In the Ocean of Night by Gregory Benford

First, I want to tell you that I read good books too. It just happened that recently I wrote reviews of not the best ones. I will write about my five star reading experiences. I promise.

In the Ocean of Night (Galactic Center, #1)In the Ocean of Night by Gregory Benford

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Attention: spoilers ahead!

When I purchased this title I made a mistake: I didn’t check the date of the first publication. I listened to the audio book, which was published in 2012. Into one third of the story I started to suspect that the original book is older than my daughter, and later my suspicion was confirmed by mention of microfilms used in 2034. I should have known better to check the reviews more thoroughly before buying it. In the Ocean of Night was born in 1972. Almost as old as me. It’s not that I’m against old books, but I pick them only if I want to be nostalgic. Otherwise I prefer books of this century.

The story, however, started well, right into hard science fiction, astronauts discovering an alien artificial asteroid. Just what I wanted. But then the author made me jump fifteen years, to arrive into the daily life of the astronaut who made the first contact. The family setup was interesting, I must say, a blossoming triangle of a man and two woman, enjoying the threesome love-life. Besides that, a family drama unfolded in front of me, with the sadness of one of the partners having cancer. Oh, as a subplot, some slow development happened concerning an alien automated spaceship called Snark passing by. But not much.

The story seemed to speed up when the Snark started to communicate through a medical implant, and resurrected the said partner. I thought “yes, real science-fiction, finally”. It didn’t last long, though. The alien spaceship left the Solar system running from a missile. Why, of course the US government had to shoot at it, it’s standard Hollywood procedure.

Then there was the wreck of another alien spaceship on the moon, which almost caused the death of the character who stumbled in its shield by chance. Space accident. Fight for life. Good stuff. But then jump again, and now I was discovering the alien ship’s computer. Oh, the ship lowered its shield sometime in between, but I never learned how and why. Anyway, there was the promise of hard sci-fi again. But what I really got was description of dull images downloaded from the alien computer. Boring. I wondered why the scientists didn’t go exploring the ship. Yes, they told me that it was dangerous, and they had plenty of time, it wasn’t going anywhere. Serious? It was an alien ship, for god’s sake!

And then came Mr Itchino (I hope I spell it right after hearing), who went to play being a hermit in the woods on the hillside. But only after that I had to listen to all the wonders of singing birds and landscapes he was amazed of. Did I mention boring? After an agonizingly long time he finally learned about the secret of the mountain: Bigfoot existed. No kidding. Mr Grave saw them, they shot at him with their laser gun.

By this time I listened to the audiobook at x1.25 speed to get over it quicker. I still had my hope that there will be an amazing ending. False hopes.

Mr Walmsley suddenly was sucked into the alien computer, and the aliens told him everything he wanted to know, and he told me some of it. While chopping wood on the hill. For Mr Itchino. In an elevated mental state. All of these spiced with a high literature writing style, which was odd, because it didn’t match the previous part of the book.

I almost forgot to mention the religious sect of the New Sons. I’m still wondering what was the author’s purpose with them.

I found the cover copy misleading. In the Ocean of Night promised me so much, but definitely failed to deliver. John Scalzi would be able to write this story in thirty pages, and still find the room for a little sarcastic humour of his.

Some reviewers say that the next books in the series are better. I wouldn’t know. I won’t buy them. I go to listen to an Alastair Reynolds book instead.

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Assassin’s Creed Black Flag by Oliver Bowden

Assassin's Creed: Black Flag (Assassin's Creed, #6)Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag by Oliver Bowden

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m big fan of Assassin’s Creed, I played all the games, currently having fun with the Black Flag episode. Best. Game. Ever. Full of action, secrets to uncover and prizes to collect. So I had high expectations of the book.

It left me with mixed feelings. The story is a nice summary of the main mission. The game itself is quite complex, you can spend a lot of time with side-actions or just being a pirate sinking and plundering ships. It’s easy to loose the main thread. This book lead me through the main story. I also learned a lot about Edward Kenway, the main character, his background, his motives, his feelings, which the game doesn’t really show.

However, the writing was not that impressive. Most of the time there was telling instead of showing, which cannot draw you into the story deeply enough. The dialogs could have been better, the characters talked almost the same way. It didn’t spark, if you know what I mean.

The story was inconsistent in places, there were holes between chapters. Also, there were missing bits in action scenes. (For example the hero fell on the ground and the author forgot to tell that he got up, so I found the sword fight awkward until I realized he was on his feet already.)

I don’t know if I’m just looking at the book through gamer eyes, but I expected more.

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Endymion by Dan Simmons

Endymion (Hyperion, #3)Endymion by Dan Simmons

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After I finished the book I asked myself: what was the purpose of this story? What was the point of the quest? Why did they go through those worlds instead of jumping to the final location? For Aenea to develop certain traits and improve her personality? Weak reason. It seemed that it was only for the sake of going on a quest. Come on. They even haven’t met the famous architect they were searching for.

This story was so much without a satisfying resolution that I felt cheated at the end. Remember what the Poet, at the beginning of the adventures, asked Endyminon to do? That was a promise from the author. Very few were achieved by the end. Oh, it will be in the next book? Then this one was only a prelude to the real events? I feel more cheated.

I liked the world-building, though. It was interesting to see the different worlds and cultures. Having the Hyperion books read it was kind of familiar feeling, as if I visited old places. I also liked the author’s voice.

The character of Aenea was weird. She knew so much in one moment, than she was a twelve year old child in the next. At the end of the book I got a hint that she was seeing visions from the future, but her character just didn’t came together properly.

Maybe the whole arc of the story will be completed in the next book, but I’m not sure I will buy it.

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Do e-books have to be cheaper?

I just came across the pre-order page of Lee Child’s new book, Personal.

As of writing this post the kindle edition costs $19.43, while the hardcover is $16.79. First I was upset. Come on man, the e-book is more expensive than the paper one? Where did you live in the last two years? On the Moon? Everyone knows that e-books are cheap. At least cheaper than paper books. There is no storage and distribution, the shipping cost is zero, and there is no printing cost. So e-books ARE cheaper.

But let me rephrase it: the production of e-books is cheaper. At least this is what I have heard from people who know what they are talking about.

Does it mean that the sales price of e-books has to be lower?

No.

I hear the crowd of readers groaning. Shut up and go to the corner, bad boy!

Let’s think with the hat of an author on. Imagine that we are famous, have dozens of bestsellers published and we have a huge fan base. Our book is just coming out. Why would we price it lower if our fans can hardly wait to read it and would pay any price. OK, within reasonable limits.

Now let’s put our reader hat on. We are avid e-book readers, haven’t bought a paper book since the “revolution” started. The Author is our favorite, and we can hardly wait for his new book to come out. Why would we care about the price of the paper book? We are not going to buy it, we are into the kindle version. So we click on the Buy now button and we’re happily reading the new adventure of our favorite hero.

Except. This is where the reading value comes into the picture. I wrote a post about it earlier, I won’t repeat it here. The thing is that the price would make me think. Should I buy the book for twenty bucks? I have a reading list thiiiiiiiiiiiis long. I’m not talking about the indie books that new authors throw at me for free or for $0.99. I have bestsellers on my list. I’m at book five of the Harry Bosch series, and I still haven’t read all of the Brandon Sanderson books or The Wheel of Time series. Just for example. So, should I bother to buy this new book? Maybe I could wait a few months until the price goes down. I may consider listening to the whisper of my purse and save that money. Or I may say oh, what the hell!  and clickety click on the Buy it quickly now button.

I’m sure that lot of people won’t wait, because curiosity and wanting to be entertained is human nature. Hard to resists. Lee Child will sell a ton of e-books at this price. He deserves it, he is a fine writer. So why would he sell the kindle version for less?

Why I don’t watch Game of Thrones

The short answer is: they killed too many characters I liked.

Of course, the long answer is more complicated, but I can distill it to these simple reasons:

  • They said it was a fantasy show. It started with scary ice monsters. Later there were little dragons. And a mystical black entity. But for the first three seasons, practically that was it. Oh, yeah and a zombie-like creature appeared for a few seconds. Quite slim for a fantasy story if you ask me.
  • They killed Sean Bean. I mean Ned Stark. In the first season. It made me think whether the show was stupid or brilliant. And then at the end of the third season they killed the most of the Stark family. That was the point I stopped watching.

Let’s face it people: this is alternative history, spiced with some fantasy elements. It’s like putting a hint of red wine into a glass of lemon juice and calling it wine. It just isn’t.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t hate Game of Thrones, neither do I think it is a bad show. I just don’t care anymore.

Oh, by the way, I have to tell you that I haven’t read any of the GoT books. No way I’d spend that much time on this story.

Wyrms by Orson Scott Card

WyrmsWyrms by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Warning: spoilers ahead!

I just finished Orson Scott Card’s Wyrms and I don’t know what to say. This book pulled my mind apart. I liked and hated it the same time.

It was full of awesome ideas. I loved that. The heads in the jars preserved by alien lifeforms… awesome. The genetic basis of the story and the interaction of different species are compelling. Here is a book which is not about aliens attacking humans or humans attacking aliens. The alien life-form chose to mix with the human genes in order to survive, moreover, to produce a much more dominant new race. The memory-storing crystals in people’s mind was also an excellent idea, especially because it could be passed to the next generation.

This being said, I almost fell asleep when the characters gave philosophical speeches to each other. Maybe I’m a shallow guy who easily get bored over deep philosophical thoughts, but my finger was itching to push the fast forward button (being listened to the audio version). At some points I even considered giving up.

There are some very, I mean very disturbing events in the story. I already found odd how Patience dealt with his father’s head. However the most awful thing was the mating between the heroine and the worm-like UnWyrm. Not only the act itself, but what happened right after that. I would have thrown the book on the ground if it wasn’t on my smartphone.

Some of the characters simply irritated me. If I were the author I would have killed the fat woman character early in the book.

So not being able to decide if it was a brilliant or a very bad book, I give three stars.

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