For the previous entries in this series, see the end of the article for links.
Welcome to the third part of this series, which sees me attempt to justify my ever-growing collection of SF and fantasy novels to myself, and (probably) more importantly, the person I live with. In each instalment I’ll be going through a number of titles in my various bookcases, giving micro-reviews of each. Hopefully, this will inspire you all to go out and try some of the novels that I consider to be superb, and perhaps even try this yourselves on your blogs/Facebook/Twitter. In part one, we covered We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan, and Armageddon’s Children, The Gypsy Morph, Running With The Demon, Knight Of The Word and Angel Fire East by Terry Brooks. Part two saw us tackle The Death Of Grass by John Christopher, Off On A Comet/Splinter by Jules Verne/Adam Roberts, Un Lun Dun by China Miéville , Star Wars: Allegiance by Timothy Zahn, and River Of Gods, Cyberabad Days and Brasyl by Ian McDonald.
One of Heinlein’s most accomplished, and yet overlooked, novels, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress deals with revolution on a pseudo-penal colony on the moon, known as Luna. Heinlein’s propensity toward becoming his own personal narrator is more than evident in many passages of the book, but that doesn’t stop it being immensely enjoyable, particularly down to the unique argot of the ‘Loonies’.
Vinge is often described by people I know as a Marmite author in SF – you either love him or hate him. After thoroughly enjoying Rainbows End and A Fire Upon The Deep, I picked up a collection of his stories, and found the evolution of the writer remarkable throughout. Vinge is a very dense author, but one whose style has adapted over the years to keep up with his exemplary ideas, not all of which work but which are all are pursued with the utmost enthusiasm.
Shades of Iain M Banks, Richard Morgan and Neal Asher flavour the third release from Gibson, featuring a blend of cyberpunk, space opera and good old-fashioned adventure. Set in a future where interplanetary travel is controlled by the Shoal, an alien species who claim to have invented FTL tech, Dakota Merrick makes a discovery that could upset the applecart. Gibson writes with the pace and style of a growingly confident author, while the book itself generally holds your attention throughout. More development is needed on the technical side of the writing, but all in all, it’s enjoyable enough.
Ryan’s debut zombie novel introduced us to a cinematic world of Shyamalan’s The Village-esque proportions. Her characters live in an isolated, theocratic community where only thin fences keep the hordes of the living dead at bay, until it all comes crashing down. For a YA novel, Hands & Teeth is superb. It’s pacey, affecting and violent without being gratuitously so, and it seems almost inevitable that a film will be coming soon.
Star Trek books, like any tie-in novel, can generally be hit or miss. Even more so in short story anthologies. Creative Couplings, however, does the job grandly, being a satisfying foray into the Trek universe as well as being generally of a high quality. My main problem with Star Trek fiction comes from the fact that there’s so much available on the internet in various websites and RPGs that you’ve inevitably seen better elsewhere.
It would be easy to let the man override feelings toward his book, but I try to separate the two despite my dislike for Shah’s political actions in the past. In Second World, he’s crafted a great little genre thriller, in which people can get lost in the internet and a brewing crisis builds. Written with a sharp eye for how conventions work within a genre piece, it lacks a certain amount of original innovation to make it a great book, but can be perfectly justified in calling itself one of the better novels in recent years.
Starship Troopers was easily one of Heinlein’s most controversial novels, and opened him up to accusations of fascism that dogged him for the rest of his career. Not helped, of course, by his massive swing to the Right, but still. Starship Troopers is loaded with ideas but unfortunately, it is just a bit dull. Most of the novel details Rico’s travails through boot camp, with very little given over to the action. Heinlein’s political statements, once again, are at the forefront, but the lack of opposing voices, often criticised, is meant to mirror Rico’s surroundings and indoctrination. Very clever, but rather boring.
Read the other entries in this series: