Profile for D. R. Cantrell > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by D. R. Cantrell
Top Reviewer Ranking: 113,751
Helpful Votes: 502

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
D. R. Cantrell (London, United Kingdom)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Mission of Honor (Honor Harrington)
Mission of Honor (Honor Harrington)
by David Weber
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Only buy this if you're already a fan, 14 Mar. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Weber's long series of books set in the "Honorverse" is thoroughly enjoyable if you like "military science fiction". That is, if you like mind-cheese with lots of stuff blowing up. Unlike most other authors in this sub-genre, Weber even manages to make his characters believable and sympathetic, to sometimes have realistic conversations and motivations. And the universe he creates is, on the whole, consistent.

The series went through a bad patch a few books back where there was lots of "jaw jaw" and very little of the "war war" that made the series so exciting. But I'm pleased to say that with the previous installment (At All Costs) and this one, he's back on form.

I have three criticisms. The first is that the books will make little sense unless you've read the previous installments. That's fair enough. Authors writing series have to strike a balance between making later works accessible to newcomers and annoying their established customers with repeated material. In a short series, a bit of repetition won't do any harm, but in this one - 12 books so far, with at least two more in the pipeline and quite probably more to come - it would be actively harmful.

The second is related to the first, but is, I think, rather more important. There are several spin-off series, also set in the same universe, which some readers may not have bothered with. Unfortunately one of them, the "Wages of Sin" series, turns out to be of vital importance, and the "Saganami Island" series is also of some relevance to this book and, to a lesser extent, to the previous one. Keeping track not only of a long main series with several parallel interacting plot threads (but at least they evolve alongside each other in a single series) but also of at least one and potentially several other series at the same time is hard. It's worth doing, but hard.

And finally, remember how I said that the universe Weber has created is mostly consistent? The big economic inconsistency is beginning to bite, hard. He knows it - he even has some characters talk about how it makes no sense. He tries to justify it as being a front for a huge conspiracy, but huge conspiracies just don't work. The one he's written involves literally millions of people, at least thousands of whom are scattered all over the place amongst other polities and societies, and they're actually multi-generational sleeper agents. He expects us to believe that the children of sleeper agents will be content to be brought up as normal people (you can't trust young children with such secrets, after all), to form friendships, perhaps fall in love with members of the host society, and, when you inform them of their family's hidden role for them to just accept it. Even if somehow most of them held it together, all it would take would be for a handful to blow the whistle and, given how many there are, this must happen - and yet it doesn't for hundreds of years, not until narrative imperative compels it. I can ignore this, I read lots of sci-fi, much of it in the "bad but entertaining" mould, and so my suspension of disbelief muscle gets a regular workout. But even so, it is irritating.

Those last two niggles, plus the entire series's utter lack of anything approaching literary value means it gets only three stars. I recommend it for those who are already Honorverse fans (not that there's much point in recommending it as you'll all buy it anyway) and I recommend the Honorverse as a whole to all sci-fi fans, but I have to insist that you read the books in order. Specifically, in publication order, so that you get the other series at the right time.


Land of the Dead (In the Time of the Sixth Sun)
Land of the Dead (In the Time of the Sixth Sun)
by Thomas Harlan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good fun, spoiled by the improbable explanation at the end, 12 Feb. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
On to book three in this series and series-itis still fails to rear its ugly head - indeed, it's probably the best of the lot so far. We get some more background on the world the characters live in and why it differs from real history, and for most of the book it is refreshingly free of mumbo-jumbo. However, it will again fail to stand on its own, even more so than book two - this one pretty much starts at the point the previous one ended, and gives very little personal background on the major characters. Some of those characters are developed some more, which is nice to see, but even so the author assumes that you already know who they are and what they've done previously.

Remember how I said that for most of the book it is free of mumbo-jumbo? Well, unfortunately it really falls on its face in the last few pages. Sure, it's dressed up in rationalism, but if you are in the least bit sceptical, then you will just be plain annoyed at how the author seems to think that so many peoples' actions can be so carefully manipulated to make individuals do exactly what is needed. I'm afraid that that holds no water whatsoever. You can, of course, manipulate the actions of large numbers of people, giving them little pushes onto a new course - advertisers and politicians do this all the time - but to spend the last few pages of what had been an excellent story up until that point attempting to list all the people whose actions had been chosen in advance by the man behind the curtain is just silly and leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Not only is this explanation of what's been happening annoying, it shouldn't really be necessary.

Harlan clearly needs to study human behaviour a bit more. I recommend Seldon's papers on the subject.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 29, 2014 12:24 AM BST


Thirst
Thirst
Price: £0.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much happens, but it doesn't happen *really well*, 12 Feb. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Thirst (Kindle Edition)
AmazonCrossing is Amazon's new imprint for foreign language books translated into English. Originally just for Kindle books, they now also publish on paper. This is the first of their books that I've read, and is translated from the original Russian by Marian Schwartz.

It is a short novel of a hideously maimed veteran of the Chechen war who, while he has a successful job, likes to spend his money by disappearing into a bottle. When one of his ex-army buddies goes missing, he and some cronies go and search for him - unsuccessfully - and, in the process, our hero is brought face to face with some of the roots of his troubles and in the process he regains the tender side of his humanity that he lost.

I bought it because someone recommended it and it was cheap, but it's not really the sort of thing I normally enjoy: it's too serious and nothing much happens. I doubt I'll ever read it again. But it did make a refreshing change and is masterfully written and translated.


Black Out
Black Out
by John Lawton
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, let down a little by poor type-setting and an unsatisfying conclusion, 12 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Black Out (Paperback)
This story starts off appearing to be a fairly hum-drum detective story, set in London shortly before the Normandy landings. As an example of its genre I thought it was pretty decent, but only pretty decent. But it soon got better, adding twists and turns as we learn that Our Hero isn't just up against a murderer. He's up against the Abwehr - no, an anti-Communist group in the OSS - no, a rogue OSS agent! These twists add spice. Unfortunately, the conspiracy-within-a-conspiracy gets a bit confusing, both for the reader and, I fear, for the author, and it falters terribly before a rather unsatisfying wrapping up of loose ends.

As is unfortunately all too common for Kindle editions, there is some poor type-setting, as for the occasional accented character - in, for example, words like "voilà" - the wrong character encoding has been used. In this case, it comes out as "voil[square root sign][cross]". (Amusingly, Amazon doesn't let me type those characters in this review)

Overall, despite its ending (which, it seems, is universally the hardest thing for authors to write, perhaps because real world stories don't have an end), I enjoyed this book and recommend it.


Fantasy & Science Fiction, Extended Edition
Fantasy & Science Fiction, Extended Edition
Price: £0.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bargain, and you should subscribe immediately, 12 Feb. 2012
Magazines are one of the staples of science fiction, with many authors getting their first break from them before going on to writing full-length books. Trouble is, they're almost impossible to get hold of. Newsagents don't carry them. Some bookshops do - not many, but some - but they never promote them, instead on the rare occasions that I've found them they've been hiding amongst a load of fashion rubbish. Just about the only place you can reliably get them is in sci-fi specialists like Forbidden Planet, but even then you have to make sure you get to the shop on the right day every two months lest they sell out before you get there - and you have to put up with going to Forbidden Planet too.

So when I saw that Amazon were doing magazine subscriptions on the Kindle, and that one of those magazines was Fantasy & Science Fiction I didn't really have any choice, I had to buy it. And given that Kindle magazine subscriptions include the first copy for free it's a no-brainer.

And I'm so glad I did it. My first copy was chock full of well-written short stories. If one or two were a bit sub-par that doesn't really matter, especially given that once I start paying it'll only be £0.99 a month, about a third of what it costs on paper - it's an absolute bargain, and you should subscribe immediately.


Flash Gold (The Flash Gold Chronicles Book 1)
Flash Gold (The Flash Gold Chronicles Book 1)
Price: £0.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another promising author discovered for me by Kindle!, 4 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am reviewing Flash Gold and Hunted together, as they're both so short and follow directly one after the other.

They are both delightfully silly, set in an alternate version of the Yukon during the gold rush of the 1890s. Alchemy and a small amount of magic work in this reality, and are used by the protagonist to power machines - and are very much desired by her enemies. At the time of writing, you can buy both for under a pound, and given how cheap they are (the first being not just cheap but free!) and how enjoyable, we can completely ignore what weaknesses they have. Buroker is another of those very promising authors who I wouldn't have discovered without the Kindle.


House of Reeds (Tor Science Fiction)
House of Reeds (Tor Science Fiction)
by Thomas Harlan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but spoiled by silly mysticism, 4 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Most that I have to say about this book I've already said before about its prequel, "Wasteland of Flint": it's entertaining, imaginative, well-written, slightly spoiled by silly mysticism and by utterly improbable sensitivity of some characters to the minutest details, rather like some of the more absurd superpowers that Frank Herbert's "Bene Gesserit" cult have in the "Dune" book. I don't think, however, that it could stand on its own, so I only recommend it for those of you who have already read the prequel.


Red Star Rising: More Chronicles Of Pern: 14 (The Dragon Books)
Red Star Rising: More Chronicles Of Pern: 14 (The Dragon Books)
by Anne McCaffrey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars if only she'd stop with the stupid names!, 4 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the next (in chronological order, as opposed to publishing order) volume in McCaffrey's long and commercially successful "Pern" series, after "First Fall" and covers events leading up to the predicted second fall of "thread", her world's mindless and unstoppable bogeyman. Society has regressed to a semi-feudal state, with rich lords and subordinate peasants, and the beginnings of a guild system. Most technology has been lost and that which remains is poorly understood and decaying. Finally, literacy is being lost as most people have more important things to do working the land than sending their children to school. With all of this in mind, a surprising amount of space is given in the book to an overhaul of the education system, in which song is to now be used as the medium of education. There is precedent for this in history, but it didn't teach critical thinking or the sciences - it taught mythology, propaganda, and simple techniques by rote such as crop rotation and weather lore. This is education, in the sense of the imparting of knowledge, but it is such limited knowledge and it fails to address any of the more important aspects of education, that many modern readers will rightly scoff at the ridiculous notion. Supposedly this is terribly important for developments in Pern's society over the next umpty hundred years, but if it is, then the way it's handled is a bit clumsy and unconvincing.

That is, however, a side issue. The meat of the story is a tale of political and legalistic maneuvring between lords with confusing names (many of them suffering from Stupid Alien Name Syndrome which only serves to make it harder to remember who is who). From this seemingly infertile and stony soil, a decent tale-crop is harvested. This book is an enjoyable read, but I have to deduct points for the seemingly pointless digression into educational policy and for the stupid names.


The Uncommon Reader
The Uncommon Reader
by Alan Bennett
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insulting? Hardly!, 4 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Uncommon Reader (Hardcover)
Some reviewers have criticised this for being "insulting". It is anything but. It is a tender, gentle portrayal of the Queen. Yes, it shows her as being initially a damned illiterate Philistine, but in that she is hardly unique - almost all of her fellow British citizens are in real life, and all but one of her staff and government are in this fiction. But it also shows her as being able to cure herself of that terrible condition, of having the gumption to outwit those who would rather she remain so, and of being socially liberal. That isn't insulting, it's downright respectful to portray someone as being resourceful and intelligent!

Like much of Bennett's work, there is a gentle humour throughout, much of which comes from the conflict between our ignorant assumptions of the real Queen's habits and beliefs and those of the very different character Bennett has created. But most importantly, far more important than it being entertaining (which it is), or it being beautifully written (it's that too), it is a paean to the joy of reading, and that it doesn't matter what you read as long as you enjoy it.

I bought this on my Kindle on Christmas Eve at my father's recommendation, read it all the way through in one sitting, and loved it so much that I promptly ordered the hardback edition as well. I know that you'll love it too.


Rollback
Rollback
by Robert J. Sawyer
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars instantly engaging and intellectually rigourous, 4 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Rollback (Mass Market Paperback)
Sawyer's stories are usually good fun to read. This is no exception. This time around there are two issues looked at. The first, the bones on which the story hangs, is about how SETI might work and its philosophical underpinnings. There is perhaps a bit too much earnest explanation from the characters in some occasionally ropey dialogue.

Far more interesting, however, is that it is also a meditation on the consequences of medical technology: in brief summary, after 60 years of happy marriage, a couple undergo a new medical procedure to rejuvenate them, supposed to return them to how they were when aged 25, but it only works on one of them.

The book approximately alternates chapters between exploring SETI and exploring rejuvenation, and of the two interwoven streams, that of rejuvenation is by far the most interesting, but it could not stand without the other without losing its immediate accessibility. It is this exploration of the ramifications of plausible but as-yet-non-existent technology that marks great sci-fi.

Highly recommended.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20