Star Maker

Star MakerStar Maker by Olaf Stapledon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a stunning tour-de-force that I took on and was half way through before I realized HOW dated it was. I figured it was written in the mid-1960’s, given the level of knowledge the author possessed about the possibilities of the nature of alien life and the different species of astronomical objects he describes. I was staggered to find out it was published in 1937.

Does it read a little dated? Sure. The language is flowery and peppered with references to “Men” to describe every intelligent race. There is a narrative, but it is all told stream-of-consciousness without dialogue. “It was agreed among our party that we should continue further out into space.”

Reading this is a lot like looking at a painting by an abstract expressionist and shrugging it off until you realize it was painted when those artists were surrounded by Edwardian/Victorian stiffness as a style motif in design and popular art.

Olaf Stapledon was a true visionary–richly imaginative, but also writing a book decades beyond its time.

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Stars!

Skyward (Skyward, #1)Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hesitated to read this book because it alone of all its genre popping up in my recommendations had over 20,000 5-star ratings–this for a book published in 2018–when most did well to hit the three figures. It all seemed a little suspicious to me, and that put me off. Now that I’ve read it, I’m still suspicious. It was an entertaining enough book, as these things go, but hardly a five-star jaw-dropper. It leaves me wondering how much it cost to get all those ratings.

Anyway, like I said, entertaining enough. I’ll probably read the sequel.

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Planetfall

PlanetfallPlanetfall by Emma Newman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve decided that, “My science fiction is pasted on, yay!” stories make me cranky. These are stories that could just have easily have been set in early 21st century Earth, but are instead plopped onto another planet, or a ship or station in space. The mechanisms of travel between stars aren’t even hand-waved, they’re just not mentioned at all. The aliens are Obscure, or are referred to as “human.”

Renata Ghali is a complex character, and even I was taken in by Sung Suh’s mild manner, but that doesn’t make this story any less an episode of Hoarders set in a town so small it’s boggling that no one could have known about a community leaders/home-builders problem for over twenty years.

Yes, buried secrets (literally). Stress. A mysterious alien artifact. But all that leads up to one of those obscure endings that leaves you not satisfied, but scratching your head wondering how to interpret exactly what happened.

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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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Aurora

AuroraAurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

spoilers – A typical KSR tour de force, with melodious and long-winded digressions into science, engineering, philosophy, sociology, and most particularly of course, geology and meteorology. But ultimately this is a depressing novel and when you finally realize what the main pessimistic message of it is you wonder why he bothered writing those voluminous poetic descriptions of Tau Ceti and interstellar space at all.

I should have known that was coming when the protagonists left with the backers. I wanted so much to stay narratively with the stayers. I read the story to go into space, not to be told to stay home.

There is a good message about preserving the Earth and protecting it but it doesn’t have to be told at the expense of dreaming about the stars.

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