Archive for April, 2015

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

April 28, 2015

11Well, I have to admit that I have a bit of reluctance to read this book. If it is not for group read, I might have skipped it entirely. The reason is: The movie sucks!

So, I read it. It is pretty much better than the movie. It looks like that it is not easy to transfer a radio show into a good movie, but it is easier to transfer it to a book. I am still looking for the original radio transcript.

There are no obvious story line in this book, except that you follow two hitchhikers from Earth (one Earthling and one alien). The story is a satire, laughing at our daily life in a hilarious beyond Earth setting, with not-quite-intelligent alien life forms (in form of humanoids, reptiloids, and all other-loids), with exception of Zooey Deschanel.

There are plenty of English dark humor here that give me quite a laugh, but unfortunately not enough story line to get me hooked. I cannot help to compare it with Redshirts, with has better plot therefore much more enjoyable. I am not going to spoil the humor in this review, so read it by yourself. I also find that the first half of the book is funnier that the rest. So many clever jokes, especially when you can get out of your Earth-view, and laugh at those ignorant Earthlings (a.k.a carbon based oxygen sucker semi-intelligent life form).

So, the final verdict: read the book (or better get the original radio show), but avoid the movie like a plague.

three star

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War of Honor

April 21, 2015

77743This is the best book in this series so far. Everything is fully blown. And it is the thickest one also, which will make quite a bore if you cannot take the heavy stuffs.

Why I like it so much? First, politics! I know that a lot of people actually hate this book because it is 90% politics and only 10% actions. But this is precisely why I like this novel! Look at A Game of Thrones series, almost all of them ARE about politics, one scheming against another. The politics gives you the depth about the character and the issue, that makes the story much deeper and realistic feel.

I cannot believe that I quite enjoy the parliamentary debate in the House of Lords of Manticore. And also the lobbying and the political manoeuvrings. It is even more intricate than a clash between two battle-groups of navy. The motive is not easy to be seen, and almost everyone has something to hide deep inside. The character is not quite black and white anymore, even though you cannot help to scorn some characters, like you scorn Joffrey in Game of Throne.

And the best part is the diplomacy between The Havenite Republic and The Manticore Kingdom. Neither of them want to resurrect the bloody war. But somehow the internal politics takes over the international politics, not to mention some stupidity and personal ambition. All of them is a perfect ingredient to restart a fresh war that nobody would dare to comprehend!

The politics of media is also very good. Many characters are doing some back deal to hide the true motives. Add some polished media coverage, and you have a real political situation just like in our own world.

So, in the end, this novel is a full blown Honor Harrington series. You will have deep insight of the Manticoran politics once you finished this novel, and you will ask for more! Yes, it does not have a lot of battle, but it will make all the battle makes sense.

A solid FIVE STARS.

five star

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Little Brother

April 14, 2015

12664948This is easily the best book that I have read this year. It is clever, engaging, and believe me or not, it is a YA novel! (At least it is marketed as a YA) But being a YA novel, it is not your common YA novel. I can only name one YA novel that is not like other YA novel, Ysabel. This one is another one. It does not fall into the same pitfall which devoured all YA novel: teenage angst, Mary-Sue character, predictable plot, and overly romantic. It is geeky, rebellious and the most important one: subversive! It is more like a manifesto in a form of novel by Cory Doctorow actually. And if you believe it, you are a changed man.

The story is about a young teenager, Marcus Yallow, aka w1n5t0n, and later m1ck3y, a rebellious and geeky teenager, captured in a situation which has change his city, San Fransisco, into a surveillance state. Together with his geeky gang, he fights the Department of Homeland Security to regain their freedom.

We can easily see the resemblance between this novel and 1984. You can call it a 1984 version 2, or even 1984.net. The title “Little Brother” is a tribute to the 1984 “Big Brother”. In this novel, Cory Doctorow shows us how the government can go wrong using the current technology. What makes it so scary is that this kind of situation, given the current development of technology and politics, is POSSIBLE. The war against terror has show that such thing can happened. Many moslems are facing inconvenience situation just because they are on the radar of terrorist hunt. Snowden has already revealed that NSA is actually snooping into our email. It is just a matter of time that it can happened to all of us, unless we do something about the government.

Some people criticize that this novel is not a sci-fi, because it is not using any future technology. I think that they are missing the point. Sci-fi is not always about space ship and laser gun. Sci-fi is about seeing the what-if scenario, whether it is in the past, current or in the future. And this is novel is a perfect example extrapolation of what can happened to us RIGHT NOW! It is always the job of a writer to see what that public cannot see, and reveal them.

Actually I am expecting another scifi writer will comes up with another “current day” dystopia, about how our financial system can go wrong. And the protagonist is some kind of the we are the Occupy Wallstreet movement. It can be quite nightmarish to see the financial system collapse and in one second all the money that we have become valueless.

PS: in the introduction, Cory Doctorow is tackling another sensitive issue: Book Piracy. It is worth a reading. And he makes sure that he is consistent. This book, can be downloaded freely at http://www.feedbooks.com/book/2466/li….

If you are interested in this idea, I suggest you to read Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity.

five star

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The Giver

April 7, 2015

3636This book has been on my reading list for some time, but only because the movie shows up I decided to give it a quick read. And it is indeed quick because it is only about 100 pages.

The story starts in a community, with Jonas, an Eleven, anxiously waiting for his assignment once he becomes a Twelve. And all the story is told from the point of view of Jonas.

The story telling is quite interesting, showing a society that is not quite like ours. There are many unrevealed questions for an outsiders like us when we read it. I believe that the author will reveal it bit by bit in time.

For a preteen novel (I refuse to call this novel a YA, because it does not fit into the stereotype of a common YA), this book deals with many big thoughts: free will, controlled affairs of state, and (view spoiler). Even though the story telling is not too complicated, the story itself might trigger an apprehensive child to ask that kind of question to adult. Beware you folks if your younger children asks you this heavy caliber philosophical questions.

My complain is that it is too short. There is some feeling of un-fulfillment when I read this novel. If the author gives more room for the characters and the story to develop, I think it would make this novel better.

I cannot help to compare this novel with The City of Ember. The story begins with almost the same tone, young children waiting for their assignment. But their worlds are quite different apart. Somehow I like City of Ember better. It gives you more of a bitter sweet taste, a sense of adventure, and a deep lamentation of the lost good-old-days. It does not mean that The Giver is below par, because The Giver is indeed more philosophical. So I think it is just a matter of taste.

I think younger audience would love this book better and give it a FOUR. For me, I give it a 3.5 actually. But not quite a 4. But I am eager to read the next installment, because I cannot wait to see some surprises to be revealed in the next book.

three star