Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was very impressed with Anthony Doerr's use of language. His description of the atmosphere of France and Germany before and during WWII was exceedingly vivid.

Telling the story primarily through the experiences of a German teenage boy, Werner, and a blind French teenage girl, Marie-Laure made for intriguing reading.

What I liked most about the Werner story, were the decisions he made to act or not act in certain situations. I also enjoyed Werner's process of learning there was so much more to the world than life in his small dirty coal town - even though it was not all positive.

Marie-Laure's story had great descriptions as they were filled primarily with the sense of touch, smell and hearing. Her listening to the sounds of her town after the initial bombing from birds to mollusks to dead whales was wonderful.

Unlike, Werner's story, hers had different perspectives from secondary characters like her father, uncle and von Rumpel. While this did not hurt the story, it made for a different reading in her chapters compared to Werner's.

There were time jumps every other chapter. Meaning the first chapter was 1944 while the second chapter was 1934 and the two stories ran forward from these two time points. I believe this was done to get some action into the beginning of the book, because while the 1934 years were mildly interesting, there was no sense of danger. It was a good choice.

Zach Appelman's reading on the Audiobook was superb.

View all my reviews

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book Review: Stranger in a Strange Land

Looking for a science fiction novel to take me away for awhile, I listened to the audio book of the classic Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein.  I thought the book to be interesting, insightful, but a little slow at times.

from Amazon.com
The premise of the story is of a human, Michael, born on Mars and left to be raised by aliens. He then returns to earth 25 years later and has to learn what it means to be human.

Heinlein did an excellent job delving into that question. He discusses government, religion, and the free love of the 60's.

Michael's perspectives, insights, and questions into all these human interactions and institutions is fascinating. While I found the writing very engaging, there were times either Michael's or one of the other main character's thoughts about a current situation or what being human meant dragged on.

I always find it interesting to read science fiction books written over 50 years ago to see how readers and writers of that time saw the future. For example, 50 years ago stories could still be written about alien civilizations roaming across Mars and still be believable. Today, authors have to use wormholes, alternate galaxies, and far off undiscovered planets to populate their novels with "believable" aliens.

Perhaps even more interesting to me, is how people envision earth's governments and society changing or not changing in the future. Spoiler: women in Heinlein's future are treated the same as women in the 60's when the book was published.

Overall I enjoyed the book, especially the good narration by Christopher Hurt on the audio book that helped me get through the slow parts.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Series Review: Temeraire Series

Naomi Novik's 9-book series following the black dragon Temeraire and her British captain, William Laurence around the world fighting the Napoleonic Wars was a wonderful treat.

There is great chemistry between the characters especially Temeraire and Laurence.

The battle scenes are done extremely well with Novik tying all of the major Napoleonic battles in Europe in with the dragons but without detracting from the nature, hardship and outcomes of the battles.

The novels take the readers around the world at a time when most Western history books focus on Europe. Novik takes the reader from Australia to South America to Asia to Africa following regime changes and uprisings.

Novik also skillfully addresses social and moral issues from race to slavery to class to a highly intelligent species that had no rights under the law of man.

If you are looking for a series to take you away this summer, I highly recommend this one.

Throne of Jade (2006)

Black Powder War (2006)

Empire of Ivory (2007)

Victory of Eagles (2008)

Tongues of Serpents (2010)

Crucible of Gold (2012)

Blood of Tyrants (2013)

League of Dragons (2016)