Archive for March, 2014

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The Short Victorious War

March 26, 2014

2037129This is the weakest link in the series so far.

The clash in Yeltsin Star has started the conflict between Haven Republic and Manticore Kingdom. The Haven Republic, as always, denied any involvement. But nevertheless the tension is rising.

I am actually glad, because in this novel, we know more about what happened in the Havenite side. It brings more balance to the story, now we know what happened at the other side. The admiralty of Manticoran Navy is also troubled by the deployment of the task force. The protection of the allied nation is important, but also keeping the invading force at bay. The decision maker is torn between making a defense of an offense.

In this novel also, a full scale squadron battle is staged. The war is no longer a covert action, but a direct invasion. Unfortunately, the war, despite its bigger scale, fail to grasp the horror of war so well described in the second novel, The Honor of the Queen. This reason alone made me decreased the rating from 4 STARS to 3 STARS.

Don’t let my review disappoint you. There are still a lot of good points. We have a full squadron manoeuvre, some interesting battle tactics (not just from the Manticore side). To be honest, this book is the beginning of the full scale conflict between Haven and Manticore. It is just somehow, the emotional tone is out-scaled by the Grayson-Masadan conflict.

So, only 3 STARS.

Note: I like it that the info dump is separated from the main part of the novel and put at the back, so that it does not disturb the flow of the story.

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Twilight in Djakarta

March 19, 2014

Twilight in DjakartaA country just gained its independence after centuries under colonialism. It is like a fledgling bird learning to fly, still practicing its newly gained democracy. The story is set in the heart of this country, Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia.

The book was published first in translation. Maybe the current political situation at that time did not allow the book to be published. I admit that the material in this novel is a bit “sensitive”. The original work was only published several years later.

The story is told in three layers, the life of the poor, the middle class, and the upper class, each with its own portrait of Jakarta. The life is rich with love, suffering, betrayal and ambition. Each with its own dream and its own misery. Together they create the mosaic of “the big kampong”, Jakarta.

Even though it is written in 1960s, it makes me realized that nothing changes much. The corruption and nepotism now are still rampant as in the 60s. Old Order (Orde Lama) has been long gone, New Order (Orde Baru) has passed, but the “business” is still going on. It is kind of depressing seeing that this country does not improve after many decades.

But one thing indeed has changes, and it is not for the better. In the book, it is portrayed that Indonesia was still under revolution. There are the main power player at that time, the communists, the Islam, and the nationalist. Now, the communists are long gone, Islam is going on a new revival, and the nationalists are just names. At that time, all the intellectuals were well read. They read Lenin, Marx, Mao, Hemingway, Shakespeare. Now the intellectuals are not as well read as their predecessor. Give me one Indonesian intellectual who are well read in Shakespeare! Our education is indeed going downhill.

But one thing makes this book loose ONE STAR. The translation! It is quite bad that I loose my temper. The translator mistranslates some terms, and makes the conversation boring.

Example:
1. “baju” is mistranslated as jacket. Baju is simply “a dress”
2. “Lu” (slang, means “you”) is not translated. It makes me quite ill feel to read sentence like this: “Don’t lu want to marry me?” What kind of sentence is that? I realize that the translator wants to keep the local favor, but in this case, it doesn’t work.
3. In slang conversation, several words such as “already” is written as ” ‘lready “. I cannot see its purpose except for annoying the readers.

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The Honor of the Queen

March 12, 2014

261758This is the second book of Honor Harrington series.

Definitely better than the first novel: On Basilisk Station. Some of my expectations from the first novel are actually answered. The second novel actually brings more stories from the enemy’s side. I certainly are looking forward to seeing Captain Yu and Theisman, two commander from Haven side.

After Basilisk, Captain Harrington is assigned to a new post in a diplomatic mission to Grayson. It looks like an easy task, but something is lurking behind. Grayson’s nemesis, its sister state: Masada, is planning a coup just in time. Harrington will be trapped in the escalation of coup d’etat.

The political situation is also very interesting. Grayson is an extremely patriarchal nation. Woman is seen as nothing but property. Seeing Honor Harrington as a senior officer of a heavy cruiser is like a slap in the face for them. Honor Harrington is indeed challenged by the local political situation. Will she succumb to this unfortunate situation or will she triumph one more time? The political behavior of a fundamentalist state also deserve an attention. It works really well with the plot of the story.

The fighting is indeed more gruesome than the first. Despite they are no land battle, the naval (space) battle is much more brutal. I have not read such a tense description of a battle, as depicted in this novel, for a long time. It is most satisfying as well as emotionally gripping.

Despite the hard science fact is not the main issue in this novel (like most space opera), Weber is consistent with the technological frameworks that he set in the beginning. It works well with all the naval tactics in the battle. This alone shows that he is indeed a good sci-fi writer, unlike most space opera which care about the plot only while abandoning the tech stuff.

The classification of space ship starting to look interesting. We have in this series battle between heavy cruiser, destroyer, battle cruiser and LAC (Light Attack Craft, a small intra system space ship with no hyper capabilities). We can see the difference of capability between those ship. I can only expect a larger campaign, space battle between two opposing fleet in the next book. You got me hook, Mr. Weber.

But unfortunately, somehow this book is still not enough to be listed in my 5 STARS class. It is still missing something “philosophical” for brain crunching, which is my criteria for a 5 STARS. So 4 STARS.

Note:
One thing I don’t really like is the depiction of the Haven Republic. It looks like Weber created Haven as conglomeration of everything that he hates. By using the name of People’s Republic of Haven, it resembles the name of a communist country: People’s Republic of China. But from the story in this book, the Haven Republic looks like more like a fascist, militaristic, and expansionist country, like Nazi German, than a communist. And the naming of the space ship class: Saladin, A Sultan class battle cruiser; is using name from Turkish Sultanate, the Ottoman Empire. So, it shows that he hates communist, fascist, and Islam. I am not a big fan of those either, but I think it’s not wise to do that.

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Inferno

March 5, 2014

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Well, it is another adventure of Robert Langdon. (It makes me think, how come this Robert Langdon always included in every doomsday crisis. Since it is only a novel, I am not going to be so picky.) You have exotic places, puzzles, beautiful woman as Robert’s consort, art history, and bizarre individual. It is truly another Robert Langdon series.

Maybe since it is just another Langdon series, it is quite boring since the beginning. Dan Brown is repeating the same formula over and over again. (I have been bored since The Lost Symbol actually). Fortunately, I read this book just to waste time after some heavy reading, and that’s all what I get. Time wasted. If this is your first Dan Brown novel, maybe it is not going to be that boring. Or if you are Dan Brown’s die hard fans who vote for this novel in Goodreads Choice, maybe you are not going to be bored.

There is really nothing to tell from this novel really. I would suggest you read the original Inferno, some secondary book discussing Inferno, art history of Florence, Venice and Istanbul, and I guarantee it is going to be more interesting than this novel.

So why the 3 stars? Well, first, this novel is clearly written for Hollywood. It is fast pace, lots of plot twists, very graphic, and thrilling in many places. Well done on that Mr. Brown. You can get another Hollywood contract.

Two, THIS IS A MAJOR SPOILER, do not read if you have not finish the book by yourself.

I truly loves the ending. Even though Inferno itself is just another second rate thrill ride, the idea behind it is important. The world is indeed overpopulated. I might be a bit biased on this issue, because I myself am a supporter of Malthus. Malthus prophecy is not wrong, it is delayed. What he fail to foresee is the advancement of technology to revolutionize the production of food. But it cannot go forever, because our beloved Earth is FINITE. We can only dismiss Malthus prophecy by migrating to other system, which is still not in sight. I would say that I sympathized, even support the antagonist, Bertrand Zobrist, the crazy geneticist who create a virus to mutate one-third of world population to be sterile, to make the earth population dwindle. It is indeed a thought that needs serious consideration, given that it seems that we are not going to voluntarily reduce earth population by sterilizing ourselves. We still breed like rabbits, especially is third world country. Forced sterilization is indeed a more humane approach to reduce the population if you compare it with war or plague. For this reason alone if give this novel an extra one star.