Audiobook Review: Rendezvous with Rama by Clarke (4 Stars)

RendevousWithRamabyClarkeRendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke

Read by Peter Ganim

4 out of 5 stars

Original novel winner of the following awards: Hugo Award for Best Novel (1974), Nebula Award for Best Novel (1973), Locus Award for Best Novel (1974), British Science Fiction Association Award for Novel (1974), Jupiter Award for Best Novel (1974), Seiun Award for Best Foreign Novel (1980), John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1974)

Synopsis:   At first, only a few things are known about the celestial object that astronomers dub Rama. It is huge, weighing more than ten trillion tons. And it is hurtling through the solar system at inconceivable speed. Then a space probe confirms the unthinkable: Rama is no natural object. It is, incredibly, an interstellar spacecraft. Space explorers and planet-bound scientists alike prepare for mankind’s first encounter with alien intelligence. It will kindle their wildest dreams…and fan their darkest fears. For no one knows who the Ramans are or why they have come. And now the moment of rendezvous awaits – just behind a Raman airlock door. Includes an exclusive introduction by Hugo Award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer

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Book Review: The Fall of Hyperion by Simmons (3.5 Stars)

The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

3.5 out of 5 stars

Read in January 2009

Warning: Spoilers

I liked this novel better than the first installment, Hyperion, and it probably rates 3.5 stars. After I sleep on it, I may up my rating to four stars, but for now it will sit comfortably at three stars.

We return to the story very nearly where we left off. Thankfully, Dan Simmons abandoned the Canterbury Tales frame tale format and returned to a more linear point of view. Linear is probably not the best word to fit a tale that spans time and space and the places that exist beyond and between both.

The Titanic struggle of survival of the human race unfolds in spurts through the dreams of Joseph Severn, the reincarnated cybrid that was formerly John Keats. His dreams are the real-time happenings across the galaxy, mostly focused on Hyperion, the stage for the final battle between man and machine.

It’s not until late in the novel that we learn the TechnoCore’s true plans to further enslave humanity to spur its evolution of the Universal Intelligence (an uber AI that is their created or perfected god). The TechnoCore tricks the Hegemony to committing two-thirds of its military to the Hyperion system and fakes a massive Ouster invasion on several key Web worlds. Their goal is to force the humans into the labyrinths, infecting them with the cruciform parasites (which resurrect and reconstruct the dead infinitely, eventually reducing the host to mental retardation but leaving the body and brain intact). The TechnoCore uses human brain/nerve cells for raw computing power and the UI will use the billions trapped in the labyrinth eternally, dooming humanity to slavery and imbecility.

Severn/Keats learns the location of the TechnoCore’s hidden home and relays the information to the CEO of the Hegemony. With only minutes to go before the TechnoCore unleashes a planetary purging via deathwand device aimed at Hyperion, the CEO orders the Web of farcasters destroyed (simultaneously across the galaxy), cutting off all travel and communications, but also destroying the TechnoCore’s haven. Humanity is left to recover without the crutches of TechnoCore technology and in some cases stranded on planets with little or no arable land. Humans learn to adapt and survive.

The irony or pun or twisted morale of the story seemed to hinge upon a literary device referred to as deus ex machina which I had to research to understand. Simmons took the translation quite literally and applied it unforgivingly to his creation.

I was relieved that Rachel was “cured” of her Merlin’s disease but disappointed in the revelation of her alternate identity.

Book Review: Neuromancer by Gibson (3 Stars)

Neuromancer by William Gibson

3 out of 5 stars

Read in December 2008

It was difficult to stay focused on this novel, its story and it’s characters. If I could, I would probably give this 2.5 stars rather than 3 stars, but I’ll be lenient since was a triple award winner in the 80s.

However, it really hasn’t stood the test of time well. If I had read this when published, which would have been my first year in college as an engineer/math/computer science college student, it would have been cutting edge, or more appropriately, bleeding edge.

But the character development was lost in the weird heist-like saga of these individuals thrown together by an immoral and immortal AI manipulating them and the world. It was sad that I couldn’t care what happened to them or their acquaintances or their world. Some of the action was top-notch, but much of their motivations were harsh, raw and confusing.

I can see where Hollywood has reworked this idea many times over the last two decades, most notably The Matrix and Johnny Mneumonic and a spattering of television episodes (a couple of X Files and a Lone Gunman one that I can remember off the top of my head).

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Card (4 stars)

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

4 out of 5 stars

Read in Dec 2008

WARNING: Spoilers

I liked everything about this book, except perhaps the ending. And I can’t even say that I particularly disliked the ending; it just made my soul ache with remorse and regret – for Ender, for humanity, for the buggers.

Ender is six years old when we meet him. He is the third son of the Wiggins and a child genius. Not surprising, consider both of his older siblings are both child prodigies, but with vastly different temperaments. The Wiggins were allowed to have a third child as part of an experiment; an effort to create the best of both of the other siblings and something to could be molded into a perfect military savior.

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Newly Released eBook Edition of SF Classic – The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Ridan Publishing released late last week an ebook edition of Joe Haldeman’s classic award winning science fiction novel The Forever War.   A must read for any die-hard fan of science fiction, especially the military scifi subgenre.

My review, written two years ago during the Summer of 2009, follows:

The Forever WarThe Forever War by Joe Haldeman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

If I had been born in the 50s and also been born male, I’m positive I would have loved this story. All the pain, confusion and futility of Vietnam but strung out and extrapolated over three thousand years (or about three years relatively speaking). The last fourth of the book salvaged the first three parts.

I didn’t have any trouble grasping the science, the physics or the technology. Haldeman did an excellent job conveying them without making me take a course in quantum physics or string theory.

But again, similar to The Accidental Time Machine, character development suffers, even though we spend months bored in transit. I personally didn’t care for or agree with his predictions for societal changes on Earth and elsewhere that occurred while Mandella travelled at relativistic speeds. I did agree with the morale of his story, which is similar to Ender’s Game in philosophy.

I’ve now read most of the classic (and one neo-classic) military science fiction novels. My personal favorite seems to be Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, followed closely by Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. Haldeman’s Forever War follows and the distant finisher remains Armor by John Steakley.

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