Category Archives: Books – 2.5 stars

Charlie Brooker – Dawn Of The Dumb

The two-and-a-half star rating deserves some explanation: I think Charlie Brooker is great, and many of the pieces in Dawn Of The Dumb (a collection of his TV criticism and columns for The Guardian from 2004-2007) and hysterically funny, but at book length, his vitriolic style becomes grating. If you enjoy cutting put-downs and cynical rants, you’re in the right place–just take it in small doses.

David Wellington – Monster Island

After having read Max Brooks’ World War Z, this unfortunately feels like “just” a zombie thriller. I didn’t dig its particular supernatural twist on the nature of zombies, and it didn’t tingle my spine. Nothing here to induce me to read the rest of the trilogy.

Peter F. Hamilton – Pandora’s Star

In a Peter F. Hamilton novel of this size, nothing is going to happen for the first two hundred pages, so I was happy enough to write them off as expected.

By page 500 I was thinking that there were way too many characters and parallel stories going on, and that the book could have used some serious editing. The plot lines were interesting, but every time one would threaten to really come alive, Hamilton would switch to someplace dull instead, and spend time warming up another thread.

By page 700, I was having serious doubts about him being able to wrap everything up neatly by the end of the book, and I had a quick glimpse at the last page. To my horror, the last sentences, printed in bold, were “The End of Pandora’s Star. The Commonwealth Saga will be concluded in Judas Unchained“.

Well bugger me sideways with a rusty pitchfork, it’s a two-parter. A quick check on Amazon showed that the second part isn’t due out until October. Does the cover blurb give any indication that this is only the first volume of a set? Does it heck.

I got pissed off by 900-page doorstops in 2003, and I still haven’t recovered. I only started Pandora’s Star because I generally like Hamilton’s stuff, and I was looking forward to immersing myself in this one for a while. Had I known that even after spending three weeks on it, I still wouldn’t know how it ends for another six months, I wouldn’t even have started it.

Anthony Horowitz – Stormbreaker

This is a fast-moving read, but the characters are regrettably flat. Alex Rider is defined in terms of his physical capabilities, rather than by how he relates to his friends and enemies. Herod Sayle and his henchmen are little more than caricatures of Bond villains, and the mechanisms of their villainy are stereotypically over-the-top and implausible. The groundwork is clearly present for a series of thrilling adventure stories, but I’d hope that in the further volumes, Horowitz provides more of a reason to care about Alex Rider.

Ken MacLeod – Newton’s Wake

Newton’s Wake is a mixture of free-wheeling space opera, a solid science-fictional exploration of living as a human in a post-human universe, and a traditional MacLeod political microcosm of clashing libertarian, communist, and cornucopian ideals. Each of the three strands is resolved adequately on its own, but I had been hoping they would all come together for a final unified punch. Without it, the space-operatic side of the tale lacked an explosive climax, and the political exposition was weakened by being ultimately irrelevant to the resolution. The post-human, post-singularity world was the most interesting part of the book, but a third of the story wasn’t enough to do it justice. An interesting but ultimately unsatisfying read.