30 August, 2012

Review: The Caves of Steel

The Caves of Steel The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book two of the Robot series, and already things start to get interesting. Unfortunately, I can make no comments whatsoever without giving away plotlines, except to say that this is the kind of mystery novel where there is no deus ex machina (...or is there?) and the reader will be able to play along as detective to try and find the the perpetrator along with the main character.

However, there is much to say -- so if you have not yet read the Caves of Steel, please stop reading this review here.

Daneel Olivaw makes his debut appearance in this novel, and it sets the course for all his future adventures. You can already start to see the path that Deneel will be taking during the course of his life by seeing his childhood years, even though the author, Asimov, has technically yet to decide what lies in his future timeline. I'm not sure if the hints in this novel which telegraph the future are accidental in nature or added after the fact by Asimov when he did the reprinting of this novel, but either way, this book feels as though it really is the first step in the entirety of the Robot/Empire/Foundation series.

Asimov may not be the best writer, but he has some extremely interesting ideas, and this book is where they really start to come together for him.

View all my reviews

29 August, 2012

Review: I, Robot

I, Robot I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first in the Robots series is a great place to start when reading Asimov's science fiction. If you haven't read Asimov before, you should begin with I, Robot. (Followed by the rest of the Robots series, then the Empire series, then the Foundation series. The order is more relevant than you might at first think.)

However, despite this being a classic, it just feels so dated. Many of the human characters are just so idiotic (excepting Susan Calvin, of course). But it's a good introduction for those that are completely unfamiliar with the idea of artificial intelligence.

This gets four stars mostly because of how it leads into the Asimov scifi universe -- if the book were on its own, I'd probably only give it three stars. In all honesty, the most interesting parts of the book involve how spectacularly bad Asimov was at guessing the future. The dates given for things like manned missions to other planets (2015 is 2nd manned mission to Venus) or estimates on population growth (3 billion humans in the entire solar system by 2050) are just incredibly wrong. Not to mention his prediction of how the cold war would end between the US and the USSR. We can't blame him for these predictions (I know I could have done no better), but it is terribly depressing to realize how much potential Asimov wrote into his fiction that we missed out on.

I'd also like to note a small point, but it slightly spoils some of the plot, so please stop reading this review if you have not yet read I, Robot.

The way robots act when their programming puts them into three laws dilemmas is just... ludicrous. These short stories read as though they are some of the first AI stories ever written; they're just so juvenile in how they act. But, to be fair, Asimov was an early writer in this genre, and despite the complete silliness of how the AIs tend to misbehave in these stories, it's still fun to read. It's not at all realistic, but this is soft science fiction, not hard science fiction, so I readily give Asimov the benefit of the doubt.

This book, while not worth the read all on its own, is nevertheless essential reading if you want to read Asimov's scifi stories. It all starts here, and it only gets better as the world grows beneath Asimov's typewriter.

View all my reviews

Review: Mission of Gravity

Mission of Gravity Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Aliens and humans collaborate in a grave mission to save a downed scientific instrument in this pinnacle novel of hard science fiction.

Mission of Gravity occupies a place of honor among my book collection as my favorite fiction novel of all time. This is definitely Hal Clement's best work, and is certainly the best pro-science hard scifi novel I've ever read. While I know not everyone likes science fiction, and, of those who do, most cannot stand hard science fiction, for those people who truly appreciate hard scifi, Mission of Gravity will definitely rank among the best books ever written.

I realize these are grandiose claims, especially considering Clement's status as only an above-average writer. This novel hasn't the depth of Joyce's Ulysses or the romance of Gabaldon's Outlander. It doesn't have the intensity of Card's Ender's Game, the shock value of Palahniuk's Fight Club, the epic nature of Asimov's Foundation series, nor the stark philosophy of Plato's Republic. And yet I seriously consider Clement's Mission of Gravity to be my favorite of all (not counting nonfiction), merely on the basis of setting and message.

For those who are unfamiliar with hard scifi in general, setting is generally the most important character in the story. It isn't the people who interact or the relationships they make; it isn't the development of character agents, or the dramatic arc connecting the pieces of the book together. Rather, when it comes to hard scifi, the most important aspect is the creation of a believable scientifically accurate setting onto which a story is played. The best books integrate good stories, but even when the story itself is only above average, hard scifi can still be considered extremely good if the setting is immaculate. Clement is just such a master of hard scifi settings, even if he lacks considerably when it comes to writing about human relationships.

In Mission of Gravity, Clement has managed to combine an amazing story with a strong pro-science message into an absolutely enthralling setting beyond anything I can relate in this review. The setting is, quite simply, the best hard scifi setting I have ever seen, and the buildup throughout the book to the final two chapter conclusion encapsulates a philosophical worldview that never ceases to cause depths of emotion, no matter how many times I read it.

While I can't guarantee that others will enjoy Mission of Gravity as much as I, if you have any interest in pure science for science's sake, science fiction that is heavy on plausibility and light on fantasy, and can be okay with reading a story where the character arcs move glacially slow, then you will enjoy reading this book.

(Note that, for best impact, Mission of Gravity should be read before reading any other books by Clement, as he tends to reuse a lot of his philosophical ideas in his books, and so each subsequent book will become more predictable on the first reading.)

If you have not yet read Mission of Gravity, please stop reading this review here. Spoilers follow below.

Every book has flaws. Ulysses is inscrutable without searching for parallels you would never find on your own while reading; the Foundation series was written over too long a period of time to connect properly together; and the Republic gets too preachy on what have since been fairly settled issues that wastes a lot of today's readers' time. For Mission of Gravity, the problems are very easy to spot, despite the overall awesomeness of the book itself.

First, Clement is horribly dated when it comes to computing power. Modern readers cannot go through Mission of Gravity without mentally scoffing at the idea that a rover sent to an alien world for exploration would not be constantly recording data continuously. Every time Clement writes that a picture has to be manually taken or that the view for human eyes is the same port through which a high speed camera is used just makes the story seem completely wrong. It is not Clement's fault; he could not have anticipated the advances of computing power which would be used to dominate such scenes. Nevertheless, it does take away from the capability of the reader to suspend their disbelief during these segments. (...and slide rules? Really?)

Second, the language barrier. I know it seems strange to harp on something that the author had to compromise on for the sake of the story, but the time frame in which mesklinites learn english is literally incredible. The same goes for the social similarities between our species, let alone the physical ones.

Third, the stark emotionlessness of the characters. Sure, the humans involved are scientists at work, so we can forgive them for not showing much emotion. And the aliens are, well, alien, so we can forgive them for having completely different psyches than we may expect. But since I've read a lot of Clement's work, I know that the truth is just that Clement is unable to really write great depths of emotion in his stories. Still, despite the character deficiencies, it is entirely plausible that, in this world, the fault of the deficiency is in the characters, and not the author's.

Despite these flaws, I still maintain that Mission of Gravity is my favorite fiction novel of all time. Every conflict in the story is resolvable by the reader in advance; instead of using technobabble like most soft science fiction or some deus ex machina by the introduction of some technology not already established, every single time something happens in the story, it arrives naturally and is resolved scientifically in theoretically predictable ways. Yet, at the same time, the story is not predictable, as the action proceeds faster than any conceivable human could think through all the variables and make accurate predictions of what will happen next.

It is in this sense that Mission of Gravity is rather like a game played between the author and the readers. The author put a lot of effort into ensuring the story is coherent and realistic -- but as Clement himself points out, once written, the author can make no more moves. Since publication, it has been the readers' turn, and so far quite a few things have been found. Clement's initial calculation was that the poles would have 655g (the published book rounded to 700g), yet his math was flawed; the correct value should have been 275g. The MIT Science Fiction Society has also calculated that Mesklin would have a sharp edge at the equator; a fact that Clement missed when writing Mission of Gravity.

However, my favorite part of the book comes at the end of the second to last chapter. Barlennan's speech is perhaps the most moving fictional speech I've ever read. It is the culmination of everything he planned from page one, and is a passionately strong defense of the value of pure science. This is the kind of speech that every student of science should read at least once in their lives.

Well done, Harry Clement Stubbs.

View all my reviews

27 August, 2012

Review: Heavy Planet: The Classic Mesklin Stories

Heavy Planet: The Classic Mesklin Stories Heavy Planet: The Classic Mesklin Stories by Hal Clement
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Since Mission of Gravity is my favorite fiction novel of all time, you'll probably expect that this collection which includes the sequels to that novel to also receive five stars. You aren't mistaken on that point.

However, the strength of Mission of Gravity depends on the beauty of the setting, the surprise pro-science ending (of which I won't go into detail), and the amazing way that the reader is constantly put into a state where they could theoretically figure out the next step if they were quick enough with remembering scientific principles, but in practice are continually surprised because no one is smart enough to actually figure it out ahead of time. It is, in this way, in the same category as old mystery novels where all the facts are given up front and there are no surprise deus ex machina twists that include things the reader could not possibly know in advance, like most soft science fiction does.

Hal Clement did a sperb job with Mission of Gravity, but the sequels just can't keep up the same level. On their own, they are still quite good, but they are not in the same league as the initial novel, and some of the additions to the universe the bring to light really serve to highlight Clement's general ability to write complex relationships. Clement is a great hard scifi author, and does an excellent job with creating settings, but he has a serious lack of making the relationships between humans seem real. The humans of Mission of Gravity are bland, but they are bland for a justified reason, as they are scientists in the midst of observing a new planet. The humans of the sequels are equally bland, but he has lost the in-universe justification for their blandness.

Nevertheless, the series of stories after Mission of Gravity would still get four stars if I were judging them on their own merits, and simply by the fact that they continue the Mesklinite story, they receive a full five stars in this collection. I highly recommend Heavy Planet to anyone who is into hard science fiction.

View all my reviews

24 August, 2012

Review: Luminosity

Luminosity Luminosity by Alicorn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this retelling of the Twilight story, Bella is decidedly not an idiot. The resulting story is nothing short of amazing. This is fanfiction at its best.

I first read Stephanie Meyer's Twilight because I had a teenage sister at the time, and wanted to read what she was so excited about. It was a wonderful tale and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite its glorification of anti-feminism. Like Rand's Atlas Shrugged or Card's Ender's Game, I am well aware that a book can be good fiction even when it espouses philosophical ideas that I do not share. Yet one thing always stuck out as being particularly annoying: the sheer idiocy of Bella Swan.

That's where Luminosity truly shines. This retelling of the story replaces that old Bella with someone just as flawed and just as susceptible to teenage whims -- but highly rational instead of blindingly dumb. Everything else is the same as the original, but Bella's actions start to have major consequences on the world around here, and by the third or fourth chapter, the reader will be completely hooked by the new events of Alicorn's universe.

If you are into hard fantasy and have read the Twilight story in its entirety, then this book is definitely for you. Just be sure to read Meyer's canonical series first; once you read Alicorn's version, you'll never be able to go back to the original.

View all my reviews

Review: Radiance

Radiance Radiance by Alicorn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you've read Luminosity and liked it, then read this. Period. Alicorn's series is definitely some of the best hard fantasy I've ever read, fanfiction or not.

Spoilers are ahead, so if you haven't read Radiance yet, please cease reading this review.

Elspeth's story is amazing. While Alicorn does resort to a few subtle jabs at Meyer's canonical version, mostly this book goes through events that hardly resemble canon at all -- yet at the same time, everything is easily recognizable to fans of Twilight. Somehow, Alicorn has created a world of drama, intrigue, action, philosophy, and romance that far exceeds anything written by Meyer, yet using only the tools Meyer created in the Twilight universe.

Radiance does far more than just continue the story of Luminosity; it pushes the story forward in ways that readers will probably not expect. Of special interest is how Siobhan is portrayed in Alicorn's version of the story; while many characters are explored much more thoroughly than in Meyer's version, Siobhan's is perhaps the best example of how a throwaway power in the original books is considered quite extraordinary in a rational reading of events.

This series -- and this book in particular -- is definitely a must read.

View all my reviews

17 August, 2012

Review: A War of Gifts

A War of Gifts A War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Card's excellent short story of the holiday season as celebrated at Battle School is the perfect Christmas complement to the Ender universe. Of all the short stories written by Card in the Ender series of books, this is by far the best.

My only complaint (I always insist on finding something to complain about in my five star reviews) is that Dink's analysis of earth politics is a little unbelievable given that other books establish that battle school students are isolated from learning anything of earth politics. Even Bean did not get a chance to read the nets until he left Battle School for command school, so it seems unlikely that Dink Meeker would be so prescient in this story.

Regardless, this is still an excellent addition to the Ender universe, and is well worth reading for any fan of the series.

View all my reviews

13 August, 2012

Review: First Meetings in Ender's Universe

First Meetings in Ender's Universe First Meetings in Ender's Universe by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know it must be very difficult to keep up a coherent storyline over decades of different books, so I'm not terribly perturbed by the conflicts these short stories have with other, more recent books in the Ender universe. Nevertheless, they should be acknowledged, and that is what I do here. (Spoilers ahead.)

The biggest seeming contradiction is that of Jane's introduction. In other books, it is made clear that she is in fact very different from how she portrays herself in "Investment Counselor". Yet this is not a strict contradiction, because it would make sense for her to make up lies in order to to not have Ender refuse her company. In the text, she claims to Ender that other copies of her program would exist if others purchased her services; there's no way to reconcile this unless you take it as Jane saying a bald faced lie to Ender. And while her insistence that Ender's financial information would be safe with her was true, the specific fact she told Ender was that the info on his physical hard drive would not be copied offworld by ansible -- this is something that would be impossible for Jane to comply with, since the functions of her very thinking itself requires too much computing power to work locally on Ender's hardware alone. Further, she never mentions that she was coded originally to serve Ender's finances directly at Bean's insistence. However, all these seeming contradictions might be explained by accepting that Jane's first talks with Ender were full of lies.

A secondary contradiction also arises in "The Polish Boy" and "Teachers Pest". At several times in Ender's universe books, Card goes to a lot of trouble to point out that credit for many unbelievable things is owed to pure chance. Ender was smart, but no genetically enhanced Bean. Several decisions which looked smart in retrospect only turned out correct through luck. This theme is carried through MANY novels by Card in this series of books. Yet, by writing these two short stories, we come to find that, in fact, even Ender's birth was arranged by Graff. This completely subverts the theme of showing how lucky everyone was for things to fall together, and instead imparts an incredible amount of foresight to Graff. While not a strict contradiction of facts, this is a contradiction of the spirit of many books in the Ender series.

Nevertheless, these stories are still good additions to the Ender universe, and are worth reading for any fan of the series.

View all my reviews

Review: Ender in Exile

Ender in Exile Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, so I admit that I have a strange fascination with Ender's universe. Despite the blatantly offensive premises the author writes into these books (anti-gay, anti-muslim, anti-atheist, anti-polyamorous), I am nevertheless still riveted by the storyline. Perhaps, as someone who attempts to write fiction himself, I recognize just how difficult it is for a writer to do what Orson Scott Card has accomplished here. Yet whatever the reason, this book gets five stars like almost every other title in this series.

I'll admit that the ending _seems_ a bit forced at first. The Achilles' son storyline from the last book in the series hinted at the possibility of a real supervillain coming into the picture, and yet -- in the end -- Ender was able to deal with the situation fairly easily, using yet another authorial premise that I strongly disagree with: the idea that Bean's dna could not murder unnecessarily. But, in a way, even this unsatisfying conclusion to this story arc makes a lot of sense, as it really points toward a repeated fact that so often gets overlooked in these books: in the end, the most important factor is just dumb luck.

On a philosophical basis, then, this book is very interesting. The conclusions it arrives at are wrong, of course -- any conclusion reached by starting with prejudiced premises against gays, polys, atheists, and muslims will be inherently flawed -- but the journey is still an interesting one, and as this is just fiction, after all, we can always suspend our disbelief just enough to posit that Ender's world really is one where Card's prejudices are true.

In the end, I wonder how many people can actually read the text that way. Not many, I'd imagine. But I am one of them, and as such, I really enjoyed this entrant in the series. Yet maybe that says more about me than it does about the book itself.

View all my reviews

Review: Shadows in Flight

Shadows in Flight Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Juvenile. Unrealistic. These kids are using idioms that they'd never use under these circumstances; they are talking and acting in ways that make almost no sense at all, and I get the feeling that the reason Card did not care enough to really try is because it is, in the end, a children's short story. And yet, without giving away any spoilers, major events happen here, in this time frame, in this story. Ugh.

Orson Scott Card has taught me to never create an additional title in any series I write that does not deserve a place among the other books. Thank you for this lesson, Card.

Unfortunately, if you're as into the Ender series as I am, this book is important to read. .:sigh:. Don't worry; it's short and you'll be through with it fairly quickly.

View all my reviews

Review: Earth Unaware

Earth Unaware Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I went into this thinking I'd be reading the story of the elusive Mazer Rackham. Without giving anything away, let me say that this is much more than that.

As the first in a planned trilogy, I am a little upset that I can't yet read the sequels which have yet to come out, but this is actually a very good sign when it comes to how good a novel is. I'm extremely pumped by the story, even though (since it's a prequel) I technically know what's going to happen.

Note that there are some marvel comics associated with this book, but they are completely unnecessary, even as a supplement. If you plan to read both, read the book first. (This is true even though the comics were published earlier than the book.)

However, despite the five star rating, I have (as usual) some gripes about Orson Scott Card's writing.

Please stop reading this review if you have yet to read the novel.

First, I get incest is bad when it comes to reproduction. But geez. He is so harsh in his world building here. Sure, it's justified somewhat by the fact that there would have to be some system in place to deal with space-faring communities that lived out their lives in the kuiper belt. But unfortunately, Card has lost the ability to make such justifications up with me. In other books of the Ender series, he has bashed homosexuality (giving aiuia bonding as an in-universe justification), islam (by making it so muslims in Ender's universe are basically evil in principle), and polyamory (in insisting upon monogamous heterosexual marriage EVEN when there literally is not enough men to go around on a colony) -- so when he bashes incest here, I just assume it is Card being his usual dick self again rather than accepting the justification given in the novel itself.

Still, it's better justified than his other crazy notions, so I'd almost forgiven him for it. But then he drops a bombshell.

Card makes a scientist character say that gravity is the strongest force there is.

This reeks of utter did-not-do-the-research. Gravity is the weakest force we know of, not the strongest. To have a scientist who specializes in gravity say this is the pinnacle of absurdity.

Look, I get that this is not hard science fiction. But the soft scifi label is what allows Card to come up with stuff like glasers, which I accept just as readily as I do tar trek's transporters. I've got no problem with glasers in my fiction. But please, for the love of science, do not make a scientist character say something so utterly nonscientific like this. It really takes me out of the story. /c:

Anyway, thankfully these drawbacks do not detract too much from the rest of the story. Any fan of the Ender universe will no doubt be enthralled by this new entrant in the series.

View all my reviews

10 August, 2012

Review: Shadow of the Hegemon

Shadow of the Hegemon Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bean's portion of the Ender Saga continues with a complex political struggle for power between countries of the future. While the book has its flaws, it nevertheless remains a fun read throughout, especially for anyone with existing knowledge of the cultural histories of the nations involved in the story.

However, in order to make it far more clear to the reader that battle school grads are extraordinarily intelligent, Card had to write almost all adults in charge as being stupid in comparison. For example, battle school grads are shown making inferences that adults in the story could not see for themselves -- yet these are not the kinds of things that you'd expect adult leaders of the world to not be able to see. There's nothing wrong with using this device to better portray the children -- there is a level suspension of disbelief under effect after all -- but it clashes strongly with the Speaker for the Dead storyline, where Card made normal intelligence everyday adults seem almost inhumanly intelligent with no background explanation as to why.

Granted, these stories take place thousands of years apart, and it might just be that in the Ender universe, humans of the 2300s are, on the whole, significantly dumber than the humans of reality, whereas the average humans of the 5000s are about on par with the battle school grads of the 2300s. Still, none of this is explicitly stated, so it's a little disconcerting at first to see the average humans be so incredibly dense in Shadow of the Hegemon when the average humans of Speaker for the Dead were do dramatically intelligent.

Regardless, this book stands well on its own, continuing Ender's Shadow in the same genre-shift that Speaker for the Dead did from Ender's Game. This is definitely well worth the read if you're into the Ender universe.

View all my reviews

Review: Children of the Mind

Children of the Mind Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this satisfying temporary conclusion to Ender's part of the Ender Saga, several interesting and unique storylines unfold that I cannot even hint at here without giving away major spoilers. So, instead of writing about what happens, I will only point out that the philosophical implications and utterly strange science fiction themes definitely make this book more than worthy of inclusion in any reading of Ender's Game.

Nevetheless, despite giving this five stars and really and truly fully enjoying the story for what it is, I feel compelled to make another statement about the author. If you are unfamiliar with Orson Scott Card as a person, please stop reading now, as the following may color your appreciation of the book.

More than in any other book of the Ender Saga, Card's homophobia really stands out here. In a way, I'm okay with it; after all, this is fiction, and I can appreciate the story despite the author's prejudice simply by positing that the characters he is writing as heroic are actually severely flawed by their homophobia. There's nothing wrong with flawed characters, and so I can read those characters as having major personality flaws and still thoroughly enjoy the story, giving it a full five stars. Yet I find that it bothers me, as I know that the author did not intend me to read the characters as flawed in that way, but rather to consider their homophobia as a virtue, not a vice.

It is sometimes difficult to separate the author from the work of fiction, as anyone who reads Ayn Rand can easily attest. But I think it is definitely possible here, because Card does a rather good job of arguing against his own viewpoint. I think, in the end, it all works out, since Card writes his characters too perfect in general, and this additional flaw not intended by the author does a lot to make them more believable as human beings. In any case, I still recommend this series quite highly, despite the author being a complete idiot.

View all my reviews

Review: Shadow Puppets

Shadow Puppets Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although it goes without saying that I strongly disagree with certain philosophical underpinnings of this book, I nevertheless consider this a good novel in the Ender Series. The characters are written well and act in ways that I enjoyed reading, even if I disapprove of them.

If you have not read the novel before, please stop reading.

The major problem with this book is the continuing homophobia that the author inserts into the main characters' philosophies. While the character who most resembles the author directly is certainly Theresa Wiggin's point of view, Card also makes several other characters have opinions about love, marriage, family, and value that will truly grate upon anyone who isn't prejudiced against homosexuality.

Nevertheless, Card does it in such a way where the reader may interpret these as flaws in the characters, so the story is not hurt too much by the philosophy espoused within. I got a lot out of the book (and the series as a whole) despite strongly disagreeing with Card on homosexual issues merely by treating it as fiction -- in Ender's universe, there apparently IS something morally significant about heterosexuality. While I know this isn't true in the real world, the story stands very well on its own so long as you allow suspension of disbelief on this rather sticky moral issue.

Despite my misgivings on the philosophy being applicable to real life, I nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed the novel as it stands in the Ender series as a whole.

View all my reviews

Review: Shadow of the Giant

Shadow of the Giant Shadow of the Giant by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't even know why I'm leaving a review; if you're already reading the series, you HAVE to read this one, too -- and if you're not reading the series yet, you MUST read Ender's Game first, so at no point will this review reach anyone who is trying to decide whether or not to read this book.

However, if you've already read the novel, then a few things may come to mind. first, the way Anton, the only openly gay character in the novel, decides to act in order to be a "good person". Second, the redemption of Peter Wiggin, a storyline which tears me up just thinking about it. Third: the politics of Earth two hundred years hence. And fourth, the severe anti-muslim prejudice displayed by the author.

Card, although you're a terrible, horrible, prejudiced person, you are an AWESOME author. Reading the Ender series of books is well worth my time, and it's worth reading even though I think that you are personally a very evil person. Thank you for writing this series; it really and truly makes me feel -- a feat that not every author can pull off.

Orson Scott Card, you are truly the Ayn Rand of science fiction.

View all my reviews

04 August, 2012

Review: Xenocide

Xenocide Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Xenocide, like most other novels in the Ender's Series, receives five stars from me. I know there are parts of it I strongly disagree with, and there are even a few portions that make me pause as a reader when it comes to my suspension of disbelief -- but if you can manage to read Xenocide as a description of an alternate universe where the philosophy and physics that Card posits really is real, then the story is amazing.

Nevertheless, I cannot stress how much I disagree with the concept of categories like ramen and varelse which play such a strong part of the story. These concepts are NOT valid in real life. But as this is fiction, I will try not to harp on this point too much. (c:

Without giving the storyline away, I also must comment on the physics of this book. There's a great tradition in soft science fiction to make it where the outrageous physical phenomena are true in-universe, even though they'd be horribly implausible theories in reality. This book does much of the same. But Card does it in a way that reminds me of Dan Brown; I can almost see him winking as he writes this stuff, which is more than a little disconcerting. If you do not know what I'm talking about, then GOOD. read the series and enjoy it for the fiction that it is. It is a wonderful novel. But, if you want to know what I'm talking about after you finish the entire Ender Series, I suggest you look into reading some of what Orson Scott Card has said in interviews about this stuff. It's more than a little disturbing when authors like Dan Brown or Orson Scott Card start to confuse their own works of fiction with reality.

In the end, the book nevertheless gets the full five stars just because it's so damn good. I enjoyed the commentary Card gave on sexuality, love, disability, OCD, politics, and the utter weirdness of varelse. Of course, I disagree with some of the conclusions reached (Miro's storyline especially pissed me off), but that's only to be expected.

Oh, and while I was doing my reread of this book, I had my iphone on shuffle for background music, and Ravel's Bolero happened to start playing while I was reading about Qing-jao. The effect was awesome. (c:

View all my reviews