Book review: EarthCore by Scott Sigler

This book cannot decide whether it wants to be a near-future thriller, an action romp or science-fiction with a sprinkle of body horror.  At the end, it tries to be everything, but only half-heartedly, leaving much to be desired.  I found the book to be bland, formulaic, and forgettable.

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Modern classic: The Will to Battle (Terra Ignota 3) by Ada Palmer

This review has been several weeks in making.  Usually, I write reviews in a week, with multiple rereads and revisions.  In this case, I never felt that my efforts were adequate to the quality of the book, and I ended up completely scrapping several drafts.  Even this review is not up to the task, but there came a point when I needed to move on.  Terra Ignota has become my most favorite science fiction series of this century, and The Will to Battle was yet another improvement of the narrative.  It is extremely well thought out, with compelling albeit imperfect characters, plausible story and daring literary elements that left me in awe of the author.  The series, and in particular this book, is not for everyone, as it is extremely short in action and heavy in introspection.  This is not a comfort read.  It’s difficult, slow to digest, and may require an encyclopedia close at hand.  However, this also makes the title extremely memorable and rewarding.

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Classic review: Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (Heechee saga 2) by Frederik Pohl

Sequels to highly regarded books are a risky venture. The expectations are high, and even if the book meets them, the mood tends to be dampened by the more prominent hero’s journey curve, at the expense of worldbuilding. Where the first books in the series can hide some of their flaws behind the wonders of the new world or universe and an upward trajectory of the hero’s path to greatness, the sequel usually leads to the reader awakening to a bleaker world, where the wonders are not as appealing anymore, and the hero begins his downward spiral. When done right, the second volumes gain something of a cult following, and eventually can be considered the best of the series. Most often, however, they are seen as less entertaining and merely necessary for further exposition. The second Heechee novel does not follow the same rules, and this is why it’s just as appealing as the first book.

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Book review: The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn

Welcome back to the good old days of science fiction when stories were fun, authors didn’t need to comment on social issues or historical events, and readers didn’t have to be bogged down by hidden messages. Where the protagonists were unambiguously good, the antagonists bad, and the story entertaining and straight-forward. Unless the author threw in a curve in the narrative that everyone should have seen coming and yet nobody did. Welcome to the fun side of the Star Wars universe in anything but its name.

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Book review: Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan

If it wasn’t for the recent Netflix series, this book would have been largely forgotten, except in more niche communities like biopunk aficionados. It presents a fascinating idea and milks it for what it’s worth. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it does a really good job exploring the consequences of the technology. It also does so in a vibrant and interesting world, full of characters and environments. However, the writing is disjointed, the pacing very poor and the author’s obsession with sex greatly detracted from my immersion into the novel’s world. Very few will reread the book or pick up the sequel.

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Classic review: The Doomed City by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, translated by Andrew Bromfield

The Doomed City is a multi-layered book, which will become ever more appealing as the reader digs deeper into its meaning. On the surface, it is a dystopian novel taking place in a city that is slowly falling apart, along with its society. Deeper in, the reader may identify additional levels, from a speculative fiction work in the vein of Dark City or The Matrix, through a character study of a very imperfect protagonist, a philosophical treatise on the dangers of idolatry or communism, to several layers of highly subversive anti-communist thoughts. The novel is incredibly complex, but also making additional re-reads incredibly rewarding.

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Flash review: The Sisters of Saint Nicola of The Almost Perpetual Motion vs the Lurch by Garth Nix

Highly energetic, outrageously ridiculous, and compellingly weird. This novelette, whose full name I will not repeat lest be accused of padding the word count of this review, hit me in all the right spots. It is easy flowing, features very fascinating worldbuilding, has set pieces that are exciting and funny at once, and leaves me longing for more. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had such a fun-filled half an hour of reading.

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Book review: Relic by Alan Dean Foster

The most recent novel by Alan Dean Foster is quite a surprise. It reads like pastoral science fiction of old, while maintaining its own modern character. It’s slow and ponderous, with minimal action, yet endearing and insightful. It will please only a subset of readers who appreciate the slower, almost hypnotic pace, and those who like to break away from serious conflict. If it wasn’t for the final twist, mildly annoying in its grandiosity, I would consider Relic to be one of the best books of the last five years.

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Book review: The Genesis Fleet trilogy by Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell has built up one of the most successful military science fiction franchises, thanks to a few simple strategies. He kept the worldbuilding, character development and moral ambiguities at a minimum, and instead focused on the tactics of space battles. Each book features a different scenario, and the author comes up with a way for the good guys to emerge victorious. Over time, especially in spin-off series to the main Lost Fleet narrative, Campbell added more strategic elements, better character development and even humor. And so, here we are. At a prequel trilogy, which is far more refined than other books in the universe, with characters that are so likable I had problems parting with them, and with set pieces that are far more exciting than in the original series.

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Flash review: Counting Casualties by Yoon Ha Lee

A space opera encompassing a galactic war, numerous planets and cultures destroyed, and a journey that takes several years, in a package of less than 5000 words. Yoon Ha Lee continues with her trend of creating enormous worlds, which are all but obscure to her readers. However, unlike Ninefox Gambit, the size of this story does not allow for concepts to get out of hand, and the audience will always know what they are dealing with.

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