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Phil's Rambling Rants

February 10th, 2008

February 10th, 2008
05:24 pm

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Back on line
My land line (and therefore my home Internet access) were down Friday morning; I finally had a dial tone again when I got home today.  I haven't looked at LJ at all since Thursday, and I wasn't really caught up then, so I may have missed stuff on my flist.  If I really need to know it, remind me please.

I'm feeling lost enough in the world already, without being involuntarily muzzled for the weekend on top of it.

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TimeEvent
05:25 pm

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Book review: Eifelheim
As I write this, I've piled up a backlog of books to review (because I read while I was sick this week but I didn't review), and I can't connect to the Internet because my phone isn't working.  So I can't really say "today's book review".  Let's say, rather, that my first deferred book review is Eifelheim by Michael Flynn.

This is a standalone novel; from the notes in the book, it was expanded from an award-winning novelette, but the new material is a complete narrative, and the two narratives are interwoven fairly well.  Even if the old material is exactly the same as the earlier publication, well over half of the book is new material, and there's reason to read it (although the really important plot will have been spoiled).

This is harder SF than most of what's being written these days.  We have speculation about physics and cosmology that makes as much scientific sense (to me, anyway) as some stuff I read on news web sites about what the real physicists are up to.  Of course, being a novel, it doesn't have the math, but I wouldn't be able to follow the math if it did.  We also have some interesting, if hard to swallow, speculation about making history into a rigorous discipline, backed up with very timely stuff about the nature of historical research in the age of teh Intarwebz.  The book is mainly about one of the main themes of SF and handles that theme convincingly.  Really, the only thing I don't like is that the part of the story that's set in the past is set in a period that don't really enjoy visiting, and I'll rant about that inside the cut because it's a minor spoiler.

Tons of stuff to think about, and a good enough story that I can definitely recommend it.  9 out of 10.

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TimeEvent
05:26 pm

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Book review: The Sunrise Lands
My second orphaned book review is The Sunrise Lands by S. M. Stirling.

This is a new story in the Dies the Fire universe; it takes place about 20 years after A Meeting at Corvallis.  Steve read the first couple of chapters of this at GAFilk in 2007; it massively spoils A Meeting at Corvallis, to the point where I decided to skip reading it (my mom's copy, assuming she really has one, having vanished, contributed to this decision).  I was probably a tiny bit more confused than I would have been if I'd been totally up on the series, but it sure seems like the book I skipped was pretty skippable, being easily summarized by a couple of sentences of background in this one.  However, I think I'd have been much less comfortable with the context if I hadn't read Dies the Fire and The Protector's War.

The setting remains interesting, the writing chapter by chapter is very engaging, and I'm still enjoying exploring the post-Change world.  I am, however, greatly frustrated that Stirling doesn't seem to trust that I'm hooked, and has to bring up tantalizing mysteries in this first volume of what I assume (given today's publishing business) is meant to be another trilogy and then leave them blatantly hanging at the end of the book.  Fun, but not deep (and I think less deep than the earlier ones).  7 out of 10.

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07:10 pm

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Book review: Dragonhaven
My third and final orphaned book review is Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley.

This is a standalone novel.  It might be possible to produce a sequel, but one isn't obviously implied by this book.

This book affected me very personally, because while it's nominally about dragons, creatures we know don't exist in this world, it's metaphorically about tigers, or wolves, or any other "dangerous" endangered critters.  Rather than try too hard to be objective, I'll just state up front that what worked for me because of the very strong connection I made with the story might not work for other readers, and without that connection, I think this book would be pretty bad.  It's written in the first person from the point of view of a young, naive protagonist who only very partially understands a lot of what's happening, and it conveys the protagonist's confusion and awkwardness by being confusing and awkward.  This sort of literary device usually falls way flat for me, but this time, it works; I found the story gripping.  There are a couple of elements of the world itself that jarringly don't make sense (or at the very least really need a good explanation that's not given), and it's frustrating to get to the end of the book and not have some important stuff really clearly explained.  But on the other hand, if it were clearly explained it would be a lot harder to suspend disbelief.  It's about as believable as a modern world with real dragons could be.  And while I really can't look at it as science fiction, it's got some refreshing insight into a major SF trope.  Plus, it just might help a few people who don't already get it to understand the plight of endangered species (though I suspect that anyone who would get that point already understands).  9 out of 10.

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