their time in Moscow. Not nearly as “big” a story as most of Clancy’s novels. It seems a bit “Clancy by numbers”; in other words what you’d expect him to write with regards to subject matter and type of story, but without any of the great qualities of his earlier works. Despite its flaws, I nonetheless liked this tale of a defection from the Soviet Union. Still, Clancy has shown many times that he can do better than this.
A return to form for Clancy after the lackluster Rainbow Six, this novel nevertheless struck me as pretty formulaic. It was very cool, though, to see military cooperation between Russia and the United States. I enjoyed this one a lot. Watch for Pavel Petrovich Gogol, a very cool guy.
A step away from Jack Ryan, although he still lurks in the background. Unfortunately, this novel marks a decided slump in the quality of Clancy’s writing. There is nothing wrong with the story, although I found the motivation of the bad guys a bit too James Bond’ish. I just did not feel a compelling need to finish the book. It was a bit dull, especially compared to earlier Clancy are. You won’t miss anything by skipping directly to The Bear and the Dragon.
Some say that he does not write anymore, but only oversees a staff. I don’t know about that. My opinion is that this novel was written mainly as a selling vehicle for the computer games series released around the same time by Clancy’s games company Red Storm. The Rainbow Six games are very much about the counter-terrorism unit depicted in the novel.
Jack Ryan brokers peace in the middle east and discovers that nuclear weapons in the wrong hands can be dangerous. Solid Clancy, and I especially like how he is not afraid to blow big stuff up just because it happens to sit in the continental United States.
The movie, although quite good, changes the story significantly and does not really reflect the breadth of the novel.
At the time this novel was published, Reagan’s “Star Wars” space defense initiative was big news. Solid Clancy and with some very good spy stuff, although I found it a bit slower paced than the really outstanding Clancy novels.
The fact that it had “been done” did not scare Tom Clancy when he wrote this novel about an attach on Western Europe by the Warsaw Pact. It is pure technothriller with a very heavy military element. Masterfully written and very hard to put down.
This is now published in the omnibus “The Chanur Saga”. I managed to slog through this Novel. The story is pretty boring and the aliens are plain vanilla space opera fare. Just “humans with fur” if you like, not alien at all apart from appearance. What I don’t get is how this stuff can sell so well. Seriously, there is so much better out there.
By this, the third book in the Lost Fleet, the series is losing steam. What’s worse, it’s losing the plot. While the battles are still very nicely done, the backstory is wearing quite thin. Nothing much happens to move the plot forward. The fleet continues to struggle on in its quest to reach alliance space. Captain Geary continues to struggle on his quest to retain command in the face of insubordinate subordinates. Geary continues struggle to figure out his relationship with Senator Rione. Nothing new to see here. Move along. I was happy with the second book being a middle book, but at some point something radical or conclusive will have to happen. I was so fed up after Courageous I may not care enough to read the next installment.
Campbell is back with the second installment in the Lost Fleet series, in which “Black Jack” Geary continues to fight internal and external enemies to get the fleet home. Part of the fleet defects, leaving Geary with an even greater shortage of ships. But by the story expedient of being unpredictable, he continues to fight on. The internal struggle is interesting, as Geary realizes how powerful he can become politically if he brings the fleet home.
This was very much a middle book. No resolution. I have no problem with Campbell’s rather short (by today’s standards) novels but this one could easily have been amalgamated with “Dauntless“.
This is solid military SciFi. The premise is that an attack fleet from the “Alliance” finds the century old survival pod of legendary commander John “Black Jack” Geary, with the man himself hibernating inside. Just after that, the fleet is stranded in “Syndic” space after being soundly defeated in an ambush. All the flag officers have been imprisoned and shot, so by virtue of time in rank, Captain Geary is now in command of the “Lost Fleet”. But in the century of his absence, two interesting developments have occured. First, he is seen as a legend; a larger than life hero viewed by the personnel now under his command as a savior. Secondly, the long war has led to high rates of attrition, loss of command know-how, and acceptance of atrocities. To add spice to the mix, many of the surviving captains are not happy about the new regime. And now the fleet has to fight its way home.
The prose is straightforward, with the point of view character always Geary himself. He is tired and sick from his long hibernation, baffled and angered by the ruthlessness and incompetence the fleet, and frustrated at the idiocy of many of his commanders. The novel (first in a series) is a study in leadership, and the necessity to perform both the right actions and use the right words in order to ensure loyalty. Beyond that, it is a fun and fast paced little book. It doesn’t hold immense depth, but if you like military SciFi, you’ll probably enjoy it.
Burroughs is better known for his Tarzan books, but he actually shot to fame with the John Carter books (starting with this one) about the adventures of a Civil War veteran from Virginia on Mars.
These books have a big role in SciFi folklore. While the adventure is engaging, I found the character of John Carter himself (the novel is narrated in the first person) a bit off-putting. He is rather full of himself as only an expert in self deprecation can be. Perhaps it is just a bit too dated for me. So while the old fashioned writing style was manageable, I was a bit disappointed with the whole thing due to the annoyingly condescending attitudes displayed. It is high adventure in any case, complete with absurd situations and plenty of flirts with deus ex machina.
On what is obviously a “lost” colony world, a man without a past (or at least much of one) is caught up in a great conflict. And apparently there’s a macguffin in the desolate north that can save the day.
I really wanted to like this. The reviews were decent, speaking of swashbuckling action against a rick backdrop of hodge-podge Caribbean culture. Unfortunately I found the whole thing pretty dull. The pacing is slow, the action scenes are cookie cutter. I kept waiting for Mr. Buckell to get to the point. But no, the obviously upcoming expedition to the north never seems to get off the ground. Mr. Buckell is obviously talented, but this was not for me. I gave up about half way through.
Pretty bland fare for a technothriller. The plot is just a bit too incredible and the author needs to get a better map of Europe in order to distinguish between Slovenia and Slovakia. So why did I read it? Lots and lots of aviation candy in, especially concerning about overlooked strike and bomber planes like the F-111. If you’re not into aviation, don’t bother with this one.
The final novel in the Millennium trilogy concludes the story begun in Flickan som lekte med Elden (The Girl who Played with Fire) and ties up the Salander arc started in Män som hatar kvinnor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The novel picks up right after the dramatic events surrounding the encounter between Zalachenko and Lisbeth Salander. Salander is arrested and spends most of the time in isolation, first in hospital and then in prison. At the same time Blomkvist and his cohorts work to set things straight, proving how the state has committed crimes against her and in the process unraveling a conspiracy deep within the Swedish secret police.
Despite the fact that much of the book consists of spy-novel maneuvering and exposition of past events, it is a total page turner, especially the second half. The suspense as good guys and bad guys try to outmaneuver each other is gripping and masterfully written. The character development of Salander is interesting, particularly her slow realization (helped along by her attorney and others) that if she wants the people around her and the state to consider her a competent adult she has obligations towards these people and the state. The state especially has repeatedly betrayed Salander, and she is thus understandably suspicious of the concept.
Due to the death of Stieg Larsson and the legal disputes surrounding his estate, we may never see the nearly finished fourth novel or six additional novels which he allegedly planned. A shame, perhaps, but the three published works are still rather neatly tied up. And in this way Larsson’s legacy will not be diluted. He will forever be remembered as a novelist at the top of his game, with no slow decline to mar the image.
For the record, I read it in the original Swedish.
In the sequel to “Angels & Demons“, out hero Robert Langdon inadvertently becomes accused of the murder of the Louvre curator, and has to team up with the curator’s granddaughter to solve the mystery of his death. Without giving away the plot, suffice it to say that it is a long and well plotted Grail quest liberally sprinkled with ghosts from the past of Western civilization.
Like its prequel, this is an exciting and engrossing read. Much has been said about Brown’s “extreme” interpretations of historical anecdotes, fact and legends, but in my opinion he has just used poetic license to great effect. Unfortunately, the book suffers from the same lack of depth as the prequel. It is one long chase from one breathless climax to the next. If it hadn’t for the background of historical mystery, I doubt this would have become such a bestseller.
The story is mainly set in Rome. A mysterious new weapon of mass destruction stolen (ok, maybe not so mysterious to SciFi buffs). A plot to destroy the Vatican. An ancient conspiracy. Signs and portents everywhere. A well rounded and intelligent hero. A spectacular climax.
I went in expecting a good thriller, but this book hooked me. I couldn’t put it down, and described it to someone as “literary crack”. The imagination displayed by Dan Brown in the creation of his intricate plot is nothing short of astounding. The way he weaves in real historical facts and artifacts to create suspense and thrills is a rare gift. This books also contains the best treatment of the science vs. religion debate as a theme since “Contact“. The downside of the novel is that it is too weighted towards being a page-turner. Despite the subject matter, there seems little depth to the narrative, which serves only to carry the reader to the next exciting situation.
One thing that annoyed me is that Brown should have let an Italian proofread some of his brief conversations in that language. He is never totally off the mark, but sometimes it just sounds wrong.
The sequel to Män som hatar kvinnor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) has a slow start. At the newspaper Millenium, new collaborator Dag Svensson is preparing a big exposé on trafficking. A number of policemen, judges and other prominent individuals will be named as having had liaisons with underaged sex slaves. Out of the blue, Dag and his domestic partner are brutally murdered. Lisbeth Salander’s legal guardian (she is declared incompetent) and torturer from the first book is also murdered with the same gun. Lisbeth Salander has just returned to Sweden and, through a series of unfortunate coincidences, finds herself wanted for the murders. The story then follows the police investigation as well as the actions of Lisbeth and journalist Michael Blomkvist. There is a lot of deep diving into Lisbeth’s mysterious background.
While Män som hatar kvinnor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) was a relatively self-contained story, this one is much more wide ranging. The ending does not neatly tie up all loose ends, but distinctly leads into the next novel. The excuisitely crafted character of Lisbeth Salander is further explored, and while Blomkvist was the focus in the first novel, she is very clearly the center of this one. One of the more prominent themes is how society dismisses and discriminates against people with alternative lifestyles. Several of the policemen are extremely resistant to taking Lisbeth (allegedly a bisexual) and Miriam Wu (an ostentatiously lesbian artist) seriously, especially since they are into fem-rock of the darker variety with alleged satanist influences. The mainstream press is no better than the police, feeding the masses with shock headlines instead of reporting the facts. An interesting indictment of the mainstream which rings very true.
I enjoyed this novel almost as much as the first one. The second half is a real page turner. However the story feels a bit more contrived and there is a lack of focus in the first half. A lot of setup, if you will. Still, even if it didn’t satisfy as much as the first one it is very good stuff.
A long distance probe has captured footage of a mysterious moving object in the accretion disc of a collapsed star. It seems to be an energy being. An exploration spaceship travels across the stars to capture this interstellar phenomenon, dubbed a “Star Dragon”. The story played out against the background of the mission is a psychological drama starring the five human and one AI crewmembers of the ship. Adding to the poignancy of their fate is the fact that the ship travels close to the speed of light to SS Cygni, a binary system 245 light years from earth. The trip is only a subjective 2 years for the crew, but when they return five hundred years will have passed on Earth. They have to abandon their entire existence in order to go hunting the mysterious Star Dragon.
This is a very strong story which manages to escape the technobabble trap of many such efforts. The characters are few but strongly threedimensional, each seeking his or her own place in the universe. With technological progress moving fast, they all have to contend with their doubts about what place they will have in the future. Contrasted with medical immortality, this becomes a serious issue. Will the future have a place for the individuality of humanity, or are we doomed to be replaced by AIs that are better than we? And if that happens, will we transcend to a utopian existence free of want? Is that where we want to go? Star Dragon is cautiously optimistic, and yet raises many important questions about our future. It s a vast universe and eternity is a long long time. Who knows what we will find?
Part two of the Asteroid Wars. I used to keep coming back to Bova and his Grand Tour of the Solar System. Maybe I’m just a sucker for near future tales of men and women trying to tame the solar system. This book made me stop. It is just plain boring. Amanda may be beautiful but she and the other characters feel about as emotional as puppets. Furthermore, I simply don’t buy the story. After slogging through about half the book, I gave up.
Part one of the Asteroid Wars series (and overall part of Bova’s Grand Tour of the Solar System), in which Mr. Bova takes us on yet another journey through corporate near future space. A decent read if you like Bova, but nothing special.
One again, a planet book from Bova and part of his Grand Tour of the Solar System. This one is not quite as good as Jupiter but heroism and high adventure abound. Bova is seemingly attempting to tie many of his works together, just as Asimov did near the end of his career. Neither effort seems particularly well executed, as it is rather difficult to bend old novels into new meanings. Still, Venus as a standalone s not bad.
Although I am getting a bit bored with the titles in Bova’s “Grand Tour of the Solar System“, Jupiter is pretty cool, with the crew having to live in an oxygenated liquid in order to cope with the crushing pressures of Jupiter’s atmosphere. Luckily, the question, of, erhm, human waste in such a system is not examined too closely.
There have been many books of the first landing on Mars. If you want a truly epic and far reaching story, read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. Personally, however, I prefer Bova’s version. It is neither complex nor particularly groundbreaking, but it is solid and has a certain charm in its space buff wish fulfillment. Both books are good, although the first is somewhat stronger.