Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Pandora's Star

Pandora's Star Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, my review for this book cannot be considered quite 'complete', since the story isn't finished. I didn't realize that when I started it, but this is the first of two parts.

That being said, I am really enjoying the story so far and plan to continue the second half as soon as possible. This is almost the exact kind of science fiction saga I have been hoping to read -- far future, with strange aliens and all sorts of interesting social questions. The only small drawback is that this tale is MASSIVE and I was really looking for something on a smaller scale. It wasn't until about 3/4 of the way through the book that I felt I had a decent grasp on all the characters. I am sure I have missed a lot of interesting details and will probably end up listening to the audio version a second time, assuming that the ending doesn't disappoint me.

Another small detraction for the book is that I didn't find too many enthralling characters. There are just so many to keep track of, and not very many of them are explored in depth. There wasn't anyone that I really hated (you know, like a Tywin Lannister), but nor was there someone to really root for. There was just a general, "What's going to happen next?" urge that continued pulling me through this first half of the saga.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed the description of some of the alien species. They really give you that 'alien' feeling. This aspect of the narrative has me very curious about the events of the next book in the series. So I will give it a 4 out of 5 for now, with a caveat that I may amend that rating after I read the second book, Judas Unchained.

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Review: Reamde

Reamde Reamde by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

TLDR: I enjoyed this book all the way up to the end. The conclusion felt a little abrupt to me and sort of hollywood-ish since I was expecting more bad things to happen. (I may be ruined by GRRM)

I almost let my internal expectations of this book disrupt my actual enjoyment. My familiarity with Neal Stephenson is based mostly on 'Snow Crash' and 'Diamond Age'. Those were both heavy science fiction settings with long passages of philosophical ramblings. So while reading 'Reamde', I kept expecting there to be either an aspect to the virtual game T'Rain that would make it futuristic somehow, or for the author to digress into a long discussion about how virtual game worlds affect the real world. Actually, now that I think about it, there were a few small tangents about that, but they were short enough that I felt they didn’t detract from the bigger story.

And that bigger story was certainly action-packed! This was a small surprise and delight for me. Again, based on my memories of his past works, I was prepared for Neal to set up some pauses in the story where the protagonists could agonize and theorize about their situation for long periods of time. This book kept me on edge the entire time, continually wondering what would happen next and if the heroine would ever get some rest.

Therefore, when I finally came to the climax of the story, it didn’t actually feel so climatic. Rather I had the impression that the non-stop action, which had been moving at a pretty steady quality and pace, just comes to an end. My opinion on this might be slightly fooled by the fact that I listened to this in audio format and as the fixed end approached, I thought there was another section to listen to, and so I wasn’t really ready for the story to be over.

Another detractor for me was the overwhelmingly positive outcome. I don’t want to spoil things too much – there are some sad parts and not everyone comes through in one piece – however, I did get the feeling that many of the story elements were tied up too neatly. People were able to overcome outrageous obstacles a little too easily. Although I like for there to be a happy ending, I wanted tougher consequences handed out. (This is where I think I may be spoiled by reading too much George R. R. Martin lately. He has skewed my perception of what is a ‘happy ending’.)

Overall, the book was a definite page-turner and something that I will probably read again in the future.

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