Reading through the [Alleged] Best 100 Science Fiction Books- #26-30 scores and comments

I’m a huge science fiction fan, but realized I haven’t read a lot of those works considered classics or greats. I decided to remedy that, and found a list online of the Top 100 Science Fiction Books. The list is determined by vote from sci-fi fans online, so it may change over time. I am going off the order of the list as it was when I first saw it. Each book will receive a grade between F and A+ as well as very brief comments. I’m interested to read what you think about these books as well. There will be very minor spoilers in some of these.

26. The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle Grade: A
“The authors created a unique first-contact story that I enjoyed immensely. Plenty of twists and strangeness mixed in. It conveys a sense of the strangeness of the alien that isn’t always found in first contact books. They truly do feel ‘other’ in a way that authors don’t always manage to capture with aliens. The central conflict surrounding how to deal with the different alien types and the revelations that come with that are intriguing. Quite well done.”

27. Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card Grade: A+
“Orson Scott Card once again proves that he is a master of the character. The way he writes people is so very real, so intense, that it is difficult to come back to reality after reading one of his novels. Ender’s Shadow is another phenomenal tale of the human conscience set alongside the struggles of a street urchin who is raised above any position he would have dreamed of. It demands its place among the best ever.”

28. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card Grade: A+
“Certainly one of the best novels ever written, Speaker for the Dead is endlessly amazing. Full of rich characters, mystery, strangeness, and beauty, it is a book that has stuck with me for years and only improved upon re-reading it. It is hard to describe just how intensely full of emotion and drama this book is. It features some of the most raw and true-feeling human characters I’ve ever read, while also having some of the most interesting aliens. The plot is beautiful and encourages readers to think about their own humanity in a way only the best science fiction accomplishes. It’s utterly compelling and fascinating.”

29. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton Grade: A
“Dinosaurs and people don’t mix. Such is the lesson I got from Jurassic Park. It’s a different picture than is painted in James Gurney’s Dinotopia, itself a masterpiece. Crichton is a master of suspense, and this vivid novel combines thought-provoking ethical discussion with intense action… and dinosaurs. You can’t really go wrong. It’s not necessarily an original plotline, but the ideas in it felt fresh and still serve as a warning today. How far can we push the world before it pushes back?”

30. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester Grade: B-
“I enjoyed it but it seemed to be very condensed, despite dragging at points. It was as though Bester was simultaneously reluctant to describe any details while also belaboring some fairly minor points. I still don’t know entirely what I think of it. I thought the beginning was quite good, but it never seemed to fully pay off on the potential. It’s not a disappointing book, but not among the true greats.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Reading through the [Alleged] Best 100 Science Fiction Books– Check out more posts in this series as I continue.

SDG.

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Star Trek: DS9 “Blood Oath” and “The Maquis Part 1”

Time to kick ass.

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“Blood Oath”

Synopsis

A group of Klingons shows up on Deep Space 9, immediately causing problems with their carousing. After several arrests, Jadzia Dax hears their names and realizes they are sincere friends of Dax’s from the past. She reunites with them and discovers they have come to gather in order to fulfill a blood oath all of them took–including Dax–to avenge themselves against a pirate, “The Albino,” who killed the firstborn sons of the Klingons after they destroyed his base. They have finally found his location and plan to kill him. Jadzia insists on being included–one of the murdered Klingon children was Dax’s godson, after all, and Dax also swore the blood oath–but two of them oppose her inclusion. She finally convinces them to let her come with as part of the honor of Klingon oaths. Major Kira and Commander Sisko each try to convince her not to go, but she does. En route, she discovers that the whole thing is a set up–The Albino knows they are coming and has agreed to give them a “chance” to kill him under his own conditions. Jadzia rebels against the notion and instead devise a way to attack the weapons of The Albino. They attack in the manner she plans, and manage to confront The Albino in his lair. Jadzia herself disarms The Albino, and one of her companions kills him. Two of her best friends are lost in the battle, but she and Kor leave, the latter singing praises of the battle they just fought.

Commentary

BUM BUMBuMbuM buM BUM *Guitar Riff*

Sorry, this episode just really needs a heavy metal soundtrack going along even as I think about it. It was totally badass. In this episode, Jadzia Dax goes with a group of Klingons to take Klingon-style revenge: a Bat’leth to the gut. Yeah. Totally awesome. It also provides a significant amount of character development for Dax, as she struggles to decide whether it is morally acceptable for her to go on this quest for revenge, as well as balancing her former host lives against her own perspectives.

Now, accompany all of this with a group of rambunctious Klingons causing problems all over DS9 for Odo and Quark? Yeah. Not a ton to say about this one because the plot itself basically demonstrates how amazing it is.

Grade: A+ “They really needed to have a soundtrack filled with heavy metal… or Klingon opera, for this one. It’s an epic episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was just an epic Klingon feud of destiny.”

“The Maquis, Part I”

Synopsis

Tensions from the colonies–both Cardassian and Starfleet–that are along the border between the two nations (what is the right term for Starfleet anyway… conglomerate of utopic homeworlds? I don’t know) spill over to DS9 in a big way as a Cardassian freighter is destroyed. A Vulcan attempts to buy weapons from Quark to help in the same conflict. Apparently, they may be part of a group calling itself The Maquis that seeks to limit the Cardassian influence on their colonies through force. Gul Dukat stops by for a visit and, in a trip with a Runabout, shows him the conflict that continues to develop between their peoples. An old friend of Sisko, Calvin Hudson, has been sent to try to stymie the conflict. Chief O’Brien demonstrates that the device that destroyed the Cardassian freighter was of Federation origin, and Sisko moves to defend Dukat. He’s too late, and the Cardassian is captured. Sisko goes in pursuit, but is confronted by Hudson, who has apparently joined the Maquis himself.

Commentary

The Cardassians continue to be a much more interesting foe than even the Romulans were in TNG. Unlike so many of the aliens that are foes of the Federation in Star Trek, the Cardassians aren’t just one trick ponies. The Romulans, for example, you know are going to be lying and plotting. The Ferengi are greedy and that’s about it (but DS9 is also changing that perception), the Borg are rather generically horrible. Yes there are exceptions, but overall the aliens in earlier Star Trek had very little by way of dynamics. The Cardassians feel like a bigger challenge because they have, for better or worse, more humanity in them. “The Maquis” helps develop them even more, showing Gul Dukat as a manipulator, yes, but a manipulator who may not always have the worst possible intentions at heart.

The ending was kind of expected for me. I figured it would be Hudson. But, though predictable, it also shows the episode’s writers weren’t just pulling things out of a hat whenever possible. It is cohesive and a great setup for what is to come.

Grade: A- “The conflict between Starfleet and the Cardassians continues to be compelling, with both personal and broader conflict drawing viewers in.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was pretty good, but not particularly memorable.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9- For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

Star Trek: DS9 “Playing God” and “Profit and Loss”

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“Playing God”

Synopsis

Another Trill, Arjin, who wants to be a host shows up on DS9 to do field work under Jadzia Dax. Apparently previous Dax iterations were notorious for washing out candidates from the program, and Jadzia is determined to allow herself leeway to be herself rather than a previous iteration. So she takes Arjin around the station to the Klingon restaurant, on field work, and the like. She insists he doesn’t need to impress her. They accidentally snag a piece of protoplasm on a mission and it turns out that as the protoplasm stays on station, it starts to expand rapidly. It turns out the protoplasm is a “protouniverse” trying to form within the station [?] and they ultimately manage to take it back through the wormhole, only with the ace piloting of Arjin. It awakens Arjin to his own strength of personality and capacity to contribute to the symbiot program. Oh yeah, and O’Brien and Kira have to try to take out some Cardassian voles that are causing havoc all over the station.

Commentary

THE KLINGON RESTAURANT SHOWED UP AGAIN YES!!!!! It’s my favorite place on the station, and this scene was perfection. A massive Klingon serenading Jadzia with a love song she taught him? Amazing.

The vole scenes with Kira and O’Brien? Suitably hilarious and fun. The major plot with Jadzia as her own person and trying to explain to Arjin that he must have his own personality to be a capable symbiot host? Fantastic.

Here’s the hitch: what the hell was that ‘protouniverse’ plot? I mean I get it, new universes may be out there forming somewhere. But by definition, they wouldn’t be a part of our universe, because they’d be a different universe. Some have theorized that black holes may lead to other universes or something. I’m not a scientist so I have no idea how to evaluate such a theory, but if it is true, it still wouldn’t be some space goo you could pick up and walk around with. Sorry, but this is nonsense.  Realistically, I should knock this one down lower, but I just loved everything else about it so much I can’t bring myself to go down to the ‘B’ range.

Really, this episode is an easy A or A+ without the protouniverse garbage. It’s a fantastic character piece for Dax, it has the best set on the whole show (Klingon restaurant); it has a genuinely funny subplot. Who thought the protouniverse was a good idea? Stop it. Overall, a really great episode that is taken down a notch or two by nonsense.

Grade: A- “An excellent episode marred by a weird sideshow… or was it the main plot? I don’t know.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A/B+ “Everything was excellent, aside from the absurdity that was the expanding universe subplot. Dax development for the win.

“Profit and Loss”

Synopsis

A Cardassian Professor, Natima Lang, and her three students are picked up and brought to DS9 after their craft suffers–they say–from an accident. Odo confronts Quark about an illegal cloaking device he may have acquired as Bashir tries to discover more about Garak’s past. O’Brien discovers that the damage found on Natima’s ship was caused by Cardassian weapons, so Commander Sisko confronts her. Natima admits that they are on the run from Cardassia’s government and are afraid Garak spotted them and will turn them in. Indeed, a Cardassian ship quickly comes near DS9 and demands to have Natima and her students handed over, though Sisko refuses to give them up. Quark offers the cloaking device he acquired to Natima’s students in exchange for having her stay with him–he loves her and had a lengthy relationship with her in the past. They agree, but Natima instead stuns him with a phaser. She realizes she still has  feelings for him and helps restore him from being stunned. As Sisko tries to figure out a prisoner swap the Bajorans agreed to, Garak is visited by Gul Toran who wants to arrange Garak’s return from exile from Cardassia in exchange for his assassinating Natima and her students. Garak blocks Natima’s escape attempt and Quark–now once more with the trio–tries to convince Garak to let them go. Gul Toran shows up and attempts to kill the fugitives after telling Garak he will remain in exile forever. Garak kills Toran and allows Natima and her group to leave. Quark says goodbye to Natima and he and Garak return to the main parts of the station, each with another brick in the wall.

Commentary

I’m sure I missed some things that happened because this episode was jam-packed with action, intrigue, and more. But what it did best was develop both Quark and Garak as major characters capable of carrying an episode on their own. Quark, in particular, is shown to have more dimension even to his love life than may have been expected. According to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, the plan was to make a kind of science fiction Casablanca, but to differentiate it enough from the source material to escape legal issues, they introduced the relationship between aliens (Quark and Natima) to help drive the plot. Excellent work, I’d say!

The main thing to say about this episode is that it balanced everything remarkably well. None of the intrigue or twists seemed wholly impossible, though some were unlikely. It also helped introduce the idea that there might be different factions within the Cardassian government and people regarding how to govern. I loved this one.

Grade: A- “A convoluted, but overall excellent episode. I love when they develop individual characters more, and this really helped bring forward Quark’s personality.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I thought it was really good and it showed a side of Quark that we hadn’t seen before.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9- For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

Star Trek: DS9 Season 2 “Paradise” and “Shadowplay”

Odo can also provide the vital function of spare toys as necessary.

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“Paradise”

Synopsis

Sisko and O’Brien get marooned on a planet as they try to figure out how to contact the lifeforms on its surface. They are discovered by other humans who have apparently come from Starfleet ten years ago and been stranded since then because of [space magic] blocking their electronic equipment. But, don’t worry! A kind of utopic society has been created on the planet by following the teachings of Alixus, who believes technology is the worst. Moreover, they punish people with THE BOX – a metal box that is super hot and potentially fatal to stay in. Sisko gets put in the box for stirring up trouble, but finally figures out that there is a machine that is making the [space magic] that prevents other electronics from working. He confronts Alixus with this and she admits she brought the colonists here on purpose. A timely arrival by Kira and Dax allows them to arrest Alixus and her son, but everyone else chooses to stay behind in their ‘paradise.’

Commentary

Elements of this episode were stolen from all kinds of inspiration, but I was willing to forgive that because it was pretty dang cool. The idea of a utopic society that has utterly brutal punishments that somehow lead to unity? Chilling, but weirdly plausible. And think about it for a moment: before Sisko and folks showed up, the whole thing was pretty much working. It’s just because Sisko and O’Brien are so opposed to what’s happening and confounded curious about the problem with power units that the society starts to collapse.  It’s a cool idea.

What made it even better was THE BOX and the idea that lurking behind this kind of “paradise” setting was some pretty awful, brutal punishment and horror. Moreover, this awfulness was accepted as not just okay but good by pretty much everybody, including the punished. Wow.

I think the biggest problem here, though, is the ending. Nobody is genuinely peeved that their entire way of living has been built completely on a lie? Or that they had to watch loved ones die because of some maniac’s idea of what the perfect society would be? Oh, or that a bunch of Starfleet-trained people wouldn’t have shown more curiosity about the problem that managed to prevent all their tech from working? (Oh I know THE BOX was punishment if you got too curious, but surely it took some time to establish that as an acceptable way to stop people from doing things detrimental to the society.) Or that the Starfleet people wouldn’t, I don’t know, realize that the population size they have is unsustainable? Yeah, sorry, not buying almost any of this. If everyone had gotten pissed and left, I would have liked this a lot more. Sure, show some of them wondering about whether some Luddite ideals wouldn’t be for the best, but staying? Heck no. Sorry, but this ending really didn’t sit right with me.

Grade: B “I found it to be an awesome premise with good execution, but the ending really lets this one down.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “It was a bit predictable and the resolution was unbelievable.”

“Shadowplay”

Synopsis

Dax and Odo investigate a particle field in the Gamma Quadrant, where they discover a large group of humanoids in a village where apparently more than twenty people have disappeared. After convincing Colyus, the local lawman, that they aren’t the baddies, Odo and Dax help try to track down the missing persons. Meanwhile, back on DS9, Sisko tries to get Jake to work with O’Brien to get trained up for Starfleet. He hates it though, and Sisko agrees Jake can do whatever the heck he wants when he grows up. Yay. Back in the village, Dax and Odo discover that everyone is, in fact, a hologram. People are disappearing because the projector is breaking down. They have to try to fix it or everyone will be gone. They shut it down, discover that one of the villagers is not, in fact, a hologram but rather a lonely guy who fled here to live a life in peace. He does love the people, but suggests leaving it off and going home. Odo and Dax convince him to stay and keep living his life with the “people” he loves. High fives and hugs all around.

Commentary

One problem is that the people of the village seem to have a rather amorphous knowledge of technology. Sheriff Colyus (okay, probably not a sheriff) was blown away by the transporter, but is later asked if he scanned to see if people were being transported away from the village as a way to kidnap them and acknowledges that was one of the first things he checked for. Uh, what? I thought the transporter had convinced him Dax and Odo weren’t nefarious people to begin with because they had space magic? Oh well. A few other things like this happen (eg. the tricorder replacements they have) which I suppose you could chalk up to them all being holograms and maybe, maybe that is supposed to be a hint early on of what’s happening, but I just don’t buy that explanation much.

Another problem is Odo’s argument about what makes someone a person or valuable or whatever. It was kind of similar to the arguments about Data back in the good ol’ TNG days, but it also was similar to Odo’s thoughts on himself. But come on, we’re talking about holograms here. Are we supposed to take seriously the notion that now holograms are people, too? I don’t know about that one. Guess you could never erase a program, then.

Still, those are small gripes for an otherwise excellent episode. I mean, yes, it is a huge stretch, but also, yes, it is touching and heartfelt. Seeing the Jake storyline was good, but totally predictable. Finding out the village was made up of holograms wasn’t a big surprise. But what was great about it was that it showed the way human emotions and love can be so strange and amazing all at the same time. I mean, the angry old grandpa guy did truly love the holograms. Weird? Definitely. Okay? Sure. I liked it. Plus, Odo and Dax get some great screentime here, and that is a good reason to watch, too. Oh, and that touching scene with Odo and the hologram girl at the end, where he finally shows her he is, in fact, a shapeshifter/changeling? Gold.

Grade: B+ “It has some continuity issues, and it is fairly easy to see coming, but it is still a good, heartfelt episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was also a bit predictable, but it was fun to see Odo take center stage.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9- For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.