Category Archives: Fiction

Book Review: Endymion

The third book in the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons is “Endymion.”  While “The Fall of Hyperion” immediately follows “Hyperion,” “Endymion” takes place more than 250 years after the the second book.  So far, all three books have been very different.  This installment follows Raul Endymion of Hyperion, the future messiah Aenea, and the android Bettik as they go on an epic journey over many planets.  Of course, the Shrike makes an appearance.

What’s interesting is how this book is told from the point of view of three characters, Raul Endymion, Father Captain Federico de Soya, and the mysterious Nemes.  Most of it is from the point of view of the former two characters.  At times, it’s difficult to tell the order of events at the beginning of the chapters, as it’s not done in real time chronological order.  But the time frame is evident as the chapter unfolds.

As with the first two books, religion plays a major part in the story, though it mostly shows how corrupt religion can become.  In a way, “Endymion” is providing us with a 31st century version of the Crusades.

The characters are quite engaging.  The chapters involving Raul are told from a first person point of view, while the other chapters are third person point of view.  The entire book is written by Raul as a record of what happened.  He is a very resourceful and intelligent person who got on the wrong side of the law.  However, he has to be the hero.  Aenea is a highly intelligent and extremely mature for her age girl of only 11 years old.  I can’t imagine any real 11 year old kids speaking like her and with the knowledge she has, but she is a very unusual character, being the daughter of Brawne Lamia.  A. Bettik is a character readers of the first two books should be familiar with.  He is a brave and noble character and fairly likeable.  Father Captain de Soya is a military officer and a priest who is utterly devoted to the Catholic church, and is a man of strong morals who is single-minded in his pursuit of our protagonists.  Even though he is the main antagonist, I liked his character.  He’s not really a bad guy.  Far from it.  He’s just doing his job.  There’s a large number of other characters to complement these four, and many are very interesting, although some I found contemptible with greed and poor morals.

The story itself reads like an epic fantasy novel.  While this is pure science fiction, the adventurous style of this book would appeal to readers of epic fantasy, as they travel from world to world in strange new environments.  I could imagine each planet very clearly and vividly with Simmons’ descriptions.  He isn’t overly descriptive, so the story moves at a decent pace.  There is a lot of action and many tense moments that meant life or death.  Often, I can tell where a story is going, but in this case, I had no idea.  It had me constantly guessing what was going to happen next.  It was quite unpredictable with plenty of surprises.  I was very interested in what was going to happen next.  That makes it a very good story.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book after the previous two, but I’m very happy to say that I’m satisfied.  I give this a very well earned 4 out of 5 stars.

What’s the greatest epic fantasy series?

I’m a fan of epic fantasy series.  I enjoy seeing familiar characters going through many challenges and adventures over several books.  It requires a lot of time devoted to just one story.  There are many epic fantasies that I’ve only scratched the surface of.  I know that this question has been asked by many and there are websites with personalised lists of the top epic fantasy series, but I’d like to generate a little discussion here.  In your opinion, what is the best epic fantasy series?  What gets your heart racing whenever the tension rises?  What series has made you wait impatiently for the next part, which you eagerly devoured when you finally got your hands on it?  Please leave your comments!

Book Review – The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World” is the first book in Robert Jordan’s fantasy epic “The Wheel of Time.”  It’s sometimes considered a modern take on Tolkien’s world, although I haven’t seen any dwarves or elves.  I can see some parallels plot-wise, but I’d like to consider this book on its own merits.  I don’t like comparing to other books.

This series came highly recommended to me by a friend who loves “The Wheel of Time.”  I’d already had most of the series, though I hadn’t read any of it. Well, I finally started it, and I’d have to say my initial reaction wasn’t very favourable.  I’ll get to that in a moment.

The story starts out with a prologue, which sets a bit of a background for the events that will happen in the book.  It then moved forward to our main story, featuring a trio of sheepherders, tall and strong Rand, prankster Mat, and stocky Perrin.  These three, as well as a few other characters meet a mysterious woman and man, and are swept into a long journey of self-discovery and a quest to save the world from an evil being.  Sounds like a pretty typical fantasy epic storyline.  It is a pretty standard story, but from what I’ve heard, the books after this are quite different.

It’s said in this book that time repeats itself.  Ages come and go in a forward progression of time, but the events that happen are repeated many times, though by different people who are actually incarnations of people in previous ages.  It’s an interesting concept, so I wasn’t exactly sure if each book would just repeat the same kind of story or not.  As far as I know, that’s not the case.  It’s a very, very long epic story involving the same characters.  I’m interested to see how it progresses.

As I said before, my initial reaction wasn’t very favourable.  The story progressed very slowly, and I found it somewhat difficult to get into it.  The characters weren’t very engaging, and I just couldn’t get attached to any of them.  I felt no sympathy for them.  But they did grow on me over time.  This is the kind of story that you just have to stick with to the end to be satisfied.  In the last quarter of the book, relationships between characters were moving in interesting ways, and questions were finally being answered.  There were a lot of mysteries presented earlier on in the book, and I was looking forward to seeing them resolved.  However, by the end of the book, several mysteries were still unresolved.  It ended with the main story concluded, but it also opened the way for a much bigger story to be told.  It looks like it’ll be a very large epic story to come.

I felt like this book was a mediocre story most of the way, and I was thinking I’d have to give it a middle of the road 3 stars.  But the final quarter of the book redeemed it.  I’ll give it 4 out of 5 stars.  It’s good if you’re patient, and I do recommend that you finish reading it.

Book Review – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyIt took me a long time to get around to reading this.  It’s so famous, but I didn’t start reading it until recently.  This review is for book 1, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” although I am reading the 4 part Omnibus edition.  I will review each book separately.

This book is an adaptation of a radio show, both written by Douglas Adams.  It starts out on Earth, and as the title suggests, the main characters hitchhike in the galaxy.  The story starts out with Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, both colourful characters, but when Zaphod Beeblebrox, the robot Marvin, and Trillian join, it gets even more colourful.  This wacky mix of characters cannot be taken seriously at all.  The radio show was a comedy, and so is this book.  I find Ford Prefect is probably my favourite character so far, very much in the style of much of British comedy.

The story itself moves at a fast pace, not giving you much time in one place.  A lot happens in a short time.  Even the chapters are short.  What I find difficult is that while the plot is interesting, I can’t completely get into it like I can with more serious novels.  I love Terry Pratchett’s works, but this book is even more absurd, and even though it is funny, I didn’t find it laugh out loud funny.  I’m not saying it isn’t enjoyable.  I enjoyed reading it, and I am interested in seeing where the story leads to next.

One thing I wish I could find is a pronunciation guide.  Some names and places are difficult to pronounce.  I guess part of the fun is trying to say them out loud.

This is a classic book, and a very short one.  I would recommend it to anyone with a good sense of humour and at least a passing interest in sci-fi.

I give it 4 out of 5.

Book Review – 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey2001: A Space Odyssey

Author: Arthur C. Clarke

Series: Space Odyssey #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 1968

Review Copy: Paperback bought new

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Goodreads Description

The year is 2001, and cosmonauts uncover a mysterious monolith that has been buried on the Moon for at least three million years. To their astonishment, the monolith releases an equally mysterious pulse—a kind of signal—in the direction of Saturn after it is unearthed. Whether alarm or communication, the human race must know what the signal is—and who it was intended for.

The Discovery and its crew, assisted by the highly advanced HAL 9000 computer system, sets out to investigate. But as the crew draws closer to their rendezvous with a mysterious and ancient alien civilization, they realize that the greatest dangers they face come from within the spacecraft itself. HAL proves a dangerous traveling companion, and the crew must outwit him to survive.

This novel version of the famous Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey was written by Clarke in conjunction with the movie’s production. It is meant to stand as a companion piece, and it offers a complementary narrative that’s loaded with compelling science fiction ideas.

Review

I’ve seen the movie, and now I’ve finally read the book.  It’s been years since I’ve seen the movie, but 2001: A Space Odyssey brought back a lot of memories.  2001 was published in 1968, but a lot of the science is spot on.  Of course, there were gaps of knowledge in 1968 about Jupiter and Saturn, but Arthur C. Clarke’s depiction of Europa and the rings of Saturn were surprisingly good.  Clarke understood the science of space and the difficulties involved with space travel, so this book was highly realistic.

The story is a classic.  It’s about man’s ultimate discovery and the journey to find out what life means.  This book was written in very short chapters, which made it very easy to read in short bursts.  While Clarke was very descriptive about scientific and technical terms, it didn’t make it more difficult to read.  In fact, he seemed to be able to describe these things in terms which the average person could understand.  I found this book delightfully easy to read.

The characters were very believable.  They were realistic people who behaved just like any real person would.  They were quite engaging, especially the non-human character, HAL 9000, which was Discovery’s computer.  Hal was the book’s antagonist, and is probably the most memorable computer in literature or film.

The quick pace and short length of this book left little room for slow periods.  It was constantly engaging, and I kept wanting to read.  I knew the movie was good, but I was very happy to discover how good the book is.  I highly recommend 2001: A Space Odyssey to anyone with any interest in space or science fiction.  Don’t let its age fool you.  The science is quite good for most of the movie.  One of the best books I’ve read in a while.

I rate it 5 out of 5.

Book Review: The Word and the Void – Running with the Demon

Word and the Void: Running with the DemonRunning with the Demon

Author: Terry Brooks
Series: The Word & the Void #1 (Shannara prequel series)
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Published 1997
Review Copy: Paperback bought new
Overall Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5
 

Goodreads Description

On the hottest Fourth of July weekend in decades, two men have come to Hopewell, Illinois, site of a lengthy, bitter steel strike. One is a demon, dark servant of the Void, who will use the anger and frustration of the community to attain a terrible secret goal. The other is John Ross, a Knight of the Word, a man who, while he sleeps, lives in the hell the world will become if he fails to change its course on waking. Ross has been given the ability to see the future. But does he have the power to change it? At stake is the soul of a fourteen-year-old girl mysteriously linked to both men. And the lives of the people of Hopewell. And the future of the country.

Review

I’ve read a lot of Terry Brooks books, and before this one, it was all Shannara.  This was my first experience reading a non-Shannara book of his.  Or is it non-Shannara?  Turns out it’s not, as the Genesis of Shannara trilogy links The Word and the Void to the Shannara world.

Running with the Demon shares a lot of similarities with Shannara, yet it is also different.  The character types are basically the same.  Terry Brooks tends to write books with the same basic character types, particularly the main protagonists.  On one hand, you have a young, inexperienced magic user from a family of magic users who is on a journey of self-discovery, and then there’s the dark, mysterious stranger who comes into town and has a lot of secrets.  Nest Freemark is similar to Shannara’s Ohmsfords, while John Ross is like the Druids of Shannara.  The parallels are very obvious.  I found this to be quite predictable, as Brooks rarely deviates from these kinds of characters.  It’s good if you like this kind of familiarity, but for those who have read a lot of his books and want something new, you aren’t going to get it from the characters or the story.

What’s new is the setting.  Instead of a fantasy setting, we have a modern day midwestern American town around Independence Day.  This gives a fresh setting, though there is no traveling and exploration from Brooks’ other books.
What I liked about this book is the new setting and a sense of familiarity with his writing.  Although he’s not the best at writing realistic characters, I did enjoy the story in general.  I felt myself seeing the town and the action in my mind fairly well.  I could get into it a bit, but I felt like I couldn’t get attached to the characters.  There was a lot of foreshadowing indicating what the story’s biggest mystery was, but I must admit that I wasn’t quite guessing correctly.  I wasn’t surprised when it was revealed, though.

Despite its drawbacks, I do want to see what happens in the next book, as well as see how it connects with the Shannara world.  It’s a decent book with a good recommendation from me.  I give it a score of 3.5 out of 5.