Archive for March, 2015

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Ashes of Victory

March 31, 2015

77742This book is a real turning point in this series. Before this book, everything is just about space battle. Our beloved Honor Harrington is just the pawn in the midst of the power play. This book marks when it started to differ. Dame Honor just liberated an entire prison planet and became one of the most decorated (and living) heroes in two systems. And she deserve to take a break after all her ordeals.

The beginning is a bit domestic, a warm hero welcome, plus an even warmer family reunion. Fortunately that warm welcome does not continue forever to make me puke, and she get right into business, became the instructor in the Royal Manticoran Naval Academy, the infamous Saganami Island. At the battle front, it has to be taken care by her proteges Alice Truman and Scotty Tremaine.

What makes it truly different is the portion of the story given to the other side, the Peeps, or People Republic of Haven. Their national political tension is cause, some are caused by the escape of Honor Harrington, which is supposed to be dead according to their propaganda. Actually most of the action in this novel I think is in this side, not the Manticoran side. This is the first time we have a direct view within the enemy’s camp. And it is worth it.

The tension is also increasing in the Grayson side. Nothing new happened there though, still the old enemy, the fundamentalist. But this time, they are helped by the Peeps, so they have extra ammunition. And they will do anything to stop Honor from “destroying” their culture and religion, even cooperating with their enemy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Even by leaving Honor Harrington on the bench during the battle, this novel is still very interesting. It also started to get more political, and I like it for that. All for all, a solid FOUR STAR.

four star

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Maze Runner

March 24, 2015

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)I admit that I read it because of the movie. At least I want to have a guide before I watch the movie, since most of the movie taken from book sucks.

The story, not surprisingly, is set inside a maze. You have several juveniles, living inside a maze, trying to solve the maze to return to their normal world. In addition to that, the whole inhabitants memory was wiped out before they enter the maze, supposedly to add the mystery of the novel. The story started with one character, Thomas, the new arrival in the maze, and this protagonist somehow will lead the entire group out of the maze.

To begin with, the puzzle in this book is below par, considering that it is using the word “maze” as the title of the book. My old school juvenile book: The Three Investigator Series, had much harder puzzle to solve. At least the author should provide us some picture of the maze for us to solve. No, he didn’t. He is too lazy for that.

The novel is plot driven, not character driven. I cannot attach at all with all the characters. What I see is just one character withholding information from each other, mad against each other, typical YA books, boring… Even the plot is not that intense. Yes, one or two characters get killed, but since I don’t care about any of them, well, I just don’t care. The author failed to make the readers care about the characters, either to love them, or to hate them.

I am also annoyed by the usage of new words like: klunk, shank, in this novel. It doesn’t play well, unlike let say in The Giver. In the Giver, the setting is hundreds of years from our common era, it makes sense if some vocabs are lost, and some new grammar is created. In this novel, barely 2 years or more. Not enough the create any new lingo. It succeed only to irritate me.

The style writing is just at best acceptable. I cannot find any beauty in it. So basically it is just a fast food reading, not a fine cuisine. You read it, and then you dump it.

And the spoiler:
If the goal of the whole maze is to find out strong, intelligent, not-giving-up individuals to help us to escape the cataclysm cause by the solar flare, we are close to doom. The solution is too easy, and the tension is not that much. The fight-to-the-death Battle Royale or The Hunger Games style is much more intense. Make an arena, make them fight to death, and take the last 10 survivors, for the example. The Creator didn’t care about any casualties to begin with, right?

The last several chapter is just pure info dumps. All that is hidden in the beginning is poured in front of us in one serving. Not a nice way to tell a story, by the way.

Final verdict, TWO STARS. I do not give it a one star only because I keep that place of honor only for the book which succeed to be so repulsive that I want to throw it away. This book does not belong to the category. It is not that good, but at least it is not repulsive to me. Do I care to read the next book? Probably not.

two star

 

 

Final Note:
Another proof of the laziness of the author. It is told that the author is using the name of famous scientist to name the character.
Alby : Albert Einstein
Newt : Isaac Newton
Gally: Galileo Galilei

So far so good.
Now what about this.
Thomas: supposedly from Thomas Alva Edison.
He is not a scientist. He is a tinker, an innovator. He is not in the same league with the name mentioned above.

Now it gets weirder.
Teresa: from Mother Theresa.
Since when Mother Theresa is a scientist. If the author wants to be consistent, why not using Marie, from Marie Curie.

And the weirdest of all.
Minho : what? Any Asian scientist named Minho?
What I can recall is a Korean actor named Lee Minho.
The author tried to escape by saying that it is named after a non-existent scientist, since the setting is the future. If that is the case, why not make up all of the name from the non-existent scientist. Case closed.

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Red Mars

March 17, 2015

Red Mars (Mars Trilogy, #1)This is one of piece of sci-fi that deserves to be on my all time favorite. There might be a bias in my review here, because I tend to like solar-system sci-fi. Maybe because it is closer to home, and we can relate better to it.

The story begins with the “first-one-hundred”, 50 men and women that will be the first permanent colonist in Mars, selected among the best mind on Earth, to form the first permanent human settlement in Mars, and be there for good.

The book is a bit of a collection of closely related short-stories, each of them has different narrator and point of view. It makes this book quite interesting this way, because you see different kind of truth from different beholders.

The book can be a bit boring in some part, especially the technical and geological part (hey, it is not like we are familiar with the maps of Mars!)

There are plenty of things in this books: environmentalism, prolonged life, international politics, theology, transnational capitalism, exploration, and of course TERRAFORMING! I definitely am going to major in Terraforming if it is available right now in the university.

The science part in this novel is also very interesting, even though it might not be plausible. Come on guys, it is a fiction, not a handbook guide to Mars! There are some parts worth mentioning: automatic robot construction, martian storm, and of course SPACE ELEVATORS! I wish I could see a space elevator before I die, but I think it is a long-shot.

Wonders how it might look like? Here it is:

description

The concept itself might not be created by Kim Stanley Robinson (the first idea might be coined by Arthur C. Clark in The Fountains of Paradise), but still the depiction in this novel is very interesting, both the technical and the economical impact. And since it can created a really cheap means of travel to the geosynchronous orbit (or in the story areosynchronous orbit, that is the analog of martian to earth orbit, you landlubber!), even NASA consider it. Check it out here:NASA space elevator

But I think the best part in this novel is the questions asked. The questions is the best what-if scenario that is the hallmark of a good sci-fi. What will happened if we have surpassed the Earth support system (the Maltusian)? What would life be if we can actually live up to 200 years old? Will the colonization of Mars actually repeat the mistake in the earlier colonization of the New World? These kind of questions really make us think, and that is why I give this novel a FIVE STAR.

five star

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R.I.P Terry Pratchett

March 13, 2015

You will be missed…

And finally Death said to him:

At last, Sir Terry, We must walk together.

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Old Man’s War

March 10, 2015

Old Man's War (Old Man's War, #1)As the first novel of John Scalzi, I am quite impressed. Maybe the novel is a bit Heinleinesque, but I think it is alright. What is new under the sun anyway…

The story is following a male protagonist, John Perry, who joined CDF at his 75th birthday, which is according to the regulation for an American citizen who wants to join the CDF. He met all his companion with the same ages, therefore created an army of elderly, hence the title.

The plot is interesting, at least for the first half of the novel. It is everything that you can expect from a military sci-fi. The boot camp (but for old people), the technology enhanced super soldier, and super weapon, and the camaraderie among the recruits. It is interesting to see that technological difference also alter the method of the military training, for better of worst.

As a single novel, I think it is very good. But if you want to make it a big space opera, I don’t think so. The world building seems lacking. The relation between Earth and the CDF is not really explained. It looks like the Earth is isolated from the interstellar conflict without any reason.

I cannot help to compared it with Starship Troopers. You have the same army recruit story, and the battle against aliens. The good thing about Starship Troopers is that it is not just telling us about the battle against the bugs. It is telling us about the human condition as well. The is exactly the weaknes in The Old Man’s War. It is not telling us enough about the human condition. There seems to be a break betweem the Old Man and the War. There seems to be almost no difference if the title is change to the Young Man’s War, except for the first half of the novel.

I am not saying that it is not a great novel. It is, and it is thoroughly enjoyable to read. But it is enough to make it to five stars. So, FOUR STAR it is.

four star

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The Martian

March 3, 2015

The MartianBelieve it or not, I have a calculator on my side to confirm all the calculation by Mark Watney in the novel. So far, all calculation are correct, until I get bored past half of the novel.

The beginning is very interesting. An astronaut stranded ALONE in the surface of Mars. He has limited food and water. He can manufacture oxygen by separating O2 from CO2, given the machine is not broken. This is the story of his survival, until he was picked up. Called it a Robinson Crusoe crossed with MacGyver on the surface of Mars.

The novel is definitely action packed, a perfect formula for Hollywood movie. It is not surprising that it is going to be made into a movie right away, starring Matt Damon. It is also plot driven, without any brain candy or philosophical problem. If you can pass through the technical jargon (which you can skip anyway), you can quite enjoy the novel actually.

The main weakness of the novel is that the character is too perfect. He is not depressed even though disasters hit him one after another. He, with his cool-headed-brain, simply attacked all the problems he encounter with a stoic attitude. That is almost impossible, unless you are a trained Zen monk, maybe. By that, you know that he is unbeatable, and therefore takes away the element of surprise.

The plot is interesting. However, after half of the book, it feels like a bit repetitive. Problem hits unexpectedly, Mark Watney figured out how to solve it, until the next problem hit. The sub plot in NASA is quite refreshing because it breaks the monotony. It has more elements of surprise compared to Watney’s plot, and it has more human elements.

Final verdict, it is a solid FOUR STAR, but not enough to make it a new legend.

four star