Friday, January 12, 2018

Book Review of "Three Body Problem - by Liu Cixin"

"Three Body Problem" is a fascinating & brilliantly crafted Sci-Fi novel ! This was my first book written by a Chinese Author and I am completely hooked - no convincing required to pick up the next one of the "Remembrance of Earth's Past" trilogy. 

Even though this appears as a simple "extra-terrestrial beings" story on the surface, there are elements of philosophy, the good old tussle between science & spirituality, a deep rooted look at human folly and a very plausible imagined scenario of how geo-political forces could shape human action if "aliens" were to really exist. Be warned though - Three Body problem is a science heavy book. Some mind boggling science fiction stuff - but quite entertaining.

My only gripe with the book is the not so strong characterizations of some of the story players and the middle one third portion of the book kind of meanders and feels slow. Of course, the last 30-35% of the book is lightening fast and the end is executed superbly.

My verdict: 4/5

Friday, December 29, 2017

Book Review of "Legion #2: Skin Deep - by Brandon Sanderson"

"Legion: Skin Deep" - the second book in the Legion Series continued the fast paced, edge of your seat crime-thriller-science-fiction story initiated in the first book. This time, the plot revolves around a futuristic biotech company that has a product that - if misused - can have devastating effects on humanity. This is not your straightforward murder mystery story - there are elements of corporate espionage, some mad scientist level badass-ry and some shout out to open source software as well!

"Skin Deep" definitely has more meat than the first novella (which was really very short). We meet a couple of new interesting "aspects" of the protagonist. We get more clues about his hallucinatory multiple personality "condition", how it  works, how he has managed to keep it under control so far etc.

Just like the first book, more than the story, the interactions, the wise retorts and the overall snappy conversations between various aspects of the protagonist is the best part of the book.

All in all, this is a fun, light & entertaining read - perfect for the holidays.
5/5 from me. Just go for it.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Book Review of "Legion - by Brandon Sanderson"

Legion was my first Brandon Sanderson book and it was definitely one of the most epic short novellas that I have come across ! A crime/detective story with a backdrop of psychological disorder and a dose of science fiction ! And yes, this awful sounding melange has actually turned out quite well.

This is one of those books where unanswered questions and keeping things ambiguous has actually enhanced the impact of the story. Can't wait to pick up the next one in the Legion series !

5/5. My only gripe - wish it was longer than just 88 pages.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Book Review of "Artemis - by Andy Weir"

"Artemis" by Andy Weir sadly turns out to be "just meh". If your first book was "The Martian" - by far one of the most entertaining, funny and popular Science Fiction books in the last few years - then any book that follows it was always going to be subjected to harsh scrutiny and unfair comparisons. The two books can not and should not be compared - the Martian was a survival story and Artemis is sort-of, kind-of a heist story. But with that being said, "Artemis" doesn't hold up on its own. It is not necessarily "bad" - but it is remarkably average. The Martian made me a fanboy of Andy Weir and I so very much wanted Artemis to turn out great but alas! Well, it is what it is.

The story takes place in near future at a time when a full fledged city (called Artemis) is established on the Moon. In typical Andy Weir fashion, the city is
described wonderfully, the author paints a perfect picture of the environment, the geo-political situation, the "economics" of a truly international Moon currency and the hardcore science that goes into making a functioning city sustain on the Moon (it is fascinating how he describes the way in which Oxygen is generated and provided for all the city residents for example). Weirdly, things start to go south once all of this setup is done and the actual story starts and the characters are introduced.

The protagonist is "Jasmine Bashara" (or Jazz as she is called by other characters) who - in the most unimaginative way - has the same exact personality as Mark Watney from the Martian - but with a vocabulary of a horny teenage boy. She is smart and creative yes - but only when faced with certain death, in all other cases she just comes across as a lazy person hellbent on finding easy ways to make money. I know these are sort of the unwritten must-have traits for the protagonist of your heist story, but here, it just makes Jazz cringeworthy to be honest. There are a handful of other characters - no one stands out particularly.

Andy Weir seems to go out of his way to ensure his characters are of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds - which is good. Jazz is a Saudi National for example. Story has a gay person playing a very important role, characters are from different nationalities and religions. But the thing is, all characters speak and interact with each other as though they are all American (and we have been told explicitly that they are not). Maybe I am being too much critical, but all of this just comes across as the author showcasing diversity for diversity's sake.

Anyhoo, with all of this said and done, Artemis is not a bad book - just not a good one. Its ok. You will be entertained in parts, kind of frustrated in parts - but overall it is "fine". 3/5 from me.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Book Review of "All These Worlds, Bobiverse #3 - by Dennis Taylor"

Bobiverse #3 - "All These Worlds" - ends the Bobiverse trilogy with a whimpering bang. Granted it ties up all the loose ends and gives closure to the most important plot-lines, but it all feels a bit cursory and a bit rushed. The book isn't really what it could have been I felt.

The first two books had introduced a multitude of jaw-dropping science fiction ideas, had set up about half a dozen different plot-lines involving numerous characters and had also put forth quite a few philosophical, moral and ethical conundrums involving AI, humans and extra terrestrial species. A well-defined, crisp, all-powerful antagonist was also setup nicely. One would expect a great showdown when all of these things finally converged. But alas, the "crescendo" isn't exactly greatly executed.

However, the book does work in a few cases - a couple of plot-lines are ended with a nice heart warming touch, the final space battle is skillfully outlined. But overall it doesn't do justice for being the final book in one of the most amazingly crafted science fiction trilogy.

3/5 for this book from me, but a big thumbs up for the Bobiverse Trilogy as a whole !