Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review: The Android's Dream

The Android's Dream
The Android's Dream by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So the entire book is essentially one extended pun-reference to [a:Philip K. Dick|4764|Philip K. Dick|]'s [b:Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?|7082|Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?|Philip K. Dick||830939]. We have characters who are, quite literally, both an Android's Dream (Brian) and an Electric Sheep (Robin) and yes, it takes about as much ridiculous contrivance to make that happen as you might expect.

And yet, Scalzi saves it from being a moronic [a:Piers Anthony|8516|Piers Anthony|] punfest. The reference thing is purely superficial - good for a quick laugh, and then he drops it. And then he touches on some of the same issues that the original did - what makes a human? - but with a light touch, and not distracting from what is otherwise quite a fun convoluted political adventure romp. I liked his characters, including the aliens; I liked his flirtation with technology without getting bogged down in trying to explain anything overmuch; I like his poking fun at Scientologists; I like that his main characters are attracted to each other but don't just fall into bed with each other at the end because of the Unbreakable Laws of Bond Flick Causality.

There's a weird moment right at the end where we suddenly get a couple of crucial facts just handed to us by the disembodied narrator for no apparent reason, and then we don't know which characters are aware of these facts and which aren't. If they'd been kept a secret from us too I think it would have been too cheesy a plot-twist, but as it was it felt like a cheesy plot-twist spoiled by your office co-workers or something. But its a minor quibble, in what was otherwise quite an enjoyable book.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: Shadow's Edge

Shadow's Edge
Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn't hate this as much by the end as I did at the beginning, but it still got on my nerves. It may help that it's been most of a month since I finished it as I write this.

I think there was one female character in the entire book who wasn't raped. Not "on camera" so-to-speak, thank goodness, but that almost makes it more insidious; the casualness with which its treated by everyone including the victims and the narrator doesn't make me feel like the world is callous and uncaring - it makes me feel like the author is. (Which, as near as I can tell from what little I know about him, he doesn't appear to be. Which makes it all the worse a job of storytelling that I felt that way after reading this book.) Yes yes; I get that you're _edgy_ and _gritty_. And I can even see how the characters taking rape casually might - just barely - work in a world full of unrelenting horribleness, but you're going to need to try very hard to make sure that _we_ feel it as horrible even though the characters don't, or it feels like your narrative voice is agreeing with their point-of-view. I didn't get that from this.

The rest of it was pretty stock-standard swords-and-sorcery fantasy. I'm still not really buying the "I trained for years exclusively to be good at murdering people for money, but really I'm just a soppy boy scout who wants to be nice" thing. The action is action-ey, and I liked the development of whats-his-name, the new god-emperor of Dune (or is that the next book? I can't be bothered to keep them straight at this point...) I'm not really sure what's getting it that second star at this point, actually; its not quite as laughably bad as [b:The Ill-Made Mute|232102|The Ill-Made Mute (The Bitterbynde, #1)|Cecilia Dart-Thornton||2817882], and I don't want to dilute its badness by equating the two?

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