Book review: Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds

Good one-shot books are all too rare these days, but Reynolds is a master in this regard.  He manages to create an entire new universe and write a concise story that comes to a satisfactory conclusion, even though he still leaves an opening to revisit the world.  Century Rain is yet another such book.  With the author’s signature logical storyline, efficient writing and strong characters, this book was a pleasure to read and should not be overlooked by any fan of adult science fiction.

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Book review: Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark

Hunting trans-dimensional monsters in an alternate reality United States?  Heck, sign me up!  I freely admit that the monster hunting niche of urban fantasy holds a special appeal to me, so I was very happy when I realized this would be that kind of book.  Coupled with impeccable writing, compelling characters and a little bit of revisionist history, this title turned out to be a hidden gem of 2020.  Clark is quickly growing on me, and Ring Shout just further cements his permanency on my bookshelf.

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Book review: Eon by Greg Bear

With plenty of suspense and action, and interesting and original ideas, Eon would be an above average book.  But with the amazing scale of its setting, the book is much more than above average.  It’s a great book, which may not have aged too well, but still instills a sense of wonder in the reader.  Unfortunately, it is awe that can only be explored from a high perspective.  Drilling down finds mainly empty characters with little individuality, to whom the reader does not develop any emotional attachment.

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Book review: Finna by Nino Cipri

This Hugo-nominated novella doesn’t know what it wants to be.  Is it a multiverse-spanning adventure?  Or maybe a satire of our consumerist society?  Or perhaps it’s a redemption story of a failed relationship.  As soon as the reader thinks he figured out the tone of the story, it abruptly changes.  This, coupled with a simplistic language and bad grammar, results in a forgettable experience, which should not have been nominated for the award.

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Book review: Heaven’s River (Bobiverse 4) by Dennis E. Taylor

Taylor’s books are a more mature version of John Scalzi’s space operas.  The characters are a little more believable, the plot and story slightly more plausible.  On the other hand, the writing style and language are just as pedestrian.  The Bobiverse may not be groundbreaking, but it remains one of my guilty pleasures.  After the original trilogy concluded with no lose ends, I didn’t expect or crave another book, and so I was very pleasantly surprised with what I personally consider the best of the series.  In addition to the expected alien encounters and large-scale building projects, this book also comments on current cultural events and delves into the philosophy of morality.

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Book review: The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

This Hugo nominee for the best novella is remarkable in only one aspect: it’s wholly unremarkable.  The best I can say about this book is that it provides a pleasant short read, devoid of any immediate conflict or anything that could even hint at an established narrative structure.  Unfortunately, this makes it so bland that I had to sit down to write the review within a few short days after reading the story, before I forgot all about it.

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Classic review: City by Clifford Simak

Even after seventy years, City is a divisive work.  Some readers may love it, while others won’t care about it too much.  I not only fall into the first category, but I unashamedly admit that I look down at people who don’t like City, or more accurately, don’t comprehend it enough to like it.  The book may be difficult to understand.  The modern version contains nine largely disconnected stories, spanning some twelve thousand years, is heavy on exposition and focuses on human and animal evolution.  It is, in essence, a more digestible younger brother of Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men.  It is also very gentle, introspective and a pleasure to read.  Its ideas and concepts not only aged well, but they still serve as inspiration for modern science fiction.  This book is genuinely a classic.

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Book review: The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

Let’s start by saying that this book is quite different from the author’s Hugo Award winning Broken Earth trilogy.  Those who liked her previous work may be disappointed, but they shouldn’t.  Objectively speaking, this is a much more mature work, with no good or evil, only different shades of gray.  There’s no angst and very little anger; instead there are characters who do what they must, at a personal and societal cost.  Ultimately, everyone is relatable to some degree, which makes the book a pleasure to read.

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Book review: Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

The fifth book in the Wayward Children delivers more easy reading, simple plot and amazing worldbuilding.  Who cares that the internal logic is broken, as long as the readers can experience one of the most inventive fantasy worlds of the recent years?  This book delivers the latter, and I am completely content with it.  I’ve had a fun filled long night exploring the land of the Moors.

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Book review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

I don’t know what makes this little book so appealing.  Maybe it’s the very pleasant protagonist.  Or perhaps the visuals.  Or the writing, which prepares you for tedium and disappointment in the first act, only to explode into a fascinating story with twists that are usually expected, but still inexplicably satisfying.  Ultimately, Piranesi is a cute little story that feels inconsequential within its large and strange universe.  It’s a very human story with an eminently likable protagonist and fascinating worldbuilding.  It’s been a true pleasure to read this book.

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