Archive for the ‘science fiction and fantasy’ Category

The Lost Stars: Perilous Shield

June 2, 2014

This weekend finished the latest in the spinoff series from Jack Campbell’s (John Hemry) Lost Fleet series: The Lost Stars: Perilous Shield. It intersects with the main line, but from a different perspective. In so doing, it clarifies some things and shows how difficult¬†the circumstances would likely be. And there are a few plot twists that shake things up a bit. I’ve enjoyed the series and have fond memories of lunch with the author, so how can I say anything but good about this book?

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100 Cupboards

May 29, 2014

Did have a chance to read the young adult 100 Cupboards book by N. D. Wilson. It was an interesting read and god enough to get to the sequels someday. But it didn’t overwhelm me, either.

Like a Mighty Army

May 15, 2014

This one is worth several days of reading, especially when I’m working on grading and other end of the semester things. Like a Mighty Army is the 7th book in David Weber’s Safehold series. It’s a science fiction work set in a relatively unmodern refuge for the remants of humanity who escaped alien induced extinction. Which allows for a blend of high tech but also relatively low tech. In that sense, it often reminds me of aspects of the 1632 universe where you often learn details ¬†about old-style manufacturing and weaponry along the way. It’s a sprawling story, covering an entire world, with various plot lines and characters. So much so that it includes a 60 page or so cast of characters to help you sort them out. You either have to be obsessive about details or just let the flow of the story move along and hope you’ll be able to place the characters and geography sufficiently to follow. The other distinctive note is the continued religious dimension of the story. I believe Weber is Methodist; the story line self-consciously draws on Reformation style motifs throughout and religion is as a big of a factor as many other standard parts of the story. Don’t start with this one if you are interested, go back to the beginning and take your time. It will be a long ride. I’ve enjoyed it so far – but beware that more are coming (I recall once reading Weber was thinking of perhaps 12 total in the series).

Retrieval Artist series

May 11, 2014

I read the first 7 or so of the Retrieval Artist series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch this past year. I had picked up several along the way and filled in a few more with some library borrowing. Included are: The Disappeared, Extremes, Consequences, Buried Deep, Paloma, Recovery Man, and Duplicate Effort. Generally an enjoyable series. A combination of science fiction and detective genres. An off-the-book investigator in the shady world of “retrieval artist” interacts with a diverse sets of crimes and cultures. Secrets, conspiracies, politics and all sort of similar features make the stories generally work.

My only complaint (such as it is) is the limited availability of the more recent volumes in the series. I’m trying to be patient because the paperbacks are just too expensive at the moment. Ah well.

Commander Cantrell in the West Indies

May 8, 2014

Commander Cantrell in the West Indies is the latest in the sprawling and immense 1632 series created by Eric Flint. The setting – a West Virginia town transported back to southern Germany during the middle of the 30 years war – has become the stage on which multiple story lines have emerged. The main ones are in full length books like this one; lesser story lines are published in collections of what are essentially fan fiction, but fan fiction that is edited and paid for, and hence of a generally higher quality. But all of these stories together make up a huge universe which touches on all kinds of historical, political, and even religious questions. If you’re a fan of the series (which I am) you’ll certainly want to read this title.

While there are few familiar characters, the new setting (the New World) allows for a whole new set of characters and interests. There are plenty of interesting historical allusions, and lots of naval battles. The detail in naval matters is impressive. I especially enjoy the adaptive strategies that new technologies (even ones that might be viewed as archaic in modern times) force the participants to think about. These features can help us appreciate the changes (and advantages) that technology has brought to us.

As has sometimes been the case in the series, there are so many story threads going on at once that one or two threads seems to inexplicably disappear for a while – and it can be hard to keep the various characters straight. And it can be difficult to connect this story to contemporaneous stories elsewhere in the universe if you don’t pay close attention, though the authors provide periodic clues that help a bit.

Having said all that, for me it was an enjoyable read and I’d recommend it for people who find a bit of creative alternate history interesting.

I’m back – The Van Rijn Method

May 6, 2014

I’m going to try to pick up some reading and reviews of books this summer after a lengthy hiatus. We’ll see how it goes. There are easily 100 days before school starts in the fall (though it is not done quite yet), so it seems a good time to start.

I just finished The Van Rijn Method by Poul Anderson. It’s the first volume of a series reprinting stories of The Technic Civilization Saga. Enjoyable classic science fiction, with interesting characters. And some religious themes as well.

The introduction to “The Three-Cornered Wheel” highlights several universal principles (most of which are familiar). I enjoyed these a lot:

1. Parkinson’s Laws

2. Sturgeon’s Revelation (90% of everything is crud)

3. Murphy’s Law

4. The Fourth Law of Thermodynamics

The story itself deals with religion in several places (including a religious caste that resists change).

And in “The Season of Forgiveness”, Christmas and its meaning has a significant role.

Temeraire

August 21, 2012

This summer, I’ve kept working through Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series (Napaleonic alt history with dragons):

Empire of Ivory

Victory of Eagles

Tongues of Serpents

Seems I’m only one behind.

Back

July 24, 2012

I’ve been away from this blog for a while, because of other stuff. But I’m going to try some more.

This summer I read through the Hunger Games trilogy. I enjoyed it, for the most part. The absence of anything transcendent left the ending a bit flat – kind of depressingly hopeful.

Guards Guards

May 18, 2012

Finished Terry Pratchett’s Guards, Guards. Another discworld book. The line I highlighted:

Books bend space and time. One reason the owners of those aforesaid little rambling, poky secondhand bookshops always seem slightly unearthly is that many of them really are…

The Rook

May 15, 2012

For something different and new, read The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. Fantasy thriller/suspense sort of vibe with a light touch. Pretty interesting read. And a first novel. I’ll recommend this one.