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3.4 out of 5 stars52
3.4 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 27 May 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
That's more or less my opinion of this book.

The story is otherwise sound if a bit Buck Rogers or Arthur C Clarke's 3000. Astronaut is deep frozen and thawed out in the far future, where humanity moves about the galaxy via wormhole gates and has 'uplifted' other species to full sentience. add in a deep-space mission to hunt for signs of non-human life and you have a fairly decent potboiler SciFi novel.

However it hits the buffers by being as dull as September in Norway. Why hasn't the author spent time setting the scene? For instance the travel gates. Neal Asher, in his novels, has built up a picture of the Runcible network with a whole mythology of their own whereas in Further they may as well have been a display of doorframes in B&Q. Description of just about everything is either extremely poor or non-existent and that leaves too many gaps to fill in the imagination of the reader.

To tell a story like this, twelve thousand years in the future, you have to dress the stage. Performing it, with its strangeness and man-out-of-time centrepiece, just cannot be done on a bare minimum of description. Economy of words is very fine in some literature but in this piece of SciFi it isn't so much an economy as a famine.

It really needs to be padded out with a little literary colour, otherwise it is a fairly bland and unenjoyable slab of soggy science fiction.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 June 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This pays homage to previous generations of writers, like Heinlein and the kind of "Gung Ho" Science Fiction era of Flash Gordon. Our hero - RJ Stone - is brought up on this kind of story and is one of those mythical explorers who just want to see what's "out there".

This book is given extra colour, by that fact of placing Stone many thousands of years into his future and a technology beyond his or our, wildest dreams. The cast of characters involves every type of being you could imagine - although all are evolved from the basic forms of life we know today.

What still drives the future society and the plot of this book, is the search for anything extra-terrestrial in origin. As, despite the vast resources available and time allowed, nothing has been discovered that didn't originate on our own Earth. Maybe the author is describing the actual effort required, given the infinite size of the Universe or maybe he is leaving this avenue open for future books?

Apart from the references to previous Sci Fi authors and the "in-jokes", we do get a fair amount of discussion of the "big ideas" that obsess mankind - such as the nature of existence. If our consciousness is uploaded, do we actually die - are we the same person?

There are many possibilities for cheating death in the future described here - but Roberson explores how they may all be seen as false hopes. Even an artficial intelligence like Xerxes, clings to this existence as the only certainty - despite knowing that his experiences will continue after he updates his progenitors. Similarly, no matter how many duplicates Jida makes - the loss of an individual is no less keenly felt.

The other serious idea explored is how societies stagnate and they can easily devolve into self-absorbtion and in-fighting. The Entelechy needs the fresh blood of Stone to shake them up and give them purpose. They need to recover a sense of urgency or will do nothing.

Overall though - this book is fun - it is a romp through a Sci Fi writers' playground of impossible things and impossible characters. Stone sees humour in it all and enjoys his situation - he can cut through the endless amounts of information and make things happen. There is a lot of science thrown in, but like its main hero, the reader doesn't need to understand any of this to follow the plot. There is action, excitement and it all plunges to a thrilling end, which leaves you satisfied and wanting more. No doubt there will be further adventures and if they are as enjoyable as this, I look forward to reading them.
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VINE VOICEon 21 May 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
That's 12,000 years plus in the future without any back to the stone age disasters in between. This is immediately sets up the argument (which I've seen argued elsewhere) that such a period of development would create a society incomprehensible to modern man. I disagree for a couple of reasons. The first is that we are already technologically advanced and just because we can't understand how something futuristic works doesn't mean we don't recognise it for what it is i.e. the product of science. Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, or in words to this effect, that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. This sounds a clever thing to say when he said it decades ago but looking at it now it just sounds glib. It doesn't look like magic to our eyes, it just looks like technology. The second reason is that, while it goes without saying that society will be vastly different in the future, it's unlikely that our basic intelligence will have changed much.

What Roberson does is to create and deftly portray to the reader just such an advanced society as seen through the eyes of an astronaut born a couple of centuries hence. The first half is concerned with our hero RJ finding his way in the new world and the second with his command of the first ever FTL spaceship. I should note that thousands of worlds have been populated by means of gates and get there is as easy as walking through a door. There's a varied collection of supporting characters, some human, some A1, some enhanced animals (including cats, dogs, chimpanzees and killer whales), but all intelligences are considered by society to be human. Except for...

Which is where the conflict comes in and the novel climaxes with an encounter with the 'except for'. It's all very readable and a promising start to this new trilogy. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the next one.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Captain RJ Stone, commander of the first human ship to attempt to reach another star system. With the journey expecting to take 40 years, he enters cryogenic suspension and wakes up 12,000 years later.

Finding himself totally out of his time in an age where animals including chimpanzees, whales, cats, dogs and many others have been elevated to human levels of intelligence, where Artificial Intelligences are as common as biological ones and where space travel is as easy as walking through a door to another planet.

There is though a lack of energy and will to explore further and a project to build a faster than light star ship has been languishing for decades lacking the final support it needs to finish construction. Captain Stone finds himself being used as the figurehead for the project and subsequently finds himself appointed as the captain of the first Faster than Light ship humankind has constructed.

This story is mainly plot driven with quite limited characterisation and it actually has the feel of a pulp novel - The pace starts off quite slowly, but gradually steps up in the action department as the book progresses and becomes a rather enjoyable read during the second half of the book. The story is broken down into numerous very short chapters, each being between two and five pages long.

I did think though that there was still the feeling that in places it was somewhat predictable - much in the same way that Captain Kirk was always accompanied by a couple of expendable red shirted security crewmen and you always knew who wasn't going to make it back to the ship.

Overall - 3 stars - The first half of the book was rather slow, but I did enjoy the second half, even if the promised exploration of Alien artefacts only covered a page or two, but the pace and action did pick up a lot with the second half becoming an enjoyable read. I will probably be tempted to read book two as I think the premise holds a lot of promise that had only just started to be delivered in the second half of the story.
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VINE VOICEon 1 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Consider a novel like Iain Banks' Use Of Weapons (The Culture). It has two parallel story arcs, one moving backwards in time and one forwards, absolutely nothing is explained to the reader, and the whole story moves forward (and backward) to the point where we discover the truly awful thing that the hero did to his stepsister.

I mention that because you won't find that sort of literary device in 'Further'. After our hero, (RJ Stone) is thawed out after a 12,000 year nap, the author spends the next 75 pages explaining the history of civilisation up to last Thursday. There are no mysteries left for the reader to uncover, no puzzles for him/her to solve. After this tedious exposition, the ship ('Further') and the plot take off, they visit a new planet, uncover an evil conspiracy from a long-feared menace, make a daring escape, blow the crap out of the bad guys and head off to explore new worlds, uncover new civilisations yada yada yada.

What saves this book from the compost heap is the likeability and variability of the characters and the pacing of the plot. It fairly zips along, although I found the "If only I knew then what I know know" chapter endings more than a little tedious. But if I look back at the books enjoyed when I was a teenager, this would certainly have fitted right in.

So in summary, Chris Roberson has a successful career writing contributions to 'series' novels (X-Men, Warhammer etc) and comic books, and that simplicity and directness of narrative shows through here. In style, this is like an early Heinlein or E.E. 'Doc' Smith, and if those are the kind of things you like, then you'll probably love this.
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VINE VOICEon 26 July 2012
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This novel is `hard Sci Fi' as it used to be. The hero is awakened from a 12,000 year long period of hibernation. He is/was the Captain of a stellar exploration vessel, who now has to come to terms with the 34th Century.

The whole thing is pretty enjoyable but some bits are more enjoyable than others. The first section reads as an updated `Candide' - the innocent abroad. Captain RJ Stone makes fewer mistakes than usual. He encounters mild hostility and polite interest, some occasional worship, but not a lot out of the ordinary in relational terms. What IS odd is what `people' (and animals, and machines) have become.

Many of these themes were explored quite fully in the Golden Age of science fiction, so I suppose `Further' is essentially a tribute novel. It's written in what I suspect is a deliberate pastiche style, referencing authors like AE Van Vogt. The hero is himself a lover of such fiction and mentions Heinlein, Ian Banks and others as being in his version of a Kindle!

Personally, I found the constant explanation rather grating, ignored the techno-geek speak and tried to go with the action, action which doesn't really get going until the second half. Chris Roberson's style is just a bit too knowing, a bit too mannered, for me. I can appreciate it more than rave over it. Having said that, I would be up for a sequel. More `modern' authors tend to dump a reader in the middle of an alien environment and leave us to struggle to make sense of what is happening. This can be fun, but does become a bit of a new cliché. On balance I think most of us do prefer a good clear explanation IF it is interesting. Roberson's universe is definitely that.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A science fiction novel that is the start of a series. All about Captain RJ Stone. Who narrates the whole thing in the first person.

He's a spaceship captain from a few centuries after our time. Who goes into suspended animation whilst on a mission. And wakes to find he's slept for longer than he expected.

He's now twelve thousand years in the future. In a society where animals are sentient and can speak. Travel between known worlds is nigh on instant. And life has changed beyond all that he might possibly recognise.

Circumstances lead to him becoming captain of a new exploratory ship. Which sets off to investigate a possible signal from an alien intelligence. And which lands them in danger.

The book runs for three hundred and forty four pages. It has a prologue and an epilogue. And in between that is divided into three parts and eighty very short chapters.

Whilst none of the ideas and the setting are desperately original, the prologue does grab the attention. And the prose is very readable. Thus it moves along very nicely at the start.

In books like this you can spend the first third absorbed in the setting as it is presented to you, but there will come a point when you want the story to then kick in and things to start happening. That's usually after a hundred pages or so.

Trouble is once this gets to that point there's more set up to come, and no action. Because now the reader has been introduced to this future society you have to then be introduced to the spaceship and the details of the mission and the crew of the ship. With a couple of exceptions though none of them are very memorable or interesting.

There's absolutely no incident at all till the final third of the book, and even then that doesn't feel as if it carries as much threat or jeopardy to it as it should.

It's a capable bit of science fiction, and it does set up further adventures for the characters at the end. But those well versed in the genre will find little new or memorable here and may not be inclined to read any such further volumes. It might, as suggested by other reviews, be better for young adults or those just getting into the genre.
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VINE VOICEon 10 June 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It is a common problem with comics writers that they present a mish-mash of ideas and then expect the fans to go wild, because they have never heard these ideas before. Watchmen was a perfect example of this - virtually a recap of a classic The Outer Limits - Season 2 [DVD] [1964] episode.

Why do I mention this? Because this novel is written by a comic writer, and however well-intentioned, contains not one completely original idea throughout. It is reasonably well-written, but reads like a juvenile/young readers story (aside from one completely unneccessary and inappropriate sexual reference). The style is very didactic, and seeks to set up the author's pet project, which obviously means he plans lots of books in a series.

The plot is one extended cliche, loaded with characters and situations which seem to be lifted out of Ian M. Banks' "Culture" series (smart starships and recorded back-up lives) and extreme religious cults. And yes, they travel though Stargates from world to world, but you'd be better off watching Stargate SG-1 - Season 1-10 - Complete/The Ark Of Truth/Continuum [DVD].

I also felt resonnances of a David Gerold novel Yesterday's Children which was meant as a Star Trek style series, and even Buck Rogers: Armageddon 2419 A.D. which features a man who is rescued from deep space after his ship got lost. Then there is a very conscious reference to Planet of the Apes and the list goes on. The description of the "Further", the first working Faster-than-light starship reminded me of Larry Niven's Known Space - especially Ringworld (S.F. MASTERWORKS), and the re-engineered Earth felt like an attempt to not actually be a Ringworld or Dyson Sphere.

Whilst the book is written with references to today's cyber-culture, and had lots of nice moments, I can't help but feel that the author should stick to writing comics. Whilst this book was okay to read, it was longer than it needed to be, and a second volume would be two books too many for me.
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VINE VOICEon 5 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I may be doing the author a dis-service here, but I thought this was targetted at young adults. Whilst it's a rip-roading, gung-ho space opera, there is no swearing (apart from one very mild one), no sex and not much violence - certainly suitably for teenagers who've read Harry Potter.

The plot concerns RJ Stone who having set off for the stars in the 22nc century is awoken from cryogenic sleep 12,00 years later to find a galaxy populated by humans, "uplifted" intelligent animals and sentient AIs. The future is all rather marvellous and friendly - teleportation using wormholes, no violence or money worries. There are some good ideas here and although the prose is space-opera it's well-handled. Credulity may be stretched as RJ is asigned as the (nominal) captain of a new faster-than-light ship with a crew of thousands and becomes involves in an adventure on a far-flung planet; and the characters maybe cliches for the most part (especially the baddies). But the mix of human, animal and computer-based beings works well and there are nice touches ("medichines" are the nano-tech devices that fix bodies).

There are als knowing nods to well known SF books and authors - I noted touches of Larry Niven, Richard Morgan, Joe Haldeman and Ursula Le Guin to name but a few.

It's certainly set up for a sequel at the end - hope that doesn't class as a spoiler. Don't expert a work of art, but if it's your bad it speeds along.
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VINE VOICEon 22 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The captain of a spaceship wakes up from cryogenic sleep and learns that twelve thousand years have passed. Trying to make sense of completely unfamiliar world(s), he encounters different political and social factions which all seem to have designs about his further life. He is made captain of a brand new space ship which is more like a travelling town, and they promptly get into trouble with some hostile force.
A good part of the book is taken up with describing the world captain Stone finds himself in. It is a sign of the writer's skill that this part doesn't get boring, because it really is mostly describing the worlds and the people. The descriptions of these future worlds are thorough and intelligent. Other species than human have evolved, artificial intelligences and clones are part of society. To have a "primitive" human thrown into this situation, is a good way to discuss the problematics.
I find it interesting and important, because we can see these problems coming up now: animal rights, the Turing test for artificial intelligence, cloning, the question of consciousness. To have these topics brought up intelligently inside a good story is a delight.
I will definitely look out for other books by Chris Roberson.
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