Book review: We Are Legion by Dennis E Taylor

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse, #1)We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is it a Brazillian or Riker’s Beard?

Bob Johansson has cashed out of his software startup and cashed in on cryogenics. Thinking he’ll get to be immortal in a utopian future, he instead awakes to find himself as a slave to the new theocracy looking to spread the good word to the universe. The race to the stars becomes a race to Armageddon with only Bob floating in the way.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with Taylor’s novel. The reviews were solid, people enjoyed it and they said it was humorous. But We Are Legion had the dreaded spectre of hard sci-fi attached to it. Too many times I’ve read glowing reviews of a hard sci-fi novel that ended up annoying the scientist and reader in me.

Happily, We Are Legion was good fun. It engaged with the hard sci-fi without becoming interminable and boring. The tone, while not what I’d call humorous, was light and helped keep the pace brisk. That did make the novel and Bob a little flippant and unengaging at times, but that didn’t undermine proceedings too much.

The only real complaint I have is that the novel just kinda ended. It felt like the first instalment in a series – hey look, there are three of these things – not like a complete story.

I’m looking forward to reading more Bobiverse.

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Book review: Permutation City by Greg Egan

Permutation City (Subjective Cosmology #2)Permutation City by Greg Egan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Just assume I’m right, I’m the protagonist.

Permutation City is about a guy – I’m sure he had a name, but as most reviews and the back cover indicate, it doesn’t matter – who believes he can create an immortal universe in cyberspace. His doubters think he is a conman, his backers want a copy of themselves there, and his colleagues think he’s still crazy. Can he create an everlasting future in Permutation City?

This was my second attempt at reading Permutation City. A few years ago, this novel and Egan’s work in general, were recommended to me by a friend. I gave up after a couple of chapters. This time I made it all the way through. I’m not entirely sure it was worth it.

Egan is excellent at imaginative and interesting ideas. There is a lot going on in this book that will tickle fans of hard sci-fi in all the right spots. But that was pretty much the only interesting aspect of the book. Everything else was bland or unimportant.

For example, I can’t remember the protagonist’s name nor any character traits. And since I’ve returned the novel to the library, I can’t look it up there. I’d check some of the reviews to remind myself, but none of them mention the protagonist either. There’s a Wikipedia page, which eventually mentions the protagonist (Paul Durham) roughly two thirds through the page.

The main characters didn’t matter.

I can’t recommend this book. Plenty of hard sci-fi fans disagree with me. YMMV.

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Book review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Potatoes and Pirate-Ninjas: the reason you will read this book.*

I’m late to the Mark Watney appreciation society, since I only heard about this book as a result of the movie trailer. I guess at least I didn’t find out about the book after watching the movie and wondering if it was based on anything. The blurb essentially sums up the novel “Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.” There you go, premise done.

To say I enjoyed this book is an understatement, as I usually hate novels that try to be hard sci-fi. I mean, if I want to read a physics text book I’ll grab the one on my shelf, not some of the “plausible” made up stuff that hurts my needless exposition aversion gland. So to find a hard sci-fi story that manages to be so entertaining was no small feat. The humour was a big part of the reason for the enjoyment. I felt that this addition was very important to not only the characterisation of Watney the space-nerd – because nerds are normally only funny to laugh at – but also in how too many novels would have taken the same premise far too seriously.

So now I’m looking forward to the movie. This should adapt very well to the big screen, and Matt Damon seems like a great choice for Watney. Hopefully Ridley Scott won’t go all Prometheus with The Martian and we’ll have a great adaptation.

Edit: The wonderful From Quarks to Quasars posted about the Real NASA Technology seen in The Martian. Check it out to get your geek further on.

Science-the-shit-out-of-this

* Because you’ll wonder what the hell those things could possibly have to do with a book about Mars.

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