Book Reviews
Hugo and Nebula Winners

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Rating system

*****

Excellent and not just by airport standards

**** 

Very good. usually something fresh unique or quirky about these books

***+ 1/2

A good book.  Well written and I enjoyed it.  I would call this my Dick Francis rating.  The plot may be formulaic but it's always a page turner    

***

Read the whole thing.  This is often a some what generous rating.  If I get through the flight I'm  happy.

** + 1/2

A book with this rating means that I did read the whole thing but there is some significant flaw in  the book.  That means it's ok to pick it up in the airport under emergency circumstances   but  not  to buy in a bookstore.  

** 

Skimmed it for the few good parts I could find. Definitely only purchase under true emergency situations (as defined by there being nothing else on the shelf  you haven't read)

*

Hurled the book across the room and wrote nasty comments at the amazon.com review site. A pure waste of money (buy magazines instead)

 

foreverpeace.jpg (1992 bytes) Forever Peace by Joe Halderman *** 1998 Hugo
Synopsis In the year 2043, the Ngumi War has raged for eight years. Julian Class is a "soldier boy, " and for him war is indeed hell. For Julian it might be worth dying just to stop living. But he and his lover have made a terrifying scientific discovery that could literally put the Universe back to square one. Stopping both the destruction of the universe and war as we know it drives the plot forward to a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion.


I'm really not sure why this novel won the 1998 Hugo award. It certainly isn't in the same class as Halderman's The Forever War which won both the Hugo and the Nebula in 1976. This is a different look at the same topic and deserves a three star rating only on the scale of airport books.  It's competently written. The main character holds your interest but the plot and some of the subplots just aren't strong enough to really carry the novel.

 

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Moving Mars by Greg Bear ** 1994 Nebula
Synopsis: a revolution is transforming the formerly passive Earth-colony of Mars. While opposing political factions on Mars battle for the support of colonists, scientists make a staggering scientific breakthrough that at once fuels the conflict and creates a united Mars front, as the technically superior Earth tries to take credit for it. Backed against a wall, colonial leaders are forced to make a monumental decision that changes the future of Mars forever.

This book bored me to tears.  I've tried to read it a couple of times and it simply can't hold my interest.   Oh well, I never said I agreed with the award committee

 

The Terminal Experiment by Robert Sawyer *** 1/2
Synopsis:
In this fast-paced thriller, Dr. Peter Hobson's investigations into death and afterlife lead him to create three separate electronic versions of himself: one has no memory of physical existence and represents life after death; one has no knowledge of death or aging and represents immortality; and the third is left unaltered as a control. But all three have escaped into the worldwide matrix...and one of them is a killer.

In some ways this was a weak novel, in other ways I'd say this is one of his best.  Sawyer has a very personal writing style and you either like it or you don't.  His books are all a mixture of murder mystery style plotting, with a twist or two and a heavy dose of current reality.  In the hands of a different author this book could have been a tour de force but Sawyer doesn't take full advantage of the plot he constructs.  What would your world view be if you were immortal?  What would your world view be if you knew down to the cellular level that there was an after life and that death was simply a rite of passage?  He devotes about one page to these topics even though they're at the heart of the plot.  He spends more time focusing on the conventional murder mystery aspects of his plot.  Strangely I'd love to see what this story would look like turned into and X-file.  If I had a knack for short stories or wanted to write fan-fic I'd give it a whirl myself.  (Don't worry - I know my strengths -  I'll stick to the historical novels I do write)

 

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Doomsday Book by Connie Willis ****
Synopsis: The story of a history student in 2048 who is transported to an English village in the 14th century. The student arrives mistakenly on the eve of the onset of the Black Plague. Her dealings with a family of "contemps" in 1348 and with her historian cohorts lead to complications as the book unfolds into a surprisingly dark, deep conclusion. The book won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.


I'd owned this book for 2 or 3 years and never seemed to be able to get past the first two pages. On the trip to California I couldn't put it down.   The book isn't really as much fantasy or science fiction as it is a competently written account of life in the middle ages on the eve of the plague. Not light reading but very interesting.

dreamsnake.jpg (2498 bytes) Dream Snake by Vonda McIntryre ***1/2
Synopsis:
Winner of both the 1978 Hugo and Nebula awards the story is set in the post-apocalyptic future and  follows a young woman who travels the earth healing the sick with the help of her alien companion, the dreamsnake, pursued by two implacable followers.

It's interesting how things change over the years. I liked the story much better when I read in in the late 70's.  It's not that it's dated it's just that it read more like a short story than a novel.

 

foreverwar.jpg (2164 bytes) Forever War by Joe Haldeman ***
Synopsis:
Private William Mandella hadn't wanted to go to war. But when he was drafted into the ranks of Earth's interstellar warriors, he soon found that battling the enigmatic and ruthless Taurans was the least of his problems. For while spanning the stars at faster-than-light speeds, Mandella ages only months--while home on Earth, centuries have passed.

 

 

Babel 17 by Samuel R. Delany ****
winner of the 1966 Nebula award


Giving this book a 4 star rating maybe cheating. It probably deserves 5. The book is an
exploration of language and the role it has in society and more directly in our own consciousness. What is something if there's no word for it? It's said that the Eskimos have multiple words for snow and I'm willing to bet that there are tropical languages in which the concept of white stuff falling from the sky simply doesn't exist.

 

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