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Simon (London, UK)

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Price: 3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Noticeably showing its age, 1 July 2014
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This review is from: Neuromancer (Kindle Edition)
Prepare to enter a world in which 3 megabytes of RAM is so valuable it's worth killing for. While Neuromancer makes bold claims to have "invented" the concept of cyberspace and virtual reality (despite being published two years after Tron hit the big screen), it's a vision of cyberspace from the days when the C64 and its 64k of memory was considered to be pushing the boundaries of consumer electronics. In this world, wifi doesn't exist; software is still sold in boxes from market stalls and stored on discs; yet somehow AI is a reality. In many respects, it just doesn't seem that visionary. It's also laced through with a degree of jargon that requires a certain degree of broader knowledge to fully understand. The concept of the Japanese salaryman carries with it a whole host of implications and as such can be a useful shorthand if you understand what a salaryman is. But is it really necessary to use the spelling of "sarariman", emulating stereotypical Japanese pronunciation of the English, and thus rendering the word meaningless to probably a large proportion of readers? Individually these are minor issues; cumulatively they make Neuromancer a bit heavy going in places. However my main comment is that it's never entirely clear exactly what the point of the whole thing is - to an extent it's almost whimsical. Gibson has created a world that he doesn't really explore or explain, it just is. And while it's fairly easy to understand what's going on at any given point in time, that doesn't mean that it necessarily makes any sense.

On the Steel Breeze
On the Steel Breeze
Price: 6.29

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat unengaging, 30 Sep 2013
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I'm only about a quarter of the way through the book but already I am a bit bored by it, which is a shame as I've read and enjoyed almost everything else Reynolds has written - although somehow the first book in this series passed me by. So far the big revelation is all a bit "meh" and I'm struggling to find myself caring what happens. But the most irritating thing of all is the completely pointless (and unfortunately frequent) use of the invented gender-neutral personal pronouns "ve", "ver" and "vis", which inexplicably only occurs with one particular character. Talk about breaking the flow of the narrative.

Perhaps things will get better.

Update: I have now finished, and to be fair I've upgraded my original 2 star rating to 3 stars. Once it gets going, the middle part of the book starts to develop the story in interesting ways, and yet... I can't shake off the feeling that more could have been done with this material. To some extent the problem is that there's not much in here that hasn't already been done before - if this book had been written 10 years ago it might have made more of an impression on me. To illustrate what I mean - way back when, Jules Verne writes an entire book about a journey to the moon. These days in a sci-fi novel, a trip to the moon would barely warrant an entire sentence. OK, it's nowhere near as bad as that, but you get my drift. Fundamentally, this isn't a novel that is going to make you pause and think "wow, that's new".

Perhaps I'm also suffering from not having read the first book but there seems to be this odd obsession with elephants which I just couldn't find a way of relating to, and there's just a little bit too much of the main character's self-absorbed and just-a-little-bit-dull angst. Not to mention a million unanswered questions.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 9, 2013 10:37 PM BST

Earth Unaware: Book 1 of the First Formic War
Earth Unaware: Book 1 of the First Formic War
Price: 5.99

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Slow and poorly written... so far., 4 July 2013
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I'm only halfway through but felt prompted to write this anyway. As another reviewer has alluded to, Earth Unaware decidedly lacks the concise prose and elegant style of Ender's Game, leading me to think that Orson Scott Card actually wrote almost nothing of this prequel. Whereas Ender's Game is driven forward by the interactions between the main characters, Earth Unaware contains large chunks of detailed and repetitive exposition, as if the reader is assumed to have no more than a 10 minute attention span and must be continually reminded of key facts and plot points. Think what Kevin J Anderson did with the prequels to Frank Herbert's Dune and you get the picture.

Characters behave inconsistently: in one scene, the protagonist argues his family should be willing to sacrifice themselves to protect the human race, yet not long after, he changes completely and is willing to sacrifice everything for a single person. The explanation of why this particular person is in a position to need saving at all also seems very laboured, lasting the best part of an entire chapter when a single paragraph would have sufficed. Sadly I can't help but be left with the impression that things happen when they do because the plot needs them to happen in order to progress, not because it makes logical sense, and talking of plot, it goes at a fairly turgid pace with little in the way of real tension or excitement. I am beginning to suspect this is another of those "take the material for one book and pad it out into a trilogy" efforts.

Equally there are numerous schoolboy physics errors. Note to author: rocks and small asteroids are not held together by gravity, but by electromagnetic forces (i.e. the fact that they are 'solids'). It makes no sense at all to talk of spacecraft "coming to a stop" out in the Kuiper Belt. Even if the operation of a mining laser (yes, OK, laser light carries momentum) created sufficient reaction force to require the ship to be held in place by thrusters (iffy), the reaction force would not fall to nothing when pockets of ice are hit, leading to the ship 'leaping forward'. It's like the author has imagined drilling through a piece of concrete with a hammer drill and then suddenly reaching a layer of butter, and thinking the same thing would happen. I could go on but I think the point is made.

I will keep going simply because this book fits into the Ender's Game universe but if it were a standalone novel it would be a struggle to maintain interest.

by Kate Mosse
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.03

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The worst book ever, 3 Sep 2007
This review is from: Labyrinth (Paperback)
This is, quite simply, the worst book I have ever read. And I've read some bad ones. If you're interested in historical fiction, the parts set in medieval France are somewhat engaging for a while, if only for the historical detail. But then it seems that the author got either really, really, bored, or simply ran out of ideas, because after having spent a significant chunk of the novel building up that part of the story (spanning a timescale of a few months of the life of the main historical character) the entire rest of the girl's life is covered in about two pages.

Moving to the present day, the narrative becomes excruciating. The main protagonist does things that have no purpose other than to advance the plot in the most artificial way imaginable. For example: at one point, she is handed an envelope by a mysterious stranger, who is soon murdered. Does she a) immediately rip open the envelope to see what it contains, or b) forget all about it until later because opening the envelope straight away doesn't quite fit with the requirements of the plot at that point? I'll give you one guess. And the answer isn't (a).

My advice is to take your hard-earned cash and set it on fire rather than use it to pay for this pile of tripe. And you critics from the Times and Sunday Times... hang your heads in shame.

The Dreaming Void (Void Trilogy 1)
The Dreaming Void (Void Trilogy 1)
by Peter F. Hamilton
Edition: Hardcover

14 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and way too long, 3 Sep 2007
So, one day, you dream of a far away place. A place remarkably similar to pre-industrial revolution England, where people till the soil by hand, living and dying within 10 miles of where they were born. For most, life is hard, and social mobility is non-existent, since the ruling classes are a hereditary aristocracy. Bandits roam the countryside, preying on the unwary. In the towns and cities, such as they are, sanitary plumbing is unknown, crime is rife and justice almost non-existent.

There is no electricity. Almost no technology above the level of the horse and cart. But on the plus side, all the inhabitants of this magical realm have telepathic powers.

You are stunned by your dream. Surely this can only be a vision of heaven itself, you realise. Although you didn't expect it to be quite so grimy with a pervasive smell of horse dung. Nevetheless, on the basis of this dream, you go on to found a religion. Because clearly, millions and millions of humans in the mid-35th century are crying out to swap their technology-fueled lives of plenty and throw away 800 years of their potential lifespans in order to live in such a stinky agrarian paradise. Oh, and potentially destroy the entire galaxy in the process of getting there.

Such is the basis for The Dreaming Void. A remarkably large portion of the book is devoted to describing the life of Edeard, a somewhat naive country lad who lives in the aforementioned paradise, as he makes his way to the big city.

Honestly, this needn't have taken up more than two pages. Who cares about this guy?

Outside the dream sequences, the rest of the novel is set in the familiar Commonwealth universe. Except... on numerous occasions I was left wondering "was there an earlier book in the series that I've missed?" A lot of things have moved on since Judas Unchained, yet they are
described as if the reader is either already familiar with them and just needs reminding, or are dealt with by throw-away one-liners. It's really quite irritating. A lot of the old characters from the last two books are still here, but many of the more interesting ones are not. What has happened to the SI, for example? It's mentioned once, as we learn that "no-one downloads into the SI anymore". That's it. If we read the timeline at the back of the book, we learn that at some date or other "Ozzie leaves for The Spike". Err... where? This isn't even mentioned in the main body of the book. The mysterious origin of the High Angel is dealt with almost in a Highlander-esque way (in the first film, the main characters are immortal humans; in the second, they are suddenly revealed as aliens exiled to Earth, not humans after all... yeah right).

And as usual for Hamilton, there's lots and lots of gratuitous sex, which I guess means that the target audience for this kind of thing is your typical male teenager.

Finally we come to the so-called climax of the tale, which I would personally describe as nothing of the sort. Seriously, I could reproduce the final paragraph right here and it would not mean anything to you, or spoil the ending in the slightest.

The Night's Dawn trilogy is one of the best pieces of SF I ever read. And I really like some of Hamilton's other stuff like Fallen Dragon. They are so inventive, so full of ideas, and could make you stay up until 3am even though you had to be at work by nine in the morning. It's disappointing that I can't say the same of The Dreaming Void. There's just too much filler, and it starts to get boring. As a single, standalone novel, this could have been great. As a trilogy, it's going to be two books too many.

One last point. If Hamilton is true to form the next book in the series will literally start the minute after this one finishes. If you buy this now, you're going to have to re-read it before the next one comes out or you'll have forgotten everything. So if you think you're going to read all three, my advice is to wait until they're all written and just buy them all at once.

Sandworms of Dune
Sandworms of Dune
by Brian Herbert Kevin J. Anderson;
Edition: Paperback

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been better, but at least it's over now, 3 Sep 2007
This review is from: Sandworms of Dune (Paperback)
The original Dune books were full of intrigue and scheming as the various factions attempted to manipulate and deceive each other, with layers of nuance and meaning depending on particular choices of words or carefully controlled body language. You certainly always felt that the protagonists were a lot smarter than you, and a lot more switched on. Unfortunately, some time in the last few years, a terrible plague swept through the Dune universe, reducing everyone's ability to understand things that aren't made blindingly obvious to that of your average 21st century 14 year old.

The result is not a total disaster, but on the other hand, if my idea of top quality entertainment was shouting out "it's behind you" I'd go to the local panto.

Let's face it, anyone who's come this far in the series is going to buy this to find out what happens, and in that respect the book finally ties up all the big loose ends that were left hanging at the end of Chapterhouse. Whether or not you'll be left thinking that the resolution is a satisfactory (or even believeable) one is another matter. Too many characters and factions suddenly change the ingrained behaviour of a lifetime within the last few chapters, while others simply conform to irrational stereotypes, and a number of the key people from the last novel turn out to be essentially pointless fluff. To be honest, by the end I was hoping that Omnius would finally win just to have done with it.

Having said all that, I'm glad they wrote it, because it does finally bring some closure to the storyline after all these years. Kudos to the authors for even attempting it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 22, 2010 5:08 PM GMT

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