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Three recent books… December 13, 2008

Posted by thejinx in books.
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The second item that I have fallen behind in this log is reviews of the books I have read of late.  Not many, but there have been a few.

Writers of the Future Volume XIX – I picked up this past compilation of winners of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest for unpublished authors at a used book sale a few months ago, since I was just sending in an entry for that contest myself and it was on my mind.  It is a collection of longer scifi/fantasy short stories – the shortest I figure is a little under 4,000 words, the rest are around 20 pages or more.

It’s a difficult book to review quickly, in that regard, but certainly I can say that I enjoyed this.  I have always been a fan of amateur fiction and few of these stories disappoint.  There’s very little swords-and-sorcery fantasy, most of the stories leaning towards a modern fantasy or scifi bent, but they were all compelling and unique and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Battlestar Galactica, Jeffrey A. Carver – Yet another in the list of ebooks that I received from Tor.com before said website opened.  This is a novelization of the beginning of the new Battlestar Galactica TV series, based on the old 70s series.  It is the story of the namesake warship, about to be retired and turned into a museum after years of peace, only to be thrust into combat again from the sudden attack of the deadly Cylons, the robots turned war machines that rebelled against humanity decades earlier.  The attack devastates the twelve colonies of humans and the survivors’ only chance is to flee as far as they can go.  Fans of the original Battlestar Galactica show recognize the story, but notable differences include the gender switch for main characters Starbuck and Boomer and the Cylon models that look exactly like humans.

It’s an interesting story, starting off the series with an enemy so overwhelming that mankind’s only choice is to run.  As far as this novel goes, it’s not bad.  The action is interesting, as is the character interaction, and while neither particularly shines, it’s certainly entertaining.  Of course, none of that can really be attributed to the author, who, honestly, does not impress me.  This is the second book I’ve read by Carver and I find his writing style simplistic and almost a little amateurish, and his tendency to write spoken character thoughts in the wrong tense irks me.

I haven’t yet seen the new Battlestar Galactica series – though it’s been on my list for about a year now – so I don’t know how this novelization compares to the show it’s based off.  It was an entertaining read, I’ll give it that, but it’s not something I would have actively sought out, and I don’t think I’d recommend it as such, either.

Flash, L. E. Modesitt, Jr. – The next book from the Tor mailing list to follow after Battlestar Galactica, this followed the story of an independent business consultant in an advanced future as he receives a string of jobs that lead him to mystery and danger, and pull him into a conspiracy he would sooner have no part of.

This was a heavy read.  Right from the beginning, original scifi concepts, company/organization/person names, and detailed politics of this futuristic world are thrown at the reader a mile a minute and it’s a struggle to keep up.  Most of the original concepts can be understood in context, but none of them are really explained, so even at the end of the book, one has an idea of what those things do, but defining them is challenging, and some of them, such as the ever-present “rez” and the book’s namesake “flash,” I never did quite follow.  There are a lot of acronyms for company/organization names and there’s a lot of the lead character’s work described through the book which is not really relevant to the actual story, serving only to bog down the reader further.  It provides some believable depth to the lead character’s work and world, but it does make for some heavy reading.

Add to this the nature of the lead character’s work, independent consulting on the effectiveness of product placement as an advertising tool, which involves more than a few complicated economics lectures, and you have a book which is not something I would recommend to a casual reader.  I ended up reading this probably a little quicker than I would have liked, simply because I was afraid that if I let it sit too much, I would have forgotten a lot of the foreign concepts described and been completely lost when I resumed later.

As for the story, it’s alright.  I had a hard time getting any sense of urgency about it early in, as the first indication of conspiracy occurred so far down the corporate ladder that it hardly seemed of any importance.  It got somewhat more interesting later on in the book, but it didn’t exactly become enthralling.

In the first half of the book, the characters are of little interest, and it takes a long time for even the narrator to develop any sort of personality.  When he does, it doesn’t become one I particularly like.  I didn’t dislike the character, but I found his stated beliefs clashed quite a bit with his actions – in essence, what the author showed and what he told didn’t really match up, and I really didn’t agree with the character’s actions.

I can respect all the work that went into the story to develop the future world with its intrigues, politics, and advanced technology, and those readers who appreciate that more may enjoy this book more than I did.  Personally, though, when I read a book, I’m looking for a good story first and foremost, and the story in this novel was a little dry, and the characters didn’t add a lot to it.  In short, I don’t think I’d put this novel in the recommended list, but again, for those who are more captivated by a detailed world than I am, it might be right up your alley.

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