Posts in category 'books'

  • Review: Odd John

    Review of Odd John by Olaf Stapledon (9780575072244)★★★★
    Cover for Odd John by Olaf Stapledon
    John Wainwright is a freak, a human mutation with an extraordinary intelligence which is both awesome and frightening to behold. Ordinary humans are mere playthings to him. And Odd John has a plan - to create a new order on Earth, a new supernormal species. But the world is not ready for such a change ...

    So, just for my wife, I’m rating this a 3.5 rounded up to a 4.

    Though, to be fair, I was honestly debating between the two, so a half star is legitimate.

    Anyway, I’m being a bit generous here as this book reads as a lot more modern than you’d expect. When I started this book I’d somehow gotten it into my head that this was from the 50’s or 60’s, rather than the 30’s. That is, until I got into the latter third or so, and then there’s a few… let’s call them out-dated cultural and linguistic giveaways… that made it a lot more obvious.

    The ubermensch is a pretty common theme, particularly in golden age science fiction, and Odd John is an early example. As a philosopher, Stapledon uses John as a voice for exploring a range of philosophical ideas, many of which remain relevant today (e.g., Stoicism), some of them rather troubling (Odd John and his group engage in some otherwise inexcusable acts that are justified by their intelligence… but does being “super-human” free one to perform acts that would otherwise be deemed immoral?)

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  • Review: Ancillary Justice

    Review of Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1.0) by Ann Leckie (9780316246637)★★★
    Cover for Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

    On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

    Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. 

    Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.

    Ancillary Justice feels like the archetype of the massive vision science fiction novel… i.e., all concept, no character.

    The first person perspective ensures that the only character we really get to know is Justice of Torren One Esk, but as a character, One Esk is a cardboard cutout. This is ironic as the setup would seem to make this narrative a great opportunity for a character study, but as we draw back the covers of One Esk, there just isn’t much there there.

    As for the supporting cast, there’s little to recommend them, and in fact Seivarden is downright unpleasant for most of the book, with a mysterious turnaround partway through that I still don’t understand.

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