So I decided that I would review every book that I’ve finished this year, partly so at the end of the year I would have a list of everything I read. I say finished, because sometimes I start a book and then come back to it weeks or months later. But the books I’ve read but haven’t reviewed have been piling up so I figured I’d do a bunch at once. I discovered Jack McDevitt a few years back and read through most of his books. And since he only writes about a book a year, I have to fill my time with something, so I’ve been reading a bunch of space travel sci-fi by other authors. The results have been mixed.
Leviathan Wakes + Caliban’s War by James Corey
These books are awesome. They’re hard-boiled detective stories, set in the near(ish) future, humanity has colonized the solar system but hasn’t yet discovered faster than light travel. Very tightly written, suspenseful and fairly plausible technologically. I blasted through both in under a week. I loved these and I can’t wait for the third installment to arrive in June. The only thing I wasn’t big on was that the books jumped between the two main characters every chapter. I would have been happy with just one main character. But overall, these were great.
Helix by Eric Brown
This one started out promising- the earth is in a state of environmental collapse and sends out a generation ship to the stars, with the hope of finding a habitable planet. I bought this one based on Stephen Baxter’s blurb (Stephen Baxter wrote Ark, which is the story of…the earth is in a state of environmental collapse and sends out a generation ship to the stars, with the hope of finding a habitable planet), but it got to be a bit of a slog.
SPOILER ALERT- at one point humans, small squirrel people, and a giant alien are all traveling together in one space ship. This just struck me as silly. And the ending was equally implausible- the omnipotent creators of the Helix group of worlds brought humans to the Helix so they could be caretakers. The same humans who had been forced to flee their own planet because they destroyed it. Interesting choice.
Singularity Sky by Charles Stross
Charles Stross is supposed to be a very big deal in sci-fi right now, but I had very mixed feelings about this book. It was very clever in places, but it was also full of paragraphs of techno-talk that I just couldn’t follow. I liked his explanation of a universe-traveling information distribution society, but I found his premise of “technology and information will set you free!” to be wishful thinking. If there’s anything the 20th century should have taught humanity, it’s that big ideas are usually DUMB ideas. Communism, anarchism, libertarianism all revolve around the idea that humans could somehow engineer themselves free of the state. The evidence for this is pretty thin. I’m not even sure if Stross believes this, but that’s what I got out of reading his book. There’s a sequel, but I’m not sure I’ll bother.