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Book review

Yukikaze

Yukikaze
Read date: Dec 2018

Yukikaze by Chōhei Kambayashi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three and a half stars, really. This book is a bit of a classic, perhaps now showing its age, as it explores the boundaries of what it is to be human by telling the story of the pilot and his increasingly autonomous AI-managed fighter plane, in a war against an unseen alien foe.

Although there were some enjoyable moments, I fear either I missed the point, or the point was so obvious at to be not very interesting (humans – good but flawed; AI – bad but perfect, until it becomes more like a human and discovers the value of flaws).

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Book review

A Darkling Sea

A Darkling Sea
Read date: Dec 2018

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to say, although I found it hard to get started, I really enjoyed this book. It explores two quite different intelligent alien species, and their interactions with humans. One species (the Ilmataran) is much less advanced than us, the other (the Sholen) somewhat more so. Together with the setting of the story – in a liquid-water ocean below the mile-thick ice layer on a moon around a gas giant – the book sets out to explore the interactions between them. They are the characters, really, rather than the human participants, with the interactions between them driving the plot forward.

Of course, as with all good fiction, it’s all just a veneer over humanity and our predilections:

“While war for love is inspiring in legends and epic poems, we must be governed by cynical pragmatism.”

Or even:

“Well, yeah, but the Russian Navy didn’t order you to hide out in the ocean of Ilmatar waging war on a bunch of aliens.” Josef didn’t answer. “They did?” “Was given contingency plans,” said Josef at last.

At times the book was a little sparsely written – it tended towards the short, declarative, sentence. But this was in keeping with the characters (the different species) being presented, and as the plot developed, the whole thing was very successfully driven forward by this.

Overall, an interesting and well put together interaction between these different elements.

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Book review

The Wrong Stars

The Wrong Stars (Axiom, #1)
Read date: Nov 2018

The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The slightly sketchy crew of a marginally run-down spacecraft find the floating wreckage of a 500-year old vessel, floating in trans-Neptunian space. It seems to be one of the Goldilocks ships, sent out from Old Earth to likely-looking planetary systems at sub-light speeds, to found new colonies as Old Earth crumbled behind them. Upon further investigation, the ship appears to contain some strange alien technology – as well as one remaining crew member, frozen in suspended animation for 500 years. So, they take on board the tech and the frozen crew member, and investigate both…. what could possibly go wrong??

I loved the style of writing from Tim Pratt – funny and interesting characters, imaginatively conceived, and a neat space-opera setting. Best for me was the witty dialogue between the characters. Hugely entertaining! I’d not come across his writing before, but I will definitely be hunting out more in the near future.

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Book review

Artemis

Artemis
Read date: May 2018

Artemis by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Delightful and excellent science-centric fun

Charming book from Andy Weir here. As with The Martian, chock-full of science which is integral to the plot, and very entertaining. One could argue that Jazz, the hero, was too wildly capable and smart for someone that age, but I’m not going to complain, because it made for a very entertaining story, and honestly, that’s what I was there for.

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Book review

Apex (Nexus, #3)

Apex (Nexus, #3)
Read date: May 2018

Apex by Ramez Naam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved Nexus and I though Crux was good, but I really struggled with this, the third in the trilogy. I felt it took a long time to get going,and in the end it played out 400 pages of plot across 650 pages of book.

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Book review

Seveneves

Seveneves
Read date: May 2018

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was so looking forward to this, because, well, Neal Stephenson! And I loved the first half, being technology and space and clever people doing hard things to handle an epic crisis, until suddenly politics intrudes, and nearly ruins the whole thing. I mean I know this stuff exists, and does in practice rule the world (and every large firm I’ve ever worked in), but I wasn’t looking for that out of this book. Plus, I’m not sure NS is the right author to write it convincingly. Not enough layers to it, I felt. Anyway, then we skip forward along the timeline, and I liked that last third a bit more again, but this time I felt again NS was trying to write from an interesting sociological PoV, but didn’t quite convince me with the characters. So I liked it – a lot in many parts – but from NS, I was a little sad that it wasn’t AWESOME.

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Book review

Great North Road

Great North Road
Read date: August 2017

Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this while in hospital for a week – good thing I had a lot of time on my hands as it weighs in at nearly 1100 pages! An excellent narrative, weaving a complex narrative across several worlds, tens of years, and 50+ characters. Some great ideas, very well written, ultimately felt like it needed a little editing down in the first half, but once the various plot lines were established it gathered momentum and kept moving along very well.

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