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Monthly Book Reviews - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
Monthly Book Reviews
Bones of the Earth (by Michael Swanwick)
This was fun. It had the same sheer love of dinosaurs that Jurassic Park does (and especially Jurassic Park the movie), and the science is less noodleheaded. (Okay, cloning dinosaurs from amberified insects isn't strictly noodleheaded, but the whole "chaos theory" digression that explains why your goldfish bowl will kill you if in the end was inane. Jurassic Park wasn't dangerous because living systems are chaotic, it was dangerous because predators are dangerous. Lions eat crazy preachers. Tigers eat stage magicians. That sort of thing.) But I digress. This isn't about Jurassic Park. Anyway, the premise involves time travel instead of cloning, and the implausibilities wrap up nicely at the end. I can't quite put the plot in order, but I have confidence that Swanwick can and I just got a little confused. Four stars.

The Redemption of Althalus (by David and Leigh Eddings)
I think mjperson made me read it because he thinks my reviews of bad books are more entertaining than my reviews of good books. Well, this wasn't that bad. Go read these reviews for some really bad books. This was just... enh. First, if you're going to have twenty-five hundred years pass, more things should happen in those years. It shouldn't just be that the people in charge change their names and instead of being the Current Guy, everyone knows your name as that Long Ago Guy. Everyone is extraordinarily blase about being mind controlled by the "good" goddess. The kid is clever, sure, but when he comes to conclusions like "Hopping through time is like hopping through space, because hopping is hopping, right?" that should not be sufficient to have the other characters boggle "Is this child human? His thoughts and perceptions are so far beyond mind that I can scarce comprehend them!" I mean, "hopping is hopping" isn't that incomprehensible, even if "space equals time" is interesting physics. The sexy witch calling the main character "Daddy" and being terribly sad when he tells her to cut it out, I found creepy rather than endearing. But, to mjperson's credit, the bits where the kid keeps telling everyone else "Right, so, if we're omnipotent, can't we do X?" are kinda fun.

Earthling (by Tony Daniel)
I really liked Metaplanetary (and Superluminal almost as much), by this author. Well, okay, this is an earlier book, so perhaps he was still getting the hang of things. The book I checked out from MITSFS claimed to be a novel, but it was really three novelettes patched together. Now, I don't entirely mind that as a concept, but I would have liked the writing style to stay more consistent. The first part was third person, very terse, no quotation marks around dialogue. The second part was third person, more standard narrative style (i.e. quotation marks). The third part was chatty first person. The first part felt like an interesting voice; the second was sort of like the Postman, and the third was too short to really explain the new world it had built before crashing into the end of the book. Geologists might like this more than me. Two stars.

Drowning Towers (by George Turner)
A decent read, sort of depressing and slow-moving, about global warming and overpopulation and class differences. The frame story didn't seem to add much. Written from many different character POVs, done reasonably, though I didn't dislike the guy all the other characters hated nearly as much as they did. Three and a half stars.

Jack Faust (by Michael Swanwick)
Not nearly as much fun as Bones of the Earth. Faust bargains (with an alien, but that doesn't really matter) for knowledge, and gets science. Sort of like Connecticut Yankee (or the Leo Frankowski books, but they were a lot cheerier about how the Industrial Revolution at super-fast speed would go). And an interesting thought experiment about what you can and can't do with omniscience. Four stars.




(All from the MITSFS)

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Comments
mjperson From: mjperson Date: January 28th, 2005 07:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Althalus

Yeah, those were always my favorite parts of that book, because I identify with the poor kid, I think.

"Hello! Don't forget we're *omnipotent*! Let's just do the easy thing and win now."

I'm always railing against folks like Green Lanterns who forget that they are omnipotent when it comes to plot resolution time.

If you want to make your characters gods, sure, that's a lot of fun, but it does make your plotting job harder. I get annoyed when characters just forget to use their godlike powers to solve simple plots because the author didn't have any complicated ones in mind.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: January 28th, 2005 08:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Althalus

I'm always railing against folks like Green Lanterns who forget that they are omnipotent when it comes to plot resolution time.
...If you want to make your characters gods, sure, that's a lot of fun, but it does make your plotting job harder


Yeah, this is a good example of why gods in Auria aren't omnipotent, or omniscient either. Just break it to Innyr gently.
arcanology From: arcanology Date: January 28th, 2005 09:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Althalus

It's the voltron problem.

In game, players always form the blazing sword right off if they've got it, and then the episode is already over.
arcanology From: arcanology Date: January 28th, 2005 09:40 am (UTC) (Link)
You can't go wrong with Swanwick. At all. I like Jack Faust better than Bones of the Earth myself.

And I have to disagree about Redemption of Alanthus. That was one of the worst books I've actually finished... it's basically every other one of his books, in a blender, with any redeeming features removed. The charactes made me pretty ill. Why did I finish it anyway? Maybe because I like the belgariad so long ago and was wondering if he's written anything else... the answer is no, he's been writing the belgariad over and over again ever since.

Swanwick should go to his house, kill him, and use his blood to write an excellent novella.
astra_nomer From: astra_nomer Date: January 28th, 2005 11:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I started reading Eddings when I asked Marcus one day for a fluffy book to read because my brain hurt from tooling. So I will always consider Eddings to be fluff.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: January 28th, 2005 11:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Eddings is definitely fluff. :)
Belgariad I think was pretty good fluff; Althaleus was either good, mediocre or horrible fluff, depending on whether you believe mjperson, me, or arcanology.
arcanology From: arcanology Date: January 28th, 2005 12:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, Eddings is like Romance novels - once you've read one, you understand the form and won't find anything surprising in any of the new ones, so they can be relaxing if you're not a bit of a critic.

Which is why they make me bite furniture these days.
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