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Allan Murphy "Big Fish Soup" (Kingston, London)
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Terminal World
Terminal World
by Alastair Reynolds
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.58

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brave,but not his best, 30 April 2010
This review is from: Terminal World (Hardcover)
I have really loved many of Mr Reynold's books. In fact Diamond Dogs is one of my favourite short stories of all time - Chasm City and so on are also brilliant.
He builds a great setting here and there's some really interesting ideas, but ultimately I felt it didn't hang together as well as some of his other books. I didn't empathise with the main character (and I began to suspect an Iain Banks style twist somewhere). Here, like Century Rain (also one of his books I liked less) the story relies on characterisation to work well and I didn't find the characters so convincing. There was also a slight tendency to introduce major plot elements at short notice, eg "I hope we don't run into X" and 6 pages later..
However, I still think it's a book worth reading for the big ideas behind it, which is where Reynolds excels. I also wouldn't say he's blotted his copybook, and it would be hard to maintain the standard of his earlier work, but I wouldn't start here.


Anathem
Anathem
by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Hardcover

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There is a universe where..., 24 July 2009
This review is from: Anathem (Hardcover)
.. this book gets started a lot more quickly than it does in our universe.

I'm an unashamed Stephenson fan, but he tried my patience at the start of this book, and you can see from other reviewers that this is a common experience.

I did get to the point where I was thinking 'ok Neal, where is this going' but I had faith, and that faith was rewarded. The slow part at the start is exposition that I feel is ultimately necessary and a part of his literary creation. He describes a world with some similarities and many differences to our own; the exposition serves as backdrop and 'control' for the reader (and main character) on a journey through adventures and concepts that are startlingly at odds with what went before. In the end this made sense to me, like the chaotic writing in the London part of Gravity's Rainbow made sense as a representation of how the city was for people. In the end, there is a point to having an alternate world to compare with, too. Not just 'I made this stuff up for a laugh'.

I don't want to get all high-falutin though - if you liked the pirate story part of the Baroque Cycle like I did, the first part will test you a bit.

Like Stephenson's other works, this has some serious underpinnings, in this case really based around the collision of maths, philosophy and physics. Stephenson presents these topics in a coherent way with his story, without snapping the reader out of the world (well not too much, sometimes you stop to say 'ok what is the equivalent of this in my world').

I disagree that this book is some kind of exercise in snobbery because it tackles difficult subjects and it's a lengthy book. The theory parts are properly part of the story, not some stuck on exercise in showing off; you aren't required to have studied Godel or Husserl for 10 years to understand the story or the concepts.

The jargon issue is a red herring in my opinion - this is part of the flavour of the alternate world, well integrated, and not confusing. Not when there's a glossary and a ton of context to help you. But if you hated The Clockwork Orange for this reason, you won't like this book.

If you've never read any Stephenson, start with Cryptonomicon or The Diamond Age before this. That and the slow start cause me to give this 4 stars, not 5. And also no Jack Shaftoe or distant relative. But I still think it's an excellent book, and very thought provoking.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 3, 2009 10:05 PM GMT


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