Archive for August, 2015


Gathering Blue

August 25, 2015

Gathering Blue (The Giver, #2)I have to admit that I like this one better than The Giver. The writing is better, the pacing is also better. I finished it faster simply because I cannot help to find out what is going to happen on the next page.

Many other reviewers complained that they didn’t like this book simply because it is not continuing Jonas’ story line. I am not on their side. Lois Lowry is indeed continuing the story in greater scale, which means she introduced what is going on in the other community, in Jonas’ world. Of course the world is much bigger then Jonas’ own community. The story of Jonas will have to wait.

The story is told in a more sophisticated way. I like the way the author introduced “new” vocabularies unique within the community. I also like the way she includes puzzle for us to solve: (view spoiler). There is an aura of mystery also, in age proper description. And also the sense of adventure that is a bit missing in the first book.

I cannot help again by comparing this book with The City of Ember series. City of Ember, I would say, is better in the world building, and creating a technotopia (my own word for technology related utopia/dystopia), while The Giver series is a mystitopia (a mystique utopia/dystopia). The mystique is getting denser in the second book and I love it.

This book indeed creates a greater horizon for the series and I am greatly satisfied. This is indeed one of the best series for children that I would recommend for everyone.

four star


Yesterday’s Kin

August 18, 2015

Yesterday's KinIt is everything that you can expect from Nancy Kress. It is a solid hard sci-fi, with some revelation made. I cannot help but to compare it with her previous novel that I read, Steal Across the Sky. I have the same feel when I read both novel. Both are related with alien encounter. Both also related with human genetics. Both also bring new revelation about our ancestor. I cannot help also to say that Steal Across the Sky has given me greater impact than this novel.

The novel is told using 2 POV, a researcher, stumbled on something that catch the attention of some aliens; and her son, an ignorant commoner. And the story is pretty much told from the circle of this family, and some closed friends. The story started with an alien encounter, with a hidden agenda. Once the agenda is not hidden, chaos followed.

First of all, this is a thin novel, only a little bit thicker than a novelette. I finished it in one sitting, without a sweat. I give a merit to Nancy because the flow of the novel is so great that it does not give me any speed bump while reading it. But unfortunately, being so thin, you cannot pack too may ideas inside it. Nancy has been doing well in packing all the necessary ideas inside this novel, plus the story, without making it too preachy with technical details.

Now, the down side. Nancy Kress has try to simplify the plot by ignoring all chaos that happened outside the labs. But even by cutting that parts away, she is still missing some interesting dynamics that might happened in her closed circle family and among her lab crews. It should be more interesting if she has more pages to write.

So, that is my final thought, it feels a bit incomplete. It feels that it ends too abruptly. And the final twist is a bit an anticlimactic. Sorry Nancy, only 3 out of 5 this time.

Additional Note (critical review with spoilers)

The hypothesis of Nancy Kress regarding the alien civilization is interesting. She hypothesized that due the more benign planet that the alien inhabited, they became a more cooperative society, compared to ours. And because they are more cooperative, they are far more advanced than we. That hypothesis needs to be explored at least another one hundred pages. Maybe in debates between alien and human, maybe in some scene when the alien are confused about our competitive, self-interested, individualized and obsessive behavior.

three star



August 11, 2015

WorldsWorlds is an ambitious attempt by Joe Haldeman. The title itself is revealing; it is a story of many worlds. Mankind is starting its next colonization, conquering spaces. Many giant space stations are built as new human habitats. Man also starts mining the moon and asteroids. A new interplanetary politics is building, between the old earth and the Worlds.

The premise is interesting, new politics caused by the new colonization, while the old earth is trapped in conservatism and ecology disaster. But it looks like that the author failed to capitalized it. I cannot help but to compared it with Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson. The premise is almost the same; the colonization of Mars creates a new tension in politics. Where Robinson succeed, Haldeman failed.

The first third of the novel is very good. The characters are properly introduced and the world building is amazing. Haldeman successfully captured the new culture caused by the separation from earth quite well. I would give FOUR STAR for the first third. But the second third, when the main character, Mariane O’Hara starts her campus life, it is plain boring. The details do not add well to the story. Instead of building the story, I find it as impediments to the main plot. The revolution spirit is not well captured. Maybe it is caused by the usage of just one POV, Marianne, which herself is almost oblivious the revolution. TWO STAR only for this part. For the final third, the story is improving. The revolution starts, and Marianne find herself in it, helpless and hopeless. The tension is well built. THREE STAR for the last part. So, on average, I give this novel a THREE STAR. Not great, but not bad as well, exactly is the middle.

I would say that this novel is not Haldeman’s best. Nice to read, but not really engaging.


three star


Half a World

August 4, 2015

Half the World (Shattered Sea, #2)The timing of the publication date is just perfect, after I finished reading Half a King, the first novel of the series. So everything is still fresh in my mind.

I started reading this novel with high hope, to continue the misadventure of Yarvi, or now Father Yarvi. Unfortunately he is taken off from the center stage, just being a supporting role. The leading characters now are (typical) two teenagers, Thorn, a female fighter, and Brand, a big and handsome young boy. Somehow I always imagine Brand as Samwise Gamgee in LoTR or Samwell Tarly in GoT. For Thorn, a younger version of Angelina Jolie, perhaps.

And so, the story continues. Gettland is on the brink of war, and it is in desperate need of allies. Father Yarvi is on the mission. And accidentally he met these two outcast youngsters, and took them under his wings (one on each side, perhaps). It is supposed to be an interesting adventure, but somehow it is below par if you compare it with the previous Yarvi’s adventure. It is a typical coming-of-age adventure, without the wit, cynicism, and struggle like Yarvi’s. It does not differ much from any typical YA fantasy. Yes, of course, Abercrombie writes much better than a typical YA author, but still, it is below his standard form. Well, I miss Yarvi on the center stage, and those two teenagers definitely cannot replace him.

The plot is above average, you have many unpredictable twist, which is fun. Some small details are added, to be wrapped up beautifully in the end, with a fine knot. This is typical Abercrombie that I like. Unfortunately the plot still cannot save the weakness in the characters (Thorn and Brand). No matter how interesting is the plot, it feels like it still lacks some ingredients. In conclusion, this novel needs a major overhaul in the next installment, if Abercrombie wants to keep his throne as one of the best fantasy writer.

PS: Most likely, I can measure how much I like a book by listing how many memorable quotes from the book. And from this one, not many.
And I can create a quote which is better than Abercrombie’s too:

“Where can you find allies if half of the world is against you?”
“The other half, where else?”

(Original quote: “Where do we find allies?”
Father Yarvi smiled. “Among our enemies, where else?”)

three star