Book Reviews and Rants, March 2012

My rating system is explained here.

Count to a Trillion, by John C. Wright.  ☼☼.  I wanted to like Count to a Trillion.  I really did.  The moment that the Rapture of the Nerds got a shout-out in the prologue was the moment I knew that I was going to read every last page of the book.  And then it tanked.  I suppose that could have been the intention; it clothed itself in all the trappings of the dazzling space operas of the Golden Age, and then it (purposely, I guess) subverted the core tenants of that genre.  Everlasting peace is never achieved.  Society becomes more, not less, stratified.  All the Science in the world can’t come up with a way to make the humans play nicely together.  Despite this subversion, I did not enjoy the book.  The dialogue was constantly bogged down in eye-glazing technobabble.  The characters were uninteresting.  They constantly talked to each other about the solution to this or that problem whilst simultaneously discarding each solution as it was presented.  They never seemed to do anything.  Or, rather, we were never present for the doing, only popping in after everything had been built or destroyed to be treated to another treatise on the hopelessness of attempting to surmount human nature without excising out the “human” part first.  Maybe the “nature” part too, come to think of it.  It could have been interesting and funny and dazzling all the way through but…it wasn’t.

Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi.  ☼☼☼.  Nailer is a ship breaker.  He belongs to a crew of people who scavenge broken and abandoned oil tankers for parts and raw materials.  They live in shacks at the edge of the jungle which rings the Gulf Coast.  Nailer’s life is looking pretty hopeless—soon he’ll be too big to fit in the ducts of the ships, and then he’ll be too small to do heavy lifting—when a Category 6 hurricane blew in and smashed a swanky sailing yacht against a nearby island.  What he found in the ship while scavenging for scrap would change his life….

I keep hearing good things about Bacigalupi, but I didn’t feel like tackling The Windup Girl cold (I sometimes have a hard time getting through dystopian novels).  So I started with Ship Breaker, because it’s YA so it’d be a quicker read while still giving me an idea of the author’s writing style.  Thing is, I don’t really like YA novels.  I’m not sure why.  I tend to get the feeling that I’ve got blinders on; that there’s so many interesting things I want to know about and explore, but the plot’s more interested in the characters, and the characters are more interested in surviving.  Something like that.

So there’s my caveat; it’s not my genre.  Still, the book was interesting, even exciting, in places.

The Cloud Roads, by Martha Wells.  ☼☼☼☼.  I liked The Cloud Roads.  I can’t really think of what to say about it, though.  The presentation feels simple, in the same sense that A Fong of Ice and Fire feels complex.  However, that does not mean TCR is boring.  I found myself thinking about the characters, story, and world even when I wasn’t reading it.  It was difficult to put down, not in a pulse-pounding, can’t-take-my-eyes-away sense but instead in an insatiable-curiosity, what-happens-next? kind of way.  I’m definitely reading the sequel (if I can get my hands on it).

Goblin Quest, by Jim C. Hines.  ☼☼☼.  I really didn’t enjoy this book, and I can’t figure out why.  On the face of it, GQ is Pratchettesque; it combines a bunch of standard fantasy tropes, characters, and settings, then messes with them in humorous ways (and btw, Pratchettesque is a good thing).  I didn’t find it funny, though.  It didn’t make me smile, let alone laugh.  I didn’t care for any of the characters.  The plot was boring.  I can see what he’s doing, and I can appreciate intellectually the way he’s inverted the tropes, but the experience left me cold.  Judging from the Goodreads reviews, other people enjoyed the book much more than I did.  So…I have no clue what went wrong when it came to me.

The Planet Savers, by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  ☼☼☼.  HAHA.  Apparently I’m a sucker for protagonists with multiple personality disorder (Miles Vorkosigan/Admiral Naismith, anyone?).  I’m pretty sure that’s why I liked TPS so much.  It’s certainly not because of the treatment of psychological, medical, gender, or racial issues; those are all very 60’s.  I knew what I was getting into when I saw the date it was published.  It’s not worth railing against.  Anyway, even the author admits that TPS has issues.  I’m definitely going to read more Darkover books and see if they get better.

(Also, I started to read Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1) but the writing style seemed too…affected?  inconsistent?  I’m not sure.  It rubbed me the wrong way, and I wasn’t able to brave my way through it, despite the fact that I kept imagining Miri as Eliza.)


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