1 Mar 2008
Majestrum, Matthew Hughes
Henghis Hapthorn is a private detective in a future which is dominated by logic, reason, and science. Something happened to him on the last case, however, that shows that the universe is moving towards magic, intuition, and coincidence. His secretary/computer has been changed into some kind of familiar with a insatiable craving for expensive fresh fruit, for example. And he seems to have another aspect of himself living in his head arguing that he's too logical. When he is hired to do what appears to be a simple background check, it uncovers deeper mysteries about this change and questions about what Hapthorn should do about it.
A good read. The writing is... droll. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but amusing (especially when he is dealing with what used to be his perfectly subservient computer and is now a lazy, bored, cat-like animal).
Ring, Stephen Baxter
Baxter is a repeat author for me, though at the moment I can't remember why. His Manifold:... (Manifold:Space, Manifold:Time, etc.) series revolved around a main character I entirely disliked, yet I read them anyway for some reason. So the books couldn't have been all bad. By comparison, I found myself unable to finish Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars because I hated the protagonist so much.
Ring is "hard" SF, so if you're looking for deep characters you're not going to find them. The novel covers an enormous span of time, and is about big ideas and the eventual fate of the universe (and perhaps about the birth of a new one). As a "big idea" book, Baxter does a lot of science exposition, so if that's not your bag give this one a pass. Overall, I liked it. It's not often you read a book about enemies shooting entire galaxies at each other.
Vitals, Greg Bear
I've read a bunch of Greg Bear over the years, starting with Blood Music (which I liked). Vitals is Bear's attempt at a conspiracy techno-thriller. The book opens with a longevity research scientist traveling to the bottom of the ocean with a flatulent pilot who goes insane and tries to kill the scientist. The book doesn't improve appreciably. The overall conceit is OK, but it's just not written well. Stick to Darwin's Radio and Darwin's Children if you want to read something by Bear.
The Touch and Vamphyri!, Brian Lumley
I read the Titus Crow books (revolving around the Cthulu mythos) by Lumley some years ago and liked them. I happened on these two in the used book store and picked them up. They're both part of a series called "Necroscope", which is about a guy who can speak to the dead, the mysterious workings of E-Branch (the secret British service for people of special talent), and other things in that vein.
Vamphyri! was pretty dull. It picks up later on, but it could have been half the length. The basic plot is: Vampires bad, go attempt to kill wily vampire. I didn't care much for the characters; it didn't seem like there really was a main character at all.
On the other hand, I thought The Touch was pretty good and stood fairly well on its own. Scott St. John comes into some Necroscopic powers and struggles with how (or if) he should use them to avenge the death of his wife. And save the world. (Other who have read the rest of the umpteen Necroscope books think *this* book was dull, since it doesn't have vampires in it. On the other hand, this book actually has a protagonist.)