Sunday, February 11, 2018

Book Review of "Death's End - by Liu Cixin"

"At what point does life become not worth living ? Faced with an inevitable extinction event, how would one think & behave?" - asks Cheng Xin, the protagonist of "Death's End" - the final book in the mind bogglingly amazing Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy. To me, Death's End is probably the weakest of the three books with the middle volume, The Dark Forest, clearly being the best. That being said, this third book by itself is still a pretty good read -  a solid 4/5. 

Author Liu Cixin continues his masterful plotting, criss-crossing multiple characters & multiple stories - spread across literally centuries. Some of storylines that have been building up for the last 3 books do end up with a dramatic crescendo. There is a chapter in the book where children's fairy tales are used to embed secret scientific messages and it is one of the most perfectly executed plots.

But Death's End is unfortunately not without its faults - the main one being its protagonist - a super-smart female aerospace engineer named Cheng Xin. She is intelligent, emotional & empathetic. But due to the sheer number of things that happen in this book, there is no time to add any depths to her character and she just comes across as an exposition tool or a glorified narrator for us, the readers. "Luo Ji", the main character of The Dark Forest, was interestingly conflicted and had a much nuanced personality.

The second and probably the most glaring issue is that the last 20% of the book just drags on. The author has literally tried to fit so many things that the overabundance of ideas feels tiring. The story could have been neatly tied up and finished at the 80% mark itself making the last 1/5th of the book feel like a weird last-minute unnecessary idea-cramming.

But anyhoo, this is not a deal-breaker. Death's End is still a great read and I would very highly recommend The Remembrance of Earth's Past Trilogy to any science fiction reader. 4/5 for Death's End but a definite 5/5 for the trilogy as a whole.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review of "The Dark Forest - by Liu Cixin"

Hands down, "The Dark Forest" is a jaw-dropping and an epic Sci-Fi novel ! It literally takes efforts to put this down once you get into the story. This is the second book in the "Remembrance of the Earth's Past" trilogy. Following the first one, the Three Body Problem, was never going to be an easy task but the Dark Forest proved to be an amazing continuation of the story. In fact, I would rate it a notch higher than the first. The main gripe I had with the Three Body Problem was the not so great characterization which the Dark Forest more than makes up for by introducing a whole new set of characters with an intriguing personality as the protagonist.

The ideas in this book are great, their application to the plot is ingenious and their execution simply superb. The book does start out slow but it picks up at around 30-35% and after that it is a roller coaster ride of fantastic storytelling. The overarching symbolism, the main metaphor of the plot and the various philosophical discussions and conundrums make this a great read. The overall writing and the prose flows smoothly like a calm, serene river and it is simply, for the lack of a better word, beautiful.

So yeah, 5/5.

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.