Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reflections: Shadow of the Giant

Adam C. Zern offers his thoughts on Orson Scott Card's Shadow of the Giant:

"When I completed Shadow Puppets I was as hesitant as I’ve ever been to continue reading the Shadow series, which is an extension of the Ender series.  I felt the book was extremely weak in both story and character.  It made me feel as if Orson Scott Card was wandering helplessly in the desert of his own imagination and never finding an oasis of meaningful creativity.  Happily, Shadow of the Giant, the 4th book in the Shadow series, is a solid return to the character-driven, emotional core that made Card’s other Ender and Shadow books so good.

The best part of Shadow of the Giant is that one of the main conflicts and with it the main antagonist—Achilles—is gone.  Bean’s personal war with Achilles was overwrought and its subsequent resolution was surprisingly weak.  Now that it’s over it feels as if Card doesn’t have to slavishly return to the conflict as he repeatedly did in the last book.  The meat of this book is the confrontations between a variety of characters and countries, which allows for more diverse and interesting scenarios.  In other words, Shadow of the Giant is a whole lot more entertaining than Card’s last entry in the series.

Anyone familiar with any of the books in the Ender or Shadow series knows that they’re based on psychology as well as science fiction.  Card sometimes meanders into too much psychoanalysis of his characters, which he accomplishes through stilted dialogue, but the characters remain fascinating.  As I have said before, I am invested in these characters and will continue reading what Card has to offer in this universe even after the Ender and Shadow series are over.

By reading in their entirety the Ender and Shadow series in the Ender’s Game universe, I can honestly and confidently say that there are two books which are must-reads—Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow.  The other books in the two sagas or worthwhile but only after deciding if the characters deserve your time."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Reflections: One Second After

Adam C. Zern offers his thoughts on William R. Forstchen's One Second After:

"Reading post-apocalyptic books is almost always a form of self-induced torture.  (A notable exception would be Alas, Babylon).  They're depressing, sometimes crushingly so (think The Road by Cormac McCarthy), fatalstic, and possibly prescient, but who can really know?  Therefore, you might be torturing yourself for nothing. Unfortunately, William Forstchen's One Second After didn't do much to break away from the self-induced torture genre and even overlaid an excessively desperate story with groan producing melodrama and sloppy patriotism.  In other words, One Second After is not a very good book.

One Second After is a novelization of a survival guide rather than being a novel about characters trying to survive.  Revolving around an unexpected EMP attack on the United States (and elsewhere), the author relentlessly piles on one 'did you think of that?' survival fact after another.  In my opinion, Mr. Forstchen was far more concerned with sharing his research findings regarding how lousy things would get if we were attacked with an EMP than he is with developing relationships between characters and creating emotional crescendos.  That's not to say he doesn't try at times.  There was one or two genuinely touching scenes, but in a 528 page book that's frustratingly insufficient.  I felt bad for some characters, yes, but I felt worse that the book wasn't over.

One Second After does serve a purpose.  It's a springboard for conversations about the end-times—where will you be and what will you do?  But can't that purpose be served with a well-written article in Discover Magazine or Scientific American?  Clearly I was not impressed with One Second After, and I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone else’s Thousander list."