05.08.2012

Orbital Decay by Allen Steele - a review

This is the first novel of Allen Steele I have read. Previously I enjoyed his short stories - like "Emperor of Mars" presented in Starship sofa. Orbital Decay is an older book, written in the eighties, when space exploration steel held a promise. There are some lovely anachronisms here and there but not too much. Yet, the MacGuffin - the centerpiece around which plot was constructed has a very current resonance. Orbital Decay is a good, simple story of simple men working in space. It sets up a a theme of rising conflict between new frontier that has to confront the big brother state. What is so unique about the book is that heroes are no Astronauts but everyday Joe's - space plumbers (really a construction workers called beamjacks). This is somewhat uncommon, and I respect and admire an author who can put a perspective on what is so common in SF - Great men doing great deeds. Here they are the bad guys, and a common man prevails.
Orbital decay is a work of someone who clearly loves the SF genre, so references to books, authors and whole SF culture are abound.
The story develops rather slowly, focusing on different aspects of life in space (mostly boredom). This is shown through the eyes of few people living in the "Olympus" space station. The conclusion was well worth going through the slow parts. A hard SF with a bit of poetic ending and a story of redemption. I certainly am glad I picked this book up.
And a little spoiler - the most awesome reentry ever!

13.06.2012

Buffo Blombergi - przygody w Ekwadorze

Zbiór esejów Rolfa Blomberga - szwedzkiego podróżnika, przyrodnika i filmowca. Książka stanowi zbiór esejów poświęconych wyprawom tropem dzikich i bezwzględnych Indian Auca, spotań z łowcami głów - indianami Jibarro, opowieści o dzikich zwierzętach Ameryki Południowej, Galapagoa, ale i wężach Borneo. Czyta się szybko. Ciekawa książka z czasów kiedy panowały nieco inne normy obyczajowe - widać jednak postęowość autora, troskę o przyszłośc indiańskich plemion i zagrożonych gatunków. Przeczytałem ją nieco przypadkowo, ale nie żałuję.

30.05.2012

Review of "Moonseed" by Stephen Baxter

Not as breathtaking as Titan by the same author, but interesting nevertheless. Humanity brings doom upon itself by bringing a nano-technological gray goo from the Moon that slowly devours the Earth. This is a sad story where there is a very little hope. The first part is especially poignant - destruction of Edinburgh, misery and human stupidity. The interesting thing in Baxter's books is that his characters are full of flaws - not really typical heroes of SF but very much humans troubled by issues. The book is full of technical details regarding space exploration and geology. Large info-dumps are perhaps a nuisance to some but I enjoy them and Baxter certainly makes the subject interesting.
Some issues I had with the book: one particular character behaves in a very unbelievable way - I am taking about a teenager rascal turn into Space Religion Guru, secondly I feel that whole shtick in the end with main character convincing US to give him a nuke, no question asked - that rises some doubts - I understand that it was necessary for a big surprise in the end but still.
In the end - not my favorite Hard SF but certainly memorable. I think I will further my interest into Mr. Baxter's works.

10.04.2012

Beneath sands of Egypt by Donald P. Ryan

This book landed in my lap due to interview with the author that I listened to in Groks Science Podcast. I found it interesting and since I want to widen my education and learn something that I can use in GMing roleplaying games (notably Trail of Cthulhu) - I decided to give it a shot. It is a short book dealing with the subject in a rather dry but entertaining manner. I like the fact that it mixes description of history of archeology, descriptions of working procedure and such matters with personal observations on academic world, Egypt and life of scientist in this rather small and competitive field. Although it is not something that will teach you a great deal about Egyptology or history - it will definitely pique your interest in this subject - so much more interesting that clichés from Indiana Jones movies.

The Chronicles of Amber

I have read tomes 1-5 so far. I have mixed feeling toward this book. As it happens I was reading it during first two months of being a father - so I could not put so much attention to the reading experience as I would like. The story is gripping from the start but descriptions of journeys through the shadow worlds are somewhat tiring. On the positive side the five tomes of Corwin story describe a magnificent intrigue which is resolved by the end of the fifth tome. I think, I should probably read it again - my rating is given from the point of view of chronically under slept guy. I have a lot of respect toward Roger Zelazny - and this book is worth reading. Nevertheless I will postpone reading story of Merlin until I have more time.