How hard sci-fi fails

Return to Enceladus: Hard Science Fiction (Ice Moon Book 4)Return to Enceladus: Hard Science Fiction by Brandon Q. Morris
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Boy, did this book suck. I am wary now of any writer who claims to be writing “hard science fiction,” especially someone who feels compelled to put that in the title of their novel. It usually means they did their homework in regards to physics, chemistry, and astronomy, and everything else is FAIL. Their story world and characters show they have little grasp of sociology and psychology, their biology knowledge is half-researched, half hand-waved (non-sensical alien species, forex), and in the case of this story series, the artificial intelligence angle is complete FANTASY.

I don’t disagree that someday we might have very human-like and intelligent A.I.s, but you can’t hand-wave how they got that way. You need to give some plausible background DETAILS based on current trends in A.I. and cybernetics. Most especially if you are writing near-future sci-fi. Ignoring the explanation is what makes it fantasy, and bad fantasy at that, because at least fantasy writers follow clear ground rules in their stories regarding what is allowed and what isn’t.

Also? This author needs to jettison the audiobook narrator. He just makes trite material sound even more trite.

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Existence

ExistenceExistence by David Brin
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I give this tour-de-force exploration of one possible answer to the Fermi paradox a 3.5. Better than a three, but not as good as a four. However, there is no 3.5, so four it is. It reminds me, in structure, of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312–a long, meandering novel with multiple characters and story lines, where the plot eeks along at a snail’s pace while entire chapters are turned over to philosophical musings.

Then, in the last quarter of the book, the myopic detail of the story lines is dumped to take a different point of attack on resolving the larger story, leaving the emotional payoff of the original story lines hanging, to be resolved by various, off the cuff “tellings,” rather than “showings.” This is frustrating, although you do find out what happened to the characters, and the ultimate message of the novel is positive.

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The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2015’s Cloud Atlas: a somewhat offbeat tour-de-force whose character motivations ultimately strain credulity just a bit. Every time someone went into the three – body game, I wanted to skip over those parts. I didn’t see the appeal of the Trisolaran culture as depicted in the game. In fact, I found it repugnant. So I couldn’t really understand its appeal to the characters.

A lot of this book relied on tell-don’t-show, flashback, and pure info dump to get the entire story told in a reasonable length.

The Chinese cultural setting is the most interesting and refreshing part of the book. Well, that and the living computer circuit scene.

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