View Full Version : Hamilton and Modesitt: a couple brief SF reviews

05-03-2003, 18:23:24
Peter F. Hamilton Watching Trees Grow

Bizarre how the Vancouver Public Library operates. I reserved this book and was surprised to receive a 500 copy limited edition version signed by the author. One wonders how long it will take for this little gem to go missing.

The book reads more like a novella than a novel. Despite my prejudices against novellas, the fundamental premise of an alternate universe with just one minor change, elongated human lifespans, is a good one. This little corner of SF, the alternate universe, is full of potential despite great works particularly by H. Harrison (Eden series) and H. Turtledove (Balance series).

Without going into plot details, the tale is up to Hamilton's high standards of writing. So far, this is a stand alone story, not compatible with his Mindstar or Reality Disfunction 'universes'. It is very much a 'hard' science fiction tale with no mindreading, ghosts, dead returning to life or anything like that.

Worth the read. Hopefully it exists in some other format to the 500 copy run, otherwise access could be a problem. ;)

L. E. Modesitt, Jr. The Octagonal Raven

As a teen I was a voracious reader of science fiction. As I age the tolerance I have for most of it is much lower, mostly because many writers aim squarely at the teen market. So every time I discover an author that doesn't go for sex with aliens, hopelessly human aliens, hackneyed conventions, simplistic plots or scientifically untenable ideas; I stand up and take notice.

The Octagonal Raven is extremely well paced. It starts out with frequent flashbacks to add depth and context to the novel. But by the middle of the book the action is so furious that I had to keep reading until the end. His writing skill can be measured by how seldom I feel compelled to read a novel cover to cover without stopping. Took me until 1:30 AM.

What else? The plot is detailed and believable. The love interest is very understated and integrates well into the back story. The charactarizations are superb.

Apparently Modesitt is quite prolific. This was the first novel I have read by him, so I am already looking forward to checking out some of his other efforts.

06-03-2003, 13:31:37
If you've just found Modesitt Jr, be happy, you have many excellent reads ahead.

06-03-2003, 19:10:47
Thanks, RedFred. With a bit of padding, that could have been a front page article!

(Hmmm: takes note that chagarra recommends Modesitt, Jr.)

06-03-2003, 19:11:58
Do you have a recommendation for a L.E.Modesitt, jr first timer?
Thanks in advance.

07-03-2003, 00:13:39
Thanks for the words of encouragement Noisy. I tend to shy away from more detailed reviews. Nothing worse than knowing too many plot details before you start... almost as bad as when someone feels compelled to tell you about every single bit of a movie you had wanted to see.

jsorense, just in case chagarra doesn't get back to you quickly, I am a fairly quick reader. The Modesitt book I read today was probably the best so far. A certain stubborn redheaded woman and a religious cult called the Believers figure prominently, but are somehow much less annoying than in SMAC. With a 1999 copyright date and wildly divergent ideas it is unlikely that anyone was copying anyone else.

The book is called Gravity Dreams and don't be put off by the cartoonish characters on the front cover. This novel covers a lot of ground and bears few resemblences to the one I reviewed earlier, although it could conceivably have taken place in the same 'universe'. Nanotech and interstellar travel ideas are the main constants.

07-03-2003, 01:38:30
JS, et al

To advise on which Modesitt Jr books to read is real easy......

Any of them.

The Spellsong cycle.... I wish there were more of them. Your classic unhappy in this metaverse, so we get called into another where magic works.. But only through song..
Great reading

The Saga of Recluse.... The twists of this series, even though the background and general plots were all similar, were so engrossing, it was always hard to put them down,
It's your basic good Vs evil, even to the extent of actually naming them black and white.... But with a twist.

Don't get me wrong, these are not deeply involved morality plays, more like light fluffy soufles, to be ingested, while leaving you wanting more.

It appears Fred is reading them asswards.... Octagonal raven, I believe, is the last one available, preceding that Gravity dreams.
These latter series, and I think there are a few, to me are not quite as engrossing as the first two, But that is purely personal choice. Different subject matter..

Amazon.com has the full list, and I believe you would find it easier to read them in order. But that is not essential since they are novels in their own right..

Hope this helps....


07-03-2003, 03:53:49
Excellent sir.
I owe you one oh wise dude.
I'll let you know what happens next.
And: :beer:

07-03-2003, 10:54:25
My favourite L. E Modesitt books in order

Adiamante (nothin to to with Wolverine)
The Parafaith Wars

I don't do that Fantasy stuff, unfortunately for me- Junior seems to do mostly Fantasy stuff, Spell Song this and The Magic That.:rolleyes: Lord of the Rings was the sum of that type of thing required in the world in my opinion.

13-06-2003, 23:09:46
I should have stayed with one of the above recommendations. Noooo, I had to be a smart ass and pick "Gravity Dreams" (Modesitt 1999). This is a very ordinary piece of SciFi with forgetable characters, boring 'action' and endless conversatins about 'honesty' and 'society.'
On the chagarra scale, I would give this a 'ignore/read at your own risk' rating.

16-06-2003, 03:52:23
Dang! I really enjoyed Gravity Dreams. No reason everyone should like the same stuff as me though.

I can now vouch for the Spellsong novels as well as an earlier four book 'Ecolitan' series by Modesitt as well.