Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Forge of God

Greg Bear
Tor, 1987 (my copy is from 2001)
Size: Average (my copy has 473 pages)
Theme: Apocalyptic global events
Narrative: Third-person
Main character: Arthur Gordon
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This book narrates the story of Arthur Gordon, an astronomer, as he witnesses events unfolding around him that seem to forecast the destruction of Earth. Strange phenomena are taking place all over, from the disappearance of Jupiter’s moon Europa, to the appearance of mountains, which are found to actually be alien spaceships. From then on, information starts pouring in which raises serious doubts about the intentions of the different alien species as well as what is going to happen to humanity.
The story is compelling, entertaining, and fast-paced. The characters scramble to try to understand the situation and what role they can/should play, even as they are faced with Armageddon. The main character is very well developed, and some other main characters are adequately explored. I also found they fit perfectly in the story; for example, the authorities’ selection of people to involve in the case, while information is being kept confidential from the general public, makes sense. The reading is also light and fluid, without unnecessary flourishing.

Whilst initially I was expecting more action in space, or greater interactions with alien cultures, from the front cover image and the short description on the back cover, I ended up very pleased with how the plot developed and how the story ended. The story is as much mystery as it is sci-fi. The end is indeed apocalyptic, and shifts in scale from our planet to span across the universe. The story throughout will keep you on edge and there is an aura of mystery pervading the entire plot, which is only unveiled in the end. I should mention that everything indeed gets explained in the last few chapters, while allowing enough leeway for a sequel (or several). I would recommend this book to any sci-fi fan, including people starting to read the genre and young readers.

Follow-up books:
The story is continued in Anvil of Stars, which seems very promising. However, I have not yet had the chance of reading it.

Battlefield Earth

L. Ron Hubbard
Bridge Publications, 1982 (my copy is from 1991)
Size: Epic (my copy has 1050 pages)
Theme: Futuristic alien invasion
Narrative: Third-person
Main character: Jonnie Goodboy Tyler
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

Battlefield Earth is one of the best sci-fi novels I have ever read. Despite the fact that I ordered and read it after having seen some very mixed reviews (some very negative), and that I had already watched the movie (acclaimed as one of the worst blunders in sci-fi movie history), I enjoyed it very much. It should be said that one of the critical factors that made me want to read it was in fact the movie, which was very bad in several aspects, but which clearly had an interesting fundamental plot that I immediately hoped – and trusted – would be handled differently in the book. At the time I should also mention I did not know about Hubbard’s  Scientology, and thus read it (and continue being) unhindered of prejudice against the author.

The book follows Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, one of the relatively few humans still living on Earth, who have regressed to life in villages, hunting and fishing, with no modern technology at all. These small communities of humans are preyed upon as animals by the Psychlos, a race of aliens who invaded and conquered Earth. They use humans only for manual labor, namely mining. Generically, they regard humans as extremely low intelligent beings, incapable of even operating equipment. However, a particular Psychlo believes humans could be taught their language and how to perform much more complex tasks, and plans to employ them in order to implement his personal plans for attaining power by secretly mining gold (an incredibly rare mineral throughout the universe). Jonnie is the human first targeted, but he starts playing a double game: appearing to help the Psychlos, while attempting to set up a revolt to bring them down.

I found this a very good, straightforward, light, sci-fi adventure, also touching the potential of human spirit, and an excellent value for the massive size of the book. Unfortunately, the plot is full of holes and technical inaccuracies, such as functional electronics after 1000 years of decay, monumental stupidity on the part of the Psychlos (for an advanced race) in thoroughly searching Earth for minerals, and also how easily Jonnie bluffs in dealing with alien species. It is also full of clichés and several two-dimensional characters. However, the length of the book allows considerable depth to the plot and to the key characters, and enables deploying several sub-plots within the main story. There are two main sub-plots: the first dealing with the possibility of a human revolt against their captors, and the second, on a much wider galactic scale, involving more alien races, spaceships, and interstellar teleportation. This is definitely the case of a book being immensely better than the movie; out of curiosity, the movie only portraits about half the plot, and even that very superficially and with considerable adaptations. Even though I would strongly recommend this novel to any sci-fi fan, in my opinion it is not as good as other fantastic space operas, such as the Dune saga, the Hyperion series, or the Night’s Dawn trilogy.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert A. Heinlein
Ace, 1961 (my copy is from 1987)
Size: Average (my copy has 438 pages)
Theme: Alien culture
Narrative: Third-person (most of the book is in the form of dialog)
Main character: Valentine Michael Smith
Recommended minimum age: Young adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: LIKELY

This book receives mixed opinions from me, which ends up fitting very nicely with what appears to be the general consensus from many readers. On the one hand, the writing is relatively poor and the story could be better narrated. I found the book to be very boring in some particular excerpts, and even had to lay it down a few days at one point. Compared to traditional fast-paced, action-packed, sci-fi adventures, this book offers an introspective and controversial slow-paced plot. Still, it made me ponder over some controversial issues, and when I finished reading it, I felt it was definitely worth it. It should not be taken as a light reading for a few afternoons at the beach, but as a mechanism for you to analyze your own beliefs, values, and perspective on life. That being said, do not expect a life-changing eye-opening experience.

The plot narrates the story of Valentine Michael Smith (Mike), a human raised by Martians, who travels from Mars to Earth as a young adult. His language skills are near inexistent, as are his social skills, and he evolves considerably along the book. As you read through it, you come to terms with his particular language, and you eventually end up finding it interesting. Having a totally different view on life, and with powers and capabilities beyond those of anyone on Earth, Mike has to come to terms with the society he’s trying to adapt to, while attempting to teach his ways to the people who he interacts with. In contrast to Mike’s innocent and positive take on life, we have Jubal Harshaw, a rich, extravagant, egocentric author, who takes it upon himself to look after Mike and make sure he learns about the real world and the pleasures it offers.

The book is essentially a satire of modern society, touching issues such as morality, politics, religion, prejudice, racism, and the ambiguities inherent to all these. Being almost half a century old did not hamper its contemporary pertinence. Some new words and concepts were introduced by this book, such as grok, water-brother, and a very particular definition of love. It is a worthwhile addition to any library, but not every reader will appreciate its depth.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


William Gibson
Ace, 1984 (my copy is from 1997)
Size: Average (my copy has 263 pages)
Theme: Cyberspace
Narrative: Third-person
Main character: Case
Recommended minimum age: Young adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: LIKELY

This was my first cyberpunk book. Most of the sci-fi I had read until then was about time travel, space exploration, alien species, alternative future societies, super powers, and other traditional topics. Although I have continued to pursue the more conservative sci-fi styles, and have not read other cyberpunk novels since, Neuromancer was quite enjoyable.
This is the story of Case, a cyber-freelancer, who previously stole from an employer, and was infected by him with a neurotoxin that damaged his bodily functions and prevents him from further working in cyberspace. In this book, Case is offered a chance of redemption by performing a high risk job to a very wealthy citizen. He is grouped with Molly, and both have little information about what exactly is the job they are tasked with.

There is technology all around, and everything in the story revolves (as expected) around computers and information technology. Even though the book is over 2 decades old, it still feels quite up-to-date and the topics addressed, such as corporate espionage, corporate power, and living online, continue to be very pertinent. Another such issue is the evolution of society in the face of the current global communication network.

I found the book to be quite good, with a fast pace and adequate character development (even if the story is very focused on Case). However, it did not make a very lasting impression, and details rapidly leaked from my mind compared to most books I read. I enjoyed the take on cyber espionage, although this topic has been so extensively explored in different media (particularly movies) for the past couple decades that I did not feel particularly impressed by novelty or originality. Still, the book did define an entire new theme (cyberpunk) at its time, and is worth reading even if only for historical pertinence.

Follow-up books:

Even though Neuromancer reads very well independently, there are 2 sequels: Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive. Not having read these two books I cannot comment them, but it is always good to know readers are able to pursue the story further if desired.

Double Star

Robert A. Heinlein
Del Rey, 1956 (my copy is from 1996)
Size: Short (my copy has 243 pages)
Theme: Interaction with alien civilizations
Narrative: First-person
Main character: Lorenzo Smythe
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This book follows Lorenzo Smythe, an actor, unwittingly involved in a interstellar plot. He is recruited to stand in for John Joseph Bonforte, former Supreme Minister, and one of the most prominent public figures in the entire solar system, following repeated assassination attempts on Bonforte. He will have to push his talent to the limit, since he is not only trying to pass for someone famous, but is doing it at a crucial moment when Bonforte is supposed to be a key figure in a ceremony that integrates ongoing peace negotiations with the Martians.
The entire story is told from the perspective of Lorenzo, and we are able to understand his feelings, opinions, and motivations. However, that makes all other characters rather shallow. If the book was considerably longer, there might be time to explore the rest of the cast, but nevertheless, this does not hamper the development of the plot. Lorenzo is an interesting character and this story will make him face his own demons and convictions. The Martian culture could have been explored in greater depth, as could the events leading up to the recruitment of Lorenzo by Bonforte’s people.

As one can see from the description, the book incorporates several aspects of espionage stories, which can be an interesting combination, and one that is not used very often. In this particular case, it works well. It is a soft story, and aside from political conspiracies, you will not find elements of great depth on the human psyche or sociological issues, not will you be greatly surprised as the plot develops, aside from an interesting end.

I have found this book a great read, with a fast pace and descriptions sufficiently detailed (while managing to not become boring). I find this type of book appropriate for trips, since I can read straight through the story. Nevertheless, after reading through short stories, I am usually left wishing the book was larger and more aspects could have been addressed. The end leaves everything open, yet is also conclusive enough that you are not upset that there is no sequel.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rise of Endymion

Dan Simmons
Bantam Spectra, 1997 (my copy is from 1998)
Size: Long (my copy has 709 pages)
Theme: Futuristic space opera
Narrative: Switches between first-person (for Raul) and third-person
Main character: Raul Endymion
Recommended minimum age: Young adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This is the last book of the Hyperion series (#4 of 4), picking up the story where “Endymion” has left off. Again, the story is told mostly in first-person by Raul Endymion. This book provides an excellent follow-up to the previous 3 in the series, keeping the fast pace, strong action, and veil of mystery we already grew accustomed to.The story starts with Anaea completing her training in architecture and how she then sets all the other trainees to go forth to different worlds and prepare for the upcoming changes. In the meantime, an exasperated church continues pursuing Aenea and brings De soya back to active. A large part of the book is on Raul’s attempt to go back to Aenea after their forced separation, and the events that later transpire in the world of T’ien Shan, which act as catalyst for the endgame.

In this story, we find out the remaining details about the Shrike, the Core, the Void that Binds, the Cantos, the Tree of Pain, Kassad, and many others. Some characters from the previous books come back, in some cases, finally enabling us to understand open issues. I would say that all the important loose ends are tied up and that the author actually attempts to provide a theoretical basis for the technology and an explanation for different observed phenomena. Even with my strong education in science and technology, I found these very well espoused, which does not always happen.

As in the previous books, I found the story compelling and interesting. However, I have to mention there were about 100 pages or so where I found the plot dragging, and for the first time in this series, became bored and had difficulty plowing through. Those pages, the time at T’ien Shan, were filled with character names and descriptions (useless since they mostly disappear from the story afterwards), and narratives of places (natural and built). The names were the most annoying aspect. I think the book would benefit tremendously from having those 100 or so pages simply ripped off (were this not a heresy for true sci-fi literature fans). Aside from that, and even without representing a breakthrough in sci-fi, or attempting to tackle society’s dramas and pitfalls, this series is one of the best I have ever read.


Dan Simmons
Bantam Spectra, 1995 (my copy is from 1996)
Size: Average (my copy has 563 pages)
Theme: Futuristic space opera
Narrative: Switches between first-person (for Raul) and third-person
Main character: Raul Endymion
Recommended minimum age: Young adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

Endymion is named after one of the two main characters, Raul Endymion. Together with Aenea, they embark on a quest that will span the galaxies and many years. This is book #3 of a series of 4, although to be more precise, it should be said these are 2 sequential sets of 2 books each (as the names themselves imply). The book should be read after “Hyperion” and “Fall of Hyperion”. Curiously, the story is now told mostly in first-person by Raul Endymion.

As for the plot, this picks up almost three centuries after Fall of Hyperion, and the end of the farcaster network and instantaneous communication between worlds using the fatline channel. Human worlds across the universe have survived by regressing to old ways. This is the story of how Raul Endymion is recruited by the old poet Martin Silenus, kept alive by frequent cryogenic sleep, and tasked with saving Aenea, bringing down the church (which has become an oppressive force throughout the universe), and essentially save the future of the Human race.

This book explores religious zealotry, morality, and dependency relations (not only between social groups or people, but between organisms). The Ousters become a much more important part of the history compared to the previous 2 books, although they continue being only superficially involved in the story. New vital characters are introduced, such as Father De Soya, who will play a key role throughout books #3 and #4. The Core is also brought even more to the frontline, and its role in past and future events is better understood.

The action shifts slightly from that of the pilgrimage party and the entire Hegemony in previous books to become very focused on the 2 individuals mentioned (Raul and Aenea), as they try to outrun the forces hunting them, and also the actions of a few other important characters. There are many adrenaline-filled moments, and you will not want to put this book down. As in the previous ones, a few explanations are provided, but mystery continues to pervade most of the plot until the last book.

Fall of Hyperion

Dan Simmons
Bantam Spectra, 1990 (my copy is from 1995)
Size: Average (my copy has 517 pages)
Theme: Futuristic space opera
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Several (the Shrike pilgrims)
Recommended minimum age: Young adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This book continues the plot of Hyperion, being #2 in a series of 4 books. The Shrike pilgrims continue on their quest to the Time Tombs. The book mostly deals with the end of the pilgrimage and its effect on the future of the universe, while simultaneously on the massive events taking place on the Hegemony, that will change the future of the Human race and its relationship to the Core (artificial intelligence beings spawned from early Human AI experiments). In this story, we accompany in great length the CEO of the Hegemony as she resorts to an AI cybrid to keep updated on the pilgrimage, and the universe-shattering decision she is faced with. New characters are introduced, such as Moneta, a mysterious woman, whose fate we will know of in subsequent books of the series.

The action is now even more fast-paced than the first book, with conflicts and fights arising both on a personal level in Hyperion and on a global scale in the Hegemony. The book manages to offer a very good quasi-end, which allows you both to continue to books #3 and #4 or simply stop here (although I cannot imagine why someone would do that).

The characters, explored in depth in the first book, continue to be appealing, and the book manages to slowly and progressively explain some of the mysteries raised, while still creating a few new ones for the sequels. The author was able to provide very satisfactory basis for the advanced technologies that appear in this novel, and further details about character motivations provide continuity from the first book.


Dan Simmons
Bantam Spectra, 1989 (my copy is from 1995)
Size: Average (my copy has 482 pages)
Theme: Futuristic space opera
Narrative: third-person (small parts are in the first-person)
Main character: Several (although one could argue for the Consul)
Recommended minimum age: Young adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

Hyperion tells the story of 7 pilgrims who are on a quest to meet the Shrike, a quasi-mythological creature that appears occasionally in the world of Hyperion. This world, which becomes pivotal to the plot, is located in the outskirts of what is considered the Hegemony territory, a plethora of worlds all connected (both in terms of information and physical travel) through advanced technology. However, great changes to the existing society are predicted to occur soon, and this pilgrimage might change the fate of the universe.

The book is the first in a series of four novels, and I was not able to switch to another story until I read all 4. This first book narrates the pilgrimage until the point they enter the valley where the Time Tombs are located and where the Shrike roams. During the book we hear the individual stories of the 7 pilgrims (in fact, we only hear 6 stories due to an event that takes place during the trip), and we learn about their background and motivations in great detail. This made a great setup for the other books. Notice that this book should only be read if you are going to follow-up with (at least) book #2 in the series.

The author manages to hint at some profound and sensitive topics, such as our dependence on machines, the self-destructive nature of mankind, and religious fervor, without creating a somber view of hopeless future. In fact, the entire series is quite uplifting in terms of the power of an individual to change the face of the world.

The story is fast-paced and even though this first book does not have the excellent action packed adventures of books #2 and #3, it keeps us continuously wanting to know more about the plot and the fate of the pilgrims. The entire series is able to keep an atmosphere of mystery which works very well and makes it difficult to put the books down. What is the Shrike? Will the pilgrims make it? What face awaits the Human race? Also on the positive side, some mysteries are explained throughout the story in books #2 and #3, although some loose threads are only fully tied in book #4. I personally do not like plots that only add new divergent lines at every chapter, without ever explaining them.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury
Del Rey, 1953 (my copy is from 1992)
Size: Short (my copy has 165 pages)
Theme: Alternate futuristic society
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Guy Montag
Recommended minimum age: Young adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This novel is set in a futuristic social scenario where many aspects of what we consider contemporary freedom have been abolished. Written literature is forbidden, along with many other forms of expression and art, and information being fed to people by digital media controlled (as expected) by an oppressive government. There are many similarities to the scenarios of the 1984 novel or the Equilibrium movie.

Guy Montag is a fireman, meaning, his job is to find those forbidden works of literature and burn them (along with the house it was hidden in, and usually, its occupants as well). He is quite happy with his life until a neighbor of his, a young girl, awakens doubts in his mind about the purpose of independent thought, and how it was in the past before censorship. He has to struggle with his inner demons and simultaneously decide what path he is going to take, while facing on a daily basis his co-workers, who are trained to identify people who start having illegal thoughts.

The book is well paced, and forces us to bond with the main character and understand the author’s opinion on these sensitive issues. Although written half a century ago, this book still manages to be very relevant for a reader in today’s society, where many of the book’s futuristic technologies have become pervasive in our daily lives (such as the advent of online worldwide connections), and rings too close for comfort.

I have enjoyed it very much, but I felt that other characters could have been explored much deeper. Even the secondary cast, Guy’s wife and one of his superiors, are tackled only superficially. I finished it hoping it was at least twice as long, but it still manages to offer an adequate ending. On the negative side, it leaves very little to the imagination, other than how our society is walking a thin line between order and freedom.


George Orwell
Signet Classic, 1949 (my copy is from 1991)
Size: Average (my copy has 312 pages)
Theme: Futuristic space war
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Winston Smith
Quote: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.“
Recommended minimum age: Young adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This book follows Winston Smith as he lives in a society where actions and thoughts are monitored and oppressed, and where the government controls the population through technological means (all of which fictional at the time the book was written, but currently common and most even outdated) as well as psychological warfare. Information on the media is released only by the government, and any citizen can be arrested and kept incarcerated for as long as needed.

The book has a strong pace and compelling story, with a crescendo in intensity. We feel some empathy with the main character as he tries to pass under the radar of the government, while acting as he thinks is right. We share of his perspective on the society in general and how others behave. There is some character development, but not to the extent you could expect for a psychological drama, particularly for all other characters. The plot revolves very centrally around Winston, and the cast of characters is very small. This is not a negative aspect, since it allows dwelling deeply into his mind. However, a couple other characters also seem interesting but end up rather shallow, since we do not entirely understand their motivations or know of their inner thoughts.

It should be noted that George Orwell actually invented many terms that have become pervasive in our language, such as “Big Brother”, “Doublethink” (and doublespeak), or “Thought crime”. The entire book is filled with symbolism and ideals, but the strongest is definitely censure. Much of the plot derives from Winston’s refusal to embrace doublethink, which relates to the social psychology effect termed cognitive dissonance.

1984 has been described over the past couple of decades as a visionary perspective of our current global society, and indeed, there are many aspects of the story which ring too close for comfort. Current laws such as the Patriot Act in the USA have considerably widen the grey area where governments can act supposedly for National interest but actually reducing, if not entirely negating, individual rights. Historically, such paths have always led to oppression and a larger gap between those with control/power and those without. It has mostly served the interests of particular groups and helps to cover up governments’ blunders, plots, and even powerful politicians’ crimes.

Overall, it was an excellent read. Since I was in my late 20’s when I read it, I was able to appreciate several of the book’s subtle aspects which I possibly would have missed had I read it earlier in my life. Even though there is some torture in the book, it is depicted rather softly.

Ender’s Game

Orson Scott Card
TOR, 1977 (my copy is from 1994)
Size: Average (my copy has 324 pages)
Theme: Futuristic space war
Narrative: third-person (also occasionally first-person)
Main character: Ender Wiggin
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

Ender’s game is one of those books that offer a good plot twist in the very last pages. You are left thinking “wow, I did not expect that…” as if someone punched the wind out of you. Yet, it is conclusive enough that you are not left hoping for a sequel. I found the book so good I have actually convinced a couple of friends to read it and they have also enjoyed it. 

The story is focused on a young genius at games, Ender Wiggin, who is recruited to help mankind in the war against an alien species. The book describes in detail the time from when Ender is recruited, and we are offered with insights into his thoughts in addition to descriptions of his activities and those of his colleagues. There are enough action scenes to make your adrenaline flow, but I have not found myself grabbing hold of the chair/couch. Since the cast is relatively small, you quickly learn about each and their feelings toward each other, although the story is highly centered on Ender (and the book is not long enough to allow digressing too much into the other characters).

This book can easily be read by teenagers, with minimal level of gore, sexual innuendo, or gratuitous violence (though some violence had to be expected, obviously, as it is centered on a war scenario). The reading is light, and while you never have to think deeply to follow the plot, there is some discussion on strategy that allows you to engage your imagination if you so feel like. There is also some social philosophy and moral ambiguities involved (which the sequel books explore much more deeply), which are actually a very nice part of the plot.

This is the type of book that, after reading, you wish you erase your memory of it and re-read it, just so you could enjoy again those final moments of awareness to the plot.

Follow-up books:

The fact that the ending is so strong made it very difficult to believe a sequel could match this book. Luckily, no hurried-through-blunder-sequel was created. Instead, the author produced two branches from the original book. One follows from the outcome of the first book, involving several of the original characters (more on the spoilers below), while the other retells the original book storyline (and then the timeline after that) but entirely from the perspective of another important character. I have found a few of those books as entertaining as Ender’s Game. However, you should definitely read Ender’s Game before any of the other related books.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tunnel in the Sky

Robert A Heinlein
Del Rey, 1955 (my copy is from 1991)
Size: Short (my copy has 214 pages)
Theme: Space travel
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Rod Walker
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: LIKELY


Tunnel in the sky is a sci-fi adventure about a young man, Rod Walker, enrolled in an academic course on Advanced Survival, anticipating a possible future exploring new worlds. To truly offer a wild training environment, training takes advantage of current technology’s ability to travel astral distances almost instantly, and actually drop students in a planet far away. However, unexpected problems arise and the group of trainees is left there indefinitely, with no way to contact Earth, or even to warn of their current situation.
The story is centered on Rod Walker, who has to fight in order to survive his first days, but eventually gathers followers, and eventually is able to help build a functional new society in this world. The reader is left in anticipation throughout the story about whether they will be rescued, and if yes, in what state will they be in… Forced to survive in a harsh environment, they have to make decisions that test their own moral and ethical grounds.

The plot is a fast paced adventure that happens to take place in another planet, but could easily take place in a remote African or South America jungle. Those expecting grand sci-fi paraphernalia, futuristic weaponry, or complex theories, will not find it here. However, I have found this to be a great read for a short story. I also felt there was room to explore further both the main character as well as and some others. As in many other books I have read, many characters are barely explored and thus look shallow.

The end is interesting enough, tying loose threads (essentially explaining the reasons behind the initial accident), but I was at this point enjoying the book so much I really would not have minded another hundred pages. It is the type of book I very much enjoy during a long flight, since I can read it in one shot and then put it away without complaining about how short the story was.

Dune: House Atreides

Brian Hebert and Kevin J. Anderson
Bantam Spectra, 1999 (my copy is from 2000)
Size: Large (my copy has 673 pages)
Theme: Futuristic space opera
Narrative: third-person (also occasionally first-person)
Main character: Leto Atreides
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES


Dune: House Atreides is the first of a trilogy that predates the classic novel Dune by Frank Herbert. This trilogy occurs a couple of decades before the original Dune novel storyline. As a side note, these authors would later produce other prequels, and more recently also a midquel, in the Dune universe. It should be pointed out that the Dune universe is one of the most famous and highly regarded sci-fi stories of all times. Thus, trying to follow on those footsteps is no easy task, particularly since it follows the lives of many characters we have learned to love (or loath) in Dune. However, I have found House Atreides to be an excellent book of itself, and the trilogy to be a worthwhile addition to the Dune books. There is definitely more action but less character development in House Atreides than the original Dune. Thus, it somewhat lacks the depth of Dune, but it is equally stimulating.

As could be expected for a story aiming at exploring the Dune universe, there are many characters, with individual personalities (and quirks). Nevertheless, it was easy to bond with each character and follow the relationships between them. In this book, we learn more about many of Dune’s major characters and groups/races. We see a different side to many of these, including Baron Harkonnen and Leto Atreides.
This book offers a very particular description of events, namely by switching from character to character at every chapter. In one chapter we follow a Navigator’s first attempt at folding space, whereas in the next we listen to a discussion inside House Harkonnen, and in the next we move to a fishing village in Caladan. While it might sound like this will make it hard to follow the plot line, I have found it very enjoyable and it prevents any possible boredom. The story is fast paced and compelling. In fact, sometimes I found myself in anticipation of the next events of a particular character, and every night it was hard to put the book down. All the individual plot lines are brought together through the book and it manages to offer a quasi-ending totally appropriate to what was planned as a trilogy from the start.

I should mention that I have read it after watching the Dune movie (1984), but before reading Dune, which means I was familiar with the main plot and characters, but had little knowledge of the deeper levels of the story. Although it is a prequel, I would still suggest that it is only read after the original Dune series, since it brings an entirely new perspective on many events.

Blog created!


This message innaugurates this blog, where I will be posting my reviews of sci-fi books. Why sci-fi books, you ask? I have been an avid reader for many years, and decided almost a decade ago that I would start sharing my opinions with the world.
For the past decade I have just posted them on forums and scattered pages, and now I will be compiling all my previous reviews here, and from now on will also only be posting here every new review.

During the next few days I will transfer my previous reviews into this blog. I have averaged 10 book reviews per year, since I only review a book if I have read it entirely. Since my professional life is very hectic, even that has been difficult to maintain...

I hope my reviews provide some useful tips on books you might want to read or purchase as gifts. They might also prevent you from buying books that you may not enjoy...