Starswarm by Jerry Pournelle.
I am not really sure why I purchased this book. I was disapointed in the last book I bought that Jerry was involved in, The Gripping Hand , with Larry Niven. However I did. This book was published with the intent at being aimed at Junior High aged children. I did not know this when I purchased it. However, this is a very fun book. Jerry did not seem to actually write it with this market segment in mind (otherwise, I suspect it would have read like something from Piers Anthony). The protagonist (a young boy of about Junior High age) is well done. He has a secret. We are let in on part of that secret from the very beginning, it seems that he can hear a voice in his head that nobody else can, which is very pivotal to the story. There are other secrets that he doesn't know that are gradually revealed, sometimes to the reader before the protagonist finds out, throughout the entire story. This was more than adequate to keep you turning the pages. This was one of the best stories that Jerry has done for quite awile. I recomend this book.
I had read four of these books when I was in high school ( a long time ago). When A&E recently did a four part miniseries based loosely on Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, I decided it would be fun to re-read these. And sure enough, it was. I have done a considerable more reading since I originally read these, and the writing style is a little out of date, but the hold up extremely well. All of them are page turners. All of the books follow the naval career of Horatio Hornblower from the time he was a midshipman until he was an Admiral. I can recomend all of these books.
Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
I have always felt that Orson Scott Card was a master craftsman when it comes to writing a story. That opinion has not changed. This story is told from the point of view of Bean, an auxiliary character in the original Ender's Game (if you haven't read this one, by all means, one of the top S.F. stories of century). We follow Beans life from life on the streets in Amstradam to the final battle. This story was extremely exciting. Bean was small and weak and it shows how he managed to deal with those who were much stronger and posed a constant threat to his well being. It also showed how he rebelled against the grownups who were attempting to manipulate him and how he stays one step ahead. If you liked Ender's Game, you will like this book. If you haven't read Ender's Game yet, I would say it is best that you read that first, and then this one. There are contradictions between the two stories. The authour justifies these by pointing out that no two people will see the same events the same. Very good story.
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
This book was, shall we say, lonnngggg....900+ pages.
Although I did enjoy this book, I cannot say that this was the authours
best efforts. It was a little difficult getting into the story, in
fact, almost 200 pages in my case. As it went along, it did seem
to pick up pace. My biggest critisism of this book is in several
places the authour went into long (many pages worth) explanations of various
peices of technology, such as how a video monitor worked. I felt
they did not contribute anything to the story and only slowed it down.
Another glaring thing that stuck out was one of the primary characters
died midway through the book only to come back to life later on with no
more explanation of "Oh, you recovered!" Now, I could be mistaken
about this, but when the character reappeared, I went back and searched
out the section where he died, and it seems to be very explicit about this,
which leave me kind of confused. I suspect the the authour did this
on purpose, but could not figure out why, other than maybe a practical
joke on the reader. Then again, I may have missed something.
Either way, it distracted me from reading the story.
The story takes place both during World War II and roughly the present. At the start, they seem like two completely seperate stories, but they do converge at the end. Parts of the story are very exciting. Personally, I enjoyed the parts that took place during WWII more, but hey, that's me. The other disapointment was the ending. First, an antagonist which seemed to have only been mentioned in passing throughout the story all of the sudden shows up to threaten the protagonist. It was a complete surprise and there seemed to be no motive for the anagonist to have done what he did. Second, the ending seemed almost anti climatic. The story did not seem to resolve itself very satisfactorily. Or, in other words, it did not seem to fit what had happed before.
If you have plenty of time on your hands, and are a Neal Stephenson fan, there might be enough in this book to satisfy you. Despite what I said above, I was still glad I read the book, but wish it had be a little better.
Dragon Weather by Lawrence Watt-Evans
This is a fanasy (duh) by a lesser known authour, but because he is number two, he has to try harder. This story starts out very quickly. The protagonist starts out as a boy of about 12 years old. His village is destroyed by dragons who killed everyone except him and he acidently swallowed a combination of dragon venom and blood, which is pivotal to the story. He then encounters the antagonist (named Lord Dragon) who finds the boy and sells him into slavery. The rest of the story is about the revenge that the boy (who grows into a young mad) wants to extract on both Lord Dragon and on the dragons. The story moves very fast. There is almost never a chapter where the protagonist is not in some sort of mortal danger as turns himself from a slave into a Lord. There are plenty of secrets for the reader to discover and in my opinion, the authour was able to keep the most important one fairly well conceled until it was sprung at the end. And the authour did this with supurb craftsmanship. I would say that this is the best novel so far from Lawrence. I have always enjoyed his stories, and look forward to more. I recomend this book. Lawrence Watt-Evans does have a web site.
Cradle of Saturn by James P. Hogan (1-18-2000)
WOW! This is one extremely intense book. If you easily have bad dreams at night, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK! The last one quarter of the book was so intense that it was difficult to prevent myself from thumbing ahead just to see how the current crisis was resolved. This is an end of the world novel. James Hogan is probably one of the TOP hard sci fi writers. The plot is based on Velikovsky's (Worlds in Collision) theories on the origin of the planet Venus. He mixes the scientific speculation with a good solid story to keep you flipping those pages. I really cannot say too much about this story, I would not want to give anything away. If you are a sci-fi fan, get this book. James Hogan has written quite a few books, and I personally have enjoyed all of the ones I have read. He also has a web site.
Moving Mars by Greg Bear (2-11-2000)
This is a very good story. It is written as
an autobiography of the main character. I would classify this
book as a political sci-fi story. One of the things that intrigued
me was that I had no idea where the story was really going. Before
you got to the end, you knew more or less what was going to happen, but
I would say it was very surprising. This is a fairly old book (1993),
but it was not until recently I finally got around to reading this.
I am sorry I put it off. Greg Bear is one of my favorite authours
(Forge of God, Eon, etc.) but I would have to say that this
book is different from some of his other stories. It demonstates
the authours versatility, in my opinion. I would recomend this book
(If you can find it).
The Multiplex Man by James P. Hogan (2-27-2000)
Another great story by Mr. Hogan. This story
is rather unique. I really can't say much about it without giving
the story away. And it is fun to learn what the secret is of the
protagonist. I would like to know just how James Hogan came up with
the idea for this story, because if you were taking a class in writing
fiction, I would think that this plot would be dicouraged. But that
is what make this story just so full of surprises. I think that this
book is being reissued. I bought my copy back in 1992 and only just
finally got around to reading it (it happens sometimes). I wish I
had read it back then, but somehow it got put on the bottom of the pile.
I would recomend this book, if you can find it.
Lords of Dus Series 3-18-2000
The Lure of the Basilisk
The Seven Altars of Dusarra
The Sword of Bheleu
The Book of Silence
by Lawrence Watt-Evans
This is the first series of book written by this author. I find them interesting for several reasons. First, they are interesting stories. Second, the Lure of the Basilisk was the first book that Lawrence had published. So in a way, you can get an idea of just how good you would have to be in order to get published.
Of all of these books, the last one, the Book of Silence is the better volume. The story seems to be a little more dramatic that the other three. But all three are page turners, you definatly care about the protagonist, despite the fact that he is not human.
The story revolves around Garth, an "overman", a species that was magically created. Many aspects of his makeup puts him at a much higher and superior level as compared to humans, which constantly annoy Garth through the stories, but there are other aspects that also make them inferior. One example, overmen are more independent and harder to organize than humans. They don't take orders well at all so it is difficult to organize military operations. Garth, at the start of the first book is restless and want to perform some feat that will insure that his name will be remembered until the end of time. He is told by an oracle to serve the Forgotten King, who just happens to also be the choosen of the God of Death, and he will be remembered. The Forgotten King sets a series of tasks for Garth to accomplish. From there, things begin to get complicated because Garth decides maybe his goal is not something he wanted after all, but it turns out not so easy to stop serving the Forgotten King.
It will probably be imposible to find these volumes,
as they have been out of print for a long time. You might be able
to find them in a used book store if you are lucky.
Ethshar Series 5-30-2000
The Misenchanted Sword
With a Single Spell
The Unwilling Warlord
The Blood of a Dragon
The Spell of the Black Dagger
by Lawrence Watt-Evans
This is one of the more fun to read series, and also the stories are a little bit different. The main difference is that the protagonist in each story is just an ordinary person who has been put into an unusual situation. This makes it really easy to get into the character. In The Blood of a Dragon the protagonist is not a very likable person. In fact, in many places in the story you hope something bad will happen to him. By the end of the story, he changes so he is redeemed. In the Spell of the Black Dagger, the protagonist is not quite so clear cut. The main character is not a very nice person at all. She is pitted against another main character who in the end triumphs. This is not to say you don't care about the main character. In fact, you feel kind of sorry for her as she gets involved in thing that go out of her control. This is not to say she wasn't evil, but still, you keep hoping for some sort of redemption.
All of these books are well worth reading.
However, finding them will be a bit of a problem as they are all out of
print. There is talk about putting them back into print by the author,
but we shall see.