Book review: Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear

Hull Zero Three by Greg BearThis book is interesting and challenging, interesting in the same way that you might think chugging a bottle of tequila in one go to be interesting. Better leave it to someone else. And the challenging part is to actually muster the will to keep turning over to another page.

In this case the reviewer (me) has chugged this particular bottle of tequila*, but rather than an intoxicating effect and a massive hangover (and possibly a trip to A&E.)
I am left with the feeling of having spent a weekend watching paint dry.

Now I must confess; this is one of the very few books that I have given up on. I have not read it through. Despite encouragements from friends who have also read it and said that it picks up towards the end I still can not bring my self to open up this particular book again. So this review is based solely on the first half of the book. If I however should at some point read the rest and discover that I was wrong about my educated assumptions I will of course post a mea culpa.

The story has potential, and for the first few pages I was interested in what kind of story this was going to be, the problem is that after reading 1/3 of the book I still had now clear idea of what, why or how or even if I should care.

Now I can understand that some stories have a slow build up, that there are methods that authors use to instill uncertainty  in the reader as to what is happening and who we actually are reading about.

But after reading about half the book the thing that I remember most from the book. (after only 24 hours of reading in it last) Is that for the better part of the beginning the main character, who we only get to know as “Teacher” has very few interactions and seems to focus more on his internal monologues regarding his vocabulary and how it is expanding. And/or that he remembers a word, but not quite what it means. And when that is the only part of the story you’re left with after reading well it should give you some idea of how boring I found this book to be.

And the rest of the characters introduced have as much dimension to them as an IKEA flat pack bookshelf, before assembly. There is really nothing more to say about them… I am at a loss to describe them as anything other than lifeless, uninteresting and dull.

Now as I said earlier in this review, there are reasons to build a story slowly but then you need something to keep me turning the pages other than pure stubbornness… this book does not have that. It felt like a chore to read and frankly the only reason I stuck it out as far as I did was that I wanted to be able to write an accurate review. But even that was not enough in the end. Thus I end this review and recommend that you read something other than this book.

If anyone has read this book and disagrees with me please leave a comment detailing why you think I am wrong…

Notes:

* – well half of it anyway, since I did not finish the book… but still it is not recommended; both the book and the tequila.

Book review: Containment by Christian Cantrell

Containment by Christian CantrellThis a rather short book, but none the less quite entertaining. It is a classic science-fiction story, perhaps a bit too classic.

Earth is polluted, overcrowded and generally considered inhospitable, and the solution is of course to colonize a planet. Venus rather than the sci-fi fav’ Mars is chosen in this book. And rather than a mass exodus from earth there is only a small colony. The main character is introduced in a soap-opera like waking-up-in-hospital-with-memory-loss scene; however this is not just a cheap ploy and a lazy start. It actually works its way in to the story and helps develop the reluctant hero. So do not be deterred by this in the beginning, it plays out well in the story to come. So stick with it.

The story takes us through the average life of the colony and in doing so introduces the rest of the character gallery.

After a while, our guide through this tour finds out his wife is pregnant, normally a happy occasion for a sound happy family. But this is where the story begins to take a more solid form; oxygen has always been a scarce resource on the colony. The story up till this point in the book has been a prelude; the colony is not able to sustain itself with an added person. And the father-to-be our guide/hero/scientist is now trying to solve this problem. Not only for the sake of his own child, but so that the colony can expand beyond it’s current 100-ish person capacity.

All characters other than our man, while not flat nor completely filled out lack any development in the story, but as it is quite a short one not to mention that the focus in this story is the problem at hand (oxygen) and our man. This works and is not something that you will be annoyed or even notice as the story progresses.

It is the story I ultimately have a problem with; this book is a good read, an easy read. But if like me you have read a few sci-fi books and/or seen your share of sci-fi movies then this book becomes predictable. It is original but had it been a boxing match between you and the author… you would have won simply because you would be able to see the next punch coming before the author knew he was going to throw it.

I would still recommend reading it, but save it for a day when you’re travelling and need a book that doesn’t mind a few interruptions. Or give it as a gift to a sci-fi novice, it makes a good non-scary introduction into the sci-fi genre.

Taken out of context I must seem so strange -Ani