Throughout history, liberty has been something important to the human race. This can be easily proved by taking a look at the stories we tell. There are stage plays, such as Oedipus Rex, which state humans are completely at the mercy of fate. There is television, such as Season 4 of Angel, which argues that freedom, even at the cost of perfection, should be sought after. Surely, individual freedoms are not something to give up easily. Yet Golan Trevize readily does so before his story even starts. Why? That’s the very question he would like answered, and he sets off with two friends to find out. (more…)
Sometimes, after a long day, it’s nice to just sit down and read an epic novel. Usually, these stories end up being about a hero who is revealed to be ‘The Chosen One’, finds out about an Evil Emperor, trains to defeat him, and saves the day through hard work and sacrifice. Of course, this is only entertaining because I don’t have to live it. If the villain is murderous, I don’t have to worry. If the fate of the world is threatened, I can rest assured it is just a story. Jim Hunt has no such assurance. (more…)
In Clair’s world, the primary mode of travel is teleportation. AI’s copy a person’s pattern and deliver it perfectly to their destination in less than a minute. The whole world can be travelled in mere hours, and people who live on opposite sides of the globe can attend the same schools. But what would happen if someone altered a person’s pattern before it arrived? What if you could change a person’s appearance? What if you could make someone perfectly beautiful? When a meme claiming this very thing to be possible goes viral, Clair is sceptical, but on closer examination she discovers something a lot more sinister behind the pretty promise. (more…)
Rick is a senior who’s got it all: a beautiful girlfriend, star quarterback for his school, and a football scholarship lined up already. But all that changes when his dad leaves the family and Rick is in a terrible car accident that leaves his legs weak and useless. Crippled and alone, Rick withdraws into his room, where he spends hours playing video games. But all that changes when he is approached by the government, and asked to save the world. Literally.
When I saw Ender’s Game in theaters I knew I was going to have to re-read the book. It’s one of my favorites (I’ve reviewed it once before) and it was well-worth a $3.99 impulse buy on my Nook. So, three years and a major motion picture, how does this book stack up?
Funny thing about science fiction: it seldom stays fiction for long. This is similarly true of the dystopian genre. It is difficult to study writers like Orwell and Huxley without seeing ourselves reflected in the literary mirrors they hold up to us. Did I say difficult? I meant impossible. As Dalrymple writes in his essay “The Dystopian Imagination”, both 1984 and Brave New World “retain their power to alarm because they are prophetic, almost in a biblical sense: they issue permanent calls to resist trends that, irrespective of the political regime we happen to find ourselves under, will impoverish human life.”
At the edge of the Butterfly Nebula, beyond the last portal, lies Periphery Station. Last haven, recovery hospice, tourist mecca, and cathedral in space. All sorts of people come to Periphery Station: armalcolite prospectors, star rangers, survivors, and renegades. The portal brings word of other galaxies—and other realities. Time, distance, and motive have different meanings here. Several points need to be brought to the attention of potential readers. Some are bad, and some are good. First, in one particular story, which deals with temptation, the plot becomes R-rated. Even though it doesn’t describe much, I wish to warn you about it. Over the whole book, there is one major plot (which is actually slightly boring) with stories in between. These stories become the life of the book, even if a few are also slightly boring. However, there are some jewels to be found in this collection.
“Close” by Marc Schooley is a unique outer space disaster story. “Tableau” by Adam Palmer shows a man’s last desire as he wishes to die. “The Drop” by Steve Rzasa gives another small glimpse into his excellent sci-fi story world, where battles are raging. “Nether Ore” by Kirk Outerbridge is an all-around pleasing story for sci-fi and dénouement fans. “Graxin” by Kerry Nietz tells an intriguing (and possibly disturbing) tale from an unlikely perspective, the robot’s.
This book, as a sci-fi collection, doesn’t have the background-flooded stories given in many other collections. Often keeping boring details to a minimum, the authors focused on keeping the reader engaged in the plot. For that, I am grateful. The stories aren’t as diverse as I’d hoped, but in the range of sci-fi their performance was not too bad.
This ebook was provided free by the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own. Noah Arsenault
Twelve years old, a millionaire, a genius – and a criminal mastermind. However Artemis Fowl’s most dastardly plan is yet to be unleashed. After he kidnaps a fairy for ransom in order to get his hands on real fairy gold, Artemis finds out that fairies are not quite the pushovers he expected, and ends up with a challenge on his hands that transcends any plot he has ever put together.
I was sceptical of this book, however I was pleasantly surprised by it. Far from the expected spoiled rich brat who just wants his own way in everything, Artemis is cool, smooth, clever, and doesn’t just want to please himself. His father (supposedly) perished at the hands of criminals after which they robbed him of his enormous fortune. Though not exactly out for revenge, Artemis wants to return his family fortune to its former glory – no matter the method. And this is where being twelve years old comes to his advantage.
Young enough to believe most things, Artemis is convinced in the existence of fairies. After extensive research and globetrotting, he turns out to be correct. He locates the whereabouts of a fairy and steals the sacred book of their laws from her, with the design of kidnapping a fairy when one comes to the chosen place of renewing their powers. It is here he ends up kidnapping Holly Short, an LEPrecon officer, and that’s when all hell breaks loose below ground – the realm of fairies.
The book is well paced, and kept me interested the whole way, which is a good thing. Reading about young criminal masterminds isn’t something that really grabs me, and good reasoning had to be foundational for me to like it. The author played the balance between guilt about what he was doing and passion for restoring his father’s legacy very well; it was subtle enough to pick up on but not in your face. I also loved the humour. Eoin Colfer’s good old Irish snark shone through with hilarious brilliance. The fairies were also incredibly well done. Most of the time when you ask someone, “think fairy”, the first image is something fluttery, twinkly and pretty. Not so in the world of Fowl. They are tough underground little people with quick wits, trim uniforms, and futuristic technology. Their high-tech weapons and flying machines makes them highly militarized, and I was impressed by the extent of their underground cities and “airports” to the surface. The world really was breathtaking.
However it was not without flaws. I found some places to describe things a bit crudely, especially some of the underground creatures’ habits. The cast isn’t solely of humans and fairies, but a great many other mythical beings are included, and as such, aren’t all as “nice” as others. There was no bad language, however I did have a chuckle that Colfer had invented a fairy cuss word (D’arvit). That’s not something I’ve come across before, but I thought worked well in the setting.
All in all, it was a fun read – high tech speculative fantasy has earned a win for me with Artemis Fowl. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Old Man’s War introduces itself with some of the best opening lines I’ve ever read in a novel: “I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.”
So simple, so compelling. Further, it points us to the two great themes that dominate this tale – that of love and that of war. Far from being a lightweight interstellar shoot ‘em up, Old Man’s War has the heart and brain of a modern classic. It’s not just a good read – it’s a great one.
In Scalzi’s futuristic world, the good news is that mankind finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets suitable for human habitation are few – and our claim to those few is violently challenged by other alien races. So we hit back: for the sake of the old world, Earth, and for the sake of new ones. This war has been going on for decades, and signs of a reprieve are nowhere to be seen.
Back on Earth itself, most of our resources are in the hands of the CDF (Colonial Defense Force). Once you reach retirement age, you can join up with the CDF. Youngsters aren’t wanted; people who carry a lifetime worth of experience are. If you sign up, you’ll be whisked off Earth and never permitted to return. You’ll serve at least two years on the front. If you survive, you’ll be given a homestead of your own, on one of the newly colonized planets you helped fight for. If you survive.
“In this room right now there are 1,022 recruits,” Lieutenant Colonal Higges said. “Two year from today, 400 of you will be dead.”
Higgee stood in the front of the theater, again. “In the third year,” he continued, “another 100 of you will die. Another 150 in years four and five. After ten years – and yes, recruits, you will most likely be required to serve a full ten years – 750 of you will have been killed in the line of duty. Three-quarters of you, gone. These have been the survival statistics – not just for the last ten or twenty years, but for the over two hundred years the Colonial Defense Force has been active.”
There was dead silence.
“I know what you’re thinking right now, because I was thinking it when I was in your place,” Lieutenant Colonel Higgee said. “You’re thinking – what the hell am I doing here? This guy is telling me I’m going to be dead in ten years! But remember that back home, you most likely would have been dead in ten years, too – frail and old, dying a useless death. You may die in the Colonial Defense Forces. You probably will die in the Colonial Defense Forces. But your death will not be a useless one. You’ll have died to keep humanity alive in our universe.” (p. 107-108)
John Perry (the old man of the title) is signing up – survival statistics be darned. Of what awaits him he has only a vague idea. As he soon discovers, fighting the real fight, light-years from his home planet, is far more brutal and life-altering than he could ever have imagined. So…
… who wants to kill some aliens?
While casting about for a punchy way to describe this book, the first thing that sprang to mind was a comparison to Pixar’s UP. No joke. Think about it. In UP, the elderly Carl Fredericksen mourns the death of his beloved wife, Ellie, and thereafter embarks on an adventure. In Old Man’s War, John Perry (also elderly and also a widower) sets out on his own adventure in the aftermath of his wife’s passing.
Obviously, we’re talking about two different kinds of adventuring here – rescuing exotic birds vs. blowing away alien beasties – but the situational similarity is neat to consider, amiright?
(Don’t take that the wrong way, by the by: Old Man’s War is intended for adults. It is most emphatically not a candidate for family read-aloud time.)
Lovers of military sci-fi, take note: Old Man’s War is a ripping yarn that pays homage to the likes of Starship Troopers and The Forever War. This isn’t to say it’s a recycling of those works (quite the contrary), but the influence is clear. What raises this story above many of its peers is the deeply human element. The soldiers here aren’t just so much cannon-fodder, and Scalzi refuses to let the action – as thrilling as it is – get in the way of good old fashioned character development.
The story itself is brilliantly wrought, giving a tip of the space helmet to greats such as Heinlein while firmly establishing its own uniqueness. As a reviewer for Publisher’s Weekly put it, “This virtuoso debut pays tribute to SF’s past while showing that well-worn tropes still can have real zip when they’re approached with ingenuity.”
This is what I call a triumph.
Oh, and Santa – if you’re reading this, pay real close attention to this next bit: I want a CDF MP-35 for Christmas. Seriously. Get me one, and I’ll let you live.
1984 is an odd classic. It’s futuristic sci-fi that tells of a date in the future, that is already behind us. But the principles it shows are still valid today, and are worth significant thought. This is the sort of book you can’t really digest in one sitting.