Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review: The Eye of the World (Book 1 of The Wheel of Time)

The Eye of the World (1990), Robert Jordan. Paperback, 688 pages. 

Summary: A young man and his companions flee their backwater town after discovering that a terrible and mysterious dark spirit seeks them with demonic minions. For a more detailed summary, click here.

     Below them, just starting up the slope, marched Trollocs carrying poles tipped with great loops of rope or long hooks. Many Trollocs. The line stretched far to either side, the ends out of sight, but at its center, directly in front of Lan, a Fade rode.
     The Myrddraal seemed to hesitate as the humans appeared atop the hill, but in the next instant it produced a sword with the black blade Rand remembered so queasily, and waved it over its head. The line of Trollocs scrambled forward.
     Even before the Myrddraal moved, Lan's sword was in his hand. "Stay with me!" he cried, and Mandarb plunged down the slope toward the Trollocs. "For the Seven Towers!" he shouted.
     Rand gulped and booted the gray forward; the whole group of them streamed after the Warder. He was surprised to find Tam's sword in his fist. Caught up by Lan's cry, he found his own. "Manetheren! Manetheren!"
     Perrin took it up. "Manetheren! Manetheren!"
     But Mat shouted, "Carai an Caldesar! Caraian Ellisande! Al Ellisand!"


Writing Quality: 4/10

Depth of Concept: 3/10

Rounded Characters: 5/10

Well-Developed World: 5/10

Page Turner: 6/10

Kept Me Thinking: 3/10

Overall Recommendation: 4/10

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Review: A Game of Thrones (Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire)

A Game of Thrones (1996), George R. R. Martin. Paperback, 720 pages.

Awards: Locus Award. Nominated for Nebula and World Fantasy Awards.

Summary: In a magical world reminiscent of Medieval Britain and its close neighbors, noble families make and break alliances in a quest for powerFor a more detailed summary, click here.

     His father peeled off his gloves and handed them to Jory Cassel, the captain of his household guard. He took hold of Ice with both hands and said, "In the name of Robert of the House Baratheon, the First of his Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, by the word of Eddard of the House Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, I do sentence you to die." He lifted the greatsword high above his head.
     Bran's bastard brother Jon Snow moved closer. "Keep the pony well in hand," he whispered. "And don't look away. Father will know if you do."
     Bran kept his pony well in hand, and did not look away.
    His father took off the man's head with a single sure stroke. Blood sprayed out across the snow, as red as summerwine. One of the horses reared and had to be restrained to keep from bolting. Bran could not take his eyes off the blood. The snows around the stump drank it eagerly, reddening as he watched.
     The head bounced off a thick root and rolled. It came up near Greyjoy's feet. Theon was a lean, dark youth of nineteen who found everything amusing. He laughed, put his boot on the head, and kicked it away.
     "Ass," Jon muttered, low enough so Greyjoy did not hear. He put a hand on Bran's shoulder, and Bran looked over at his bastard brother. "You did well," Jon told him solemnly. Jon was fourteen, an old hand at Justice.

Writing Quality: 6/10

Depth of Concept: 6/10

Rounded Characters: 6/10

Well-Developed World: 7/10

Page Turner: 9/10

Kept Me Thinking: 5/10

Overall Recommendation: 6/10 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Review: The Road

The Road (2006), Cormac McCarthy. Paperback, 287 pages. 

Awards: Pulitzer Prize, James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction.

Summary: A man is prepared to make any sacrifice in order to protect his son from the horrors of a post-apocalyptic world. For a more detailed summary, click here.


He was a long time going to sleep. After a while he turned and looked at the man. His face in the small light streaked with black from the rain like some old world thespian. Can I ask you something? he said.
     Yes. Of course.
     Are we going to die?
     Sometime. Not now.
     And we're still going south.
     So we'll be warm.
     Okay what?
     Nothing. Just okay.
     Go to sleep.
     I'm going to blow out the lamp. Is that okay?
     Yes. That's okay.
     And then later in the darkness: Can I ask you something?
     Yes. Of course you can.
     What would you do if I died?
     If you died I would want to die too.
     So you could be with me?
     Yes. So I could be with you.
He lay listening to the water drip in the woods. Bedrock, this. The cold and the silence. The ashes of the late world carried on the bleak and temporal winds to and fro in the void. Carried forth and scattered and carried forth again. Everything uncoupled from its shoring. Unsupported in the ashen air. Sustained by a breath, trembling and brief. If only my heart were stone.


Writing Quality: 9/10

Depth of Concept: 9/10

Rounded Characters: 8/10

Well-Developed World: 9/10

Page Turner: 9/10

Kept Me Thinking: 10/10

Overall Recommendation: 10/10

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review: Red Mars (Book 1 of Mars trilogy)

Red Mars (1993), Kim Stanley Robinson. Paperback, 592 pages.

Awards: BSFA Award, Nebula Award. Nominated for Hugo, Clarke, and Locus Awards.

Summary: In the year 2026, one hundred scientists construct and man a permanent settlement on Mars, ushering in an age of exploration, colonization, and exploitation of the Red Planet. For a more detailed summary, click here.

Delta-v. V for velocity, delta for change. In space, this is the measure of the change in velocity required to get from one place to another - thus, a measure of the energy required to do it. 
Everything is moving already. But to get something from the (moving) surface of the Earth into orbit around it, requires a minimum delta-v of ten kilometers per second; to leave Earth's orbit and fly to Mars requires a minimum delta-v of 3.6 kilometers per second; and to orbit Mars and land on it requires a delta-v of about one kilometer per second. The hardest part is leaving Earth behind, for that is by far the deepest gravity well involved. Climbing up that steep curve of spacetime takes tremendous force, shifting the direction of an enormous inertia. 
History too has an inertia. In the four dimensions of spacetime, particles (or events) have directionality; mathematicians, trying to show this, draw what they call "world lines" on graphs. In human affairs, individual world lines form a thick tangle, curling out of the darkness of prehistory and stretching through time: a cable the size of Earth itself, spiraling round the sun on a long curved course. That cable of tangled world lines is history. Seeing where it has been, it is clear where it is going - it is a matter of simple extrapolation. For what kind of delta-v would it take to escape history, to escape an inertia that powerful, and carve a new course?
The hardest part is leaving Earth behind.


Writing Quality: 7/10

Depth of Concept: 9/10

Rounded Characters: 7/10

Well-Developed World: 9/10

Page Turner: 7/10

Kept Me Thinking: 8/10

Overall Recommendation: 8/10