Reading through the [Alleged] Best 100 Science Fiction Books- #21-25 scores and comments

snow-crashI’m a huge science fiction fan, but realize 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.

21. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells Grade: A
“A classic that remains as powerful and terrifying as ever, The War of the Worlds is phenomenal. Wells also gives much to reflect upon throughout the book through integration of various ideas, and a speculative ending that will have readers searching the skies long after. It also has surprisingly strong characters compared to much early science fiction. It’s a masterwork.”

22. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury Grade: A
“Bradbury’s vision of Mars and our future is haunting. Filled with cynicism and almost relentlessly bleak, there is but little light offered to readers. It’s got the feel of ‘The Twilight Zone’ as well as the thrills. Each individual story left me with a feeling of almost awesome dread. A fantastic book, but not uplifting.”

23. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut F
I read this one in high school and hated it. I figured I should re-read it since I didn’t remember it at all, and–let’s be honest–I was a bit a of an idiot in high school. That was a severe mistake. Vonnegut’s humor is barely 4th grade level, including lines that I think are supposed to be funny like ‘The old man was in agony because of gas. He farted tremendously, and then he belched.’ Yes, this is apparently a classic. The plot is also completely incoherent, effectively set up so that the author could draw an amateurish picture of a necklace dangling between a woman’s breasts. How mature. Slaughterhouse Five is the worst book I’ve ever read.”

24. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin A-
“Le Guin created a world that feels strangely familiar, while remaining radically different. It makes you think about life and the struggles we face. The overarching plot wasn’t terribly strong, but the character-driven nature of it made that not matter very much. It’s an extremely personal novel. I enjoyed it quite a bit.”

25. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson A
“A pulse-pounding, mind-bending ride that I didn’t really want to end. The plot is somewhat hard to follow, but remains enjoyable throughout. The seamless integration of so many ideas is impressive and exciting. I particularly enjoyed the interweaving of Ancient Near Eastern culture with high-tech societies and the subtleties Stephenson introduced that way. Plus, there’s a delivery samurai guy. What can you complain about there? I discovered Stephenson with this book and I’m sure I’ll read more, especially because he has more books on this list.”

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.

Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read-Through “Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil”

dynasty_of_evilI have embarked on a quest to read through the Star Wars Expanded Universe once more. Be sure to check the linked text there to see other posts in this series. Here, we look at Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil, the conclusion of the Darth Bane trilogy, which is set a millennium before the original trilogy. It provides a background for how the Sith came to be as they appear in the films. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. Please do not SPOIL later books in the comments.

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil starts yet another ten years after the previous entry, Rule of Two (which itself started 10 years after the first, Path of Destruction). Bane is beginning to have concerns about his apprentice, Zannah, who has yet to challenge him to combat despite his own belief that she ought to have done so by now–and his suspicion that she may even be able to best him. He is also pursuing the path to possible immortality from a lost Sith document that will give him time to find a new apprentice and destroy Zannah, if needed. Meanwhile, Zannah is making strides of her own, plotting to take on her own apprentice, a rogue Jedi named Set, while pursuing the mission Bane sent her on offworld. Bane is captured by the vengeful daughter of Caleb, the healer Bane threatened in order to be helped. He escapes with help from a former compatriot in the Sith army, and goes to confront Zannah at last. Set takes some valuable Sith artifacts and escapes, hoping to learn about immortality on his own, while Bane moves to confront Zannah. The Huntress, an assassin has pledged to become Zannah’s new apprentice if she defeats Bane. During the battle, Bane appears to have been defeated, but at the end it seems he has simply taken over Zannah’s body in his pursuit of immortality, and he takes on the Huntress as his (possibly) unwitting apprentice.

I have to say, this is a phenomenal conclusion to an excellent plot arc in the Star Wars expanded universe. Karpyshyn has written a work that can truly stand on its own without the Star Wars license, but as he did in the previous entries, he wisely uses that license to improve the work rather than as a crutch. Dynasty of Evil is fast-paced, intense, and absolutely full of twists and turns that kept me guessing–0r at least anticipating–through the last page. The action scenes remain quite strong, but more importantly, Karpyshyn’s character writing continues to exceed expectations. There is no doubt that Bane and Zannah are evil characters, but the motivations, plotting, and the like that they do is every bit as realistic as more complex “good guys.” They aren’t just evil ogres; they are characters that easily stand on their own.

Tying in the continued pursuit of ancient Sith artifacts to the story is really just icing on the cake. There’s a sense of history and depth in this book and the rest of the series that isn’t always present in the Star Wars universe.

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil is a fantastic conclusion to a superb trilogy set within the Star Wars universe. It is highly recommended reading, and could easily stand on its own as a great work.

The Good

+Intriguing characters
+Great action scenes
+Excellent pacing
+Open-ended but satisfying conclusion

The Bad

-None

Best Droid Moment

N/A 😦

Grade: A+ “A stirring success as the conclusion to one of the better complete story arcs in the EU.”

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!

Reading through Star Wars: Expanded Universe– Here you can read other posts in this series (reviews of other EU books) and make suggestions about what I should include in my reviews.

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!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read-Through “Darth Bane: Rule of Two” by Drew Karpyshyn

ruleoftwoI have embarked on a quest to read through the Star Wars Expanded Universe once more. Be sure to check the linked text there to see other posts in this series. Here, we look at Darth Bane: Rule of Two, the middle of the Darth Bane trilogy, which is set a millennium before the original trilogy. It provides a background for how the Sith came to be as they appear in the films. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. Please do not SPOIL later books in the comments.

Darth Bane: Rule of Two

Darth Bane: Rule of Two picks up 10 years after the events of Path of Destruction with Bane teaching his apprentice, Zannah. Zannah has become a powerful ally, but due to Bane’s own teaching about the way of the Sith, she is also becoming more and more a rival and possible enemy to Bane. Zannah has begun looking for her own apprentice, seeking to perpetuate the Rule of Two–that there ought always and ever only be one master and one apprentice of the Sith, the master to teach, the student to try to overthrow. She uses this quest to test Bane’s strength but also to gather more forbidden Sith knowledge through collecting manuscripts from those she manipulates. In a battle with some Jedi, Bane is brutally wounded and forces a healer, Caleb, to care for him. Zannah protects her master rather than killing him in his weakened state because she’s decided she still has more to learn from Bane.

The plot of this entry isn’t quite as tightly woven as that of Path of Destruction. It meanders a bit, throwing Zannah all over the galaxy while the eponymous Bane falls into the background. That’s unfortunate, because Karpyshyn had made Bane into such a dynamic character in the previous entry. The portrayals of Bane when he does show up, as well as the development of Zannah, remain quite strong and are probably the highlight of the book. Karpyshyn has truly presented some of the most interesting evil characters I’ve run into this side of Robin Hobb.

The action scenes, when they happen, remain intense, and Karpyshyn deftly writes lightsaber battles that are easy to visualize and pulse-poundingly exciting. It’s not easy to write action scenes, as I’ve discovered myself, so this is another highlight of the book. Another difficulty is the rather ho-hum feeling of the tying off point. The tension at the beginning as Zannah apparently sought to betray Bane by finding her own apprentice fades away and we are left with Bane and Zannah effectively in the same position as they were in the previous book: master with much to teach, apprentice waiting to learn.

Darth Bane: Rule of Two is a good entry in what is already a great part of the Expanded Universe. Although it does drag occasionally and it feels very much like a middle entry in a series, the tone and characterization are enough to make it a worthy entry in the Star Wars universe.

The Good

+Excellent characters
+Good action scenes
+Theme and tone

The Bad

-Not as tightly plotted as previous entry
-Feels very much like a “middle” book

Best Droid Moment

N/A 😦

Grade: A- “It doesn’t live up to the stunning success of the previous entry, but it keeps the story going and the theme well enough to deserve its place.”

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!

Reading through Star Wars: Expanded Universe– Here you can read other posts in this series (reviews of other EU books) and make suggestions about what I should include in my reviews.

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!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

Reading through the [Alleged] Best 100 Science Fiction Books- #16-20 scores and comments

childhoods-endI’m a huge science fiction fan, but realize 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.

16. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman Grade: A-
“As interesting for its historical context as it is for the plot that fills the pages, The Forever War is speculative fiction to the extreme. What happens ‘back home’ while soldiers are off at war? Who changes more: the soldiers or those sent to protect them? When will wars end and why? Haldeman constructed a classic. My main complaint is that for all of its grand speculation, the core of the plot is somewhat lackluster compared to later, similar efforts.”

17. Brave New World by Alduous Huxley A-
“Full of chilling moments of utter carelessness, Huxley’s book is eerily prophetic while remaining utterly ‘other.’ It has a sense of foreboding strangeness about it that I cannot shake off. Better than a lot of dystopias that have come out since.”

18. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells Grade: B
The Time Machine is a great read told in a somewhat archaic style. I enjoyed the interplay of fiction and speculation about philosophy. The main complaint against it is, again, the delivery, which is almost entirely a monologue of one person telling everyone else what happened.”

19. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke Grade: A
“I saw the SyFy [*shudders at spelling*] miniseries before I read this book. I liked the series quite a bit, and the book was even better. It’s unexpected and haunting. It is bleak. It questions everything. An excellent work, that challenges raders to think about what it means to have hope in humanity–or not.”

20. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein Grade: B-
“I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. It was enjoyable, but the style dragged it down somewhat. It felt very matter-of-fact about even the most intense moments of the book. It’s not as beautiful as Stranger in a Strange Land nor as challenging as Starship Troopers. It’s still enjoyable, but the whole plot felt predictable. It lacked the excitement that comes with many other science fiction books. Not bad, certainly, but neither is it spectacular.”

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.

Star Wars: Expanded Universe read-through “Darth Bane: Path of Destruction” by Drew Karpyshyn

path-of-destructionI have embarked on a quest to read through the Star Wars Expanded Universe once more. Be sure to check the linked text there to see other posts in this series. Here, we look at Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, the beginning of the Darth Bane trilogy, which is set a millennium before the original trilogy. It provides a background for how the Sith came to be as they appear in the films. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. Please do not SPOIL later books in the comments.

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction

I’m going to throw this one out right at the beginning: this is one of the best Star Wars books I have read, and one of the few that is capable of standing on its own right as a great science fiction novel (it would be good without the Star Wars franchise/branding). That it does have Star Wars branding serves either as icing on the cake or, unfortunately, to ensure that many won’t enjoy this exceptional plot arc (as they won’t read Star Wars books no matter what).

The story is somewhat straightforward: a man who lives in extreme conditions finally snaps, ultimately engaging in a life that combines elements of mercenary work with even more questionably moral acts. A secret power is discovered inside him that brings him to the attention of the powers that be, and he is recruited, ultimately raising through the ranks.

But the story has its share of major twists and turns. The Sith society is an ancient one, but the man, now calling himself Darth Bane, sees it as a departure from what the Sith ought to be. Power has been distilled and distorted, making a group of weaklings the dictators rather than spurring all on to greater feats of maleficent gains. So Bane goes back to the source, exploring the secrets of the long-dead Sith race and ancient masters. In doing so, he discovers the way to fix the Sith: to destroy them.

The war between the Sith and Jedi rages on, but Bane uses it–and the Jedi–as his tool to destroy the Sith. In doing so, he re-forms them from the ashes. He is the only Sith Lord, and his chosen apprentice is the only apprentice. The apprentice must always seek to kill the master, but only once the apprentice is sure that all that the master has taught that is worthwhile has been taken from him or her.

It’s a much darker tale than most of the Star Wars universe. The Jedi seem morally ambiguous rather than as knights with shining lightsabers. Why are they drawing out a war that could (maybe) be halted? The “bad guys” are the only perspectives given in the novel, and Bane becomes a first-rate antihero. The shades of the past that decorate the pages–ancient secrets, lost artifacts, and the like–provide phenomenal flavor to the world. The characters, though few, are deep and complex–moreso than one might expect for “evil” characters. The pacing is well-done as well.

In short, Path of Destruction easily stands out among the best Star Wars novels. If there is a problem in the book, it is one that constantly impacts the Star Wars universe–some resolutions are gained too easily. There is an air of convenience about some of the plot points, but unlike some of the other books in the Star Wars universe, this one doesn’t ever fall into contrivance.

Another great aspect of the novel is that it (and its successors) never falls prey to the pitfall of over-reliance on the franchise. Indeed, a noticeable lack of droids helps set the tone of the series. It is supposed to be 1000 years before the other books and movies, so different technology ought to be expected. The use of the Sith is equally smart, making them as intimidating as one might expect.

Drew Karpyshyn has given a sterling contribution to the Star Wars universe with Path of Destruction. I highly recommend it and its sequels to readers.

The Good

+Fascinating characters
+Darker tone than much licensed content
+Great pacing
+Excellent use of the license

The Bad

-Somewhat simplistic solutions to problems

Best Droid Moment

N/A 😦

Grade: A+ “A phenomenal novel on its own merit, Path of Destruction is an exciting entry in the Star Wars universe that makes it seem broader and perhaps more real than it did 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!

Reading through Star Wars: Expanded Universe– Here you can read other posts in this series (reviews of other EU books) and make suggestions about what I should include in my reviews.

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!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

One Sentence Book Review: “Hunting Eichmann” by Neal Bascomb

Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb

Review

A chilling message and warning is contained in the pages of this fascinating story of capturing one of the worst mass murderers of all time.

Links

One Sentence Book Reviews– Read more one sentence book reviews here. I’ve decided to do one for every book I read, which is a lot. I got started on 5/14/16 so this list will grow from there.

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!

SDG.

One Sentence Book Review: “An Inquiry Into the Secondary Causes Which Mr. Gibbon Has Assigned for the Rapid Growth of Christianity” by Sir David Dalrymple

An Inquiry Into the Secondary Causes Which Mr. Gibbon Has Assigned for the Rapid Growth of Christianity by Sir David Dalrymple (1786).

Review

Dalrymple shows, exhaustively, that Edward Gibbon is deeply mistaken in his theses about the rise of Christianity in his famous historical work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Links

One Sentence Book Reviews– Read more one sentence book reviews here. I’ve decided to do one for every book I read, which is a lot. I got started on 5/14/16 so this list will grow from there.

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!

SDG.