Thursday, December 15, 2011

Review: Shards of Honour

Shards of Honour
Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The rough plot is a bit hackneyed space-opera; freedom-loving democratic science-based culture at war with jackbooted totalitarian warrior-based culture. Man and woman fighting on opposite sides meet in trying circumstances, struggle together, and fall in love.

What makes this better than that sounds at first blush is that it gains some depth from there. The characters are deep enough that they don't just throw over everything else they believe in for love. The warmongers turn out to be embroiled in byzantine political infighting. The democratic society ends up a little fascist out of fear, and entangled in its own bureaucracy. In the end, while I still don't get why some people are comparing this series to really epic mind-blowing sci-fi like Banks or Stross, I really quite enjoyed it.

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Review: Architects of Emortality

Architects of Emortality
Architects of Emortality by Brian M. Stableford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is such a thing as being too self-aware.

In the final pages of this book, one of the main characters thinks "If only she had been able to play a more active part..."

Funny; thats exactly what I was thinking.

This is an intriguing book, full of big ideas, but very little actually _happens_ in it. Our proxies in the tale, the main POV characters, essentially trail passively along being told things. So as a reader I also feel passive and uninvolved in the tale. Of course, as the reader of a book, I _am_ passive, but that doesn't mean I want to _feel_ passive. Basically, Stableford has created an interesting future, and some interesting characters, but he hasn't managed to tell a story with them.

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Monday, December 05, 2011

Review: The Children of the Sky

The Children of the Sky
The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I do love Vinge, and this is an excellent sequel following up on the Tines, from [b:A Fire Upon the Deep|77711|A Fire Upon the Deep|Vernor Vinge||1253374]. I was so excited that he'd written a sequel, that I went back and read the original again first... which was useful for understanding this one, and a great pleasure in its own right, but it did throw a few things about the sequel into rather sharp contrast.

There are a number of questions Vinge leaves hanging at the end of Fire:

1) What happened to the Blight?
2) What WAS the Blight (well, we _think_ we pretty well know by the end of Fire... but were we right?)
3) What was the Countermeasure?
4) What happened to all the civs "above" Tines World?
5) What happens to all the characters left on Tines World?

The Children of the Sky answers the last of these (mostly, albeit incompletely) but doesn't even touch on the rest of them. As such, its an excellent story in its own right, but it feels a little narrower in focus than the first, and loses some of the sweeping grand scale that that book had. Given the number of other still-unanswered questions left over from Fire, and the relatively open ending of this one, I think we'll be seeing a third book in the series. I'm looking forward to it!

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