Off the Bookshelf: Redemption Ark, Dreaming Void, Far Side of the World

I’m off to a good start on my Summer 2009 Reading List, having made a considerable dent it during my early summer vacation by reading Alistair Reynolds’ Redemption Ark, Peter F. Hamilton’s The Dreaming Void and finally finishing the audio version of Patrick O’Brain’s The Far Side of the World.

Redemption Ark

Redemption Ark by Alistair Reynolds is the follow-up to Revelation Space, a mix of space opera and hard SF that posits a future in which humanity has found itself to be the only living civilization in a galaxy full of extinct ones. True to its name, Revelation Space explained why this was so; Redemption Ark deals with the consequences of that revelation. The book takes its sweet time getting back to the characters from Redemption Ark and I was about 200 pages in before I recognized anyone I knew from the earlier book. That said, I did get a pleasant surprise: it turns out I’d read one of Reynold’s short stories that dealt with the characters (involving a final battle against a human hive mind on Mars). That helped me get over the hump, and the rest of the book went much quicker. I’m enjoying the backstory of humanity’s attempt to avoid the fate of the rest of the galaxy’s extinct civilizations, and the super-science involved is a lot of fun.

The Dreaming Void

The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton is the first in a new far future trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton. It’s another book that took it’s time getting started, and I think I was about 150 pages in before things really started to gel for me. The premise is shaky — there’s a pocket universe at the center of the galaxy. It’s a medieval world with telepathic and telekinetic powers. It sends dreams to the galaxy at large that have attracted a huge following. These “Living Dream” adherents want to enter the Void, but the rest of the galaxy fears this will cause the pocket universe to expand, consuming part or all of the galaxy. It’s not a bad book, and I liked the tie-ins to Hamilton’s earlier Pandora’s Star/Judas Unleashed. I wish there was more out and out space opera in the novel, and less sex (Hamilton seems obsessed with discovering new and exciting ways for our descendants to get it on; the most unique is a human group mind that shares 30+ bodies … and dates a single — in mind and body — woman). There A few big starship battles would have been nice, and this tome is certainly setting up some of those, but I suspect have to wait for the Temporal Void (the book’s sequel) for them. I’ll read part 2 … but this book’s a step down from Pandora’s Star.

The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian

Back when I was commuting 2+ hours a day, I had an subscription that let me buy a book a month. When I got my new job, and my commute became about 15 minutes (if I walk), and I stopped listening to audio books … but I still had a backlog of four or five of them sitting ony my iPod. My summer vacation involved a 7+ hour road trip to and from Vermont, so I decided dive back into the books. First up was The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian, which I started reading three years ago and finished in July. The novel is part of O’Brian’s larger series of historical fiction novels and follows the exploits of Captain Jack Aubrey, a British naval officer in the late 1700s and early 1800s. In The Far Side of the World (made into a movie of the same name starring Russell Crow) Aubrey and his ship, the H.M.S. Surprise, have been sent to hunt down the American frigate Norfolk during the War of 1812. The book’s ending on a subdued note; I was expecting a big ship battle on par with earlier books (and the movie) but the last third of the book is more about shipwrecks than ship battles.

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