Sunday, January 28, 2018

Seven Dials - Anne Perry

   2003; 330 pages.  Book #23 (out of 34) in the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series.  New Author? : No.  Murder-Mystery, Historical Fiction.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    It was a simple case to investigate, really.  A minor British diplomat was shot, at 3:00 AM, in a backyard at Eden Lodge.  The gun of the woman living there was found beside the body.  She fully admits it belongs to her.  Someone phoned for the constables, and upon investigating, they found that someone had placed the corpse in a wheelbarrow.

   The constables caught the woman and an associate in the act of trying to move the wheelbarrow from the backyard to nearby Hyde Park.  Both freely admit they were endeavoring to dispose of the body.  The associate freely admits he’s a lover of the woman.  But he’s also an important cabinet minister, who’s involvement in the crime could become a major scandal for the beleaguered government.

    Pitt’s instructions are not to determine who killed the poor diplomat.  That seems obvious enough.  Instead, his orders are to try to find a way to keep the cabinet minister from becoming a national embarrassment.  That’s going to be quite the challenge for Pitt, since the minister fully admits his help in attempting to dispose of the body.  In fact, he’s willing to go to the gallows with his mistress.

    There’s just one hitch.  The woman isn’t talking, and the minister insists, despite what all the evidence indicates, that neither he nor the woman did the shooting.  If that’s true, then who did?  And who phoned the constables?

What’s To Like...
    Seven Dials is from Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, so while her husband is trying to keep his job and the government afloat, Charlotte becomes involved in a more mundane mystery – the brother of a friend of the Pitts’ maid Gracie has disappeared without a trace, and Charlotte takes it upon herself to find out why.  The book switches back and forth between the two storylines, which I didn't find confusing in the least.

    The books in this series are also Historical Fiction, set in Victorian London in the 1880-1890’s.  Anne Perry always does a great job of making the settings feel “real”, and here she broadens her scope to include Alexandria, Egypt back then, which was a huge treat.  I especially liked that Egypt was portrayed in a realistic, positive light – not the stereotypical “heathen Arabs” viewpoint.  The book’s title refers to a rough part of London where some of the events take place.  Seven Dials is not a section of town you want to find yourself in if you have any choice.

    The action starts right away; Pitt is summoned to the police station in the middle of the night and assigned the case.  There are a slew of characters to meet and greet, and that’s okay since a sufficient number of suspects are needed to make both Thomas’s and Charlotte’s investigations interesting.  I liked Pitts’ boss – Inspector Victor Narraway – for his “grayness” of character.  And dear old Aunt Vespasia was as incisive as ever.

    The ending of Seven Dials is superb.  As usual, everything comes to a head at a court trial for the two accused murderers.  Twists and revelations abound in the court proceedings, and the ending is both surprising and logical, and didn’t feel a bit “forced” to me.

    Seven Dials is a standalone novel, as well as part of a series.  I’m not reading these books in order, nor those of Anne Perry’s other murder-mystery series, featuring William Monk, and I don’t feel like I’m missing much by not doing so.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Bubble and squeak (phrase, Britishism) : cooked cabbage with cooked potatoes and often meat.
Others : Winkle (n.); Circumlocutory (adj., and a great word); Dissimulation (n.); Mews (n., Britishism);  Impecunious (adj).

    “If you wish for my assistance you had better tell me what it is you require to know.  I am not acquainted with the unfortunate young Egyptian woman who appears to have shot Lieutenant Lovat.  It seems an uncivilized and inefficient way to discard an unwanted lover.  A firm rebuff is usually adequate, but if not, there are still less hysterical ways of achieving the same end.  A clever woman can organize her lovers to dispose of each other, without breaking the law.”  (pg. 44)

    “Ferdinand Garrick is what some people refer to as a ‘muscular Christian,’ my dear,” she continued.  “He eats healthily, exercises too much, enjoys being too cold, and makes everyone else in his establishment equally uncomfortable.  He denies himself and everybody else, imagines himself closer to God for it.  Like castor oil, he may on some occasion be right, but he is extremely difficult to like.”  (pg. 169)

No one wishes for impecunious relatives, however distant, still less for ones with distressing taste in clothes.  (pg. 166 )
    The quibbles are minor.  Most of the servants in the book speak in Cockney, which I don't doubt is historically accurate.  It was fun to "hear" the accent at first, but after a while it got tedious for me, especially since it seemed like the conversations were worded to emphasize the differences.

    The storyline also dragged a bit in the first half, as Charlotte and Thomas both seemed to be making little progress beyond meeting lots of new suspects.  But things pick up nicely in mid-book, and let’s face it, lots of investigations in real life experience phases of small progress despite great effort.

    Finally, the two seemingly disparate storylines eventually cross paths,.  The odds of this happening in real life are of course slim, but here it makes for a better, more coherent tale, so we’ll look the other way.

    8½ Stars.  Don’t be dissuaded by my quibbling.  I thoroughly enjoyed Seven Dials, both as a murder-mystery and a piece of historical fiction.  Amazon quite often discounts Anne Perry books, and my local Goodwill stores seem to always have a couple at next to nothing in cost.  So do yourself a literary favor, and go pick up one of her books today.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The God King - James A. West

   2013; 350 pages.  Book 1 (out of 4) in the “Heirs of the Fallen” series.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Dark Fantasy; Sword & Sorcery.  Overall Rating : 5½*/10.

    When you’re a mercenary, a job’s just a job.  Some are deadlier than others, some require additional personnel, but in the end, it’s all about the money.

    For the hired sword, Kian Valara, his present employment is boring, but lucrative.  A  young, foppish noble, Prince Varis Kilvar, has hired him, along with 60+ other mercenaries (mostly ninjas) to protect him as he goes traipsing around, looking for some decrepit temple he thinks hides some sort of magic source of power.  And why?  Because an ancient book, and a voice inside the prince’s head, have said so.  But the bodyguard job pays well, and that makes it a worthwhile business venture.

    Right now, the band of guardians are sitting around, waiting for the prince to reemerge from some run-down hovel he thinks might be the temple.  Yawn.  Kian and his cohorts checked it out before the prince entered, and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but Varis has been in there an hour now.  What’s he found that’s so time-consumingly interesting?

    But then the place erupts in a blinding flash of fire, blue bolts of electricity zap Kian into unconsciousness, and a naked, hairless, albino-hued being emerges from the rubble with black blood streaming from a gash in its forehead.  Is that Varis?  What's happened to him?

    Hmm.  In hindsight, maybe Kian should’ve passed on this job opportunity.

What’s To Like...
    The God King is written in a story-driven style.  The action starts immediately and never lets up.  Indeed, I got the impression the author consciously strove to do this.  The book opens abruptly, with Kian and company in mid-adventure on Prince Varis’s quest.  Some Amazon reviewers didn’t like this, but I thought it worked just fine.

    There are 55 chapters covering 350 pages, so there’s always a convenient place to stop.  Our heroes move around a lot, and James A. West spends a lot of time of the geography of the world he’s built.  The God King screams for a map, but alas, there isn't any.

    I liked the magic system.  Whether used for good or evil, the energy needed isn’t free.  Want to raise someone from the dead?  You’ll have to drain it from some nearby living organism.

    There’s a budding romance, and at least one sex scene.  But this is not a romance novel, and that’s a plus for me.  The cover image references an incident from Chapter 5 (8% Kindle), and I thought the artist captured the scene expertly.  I liked some of the phrases used, including “dribs and drabs”, and the euphemistic cuss-phrase “by Memokk’s stones!”

    The God King is both a self-contained story and an introduction to the 4-book series.  This is a completed series, and AFAIK, James A. West has no plans to add any more books to it.

Kewlest New Word ...
Trull (n, archaic) : a prostitute.
Others : skirling (v.).

    “Master, forgive me.”
    Varis frowned.  “For what?”
    Uzzret scanned his sandaled feet as if trying to find the answer.  “For … for displeasing you?” he said, making it into a question.
    Varis did not have time to coddle the man.  “We must prepare to depart this heap of blasted stones.  Assemble my chosen.”
    “M-master?”  Uzzret stammered, his old bones shaking.  “Are we not all your chosen?”
    I liked him terrified better than fawning, Varis considered.  (loc. 1779)

    “I am doing what I am doing because I am burdened to be the only man who can,” Kian answered darkly.  “What’s more, I go for her sake, as well as yours, Hazad’s, and everyone else who Varis would conquer.  I must abandon her feelings.  To carry them would be a distraction I cannot afford to have when I face Varis.”  Such, Kian admitted only to himself, was easier said than done.  It pained him greatly to anger or worry Ellonlef.
    Hazad dribbled the last of his jagdah in his upturned mouth, swiped his lips with the back of his hand.  “If Varis cuts your heart out, or burns you alive, can I have your sword?”  (loc. 4025)

Kindle Details...
    The God King sells for $5.99 at Amazon, as do the other three books in the series, and as do all of James A. Wests’ e-books for that matter.  You can also buy the Heirs of The Fallen series as a bundle, for $9.99, which is a considerable savings.   

“Big and dumb and quick to obey – best qualities for any man.”  (loc. 4262)
     There were some issues.  Firstly, the action-driven writing style comes at the cost of character development.  Everyone you meet is either “black” or “white”; there are no “gray” ones.  I like the people I meet in books I'm reading to be gray.

    Secondly, while the storyline is action-packed, there aren’t really any twists to it.  Our heroes head straight to the lair of the Ultimate Evil (“UE”), who is aware of their approaching, yet chivalrously waits for them to arrive.  The resolution of the storyline involves WTFs (instead of the UE killing our hero – didn’t he ever watch an Austin Powers movie? - he leaves him in a poorly guarded jail), and at least one deus ex machina (must there always be a secret entrance to the UE’s palace?).  There were enough of these literary devices that I never really got the feeling that Kian and his pals were ever in any danger of perishing from the series.

    Finally, there are some telling/showing issues, although I must add that the writing seemed to improve markedly as the book went along.

    5½ Stars.  The drawbacks made me wonder – would The God King be better as a YA novel?  Not much would have to be removed (the one sex scene, perhaps) and frankly, if the target audience were teenage boys, they wouldn’t care that all the characters are black-&-white.  They just want lots of action.  Even better, what about making this a graphic novel?  In that case, all those issues fade away.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Torpedo Juice - Tim Dorsey

   2016; 322 pages.  Book #7 (out of 23) in the Serge A. Storms series.  New Author? : No.  Florida Crime Noir, Stoner Humor.  Overall Rating : 7½*/10.

    Hooray, hooray!  Serge Storms is getting married!   He’s not quite sure who the lucky lady is, but he’s confident his soulmate will walk into his life shortly.  It’s just a matter of keeping his eyes open, and using a pair of binoculars to improve his vision will only speed up the process.

    Hooray, hooray!  Coleman’s back!  You probably thought he died way back in Book 1, Florida Roadkill.  So did our narrator.  Now it’s his job to come up with some plausible explanation for just how Coleman managed to spring back to literary life.  Good luck with that, Mr. Narrator.

    You know, if we could just get Coleman and Serge to cross paths and team up once more, that would be really great.  For the reader, at least.  For the rest of Florida though, it might be an explosive disaster.

    Like a shot of Torpedo Juice.

What’s To Like...
    Torpedo Juice is another tale from Tim Dorsey’s always-entertaining Serge A. Storm series, which features the dynamic duo of a psychotic, serial killer anti-hero (Serge), and his usually-clueless stoner sidekick (Coleman).   This book actually marks the return of Coleman to the series, having been away for a couple stories due to …well… death.  Seemingly.

    Any Serge A. Storms book features a plethora on convoluted plotlines, and Torpedo Juice is no exception.  Serge treks around, trying to get his life in order and searching for his soul-mate.  Anna is on the run after her abusive husband is murdered.  A drug king is obsessed with the movie “Scarface”.  A greedy land developer wants to build more condominiums along Florida’s coastline because, hey now, you can never have too many of them.  And to sheriff’s deputies, Gus and Walter, just want to keep the riffraff out of their jurisdiction. 

    If you’re a veteran Tim Dorsey reader, you also expect to be treated to some innovative executions by Serge, and Torpedo Juice does not disappoint.   There are four of them here, which is about average.  The upside-down crucifixion doesn’t count though, cuz Serge didn’t do it; and the simple bludgeoning seemed a tad mundane for him.

    It was fun to eavesdrop on the patrons of the No Name Bar, and I liked mention of Firesign Theater.  I learned a new acronym, GOMER, “Get Out of My Emergency Room”.  The “Lower Keys Chapter of People Susceptible to Joining Cults” were hilarious, as were the details of Serge’s honeymoon night.  There are 42 chapters covering 369 pages, so finding a good place to stop for the night is always easy.  And keep in mind that Tim Dorsey writes for adult readers, so there is cussing, violence, sex, and lots of booze and drugs.

    All the plotlines and characters converge on the Florida Keys for an ending that I found to be superb.  Each of the main threads gets tied up, and the reader is treated to a bunch of finishing twists that somehow make sense.  Yes, those twists might seem a bit contrived, but I mean that in the most positive way.

    “Communication is easy for me because I’m a listener.  I love to hear people gab about themselves.  Every single person is special.  Everyone has great stories.  Like you.  I’ll bet you have a million.  How old are you?  Sixty?”
    “I’m all about listening.  That’s why the world is in shambles.  Nobody listens anymore!”
    “I, uh …”
    “Shhhhh!  Listen,” said Serge.  “I have big news.”  (pg. 25)

    “Have you been seeing anyone else?” asked Daytona Dave.
    “Thought I’d found the perfect woman this morning,” said Serge.  “But it didn’t work out.”
    “What happened?” asked Bud.
    “He got tear-gassed,” said Coleman.
    “What approach are you using?” asked Sop Choppy.
    “He follows them at a distance with binoculars,” said Coleman.
    “That never works,” said Bud.  (pg. 134)

“Did you eat a lot of glue as a child?”  “Sometimes.”  (pg. 99 )
    There are some quibbles, the most notable of which is the lack of a main storyline.  Normally, Tim Dorsey includes one in each novel, such as the suitcase full of cash, which was used for two or three of the earlier novels.  Here there just isn’t one. Serge and Coleman bumble around, the other threads wend their way towards the Keys, but if I had to list the primary storyline, I’d be stumped.

    I get the feeling the primary purpose for Torpedo Juice is to get Coleman back into the series.  But that was clunky, and the pace was slow for the first quarter of the book as we wait for Serge and Coleman to cross paths.  To be fair, reintroducing dead characters in a series is never an easy or smooth undertaking.  For example, see “Bobby” in the soap opera “Dallas”, and even Arthur Conan Doyle’s miraculous revival of Sherlock Holmes from Reichenbach Falls. 

    Last, and least, Tim Dorsey used a very innovative literary device in Torpedo Juice when he wanted to keep the identities of several characters a mystery: he put them in various makes of cars, and referred to them by that.  So we have unknown people in cars like a brown Plymouth duster, a 71’ Buick Riviera, a metallic green Trans Am, a white Cadillac with tinted windows, and a jaguar (or jaguars) with colors ranging from black to white.  I found this clever, but also confusing.

    7½ Stars.  Here's the Bottom Line: Torpedo Juice might not be the best book in this series, but it is has lots of Serge’s trademark wit, a sufficient amount of intrigue and action, and is eminently entertaining.  And that’s the whole reason I read Tim Dorsey’s books.

Friday, January 12, 2018

1968 - Mark Kurlansky

   2005; 480 pages.  Full Title : 1968 – The Year That Rocked The World.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Non-Fiction; World History.  Overall Rating : 9*/10.

    1968 was a tumultuous year for me.  I graduated from high school in June, and a few weeks later my family packed up everything, formed a U-Haul caravan with another family, and traveled the length of Route 66 from eastern Pennsylvania to the just-being-developed  community of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, where my dad had been promised a job and a house.

      When we arrived, there was no job and no house.  So for the entire month of August we camped in tents on the sandy shores of Lake Havasu.  During that time, I added a new word to my vocabulary: MONSOON, which came up every afternoon and obliterated our tents, along with everyone else’s, imbuing every possession we had with millions of grains of gritty sand.   We sweated in 115° heat combined with lakeside humidity, we showered in the park’s public restroom facilities, and we cooked over a portable Coleman stove.

    After 30 days, I was mercifully allowed to fly back to Pennsylvania, to start my freshman year at Penn State, and get introduced to being out on my own, a couple thousand miles from my parents and siblings.  Needless to say, that too was a tremendous upheaval in my life.

    I vowed never to go camping again, and never to return to the hellhole called Arizona.  I am happy to say I made good on one of those two vows.

    Why do I recount this?  Well, according to Mark Kurlansky, the entire world was having that kind of year in 1968.

What’s To Like...
    The hypothesis is given at the very start of the book: “There has never been a year like 1968”.  The focus is on the unrest that was seething all over the globe that year, and the protests that seemed to spring up spontaneously therefrom.

    I thought the structure of the book was great.  Mark Kurlansky divides 21 chapters into four logical and chronological sections:
    The Winter of Our Discontent  (chs. 1-4)
    Prague Spring  (chs. 5-13)
    The Summer Olympics  (chs. 14-19)
    The Fall of Nixon  (chs. 20-21)

    There is heavy emphasis on the history that was unfolding in 1968, which I very much liked.  The main topics examined are:
    a.) the reform movement in Czechoslovakia, and the subsequent Russian invasion.
    b.) the worldwide protests, especially in the US, of the Vietnam war.
    c.) student and worker protests in France, Poland, and Mexico.
    d.) US college protests, particularly at Columbia.
    e.) the genocidal war in Biafra.
    f.) the violence at the Democratic convention.
    g.) the rise of feminism.
    h.) the civil rights movement and the rise of Black Power.
    i.) the 1968 Olympics.

    It was nice to “re-meet” some people that have long since slipped out of my mind.  Folks like Alexander Dubcek, Abbie Hoffman, Eugene McCarthy, Stokely Carmichael, Vaclav Havel, and Betty Friedan.  I enjoyed the nod to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and the kewl quotes and intriguing titles that started each chapter. 

    1968 ties into three other books I’ve read in recent years: Ravens in the Storm by Carl Oglesby (reviewed here); The Essential Ginsberg by Allen Ginsberg (reviewed here), and The Harvard Psychedelic Club by Don Lattin (reviewed here).  Mark Kurlansky admits to being prejudiced in his viewpoint of 1968, having lived through it (he was born in 1948).  I appreciated that sort of candor.

    For me the best thing about the book was being enlightened by some of the background “maneuverings” that went on.  For instance, picking a city for a civil rights protest was not a random selection.  Martin Luther King adhered to a principle that came from Gandhi: To be successful, a non-violent protest must provoke a violent response.  Otherwise, there will be no press coverage.  Selma was chosen not because it was necessarily more segregated than any other city in the Deep South, but because its police chief was known to be a violent bigot.  His response to a peaceful protest march was quite predictable.

    Similar planning and tactics by the protest organizers ensured that the Democratic presidential convention in Chicago would be exceptionally bloody.  When they chanted “the whole world is watching”, it wasn’t a spontaneous event; it was a declaration that their carefully-laid strategies had succeeded.

    In June 1969 he came up with the Weathermen, a violent underground guerrilla group named after the Bob Dylan lyrics “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”  In March 1970 they changed their name to the Weather Underground because they realized that the original name was sexist.  In hindsight, it seems evident that a guerrilla group started by middle-class men and women who name their group from a Bob Dylan song will likely be their own worst enemies.  (loc. 6504)

    The year 1968 was a terrible year and yet one for which many people feel nostalgia.  Despite the thousands dead in Vietnam, the million starved in Biafra, the crushing of idealism in Poland and Czechoslovakia, the massacre in Mexico, the clubbings and brutalization of dissenters all over the world, the murder of two Americans who most offered the world hope, to many it was a year of great possibilities and is missed.  As Camus wrote in The Rebel, those who long for peaceful times are longing for “not the alleviation but silencing of misery.”  (loc. 6948)

Kindle Details…
    The Kindle version of 1968 sells for $9.99 at Amazon.  Its related book, 1969, goes for $1.99, but is by a different author.  It is on my Kindle, waiting to be read.  Mark Kurlansky’s other e-books, all non-fiction, are in the $1.99-$16.99 price range.

 Like an unnoticed tree falling in the forest, if there is a march or a sit-in and it is not covered by the press, did it happen?  (loc. 769 )
    Some Amazon reviewers felt that 1968 “jumped around too much”, from one topic to another.  I didn’t find this to be true, and felt that the book’s timeline structure (season by season) helped link the topics to each other.  For instance, at the same time the Democratic convention was going on, the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia.  That certainly hurt the Democrats, as Nixon was preaching a “get tough on Communism” message.  Still, 1968 is "history" for most readers, but it’s “old current events” (is that an oxymoron?) for me.  Perhaps when it's before one's time, it's harder to follow.

    It also should be recognized that most of the topics can’t be limited to simply events in 1968.  The civil rights movement started in the 50’s; the American involvement in the Vietnam war started in the early 60’s.  You can’t discuss the 1968 dynamics without first recounting the background.

    Finally, the last 13% of the e-book consists of notes, a bibliography, permissions to use other people’s pictures and texts, and other books by the author.  At the tail end of all that are some “extra” quotes that Mark Kurlansky thought were apropos.  All those other bits of miscellany are skippable, but those final quotes are worth taking the time to look up.

    9 Stars.  For me personally, 1968 was a great book, bringing back memories of a pivotal year in my life.  Subtract ½ star if that year is just a history lesson for you.  You’ll still enjoy it, but it may not resonate quite so much.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Pandora's Star - Peter F. Hamilton

    2004; 986 pages.  New Author? : No, but it’s been a while.  Book One (out of two) of the (completed) Commonwealth Saga series.  Genre : Hard Science Fiction; Space Opera; Epic Science Fiction; First Contact.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    It happened in a flash.  Well okay, make that an “unflash”.  Astronomer Dudley Bose was watching a star through his telescope when it just “winked out”.   Gone.  Instantly.  Right in front of his eyes.  And he checked, it wasn't a matter of equipment failure.

     The bad news is, he didn’t have his instruments set to record the event when it occurred.  The good news is, he’s living in an age where wormholes are available, so a quick trip to another star system allows Dudley to observe the event a second time (you gotta love faster-than-light [aka “FTL”] travel), and confirm the event.

     But the missing star, dubbed “Dyson Alpha”, is far away – clear at the other end of the galaxy, and far beyond where wormholes can reach.  So until someone in a starship can get there, it’s a matter of conjecture as to what happened.  Dyson Alpha didn’t go supernova, so it seems unlikely that it just “blew up”.  It’s more probable that something, or someone, simply turned off a switch, or threw a cloak over the it.  Yet the magnitude of such an explanation defies logic.  How do you build something big enough to envelop a complete solar system?

    But Dyson Alpha is part of a binary star system.  And when its sister star, Dyson Beta, similarly winks out a short time later, that “cloaking” theory becomes a lot more likely.

    Hmm.  Anyone that can do that sort of thing is more technologically advanced than we are, making them a formidable foe if they have aggressive intentions.  It might be prudent to get an FTL starship heading that way as quickly as possible, no matter what cost.

What’s To Like...
    At almost a thousand pages in length, Pandora’s Star is truly an Epic Science-Fiction tale.  Other sci-fi writers do world-building; Peter F. Hamilton does galaxy-building, featuring detailed descriptions of a bunch of planets and star systems.  The book also falls into the Hard Science Fiction category, where wormholes, FTL travel, Dyson structures, maidbots-&-e-butlers, cloning, and starships all exist.

    There are multiple plotlines to follow.  I counted at least seven of them:
    1.) The disappearance of the Dyson Pair.
    2.) Paula Myo chasing Adam Elvin.
    3.) Paula investigating a double murder.
    4.) The Guardians of Selfhood and the Starflyer.
    5.) Ozzie and Orion’s travels.
    6.) Kazimir and Justine’s relationship.
    7.) Mark Vernon doing who-knows-what.

    Some of these threads cross paths along the way, but only peripherally.  The jumping from one storyline to another keeps the reader on his toes, yet somehow it never gets confusing.

    This is also a “First Contact” saga, and it is enlightening to see how an alien species, in most ways more advanced than we humans, treats us when the two cultures meet.  It was also fun to see Peter F. Hamilton exploring the concept a cult’s “Doomsday” mentality.  We always assume cultists are a bunch of crackpots.  How would it be if their bizarre belief(s) turned out to be valid?

    For me, the most fascinating aspect of the book’s 24th-century technology was “rejuvenation”.  People no longer die.  Their save their entire memories (or an edited version of it, if they so desire), and every so often get a new body via a process called “relife” (with whatever genetic modifications one can afford).  Voila!   You’re young again!  You never died; you just have a memory gap of a few years! The effect this has on things like birthrates, murder rates, capital punishment, marriages, etc. is culture-shattering.

    The details that are woven into the story are both amazing and amusing.  I chuckled at the “Niven Ring” (a nod to a fellow sci-fi writer), as well as a ship christened the Marie Celeste.  Justine’s “hypergliding” experience was thrillingly portrayed.  Ozzie’s conversation with the Silfen was hilarious; and I liked the all-purpose cuss-phrase, “Jesus Wept”.

Kewlest New Word...
Manky (adj.) : worthless; rotten; in bad taste; dirty; filthy.  (a Britishism)
Others: Doughty (adj.); Rucked (v.).

    “Couldn’t you just give the drive array some verbal instructions?” Dudley asked.
    “Now what would be the point in that?  My way I have control over technology.  Machinery does as I command.  That’s how it should be.  Anything else is mechanthropomorphism.  You don’t treat a lump of moving metal as an equal and ask it pretty please to do what you’d like.  Who’s in charge here, us or them?”
    “I see.”  Dudley smiled, actually warming to the man.  “Is mechanthropomorphism a real word?”
    LionWalker shrugged.  It ought to be, the whole bloody Commonwealth practices it like some sort of religion.”  (pg. 25)

    “May I ask with whom I speak,” Ozzie asked.
    “I am the flower that walks beneath the nine sky moons, the fissure of light that pierces the darkest glade at midnight, the spring that bubbles forth from the oasis; from all this I came.”
    “Okeydokey.”  He took a moment to compose a sentence.  “I think I’ll just call you Nine Sky, if you don’t mind.”
    “Evermore you hurry thus, unknowing of that which binds all into the joy which is tomorrow’s golden dawn.”
    “Well,” Ozzie muttered to himself in English, “it was never going to be easy.”  (pg. 250)

“Life’s a bitch, then you rejuvenate and do it all over again.”  (pg. 547)
    I don’t have any quibbles with Pandora’s Star, but readers new to Peter F. Hamilton should know a couple things.

    First, this is not a standalone novel.  None of the plotlines get resolved in the book, nor do they even converge much on each other.  The book ends with every thread at a cliffhanger point.  So when you sit down to read this thousand-page opus, you are also committing to read the sequel, Judas Unchained, which is of similar length.

    Second, the descriptions of the settings are plentiful and meticulously detailed.  Almost every chapter starts with one, and most are several paragraphs, or even pages, in length.  If you’re not into that, the reading can get tedious.  Also, a plethora of storylines means a poopload of characters, and not all of the significant ones might seem that way when introduced.  (eg.: Carys Panther).  Make bookmarks, or take notes.

    Finally, keep in mind that Peter F. Hamilton has written several epic series, and they’re all structured like this one.  I read his “Night’s Dawn” trilogy back in 2011, and the same caveats apply.

    8½ Stars.      Bottom line: If 1000+ page books don’t faze you, and if you like being scared to pieces by the prospect of an alien species obliterating and enslaving us, you may find (as I did) that Peter F. Hamilton is one heckuva science-fiction writer and storyteller.