Red Moon – Kim Stanley Robinson

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Any time I hear Kim has a new book it’s an auto purchase for me, no need to even read the blurb. After so many hits I just know whatever story he tackles next will be great and this book is no exception.

An interesting observation I noticed while reading this book was that I do find it quite interesting how books and movies and their choices in protagonists change over the years. Back in the 80s, the baddies were always Russians but now we see the Chinese being used more and more, no doubt a reflection of US politics. This change is a mixed bag in my mind, while I do enjoy the chance to explore characters of different backgrounds, it’s the names I struggle with. I’m completely clueless when it comes to their naming conventions and pronunciations, which leaves me unable to fully immerse myself in the characters. Hopefully, increased exposure to these types of characters may sort that out but only time will tell.

The best part of Kim’s stories is that they are always dosed with a touch of reality, the stories really feel like they could happen. I can fully see the Chinese sending people to the moon and that in turn starting another space race with the USA, so for the book to have this idea as the backbone of the story was great and easy to digest.

A simple technician (Fred) on an almost routine trip to deliver a product to the moon gets involved unknowingly in an assassination plot. Colour me intrigued. From there it’s a quick jump into political instability, power struggle and coup-de-tats, which seems more important than one of the main characters who might be the first to give birth on the moon, Chan Qi. While I thought Fred and Chan Qi were the main characters the events back on earth seem to overshadow the idea of a human born on the moon, with that story being given only a few lines, to my great annoyance.

That aside I really loved the political flavour of this story, trying to figure out along with the main characters what was going on and who was involved was quite a bit of fun. Definitely more of a political thriller than a sci-fi story but a great read nonetheless. I might even have a look at trying to read some more political thrillers now

 

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

Star Wars Catalyst – James Luceno

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This book is sort of a prequel to Rogue One, in which we see the prcoess in how the death star was constructed and the troubles along the way. We follow krennic as he manipulates Galen Orso into helping power the weapon. Outside of being  a prelude to Rogue One it doesn’t really add anything into the mythology of Star Wars.  It is a rather poor story when it stands on its own, plus there are no Jedi in it! It obviously serves as a necessary source of info for Rogue One since that movie introduces a lot of new faces that we have never met and portrays alot of information and back story that can’t be placed into a movies flashback scenes

I just failed to really get hooked by this book, which is disapointing as im a big star wars fan. Further cementing my view that movie tie-ins are never a good idea

Odessa Sea – Clive Cussler

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Picking up a book by your favourite author is like sliding into a warm bed in winter or that first sip of beer on a hot Australian summer day, its just fantastic. Speaking of which it is 42 ° C   (or 107 F) to you crazy yanks.

Another solid entry into the Dirk Pitt series (its number 24 by the way) It ha been 2 years since out last adventure with these heroes and after the first few pages it feels like no time has passed at all. With the introduction of his long lost kids a few books back they pretty much are in all the books now and its sticks to the same formula, the kids have one plot and Pitt has another but by the end it turns out they are intertwined. This is normally done well but this time each plot for me just felt forced, like they each could have been their own book since the connection wasn’t that strong at all, each could function without the other.

It was however refreshing to see that the crew on the NUMA vessel’s which normally are treated like red shirts from star trek (ie canon fodder) were actually treated like people for once and not just killed off.

I do like how his books always seem to include some real life event in them kind of ties them down to a specific time frame. For this one we deal with the Russian invasion and take over of the Crimea Peninsula
With his multitude of series running and it is no surprise that sometimes things feel “familiar” but that doesn’t deter you from enjoying the ride. Bring on book #25

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

Star Wars Aftermath:Life Debt – Chuck Wendig

Star Wars Aftermath:Life Debt – Chuck Wendig

The second part of a trilogy set months after Episode 6: Return of the Jedi. While the story isn’t to bad, this book trilogy plus the many others released since Disney took over really shows the new direction Disney is taking Star Wars.

Star Wars used to be for all ages, there were the movies of course but then there were the two Ewok movies for kids/families, plenty of computer games and numerous expanded universe books. These books were detailed and many were parts of series. It didn’t matter your age, there was something to cater to your star wars needs

But with Disney taking over if you want your Star Wars fix you have the choice of the following

Rebel cartoon series

Children’s adventure stories – letting you know what the main characters got up to between Ep 6-7

Numerous young adult novels

They have been a few books released for adults but all of them just like this read more like young adult novels, the level of detail and depth just isn’t there anymore. This saddens me, it shows Disney sees Star Wars as a kids market only.

I have nothing against the young adult genre, i just personally don’t like it not just because i’m not a teenager but because i crave books with detail and young adults books don’t have that, they are short in length much like a teenagers attention span. While i crave tomes like Tom Clancy novels or A Song of Ice and Fire.

I just wish Disney would stop dumbing down Star Wars and Release some decent Adult level Fiction

 

 

The Summer Before The War – Helen Simonson

The Summer Before The War – Helen Simonson

This book was a challenge, a challenge i set myself to be honest because awhile ago a friend posted a picture of a parcel on her doorstep saying her books had arrived and yet when i asked her what did she buy i was told you wouldn’t like it. No title, author or genre just boom you wouldn’t like it, We used to speak many a time about books and offer suggestions but this time i could draw out no further information.

Had my reading preferences become so constrained that she felt it a waste to elaborate on her purchases. Had a comment i may of made previously about a book or genre perhaps offended her? Either way i felt the situation called for me to take a stab at broadening my literary horizons. So i thought, what is the genre that would cause me to throw the book into a fire under normal circumstances. The first genre to mind was Romance, i would rather have a kidney extracted by hand and with no anesthetic than read that rubbish. The second was anything remotely like Downton Abbey – The whole post Edwardian period piece. So perhaps i could find a book that would combine these two.

The End result was this book, in fact it didn’t take long to find since there is such a demand for this style of Downton Abbey style rubbish. Needless to say my negativity of the genre is already showing and i’ll try to reign it in.

The books Blurb is as follows

East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent sabre rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master.

When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking — and attractive — than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing.

But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agatha’s reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war”

I first see the year 1914, and get excited knowing this is set right at the outbreak of WWI but then I read the whole blurb, in fact i read it twice to try and figure out what the plot was, and even after finishing the book i am still left struggling to understand the plot, was there even a plot? If it wasn’t for the brief mention of war i might of passed over this book for another.

For me i just can’t fathom why people love the whole Downton Abbey theme. People seem to imagine this a rich and wonderful time to pursue ones interests, with slaves, oh i mean servants to cater to your whims and numerous balls and galas held to entertain your social needs. Where young beautiful ladies are swooned by handsome men with fancy titles.  Is everyone who reads this stuff Daft? That’s how the rich and powerful 1% of society lives, a quick look over to the rest of us shows we drag out our meager existence chasing trains to pick up dropped pieces of coal to warm us in winter. This is an area where women have very little choice. They must do as their fathers bid, marry who their fathers bid. Can’t aspire to greatness or to have any job they desire, doors are closed to them for most vocations. Religion holds a powerful influence over people, to highlight this sickening hold, there is a woman in this story who gets raped and falls pregnant, SPOILER ALERT, instead of feeling for this poor woman and trying to help her because of what she went through, they feel they need to remove her from their town and not be seen with her so as to not ruin ones social standing and people call this the time of romance? Everything about this time is focused on social standing as opposed to happiness or chasing ones dreams but enough of a rant about the theme back to this book.

This book was such a struggle to go through, it felt like each chapter dragged on longer than the wait between book releases from George R.R. Martin. Don’t get me wrong the Author writes well and somehow manged to do it for 500 pages but for 400 pages nothing happens, we have balls and galas, numerous teas and dinners but nothing of purpose or meaning. We have stuck up Matrons and ladies of the house and the usual town gossipers. Even the outbreak of WWI barely makes a dent into the social goings of this town, they swarm over refuges hoping to get English speaking ones and to help raise their social standings by this act. It is these very people who should be shot for war crimes, only helping their fellow man for their own personal gain.

The brief highlight of this book was when we finally venture out of some quaint English town to the battlefields of Europe, oh how my hopes were dashed by its mere briefest of appearances. Yet its mere presence renewed in me a desire to finish this book and be done with it. With numerous mentions of the war in those last 100 pages and chapters taking place there, i was able to zip through to the ending which was not surprising and rather long foreseen considering how predicable these 2 dimensional and plain characters are.

If you love stories with no plot that feature words like Matriarch, Lord, Servant, and have themes like Female oppression, Social Elitism, and revolve around the PoV of a woman trying to break the social confinements placed on a young single woman than yes this book is for you.

If you prefer entertainment, excitement, suspense or even just a basic plot then move along friend this is not the book your looking for