Tag: Reviews

Review: LADY OF MAZES by Karl Schroeder

Publisher’s Description:

Karl Schroeder is one of the new stars of hard SF. His novels, Ventus and
Permanence, have established him as a new force in the field. Now he extends his
reach into Larry Niven territory, returning to the same distant future in which
Ventus was set, but employing a broader canvas, to tell the story of Teven
Coronal, a ringworld with a huge multiplicity of human civilizations. Brilliant
but troubled Livia Kodaly is Teven’s only hope against invaders both human and
superhuman who would destroy its fragile ecologies and human diversity. Filled
with action, ideas, and intellectual energy, Lady of Mazes is the hard SF novel
of the year.


Like the last book I reviewed,
Rating: A

Lady of Mazes
is a novel full of big hard SF ideas, but here the
emphasis was on hard, rather than big, as in Hard to Read.  When I saw
the publisher’s description, I wondered if it was so Hard to Read that the
jacket copy writer couldn’t figure out how to synopsize it (in fact, the
book jacket has some other copy, but it’s provided in the form of quotes
from Charles Stross and Charles Harness). Schroeder comes up with some
delightful futuristic, post-human scenarios, but he does it so convincingly
that at times it’s a struggle just to keep up with what’s going on since I’m
just a regular non-post-human human. 

This novel is by no means entry level SF, which is
fine–not all SF is written for the novice reader (nor would I want it to
be).  However, this book was chosen as part of the Tor/SCI FI Channel
cross-promotion program called "SCI
FI Essentials
" (in which a science fiction novel is chosen each month to
be featured as the "Pick of the Month" and will be featured on SCIFI.com and
possibly in SCI FI Magazine),
and such a complex and difficult read would, I think, do more to turn off
new readers than bring in new ones.  People who think cutting edge
science fiction can be found on the SCI FI Channel (or on TV in general)
aren’t ready for this sort of thing.

Moh’s Hardness Scale is a "a crude but practical
method of comparing hardness or scratch resistance of minerals"
(see below).  I tend to categorize hard SF novels by how hard
they actually are.  Ben Bova writes hard SF, but what he writes is very
accessible, entry-level type stuff.  What he writes could be considered
say, gypsum hard SF.  On the other end of the spectrum is
Charles Stross who writes ambitious, yet incredibly dense and challenging
SF, or diamond hard SF.  This novel isn’t quite a diamond, but
comes close, as corundum hard SF.

So if you’re a hardcore SF geek, this book is sure to
entertain, though the effort of reading it might turn your brain to goo. 
Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

Mineral Moh
Diamond 10
Corundum 9
Topaz 8
Quartz 7
Feldspar 6
Apatite 5
Fluorspar 4
Calcite 3
Gypsum 2
Talc 1

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Review: SPIN by Robert Charles Wilson

SPIN by Robert Charles Wilson

Publisher’s Description:

One night in October when he was ten years old, Tyler Dupree stood in his
back yard and watched the stars go out. They all flared into brilliance at once,
then disappeared, replaced by a flat, empty black barrier. He and his best
friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as the Big Blackout.
It would shape their lives.

The effect is worldwide. The sun is now a featureless disk–a heat source,
rather than an astronomical object. The moon is gone, but tides remain. Not only
have the world’s artificial satellites fallen out of orbit, their recovered
remains are pitted and aged, as though they’d been in space far longer than
their known lifespans. As Tyler, Jason, and Diane grow up, space probe reveals a
bizarre truth: The barrier is artificial, generated by huge alien artifacts.
Time is passing faster outside the barrier than inside–more than a hundred
million years per day on Earth. At this rate, the death throes of the sun are
only about forty years in our future.

Jason, now a promising young scientist, devotes his life to working against this
slow-moving apocalypse. Diane throws herself into hedonism, marrying a sinister
cult leader who’s forged a new religion out of the fears of the masses.

Earth sends terraforming machines to Mars to let the onrush of time do its work,
turning the planet green. Next they send humans…and immediately get back an
emissary with thousands of years of stories to tell about the settling of Mars.
Then Earth’s probes reveal that an identical barrier has appeared around Mars.
Jason, desperate, seeds near space with self-replicating machines that will
scatter copies of themselves outward from the sun–and report back on what they

Life on Earth is about to get much, much stranger.


Spin is a superb novel full of Big Ideas, but
those Big Ideas don’t come at the expense of rich character development as
is so often the case with books of this sort.
has a real knack for creating characters one can empathize with and can
really grow to care about.  The famil
Rating: Ay
relationship depicted here, between the
Tyler Dupree, and his childhood friends Jason (the genius) and Diane (his
first, unrequited love), is the real driving force of this novel, and is
what makes it such a compelling page-turner.  The prose is clean and
fluid, and Wilson expertly paces the book, keeping the reader engaged and
anxious to find out what comes next.  This can be tricky in a novel
that spans several subjective years (and billions of relativistic years),
but Wilson pulls it off marvelously. 

Spin is exactly the sort of novel that I think we
need to see more of, one that infuses the reader with that gosh-wow sense of
wonder that many writers seem to have forgotten is the reason we all fell in
love with the genre in the first place. 

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