Hugo: Hominids (2003)

Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer
Read May 13, 2010 – May 18, 2010

Premise: A Neanderthal man from a parallel (and Neanderthal dominated) world is accidentally thrust into the human world and causes a huge stir, both by his disappearance and by his adjusting to human society.

Verdict: This novel sounds amazing and I was very excited to read it. However, like many of the reviews I’ve read, I have to agree that this book is overly pretentious, patronizing, and absurd. I understand that the author was trying to show us that most aspects of humanity are not logical and are bad. Religion, violence, sexism, racism, yeah I get it, I know it’s all bad. Thanks. You don’t have to have a modern caveman pacifist flower-child come into this overpopulated world and point out the fact to me. You don’t have to explicitly portray a rape and then have Mister Hulking Gentle Manly Man heal the poor raped woman. I was offended not only by the author’s portrayal of humanity but also by his portrayal of women in both universes. He was pretending that women were treated as equals and had equal abilities but they all had emotional issues, rage issues, were vindictive bitches, or were extremely vapid, shallow, and self-centered. All of them were either “beautiful” or “plain” and were troubled by sexual assault issues or feeling awkward around nerds who stare at their overly exposed bodies. ‘Scuse?? Anyway, I definitely wasn’t impressed. It dragged on and on and the way he presented his approaches to social problems was sloppy and overly-preachy. This book was pretty terrible. There is a way to do “problem” sci-fi with finesse and intelligence. This isn’t it.

It sounds really awesome, but don’t waste your time on it.

Hugo: Hyperion (1990)

Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Read May 6, 2010 – May 13, 2010

Premise: A mythical creature known as the Shrike on a remote planet named Hyperion is worshiped by suicidal desperate people the universe over for it’s killing prowess and sudden gore-bath strikes. Hyperion is under imminent enemy attack and so a very select few are chosen to make the last pilgrimage to the Time Tombs (home of the Shrike) and ask it to grant their requests. We hear the stories of their connections to Hyperion and the Shrike, and why they are going on this pilgrimage.

Verdict: I just graduated from college this past Sunday. Why does that matter? Well, one of my degrees was in English, and I think that this book is almost as in love with John Keats as I am. That is by no means a bad thing. Keats had an unfinished poem called Hyperion (and if you click on that link read more of his poetry because I adore it and am a little English Romantic nerd.) This is a complexly structured non-chronological novel which uses frame stories to get you to the meat of the thing—sort of like a Romantic or Victorian novel. Gee. I also think that the entire point of this novel is the journey and the stories that led to the journey. I guess I could be disappointed in it and scream and flail, but I really enjoyed it and it still has me thinking about it even after I’ve finished it. And anyway, there are more in the series apparently. Yes, that means there is little to no resolution of the frame story. But the frame didn’t seem to be the point at all. It was getting there that mattered.

I loved the story, plots, and structure of this book and I’m afraid to read the rest of the series because I don’t want to be disappointed. This was highly enjoyable and I recommend it to other nerds of all varieties.

Hugo: Blue Mars (1997)

Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Read May 1, 2010 – May 6, 2010

Premise: The third and final novel in the Mars Trilogy and absolutely worth reading the other two to get to—they are all spectacular but they all lead up to this one which, I feel, makes reading the first two worth it no matter how long you think they are.

Verdict: I get so caught up in all three of these novels that I forget 1.) I do not live on Mars, I live on Earth 2.) nobody lives on Mars—no one has even set foot on Mars 3.) I am not nor ever will be the various characters, even though I feel like I am. The entire series is so intricate and so large-scale and grandiose that I am just in awe and yet it’s so intimate and personable with the characters that you keep reading, even through the really technical mathematical scientific descriptions, just because you know that’s the nature of the characters and you want to know what happens with them. I just don’t know what else to say about this whole series. I know that I adored the first one, the second one was even better as far as character and such went—I guess simply because it was all the same people and still took them in really great directions. But for a conclusion, you cannot get better than this one. I’m still having trouble remembering that I am not on Mars, I’m on Earth. I can’t bring myself back out of it. I highly recommend this entire trilogy.

Go to the library, go to the bookstore, order them to your Kindle—whatever. But read these books.

Red Mars
Green Mars

Hugo: Green Mars (1994)

Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Read April 1, 2010 – May 1, 2010

Premise: The second in a trilogy, the novel follows the same group of characters from Red Mars, their children, and some newcomers as they feud over terraforming and Martian independence from Earth.

Verdict: I loved this novel even more than the first one, although that’s probably because I loved the characters from the first one so much that I was ecstatic to see them back. This book very skillfully builds off of the social structures established in the first novel and adds in the perspectives and desires of people born and raised on Mars, as well as new immigrants, and military forces that are in place after the first Martian revolution. Robinson also uses this novel to develop the flatter characters of the previous book—who were more staunch representatives of opposing or controversial positions—into open and dimensional beings. I love the simple and informative explanations of actual scientific principal as it applies to Mars in the novel, and I adore the construction of new social orders that strive to better the human condition, but my favorite thing about these books is the complex and insightful way that Robinson portrays human relationships with free indirect discourse expressing the thoughts and desires of the people directly to the readers as if they are feeling it themselves. I could hardly put this novel down because I was so caught up in trying to organize the discordant groups of Mars that I forgot that humans haven’t even set foot on the planet yet—I was pretty sure that I was there!

Can’t stop to talk—must read the next one!