Monday, October 12, 2015

The Games by Ted Kosmatka

This stunning first novel from Nebula Award and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award finalist Ted Kosmatka is a riveting tale of science cut loose from ethics. Set in an amoral future where genetically engineered monstrosities fight each other to the death in an Olympic event, The Games envisions a harrowing world that may arrive sooner than you think. That's from the blurb of the book. Unless I'm reading it differently from other people, I took it to mean that the novel itself was a Nebula Award finalist. For those of you who have no idea what the Nebula Award is, it's a very prestigious award for American science fiction writers. It's a very big thing. To be even a finalist for the Nebula Awards is a very big thing. Oh, and did I mention that it's a very big thing? Which was why after I finished The Games, I hunted down the Nebula Awards nominee list, perturbed that this book had managed to be nominated and thinking that perhaps there was a drought of science fiction books in that year. Which was when I realised that this novel had not been nominated for a Nebula Award. Ted Kosmatka did get nominated for the Nebula Awards for Best Novelette for his story, Divining Light, in 2010. I have no idea if that sentence in the blurb was written to be deliberately misleading or if it was unintended. Why did I think this book didn't deserve a Nebula nomination? *Sighes* The book had promise. The premise is nice. Nations genetically modify monsters and send them to compete in arenas every 4 years. But nothing much really happens in the book. The actual "games" referred to in the title of the book is covered in a few pages near the second half of the book. The rest of the book consists mainly of subplots that don't really mesh well.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Endgame: The Calling by James Frey

James Frey is the guy who wrote a Million Little Pieces and published it as a memoir. Yes, the guy who fabricated large parts of the supposed memoir. He's also the guy who formed Full Fathom Five, the publishing company that was outed for it's extremely limiting contract with writers in 2010. (Incidentally, said contract does not require James Frey to credit an author, and there's also a confidentiality clause for the writer, so in light of that, the true author of Endgame: The Calling is suspect) Ok, the author(or supposed author) is a bastard. Let's move on to the book. Yes, Endgame: The Calling has been compared with The Hunger Games. And there are similarities, like there being only one winner, and the age of the participants. But there's also multiple points of view, and players employ different means to achieve their aims, and even have different aims. That's not Hunger Games, that's Battle Royale, but set on a world-wide stage. The premise of the book was something I liked. There's a puzzle, there's 12 players, and they race to solve it, forming alliances and employing various means to hinder the other players. There's even a real-world puzzle involving an actual cash prize tied in, and my impression is that there was extensive research conducted in writing the book. But. The heart to any puzzle is logic, and logic is constant. Inconsistencies in a story, one designed to be a puzzle, really irk me. In a knife fight, a player has been trying and failing to hit his opponent, another player. And then he realises something and wanting to ask the other player a question, he grabs her wrist. A player whose family runs a criminal empire and who starts off thinking he can and will kill off the other players enters into an alliance with the first player he meets and sticks with her all the way. And what exactly are the players? Players have better hearing than normal humans, and better reflexes and strength, except when they choose not to train them. There is only one eligible player from each tribe/bloodline at each time. Eligibility can be passed to another member of a tribe based on the decision of the council(for one tribe, it's possible that it's different for different tribes). There was a period of time when one tribe had no eligible players, and there was only an 11-year boy left. People can be adopted into a tribe. The game has been played before and it involved 12 players. Like I said a few paragraphs back, I liked the premise of the book. But I think the execution of it could have been better. As it was I was disappointed, not because it wasn't good enough, but because I felt that it could have been better.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Edit to Review of Grandmaster by David Klass

I just realised that the tournament depicted in the book, despite being a team event, is not in a team format. For all intents and purposes, the participants are playing in an individual event, then adding up the scores of the players in their team. Which, although it would mean that the plot hole I mentioned in the previous review is now invalid, opens up a couple of new ones. 1) Except for the games that they are playing against Daniel's teammates, George Listz's team are assumed to have won the rest of their matches in the last round. For some strange inexplicable reason, everyone knows that. 2) The tournament rule that only the best 5 players from each team will be counted. It could be possible that David Klass means that only 5 boards from each round will be counted for each team, but that would result in a weird situation where teams would prefer getting 5 wins per round rather than 6 wins, as the player who lost for that round would get an easier matchup next round, so I'm going to take it that it's the best 5 players who are counted. Daniel is the weakest in his team. His score wouldn't be counted, unless he managed to overtake one of the two absent teammates. It's possible that that's precisely what happened, but given that he is the weakest, to say that it's weird that no one brought this up would be an understatement.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Grandmaster by David Klass

I found Grandmaster by David Klass quite an engaging read. I suspect people are going to think that this is a book that's going to appeal to chess enthusiasts(which I am) and that those unfamiliar with chess will be unable to get into it.

That's not the case. Even if you are unfamiliar with competitive chess, you won't have much trouble following the book.

However, if you are a competitive chess player, then the glaring plot hole might put you off. (Spoiler alert)

Going into the final round of the chess tournament, Daniel's(the protaganist) team and another team are tied in place for 1st. Six boards are played per round and due to reasons I'm not going to reveal here (if you want to find out, read the book), two of his teammates are unable to play for the final round and they are short two players. However, of the remaining four, three of them win their matches, and the only one who's still playing is Daniel's father, the grandmaster.

And that is where the major plot hole is. Everyone thinks that if Daniel's father loses, Daniel's team will lose the first place to the other team.

Let's do the maths.

Daniel's team has 3 wins.
The other team has 2 wins(as Daniel's team is short two players and they'll have to forfeit the boards).
If Daniel's father loses, that's another win for the other team.
2+1=3 wins.

Which is exactly the same number of wins as Daniel's team.

Which would be a draw.

Now, if only George Liszt(Daniel's father's opponent) thought his team would win, that could still be written off as him assuming that his team, going into the final round with 2 wins(due to Daniel's team shortage), thought that his win would be enough to cinch 1st place for his team.

But it's EVERYONE who thinks that way.

There. That's the major plot hole.

There are also a couple of scenes requiring suspension of disbelief. Like when George Liszt recognises Daniel's father after not having seen him for thirty years. Daniel's father, Moris, is in his fifties, is bald and has a belly growing out.

If you can get past all that though, Grandmaster is quite an engaging read.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson

Prodigal Son is the first book in the Frankenstein series by Dean Koontz. The premise of the story, at first glance, does look promising. Frankenstein, the scientist who created life in Mary Shelley's novel is actually based on an actual scientist. Now, more than two hundred years later, both him and his first creation are still alive. Victor is now scheming to take over the world, and his first creation, who now calls himself Deucalion, is opposing him. And to be honest, the book itself isn't a bad read.

However, given what Dean Koontz has to work with, it kind of comes across as a disappointment to me that I found it merely satisfying. It's not bad, but it's certainly not something that I'm gushing over either.

Character development-wise. Wait. What character development? There's none. Despite having a monster who murdered his creater's wife turn into a mystic, and a scientist who turned into a power-hungry egomaniac. Over two hundred years. There's no character development. There's such a wonderful angle for Dean Koontz to explore, and he just skips over them. It's pretty much a lost cause to expect him to develop the other characters.

Plot-wise, it's meh. Dean Koontz does work in a few surprises, and there'll likely be a few twists that you didn't see coming, but I was left with the feeling that it could have been better.

Overall, I would say that it's a good read, but it's not a good buy.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Great Thinkers On Great Questions, Roy Abraham Varghese(Ed.)

Looking at the title of the book, and the blurb at the back of it, I expected a book that took hotly debated questions, threw them at "great thinkers" and then gathered up what came out.

If I reviewed the book based on these criterion, I would say that the book failed spectacularly.

It's quite obvious that certain viewpoints and theories have been left out, but at the same time, questions are being asked of the "great thinkers" that relate to viewpoints not found in the book.

And if I review the book for what it really is, a book aiming to provide Christian answers to Christian questions, it still falls short of the mark.

Reading the book, I feel as though I'm listening to half of a conversation, as if I'm in a room with a person talking on the telephone. It sounds as if they are having quite a discussion but I'm unable to hear what the other person on the line is saying.

If I were a Christian searching for answers, reading the book would only leave me with more questions.

I wouldn't recommend this book at all, whatever your beliefs.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dead and Alive by Dean Koontz

The appeal of a thriller is in the suspense, the plot twists, the near-misses. Sadly, that's missing in this book. Throughout the book, the heroes encounter not even a hint of danger. There's no sense of urgency, no dangerous situations, no resistance at all. Their plans to undermine the villain proceed without a hitch in sight. Meanwhile, the villain's minions either self-destruct, abandon him or are killed by the villain himself. It almost seems as if he's racing the heroes to put a nail in his own coffin. If the heroes had all stayed home, one gets the feeling that it wouldn't have made a difference in the end.

Unless you are a die-hard fan of Dean Koontz who doesn't care about the content, only that he wrote it, don't bother with the book.