One Sentence Book Review: “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Review

Crichton wrote a suspenseful, deep novel explaining why dinosaurs and humans don’t mix.

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: “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Review

Someone predicts the end of a galactic empire by using math, but you won’t care because the characters are paper dolls.

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.

Re-Read of “The Legend of Drizzt” – The Dark Elf Trilogy

drizzt-IIt has been many years (13 or so) since I read the tales of the Legend of Drizzt Saga. For those who are familiar with this series, the name evokes memories of adventurous tales of grand action. For the uninitiated, these books are perhaps the definitive experience for those wanting to read fantasy works set in the universe of Dungeons and Dragons. Nerd hats on, everybody. I recently decided to re-read the adventure and picked up an omnibus edition labeled “I” for the Legend of Drizzt. Interestingly, they opted to put the prequel, “The Dark Elf Trilogy” first rather than putting them in published order. No matter! We begin our foray into the Drizzt saga with the Dark Elf Trilogy.

The Dark Elf Trilogy

I’m not going to summarize the plot (see summary here [click each book for more summary]), but the basics are that there is a Dark Elf (AKA Drow) named Drizzt Do’Urden growing up in one of the cities of the Drow, Menzoberranzan. He and his father, Zaknafein, do not conform to the moral corruptness and insatiable lust for power that perpetuates in Drow society. Because of this, Drizzt rejects his people and flees into the Underdark, where he meets some friends as he avoids encounters with his deadly family. Finally, he emerges on the surface.

I have to say I enjoyed re-reading the trilogy very much. The world is particularly well developed, with a true sense of vastness and complexity that makes readers excited to explore further. The story also has a pretty broad scope, stretching across years, conflicts, and realms in order to bring it to fruition. The setting is pretty phenomenal.

There is surprising depth to some of the moral issues raised in the book, despite having a fairly simplistic view of good and evil (see characters, below). Drizzt’s struggle to reconcile his moral compass with his upbringing is intriguing, and his father’s own struggles observing Drizzt is emotionally engaging. It’s pretty impressive that Salvatore included a decent depth of these issues in a series that is, at base, a tie-in for a role-playing game.

The action, when it happens, is always intense. Although the action scenes are perhaps not as well-executed as some other stories’, they are engaging and hard-hitting when they do happen. I was never bored or put off by them, which is sometimes hard to do. Too much action or poorly written action is worse than no action at all.

That said, there are some pretty big issues here. The most obvious one is there are major issues with pacing in these books, particularly in Exile. It felt like there were stretches of 50 or so pages in which almost nothing happened. Drizzt is in a tunnel. He is lonely. He encounters a beasty. He is sad. These sections drag on for seemingly interminable lengths and make reading the books at time feel like a chore. Thankfully, the style they’re written in makes them very quick reads, so it is easy to churn through these sections, but it remains a major difficulty with the trilogy.

Another issue is that most of the characters lack depth. There is little backstory or even hints of backstory to them. Characters are sorted into simplistic black-and-white good-and-evil categories that make it difficult to care much about what backstory there is at points. There are exceptions, like Zaknafein, but overall there just isn’t much to care about for the other characters.

Overall, “The Dark Elf Trilogy” is an enjoyable read that I’m glad I took the time to go back through. It’s been a long time since I’ve visited these books, and I’m intrigued about what will come next!

The Good

+Overarching plot very interesting
+The world of the Underdark is unique and well-developed
+Impressive scope
+Surprisingly deep looks at moral issues at points

The Bad

-Pacing issues abound
-Most side characters lack depth

The Verdict

Grade: B- “It drags at times, but ‘The Dark Elf’ Trilogy is an intriguing introduction to a fantasy legend.”

What do you think?

SDG.

Microview: “Daystar” by Kathy Tyers

daystar-tyersDaystar concludes the Firebird series (see my review of the Trilogy here). There will be SPOILERS in this microview.

For better or for worse, Daystar can fairly accurately be called a science fiction retelling of the biblical Gospels.

For better: as someone who is, I think, fairly familiar with the Gospels, this re-telling brought forward aspects of the Gospels themselves which are often overlooked. Moreover, the science fiction perspective is never compromised for the sake of trying to make a point. Instead, Daystar fits perfectly well into the universe Tyers has built up in the previous books and feels like an epic culmination of all that has come before.

For worse: the fact that the story does emulate in many ways the story of Jesus means that some readers may be turned off by it.

One other minor problem with the book is that the action at times is not sustained. I am not saying I need action 100% of the time, but there are large swathes of just conversations in this book that may have been better broken up with some more action.

The best part of the book is that, as I noted before, the source material and science fiction aspects are never compromised simply for the sake of trying to make something fit. The narrative is powerful and stands on its own, rather than relying on background knowledge to fill it in. That said, the background knowledge is helpful and leads to some interesting comparisons of parallels. These comparisons and other worldview issues are brought up throughout the book as questions of human nature, freedom and determinism, materialism, and more are all brought up and considered. These different questions are considered from different philosophical backgrounds as well, with the view of the Collegium being a mind-working combination of Platonism, Gnosticism, and materialism.

But again, these themes never are forced upon the readers. They always feel like a natural outworking of the narrative itself. And that narrative is extremely solid. The world Tyers has built feels genuine and massive, yet she ably focuses in on one facet of it and how one cog can turn the entire machine.

Set in context of the whole series, Daystar simply is phenomenal. All told, Kathy Tyers has really given readers a treat. I can’t help but think what an achievement this is as a conclusion to a series. It is an excellent work.

The Good

+Awesome re-exploration of the concept of Messiah
+Good action
+Broad but interesting cast of characters
+World feels genuinely massive and with ancient roots
+Great re-envisioning of parables
+Intriguing worldview questions

The Bad

-Fairly explicit emulation of Christian story will turn off some readers
-Not enough action at some points

The Verdict

Grade: A

A constantly intriguing look at an alternate universe Messiah, Daystar wraps up the Firebird series remarkably well. I think it will go down in my memory as one of my favorite books. See my other site for a look at many of the worldview themes in the book.

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!

Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah- “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar” by Kathy Tyers– I reflect on a number of worldview issues that Tyers brings up in the concluding parts of the Firebird saga.

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!

Microview– Read more microviews to discover more materials to experience! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kathy Tyers, Daystar (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 2012).

SDG.

Book Reviews: “The Neanderthal Parallax” – Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids by Robert Sawyer

neanderthal-sawyerI recently read Robert Sawyer’s Trilogy “The Neanderthal Parallax,” made up of Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids. I have enjoyed Sawyer’s work in the past and dove into these books with great anticipation. How did they fare? Let’s find out! There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

I’ll not summarize the whole plot (see Wikipedia for more), but the basic outline is as follows: A portal is opened between our world an alternative world in which the Neanderthals thrived and we went extinct. As the two worlds interact, it is discovered that the Neanderthals largely remained a kind of hunter-gatherer society and developed a completely different culture than humans in our world did. The two worlds collide as people from our world see the Neanderthals as a challenge to our ways of life, and various issues related to religion and ethical issues come to the forefront. Ultimately, Ponter Boddit, the first Neanderthal to cross into our world, and Mary Vaughan, a woman from our world fall in love and decide to have a hybrid child. This, after an attempt to exterminate the Neanderthals goes awry and instead releases a deadly plague that prevents any males from our world crossing over to the Neanderthal side. The door is left open to the reader to imagine what comes next.

The culture Sawyer created for the Neanderthals is extremely deep and complex. I’d have to say it is one of the more interesting and unique worlds I’ve read. The male and female Neanderthals live largely separate lives until they come together for 4 days each month. This is to control population and also provide time for other cultural developments. Each Neanderthal has specific contributions they make to the society. The Neanderthals all wear “Companions” that record everything they do and say, which means there is no way to get away with crime, get lost, etc. They have also actively controlled their genetic lineage and weeded out traits they find detrimental. Neanderthals often have both a man-mate and a woman-mate regardless of their gender. This is to give them companionship both when they are with their own gender and when the genders intermix. All of this is just the beginnings of explaining the world Sawyer created in the novels, which is extremely interesting.

The premise is also great, because it’s one of those “what-ifs” that I feel we all wonder about from time to time. This premise touches off the plot, which traces what might happen if we ran into a group of people very similar to us, yet with profound differences. Sawyer also clearly put a lot of time and effort into researching and inventing the science and technologies in the book. It feels like many of these are just within our reach if we could just cross certain thresholds to create them.

There are some serious difficulties with the books, however. First, the intriguing Neanderthal society is largely used as a Utopia by which we might contrast the failings that have occurred in our world with violence, the environment, and the like. Although this can be a useful plot device, it makes the whole thing feel a bit contrived and much more simplistic than interaction with such a complex society should have been. Sure, there are moral questions about eugenics and the like, but overall even those are largely brushed off as just another aspect of an apparently perfect society.

The trilogy has a few explicit scenes, and the one in which Mary and Ponter initially “get involved” is particularly explicit. I’m not a fan of such graphic detail being portrayed, and felt that the scenes were largely unnecessary to the plot and were very uncomfortable overall. Sawyer also clearly tried to put forward a kind of women’s rights agenda alongside the other issues raised (gun control, environmental issues, and the like), but despite seemingly trying to advocate for women’s rights, I think he largely failed here. Mary is raped early in the trilogy, and she has to deal with the various feelings that come with it. But ultimately, the rape is just another plot device to make other plot threads meet. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think that such an act of violence should not be used instrumentally. Moreover, it was jarring how casually the scene was portrayed. There never seemed to be a strong emotional content to trying to get the reader to empathize either; rather than focusing on the great evil of such an act, it was more about Mary’s subjective response. Of course, this is probably at least in part because Sawyer had no basis for objectivity in the novels.

The greatest difficulty in the book is the continual misrepresentation of Christianity in particular and faith in general. Mary Vaughan is put forward as a Roman Catholic who allegedly presents the best defenses Christianity has to offer, but not only is she questionably Roman Catholic (can someone claim that title if they reject the doctrine of original sin and their Church’s teachings on abortion, birth control, and the like?), but the “defenses” offered are quite weak and poorly presented. Sawyer’s has the Neanderthals teach an alternative to Big Bang cosmology which allegedly undermines Christian belief in a universe with a beginning, but apparently fails to realize that for centuries Christians also believed and affirmed an eternal universe (see Aquinas, for example). The amount of care and research put into presenting the science in the novels is not evidenced in the representation of faith. In fact, at times the books read like thinly-veiled attacks on Christianity and belief in general.

Overall, the books were a rather big disappointment for me. The complexity of the invented Neanderthal culture is never fully cashed in,  the research and care put into the science in the book doesn’t carry into other areas, and the moral issues raised find no objective criteria for arbitration. It’s a decent sci-fi plot with some great imagination grounding it, but the baggage that comes with it makes it very difficult to recommend.

The Good 

+Intriguing plot
+Great premise
+Complex, amazingly deep culture invented for the Neanderthals
+Clearly lots of research behind science and invented science in books

The Bad

-Little research or insight into issues of faith
-Constantly misrepresents or fails to adequately present Christianity and other faiths
-Unnecessarily explicit sexual scenes
-Overly simplistic Utopia vs. Reality
-Seems to falter on its issues of women’s rights, despite clearly attempting to emphasize them

The Verdict

Grade: C- “A solid plot can’t salvage what seems to be a thinly-disguised assault on faith of all kinds and overly simplistic comparisons.”

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!

Aliens that believe in God: The theological speculations in Robert Sawyer’s “Calculating God”– I write about a different Robert Sawyer book that I did enjoy quite a bit, Calculating God. I even wrote a second post discussing abortion, fundamentalism, and other issues the book raised.

SDG.

Microview: “Off Armageddon Reef” by David Weber

oar-weberDavid Weber is probably my favorite author as far as fiction is concerned, but I admit that I had put off starting his “Safehold” series for a while because I was afraid it’d ruin my perception of him–that is, as the author of the greatest military sci-fi I’ve read, the Honor Harrington series (see a discussion of one of the books here). Finally, I gave in and read it and just had to share my thoughts here.

Let’s get it out of the way: this a phenomenal way to start a series. Humanity has been all but destroyed by the alien threat known as the Gbaba. The last vestiges of humanity have been brainwashed (voluntarily) into losing all memory of technology–the way that humans were discovered by the Gbaba–and were then established on a planet, Safehold, to try to start afresh.

Some of the humans who went with them as these memory-altered humans were being sent to their planet, however, changed the programming to include an extremely powerful church hierarchy. Other humans want to stick with the game plan and have the last home of humanity be a place where they could regrow and develop technology planetside to avoid detection by the Gbaba.

These factions clashed, and from the ashes came Merlin–the main character–a kind of human-robot whose goal is to guide humanity along the second path and away from the hierarchy established by others. And that’s where this book takes off.

Weber does a masterful job interweaving elements of fantasy, political drama, and science fiction in what was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had reading a book. He sets the table for a truly epic series–one I hope will develop towards an ultimate battle with the Gbaba.

As is typical with Weber, lengthy conversations and insights into politicking are interspersed with battles–here they are battles on the high seas instead of in space. In-depth descriptions of new technology are also offered, but they add to the depth of the story rather than ever seeming dry. There are also a number of questions related to theology, philosophy, and politics that come up simply as aspects of the plot. This adds another layer of depth to a book already brimming with awesome.

When I finished this book, I stood (I was rocking my sleeping baby in a front baby carrier) and smiled as I contemplated the breadth and depth of the new world that David Weber had just introduced to me. It was an amazing moment as I realized the true scope of the plot to which I had been introduced. I hope the rest of the series cashes in on this promise, and that we get a centuries-long epic.

The Good

+Vast world with great depth to individual nations
+Huge potential for later in the series
+Seamlessly interwoven questions of philosophy, theology, and more

The Bad

-Perhaps just a bit too much technical language interwoven into the story
-A very steep initial learning curve

Overall

Grade: A 

Off Armageddon Reef is an awesome beginning, and I can’t wait to read more of Weber’s Safehold series. I’m hoping it’s going to be a centuries-spanning epic that the introductory portion seemed to promise.

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!

Microview– Read more microviews to discover more materials to experience! (Scroll down for more)

SDG.

Star Wars: EU Read-Through – “The Last Command” by Timothy Zahn

tlc-zahnI 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, I look at The Last Command by Timothy Zahn.

The Last Command

Does the conclusion of the Thrawn Trilogy live up to the opening works’ potential? I’d say it certainly does.

As the Empire’s forces continue to push back those of the New Republic–both through the activity of Crazed “Jedi” C’Baoth and the strategy of Thrawn–Luke and others work to keep politics from overthrowing the republic they’re building up.

The action is effectively constant, and Zahn does a great job interweaving plot into what is effectively an almost 500-page action novel. What Zahn continues to do masterfully is portray characters aside from the “Big 3” (Leia, Han, and Luke) in realistic ways. Karrde and Mara Jade are fully realized characters, and Thrawn himself once more appears to be just as much the strategic mastermind as we have been told to expect.

One area the book really excels in is this latter thing–conveying strategy during battle. The former two books do have some interesting battles, but Thrawn’s blockade of Coruscant with asteroids seems particularly devious, and his use of cloaked cruisers to make it seem like he can shoot through planetary shields was also delightfully tricky.

The ending is perhaps the biggest pitfall of the book. Yes, it does wrap up quite a bit and also–as is typical in the Star Wars EU–opens up a horde of new possibilities for later stories, but it feels incredibly rushed. The last 10 pages happen all at once in a flurry of plot-wrapping that is not disappointing but still feels as though it could have gone on for about three times as long.

As with the previous books–but not so pointed as in Dark Force Rising–some events seem to occur in all-too-convenient ways. Characters show up at just the right (or wrong) times and places to push the plot forward, and this sometimes pushes the boundaries of suspension of disbelief.

All that said, however, The Last Command is an epic ending to a fantastic trilogy which really pushed the Expanded Universe into existence. These books are revered as much for nostalgia as they are for being great, but it is their strong readability and the way Zahn masterfully brings forth realistic characters that make them endure.

The Good

+Unique locales which are all fully realized
+Interesting battle sequences, paired with a strong sense of Thrawn’s tactical prowess
+Good character building across the board

The Bad

-A few all-too-convenient moments, again
-Abrupt ending

Best Droid Moment

R2-D2 attempting to travel through the forest on Wayland. A good reminder that the Prequel Trilogy with R2-D2’s Iron Man upgrades, crazy Yoda, and Jar Jar don’t exist.

Grade: A “A great conclusion to a fantastic series.”

Conclusion

When trying to think of the grade for this book, I tried to best take into account its place both in my heart and in the broader scheme of the Star Wars universe. There’s no way to avoid one’s own nostalgia, but I also think the book, like the rest of the trilogy, represents one of the better entries of the Star Wars universe. So far, my journey through the EU has been great, with very little to disappoint. We’ll see if that continues as I move on!

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.

Book Review: “Never to Live” by Just B. Jordan

ntl-jordanNever to Live is madness. The main character, Elwyn, is tortured into madness after she agrees to try to stop an ancient evil. The book then follows Elwyn and a cast of characters on an adventure which seems as disjointed as Elwyn’s mind. There will be SPOILERS below.

Terms are introduced with little-to-no definitions anywhere in the book. Things like “loxasta” are mentioned but their role is never clearly defined nor is there ever enough description to know what they might be motivated by. Locales are as bare bones as possible, often with no description so that it comes as a surprise when someone steps out from behind a tree (after all, how did we know trees were here when there was no description?). Characters similarly have almost no detail, with readers left to try to fill in the pieces of their motivations, descriptions, and backgrounds. All of this is a bit surprising in a book that comes close to 700 pages.

What is done with those 700 pages? The first 100-200 pages are largely a trip through the mad mind wanderings of the main character, Elwyn. There’s not enough detail to explain why these memories are chosen or what context they might have or how, exactly, the torture is happening or even really for what reason. Yes, hints are dropped, but they never meld together to form anything coherent. The next 400+ pages are basically just following the set of characters–largely without motivations–through a journey through the land. During this journey, one character discovers the ability to turn into a dragon, another starts sprouting roots (!), others discuss their thoughts with a demonic character, a dragon shows up, a were-panther follows Elwyn around (why?), and more.

All of this makes sense, in a way, because Never to Live never sets ground rules for how the world works. There are no apparent restrictions on the possible, so having characters randomly start turning into a plant only to reveal later a link between that and a covenant with the dryads–another faction without any background (along with the loxasta, the “kings”–apparently some malicious rulers of some land, though it’s never entirely sure which land where or why, etc.)–seems almost reasonable. The problem is that because there seem to be virtually no rules, no descriptions, and no background, the book never gets its feet grounded in a reality that readers can relate to. It seems entirely disjointed throughout, with little reason to care about what’s happening.

Even when the story starts to wrap up (page 600 and following), some threads are tied, but completely new open-ended thoughts are introduced, like a horse that apparently was Elwyn’s son the whole time. The ending is probably the best part, but it does little to tie up all the loose ends or even make sense of the world in which the story takes place.

On the plus side, there are some interesting points brought up by a character named Weaver–possibly a God stand-in but it is never clear–regarding theology and philosophy. Moreover, the exploration of self-worth and the concept of reducing a main character to madness is intriguing, it just doesn’t work as portrayed in this book.

Never to Live is a tough read. I re-read multiple sections, even going back and re-reading the introductory chapters a few times after things related to them popped up later in the book. Even after that work dedicated to the book, I am left with the conclusion that it is, unfortunately, a jumbled and faceless outline of a story rather than a complete story on its own.

The Good

+Some intriguing philosophical/theological points
+Interesting premise

The Bad

-Completely incoherent opening
-Characters receive almost no development
-Locales have almost no description to ground them
-Ideas are introduced seemingly at random
-Key terms insufficiently explained
-No motivations for characters

The Verdict

Grade: D

At times incoherent, and on the whole lacking in development, Never to Live is a sometimes tantalizing mess.

I received a review copy of this book from Enclave publishing. I was not influenced or required by the publisher to write any kind of review.

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!

Microview– Read more microviews to discover more materials to experience! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Just B. Jordan, Never to Live (Colorado Springs, CO: Enclave, 2009).

SDG.

Microview: “Eternity Falls” by Kirk Outerbridge

efalls-outerbridgeEternity Falls by Kirk Outerbridge is a cyberpunk thriller with quite a bit of depth and insight. There will be some minor SPOILERS in this microview.

Rick Macey is a PI contracted to help find out whether there was something untoward in the death of a woman who’d received the Miracle Treatment–something which should have made it impossible for her to have died of natural causes. In the process of the investigation, he finds himself thrust into a struggle of deep import both in his personal life and to the world at large.

Alongside Sheila Dunn, a prominent executive for the company that makes the Miracle Treatment, he dives into a stirring adventure that will leave readers wonderfully breathless. There are themes of religious extremism and violence, mystery, questions about human nature, and action throughout.

A prominent theme throughout the book is that of faith (or lack thereof). Macey himself struggles with his own deconversion in a world in which belief in deity seems absurd. When confronted with someone else who is a firm believer, the book takes another surprising turn and the moral and theological questions it raises are remarkably interesting. There were several moments I was at the edge of my seat, wondering which direction Macey might go on questions that are of real life import for persons of faith.

Outerbridge writes great action scenes as well, and a climactic conflict is particularly page-turning. Not all authors do possess a  gift for making fights interesting, but Outerbridge succeeds here in a big way.

Two downsides in the book are worth mentioning. First, there are a few moments in which gender stereotypes are unfortunately perpetuated. Macey, at one point, complains inwardly about “how quickly their [women’s] feelings got hurt…” (87). Moments like this are few and far between, and may simply be blamed on a kind of stereotype in Macey’s own head rather than something Outerbridge puts forward, but they are still unfortunate. Second, the technology, at times, is not sufficiently explained. Of course with anything sci-fi, there will be suspension of disbelief, but too often it seems that something is “hacked” into or somehow disabled without any description of just how this might have been accomplished. This problem is made more evident by the times Outerbridge does offer such descriptions, because they are quite good and mesh well with the expectations for cyberpunk.

Overall, Outerbridge seems to have hit gold with Eternity Falls, and this reader, for one, will seek out his other works.

The Good

+ Great genre mix of cyberpunk, action, and detective drama
+ Fantastic action
+ Genuinely insightful moral discussions…
+ …paired with great reflections on faith

The Bad

– Some gender stereotypes perpetuated
– Some of the technology could have used more description

The Verdict

Grade: A

Kirk Outerbridge’s Eternity Falls is a unquestionably fun romp on a journey of mystery, faith, and exploration of the human psyche.

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!

Microview– Read more microviews to discover more materials to experience! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kirk Outerbridge, Eternity Falls (Colorado Springs, CO: Enclave, 2009).

SDG.

 

Star Wars: EU Read-Through- “Heir to the Empire” by Timothy Zahn

The main guy on the cover (with lightning fingers) occupies about 10 pages of the book. Weird.

The main guy on the cover (with lightning fingers) occupies about 10 pages of the book. Weird.

I 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, I look at Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn.

Heir to the Empire

Well, here it is folks, the beloved Thrawn trilogy. I remember vividly checking this book out of the library some 17 years ago or so and then absolutely devouring it. But that was a long time ago. Does it hold up now?

Short answer: yes.

Timothy Zahn has gone down as possibly the best Star Wars writer for a reason. His understanding and portrayal of the characters is so true-to-form, and the characters he introduces are impactful rather than being window dressing as they seem in some other books in the EU.

The plot is interesting as well. We’re a few years out from the destruction of the second Death Star and the Empire is largely on the ropes. But a Grand Admiral who had been out in the boonies has gotten control now and his tactical insight is turning the war around, at least on the outside. Meanwhile, political intrigue among the leadership of the Rebellion (now the “New Republic”) threatens to spill over. All of this is not to mention some interesting stories regarding a woman–Mara Jade–with an intense hatred for Luke Skywalker and dealings with smugglers.

Zahn does a fantastic job balancing the new characters with those we know from the movies, and his writing style constantly keeps the action and plot moving. There’s just enough balance between action and backstory to keep it moving.

At some points, the plot points are a bit too convenient. For example, it seems altogether astounding that Thrawn, Han and Lando, and Luke would all happen to get thrown together before Talon Karrde at his “secret” base. Granted, Zahn introduces reasons for them all to be there, but it seems just a trifle contrived.

Overall though, this book has its status as hallowed Star Wars lore for a reason. It’s just fantastic. It’s a thrillride that doesn’t disappoint, and I’m happy to re-read it. On with the rest of the trilogy!

The Good

+Excellent cast of characters both already known and new
+Interesting tactical insights in the battles that happen
+Strong sense of continuity with Star Wars universe
+Awesome cover…

The Bad

-…which strangely features a (for now) minor character most prominently
-Some of the situations are a little too coincidental

Best Droid Moment

C-3PO impersonating Princess Leia. What more needs to be said?

Grade: A+ “There really is a reason the Thrawn Trilogy is known as the best of the best of Star Wars.”

Conclusion

Heir to the Empire is just fantastic. It holds up well after all this time. The balance of characters old and new is perfect, and Zahn’s writing is well-suited to the Star Wars universe. A truly superb book.

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.