Draft Book Review – Consider Phlebas by Iain. M. Banks

ConsideringPhlebas_CoverI have been having a bit of a tidy up and managed to find a couple of partly finished book reviews from Summer last year (2015.) I’m not sure how I managed to miss them, but as I have other things to do I thought it would be fun to whack them out as they are, basically just a bunch of notes that give you an idea what I thought of the books. There is this one and Eden by Tim Smit.

—- Imagine its the 19th July 2015 —-

Quite a bit about religion and god. Communism and the way the Culture sees life.

The pace is very good. It’s a long book, but when the build up comes for the final events they build slowly and you have read enough of the story to fully appreciate the effort and gravity (accuse the pun) of the crescendo.

Another example of spectacular writing that transcends the book itself and the genre. When Iain talks about self and evolution and comparison of humans to the minds of AI it is separate yet completely integrated with the rest of the book.

——–

That’s it! I loved this book and have other Iain.M.Banks in my book list, so everything is good with the world 🙂

Rating: 8/10

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Book Review – Minority Report by Philip. K. Dick

Hello WordPress, how the devil are you? I know, I know, it has been over a month since my last post! I have some catching up to do! I also don’t have a picture for you with this book. The downside of e-books. They usually don’t have good front covers and I can’t easily take photos of them. Soz. Anyway, on with the review.

After finishing Foundation and Empire, I dove straight back into sci-fi with Minority Report. It was very interesting to see the differences in style between the two books. Both Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick produce slick, readable texts. Both also competently create future worlds which are still believable many decades after they were written. The difference is maybe one of how grounded each view of the future is. As I mentioned when I reviewed Foundation and Empire, a tale set in the far far future is not going to be at much risk of dated ideas until we manage to jump in space ships and whiz off to the twirly ends of the galaxy. In Philip’s Minority Report the future was definitely closer. I got an interesting mixture of future and the ‘70s from the story, but somehow that worked extremely well. The machines that the pre-cogs were attached to saved information to tapes, the reports were delivered on cards. It was all quite colloquial. In my mind this should have spoilt the book. I should have read about cards and tapes and got upset that the future is not going to be like that, we are already past bits of card to report onto. BUT, Philip K. Dick created realism in his future worlds. They feel different, and they are futuristic and they work wonderfully well. We already know that the future is going to be much more real and, well, down to earth than sci-fi tells us. The reality of it will warp and change as the order of different breakthroughs change the way that we work ever closer to that comfy seat on the spaceship to Mars. An example to illustrate my point; you know when R2D2 projects Princess Leyla onto the table in Starwars? Well, once we eventually invent holographic video and updated Dusty Bins to project them, they will definitely be very hi resolution, not the grainy broken effort that we saw and accepted as cool and futuristic in the film.

I’m not going to go into the details of the Minority Report story as I try not to include spoilers, but there is a great synergy in the basis of the story and the book itself, so if you don’t want to know a bit of the plot, skip the rest of this paragraph. Under usual circumstances 3 reports are created by the future gazing pre-cogs. The minority report is the weakest of the 3, the one that does not fully agree. In this story the minority report is very significant; it was different because its prediction was based on the events created because a character reads the main report and the third report is the altered future state. This is an ingenious plot device that Philip masterfully plays out in the story. I realised that the whole story is in its self a Minority Report. It is a short story, therefore minor in stature compared to a full book. More significantly, the story builds on realisation after realisation of how events have occurred and the impact of the present on the future. The story gets to an point where the remainder of the book is obvious. There is no option, the outcome is inevitable and is a function of the events that led up to it. A sublime reflection of the process that the story describes.

I did only get the Philip K. Dick Kindle book to read Minority Report, so that is the only story I read. I can thoroughly recommend it (and I expect the other stories in the book are great too…)

Rating:8/10

Book Review – Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

FoundationAndEmpire_CoverI am a little behind on my book reviews, but in relevance to this post, I have also had another epiphany: My blog posts can be rather too long! This means that they aren’t quite as consumable as I would like, and they take quite a long time to create to boot. I want more time to read, more time to write and more time to interact with Twitter and bloggers. Here, therefore is a short review of Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov.

This is the second Asimov book that I have read. Unsurprisingly the first was Foundation. I read it quite a while ago… On starting Foundation and Empire I was reminded of the wonderful quality of Isaac’s writing. There is a conversational tone to it, but it is not a conversational prose per-Se. Isaac manages to hit that illusive target of “just enough”. The reader is expected to understand the world in which the story is set. This lean, intelligent approach draws you in.

If that doesn’t float your intergalactic battleship, then the main story really should. I would suggest that this is a series of books that really does need to be read in sequence. The story is epic. A hugely expanded human population and a story line that interacts with it, all on a galactic scale. It quite literally tells the future story of a whole civilisation through the deeds of a few key people. Events move beautifully from the macro to the micro without skipping a beat. At the grander end of this scale, battle scenes and more importantly tactics feature quite a bit. In places I was reminded of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, another fantastic book.

You can tell that this story is the Foundation (‘scuse the pun) of many other Sci-Fi books. All aspects of writing and story telling are bought together so well that it couldn’t help but influence a lot of stories that have arrived since. It astounds me that I can read a book about the future that was first published in 1952, yet there isn’t anything out of place, it’s still contemporary. The golden rule is; if you’re writing about the future, write about the far future. Hover boards in 2015 is just never going to happen… The only place that Foundation and Empire appeared dated was it’s references to smoking. You never know though, if we ever do actually crack the hover board, we may actually manage to create a way to smoke that doesn’t kill you??

Foundation and Empire delivers, exquisite Sci-Fi. I’ve got no more to say except, possibly, the Mule is one of my new favourite characters of all time! Appetite whetted? Go read it then 🙂

Rating: 9/10