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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Books, Books, Books

So I had initially intended on doing a review of each book I read as one additional thing to write on this blog. I found my ability to critique stuff kinda sucks. So instead of doing an entire entry based on each review. I shall now combine all into one. Here goes:


The Forever War - Joe Haldeman - Five Stars

Awesome story and concept. One of the best books I have read in a while. It is a story about a man who starts fighting in an interstellar war that is drawn out because of the great distances between the two fighting species. It uses the effects of relativity to paint a really interesting picture of war and human society over a vast period of time.  I would highly recommend this book, as would many as it won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Armor - John Steakley - Three and a half stars

I read this on a recommendation of a big fan of Ender's Game who was comparing the two (it was actually in the introduction to Ender's Game). However, I will say it does not hold a candle to Ender's Game. Not much out there does. This is actually the review that kept me from doing reviews as I am not really sure what I thought of it. It is about a war with bugs fought in suits of armor, a common theme in sci-fi, and a characters will to survive despite a certain amount of self loathing. The story is a bit odd taking place in many disparate parts, that finally come together at the very end. It was a alright book in the end, but I wouldn't put it out there as a must read.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union - Michael Chabon - Three stars

The fact that it took me five months to get through this book pretty much captures a lot of how I felt about it. It is a Hugo award winner from a Pulitzer prize winning author. I took this as a big recommendation. This is a work of historical fiction that portrays a world where Israel failed shortly after its founding and so the United States lent land in Alaska to the Jewish people for 60 years. The story is a murder mystery taking place in the district just prior to the land reverting to US control. I will say the world and characters that the author built were incredibly detailed and well thought out. The problem for me was the story just dragged. I did not find it compelling in the least. The authors use of metaphor and simile had me constantly rereading lines to figure out what he was actually describing. This made me think this is somewhat above the "reading level" of what I normally read. It is interesting writing style, but when there is one after another, after another, things get muddled. Knowing more details of Jewish history/culture would probably make this story more interesting.

The Old Man's War - John Scalzi - Four and a half stars

This was a fun read. It is a action packed story in the vein of The Forever War and Starship Troopers. It takes place in a universe where humanity is colonizing among hundreds of other species who are all at war over the same basic territory. It follows the story of a 75 year old recruit from Earth and his journey into the wars to defend humanities colonies.  He has a very simple straight forward way of writing.  I loved the fact that Scalzi is not shy in his writing.  Also, his writing can also be quite humorous even when covering serious situations. Some of the things I like about this book and this series in general is its look into the question of what is acceptable in warfare, and what extent would we press warfare to ensure our survival.

The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi - Four Stars

I've decided it is particularly hard to review a series because any description of the later books can ruin the prior books. So forgive my vagueness. This novel picks up couple years after Old Man's War. It follows some of the same characters and investigates some interesting concepts of cloning, human consciousness, and also authority of government in war times.  I did not find it quite as fast paced as Old Man's War but it is still a fun creative story.  It does a great job of shedding light on part of his universe that was only hinted at in OMW.  

The Last Colony - John Scalzi - Four Stars

Another fun novel by Mr. Scalzi and completes the main story arc of his Old Man's War Universe.  This novel follows humanities last attempt at colonization as the balance for power shifts in their portion of the galaxy.  For the third book in the series he again went a different direction with it and did a good job of filling out the series and bringing to to a fulfilling ending.  

This series in general was highly entertaining. The only problem I would say is that at the end I was not connected to the stories or characters as I am with the books I consider to be the best. When I finished the Narnia Chronicle's or the Ender's Game series of books, I was sad they came to an end. I wanted there to be more to it. When this series ended I was OK with it. Not because it was a more satisfying ending, but I just did not connect as much to the story in the end.  I'm not sure why as it was a fun series to read.  

And with that I am caught up. Stayed tuned for The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, last years Hugo Award winner, which I am currently reading. The next book on my reading list after that is The Brother's Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which means you might never hear anything about me reading ever again. If you don't know what I mean you probably haven't read Dostoevsky before.

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