Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Review: mini-reviews of Slow Bullets, The Whispering Muse, The Mechanical, and Station Eleven

Soldiers, criminals, and others are put into sleep capsules on a spaceship, but are awoken when the ship begins to break down.  As the ship continues to fail, everyone must work together to create a new society. 

This being a novella instead of the usual time spent building up his world, Reynolds pretty much throws the reader right into things so it takes a little while to get into the story, but once you do, it's a good read.  The title refers to implants given to soldiers that contain their life histories, and as the ship fails and computer memory becomes precious, the characters must decide if they'll hold onto their past or look to the future. 

Rating: 8/10.
In 1949, an eccentric Icelandic scholar who accepts an invitation on a cargo ship sailing to the Black Sea.  Among the crew is the mythical Caeneus disguised as the second mate who, every evening, regales the crew and other travelers with tales of Jason and the Argonauts. 

While this sounds like an interesting story, it actually turned out be a little disappointing.  The storytelling bit only rehashes the mythology so any reader who is evenly remotely familiar with them will not find anything new.  The main plotline itself doesn't go anywhere either and finishes with a rather confusing climax. Overall, an average read that some may find interesting, but more well-rounded readers may want to look elsewhere.

Rating: 6.5/10.

In an alternative historical faux-steampunk world where a Dutch empire has come to control much of the planet thanks to mechanicals (i.e. robots), three people, a French spymaster, a priest, and the mechanical of the title, struggle for their freedom. 

The Mechanical is Ian Tregillis' latest work and has very intriguing premise:  Mechanicals were created by the Dutch using magic and alchemy in the middle 17th Century.  As we learn from the one POV character, the mechanicals are slaves, forced by geasa to do their masters' bidding.  However, things change when one is freed from his mental bondage.  It's very creative, though I didn't find it quite as interesting as the author's previous trilogy, the Milkweed Triptych.  Milkweed also had a point of view from the other side  and I would have liked a larger view of the world to see how plausible it is.  Anyhow, I'm looking forward to the next book. 

Rating: 8/10.

An aging actor dies on stage the very night a flu pandemic breaks out in Toronto and the world falls apart. The story jumps backwards and forwards in time from this one moment and follows characters all tied to this one actor, though the actor himself is not the star, merely the lynchpin.

This dystopian tale doesn't do anything that hasn't been done before, but what it does do it does very well.  It's less focused on the particulars of this apocalypse, but rather on it's effect on specific characters.  How their lives were before the event and how they deal with things after.  Some people break down along with society while others survive and adapt to their new world and find a way to move on.  It's easy to see why this has gotten so much praise and it's definitely worth reading. 

Rating: 8.5/10.

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