Saturday, July 04, 2009

Yesterday I finished The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick.

Similar to The Stations of the Tide, Iron Dragon's Daughter throws the reader into the deep end of the pool, introducing a complex and multi-faceted world with little explanation or background. In this case, it's a clever combination of fantasy and technology. The background seems to be built around what might happen in a world where magic exists, and the industrial revolution also happens. The result is a fairly grim world where elves rule, dwarves and others serve and the disadvantage exist at the sufferance of those in power.

The protagonist starts out a virtual slave in a factory, longing for some other kind of life, which is eventually supplied by a damaged dragon - in this world a sentient war machine. The relationship between them is more built on mutual explotation than anything else, and is typical of the relationships in this book. The book is fairly grim, with characters scheming against each other, abusing and exploiting those around them whenever possible.

Very interesting, but also frustrating. The lack of exposition on the world make everything that happens feel somewhat arbitrary, and undermine the arc of the character's development and the story.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

I just finished Odyssey by Jack McDevitt.

Odyssey is set in one of McDevitt's common worlds, where humanity seems to be almost alone in the universe, with no other advanced civilizations around and most of the threats come from the natural world or mysterious things, like the "Omega Clouds", but it is very different from most of his other novels. There is a lot more use of the politics of this world, which seem oddly similar to our own, with the future equivalent of NASA facing being shut down or under-funded. Meanwhile, some ships have started to see strange objects along their routes and no one is sure what they are.

By the end of the novel, there is more revealed, but McDevitt doesn't insist on wrapping everything up neatly in his novels and this is no exception.

The first half of the novel, which focuses more on the political struggles, is below average for McDevitt, but the second half comes on strong and gets a lot better, continuing McDevitt's streak as one of the more interesting modern SF writers.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On Sunday, I finished The Soul of the Fire by Terry Goodkind, the fifth in his Sword of Truth series.

The Soul of the Fire is better than the last book in the series. Maybe it's not surprising at this point, but the most interesting characters were the new ones he introduces just for this book. The main series characters are off screen for good portions of this book.

The plot involves some evil spirits accidentally loosed at the end of the last book. As a side effect, these spirits drain magic from this world, so the characters have to get by without their immense magical powers for a while.

The book also does very little to advance the larger level plot of the struggle against the Imperial Order that has been hanging around since part way through book two.