Read: Misspent Youth

  • This is certainly not Hamilton’s best novel. Honestly, Misspent Youth was not at all what I expected. Maybe I should have.

    While, e.g., Magary’s The End Specialist was dealing with a cure for death’s effect on society: what happens if immortality is introduced, Misspent Youth deals with the impact of the first rejuvenation – also a form of a cure for death – on its immediate environment. Given Hamilton being renowned for space operas – and the last I have read I really liked – I did not expect a family drama. I did not expect to read about the adventures of a randy octogenarian in the body of a 20 year old.

    The backdrop, however, is quite interesting. The political and economic outlook into the nearest future was not too far fetched and, despite the exaggeration, credible. Indeed, I would have preferred to read more about this society …without all the drivel about the protagonist’s and his family’s lifestyle.

Read: Inferno

  • It is interesting that I would unwittingly pick up two novels in a row with a plot motivated by the malthusian catastrophe. Since one was a science fiction and the other is rather a mystery novel they can be hardly compared. The moral dilemma caused by the problem (of overpopulation) and the proposed solution are (even) less satisfactorily discussed by Brown. He does neither reveal whether he considers the malthusian catastrophe a present thread (I do not) nor does he (openly) hint at his own position regarding the villains solution.

    Yet, the villain is somehow de-demonized. Hence, maybe, Brown hints at his position after all.

    After about two-thirds of the Novel the protagonist learns about several layers of deception that he had to experience during the past few hours. The reader learns he was deceived as well. The mystery of the novel is thus the result of being fooled by the authors. There is no intricate web of clues, no chance that the reader cold solve the mystery. Brown just deceives his readers. Honestly, I was quite annoyed.

    The bottom line is, Inferno and Brown disappoint on more than just one level.

Read: The End Specialist

  • Drew Magary’s The End Specialist (or the USA version The Postmortal) is interesting for (at least) two reasons. The first is, of course, the idea to explore the consequences on an individual and societal level of finding a cure for aging. (Was Malthus right, will we suffer horribly from population growth after all?) The second is the literary style of writing such explorations in the form of a personal (b)log, giving the particular perspective of a single individuum.

    While I feel that Magary does not take full advantage of the blog approach, it allows for leaving many gaps (in the time sequence of the story, the protagonist’s development, and the details of his fictitious world) that otherwise would be perceived negatively.

    The bit parts remain absolutely undeveloped, the political and economic ramifications of the elimination of natural death are not spelled out in greater detail, only minor bits and pieces that have an immediate effect on the protagonist are made explicit. Hence, The End Specialist may disappoint a little on the exploration of the individual and societal consequences of the end of death expectation that the reader may have had before reading the novel. Other science fiction novels do a much better job on this end.

    Yet, The End Specialist’s moral is clear. “The cure for death must never … be legalized.” At least as long as we all have to stay on earth.

Read: Soul Music

  • Travelling means Pratchett. Having something amusing to read on a plane or train is just great. Time flies by (or, needs to fly by).

    Unfortunately, despite the many clever references to music and movies and the appearance of Death, my favorite character, Soul Music is utterly unexceptional.

    I did enjoy it but the only thing that stuck was a reference to one of my favorite bands. I did not expect that Pratchett would know them. In Europe, They are pretty obscure, not many people would have heard about them. Yet it seems he was actually a fan. ‘We’re Certainly Dwarfs’ made me laugh. It, of course, refers to ‘They might be Giants’. (Which I, finally, will see live in November when They will give a concert in Berlin.)

Read: tinkers

  • And then there are debut novels that are almost perfect.

    I do not know whether it is the genre or really the writing skill at the sentence and paragraph level, Harding’s tinkers is so much better written than the other debut novels that I have read recently that it makes me wonder why I have read them at all.

    The length of tinkers is also just about right. On the other hand, I could have done without the fake encyclopedia-like interruptions. Sometimes it was also hard to remember whether it is now father or son Harding is writing about (I have read the novel in many small parts during my trips to the office, etc.). Yet, this feels right as well. The two generations, though different, share many characteristics. Why shouldn’t their stories blend with each other to be one?

    I understand that tinkers is in no way innovative. The theme, death and random flashbacks, is not new. Father and son parallels are also not new. The literary style, the randomness, the digressions, and yes, the fake encyclopedia entries, are nothing new. Yet, it works.

Read: Reaper Man

  • And there we are, volume eleven and the second full Death feature in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

    I did not especially care for the city parasite theme; also the undead rights group was just on par. The Death plot, however, was great. There is a deeper philosophy behind Death that seems to speak to me. The romantic end was particularly moving…

    The Annotations

Read: The Sanctuary

  • Dual (or multiple) interwoven time lines seem pretty popular in current successful novels. The Sanctuary, for instance, connects one story plot playing in the early 1700 with one in the early 2000. Raymond Khoury mixes quite a bit of action – shoot outs, kidnappings, hot pursuits – a string of coincidences with an appealing scientific motive. Though the general level of violence and the number of shady characters is rather high the novel also brings up an interesting mix of moral attitudes and scientific ethics.

    How far should you go, how far can you go to achieve your goal? Here, questionable scientific experiments, torture, and murder are obviously accepted means to reach the end. On top of that, even the goal is “ethically challenged.” Should one strive to find the cure for death, to prolong one’s life beyond the normal expectations? And, should you share that knowledge?

    For this novel does not tell the “usual” quest for a religious artifact or a secret that could shatter the foundations of the Church, it does tell the quest for a vaccine to cure the disease of aging. And prolongevity – doubling, tripling the healthy human life expectancy – raises some serious social and moral questions.

    These questions are far more interesting than the novel itself that only cursorily is concerned with them.

    Still, The Sanctuary is quite entertaining – even though [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Khoury]Khoury’s[/url] first novel The Last Templar was a bit more enjoyable and enthralling.

Read: Sourcery

  • Pratchett’s Discworld novel number five – Sourcery – features again Rincewind and (my favorite) Death, together with his three fellow horse-riders of the Apocralypse, the apocryphal apocalypse.

    The story is nice and everything. It’s just apt to kill some time on a train trip. The most remarkable thing about this novel, however, is Pratchett’s extensive use of footnotes. There are 25 footnotes in total. There were some footnotes in his earlier novels, too. Yet, here he really establishes the footnote in his work as a literary device that provides a departure from the main narrative, tells a different story altogether, and provides meta-commentaries on the plot – a comic relief from an already comic novel.

Read: Mort

  • Pratchett created a wonderful character: Death. You just have to love every encounter with this guy. Each dialog sparkles with this unique dry sense of humor that is one of the reasons I like Pratchett’s work.

    Death appears in almost all Discworld novels. Mort, however, is the first book in which Death is one of the main characters and has more “page time” than otherwise.

    Mort is definitely one of my favorite Discworld novels.