A solid piece of work from a master of theological writings. Lewis’ spirituality doesn’t just creep into his Sci-Fi work, it pours in. This makes for a very interesting take on the Sci-Fi genre!
Of the trilogy Out of the Silent Planet is the strongest work. If you’re interested in checking it out but don’t want to read all three books you can safely read the first and never have to pick up the other two. The other two continue the story-line with the third bringing it to a close though. Silent Planet paints an interesting picture of a solar system teeming with life and Earth sequestered because of it’s sin issue. Perelandra paints a poignant picture of new life, a Garden of Eden scenario. That Hideous Strength brings everything to a close in a darker doomsday must be averted tale.
i really enjoyed the first book, i’d say Silent Planet gets a grade of A, Perelandra is a B/B-, and That Hideous Strength is a C.
Book Club of One Grade: B overall (see above for individual books though). i can’t stress how interesting Lewis’ theological bent makes the series to read. Silent Planet gets a solid recommendation for me, with an urge to press on if you find the opener compelling.
Brief review inbound:
The first book of the Farseer trilogy was soundly in the OK territory for me. If i had more time to devote to reading i may continue into the other books, but for now i’ll let the first stand for my dip into this entry on the list of NPR’s Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy books.
The first quarter of the book was difficult for me to get through. It felt flowery and over written. The middle of the book settled into a pace that was much more agreeable. The last quarter of the book was pretty dang good. All the parts combined are what make the book OK for me instead of garnering a higher personal rating.
Hobb does an amazing job building political intrigue, and “The Wit” and “The Skill” are both very interesting takes on magic/telepathy. She builds a world that’s rich with history and social structure which is nice. My biggest obstacle was honestly just the style the book is written in.
Book Club of One Grade: C. It’s a solid one though. If you have a taste for purple prose you can’t go wrong with Hobb (that’s honestly NOT a stab at all, that’s a genuine statement from me). One day, when i’m semi-retired maybe, i might return to these books to see how everything plays out. Between the magicy-mental powers and people getting “forged” (you’ll have to read the book for an explanation on what that means) the concepts are really really good.
i do love me some carl! The original Cosmos series being a cornerstone of young me’s love of all things science. i don’t know what i was expecting from Cosmos when i picked it up but what was between it’s covers felt very unexpected.
First, Sagan writes a very developed and compelling female protagonist. i really liked how complex a character she was. She really felt like a real person to me.
The first 80% of the book feel like fiction that’s about science. It shifts solidly into Sci-Fi territory in the end though. None of this is a complaint at all. It was super refreshing to get some serious scientific foundations built for a fine piece of Sci-Fi.
The pacing of Contact was slower than i’m normally drawn to but again, that’s not a complaint at all! The book had the perfect pacing for the story it was telling.
i feel like the aliens we eventually meet are exactly what you get if great minds of science dream about what could be out there! i’m very glad that Sagan turned his mega-brain to this piece of fiction.
He also raises and explores some interesting spiritual questions by the end of the book. Sagan, who is often painted as an Atheist by persons of faith is in fact more of an agnostic and that shines through in Contact.
Book Club of One Grade: A. A real solid A, i recommend this book without reservations, just know going into it that it doesn’t have the “action-movie” pacing of many modern Sci-Fi works.
If you needed to fortify your gates against an incoming horde and all you had were copies of this book… you’d be just fine! The Way of Kings is a CHUNK! Nearly as thick as it is wide. It’s like cracking open a great tome.
Often i find very lengthy books to be burdensome. (yet i’ll gladly gobble up a trilogy) They’re most often packed with fluff and flowery meaningless descriptors that pump that page count up. The Way of Kings is a hefty read, but it suffers from none of these issues.
What makes Sanderson’s novel different from so many other long fantasy novels? It’s long for a good reason: The pool that Sanderson has created for our imaginations to swim in is deep… i mean deeeeeep deeeeeeep. If it was a pool it’s not an olympic diving pool it’s more like the Deep Joy Y-40 (google it, totally worth the shallow dive into Wikipedia). He uses this depth to weave a dense story for us.
Also, unlike other long novels, the pacing manages to stay brisk. Rarely if ever feeling like it lags. He jumps between a few stories both of wich subtly build upon one another, not so much in interaction but in the knowledge of the world we the reader are gaining.
The world is rich and alien while still being understandable. Massive storms sweep across the land sporadically and all life on the world has adapted to survive them (that’s why vegetation withdraws into the earth, or protective shells, or lays down flat, etc etc etc). There are “magic”* swords, “magic”* armor, a sort of instantaneous transubstantiative alchemy, giant beasts, intriguing huminoid races….. Other than that i don’t think i’ll give any spoilers here.
Book Club of One grade: A+. It’s long, it’s dense, Characters fit into archetypes but in ways that feel refreshing. If you’re on the hunt for a big ol’ fantasy book, give this one a go.
*”Magic” in this book doesn’t feel like magic… it’s mysterious and handled more like a lost science. This is the first in the series so i’m excited to one day further my journey into this world and see how that unfolds.
i have a weakness for a good chick-flick. Its a fact that few of even my close friends know about me. To me people who say they hate The Notebook are either lying or sociopathic! i’m also (as this Book Club of One project would indicate) pretty dang nerdy! So Time Traveler’s Wife manages to scratch two itches reeeeaaal good!
Niffenegger does a good job of putting a new spin on time travel. In TTW (long title, abreviation established… let’s just accept it for this post) time travel is sporadic, uncontrolable, mysterious. There’s not quantum particals, no Time And Relative Dimension In Space vehicle, no 1.21 Gigawatts or 88 MPH… there’s just Richard DeTamble bouncing around occasionally in the time continuum. Uncontrollable, sporadic, sometimes amusing, sometimes touching, often dangerous; he arrives T-800 style butt-naked.
Niffenegger paints some very interesting pictures with her novel. What happens if love between two people occurs out side of a predictible linear time-line? If good people appear random times and places without so much as their skivies how do they learn to cope with that?
Characters feel rich and developed, the story of Richard and Claire’s love together is equally rich. Most of the supporting cast also feel well rounded, complex, and interesting. The origins of the time travel problem are interesting. Some scenes are steamy enough to fog up a mirror but never feel distasteful. (side note: as a male i’m often very interested in how female authors write about sex and sexuality. Niffenegger did a good job depicting sexuality from both sides of the gender coin, both from Claire’s viewpoint and from Richard’s. Kudos)
Book Club of One grade: A+ i recomend this one with zero reservations. This is a book i’d throw into the ring of a non-nerd book club too, you know one with more than one person in it haha. Paced well, great characters, thought provoking, i’ll likely re-read this one agin in a few years.
Consider Phlebas is the opening novel in the Culture Series, written by Banks. The series is most often branded as a Space-Opera and i think that fits it just fine. It’s fast moving, full of big spectacular sci-fi tech that would make for great visuals on a movie screen, and the characters are often fast-talkers who are entertaining to the reader.
The opener focuses on a “changer” named Horza. From a fading race of humanoids who are basically sci-fi doppelgangers (with a few extra bells and whistles, poison bells and whistles). He’s the fastest talker of them all in the book and throughout his dialogue was probably my favorite thing in the book.
A little like Perdido Street Station the book reads like watching someone’s table-top RPG campaign, one with lots of charisma based checks in it. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail.
Book Club of One Score: B-; if you want a hefty book that’s still a fast-paced read and want your imagination to soar at the visuals then consider Consider Phlebas (see what i did there?).
The Crystal Cave follows the development of Merlin from the Arthurian mythos before he was THE MERLIN we all have ingrained into our imaginations. It follows his growth from a child into a young man.
The story has some twists and turns along the way, with Merlin fleeing multiple times for his life, establishing himself a few times by the cleverness of his mind and wraps up with him manipulating Uthur into treachery that will ultimately lead to the birth of Arthur, an event that Merlin has foreseen.
The book was well written and the characters compelling. It’s interesting how Stewart weaves fantasy with history in this book.
Book Club of One score: B-. It’s a solid book, actually one of my most enjoyable “Arthur books” (The Once and Future King being my all-time favorite of the genre). i found out that it’s part of a series, a series that i could one day see myself returning to. i think overall i enjoyed Stewart’s writing more than the content of the book. Her writing has a nice tempo and is nuanced and interesting to me. If you love Arthurian stuff and want some “prequel” action this could be your best bet!
Old Man’s War is a seriously fun ride from start to finish.
It’s got some graphic violence, some thoughtful dialogue, heartfelt moments, irreverent moments, cool sci-fi tech, and low-fi likable characters.
The book follow the adventures of John Perry a 75 year old starting his career in the Colonial Defense Force as an infantryman. While set in the future humans haven’t achieved any extended longevity, so a 75 year old military recruit has the potential for some real entertainment value. What has the potential for even MORE entertainment value? A whole army of 75 year old military recruits! Ships and ships full of them!
Spoiler: they all get new, heavily modified and augmented, bodies. Scalazi does an interesting job digging into the what-ifs of 75 year old minds in super-human 20-something year old bodies. Perry’s brief moment with his old body (while in his new body) had me a lil’ misty!
While keeping a brisk pace that makes this book what i consider an “easy-read” Scalazi touches on themes like: Consciousness and identity, and the morality of war… you know the light fluffy stuff.
Book Club of One grade: A. Fun & Fast but with some meat on the bones here and there. Old Man’s War would make a great read to pack for a trip! If you want a the literary equivalent to a sci-fi Die Hard pick this book up! i liked Old Man’s War so much that when i found out it was a series i got genuinely excited! i fully plan to dip back into this world!
i rolled up to the Wicked party about 20 years late. To be honest it was a book i had judged by its cover for all those years. i would see it in a friends library, or on a bookstore shelf and something about the cover design just sort of repelled me. i can’t explain why (and if the graphic designer of that cover is ever one of the 5 people who actually reads this please don’t take this as a stab at your skillful work) but it just didn’t reach out to me.
i was also very much aware of the salacious nature of the book. Which should have been a draw for my depraved mind, but something about turning Baum’s magic fantasy world into something so gritty just felt wrong to me.
Wicked also falls into that vein of “Fan Fiction”: a writer delving into someone else’s universe instead of creating their own. A vein of writing i struggle to engage with.
On all of the above reticences let me just say… i was wrong. i was wrong to not pick this book up in the mid 90’s when the Wicked craze started. i was wrong to feel like the gritty nature was off-putting to the Oz universe. i was wrong to let my revulsion of fan-fic keep me from thumbing through these pages.
Wicked is an absolute blast to read! Elphaba may very well be one of my most favorite literary characters. She’s complex and relatable. She’s likable but far from perfect. She’s not a hero, or a villain, nor would i call her an anti-hero. Her character development arc is (in my opinion, which is what ALL of this is) one of the best i’ve ever seen.
Wicked is gritty, and complex, and violent, and sexual… and it is beautifully so! Maguire also manages to do all those things without writing a book that feels pretentious!
Book Club of One grade: A+. Wicked is one of the best books i’ve read this year. i will most likely explore more of Maguire’s Oz series as well. If, like me, you missed the bandwagon years ago, jump on board with me. i’ll save you a seat
Set in a alternate earth circa mid 1980’s The Eyre Affair is one of the funnest rides i’ve been on in a while. Packed with whimsy (where characters have names like “Tuesday Next” and “Jack Schitt”), a unique twist on fantasy (the lines between reality and literature are so thin they can be inadvertently crossed), and zany sci-fi elements (entertainingly often introduced by Tuesday’s uncle Mycroft)
Fforde cranks out a book that is equal parts fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, drama, & comedy. He manages to pull it off in a way that doesn’t feel like a jumbled mess either, but rather comes off as an engaging and entertaining read! If you ever feel like you’ve lost the thread of what’s going on in The Eyre Affair just hang on Fforde will bring all the threads back together again in such a rewarding way!
Book Club of One grade: rock solid B+. My only regret is that i didn’t save this one for a vacation read, it’s such fun that it would be a perfect fit for consumption during some down-time (if i see a vacation this year that is haha)