Classic review: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick

What do ogres and Dick’s books have in common?  They are like onions: they have several layers, and when you peel one off, another will lie underneath.  The layers in Dick’s book can be very different: they may have little in common with the higher, more superficial layers, and can take the reader in a surprisingly different direction.  The one commonality they possess is that each one makes you think about the book for a long time after finishing it.  The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is no different in this regard.  What makes it stand out is its relative accessibility compared to many other works by Dick, and its timelessness.  Even today, people can find parallels or even inspiration in this novel.  And I’m afraid someone may have found this book motivating…

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Book review: The Brotherhood of the Wheel by R. S. Belcher

American highways are the battleground of a war between good and evil.  Monsters, both real and in human form, are being hunted by truckers and motorcycle gangs who trace their lineage back to the Knights Templar.  This may sound bombastic, but the book is anything but.  It is gritty, down to earth, and it feels far more authentic than other monster-fighting urban fantasy series.

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Book review: Dawn (Legend of the Galactic Heroes 1) by Yoshiki Tanaka

A space opera for younger readers, which is eminently readable, Dawn is the answer to the question nobody cared to ask: How would a John Scalzi book look without all the edginess and curse words?  The end result is a fast-paced militaristic science fiction without much logic, but plenty of endearing anachronisms, likable characters and a few surprisingly deep insights.

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Book review: Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book.  On one side, Reynolds is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and this book clearly served as influence for the successful Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin.  On the other, this title is such a convoluted mess of genres, settings, and characters and their roles, that it gives Neal Stephenson a run for his money.  Unfortunately, without Stephenson’s redeeming futuristic predictions, Terminal City places towards the bottom of my preference for Reynolds’ works.

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Book review: Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Futuristic westerns in a dystopian future are a dime a dozen, and this one does not stand out.  The novella is very expertly written and provides for some pleasant reading, but wastes its potential for worldbuilding and character development and brings very little new to the table.  Still, it leaves a tantalizing glimpse into a world I’d like to read more about.

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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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