Echo by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The newest Alex Benedict/Chase Kolpath novel. Really, how much does McDevitt really have left in this series, considering the previous accomplishments of these two? It’s getting kind of hard to top.
So what McDevitt does here is try to shift the accomplishment from being a notable one to the Earthbound 21st century reader to a notable one for the readers in this future civilization (which is who the narrator is writing for anyway) and make the 21st century reader care just as much.
I won’t say this is the best or my favorite of the Benedict/Kolpath novels (that honor is reserved for ‘Polaris’), but it certainly is, as usual, enjoyable and a page-turner and second or third-best in the series (a series that you can, more or less, read in order or out of order if you want). I blasted through it on spring break. And while the previous novel in the series bogged a little down with some politics that seemed to go on a little too long, this one manages to move along well. I thought the appearances of the mysterious assassin mentioned in the plot summary were either too few in number or mentioned too far apart, but overall, another fine entry in the series.
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Seeker by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m not really sure why I bother recommending individual Jack McDevitt books. You should simply read all the Jack McDevitt books you can find. This third book in his Alex Benedict series is no exception.
‘Seeker’ won the Nebula Award for 2006 and it was well-deserved. The beauty of McDevitt’s books is that the story takes its time to build (without being slow, at least at this point in McDevitt’s writing) and then sudden;y kicks into a page-turning high gear.
Like the previous novel in this series, ‘Polaris,’ this one starts out as a lost/ghost ship plot and then switches to a ‘lost colony’ plot. Alex Benedict and his assistant, Chase Kolpath, once again try to unravel a long-abandoned mystery of the galaxy.
I liked ‘Polaris’ a little bit better than this one, but that by no means this one is a bad book. Like the blurbs on the book say, you really should be reading Jack McDevitt.
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Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’ll be honest, I was sucked in by the cover. This just looked cool.
How refreshing to find it was hard SF too, which I have been neglecting of late. So what happens is this ship full of comet miners is sent to intercept Saturn’s moon Janus, which has suddenly left its orbit and is flying through space, directly for the star Spica, shedding ice as it goes to reveal a metallic surface. What is it? Who made it? The crew of the Rockhopper are sent to find out. But things go wrong, as they always do in novels, and this first-contact story takes some twists that you don’t always see.
The story, to me, was more about two strong people, who suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of an issue and what happens as a result. This novel could have easily been set in frontier America, Victorian England, modern Texas, anywhere really. But it’s the freeing from present-day restraints that science fiction allows that really makes a story like this engaging (see ‘The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’ by Robert A. Heinlein) as it explores its ideas.
About the hard SF part: Reynolds is an astrophysicist, which keeps the science and even the geopolitical parts of the story fairly well grounded in some kind of plausibility. Character-wise, well, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more from some of the characters, but I will say there is no confusing characters in this book. Each is distinctive.
Some people may find the fact that some basic questions a reader might ask aren’t answered. But I think that’s part of the point. The Earthlings who are finding their way in this book don’t have all the answers, and they find them, some of them anyway, at the same speed as the rest of us.
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Hey all. Long time, no read.
With Christopher Nolan’s Inception opening this weekend at a theater near you, it brought to mind a fantastic novel I’d read many moons ago that mined the same, lucid shared dream vein called The Night Mayor.
In the not to distant future, since movies and TV are a thing of the past, people look to virtual reality, where a person can be projected into their own movie inside their own head, for their entertainment. Things go a bit awry when master criminal Truro Daine tries to make this unreality a reality, with himself in control of everything, and its up to two cyber-sleuths to tune-in to his wavelength and put the kibosh on his nefarious schemes…
Author Kim Newman is a huge film buff and has written several reference books on said subject. The Night Mayor is his fictional debut and it’s a real treat for his fellow film fanatics. See, Newman’s master-criminal bases his cyber-kingdom on the shadowy, rain-soaked streets and neon-lights of vintage hard-boiled Hollywood noir movies, and it’s populated with several familiar characters, scenarios, actors and femme fatales of the same era — Bogart, Powell, and Tierney — one of them being Daine in disguise. Which is why the authorities bring in an outside expert on the genre (– a surrogate for Newman, perhaps?) to help the lead detective smoke him out. And with this being based in virtual reality anything goes, right? And when our heroes start tweaking things a bit, movie-genres start to get cross-pollinated — and if you think Lon Chaney Jr. showing up and sprouting whiskers in the middle of all this is wild, just wait until you see what comes stomping out of the harbor.
Of course knowledge of vintage films will help your enjoyment of this book but even a cursory film fan will recognize most of the cameos, winks and nods in Newman’s book. The science part of the equation takes a bit to slog through but it’s well worth it to get the fiction.
bleak (blk) adj. bleak·er, bleak·est
1. Gloomy and somber
2. Providing no encouragement; depressing: no prospects.
3. Cold and cutting; raw.
4. Exposed to the elements; unsheltered and barren.
Yeah, that pretty much sums up Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. In a clinical sense, mind you.
Quick and Dirty: Through some unexplained global catastrophe, the world has burned and been reduced to nothing but ash. The sky is clogged with it, the sun barely breaking through, and night brings absolute darkness, meaning nothing more will grow. And once the vegetation went, all the animals soon followed, with those not poisoned consumed to extinction. Now, there are only a few bands of humans roaming this lunar-scape and dilapidated husks of civilization, looking and scrabbling for any kind of sustenance, and avoiding each other to make whatever rations found last a little longer, and yes, to keep yourself off someone else’s dinner plate. Among them, a father and son, making their way along our titular road in a desperate journey toward the sea, hoping against hope that things will better over the horizon.
Now, I’ve read a lot of post-apocalyptic literature in my time but none were more sobering, disheartening and dire than what was represented in these pages. The author hints at some pretty awful things to show how far mankind has fallen, with roving bands of hooligans gone cannibal, which is bad enough, but when you also realize there is only one sustainable and replenishable food source left on the planet, and a lot of these bands consist of women in various stages of pregnancy — yeah, when that was finally and explicitly laid out for me, I had to put the book down for awhile. But, if you’re still with me, here, in these very same pages is a solid and reaffirming story of familial love, a lasting bond, that survives some astronomical odds.
It took me about 50 pages before the stark and offbeat cadence of McCarthy’s prose gelled properly; prose that is as raw and clipped and emaciated as our weary travelers. (The recent film adaptation stars Viggo Mortenson, and it’s easy to hear him in your mind’s ear narrating the whole thing.) But once you get the beat of it, it works wonderfully as he conjures up such a gloomy and queasy picture — however, this also really helps to punctuate the novels few bright spots, where things actually go well for our troupe. However, those of us who’ve been corrupted by watching too many George Romero flicks know these reprieves won’t last long, and I often found myself at unease, and encouraging them to get moving again before things inevitably go haywire and all is lost. And on the same stroke, to contrast this obviously hopeless journey, the author welds the bond between the man and the boy that helps disperse the darkness.
At least for a little while…