Friday, April 26, 2013

read: Scarlet (4 stars)

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another fun 'retelling' of a fairy tale in a sci-fi future. It's all here: red riding hood (Scarlet), her grandma, the wolf (of sorts), plus a bunch more thrown in because the simple RRH story would not fill a novel. But once again, what could have been a five-star book for me has to get knocked down a point.

This time it's for violations of physics. This has nothing to do with suspension of disbelief to allow for cool future science. This has to do with simple stuff, like you can't jump onto a moving train and just ride it around when this is the future and trains are moving at high speed. Even if you did survive the jump, the turbulence would push you right back off. Also, why are people commuting around France in rocketships? It makes as much sense as another SF book I read where everyone has their own helicopter. Not gonna happen. Too fuel inefficient. And rockets are for getting Into Space, not for travel to a nearby city or town.

On the bright side, we got more cyborg Cinder. We got more background on what's going on in the world and that whole plague thing. And we got more conflict and character development. All good stuff. Once again, I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

read: China Airborne (3 stars)

China AirborneChina Airborne by James Fallows
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having not read too much about life in China, other than what occasionally makes it into the news, I found this to be a thought-provoking, if somewhat repetitive, analysis of the aerospace industry in China. I had not given enough thought to how a Communist country even went about trying to foster a high-tech industry that seems to thrive on competition and innovation. The answer, as seen in this book, is that it cannot. As long as the government sets the parameters for growth and success, its version of the industry will always be at least a step behind the rest of the world.

This book is easy to read and often interesting. The main issue is that about a third of the way through, the author has really made all of his main points. The rest of the book becomes more of the same. But if you haven't kept up with what's going on in China, this can be an easy way to get a glimpse inside.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

read: Zero Day: A Novel (2 stars)

Zero Day: A NovelZero Day: A Novel by Mark Russinovich
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. The author is a software engineer; I'm a software engineer. He wrote a thriller; I want to write a thriller. He got published; I want to get published. I'm going to work hard to make my first published fiction better than this, however.

This is not unreadable, but it's overwritten and not compelling. I found myself skimming through it at a dizzying pace because not much was happening and most of the words on the page were giving superfluous backstory and description. This is supposed to be a thriller, pared down and full of impending doom and action. The author tried to create a sense of the former by describing the consequences of some computer crashes and tacked on the latter toward the end when our deskbound heroes suddenly started surviving gunfights. And then there is the gratuitous PG-13 sex thrown in to spice things up. What is needed are some stakes that really drive the story and the characters, not just a series of scenes that would barely support a Lifetime movie of the week.

There might be an interesting story in here somewhere. And some interesting characters. An agent or editor needed to tell Mr. Russinovich to go back and write another couple of drafts and find them.

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