Good Books (Scifi)

Story Announcements, Links, almost anything goes here...
No Spoilers

Moderator: Sennadar Moderators

Forum rules
Important: No Spoilers in this forum
Read the more detailed forum rules for more info.
User avatar
Edengrave
Sorcerer
Posts: 65
Joined: Sat Feb 19, 2005 8:44 am

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by Edengrave » Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:30 am

Theirs Not to Reason Why series by Jean Johnson -- Military Scifi/Space opera/Psi

Had a great time reading this 3 books series. Judging by other recommendations in this thread, more than a few people would enjoy it as well.
“So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
- Ge 3:24

User avatar
heustess
Sorcerer
Posts: 95
Joined: Fri May 14, 2004 3:43 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by heustess » Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:53 pm

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Theirs Not to Reason Why series by Jean Johnson. A Soldier's Duty, An Officer's Duty, and Hellfire. They are extremely cool. The only problem is that it takes a year for a new book to come out. Hellfire just came out, so now I wait and wait and wait...

Bester
Initiate
Posts: 47
Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:53 pm

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by Bester » Mon Aug 26, 2013 8:43 pm

Based on this recommendation I bought and read the "Theirs is Not to Reason Why" series. Here is my review of it, for those that care.

As far as I can tell the author has only released romance fantasy (you know, the types that involve bare-chested men with 8-packs on the cover) which looked bad enough to roll my eyes. So, despite the recommendation here I was expecting this to be... mediocre. I was pleasantly surprised in that as military Science Fiction it is surprisingly good.

The military side of things is remarkably well handled for the most part. The scenes from boot camp in the first book to the war-front in the second and third books come across really well. There is nothing particularly incredible, and she certainly doesn't hold a candle to a David Weber or the like, but I would place her above John Ringo in her descriptions and the 'feel' of the military.

I really like the way she handles the psychic aspects of the story and universe. While the basic premises of most of the powers described are nothing new (though there were a few powers that I hadn't seen before like xenotelepathy), she puts a unique spin on them. In particular, I like the way that the main character describes and interacts with her main power (prognostication). The author obviously put a lot of time and thought into it, and it really works.

I also really like the way she's woven the universe together. There are things mentioned in passing in the first book that in the third book the reader is suddenly finding enough context to realize is important. The author has obviously taken the time to plot out exactly how everything will happen, and is knotting little tie-ins throughout for those that are paying attention. That is a level of detail that rarely happens as effectively, and even given the premise of the series I have to applaud it as well done.

The descriptions of the various empires (particularly on the human side of things) is interesting and well put together. That said, some of the alien races were a bit two-dimensional and cardboardy. As Ringo likes to put it, aliens are aliens, but even so some of it just seemed lazy as if the author didn't want to expend any more energy or time on the races more than just the bare minimum required for her plot.

I'm of two minds about the characterizations; it is either done on a very mediocre level, or it is done at a genius level. I'm not quite sure whether it is the former or the latter. The series has a tendency to gloss over characters with very little details other than little personality quirks that are repeated ad nauseum. Few characters, even socially important ones in the universe, are treated on a level further than this. Even the main secondary characters are treated extremely two-dimensionally. That said, I'm beginning to suspect (if not quite to the level of believing yet) that this is an intention quirk on behalf of the main character. Because of her abilities and her quest, she reduces many things to a basic checklist of what has to happen in order to reach the desired outcome, and I'm beginning to think that she reached a point, before she was introduced in the first book, that she has even reduced all the people she is dealing with to mental pawns that she has to place in exactly the right manner. Certain descriptions of her thought process lend to this idea. As I said, it is either one of the most brilliant levels of characterization I can easily remember, or it is utterly mediocre. I'm leaning more towards the latter, but there is enough circumstantial evidence of the former that I'm withholding my judgement.

The problems in the series comes with the fact that this is a Mary Sue story, expounded into excruciating and ludicrous lengths. The main character is martyred in every conceivable angle and description, having 'sacrificed her dreams and future' in an effort to save the galaxy from an overwhelming future threat. She is perfect in every manner except for the ubiquitous self-doubt and self-castigation for every moment (literally) that she doesn't spend on that self-righteous quest to place herself in that exactly perfect position to line up the nearly infinite series of dominoes that will be required to fall in the perfect way to prevent the destruction of her galaxy several centuries hence. This is to the extent that for the first couple of books she intends to remain a virgin because she doesn't have enough time to do everything that needs to get done, let alone stopping for a few hours to have sex at some point. Even when she fails in this she constantly castigates herself for it.

This is typical of Military Science Fiction, but it is taken to such an extreme that at points it is hard to see the page from the rolling of my eyes. There are multiple pages in multiple instances throughout, where her superiors explain to each other in excruciating detail how her incident reports are utterly dry in regards to herself and extremely complimentary of others. One incident, particularly in a crucial point in time, could well make the point to the reader. Done again, and again, and again, and in such detail is just becomes an obvious quirk of the author trying to relentlessly pound into the reader's head about how deserving and self-martyred the main character is. Of course, by third book she is described as having to have been issued a custom knee-length dress uniform because all of her awards won't fit (even though the dress uniforms of the military she is with allow for awards to be pinned front and back across the whole uniform except where other features such as rank bars of assignment badge occupy). At a certain point it just reaches a critical mass of self-martyrdom, melodrama, and general effusive author praise that you either have to shake your head in disgust and give up reading or just roll your eyes and take it with a huge grain of salt. If you have a low tolerance for Mary Sues, then this is not the series for you.

All in all, I was pretty happy with the series. There isn't a ton of good Military Science fiction out there, and what is out there tends to be either pretty good or very terrible. I wouldn't call this very good, but it is much better than the par and if you are a fan of the genre then the sins are worth ignoring in the admission price. At the end of the day, it is a very innovative series that breaks ground in ways I haven't seen before, and does a lot of stuff admirably enough to justify ignoring the irritants. I'll be looking for the next book when it comes out.

Just my two cents.

User avatar
Wolfee
Sui'Kun
Posts: 440
Joined: Sat Apr 08, 2006 2:54 am
Location: DarkSide of No Where
Contact:

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by Wolfee » Fri Aug 30, 2013 4:20 am

http://www.amazon.com/Under-Graveyard-S ... veyard+sky

Check out "Under a Graveyard Sky" by John Ringo! Now I'm not a big zombie fan in any stretch of the word. But John's characters make this a good fun read.

User avatar
wetnomad
Sorcerer
Posts: 57
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:42 am
Location: Hants, England

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by wetnomad » Fri Aug 30, 2013 9:06 am

Thanks for that Bester.
Bester wrote:Based on this recommendation I bought and read the "Theirs is Not to Reason Why" series. Here is my review of it, for those that care.
main message snipped
Just my two cents.
I'd come across a copy of the first book elsewhere and had thought to take a look, but your description has made me think again. I'll still probably try the first one but I'll not just go out and get the series.

The moment I read your description of 'self-doubt and self-castigation' I thought of Thomas Covenant, from the Stephen Donaldson series, 'The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant'. I read this many, many years ago and in the end it got me so frustrated at the constant self-pitying attitude of the principal character that I could only read it in small doses. I eventually read the last book and then got rid of all of them, as I knew I wasn't going to read them again - I couldn't take the frustration! It was a pity too, as the story and writing were good, just the actions and thoughts of the main character spoiled it for me. Thanks for the review.

Elorie
Novice
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:25 pm

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by Elorie » Fri Aug 30, 2013 11:49 am

It's not that bad - somewhat light reading. The self-recrimination is annoying, but not terribly so - there's enough story to actually read. I've read all three.

Bester
Initiate
Posts: 47
Joined: Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:53 pm

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by Bester » Fri Aug 30, 2013 1:38 pm

wetnomad wrote:The moment I read your description of 'self-doubt and self-castigation' I thought of Thomas Covenant, from the Stephen Donaldson series, 'The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant'. I read this many, many years ago and in the end it got me so frustrated at the constant self-pitying attitude of the principal character that I could only read it in small doses. I eventually read the last book and then got rid of all of them, as I knew I wasn't going to read them again - I couldn't take the frustration! It was a pity too, as the story and writing were good, just the actions and thoughts of the main character spoiled it for me. Thanks for the review.
I remember reading Stephen Donaldson while I was in High School, so I know what you are talking about. That reached to the point of self-pity so much that it was a depressing read and overwhelmed the story, and I remember having trouble sludging through the books. This is more along the lines of Forrester's Hornblower or even Weber's Honor, just taken to a further extent. It never gets to the point of being depressing or overwhelming.

Essentially it is an author's trick to try and avoid perfect characters by allowing the character to be perfect in public but humanizing them with the thoughts. Taken to reasonable levels it relates as humility and does humanize an otherwise borderline Mary Sue character. It exists (and is almost a trope) in smaller doses in most military fiction since Forrester. Taken to the extreme, though, it is just a very transparent attempt to avoid Mary Sue characteristics and gets obnoxious quickly, and I would consider this one of the worst cases that I've read outside of fan fiction.

As Elorie said, it is annoying, but not to the extent of destroying the story. Read the first book and get an idea for the tone of it. That tone continues throughout and doesn't significantly change.

probe
Initiate
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2012 3:51 pm

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by probe » Fri Aug 30, 2013 1:39 pm

three books? there were six i read and now i se there will be like ten of them:
Thomas Covenant
1. Lord Foul's Bane (1977)
2. The Illearth War (1977)
3. The Power That Preserves (1977)

Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
1. The Wounded Land (1978)
2. The One Tree (1982)
3. White Gold Wielder (1983)

Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
1. The Runes of the Earth (2004)
2. Fatal Revenant (2007)
3. Against All Things Ending (2010)
4. The Last Dark (2013)

User avatar
wetnomad
Sorcerer
Posts: 57
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:42 am
Location: Hants, England

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by wetnomad » Sat Aug 31, 2013 8:21 am

Thanks for the follow-up Bester and Elorie, as I said, I'll have a read of the first one and see what's what before condemning it out of hand. I have to say that I've read books/series that have been lambasted by 'critics' and yet which I've personally enjoyed; it's like a good deal of lfe, down the the individual's perceptions, personal preferences and biases.

Probe, I wasn't aware of the 'Last Chroncicles', or if I was I ignored it after the experience of the first two. For me, I finished with 'White Gold Wielder' before tossing all of them. Looking at the publication dates I have to wonder if he needed the money? I mean, twenty years between series, after the first two were out in a total of six?!

I do actually have one remaining book in my collection, which is, 'Daughter of Regals' (1984), a collection of seven (relatively) short stories.

Elorie
Novice
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:25 pm

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by Elorie » Sat Aug 31, 2013 6:50 pm

Mordant's Need is a readable duology by Stephen Donaldson - who does write well, if not always to one's taste.

If you're looking for space opera, I can recommend David Brin's Uplift Universe (especially the Uplift War), the various adventures of Miles Vorkosigan (by Bujold) and Iain Banks' various Culture novels. I also enjoyed Varley's Steel Beach. Extraordinary quality of prose. Sten is a rousing series and quite the space opera, good if not superb (don't remember the author name offhand, it's been a while, IIRC there were two). Robert Frezza has a good trilogy (beginning with A Small Colonial War), and Peter Hamilton's books (especially the Mindstar trilogy) make for good reading. Dan Simmons (Hyperion and the Gap series) is also very good, and Julian May isn't bad. Glen Cook is usually a fun read (scifi too). Cherryh is an acquired taste (I can recommend Cyteen), but Kristyne Kathrine Rusch and CS Friedman are worth your time.

User avatar
wetnomad
Sorcerer
Posts: 57
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:42 am
Location: Hants, England

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by wetnomad » Sat Aug 31, 2013 11:07 pm

Hi Elorie. I found that with Donaldson's short stories. I have most of David Brin's offerings and have enjoyed them; one in particular, which he co-wrote with Gregory Benford is Heart of the Comet, one of the first books from either that I ever bought. Bujold I've yet to really get to, although I seem to recall starting one of the Vorkosigan books and then putting it aside. Iain Banks is an odd one for me, as I've tried a couple of different novels only to be put off for some reason. It's been a few years so perhaps I'll give them another go. I don't recall reading John Varley's Steel Beach, although I may have and then tossed it. I do have the 'Titan' trilogy of Titan, Wizard, and Demon, which I like. The Sten series I very much like and I have all eight; written by Allan Cole and Chris Bunch. Bunch also has other series, of which I enjoyed the Shadow Warrior trilogy; it reminded me of Modesitts' 'Forever Hero' trilogy.

Robert Frezza I've never even heard of, so I'll have to take a look; Peter Hamilton I have most of and I agree the Mindstar Rising series is good - even better that I'm a Brit, so I can relate to the locations. Dan Simmon's Hyperion I've read but wasn't all that enthuiastic about but Julian May I do like; I started with his Exile Saga and then the later books associated with it. I was going to say I have some Glen Cook but looking at the shelves it's Rick Cook - light-hearted fantasy to laugh at really. I only have a few Cherryh novels, which appear to be stand-alone; the first one I ever bought was Serpent's Reach, which I remember enjoying. Kristyne Rusch and CS Friedman I've heard of but never read.

A now long dead author I still enjoy re-reading is Edmund Cooper (aka Richard Avery) who wrote from the 1950's to the 1970's; mostly stand-alone novels which sometimes pushed the boundaries in some respects. He died in 1982. Another is Hal Clement, who died ten years ago and authored over twenty books and stories. I only have three; Needle, Still River and Mission of Gravity. but for me they are classic hard SF.

Elorie
Novice
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:25 pm

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by Elorie » Sun Sep 01, 2013 7:10 pm

Hyperion has sequels, and Dan Simmons also has some good non-sf books.

Speaking of worthwhile British authors, there's also Alastair Reynolds.

User avatar
wetnomad
Sorcerer
Posts: 57
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 8:42 am
Location: Hants, England

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by wetnomad » Mon Sep 02, 2013 6:50 am

I'm aware of the Hyperion sequels, but given my less-than-enthusiastic take on the first I didn't see the point. Similarly with Alastair Reynolds who I tried but, like Iain Banks, simply couldn't get into. That doesn't mean I won't try again but the problem is time, and the fact that there are just so many other offerings to look at or even favorites to re-read. I recently came across Michelle Sagara's 'Chronicles of Elantra' series, of which I saw and read the first book after encountering it accidentally, and got interested enough that I ended up reading the entire series. I read pretty fast, but there's only so much free time... unfortunately!

User avatar
Edengrave
Sorcerer
Posts: 65
Joined: Sat Feb 19, 2005 8:44 am

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by Edengrave » Tue Sep 03, 2013 1:39 pm

soulz wrote:I would recommend
Terms of Enlistment by Mark Kloos
Koban I & II by Stephen W Bennet
To Honor you call us & For Honor We Stand by Harvey G. Phillips
http://www.royalroadl.com/table-of-content/ this site is for a Lite Novel about a virtual reality RPG, very humorous/ interesting.

Koban was a good read, even though the sequel felt weaker, Terms of Enlistment I liked as well with some reservations, but To Honor you call us & For Honor We Stand by Harvey G. Phillips was pure Gold. I was very impressed.

I`d recommend Fey by Mike Lee, and Take The Star Road by Peter Grant
“So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
- Ge 3:24

soulz
Novice
Posts: 14
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:40 am

Re: Good Books (Scifi)

Post by soulz » Sun Nov 03, 2013 12:01 am

John Ringo's Black Tide Rising Series #2 (To Sail a Darkling Sea) is out in Earc. For those of you who like apocalyptic zombie Fiction.

Post Reply