Review: I Am Legend

I Am Legend
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm sure I'm not alone in being first introduced to this story through the movie Will Smith starred in. I really enjoyed the movie, but I never felt compelled to invest in any of the other adaptations. Then my buddy Steve read the original Matheson tale and let me know that the book was significantly different from the movie, and well worth the read. When I found out the eBook was available from my library, I really didn't have any other excuses.

The story presents an excellent perspective on the concept of the last man. How long would your sanity hold if you knew you were utterly alone, and that every day the world was trying to kill you? How long would you persevere, and how could you maintain hope? This story is much less about the vampire and much more about the human.

This is a short book at just under 150 pages, almost a novella. Given the small time investment, I can easily recommend it.

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Review: Flashforward

Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm really torn on how to rate this book. On the one hand, the concepts and science discussed here make for excellent thought experiments. Unfortunately, the social elements of the story telling leave a lot to be desired. Unless you had some cue to who the speaker was, you wouldn't be able to tell the dialogue of one character from the next. All characters have nearly identical voices throughout. In addition, the way these characters relate to one another is, well, bizarre to put it mildly. I had real trouble believing that people in real life would behave as the characters here. There is no character growth to speak of throughout. The female characters are largely immaterial to the story, acting as scenery or minor detail to a plot point.

Despite the poor attention to the human elements of the story, I did find myself eager to continue reading. While the book is a bit dated now, but it doesn't detract from the ideas. What would it mean for humanity to get a glimpse of the future? What would it mean to our scientific community? Is our future immutable, or do we truly have free will? These are questions we may never be able to definitively answer.

Overall, a decent read. There are a few more Sawyer books in my to-read queue. This one hasn't given me any reason to move them up or down in that list.

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Review: A Fire Upon the Deep

A Fire Upon the Deep
A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Fire Upon the Deep came highly recommended to me as one of the must read volumes in science fiction. It's easy to be let down when something comes along with such high praise, and that was the case for me. There were certainly quite a lot of elements that I enjoyed. I really enjoyed the way Vinge slowly introduces you to a new concept or element of the story without simply spelling it out for you explicitly. The subtle shift in the sex of pronoun usage and the way the tines are introduced really impressed me. There are some really interesting concepts here, and they are well realized within the story. On the other hand, the pace of this book is dreadfully slow. If you are looking for a high stakes, action / adventure story, this is not it. The ending really put me off, with the climax coming at a whimper rather than a bang. Overall, I liked the book, but it would not be in the short list of books I've recently read that I would recommend to folks with similar tastes.

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Review: The Strain

The Strain
The Strain by Guillermo del Toro

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first third of this story was really gripping. A plane lands at JFK, taxis part way to the terminal, and then goes completely dark. Unfortunately, once we move beyond the plane, the story devolves into a rather ordinary vampire story. There are a couple of ideas here that I hadn't seen before such as a stinger rather than drinking the blood, and the idea of the blood worms. However, all of the usual tropes appear. I enjoyed listening to this in audio book form, especially with Ron Perlman narrating, but I don't think I'll be exploring any future editions in this series.

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Jade Mason