Book: Previewing Genesis by Paul Chafe

Way back when I wrote a note on Destiny’s Forge by [tag]Paul Chafe[/tag], which I called (and still call) a great book. It has pretty much all the characteristics I like in a book. More recently, I posted a notice about Paul Chafe’s forthcoming book Genesis which will be released November 6th (according to Amazon.com). I said I looked forward to November with pleasure.

Well, I didn’t have to wait that long. I received a pre-release copy and permission to write about it, and so I have now read the new book. I still want a copy to sit on my shelves, but it’s nice to get the story ahead of time.

Unlike Destiny’s Forge, this book labors against some of my prejudices. I have found that I like relatively few books about the near future. I’m a bit wary of books or series that cover large periods of time, and I often avoid a new series until it’s either complete or well under way. None of these are absolutes, and this book had one major thing going for it–it’s written by Paul Chafe. It’s simple truth and not flattery to say that up to now I have loved everything he has written, and I think now I have read it all.

Now that I have read Genesis it goes back up near the top of my list. Truth be told, I had more fun in Destiny’s Forge simply because there are the battle scenes, more strategy, and an alien culture to develop. In Genesis we have humans, other humans, and yet more humans.

The scope is breathtaking, and the characters, whether you love or hate them, are inspiring. From a person involved in religion on a professional basis, as I am, the handling of a mass religious movement is excellent. As a student of history as well as somewhat of theology I’m well aware of how the pieces can be put together in odd ways, and the damage an unthinking, mass movement can cause.

Chafe uses that movement in interesting ways. I don’t want to hint at them, because I think the story reads better without anticipating some of the interesting corners that are turned as it develops.

I understand this will be a trilogy, and I’ll certainly be here for the whole ride. I have to say that I wonder how a trilogy can actually tell a story of the scope that is laid out by the first volume.

The style is excellent and very readable. It doesn’t have my favorite alien cultures or battle scenes, but still, I’m giving this a numerical rating of five. Y’all be sure and go out and buy one, or even pre-order on Amazon.com right now!

Book: Alpha

This book was a pleasant surprise. I’m normally annoyed by the huge possibilities that are ignored in stories about future AI or machine sentience. It seems to me to be the area in which near future science fiction does the worst job of projection.

In this case, however, [tag]Catherine Asaro[/tag] does a wonderful job of looking forward but still providing a comprehensible, easy to read, and entertaining tail. One can feel the possibility of a future like this. I hardly had to suspend disbelief at all.

Of course the actual possibilities are so varied that one can hardly predict anything, I think, but in this case, at least the story seems possible.

As for characters, I found them a little bit light, but nonetheless interesting. There was more attention paid to the future technology than to the future people. The story did have some less predictable twists. I’ll certainly pick up books by this author again.

I give it a numerical rating of 4 out of 5.

Book: Engaging the Enemy

Elizabeth Moon doesn’t fall into my top tier of gotta-read-everything authors, but she’s near the top of my second tier. I’ve been following the Vatta’s War series for some time, but as you can see, I’ve been following it a long ways off. There’s another book out that I haven’t read.

Having said all of that, I really do enjoy these books and generally get to them before too long. Kylara Vatta is a fairly convincing female lead character, and I’m a sucker for stories that involve decisive women. Kylara has plenty of doubts about herself, but when things get really tough, she does what needs to be done whether she’s sure of herself or not. Most of that uncertainty can be–and is–traced to her age and lack of experience.

In this book we see Kylara figuring out that there is a major attack going on, and that if the worlds don’t get together to deal with it, they will be at the mercy of the pirates. Somebody ought to do something, and whether that’s lucky for her or not, Kylara Vatta appears to be the one tagged with the mission.

There are plenty of surprises and some interesting new cultures in this one. I rate it a four on my numerical scale.

Book: Prince of Sunset

I have enjoyed a number of books by Steve White written with David Weber, but this was the first individual book by him that I’ve read. My guess, after reading this, is that Weber writes all the battle scenes in their joint books. The battles here just don’t exhibit the tension and certainly not the detail that Weber presents. That’s not entirely a bad thing, either, though I tend to like those scenes myself. I do know that they annoy people. There is also much less of the “heroic people who win despite the odds” theme, and a great deal more about people who are right and yet have things that don’t go so right with their lives.

The story covers a very long period of time, though within the lifetime of the characters, and through an epilogue covers an even much broader timespan. That part didn’t excite me that much either.

At the same time, Steve White is a good storyteller, so having presented the things that irritated me, let me say that the characters are good, there is some mystery as to what’s going to take place along the way. In other words, I didn’t say “obviously” at every plot turn, a situation that makes me happy when I’m reading. There is some politics, though again in less detail that Weber tends to do, and there is some interesting strategic stuff from both the political and the military point of view.

I rate this a 3 out of 5, though I generally rate the author higher.

Book Announcement – Paul Chafe: Genesis

Put this one on my “must have” list. I got notice today that this one is coming November 1, 2007, and also found it available for pre-order on Amazon.com. The link should be to your right as you read this.

No, I have not read this book, but based on my reading of Destiny’s Forge, which I called a great book, I would be ready to grab this one sight unseen. Any reader of this blog can tell that I have very eclectic tastes, and enjoy a wide variety of books. But there are only a few that are truly exciting, that I would read over and over. There are only a few authors whose work is so good that I go out hunting for it, and will buy, beg, or borrow it as necessary.

It’s good to see Paul Chafe move from writing in the Kzin universe, as much fun as that is, to open a new series of his own. I am looking forward to November with anticipation.

Book: A Hunger in the Soul

Since this is a blog entry rather than a formal review, I can just give you my reactions. This is my second Mike Resnick book, and let me start by saying that I didn’t really like it. That is not to say that it was a bad book. There are many books that I think have merit, but that I don’t really like.

I think the problem with this one is that while the story itself had many points of interest, I didn’t like any of the characters all that much, and found the general theme not terribly compelling. This is an “African explorer” tale written on the backdrop of a galaxy dominated by humans. Much like Europeans descending on Africa or the Americas, the humans find themselves superior, at least in firepower, and they treat the alien species encountered, intelligent or otherwise, like natives at the height of colonization.

The characters could likewise be taken from a stereotypical story of that era. There’s the adventuresome journalist (Markham), the guide with a sympathy for the natives (though not necessarily the backbone to make it stick), the hunter who has lived there all his life and knows how things work, and of course the many natives who are often slaughtered just because they are at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nonetheless, Resnick spins a pretty good tale, and one that gives one something to think about. I’d think one could do some serious moral thinking about the choices made by the surviving characters in the last few chapters. While the natives are not developed in that much depth, they are developed to a sufficient extent that you can wonder what things could be like for them if their culture had a chance to grow rather than be run over by the human “Democracy” as the apparent federation of all the human worlds is called.

The story telling is in the same interesting, bold style that my previous reading of Resnick has led me to expect, and I would read this under about the same circumstances. I think the problem here is that I generally want to sympathize with one of the major characters in a story, and I don’t find any opportunity here. The natives seem the most interesting to me, but we don’t really get to know them all that much. So combining that with a background that doesn’t interest me I was probably put off an otherwise interesting story. Thus this becomes an example of a story I don’t like, even though it’s not a bad one!

Book: Retief’s Peace

I’m a big fan of Keith Laumer. In different moods I like Retief and the Bolo series. William H. Keith, Jr. has now been extending that series, and this little book is great fun.

Especially with humor, I’m really leery of a new author taking something over. Will the charm and fun still be there? Keith has managed to accomplish the near impossible–a new Retief book that is just as much fun as the old ones. We find Retief again avoiding promotion by being excessively competent and willing to point out the errors of others.

There’s a new species intent on conquest, the mysterious Krll, who are apparently intent on conquering peaceful planets and generally creating havoc throughout the cluster. The question is, what do peace protests, drug lords, and disguised five-eyed, sticky fingered Groaci diplomats have to do with it all?

Enjoy!

Book: A Gathering of Widowmakers

This is the first Mike Resnick book I’ve read, and I must admit that it struck me as simple, straightforward, and really quite a lot of fun to read. This is actually well into the series, and I’ll have to make up the older volumes over time, but it’s a fun story. The original widowmaker now cured of the illness that once required that he be frozen to await a cure. There is a new, young, recently trained clone on the job. He’s better than the old widowmaker, but is he wise enough?

I’m rating this book a 4. I plan to look at more works by this author.

Energion.com Author page for Mike Resnick
Energion.com Series page for the Widowmaker series

Book: Imitation in Death

What more can I say about J. D. Robb and the various books about Eve Dallas? I just enjoy the character interaction. They’re not too over the top in forcing me to think, thus being good reading after I’ve read all the serious stuff for the day, and did I mention the characters? They’re just fun.

In Imitation in Death, J. D. Robb/Nora Roberts brings us the summer of 2059 and a serial killer who imitates serial killers, but not the same one twice. This one will lead us through a walk through history (and the series fictional history) and a look at some of the things that just might make a murderer.

In the meantime, Peabody is distracted by preparation for her detective exam, and also the terror of actually taking it. How will the pair work their way out of this one? At least Roarke and Eve aren’t fighting.

Book: Maelstrom

I begin to realize that this blog has been around for some time and isn’t just my little idea from a couple of days ago when I prepare to write a note on the second book in a series for which I blogged about the first book.

I like Anne McCaffrey, and to a lesser, but still quite great extent Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. Their second book in The Twins of Petaybee series is available, and is titled Maelstrom (The Twins of Petaybee, Book 2).

I look at this book very much like the first. It is lighter than the Dragonrider series, and I don’t find the cultural background anywhere near as interesting, but the characters are engaging, and the story is fun. That’s a lot to recommend a book, especially since I look for books to read when my mind wants to rest rather than be challenged. I’m glad there are books that fit the bill.

As long as you don’t demand sophisticated politics or advanced military strategy, and also as long as you can enjoy a story where the key players are children, you’ll likely enjoy this. I would warn the unwary that this second book takes the tranditional trilogy view and leaves you in a tough place. I knew it was going to happen as I read and saw the number of pages remaining–they didn’t resolve a number of conflicts. That, of course, is promising for next time, but annoying for those who don’t really like unfinished series all that well.