Author: Mary Roach
Mary Roach has established something of a career writing these little non-fiction nuggets. She has a delightful, carefree style with a fine mix of humor and inquisitiveness. This, her third outing, is about sex.
I think, ultimately, that the subject matter knocked her off her game a bit. While her previous books are also about subjects that are, to some extent, equally personal – death for Stiff and the soul for Spook – she appears to struggle more to find a distance here. The book succeeds best when she recovers her playful sense of humor.
The best way to see what I mean is to watch her at the TED conference. Be warned, some of the book’s best gems are here in the presentation, but there’s plenty more to enjoy in the text.
Author: James Howard Kunstler
A near-future genre-bending story of a fairly optimistic post-apocalyptic world. Oil has run dry, war has distracted the government, electricity and transportation are severely disrupted. All the worse, a virulent flu has devastated the population, particularly culling the very young.
Suburbia is dead, and the world returns to local community structures where power is divided between those who can get things done, and those who can have things done to others. In this world Robert Earle must contend with a mysterious new cult and the lawless interruption of the well-being of his town.
It’s a well written story, with solidly intriguing characters and a fairly tight plot. The “genre-bending” element jumps in abruptly two-thirds of the way through, though- this will disrupt the less dedicated readers. Keep it up, though – there’s plenty to enjoy.
Author: John Scalzi
It’s been a while since I’ve read hard sci-fi, and perhaps as long since I’ve read military sci-fi. Old Man’s War is both, and succeeds as both, at least as far as I can tell.
It is the story of a man who, on his 75th birthday, joins a galaxy-spanning military service. This is standard practice, and those who join: a) don’t know why only the old are recruited and b) know they can never again return to Earth. Indeed, no one on Earth knows any details about human extra-solar colonization, except that it is occurring.
It’s a good story, fairly well told. Data dump expositions are inevitable, I suppose, and are handled with only modest awkwardness. Plus, the data dumps contain new (to me; see warning above) sci-fi elements, so that makes them all the more bearable. The rest is fresh and exciting, with at least two characters you care about.
It is told in first person, which gets to me because almost all sci-fi seems to be so, now-a-days (except when it’s in an even more annoying second person; I’m looking at you, Charles Stross). But I’m sure you can get over that.