Mini review: Berlin Is Never Berlin by Marko Kloos

In all honesty, the Wild Cards universe is not my favorite urban fantasy setting.  It is a distant second to Larry Correia’s Grimnoir Chronicles, but it does have its charm.  The different writers add variety, and in particular the early books displayed superb character development.  I abandoned the series a long time ago, though, and only picked up this novelette due to its author.  Marko Kloos writes some of my favorite contemporary military science fiction, with very relatable characters, and I was wondering how he’d do in a setting with extra-human beings.

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Book review: Auxiliary: London 2039 by Jon Richter

Stop me if you heard this before: a gruff, alcoholic detective is roped into a routine homicide investigation, where he is pressured to come to a clean, politically expedient but ultimately wrong conclusion and frame an innocent man.  Instead, his personal integrity pushes him towards the more difficult path, where he discovers a sinister conspiracy, while dodging the calls from his superiors to stand down.  This is a framework of many novels, and it’s up to the author to work within its limitations to make the very common plot stand out.  Auxiliary adds scary but believable technology, and social change to the mix, and the author brews everything in an oppressive enough atmosphere to cook up a fast-paced, near-future thriller.

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Book review: To Be Taught, if Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers has quickly become one of my favorite new authors, with her unconventional, humane view of science fiction settings.  Her characters are almost always likable, conflict is kept at a minimum, and the resolution is usually peaceful.  She looks at futuristic worlds with a sense of wonder and an almost childlike glee, and I’m very happy to participate in this view.  This short book is hardly different from her previous works in these regards.  It may be a little more mature, but it still features a future full of wonders and good people, likable characters and very positive actions by them.  Unfortunately, the novella also feels a little rushed towards the end, which is out of character with the author’s previous works and presented me with an unwelcome surprise.

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Book review: The Prefect (Revelation Space 5) by Alastair Reynolds

The Prefect is one of the most popular books in the Revelation Space universe.  It rates marginally higher than the other books in the series on Goodreads, even though it didn’t amass as many reviews.  I think the positive reception is mainly due to more relatable characters, a better understandable story and a delightful worldbuilding.  It is indeed a pleasure to read, and being a standalone novel, it requires no knowledge of the previous four books.

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Classic Review: Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

Many people consider this to be the best book from The Culture series.  Many more think it’s the most gut-wrenching book.  I am simply amazed at the depth of characters, quality of writing and a story structure that was very difficult for me to read, but ultimately very rewarding.  It is haunting, depressing and beautiful at the same time.  This book cemented the author’s place among the best wordsmiths of his generation.

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Modern Classic: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl is essential reading for the early 21st century.  It deals with incredibly important themes in an accessible and very engaging fashion.  The characters are all well fleshed out, the story is plausible, and the setting is exotic enough for the reader to never feel too comfortable.  I would go as far as to say that the book is prophetic, and it’s up to the readers to make sure this particular prophecy doesn’t come to pass.

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Hugos 2020 – Novelettes

This year, the selection of novelettes did not reach the quality of the previous years.  Back in 2018 and 2019, I was hard-pressed to find my favorite story, and even to select the top three was difficult.  In 2020, only one work was truly superb, and the second best stood high above the rest only due to its novel idea, not the quality of the writing.  For the first time in several years, I had to stop voting before I reached the end of the list.  Here are my views of all the nominated novelettes, ranked from my most favorite one.

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Hugos 2020 – Short Stories

This year, the short story ballot was very strong.  Unlike the last few years, the stories feel complete, gradually tapering off instead of an abrupt ending, and they all made actual sense to me.  I found it quite difficult to rank them according to my preferences, as I felt that the top three were serious contenders for the Hugo award, and another two still showed very high quality.  After overthinking the rankings a little, here is my take on the 2020 Hugo Short Story finalists. Continue reading

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Philip K. Dick vs. Hollywood, Part 2: Paycheck

A blockbuster movie directed by John Woo and starring no less than four A-list actors at the height of their popularity, in a movie based on Philip K. Dick’s short story.  What could go possibly wrong?  Well, a lot of things.  When the dust settled, the movie may have recouped its costs thanks to the international box office, but that didn’t save it from being savaged by the critics.  In the current cultural climate, the critical response may be common for both the movie and the short story, but other than that and the basic premise they aren’t much alike.

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Book Review: The Last Emperox (Interdependency 3) by John Scalzi

The Interdependency series is one of the rare trilogies where each sequel gets better than the previous book, and despite a single linear storyline, each novel has its own distinct character.  I was unimpressed with the first book, considered the second one a good, light read, and was very pleasantly surprised by the depth of the last part, as well as the emotions it managed to drag out of me.  If Scalzi was a new author, I’d think I saw him mature throughout the series, but being a veteran writer, this was probably a deliberate, cynical plot to keep his readers engaged to the very end, and I love him for it.

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