Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Zoe's Tale

I started reading the Whatever before John Scalzi even had a book contract, so once he started writing books, I started buying them. It just seems like the right thing to do, I know I like his writing and I've been enjoying it free for years, now I get to read his stories and hand them off to friends.

Zoe's Tale is a sequel to Old Man's War and The Last Colony. It is also supposed to be a stand-alone young adult novel, and it probably works ok, but I have to admit that my first reaction to reading it is an overwhelming desire to re-read the first two books.

I find reading this whole series to be fast & easy. There's nothing absurdly complicated going on with the language. Scalzi isn't playing games with sentence structure. It is really reminiscent of Heinlein (glorious adventures in space with really intelligent main characters and interesting interpersonal relationships), which may be why I find it so easy to skim through - I grew up reading Heinlein. It isn't just fluff either, there are really interesting scenarios, huge problems to solve - it is a great story.

This particular novel I really enjoyed. Zoe is a great character, and feels very much like a typical teenage girl - who just happens to be coping with the weight of an entire sentient race on her shoulders (she is goddess/mascot to the Obin - they're observing her in order to learn how to use their newly acquired consciousness). How she actually copes with it is great, and the way her relationship with the Obin evolves over the course of the book is quite fascinating and feels very natural. The thing I liked best about this book was that I finally feel like I understand the Consu. They're this super-powerful race of aliens - far and away more powerful than anyone else in the galaxy - but their motivations are completely incomprehensible and sometimes felt like a deus ex machina. Towards the end of the book Zoe actually has a conversation with one of them, and as a result of what is said the rationale behind the Consu's actions became clear (if incomprehensible - but they are an alien race and I think that incomprehensible is ok) and all of a sudden their actions over the course of the three books suddenly felt consistent.

This was a great book, and one that is going to stay on a shelf somewhere for Elli to discover - sort of the same way I discovered my grandfather's stash of Heinlein novels.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Un Lun Dun

This was a totally spontaneous purchase at my local used-book shop. I'm familiar with the author because many of my favorite blogs tend to rave about his work, but my only previous experience was with Perdido Street Station which was brilliant, and made me think, but was rather bleak and depressing. It didn't make me want to run out and read everything else China Mieville had ever written. Yet somehow this book just called out to me as I walked past it, and then wound up coming home with me. It took me about two weeks to realize that the title is actually "UnLondon" (I have a horrible time with verbal puns), but once I started reading it I couldn't put it down.

He takes the familiar theme of "hero, marked out by signs and portents, who will complete a series of and finish by freeing the world of all evil", and totally turns it on its head. I've read enough to be thoroughly tired of that particular theme (re-read the Belgariad at least 16 times in grade school) and this was incredibly refreshing. It is going on my list of books that I plan to read with Elli as soon as she's got the attention span to cope with it. The characters are fun, the setting is amazing (based on the two books I've read, China Mieville does fantastical cities better than anyone else I've read), and the story itself is amazing. Oh, and the whole book is full of fanciful little sketches - by the author.