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review 2018-07-13 18:35
Tripoint / C.J. Cherryh
Tripoint - C.J. Cherryh

Merchanter Cargo Chief Marie Hawkins has never forgiven the crime, nor sought justice. Only vengeance. And, for 23 years, the Hawkins's clan ship, Sprite, has lived with her vendetta - and with her son, Tom, the boy sired in the violent assault.

Marie's attacker, Austin Bowe, is captain of the Corinthian. When both ships dock at Mariner Station, Marie vanishes and Tom searches for his mother...only to find himself trapped on Austin's ship with a half-brother he never knew he had and a crew fanatically loyal to Bowe. Now as the Corinthian flees the pursuing Sprite and a raider guns after both, the lives on board the two Merchanter ships are in the hands of Tom Hawkins. To save them all, Tom must trust his sworn enemy...His father.

 

 

Normally, I enjoy Cherryh’s work a lot—but this novel I struggled with. It’s that whole “story based entirely on a rape” scenario that I have a hard time with. I’m having exactly the same difficulty with Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap series, which I still plan to continue on with and it’s the reason that I stopped reading Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series after two books.

I had hoped that Cherryh would make Marie Hawkins a more understandable character, a woman who had a son as a result of a long-ago rape and dealt with it. Instead, it seemed to me that Marie was pretty unstable and had made her son Tom’s mental state questionable too. Is it a good thing when the son is better off as a prisoner/crew member with his pirate father than with his mother on a family ship? I guess this is Cherryh’s exploration of some of those problems that we can’t seem to get rid of, rape and child abuse. I don’t know about you, but I really want to believe that we can conquer those problems before we make it into space. Perhaps I watched too much Star Trek as a child.

The ending made me happier with the book, so if you find yourself floundering during the first chapters like I did, I would encourage you to read on. I’m not saying the end justifies the means, but I was quite satisfied with the end result.

Book number 290 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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review 2018-06-19 16:12
Wizard's First Rule / Terry Goodkind
Wizard's First Rule - Terry Goodkind

In the aftermath of the brutal murder of his father, a mysterious woman, Kahlan Amnell, appears in Richard Cypher's forest sanctuary seeking help . . . and more.

His world, his very beliefs, are shattered when ancient debts come due with thundering violence. In a dark age it takes courage to live, and more than mere courage to challenge those who hold dominion, Richard and Kahlan must take up that challenge or become the next victims. Beyond awaits a bewitching land where even the best of their hearts could betray them. Yet, Richard fears nothing so much as what secrets his sword might reveal about his own soul. Falling in love would destroy them--for reasons Richard can't imagine and Kahlan dare not say.

In their darkest hour, hunted relentlessly, tormented by treachery and loss, Kahlan calls upon Richard to reach beyond his sword--to invoke within himself something more noble. Neither knows that the rules of battle have just changed . . . or that their time has run out.

 

I’ve read quite a number of “high fantasy” epics as part of my SFF reading project and the Sword of Truth series is yet another one. Maybe I’ve read a few too many of these series over the past couple of years, as I was quite weary by the end of the first 100 pages. Goodkind believes in getting right to it—by 100 pages we are introduced to Richard Cypher (our chosen one for this series), Kahlan Amnell (his love interest & travel companion), and Zedd (the obligatory wizard). Not only that, Richard’s brother is set up as the corrupt politician who is going to cause trouble later. I guess it’s a toss-up between those who don’t want too much exposition or description and those who would like a gentler introduction to this new fantasy world. I cut my high fantasy teeth on Tolkien, so I tend to favour more introductory material before plunging into the adventure.

Warnings to those who are sensitive souls: both torture and pedophilia are aspects of this story. If you choose your TBR based on avoiding these issues, strike this book from your reading agenda. The torture section, where Richard is in the power of a Mord-Sith, Denna, is rather long and dwells lingeringly on her brutal treatment of Richard. We learn about what Mord-Sith are right along with Richard. Needless to say, they are on the Evil side of the equation in this story.

Richard’s talents appear to be a questioning nature, insisting on getting to the truth of things, and an ability to see things from another’s perspective and appreciate them despite their behaviour. This is how he manages to find an affection for Mistress Denna and sweet talk a dragon, among other diplomatic coups. The fact that he is portrayed as a highly unusual man because of these capabilities (to empathize with others) I leave to your judgement.

Richard and Kahlan have a whole Romeo-and-Juliet plot line going through most of the book, probably one of the oldest plot devices going. If you’ve read The Lord of the Rings you will also see echoes of Wormtongue when you consider Richard’s brother Michael and hints of Gollum when you read about the former Seeker who has been distorted by magic. Not to mention Zedd’s tendencies to give incomplete advice and to disappear when he is most needed, rather like Gandalf.

I think that perhaps my adoration of modern urban fantasy is a reaction to the plethora of rather medieval settings and simplistic good-vs-evil plots of much of high fantasy. There’s a place for both and I enjoy them both—they use many of the same tropes, after all—but we all need variety in both our physical and reading diets.

Book number 289 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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text 2018-06-16 22:13
Reading progress update: I've read 564 out of 836 pages.
Wizard's First Rule - Terry Goodkind

 

Wizard's First Rule:  People are stupid.  (But don't tell any one).

 

Apparently librarians are wizards too, because I think its our first rule as well (also unspoken).

 

 

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text 2018-06-15 21:20
Reading progress update: I've read 157 out of 836 pages.
Wizard's First Rule - Terry Goodkind

 

I kind of feel bad (kinda).  My usual lunch companion has today off work.  Which meant I got to read a few more pages on my lunch break.  Squee!!

 

Grocery shopping after work, then home to devote myself to this book.

 

Have a great weekend!

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review 2018-06-15 17:29
Red Mars / Kim Stanley Robinson
Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson

For eons, sandstorms have swept the desolate landscape. For centuries, Mars has beckoned humans to conquer its hostile climate. Now, in 2026, a group of 100 colonists is about to fulfill that destiny.

John Boone, Maya Toitavna, Frank Chalmers & Arkady Bogdanov lead a terraforming mission. For some, Mars will become a passion driving them to daring acts of courage & madness. For others it offers an opportunity to strip the planet of its riches. For the genetic alchemists, it presents a chance to create a biomedical miracle, a breakthrough that could change all we know about life & death. The colonists orbit giant satellite mirrors to reflect light to the surface. Black dust sprinkled on the polar caps will capture warmth. Massive tunnels, kilometers deep, will be drilled into the mantle to create stupendous vents of hot gases. Against this backdrop of epic upheaval, rivalries, loves & friendships will form & fall to pieces--for there are those who will fight to the death to prevent Mars from ever being changed.

 

A “hard” science fiction book which takes the reader to Mars with the First Hundred settlers, tasked with making the planet livable for humans. There’s a lot of science in this one, folks, and not presented in Andy Weir’s humorous fashion as in The Martian. There were actually a couple of equations and diagrams, so if that kind of stuff gives you a rash, strike this book from your TBR.

Now, I’m generally a preferential fantasy reader, but I’m also a fan of science fiction, even occasionally this kind of technical science fiction, but I found the amount of detail about the building of things, the science of trying to change the atmosphere, the geology, etc., to be a bit excessive. If all the science-y stuff really turns your crank, you will love Red Mars.

This author could really have taken some lessons on describing landscapes from Zane Grey. Grey wrote romantic westerns in the early 20th century and is acknowledged for his beautiful descriptions of the settings of his tales. Mars in this book becomes rather like a wild west, also with some awesome (in the original sense of that word) landscape features, but they tend to be described in terms of physics, rather than the beauty that is inherent in them. Having seen the movie version of The Martian with its gorgeous planetary scenes, I feel there was room for a bit less utilitarian description of the features of Mars.

I’m glad that the author chose to have women in the First Hundred and that a couple of them achieve high standing among them. That said, there were some dynamics in the group that were awfully predictable. The two people who reach the highest are, of course, white American men. The author is a white American man, and its true that these positions have been disproportionately inhabited by that demographic, but wouldn’t it be more interesting if someone else rose to that level on Mars? There’s a lot of talk about building a new, fresh society, but things end up back in the old rut. (Perhaps that’s what the author intended, to be fair). There are also Russians on this mission, but they are stereotypically fixated on socialism and revolutionary plans. The two Russian women followed throughout the book are polar opposites—Maya is beautiful, emotional, flighty, and manipulative, while Nadia is plain, practical, solid, and steady. I loved Nadia, despite the fact that she was an engineer’s engineer, totally fixated on building and problem solving. But really, are those the only roles available to us? Beautiful prima donnas or practical Plain Janes?

I liked the book well enough that I will read the next one in the series, and not just because it is part of my reading project, but it will never be one of my favourites. And that’s okay, because it will be loved by the people who love this kind of book.

Book number 288 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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