The System of the World

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The final book of the Baroque Cycle, and it feels like a real achievement to have gone through them all. They have their slow spots, but also excellent action and characters I love. Best of all, this book focuses on the latter two, with only one section of long theoretical dialog (about the nature of God in this case), which was so common in the other books and somethings so hard to follow. This story line was well worth the 2,500 or so pages it took, and the last book was a pleasure to read. It feels like there should be more books in this universe, but I’m not aware of any — perhaps later?

[award: winner prometheus 2005]
[isbn: 0060750863;0060750863]

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The Hemingway Hoax

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A Hemingway scholar sets out to forge a lost Hemingway manuscript, with unexpected consequences. This is quite a different premise from other Joe Haldeman books I’ve read. In fact the feel of the initial part of the book is quite different, but this very quickly turns into a Haldeman story that people who have enjoyed his others will like. Its a bit more explicit about sex and wounds from combat than Haldeman normally is, but that is all there to further the plot in this case. This was a quick engaging read which I really enjoyed.

[isbn: 0380708000]

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Mars: A Survival Guide

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This book, written in the style of a travel guide, was an impulse purchase the other day as a brand new book. That’s rare because I don’t tend to buy new, and certainly not in Australia (everything is so expensive!). However, this book isn’t available on Amazon because its from the ABC, and looked good, so I bit the bullet. The book’s first half is interesting and very readable. After that it tends to die down into an exhaustive treatment of issues you’d need to consider if moving to Mars, and feels like a list of lists. It picks up again towards the end. I know its hard to be interesting in non-fiction reference books, but I feel this book lost its way at the midpoint and could have tried harder to be interesting. However, it was still ok overall and I might be being overly harsh as I don’t read much non-fiction.

[isbn: 9780733324895]

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Camouflage

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This is a book about two shape changing beings living through their centuries on Earth. It mostly follows on of them, but the other is important to the plot as well. Once again its an enjoyable read like many of Haldeman’s other books. Similarly to other books it also explores what it is like to be isolated from the rest of society, with most of the book being written from the perspective of one of the shape changers. I really liked this book.

[award: winner nebula 2005]
[isbn: 0441012523]

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The Accidental Time Machine

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Joe Haldeman does good work, and in general I have really liked his books. They’re easy to read, fun, and interesting. Better than that, they’re all quite different in the topics they cover, so he’s not in a rut. The only exceptions have been There Is No Darkness, which wasn’t very good and Forever Free, which I thought was lazily plotted. This book is no exception to the rule, and I really enjoyed it. One theme to Joe’s work that I am noticing is that the “sex scenes” are always anti-climatic, which is interesting to note.

I’d like to have heard more about the One Year War, but there is scope for that to be another separate book. I don’t think this book suffers from the lack of coverage, and its mostly tangentially interesting because I’d like to see how a society transforms itself in that way.

[award: nominee nebula_novel 2007]
[isbn: 978044101667;0441016162]

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Destinies Volume 1 Number 1

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  • Stand Pat, Ruby Stone (Roger Zelany): a story of alien marriage. Interesting.
  • Old Woman By The Road (Gregory Benford): not my favorite author (given he wrote the worst book in Asimov’s Foundation universe, which is a bit of an achievement given some of the others. This story isn’t terrible, it just doesn’t go anywhere. There is a single small plot element, which has been repeated in many other books (for example The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, which predates this story by 12 years).
  • New Beginnings (Jerry Pournelle): a non-fiction column about design choices baked into our existing infrastructure which make it hard for it to be efficient, the failure to save for baby boomer retirement, and our need to be concerned about growing oil use and failure to find alternative energy sources like solar. The scary bit? This article from 1978 reads like it could have been written yesterday.
  • Transition team (Charles Sheffield): are we suited to life on a space station? A good short story.
  • Antimony (Spider Robinson): a pretty good cryonics story. Its a pity 1990 didn’t give me a personal flyer like he promised.
  • Very Proper Charlies (Dean Ing): a novelette about terrorism, specifically how terrorists really need media coverage to progress their agendas. A little dated, but still a good read.
  • Party Line (Clifford D. Simak): a longish story, this one didn’t really do much for me until about half way in. It got better though. What would aliens want from us if they met us?
  • Assimilating Our Culture, That’s What They’re Doing (Larry Niven): short, and good.
  • Science Fiction and Science, Part One (Poul Anderson): a bit dull to be honest.

Overall, this was an ok anthology, although not the best I’ve read. It also wasn’t themed, which I think is a weakness as an anthology. On the other hand, I would have been happy if I’d paid $1.95 USD for this as a magazine, especially given it only cost me $2 in the second hand store. The many, irrelevant, line drawings of naked women are a bit odd though. I guess that’s the 70s for you.

[isbn: 0441142818]

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I Know You Got Soul

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This is a collection of relatively short Clarkson articles about machines he thinks are inspiring. I don’t agree with all his choices, and many of the articles are clearly biased against America. For example, he insists that everyone on an aircraft carrier is stupid. Why? Because they didn’t let him film a fighter with one engine on fire. However, the book is funny, and good light reading. I read most of it on a bus for example. If you’re into Clarkson, then its worth reading.

[isbn: 9781856130974]

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