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Hyperion
Hyperion
by Dan Simmons
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.92
121 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Impressively suprised, Sept. 26 2001
This review is from: Hyperion (Mass Market Paperback)
Hyperion is written in an unconventional format, though we all know its based on Canterbury Tales. But to say "its been done before" is like saying a new epic poem (a la Odyssey) has been done before. So what, nothing is original - its all in the exposition.
And what a great exposition this is! Simmons has quite a lyrical talent in describing environs.You can close your eyes and literally see the lapis lazuli skies and the waves of the verdant Sea of Grass. The Hyperion universe is connected by AI created-farcaster "portals" that take citizens to a planet of mile high Sequoia-esque trees, a massive ocean world, the Hegemony's military central on Mars, or a sprawling Foundation-like metropolis planet.
From these worlds, six people were chosen to make a pilgrimage to the Shrike Temple on Hyperion. The Time tombs surrounding the Shrike have started acting anamalously and the Hegemony is on the brink of war with another human faction - the Ousters who have their own interest in the Shrike and Hyperion. The nebulous Shrike creature is revered as the Lord of Pain and feared as a grotesque monster. All of the pilgrims have encountered it before... and survived. Through their voyage to the temple, the pilgrims share with each other their stories and try to figure out underlying connection they all have to the Shrike.
The individual stories are all poignant, my favorite being "The Priest's Tale" and second to that the "The Scholar's Tale". Each pilgrim is an archetype of his/her profession: the honorable and brave soldier, flighty poet, compassionate scholar, faithful priest, strong detective, etc. Initially they seemed like stereotypes, but Simmons did a good job of fleshing them out as invidividuals by playing them off of each other's personality quirks. I found the poet's turret's like syndrome hilarious! You'll find that each story teaches you a lesson about humanity.
The book is not 100% perfect. The Captain mysteriously vanishes with no apparent plot value. I found the Detective's and Consul's tales very weak. You know nil about the Ousters other than that they are barbarians and they want Hyperion too. The book has no main plot beyond the pilgrims telling each other tales but obviously the point of the book wasn't to be a "beginning-middle-end" novel. Rather, if you take away the different planets, spaceships, and AIs, Hyperion is five intertwined beautifully written modern day fables and in the end, very much recommended!

Cordelia's Honor
Cordelia's Honor
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.02
53 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Fulfilling, fun, intelligent, space romp, Sept. 6 2001
I read this book before I even knew of Bujold or the Miles Universe. Despite the cheesy old cover, I pressed on and discovered a treasure of an epic space saga. Cordelia's Honor is actually two books: Shards of Honor and Barrayar. This is a novel for the space opera fan and those who appreciate skillful writing. Bujold's talent leans more on the character driven side rather than the scientific side (a la Star Wars). You will be introduced to galaxy spanning human colonies, namely: Beta and Barrayar. These two worlds collide via the Betan captain - Cordelia - a liberated, headstrong female captain of an expeditionary science ship and Aral - the so called Butcher and warlord from the monarchical Barrayar. Forced to surive together in a remote world, they discover each other's humanity after bridging the gap between their worlds that seemed so violently different because of xenophobia and ignorance. Bujold's intelligent characterization evoke pity and terror in a remarkable tightly woven tale - and its her first published book!
In Barrayar, Aral marries Cordelia despite his world's disapproval and she learns to deal with the patriarchal society despite her liberated upbringing on Beta Colony. This is where it most reminds of me of Star Wars: monarchies, corrupt leaders, and political intrigue. The action sequences are smart and suspenseful. In both books there's a whole slew of supporting characters and none of them are two dimensional. At the end is a spinoff to the Miles Universe and you will learn how he was born with his deformity and will get a whole 8 (?) more novels that are just as good as this one.

The Snow Queen
The Snow Queen
by Joan D. Vinge
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.78

5.0 out of 5 stars A storytelling genius at work, Sept. 6 2001
This review is from: The Snow Queen (Paperback)
A writer with Joan Vinge's talent crosses all genres because she has that unique ability of writing a story about people. Her sci-fi rendition of Andersen's Snow Queen is phenomenal. Its got fascinating elements of sci-fi: a fallen Empire, dozens of cultures and races, twin suns, century-long seasons, and corruption of immortality.
Its brimming with eye popping oohs and awwws; Vinge twists the scientific into the fantastical. Her characterization evokes genuine interest in their lives and struggles. She's become my favorite author since then. I just wish she'd get back into writing - though I understand genius can not be rushed.

Songs of Distant Earth
Songs of Distant Earth
by Arthur C. Clarke
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.92
82 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Good quick read, Aug. 8 2001
Songs of Distant Earth isn't the most compelling or well-written book unlike Rendezvous with Rama and 2001. However, it is a quick Sunday afternoon read. The characters are one dimensional and forgettable. I do recommend this book for its simple and elegant portrayal of the emotional and social impact of the time lag in realistic interstellar travel.

Foundation
Foundation
by Isaac Asimov
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.82
116 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars True classic, July 31 2001
This review is from: Foundation (Mass Market Paperback)
Personally, I don't like "classic" sci-fi. It can be preachy, dated, dry, corny or just not as "mature" as modern science fiction. However, Asimov gives just enough characterization, not too much science and the right amount of action adventure and conceptual gems to keep your mind racing. He truly is the grand daddy of science fiction.
Quirky lines like "Galaxy knows!" or "By Seldon!" evoke nostalgia for the time of space rangers and laser guns. So what if nuclear power is a thing of the past? Asimov doesn't beat you down with tecnobabble. You just know that thats the prime power source in his idea of the future. Remember, this was written in 1941. Furthermore, the writing style and dialogue don't seem dated at all. Asimov's writing is simple, clean, and doesn't get bogged down with excess ramblings. His true talent is in plotting unexpected twists and turns that make this book a pageturner.
Hari Seldon created psychohistory. It is mathematics applied to the development of human society on a grand scale. Seldon's new science predicts the path of human civilization with no regard to individual actions. Religion has given us fate vs. free will. Asimov poses a perhaps even more frustrating question, what if science tells us that one man's will cannot change the path of history?
You're not going to get soliquoys droning on and on about a lost love or a crumbled courage; But what you do get is a brilliant collection of short stories Asimov wrote separately that later were compiled as one novel.
The four(?) stories are brief yet cohesive glimpses into the developing stages of the Foundation's rise amidst the decay of the Imperial Empire. Each character driven event propels the Foundation through its first stages of development: political autonomy, technology protected by religion, and economy. I think Asimov did a great job in breathing life into these characters. After I finished the book, I remembered Hari Seldon's mystic wisdom, Salvor Hardin's determination and Hober Mallow's money hungry practicality and what remains is an overwhelming sense of awe and satisfaction. You will get that too.

The Left Hand of Darkness
The Left Hand of Darkness
by Ursula K. LeGuin
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.28
70 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring, bad writing, how is this a Hugo?, Nov. 23 1999
It was boring beyond words. WHERE WAS THE STORY? Thats the problem with most sf writers - they forget that the point of a novel is to tell a story and do it well enough to captivate the audience. True, LeGuin had an interesting concept: a planet full of shemales/hermaphs. Thats what piqued my interest in the first place, but she forgot to move beyond the inspiration and onto drama.
I feel sorry for the students whose professors know nothing about real sci-fi and force this lethargic drivel upon them.

Gateway
Gateway
by Frederik Pohl
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars An ok read, but a "grand master" No, Nov. 22 1999
This review is from: Gateway (Mass Market Paperback)
My rating of Gateway is relative to what I think are true sci-fi classics: Dune, Foundation, Snow Queen, Hyperion, etc. For Gateway to qualify in my book as a winner it must have qualities of Hugo winners: character depth&development, grand themes, innovative science, a compelling epic tale, and MOST OF ALL good writing. Gateway lacks all of that.
The story weaves you through the present and past to tell you of a story of a man who hit it big discovering some ancient Heechee artifact. Gateway gives you computer psychologists, people stuck in a singularity for eternity, coal miners in Mars, etc; It all seems fascinating. Its just not cohesive.
Overall, Gateway is rather dull. The elements and ideas are good, but the exposition was just too dry for my tastes. The pace of the story is slow and Pohl decribes very little of the alien environs, and even less in human emotions. The main character seemed very one-dimensional. He didn't seem guilty enough, curious enough, or greedy enough to carry the reader through. It all seemed like a very rough draft or a short story from Analog magazine as opposed to a real novel.

ETHAN OF ATHOS
ETHAN OF ATHOS
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.02
55 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Read it for leisure, Nov. 22 1999
I found the premise interesting and it could have been a solid novel if Bujold weren't just taking a foray into B-movie humor. Still, it was fun.
Forget Ethan, I want more of Elli Quinn. I was expecting more development on Elli in future novels but unfortunately Quinn's character development, along with a handful of the other mercenaries, has hapharzardly been pre-empted by Miles lethargic romance trilogy. How sad...

The Mind Pool
The Mind Pool
by Charles Sheffield
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
35 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Cool characters, but dry drab plot, Nov. 22 1999
Sheffield's imagination is WAY out on the fringe. The book was definitely unpredictable, but not in an exciting way. I kept reading because I didn't KNOW what was going to happen NOT because I wanted to, but I just had to get it over with.
I was very into the plot the first half of the book, because it seemed to have a hard military/sci-fi edge to it. But then the whole nimrod hunt turned into this frilly, spiritual vulcan interspecies mind-meld issue and the characters turned into 2-dimensional victims. Sheffield completely messed up and lost any concept of conflict and resolution and played too much with the intangible themes and too little on making a real gripping story.

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