Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Tag: books (page 2 of 3)

Dan Simmons – Hard As Nails

Hard as Nails: A Joe Kurtz NovelHard as Nails: A Joe Kurtz Novel by Dan Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of the same. Which means a tightly-plotted, hip, violent crime thriller that has the right ingredients. Though once again, Simmons wears his Elmore Leonard kicks on his sleeve.

There’s nothing remotely intellectual here and in this case, that’s a very good thing. Shame he’s never written any more Kurtz books. Love to know where he would’ve taken this character.

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Paolo Bacigalupi – The Windup Girl

The Windup GirlThe Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Actually, I’d give this a 4.75 out of 5, but there’s no way to do that here.

I knock it down from a perfect score simply as I don’t believe the energy future the author has created. He expects us to believe that in the 23rd Century, everything runs on spring-laden potential energy or pedal power? Really? No hydrogen, no solar, no fusion, no wind, no hydroelectricity, no tidal, nothing? Nope, not buying it.

With that out of the way, what we have here is a masterpiece. A horrible, bleak future where GMOs have virtually destroyed the world, where the empires of old have crumbled and all that remains are petty states eking it out. But we have Thailand, a dragon amongst skinks, and that is where this story takes place.

Ostensibly, it’s about the titular windup girl, a Japanese GM female engineered to be a servant, but her story takes a back seat to oily politicking and industrial espionage. The real battleground is the political arena. Emiko, the girl in question, does tie everything else up but this is hardly her story.

No, this is a cautionary tale, a world gone mad with genetic engineering and global warming, rife with racism and neo-colonialism. The author pulls no punches here and ought to be congratulated to taking the anti-Western stand he does. It’s refreshing to read.

Still don’t think it’s an accurate description of the future, but that’s a minor quibble.

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Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I like what the author is trying to do here – make a novel from the viewpoint of organ-donating clones who don’t see anything remotely wrong or amoral in what they’re in this world for. The trio in this book are simply three ordinary English people who potter and stumble about like nearly anyone else in this world. Even when two of them “complete” (die from donating one too many organs in the novel’s parlance), the third one doesn’t actively question her life or her purpose-bred role.

That aspect of it makes this book very convincing in one way – the ignorant sheep bred to provide others with healthy, functioning organs, only to drop dead blissfully when their own bodies fail them. It’s all part of life’s rich pageant.

So why only two stars? Because the book itself is written in such non-engaging, understated, mumbling language. A good two-thirds of it is, quite frankly, boring filler with Kathy just rambling dreamily on about one la-di-da thing after the other. But when the author gets to the brass tacks of this story – it’s a killer.

In summary, it’s an overall dreary book with very cogent and engaging moments. Not enough of them though. The parts don’t make the whole here.

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Dan Simmons – Flashback

FlashbackFlashback by Dan Simmons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If this book doesn’t serve as a wakeup call to the entitled, complacent masses, nothing will. Better than any conservative commentator or politician, Simmons sums up in fiction what many have been trying to say for decades. The world portrayed in this book is frighteningly real; a superb extrapolation from where we are right now. Most telling of the changes, in my opinion, is how over-accommodating political correctness has torn apart once strong and proud nations. This is happening as we speak. Sure, put your hands to your face and cry racism, like many of the reviewers here have, but I think you’re missing the bigger picture.

Apart from its social and political overtones, the story itself is a cracker. It’s one of the best murder-mysteries I’ve read. What’s going on in the novel politically does threaten to blot out all else but in the end, it all melds together.

I strongly recommend this book.

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Stephen Baxter – Voyage

Voyage (NASA Trilogy, #1)Voyage by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Intriguing look at what might have happened had Nixon pursued the Mars mission ideas after Apollo finished, and not went ahead with the Space Shuttle. This is probably the most hardcore hard science book I’ve read of Baxter’s and despite all the technological ooh aah going on in this book, there’s not much in the way of human character development.

In fact, you can safely ignore the characterisations, just see them as mainly male ciphers with a token female cipher thrown in. I can’t blame Baxter for this – and his characterisations are usually better – but having strongly defined people isn’t the point of this book. This is all about what the US and the world missed out on back in the late 60s and the names and faces don’t really matter.

Highly recommended.

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Dan Simmons – Fires of Eden

Fires of EdenFires of Eden by Dan Simmons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two thirds of this novel are very good. The last third ventures into ludicrous territory. With that out of the way, it was good to see Cordie Stumpf nee Cooke back in action. There wasn’t enough of her in Summer of Night but I’m glad she’s here and in cracking good form.

In all, I’d describe this book as serviceable horror and it does serve quite nicely as a travelogue for Hawaii’s Big Island and a minor exposition of the native culture and religion of the islands.

Shame about that ludicrous last third though.

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What D&D character am I?

I Am A: Chaotic Neutral Human Druid (5th Level)

Ability Scores:

Chaotic Neutral A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn’t strive to protect others’ freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it. Chaotic neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society’s restrictions and a do-gooder’s zeal. However, chaotic neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it seeks to eliminate all authority, harmony, and order in society.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Druids gain power not by ruling nature but by being at one with it. They hate the unnatural, including aberrations or undead, and destroy them where possible. Druids receive divine spells from nature, not the gods, and can gain an array of powers as they gain experience, including the ability to take the shapes of animals. The weapons and armor of a druid are restricted by their traditional oaths, not simply training. A druid’s Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)


Detailed Results:

Lawful Good —– XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Neutral Good —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (16)
Chaotic Good —- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (17)
Lawful Neutral — XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (16)
Lawful Evil —– XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)

Law & Chaos:
Law —– XXXX (4)
Neutral – XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Chaos — XXXXXXXXXXX (11)

Good & Evil:
Good —- XXXXXX (6)
Neutral – XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Evil —- XXXXXXXX (8)

Dwarf —- XXXXXXXX (8)
Gnome —- XXXX (4)
Halfling – XXXX (4)
Half-Elf – XXXXXXXXX (9)
Half-Orc – XXXXXXXXXX (10)

Barbarian – (-2)
Bard —— (-4)
Cleric —- (-6)
Druid —– XXXXXX (6)
Fighter — (-2)
Monk —— (-21)
Paladin — (-15)
Ranger —- (-2)
Rogue —– (0)
Sorcerer — XX (2)
Wizard —- XX (2)

Mark Lawrence – Prince of Thorns

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1)Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not your typical fantasy book, and for that the author has my thanks. The protagonist is a complete hell-bent on revenge psychopath, and he’s only a teenager to boot. It’s that teenaged aspect that pushed this book into the realm of “yeah right” and stopped me from awarding it five stars.

But the journey is a complete riotous rampage and if you’re in tune to this book, it’s a strange delight but I can see why it turned off so many others.

Not for everyone, but it worked for me.

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Stephen Baxter – Coalescent

Coalescent (Destiny's Children, #1)Coalescent by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t buy the concept of human eusociality, so I found that a little hard to take, yet Baxter has presented the idea with such iron plausibility you want to believe. And he has laid it bare on the table, with no judgementalism or bias. It’s for you, dear reader, to decide if Regina’s Order of human termites is a boon or a bane for mankind.

Theme aside, it’s a compelling tale that weaves its warps between disparate periods of time with aplomb. I found the tale of Regina to be the highlight of these – her struggles in the dying days of the Roman Empire are frankly captivating.

I’m glad I read this. It’s left a palpable impression on me.

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Stella Gemmell – The City

The CityThe City by Stella Gemmell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is a scattered mess. It jumps haphazardly from one location and time to another, and while that aspect in itself is not a fault per se, it is with this. The author’s writing is full of disjointed short constructions and repetitive words and phrasings. What looked like a promising read started out that way but rather than keep to the premise, it turns to the old trope: war. And more war.

It’s compelling enough of a read not to write it off completely, but it has too many faults to be fully enjoyed.

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