Review: Hyperion

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy the way this story (or stories, as it were) are told. Seven pilgrims are on a journey to meet the Shrike, a mythical, murderous creature that can control time. Each member of the group must relate their story to the rest during the pilgrimage. Each of these stories is told in a different way, giving each character a distinct voice. Each story is also told during a particular leg of the voyage. I think each of the characters are intended to represent one of the "7 deadly sins".

Father Hoyt tells a story of pride while the pilgrims travel on a tree-ship through space. He bears the weight of his contemporary who was not satisfied to remain in ignorance but demanded that he learn the true nature of a small tribe on Hyperion.

Colonel Kassad tells a story of lust while they enter the atmosphere of Hyperion and land. He is enamored with a specter that only appears to him when he is surrounded by violence.

The poet Silenus tells a story of gluttony as they travel upriver. Gluttony here, not in the sense of consumption of food, but in the sense of selfishness. All other concerns are trivial compared to his quest to create the perfect poetry.

The scholar Weintraub tells a story of sloth as they sail the sea of grass. He dreams of the shrike, the Lord of Pain, and disobeys the shrike's order to render his daughter as an offering.

The templar Masteen is lost before he tells his tale. I'm left to assume that his is the tale of envy.

The detective Lamia tells a story of greed while they travel by cable car over a frozen mountain range. On the surface she is telling the tale of her client, Johnny. Johnny is an AI created as an experiment by the techno core, a collective of artificial intelligences. Really, though, this is the story of the fractured core, and their greed for ultimate intelligence. I really enjoyed the pulpy noir style used in telling this story.

The consul tells a story of wrath as the group retires in castle of the dead. He seeks retribution against the powers that led to death of his grandmother.

Unfortunately, we don't get closure as we're left with a cliffhanger leading into the next book. I'll definitely be reading it to see what happens next.

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Review: Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a departure from my usual reading. I've heard a number of David Sedaris's essays on This American Life, and I've enjoyed them, so I thought I would try one of his audio books. This is a broad collection without any particular theme that I took away. There are a few gems here that gave me a chuckle, such David's experience waiting in line at an airline and the idle chit-chat with other folks there. Some of the essays were taped in front of a live audience, and I found that I preferred those. Overall I'm not sure that I would go out of my way to recommend this book, but it did help to pass the time during my commute.

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Review: Neverwhere

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this tale. Each of the characters has a distinct voice that I can hear as I'm reading them. I can see twitchy Mr. Croup fancying himself eloquent as Mr. Vandermar ambles along with him, at once bemused and bored. The environment of London below is visceral. It may be the heat of August right now, but I can feel the cold and damp as Richard and Door weave their way throughout London Below.

I've recommended Stardust to many folks, and I would recommend Neverwhere just as highly.

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Review: A Killing Frost

A Killing Frost
A Killing Frost by John Marsden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first book in the series was excellent because it introduced us to the characters as well as the invasion that changed these kids' lives forever. The second book was ok, but I this third installment was so much better. The group from Hell has taken on a much bigger target as they investigate Cobbler's bay, but the risks are also much higher as well.

If I had one criticism of this series it is that all of the character emotions are a bit shallow. That's not to say the characters are shallow. These teenagers are in an awful situation, and I would expect there to be some extremes to their highs and lows. Instead, everything seems to move along with only modest ups and downs. I was especially aware of this in the last few pages which involves a very dramatic turn but it seems to elicit little if any response from the characters.

I'm enjoying this series, and eager to see what the next installment will have the troop from Wirrawee doing.

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Review: Brave New World

Brave New World
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brave New World appealed to me so much more than 1984 did. They both deal with similar concepts: a controlling government that imposes its own will on society. The government of 1984 does so by oppression. The government of Brave New World controls through kindness. Humans are conditioned even before birth to be consumers. They are conditioned to lack a fear of death. Each child is born predestined for a particular role in society, and through careful conditioning, developed to love playing that role.

Brave New World is going to stick in my mind for a long time, and may be one of those few books that I go back to re-read in the future. If we don't see the cage, are we free?

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Review: 1984

1984 by George Orwell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Lots of people are exposed to 1984 in high school as required reading. I wasn't one of those people, but I still was aware of many of the concepts of the story because they are part of our common discourse with regard to politics and government. I decided it was time to get the full story and checked this out from my library.

First, an explanation of my 2-star rating. I didn't enjoy this book. I didn't care about Winston, or Julia, or any of the other characters. I felt that it wasn't even really so much as a story as it was a loose framework upon which Orwell's thoughts on communism could be hung.

That aside, Orwell's thoughts on communism and power are really interesting. While I wouldn't recommend reading the entire book, I would highly recommend reading the book within the book (Goldstein's manifesto). It is a very frank essay covering how a body in power might abuse that power to remain in power forever, and purely for power's sake. It's terrifying. The behavior of the party and Big Brother is taken to an extreme, so I don't think it is fair to say that any current government has taken the tenets of that essay to heart. However, it is easy to identify various elements in place all over the world. Whether it is falsification of the past (holocaust denial), falsification of production (North Korea), or continuous involvement in warfare.

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Review: The Light Fantastic

The Light Fantastic
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The same whimsical humor from the first discworld book is present here. We get introduced to a handful of new characters that I hope we see more of. I thought this book was entertaining, but not something I would recommend. This style of humor is great in small samples, but I grew tired of it after the first hundred pages. Still, I will probably continue reading the series.

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Jade Mason