Posts Tagged ‘book review’

SciFi Discussion – Reamde

Monday, January 21st, 2013

On Tuesday 15th January Manchester SciFi Book Club braved the cold and met up at the Madlab to discuss Reamde by Neal Stephenson. This is the second Neal Stephenson book that we’ve read, the first being Snow Crash.

Reamde is a technothriller novel by Neal Stephenson, published in 2011. The story, set in the present day, centers on the plight of a hostage and the ensuing efforts of family and new acquaintances, many of them associated with a fictional MMORPG [Massively multiplayer online role-playing game], to rescue her as her various captors drag her about the globe. Topics covered range from online activities including gold farming and social networking to the criminal methods of the Russian mafia and Islamic terrorists.

Did We Like It?

Overwhelming everyone liked it, with one exception who wasn’t sure. With a generous 1042 pages there were a few people who were unable to finish Reamde. Although it is published as one book, it does feel like it could be split into 2 or 3 separate books.

Whilst it was a little slow at first, the pace soon picked up and accelerated to through the book. It was even a little rushed at times. There was plenty of action throughout and we were surprised that it has not already been made into a film.

Character Assassination

The characters were interesting with some being more developed than others. We did feel that the manner of describing characters was an info dump or even statistics read out from Trump cards. Richard’s back story was revealed in a better way, as it evolved all the way through the story. Sometimes characters were referred to by there names and other times by their nicknames, which caused a bit of confusion.

We liked that situations in the story made some of the characters personalities change. We also liked it when Peter got shot and killed, since he was treacherous and self-serving! Although none of the characters really stood out, there were plenty of characters that we liked, such as Csongor, Sokolov, Seamus, Yuxia and Egdod. We couldn’t really identify with any of the characters, although worryingly there was something of an familiarisation with chief terrorist Jones, largely because he was British.

There were not many moments where Zula had any control over what was happening, but when she did take control her decisions were pivotal.

Is It SciFi?

No. Not only was there an absence of robots and spaceships, there was nothing relating to science or technology which is not reality. Its a thriller that is fact based. There were no giant ideas or themes, Reamde is very much about the story.

Whilst Reamde is a great story, we felt that it was a bit contrived in places, for example when the terrorist gets killed by the mountain lion, how everyone got nicely paired off and how the Jihadists happened to be living above the hackers.

We liked the effort at describing and creating the game of T’Rain, the Apostropocalipse, the different ways in which the Americans & Chinese played T’Rain and the way the bandits piggybacked on the hackers money making scheme. It was interesting how the terrorists secretly flew out of Chinese airspace and over the Atlantic to Canada. We liked the description of the culture shock for Sokolov and the Jihadists when they were in America, especially when they reached the gun aisle in the supermarket. Richard mentioning that you could enter a Walmart store in one location and then emerge from another Walmart somewhere else entirely was a little gem.

It was proposed that we rate Reamde on the basis of “How deep is your vassal network” but we ended up scoring out of 5. Reamde scored a respectable average of 3.35.

Manchester Sci-Fi Book Club Contacts

You can contact us via Twitter @mcrsf_madlab using #mcrsf

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Next Sci-Fi Book:

  • February 19th – Behold the Man by Michael Morcock

SciFi Books for Following Months:

  • March 19th – Neverness by David Zindell
  • April 16th – Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
  • May 21st – The Truth (Discworld Novel 25) by Terry Pratchett

SciFi Comic

It has been suggested that we read SciFi Comic Y:The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, in collaboration with the Mad Graphic Novel Group.

See you next book!

SciFi Discussion – The Year of the Flood

Monday, November 26th, 2012

On Tuesday 20th November we discussed The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood.

Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners – a religion devoted to the melding of science, religion, and nature – has long predicted a disaster. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women remain: Ren, a young dancer locked away in a high-end sex club, and Toby, a former God’s Gardener, who barricades herself inside a luxurious spa. Have others survived? Ren’s bio-artist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers? Not to mention the CorpSeCorps, the shadowy policing force of the ruling powers… As Adam One and his beleaguered followers regroup, Ren and Toby emerge into an altered world, where nothing – including the animal life – is predictable.


SciFi Discussion – Foundation

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Foundation Book Cover

On the 18th September we reviewed Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Published in 1951, it is the first book in the classic science fiction Foundation Trilogy.

The premise of the series is that mathematician Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept of mathematical sociology (analogous to mathematical physics). Using the laws of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale; it is error-prone on a small scale. It works on the principle that the behaviour of a mass of people is predictable if the quantity of this mass is very large (equal to the population of the galaxy, which has a population of quadrillions of humans, inhabiting millions of star systems). The larger the number, the more predictable is the future.

Using these techniques, Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting thirty thousand years before a second great empire arises. Seldon’s psychohistory also foresees an alternative where the intermittent period will last only one thousand years. To ensure his vision of a second great Empire comes to fruition, Seldon creates two Foundations—small, secluded havens of all human knowledge—at “opposite ends of the galaxy”. (more…)

SciFi Discussion – Embassytown

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Book cover of Embassytown by China Mieville

On Tuesday 21st we successfully navigated our way across the Immer to discuss Embassytown by China Mieville.

“Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe. Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts – who cannot lie. Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes. Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts. And that is impossible.”


SciFi Discussion – The Island of Dr Moreau

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Island of Dr Moreau book cover First published in 1896, The Island of Doctor Moreau was written by legendary author H. G. Wells.

The text of the novel is the narration of Edward Prendick, a shipwrecked man rescued by a passing boat who is left on the island home of Doctor Moreau, who creates sentient beings from animals via vivisection.

Did We Like It?

Most people finished reading it and liked it. There were criticisms about the science of turning animals into people and the general dreariness of the story.

Is It SciFi?

The science was vague without any real explanation and some of us thought it was more of a horror story than science fiction. Despite these niggles we felt that, yes, it is SciFi. We also thought that The Island of Dr Moreau was a book that has stood the test of time.