My first novel is available!

Read Singular

Science Fiction

Transition

It was bound to happen. Banks is experimental in his writing and sometimes those experiments resonate with me, other times they backfire.

read more

Ninefox Gambit

Nominated for a Hugo and a Nebula, this is award-winning science fiction. That said, I wouldn’t recommend it to my casual reading friends. While I’ve enjoyed other works in the subgenre of Military Sci-Fi, this one was too fragmentary and confusing for many outsiders or infrequent sci-fi readers to really grok.

read more

The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture)

This is slightly more difficult to review, mostly because I was sad during the entire reading of the novel as it was the very last of the Culture series. This has been my favorite series in all of science fiction (even with the up and down of some of the more experimental volumes) and with the untimely passing of Mr. Banks, there will not be another. Ever.

read more

Surface Detail (Culture)

Another Banks masterpiece. This was a very well-crafted story written in the post-modern literary style of a very talented author.

read more

American Gods

I’m not sure I understand this book very well. Perhaps I wasn’t looking deeply enough, but it seemed to be more ambient than purposeful, by which I mean, everything was described very beautifully but nothing seemed to matter that much. It also didn’t help that the story was punctuated with so many asides, quotations, and short stories that it felt more like a collection than a single story.

read more

Matter (Culture)

To say this was a complicated book would be to undersell the very notion of complex. Not that it wasn’t comprehensible, far from it, but without the appendix provided at the back, managing the mental gymnastics of all the characters, species, ships, planets, etc. would have been excessively burdensome. It’s still a little shocking to read a piece of fiction which requires an appendix, but there it is.

read more

Look to Windward (Culture)

Playful. Witty. Magnificent. Masterful. These are just a few descriptors I could apply to this incredibly well built story from Iain M. Banks. I really loved The Player of Games but Look to Windward may have surpassed it.

read more

Inversions (Culture)

Every book I’ve read by Banks has been different from the last. Inversions, is no exception. In many ways, Inversions is the answer to the question, “What would it be like if Banks wrote a political intrigue fantasy novel?” A most unusual addition to the Culture series, this book takes place entirely on one planet, there are no space ships, there are no drones, and it is limited in feature entirely to a medieval planet.

read more

Nebula Awards Showcase 2015

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been catching up on short stories and thought it might be nice to look at what the Nebula’s have been awarding in recent years (technically this volume collects the 2013 awards). I’m continually impressed by the power of certain short short stories which, though they have few words, carry more weight than stories ten times their size.

read more

Caliban's War (The Expanse)

I’m really enjoying this series. It is pure fun in space. Quintessential space opera. Heavy on the action, but with really fun character dynamics as well. I could certainly complain about a few things, but when you compose 595 pages of material, you’re bound to create some edge-cases for any audience. The fact that so much of the book comes off so well is a testament to this writing duo’s ability to entertain.

The Handmaid's Tale

A literary work of speculative fiction that falls squarely in the camp of dystopian, similar to 1984 though oriented around gender issues. Highly recommend it, especially in the present dystopia in which we live.

The Collapsing Empire

I read this book on a lazy Sunday afternoon and enjoyed the time spent. There is much to commend the book, Scalzi’s voice which includes the predictably snarky characters (especially Kiva), the premise of the Flow, a space empire, etc., but I ultimately felt that there wasn’t enough of an arc to the plot to really feel satisfied at the ending. I’ll buy the next one in the series when it comes out and hope for a stronger finish.

Moving Mars

I really enjoyed this book. Excellent pacing, fantastic hard science speculation, and a protagonist that changes before your eyes. Very cool.

The Stars My Destination

One part Count of Monte Cristo, another part proto-cyberpunk, this groundbreaking novel is unusual, to say the least. Some of the literary devices will either drive you away or keep you intrigued. Not my cup of tea, per se, but I can understand why it's referenced so heavily.

Excession (Culture)

I consider Banks to be one of the finest writers I've ever read, full stop. While I enjoyed this book, it had a number of confusing exchanges and the plot itself was more complicated than the majority of fiction I've read. An open mind comfortable holding many separate threads of activity in apparent orthogonality will be required to enjoy this book fully.

Red Mars (Mars Trilogy)

Novel is the word which comes to mind for this book and perhaps the series which follows. Not driven by a single character or plot, it's more like Foundation on Mars. The most in-depth book I've ever read on colonization in the future, the details on the progression of the Mars colony is simply stunning. Clarke said it should be required reading. I'd say it's a challenging, but ultimately rewarding, read for advanced sci-fi enthusiasts.

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch)

Another space opera, but completely different in almost every way. This book is well known for its unique choice of almost entirely female pronouns which initially sounded quirky but was executed quite purposefully. It also had the most dialog of probably any book I've read, which was quite the departure from the action heavy plots in recent reads. This book took home the triple crown of awards, so it's definitely worth the read.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

The Paper Menagerie, Mono no aware, and The Litigation Master and the Monkey King are all very powerful stories, capable of evoking strong -- mostly sad -- emotions. I'm especially impressed with the titular story, very well done.

Stories of Your Life and Others

Reading Banks, Ken Liu, and Chiang at roughly the same time makes for an interesting foray into short fiction. Comparitively, Chiang tends to focus more on idea tales; developing a concept to a rational extreme and then arguing for an interpretation of the outcome.

The State of the Art (Culture)

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around short stories lately. Mostly, if not entirely, based in his Culture world, Banks tells several smaller tales and one larger one that range from really weird to quite good. Ultimately I was awed again by his writing skill and fascinated by his concept of the future as embodied in the Culture themselves. Since it builds on an existing world, it’s difficult to compare to other collections. It also struck me as very experimental in form, like Banks just had to do something different with each story.

Leviathan Wakes

This was an excellent space opera, fun to read, engaging and entertaining. That it's also the start of a series makes it even more exciting as I have more to look forward to in the future. Critically I have some points which I felt could have been improved, but that could be said of almost every book. If you're looking for a big story set in the context of the solar system, I think you'll enjoy this.

Use of Weapons (Culture)

Well, this one was a bit befuddling. The choice of structure, where the storyline proceeds forward on odd chapters and backwards on even -- while clever -- ultimately made the book more difficult to appreciate. The unnecessary, and not entirely helpful, reversal at the end only distanced me even more. I have to say, the Series as a whole is shaping up to be unexpected and uneven.

The Player of Games (Culture)

I read quite a few books this year that belong on canonical Best of Science Fiction lists, The City and the Stars, The Three Body Problem, and so forth.

read more

City at the End of Time

Potentially the most complex piece of science fiction I've ever read. To understand what is happening requires your full attention. Even at the end, I'm not entirely sure I understand the whole thing. Challenging read.

Darwin's Radio

This is an awesome book! Scientific thriller of the first order. Very engaging read. Honestly, if you haven't read Eon, Darwin's Radio, and Blood Music, you should set down everything and read them.

Rendezvous with Rama

I'm not sure I've read a book that conveyed the distilled essence of exploration such as this one. I loved it.

The City and the Stars

In my ongoing quest to find the origin of the "boy wonder" sub-genre of Science Fiction, this remarkable work by Clarke elevates the genre to a whole new level. As I was reading it I was consistently asking myself, "Can this book really be this good?" In short, it is amazing. One of my new favorites for sure.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go

Thorougly perplexing. Anthropological and philosophical, this book explores their junction through the premise of an alien resurrection.

Agent to the Stars

In short, this book was entertaining. If you're looking for a sharp wit, straight-forward humor, and a good laugh, this is perfect.

The Martian Chronicles

I don't believe I was the right audience for this book. I generally don't read poetry, and this read more like an anthology of poems than a novel.

The High Crusade

A delightful frolick through a hilarious what-if situation, what if 14th century Englishmen captured an alien spaceship and went on a galactic adventure? Immensely enjoyable, lighthearted, and very clever. My first read from Anderson and now I want to read much more.

Consider Phlebas (Culture)

Finally back to science fiction, this brainy work is an interesting introduction to the Culture series. Originally piqued by the SpaceX naming of their recovery barges after characters in this series, I'm interested to see how it develops. While I enjoy the vivid imagery of this first book, I wasn't particularly in step with the characters or their motivations. Still, it was an interesting read and I've been told the series only gets better.

1984 (Signet Classics)

This is a very difficult book to review. I hated it and I loved it, evoking the feeling of doublethink which is a cornerstone premise of the work. If the world is one big computer program, then 1984 is a programmer's manual found by chance that explains how it all works. Politics, power, the manipulation of people. 1984 is the despot's best friend, and the libertarians only hope of freedom. But oh my, it's horribly depressing. Several times I wanted to stop reading, but I had to know if Winston would stand firm. In the end, this is a work of art, written in the fashion of literature, that I don't want to ever read again.

Off to Be the Wizard (Magic 2.0)

Light hearted and sometimes obvious in its humor, this is an enjoyable story of a nerd discovering a kind of magic he can relate to. Perhaps more on the Fantasy end of the spectrum, though the apparatus of the magic is technology, I still enjoyed this diversion from the harder sci-fi of late. It's a series, so perhaps I might read more. Will you like it? Are you a nerd that had a Commodore 64 and wished you could fly? Venn Diagram completed.

The Man in the High Castle

PKD's finest work, The Man in the High Castle is scintillating literature in the tradition of Vonnegut and only barely resembles the category of science fiction. It is absolutely nothing like the Amazon produced series (just as Blade Runner barely mirrors Do Androids?), but each are intriguing in their own way. Honestly, I'm still puzzled as to what this book means, but perhaps that is its very point. . .I'll need to consult the I Ching.

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

An immensely enjoyable tale with a clever point of view. Like Star Trek? Ever wonder what it must feel like to be one of the disposable cast of extras, seemingly killed off each episode for ratings? Then you'll enjoy this fun read. Only critique I would give is that the author holds dogmatically to Stephen Kings "thou shalt only use 'said' for dialog tags", so the audio book version gets confusing at times, but if you can ignore that, you'll love it!

The Dark Forest

Carrying forward the incredible story from the Three Body Problem, this may be the most thoughtful Sci-Fi on this list and is shaping up to be the best trilogy I've read. The scenarios of the Wallfacers, the intrigue of the Wallbreakers, and the incredible plot twists throughout make this a must read. Couldn't recommend it more, though many folks have said it bogs down at the beginning.

Old Man's War

Scalzi is channeling Heinlein in this enjoyable space marines epic which is built around the twist of sending old, rather than young, folks to war. I'll have to check out the sequel some time.

The Windup Girl

Absolutely loved the book. . .except for two incredibly graphic rape scenes which violated the titular character. Not entirely sure why. . .

Snow Crash

This well loved book didn't quite resonate with me. I'm not sure why, but the parody/hyperbole was just a bit too foreign for me to grasp.

Neuromancer

I remember really enjoying this one as a kid, but it wasn't quite the same on the re-read. I appreciate the fever-dream quality which Gibson brought to the work. He truly is a master and this bears that fingerprint.

Armada

It is difficult not to compare with Ready Player One, but I think it's better to set that aside and enjoy this book on its own. If you do, you'll find a fun tribute to "The Last Starfighter."

Starship Troopers

What was the movie thinking? If you've seen it and think you know what Heinlein was writing about, you are mistaken. This book is esprit de corp, the existential joy of fighting alongside brethren for a common purpose. With a good bit of military realism thrown in as well. Loved it.

Blood Music

Without a doubt, Blood Music by Greg Bear is an ingenious work of science fiction.

read more

Childhood's End

Visionary science fiction. An alien arrival with religious overtones forces the reader to question their beliefs in this alternate history of Earth (at least that is how I think of it). By the end, if you're not asking existential questions about humanity and our purpose, then you didn't read it!

2001: A Space Odyssey

I love the cadence of Clark's writing, there's just something very _clear_ about it. That said, this is a decent book but not my favorite from him.

The Forever War

The Forever War marks my first foray into the genre of science-fiction known as Space Marine

read more

The Martian

It is a travesty that I haven't written a long review of this. LOVE THIS BOOK. Much more witty than the movie, which was very well made.

Second Foundation

And now it is time to review Second Foundation, the final book in the original Foundation Trilogy. Again Asimov has crafted his book into two main parts, the

read more

Foundation and Empire, Part 1

Published in two parts, this is truly two complete stories in one. The first part "The General" was published in April 1945 in Astounding Science Fiction as "Dead Hand", with the latter part "The Mule"...

read more

Foundation

I will make no attempt at a critical review, in the traditional sense, instead I will just

read more

Zack

Reading List Update

A long time ago I brought up the matter of reading Computer Science books to backfill my education on the matter.

read more

Eon

Another one that I really need to write a long review. . .this book is awesome. Hard science, crazy out there ramifications of science that still feel like they might be plausible, and a really interesting story to boot.

Dune

Yeah, best sci-fi of all time and I NEED to write a review. I know. This is so high for me because it (as far as I know), originated a lot of the elements of modern sci-fi that I prize, stuff later found in Ender's Game and the like.

Ready Player One

OMG, so much fun in the nostalgic romp that is this trip through VR and the 80s. Wildly entertaining and worthy of a full length review.

Ender's Game

This may have been the book that got me fired up about Sci-Fi originally, and then when I re-read it a number of years back. Incredible execution of the child-genius motif (see Dune) overlayed upon space marines, with a twist. Love it.