Friday, April 27, 2012

Cauldron

Cauldron by Jack McDevitt is what I call a "hard science" science fiction novel. Maybe I should say medium hard science. The majority of the book is about developing a new kind of engine that will allow humans to reach an area of space called The Cauldron.

I was really bored by this book. It just didn't move fast enough for me. It takes place a few hundred years in the future when humans have gone to every place they can with the current kind of rockets. All they've found is a bunch of dead civilizations. Politicians are calling for an end to funding for space exploration.

The story follows a bunch of die hard spacies including a couple of has been pilots. They finally get their engine to work and head off for The Cauldron. It seems that all the dead civilizations were hit by mysterious gas clouds that can wipe out all life in a few minutes. The origin is somewhere in The Cauldron. Three quarters of the book is wasted getting to The Cauldron and the rest is anti-climactic muck. Very disappointing.

The thing that bugged me the most about the book was hidden in little throw away "headlines" at the end of some chapters. The book could have done without any of them but a couple were really offensive:

REPORTS OF RELIGIOUS EXECUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST Death Penalty Still in Place for Muslims Who Go Astray Christian Missionary Reported Among Victims World Council Demands Access.

The rest of the world advances but Muslims are barbarians? This is the only group mentioned in such a disparaging way. Bigotry has no place in science fiction unless you're pointing out how wrong it is.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Virtual Virgin

Virtual Virgin is the fifth book in Carole Nelson Douglas' Delilah Street: Paranormal Investigator series. I've been a fan of Douglas' Midnight Louie series which features a cat who talks like a 40s private dick so I thought I'd give this urban fantasy a try.

I'm not really sure what to say about this book. It was weird. It was funny sometimes. Ridiculous often. Just like any of the other Douglas books I've read. I'm just not sure the wacky translated well into urban fantasy. I can't believe I just typed that sentence. I'm the one who likes Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime series. How can I not like wacky in my urban fantasy? This book just didn't touch me. I have no desire to read any of the others in the series. There are some interesting elements vampires, werewolves, fae, magic. All things I like in a book. I can't explain why I didn't like this book more.

My dislike might have started when I realized that the book blurb was misleading. It talks about a CinSim of the robot woman from Metropolis. She is:
Part innocent teenage actress, part depraved sex goddess, the new Maria is hooked on Deliah's partner, Ric who raised her fromt he dead.... Delilah's not the jealous type but this tin-can temptress must be stopped...
 I'm not exactly sure of the process but I think that somehow, zombies of actors are melded with the silver nitrate in old films to actually become their famous characters. That sound you hear is Bela Lugosi spinning in his cape. It's a cute gimmick. Douglas gets to populate her world with Nick and Nora Charles (complete with Asta) and use Perry Mason as a surrogate father for her heroine. It also calls for a lot of explanation of who the CinSims are. Anyone who has actually seen Metropolis is going to be bored to tears with the vast amount of exposition relating to the plot of the film.

Now back to the blurb, the robot has two lines in the whole book. She mostly stands there looking vacant in two or three scenes. She's not enough of a person to actually want Ric. She calls him master because her character had one in the film. It's also obvious that Ric's only interest in her is what his responsibility is since he was the one who raised her. This leads him to an explorations of the lives and exploitation of CinSims. We're told that everyone wants the robot but we're not really told why. It's all kind of vague. It's a tenuous reason for Ric to go after the drug lord/demon who abused him as a child.

Maybe that's why I'm not in love with this book. Everything is too tenuous. There's no real plot, just a bunch of loosely connected stories (or scenes) and nothing is really resolved at the end.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spider Bones

Spider Bones is a Temperance Brennan novel by Kathy Reich. I've been reading this series since it first started. I was excited when I found out there was going to be a television series based on the books. I even liked it when it first came out even though it had nothing to do with the books.

If you have seen the TV show and want to try the books be warned. The character may have the same name but they are nothing alike. The literary Brennan is not a socially inept genius. She's just a smart middle aged lady who is good at her job. You won't find Booth in the books at all. Or any of the other quirky characters from the Jeffersonian either. If you want to start the books read the first one, Deja Dead.

Spider Bones is an okay book. I was just expecting more. It just feels a little light weight when compared to some of the other books in this series. Usually Reichs' books are complicated and interesting. This book did not live up to the hype:
One man, two deaths -- four decades apart. A stunning story of deceit and murder can't stayed buried forever.
The first death took place in Vietnam. The second in Quebec. The minute I read that the man in question had a cousin who looked like him, I knew who went to Vietnam and who came to Canada. It gets more complicated but the cousin is the answer to much of what comes later. Nothing stunning or even interesting about it.

One of the plot twists revolves around mother of the dead man being a chimera. Is this disease du jour? I've seen it in a couple of books and TV shows lately. Reichs is also guilty of throwing in the death du jour: erotoasphyxiation.

One thing that bugged me is that Brennan finds a picture in Quebec and says that this picture would lead to her almost losing her life. Trouble is, the picture had nothing to do with her brush with death. That was caused by a subplot involving gangs and drugs (don't they all?) which I felt was tacked on to the story to make the book long enough. I can't help thinking Reichs had something in mind when writing the first chapters but then changed it.

I'm also getting tired of her on again off again relationship with Det. Ryan. The man dumped her to go back to his ex and now that that's in the trash he's sniffing around her door again. Brennan should get a backbone and quit wondering if she should get back together with him.