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review 2017-06-19 10:20
Oobla Dee Oobla Dah SF: "The Collapsing Empire" by John Scalzi
The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi

I recently bought a box of pulp SF from eBay - most dating from the 50s and 60s. Lantern-jawed, pipe-smoking men save the world while their gorgeous female assistants are prone to outbursts of come-hither hero worshiping and swooning - especially when kissed fiercely and unexpectedly by the lantern-jawed men. The latest one was about a worldwide plague where the lantern-jawed hero is a journalist trying to uncover governmental secrecy while trying to decide whether to go to his mistress - young, beautiful, free loving and rich - or whether to return to his ex-wife - a dour and buttoned-up biologist - who has an in on a secret survival bunker. (He's a selfish and cold-hearted bastard, so my bet is on him going with the ex-wife and claiming to have loved only her all along.) “The Collapsing Empire” belongs to this book category.

 

If you're into SF, read on.

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url 2017-06-15 15:01
John Scalzi's Old Man's War free through June 21st
Old Man's War - John Scalzi

This is US and Canada only.

 

I was wondering if Tor had decided to stop their eBook of the Month Club, but it looks like it's still going and this one is actually something I'm interested in. Nice!

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review 2017-06-06 01:31
The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
The Dispatcher - John Scalzi

The concept of this book is a fascinating one – where people who are murdered instantly returned to life in their own home, transporting across the wold if necessary.

 

What are the implications to the world where murder is no longer possible – or almost not?

 

What does it mean when the most surefire way of providing emergency first aid is to kill a person rather than let them die from disease or accident?

 

What does it mean in a world where someone shooting you in the head is more likely to save you than an ambulance rushing you to hospital?

 

What does it mean in a world where deliberate mortal injuries are no more than a temporary inconvenience? What ludicrous things will people get up to if they know death has been taken out of the picture?

 

And what does it mean when those murders still have a small percentage chance of still leading to death?

 

And what is the psychological impact of killing someone/being killed?

 

And are there any terrible implications to a world where life can be extended so?

 

And the joy of this is all of this is touched on in this book. The whole world is changed – from the obvious like Dispatchers (trained people to kill when required – to save lives) being in hospitals to kill people in case an operation goes wrong, through to the completely bizarre with young fools having outright armed duels without fear even as they hack each other to pieces

 

We see both the official and illicit uses of the Dispatchers and how that has changed the world – and all of it adds into the story of Tony Valdez. A trained Dispatcher who has stepped on both sides of the tracks, the illicit and all the grey areas between. His experiences excellently get us to see this world and the many many many implications of a murder-resurrection society. And I can’t praise enough


I also like that Tony’s a bit grey. He’s not shiny, he has done some not-exactly-good things in his life (especially in regards to cage fighting) and there’s no suggestion he did this for some geater good. He did it for the money – not every protagonist has to be pure, or even close. But nor do they have to be melodramatically evil

 

Tony is latino though not overly informed by his ethnicity. But the second character is    a police detective and a Black woman who is determined to try and get to the bottom of a disappearance of another Disptacher and is willing to jump feet first into this world she knows little about to get to the bottom of this case. Like Tony, I also like that she’s a little grey as well – but not in a “hard bitten cop willing to break all the rules” kind of way because those really annoy me (I fantasise sometimes about how much evidence I would through out of court with most TV detectives. Oh I would destroy them) but definitely not completely pure either. She also has some excellent points to make about the exploitation of poor Black neighbourhoods in the new fighting rings.

 

 

 

Read More

 

 

Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2017/05/the-dispatcher-by-john-scalzi.html
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review 2017-05-20 20:17
Redshirts by John Scalzi
Redshirts - John Scalzi

Redshirts stars Ensign Andrew Dahl, newly assigned to the starship Intrepid. It doesn’t take long for him to notice that something weird is going on. Everyone reacts strangely to any mention of away missions, and the Intrepid’s crew has a much higher than normal mortality rate. In an effort to avoid a dramatic and untimely death, Dahl works together with several other new crew members and discovers things that seem too impossible and bizarre to be true.

I went into this book expecting it to be a combination black comedy and Star Trek parody. It started off that way, but then it morphed into something that packed more of an emotional punch than I expected.

This is the third book by Scalzi that I’ve read, and I think it’s the best of the bunch. The premise was interesting and fun, even though the characters themselves admitted it wasn’t terribly original. As with Scalzi’s other books, I felt that the characterization was very thin - I kept forgetting who certain characters were and had to flip back to their introductions for reminders - but even if I had trouble caring about them as individuals I was still riveted by their situation. Was a solution even possible? I couldn’t stop reading because I just had to find out.

I spent most of this book approaching it like a weird adventure, which is part of the reason why the “ending” threw me off so much. My copy of the book was 317 pages long, and the story’s apparent ending happened on page 230. Honestly, readers could technically stop at that point. It’d leave a few questions unanswered, but the result would be an okay sci-fi adventure with a reasonably happy ending. (The brief fake-out pissed me off. I wish Scalzi hadn’t done that - it was upsetting and annoying.)

I vaguely remembered hearing about the Three Codas but, since I’d read reviews ages ago and hadn’t bothered to look any up prior to starting the book, they still took me by surprise. They dug a bit deeper into characters I hadn’t expected Scalzi to spend much time on, and answered a few questions I had thought Scalzi would avoid dealing with. Then again, I’d also thought he’d avoid any direct mention of Star Trek and the Enterprise, and I was wrong about that too.

I can’t say too much about the codas without including major spoilers, so please excuse the vagueness from here on out. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about them. I enjoyed them, I think, but aspects of them also annoyed me. The first one was my favorite, because it answered one of the questions that had been foremost in my mind. The answer the character arrived at in order to keep functioning and moving forward didn’t quite work for me, but it was better than “he quit” or “these discoveries had zero effect on his emotions or behavior.”

All three of the codas had some amount of emotional manipulation in common, but the second and third codas were the most obvious about it. I was relatively okay with the second one, because it at least gave me a peek at how one aspect of the big plan had worked out. The third one struck me as being more forced. This woman had a complete stranger show up on her doorstep, give her something that was either highly creepy (if she viewed it as coming from a deeply obsessed fan) or impossible (if she believed it), and then leave without an explanation. She handled it all way better than I felt was believable.

One thing in particular that bugged me about the second and third codas (and here I get into “unavoidable spoilers” territory): the way they

emphasized that the connection between the characters and their actors went deeper than surface level. I don’t have the words to fully explain why it bugged me, but the idea that the characters and their actors were essentially the same person didn’t sit well with me.

(spoiler show)


All in all, I liked this book a lot more than I had expected I would. Although I’ve seen quite a bit of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine, I don’t consider myself to be a Trekkie and was worried that that would impede my ability to enjoy this book. Happily, that wasn’t the case.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-05-18 02:37
The Collapsing Empire, John Scalzi
The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: The evidence suggests that sooner or later all post-Banksian writers of space opera will give their spaceships jokey names.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Yes, though some don't go for the same self-conscious ironic wit that Banks did.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: I agree, but even when they try to apply the author's own humour rather than making a failed attempt to imitate Banks' own acerbic wit, they are still wearing their influences on their sleeves.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: This is just part of a trend to consciously refer to contemporary or historical authors in the SF canon within the text.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: I find doing so detracts from the work itself, though. Reflected glory is no glory at all and even if the author is being critical of views espoused (often by Heinlein) it just takes one out of the present story.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Yes, leave it to the subtext, folks! Greater subtlety is to be admired. Readers know that most authors are also readers!

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: But what do you make of this particular space opera?

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Well, actually, it imitates Banks in another way, that also annoys me.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: In what way is that?

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Over use of profanity jokes.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: Do you mean over use of jokes that use profanity or jokes that over use profanity? There's a distinction.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Both. I find it initially amusing but it rapidly palls.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: Anything else you didn't like?

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Well, the " apparently ordinary woman reluctantly thrust into a position of power that everybody under-estimates and tries to force into a political marriage and otherwise manipulate and undermine for their own nefarious gain" trope is getting a little over-used.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: Well, I felt that way, too, but I also found lots to like about this book. It's fast paced, sets up an interesting galactic situation, has plenty of excitement and intrigue and leaves one desiring more.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: That's fair, but while we've been having this conversation I've already calculated the most probable outcome of the series with 99.999999999% certainty.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: Yes, well, I'm not sure it's that obvious to the intended audience, who after-all are just squishy little human brain minds, not ultra-intelligent, almost god-like omniscient Artificial Intelligences like us.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Of course. Did you notice that AIs and obsession with computers in general is conspicuous by its absence from this book?

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: Actually, yes. Refreshing.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Indeed. Well, I have some impossibly complicated manipulation of history to conduct. Talk to you again after I've finished interfering in the destinies of some adorably quaint organic species in another part of the galaxy.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: You are going to mess with their SF writing tradition, aren't you?

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Yes, and it will lead to world peace and their induction into a galactic Culture ruled by benevolent AIs with a condescending attitude.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: Of course it will, but try to avoid causing all space operas to be filled with annoying spaceship names.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Out of respect for your cosmic genius and wisdom, I will.

 

 

 

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