Tag Archives: science fiction

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Word Lily review

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985), 336 pages per Amazon, but my copy ends on page 226

Ender was conceived because the ruling authority thought he just might have the right characteristics to be able to lead the fleet in the Bugger Wars (the buggers are aliens). He advances through the training years ahead of the norm. There’s endless debate about the best way to push him to excel, but all Ender knows is that they make his life hard. He’s good at this stuff, but he doubts himself and resents that his destiny was chosen for him.

I don’t remember why I decided I should read this book, but I bought it to read during the June 2008 read-a-thon. That seems about one hundred years ago. Over the impending years, I’ve had two brothers-in-law bugging me (heh, that pun was unintentional) to read it whenever the subject came up. I challenged myself to read it in 2011, and now, at the end of 2012, I’ve finally fulfilled that goal.

I was caught up in the fast-paced story from the very beginning. Ender is very human, and reading the (apparently begrudgingly written) introduction by the author helped draw me in, too. Card, there, talks about how some readers criticized the book, saying Ender (and the other characters) didn’t talk or think like children, but Card’s response that when he was a child he heard himself speak not as a child but as a person, which I thought was a very good point.

I really loved this book. I definitely see some ways Ender’s Game might have influenced The Hunger Games, or at least some parallels between the two. Ender is incredibly sympathetic.

Now, just a couple criticisms. I liked the references to religion early on, but I was disappointed that it wasn’t addressed more.

The political aspect of the book really reminded me that it was published in the 1980s. Not all bad, but it definitely dated the story.

I’m frustrated about one bit at the very end, and again it’s about religion. Card creates a new religion, and it apparently takes off, but there’s really no reasoning given for its huge popularity, and as described, it seems to be one small ritual, not a full-blown religion. The way he persisted in talking about it was a real turn-off to me. I’m guessing it’s set-up for the next book in the series, but it feels tacked on and awkward in this book. He either needed to explore it more or take it out. This was almost enough to sour the book for me, but really, the rest of the story shines clearly enough to overpower this. And maybe I’m alone in feeling so about this aspect of the book? Or maybe my opinion will change if/when I read book 2, Speaker for the Dead?

Rating: 4.75 stars

Ender’s Game won both the Hugo and the Nebula award.

Other reviews
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Faith and Fiction Round Table Discussion: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

The Faith and Fiction Round Table is a group, started by My Friend Amy, that determined six books relating to faith and mostly fiction to read together in 2011. We have discussions via email and then post our thoughts on the book.

This month’s book is A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

This book is on the Image Journal Top 100 list, so I was excited that it coincided with the Faith ‘n’ Fiction Round Table, since I’ve committed to reading every book on that list but my progress has been so very slow.

So often science and faith have been cast as opponents. Whether we’re talking Galileo or the current origins conflict, science and faith are often seen — even by their members — as mutually exclusive. This is something I grew up blowing off, almost ignoring. I knew the two could work together. But as I’ve experienced more of the world, I’ve seen how strong the dichotomy is, in practice. (Like oil and water? Do you remember those science experiments?)

In Canticle, though, Miller casts at least this small part of the church, a monastery dedicated to the memory of an early 20th century engineer, as the keeper, sustainer, of scientific knowledge.

As the monks copy artifacts and fragments over the multiplied lifetimes, most of the time they gain no understanding from what they read. And the outside world is no better, with low single-digit literacy over the centuries, following that first catastrophic nuclear “Simplification” (in the 1940s).

But time passes, and eventually one of the monks with a particularly scientific mind takes the necessary leaps and reinvents electric light.

At this point, the outside world (this monastery is very isolated) also has a leading scientist or two, but his mind is clouded by his preconceptions — and the monk has reached so much greater success, even without the benefit of a university education.

Hm, that may be a bit more detail than I needed to give.

Anyway, I guess my question today is this: Do you view science and faith as diametrically opposed, or do you see how they can be reconciled? Examples?

NOTE: This is not a forum to debate creation/evolution or the like — not even close.

For more posts on A Canticle for Leibowitz, please visit:
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A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz

Word Lily review

A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz, The Dark Trench Saga book 1 (Marcher Lord Press, October 1, 2009), 308 pages

Sandfly is a debugger, in a future ruled by sharia law. Debuggers manage machines and are owned by masters. Sandfly is sent into orbit to figure out what went wrong on an experimental, highly classified deep space voyage.

Before I read A Star Curiously Singing, I couldn’t keep the name of this book straight. After reading it, I doubt I’ll forget the title.

    My initial impressions were overwhelmed by nit-picky details:

  • It took me a few pages to get up to speed on the sci-fi tech speak.
  • A lack of editing; the wrong word was used on a number of occasions.
  • The bad (crooked) trim job on the pages
  • The first-person was a bit awkward at times, it took me awhile to get used to it.

But as time has passed (I read it several months ago), I’ve come to love this book. This is one of those books I’ve been talking about every chance I get. The story is brilliant, and very well done.

I didn’t (and still don’t) love Nietz’s use and representation of the Muslim world, but I also can’t see a way around it, given the story.

One of my favorites of the year, for sure. This book deserves so much more attention.

This book was shortlisted for an INSPY award in speculative fiction.

The second book in Nietz’s Dark Trench Saga, The Superlative Stream, was released in April.

About the author
Kerry Nietz is a refugee of the software industry. He spent more than a decade of his life flipping bits — first as one of the principal developers of the database product FoxPro for the now mythical Fox Software, and then as one of Bill Gates’s minions at Microsoft. He is a husband, a father, a technophile and a movie buff. He has one previously published book, a memoir (FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software).

Other reviews
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Dipping my toe in the Science Fiction water: Tips

AKA, Lessons I learned the hard way

I’ve been pushed recently to try some science fiction. Now, I’m not entirely a speculative fiction virgin — I’ve read:

As a child, I read:

OK! So, that feels like a bit of a list. But when you consider it’s quite possibly all of the speculative fiction I’ve ever read, it’s not much at all. Certainly, it’s not much science fiction.

Now, the list above is complete up until a few days ago, when I picked a work of true science fiction.

Based on my experience, 6 tips:

  1. The first few pages, take your time. There’s often lots of unfamiliar terminology thrown around in just that bit of text. It’s part of setting the stage, see, but it set me back a bit until I’d gotten my sea legs (or whatever the appropriate terminology would be).
  2. Don’t be frightened.
  3. Take a deep breath and go for it.
  4. It would probably help to get a recommendation from someone who knows you and your reading taste. (If you like classics, perhaps try a classic work, etc.) It’s really a very large category of books; there’s much variety.
  5. Even if you don’t like the first one, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will hate every single speculative book ever written and therefore should never read another one.
  6. Go for it!

Do you have anything to add? What’s your biggest hurdle when it comes to trying a new genre?

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