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Seven Books - Qualified Perceptions
Seven Books
Hilldiggers (by Neal Asher)
I have given up trying to figure out the right order to read the Asher books I have been collecting, because that always results in deciding that I should be starting with the one I don't have yet. Anyway, despite having a title that sounds like The Burrowers, it's a space opera. (A "hilldigger" is a battleship with city-destroying gravity weapons). I like most of it - for once, the hints of Ender's Game are more like Locke and Demosthenes and not like Battle School; one of the cultures is rather Tinoori, the action is interesting and neither too confusing nor too linear. But I am somewhat baffled by the obvious HUGE WARNING SIGN OF DOOMY DOOM that nobody seems to be worrying about, just remarking once in a while "Yeah, there's that ominous doom thing, but whatever." Four stars.

Airborn and Skybreaker (by Kenneth Oppel)
Oops, there is a third book to this now, which I do not have. They are completely stand-alone, though. Anyway, they're fun young-adultish Action Adventures in the traditional Alternate History with Zeppelins, with pirates and scrappy young heroes. A lot of fast-moving fun. Also four stars.

The Girl who Stopped Swimming (by Joshilyn Jackson)
I really don't read many non-genre books (either SF/fantasy or mystery), but I love love love Joshilyn Jackson (the "woman who pinches", as harrock remembers her) and only read her books slowly because I end up buying them in hardback and then they don't fit in my purse. shumashi and I saw her talk at the Harvard Coop, and she described her writing style as putting together a bunch of interesting characters and then setting them on fire to see what happens. That's basically how this goes - there's a drowning that starts the story, so everyone is on fire. The characters are larger-than-life but ring true, and I couldn't wait to see how the next page went, over and over. Five stars.

Backseat Saints (also by Joshilyn Jackson)
I didn't like this one quite as much - the character is one who appeared in Jackson's first book (gods in alabama), and she spends the first half of the book on the arc that leads her through her appearances there. Because of that, she's more constrained, and I know (having read the other book) that she's doomed in her quest, so it's not quite as satisfying to be page-turning for what happens next. Four stars.

The Algebraist (by Iain M Banks)
An odd, fascinating, entertaining space opera. There are a few more plots in it than it knows what to do with by the end, and by about two thirds of the way through I had no idea where it was going (and even the protagonist seemed unsure what the right outcome would be), but I always wanted to see what would happen. The end doesn't really live up to the promise of the middle, but it's a lot of fun along the way. Four stars.

The Speed of Dark (by Elizabeth Moon)
Barely science fiction, I don't see how to compare it to anything other than Flowers for Algernon, though it is in the end less heart-breaking, and probably more real in the inner voice of the autistic main character. The villains seem a little unsubtle for what is otherwise thoughtful and thought-provoking, but I guess they were there to slowly set things on fire. Three and a half stars.


3 comments or Leave a comment
gilana From: gilana Date: January 30th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love Joshilyn Jackson. And I had totally forgotten about her blog, so thanks for reminding me! Now I'm trying to figure out whether I'm a crab or an Element.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: January 30th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Back in my day, we didn't call them crabs and Elements, we called them hedgehogs and foxes.

My comment on The Algebraist remains that there was not enough algebra to justify the title
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 4th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Order of the Books

This should help:


Neal Asher
3 comments or Leave a comment