Thistle (thistle_chaser) wrote,
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2016 book: Wildcatter | Book #32 of 2016: Questions for a Soldier and The God Engines

All three of these books came from the very bottom of my to read pile. Two hits and a miss! The two Scalzi books weren't novel-length (one was a short story, the other a novella), but as the novella was longer than many YA books, I'm comfortable combining the two of them into credit for one book this year.

I was originally going to post these three in the order I read them (Wildcatter, Questions, Engine), but it makes more sense to switch the last two, so I'm doing that.

Wildcatter by Dave Duncan
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)



Ugh, this book. Scifi. Set in space, a very small crew was headed for a world to mine its resources. Six person crew, five of those six worldclass experts in multiple areas, the sixth person there to provide cooking, cleaning, and physical labor.

Guess which one of them knew all the answers? Physical labor guy thinking about a basic mistake one of the scientists makes:

As a planetologist, Maria ought to have noticed [that the planet was old]. It wasn't his job to point that out to her.

The main character was "hermphobic" (transphobic). In a world where anyone could change genders by taking three pills and eating extra protein (to go from female to male, so I assume less protein to go from male to female...), main character said:

He had no claim on her, and a herm could never be a mate in the way a real woman could.

And homophobic:

He said, standing closer to Seth than felt comfortable for two men.

The captain, a woman, used the pills to turn into a man so she could better handle a problem crew member. She speaking:

It's just, well I know me, and both me's, and I know I can handle JC a lot better when I have visible balls.

And the writing just made no sense in general (not even counting the 'three pills and protein to change genders' thing). Speaking of a man, just a plain, human man:

JC rose up on his hind legs.

Between the 'hind legs' and 'mate' use, I'm almost wondering if this had originally been a furry novel and the author changed it for publication.

I hated the main character, I disliked the other characters, and the worldbuilding made no sense. I reached the 11% point of this book before giving up. I just could not stand to spend any more time with it.


The God Engines by John Scalzi
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)



An Amazon reviewer described this as "science fantasy" and that really fits -- it's like a cross of scifi and fantasy. The worldbuilding was amazing: Set in space, gods are real. Not only are gods real, they're at war with each other. Some time back, one god got the upper hand, and enslaved a bunch of the other gods to serve His followers. Those followers force the enslaved gods to power their spaceships.

I love Scalzi's writing, and I really need to read more from him. He's not just skilled at worldbuilding and character creation, but his writing skills in general rock: For one of this book's major characters, he never mentioned a gender, letting the reader fill in what made sense to them. I hadn't even noticed that he didn't mention a gender until halfway through the story, then I went back nearly to the beginning to start again and confirm that a gendered pronoun was never used for them. So cool! (I do wonder how other readers saw the character. For me, I kept seeing a masculine woman, but sometimes it wavered towards feminine man.)

There were only two negatives of this story. The first was that I wish it had been longer. It ended at the perfect point (and in the very most perfect way possible), but I still wish I could have spent more time with it. The second was that a character's name was "Andso," and it kept driving me crazy. Every time the name occurred at the beginning of a sentence, I kept thinking it was a typo -- "And so" instead of "Andso".

(Edit: I forgot to mention another thing I really enjoyed. All the characters in this book had a similar dialogue style, word choice just a little off from our modern way of speaking. It really helped set the stage of this being a vastly different period of time.)

Questions for a Soldier by John Scalzi
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)



While this story was interesting in and of itself, to me it was even more an example of how good of a writer Scalzi is.

Set in his Old Man's War world (where the elderly are given new bodies to go to war in), this story was nothing but a transcript of some meet-and-greet event. No descriptions of people. No descriptions of places. Almost no names. Format was:

HOST: (dialogue)
CAPT. PERRY: (dialogue)
HOST: (dialogue)
PERRY: (dialogue)
VILLAGER 1: (dialogue)
PERRY: (dialogue)
VILLAGER 2: (dialogue)

Etc. Even with no descriptions or names, each character seemed so alive and whole! I pictured it no less fully than I did for any other story I've read. Just through their voices alone! So cool! I really enjoyed it.
Tags: 2016 books, book review, book: questions for a soldier, book: the god engines, book: wildcatter
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