Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy

Life gets in the way sometimes with what we really want to do and the past year has been a killer in terms of my reading progress. With all that was going on, I struggled to get the desire to read. Books would take almost a month for me to get through and rather than enjoy the fact I finished it I felt more a relief that it was over. That’s not how reading should make you feel, so I took a break from reading. I went from 60+ books read a year to 11. The book that changed it all for me had been sitting on my shelf for some time.  I had eyed it off many a time, found out it was part one in a trilogy and even order parts two and three but it still sat unread. In my reading lul its size was a turn-off, then one night while searching Netflix unsuccessfully for a good sci-fi movie, I said screw it and picked up book one and I just couldn’t put it down. A cliche I know but considering the last few months, I had struggled to even finish a chapter per reading session not being able to put this down was a huge turning point.

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The Three Body-Problem initially caught my eye for two reasons, firstly a big recommendation from another favourite sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson was on the cover and secondly,  the title alluded to an actual scientific concept/problem in the real world. The book’s blurb confirms my reasoning for grabbing it.

In 1967, physics professor Ye Zhetai is killed after he refuses to denounce the theory of relativity. His daughter, Ye Wenjie, witnesses his gruesome death. Shortly after, she’s falsely charged with sedition for promoting the works of environmentalist Rachel Carson, and told she can avoid punishment by working at a defense research facility involved with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. More than 40 years later, Ye’s work becomes linked to a string of physicist suicides and a complex role-playing game involving the classic physics problem of the title.”

Well colour me intrigued, the book involves SETI a huge interest of mine. We begin with A nanotech engineer, Wang Miao being asked by the police to investigate a secret cadre of scientists after a raft of suicides. Wangs pursuit of this leads him to an online game. Wang soon discovers that the game is key to everything and somehow links to an impending extinction-level threat to humanity. A game linked to a potential extinction, how? I just couldn’t put the book down at this point.

Such a unique story, I love the crime drama like feel to it as the plot is slowly unraveled from the perspective of Wang but just when you think you have it all figured out a bombshell is dropped on you. There is also a great insight into the realities of choices and the impact ones upbringing can have on your outlook in life. Early on, I was at a loss as to what the extinction level event could be and going into that last few pages I still couldnt piece it all together and then bam they drop the reveal right into our laps and we now know we have 400 years to prepare for it.

I just couldn’t leave it there so I dove straight into the second book as soon as I finished the first – spoilers will follow

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There’s no messing around this book dives right in and deals with the extinction-level threat and how humanity rallies to deal with it. We have 400 years to prepare somehow against the alien armada on its way. The Aliens are revealed to be called Trisolaris, a fitting name since they come from a planetary system with 3 suns hence the name of the first book. What’s worse is Trisolaris spies are already among us. The Sophons can see everything……How do you organize and plan to prevent an event of this magnitude when your every move is being watched and countered before you start it. How can you organize governments and the people to plan for something that’s 400 years in the future? The solution is the Wallfacer project, four men granted unlimited authority to prepare for the coming invasion how they see fit. The caveat, they can’t write anything down or tell anyone their plan as the sophons will see it and sabotage it.

There is a lot of pessimism in this book. I’m not sure if this is an insight into, the Chinese view of the world, just specifically the authors, or if this was merely for the sake of the plot but it was slightly discouraging to think that someone could be this pessimistic about humanity and life in the universe. For me, as an optimist, I saw the whole dark forest concept as deeply depressing. That instead of a galaxy with life everywhere and interacting like a forest full of animals, we are led to believe that all life comes to a stark and inevitable realization that its kill or be killed so all civilizations stay hidden from others, hence a dark forest and if signs of another are seen it is exterminated

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The climactic battle and the stalemate reach at the end of the previous book almost wrapped things up so just when you think you know how this one will bring the story home it takes it off onto such a unique path, I was just left in awe

From the unique concepts and twists on usual stories and themes to accurate science mentioned. This book series ticked all the right boxes for me. I had some difficulty with the names in this book, mainly from a lack of understanding of how to tell a given name from a family name for the numerous Chinese character, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. It was also great to read a story where the world isn’t saved by the good ol’ US of A. This series was apparently the first books from the author to be translated into English, so I am hoping more of his other works will be translated too. Definitely becoming one of my favorite book series.

This series has renewed my passion for reading once again

Origin – Dan Brown

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Dan brown has almost, I repeat, almost redeemed himself in my eyes thanks to this book. I was a huge Dan Brown fan since his early books. I loved Deception Point and Digital Fortress, which I had read before i had heard of Angels and Demons. Then the follow up to Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code rocked my socks off. The fact that the book also upset bible thumpers everywhere made me smile as well. But then instead of keeping momentum and releasing another kick ass book, Dan sold out and decided instead of upsetting (unintentionally) the church with another book he would write one that kisses its ass. I speak of the Lost Symbol, the third Robert Langdon book.

On initial reading its quite good, a nice adventure with secret societies but then as the book draws to a close, Dan throws a mud pie in your face with the worst ending in book history. The ending screams ass kisser and a sell out, in fact I couldn’t even bring myself to finish it. I just threw the book on the floor in disgust and left it there for several days. Don’t believe me that the book was an ass kissing attempt at the church in response for upsetting them in the previous books? Well the movie directors passed on it and went and made the 4th book into a movie instead.

As a result of my disgust from that ending I refused to get his 4th Langdon book, Inferno. It wasn’t until word of Origin (then untitled) being in the works, that a friend and I got discussing Dan Brown and after expressing my views, they pointed out that Inferno had nothing to do with the church and perhaps I should give it a go. It was in the same vein as the earlier books but it didn’t revolve around a secret society or the church. It did however, lift me out of my hatred for Dan. Once Origins title was released it was clear to me, religion would be involved in some aspect with the idea of the origins of life being discussed. Since there was zero chance of the book confirming fairy tales, I felt it was a good chance of upsetting the apple cart again so to speak.

While the book does sort of return to the earlier themes of church vs science, the secret society aspect was really lacking. It just doesn’t feel like a true Dan Brown novel without secret societies being the main concept. This book was also a little too Sci-fi, with the addition of AI in the plot. But it does raise the hope that his next book might return to his roots of secret societies, symbols and religion. All in all my bias aside, it was a pretty good book, the pace felt great. While the reveal was predictable, the twist was a nice surprise.

Dan Brown you have almost redeemed yourself from the mess that was The Lost Symbol….

Vostok – By Steve Alten

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Vostok is the sequel to the loch, which in turn was a spin off from the Meg series. This book is a crossover story with the characters from the Loch returning but also involving the main characters from the Meg series as well. This book is also a prequel to the 5th book in the Meg series.

The sad reality is this book was so bad I think i’ll be breaking my mantra of always finishing a series I start. It was so bad I cant even bring myself to keep it on my bookshelf. The book starts off not too bad and based on the real world. Follows on from the discovery of a lake underneath Antarctica (lake Vostok is actually real) The main character from the Loch is called in to go down and explore this lake and see what is down there. Everything continues on much like any adventure novel but then halfway its like the author had a stroke and everything changes.

We go from exploring a underground lake to dealing with aliens and time travel abilities, like what?  I can only image the author went on an acid trip halfway through writing this. Nothing can explain the so sudden and abrupt change in story, the pace, theme and concept is just thrown out the window so the author can go on a conspiracy nut job wet dream exposition of secret governments and aliens in collusion with them.  Even now as I sit here writing this I cant even understand how his publisher agreed to print this. Its was so bad, and not like a “B” grade movie, where they are so bad its good, this was so bad its bad. If there could be a surgery where I can remove the memories of me reading this book I would do it in a heart beat. I just cant explain enough just how crazy and messed up this book was. If anyone out there even considers buying this book all i can suggest is rip it in half, the first half is good,  The second half can be used as toilet paper.
All I wanted was a nice “scary sea monster” read. I most certainly did not in any way want the acid trip of  gobbledegook that this book turned into

Steve Alten you are now barred from my bookshelves, please don’t write any more books until you get checked out by a doctor

The Loch by Steve Alten

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A bad book is like a band aid, sometimes its best to just rip it off quickly and be done with it. Likewise a bad book series must be completed in its entirety so one can move on with life never to return. The Meg series which has spiraled down into the trash ever since its first sequel stepped into crazy land. Well that series spawned a spin off, The loch.

The Loch takes place after book 4 in the Meg series and as its title suggests, deals with the Loch nest monster. This book was a surprise unlike the meg sequels this book was grounded in reality had a lot of marine science in it and no far off outlandish stuff.

The story of what the Loch Ness monster is was believable and easy to swallow. I enjoyed the new characters but really found the way the story was written, with the rough Scottish wording difficult and at times hard to keep pace with. Definitely something that is easier to listen too rather than read.

Rather surprised to find myself enjoying the book enough to actually look forward to its sequel

Meg #3 Primal Waters, Meg #4 Hell’s Aquarium by Steve Alten

105746Oh where to begin with this one, I really enjoyed Meg #1 with its introduction of a prehistoric, once believed extinct species but then Meg #2 introduced another species and I was concerned the 3rd might keep that ball rolling. Sadly something worse happened, the book revolves around that gutter trash commonly referred to as reality television. Oh the pain. If it wasn’t bad enough that our screens are filled with this trash and that our society scoops up this rubbish in which stupid people are made famous. To write a book about it is just depressing. Was the author running out of story ideas? The story starts out loosely believable and then add in a plot of revenge and its just bare-able.

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But all sense of realism and plausibility is thrown right out the window with Meg #4.  To make up for his bucking of the trend in bringing back long dead species in Meg #3, the author steps it up a notch and brings back half a dozen extinct species and an underwater realm were they have all lived since time eternal. Cash money Arabs throwing money around like confetti to capture these animals and put them in a zoo just makes we wonder if anyone has ever watched Jurassic park? It wont work guys give up.

I really didn’t enjoy either of these books and really found myself having to bribe myself into finishing this book. The plot and realisim was just gone for me.  The sad reality is there is still a 5th book in this series to come, and I dread as to what the plot will be for that. My compulsion to always finish a series once started really annoys me here as I would love nothing more than to throw away these books and never read this author again but alas I must continue I hate loose ends

The Trench – Steve Alten

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Set four years after the previous novel, we find the baby shark from  said novel is now a full grown 20+ meter long Megalodon Shark. The book does talk in imperial units,  yuck! A 20+ Meter shark in captivity, yeah that sounds like a good idea. Then we quickly find out the shark is in heat, so there is a bunch of eager great white males hanging around the aquarium. The fact that the male great white is only about 4 meters long compared to the Megalodon who is called “Angel” being at over 20 meters long, doesn’t even deter these animals.

So it wasn’t exactly a huge surprise when Angel broke out and as Jonas and gang attempt to capture her again we find out there are other forces at work with some kind of hidden agenda.

The situation gets worse when Jonas finds out his wife has gone back to the trench where this all began, plagued by nightmares it seems Jonas is about to fall apart.

Too often action stories focus solely on the physical so it was refreshing to see this story deal with the emotional impact and possible PTSD. Mental issues are too often ignored so its great to see this being dealt with in this story.

It did get a bit far fetched when they introduced a second prehistoric creature but that didnt deter the entertainment. This book was just as good as the original but with 3 more to go in the series i wonder if they can maintain realisim throughout or will the final books and up much like the final jaws movie, rubbish

Meg – Steve Alten

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So somewhere on my news feed for various social media sites, i see a brief blurb about a new shark movie coming out in 2017, featuring none other than Mr Action, Jason Statham. Intrigued, off to google i go and i find out its based on a book about the Megalodon shark. i don’t know what it is about sharks but i love stories about them, scared shitless about them at the beach and can’t stop thinking of them but i love reading and watching Documentaries about them.

Meg is a rather interesting take on the shark story, a secret navy dive in the Mariana Trench runs into some Megalodons which are living down there near the warm hydro-thermal vents. An accident causes one shark to be dragged to the surface, and then the chaos ensues.

a 25 metre shark, is a fearsome predator. However the book solely wasn’t just about the shark eating people, there was a fair bit of dialogue given over to people debating do we kill it? or is it now an endangered species and should be preserved. Which to be fair is something i had not considered.

While i note that we know more about other planets than we do about the bottoms of the oceans, it was still a stretch to try and swallow the concept of the shark living down there, with some other surprises. That aside it was a well written book, with plenty of accurate facts about sharks in it. It is also the first in a series of 5 books, so my hope is that unlike the Jaws movies that just got worse with each sequel that this book series might do ok.