the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘characterization

I’m slowly making my way through Death’s End by Cixin Liu.   I’m 250 pages in, and it feels like I’ve barely made it past the first few chapters. In a way, this is sorta feeling like Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle?  (if you’ve not read The Baroque Cycle – spoiler: it never freakin’ ends. like, ever)

 

I am LOVING the big ideas in this book!  How space faring races might find each other, why they’d be wise to avoid each other.  Of course I can’t find the section now, but the part about how there is a child walking through the Dark Forest, and the child makes a small campfire ot keep warm (or safe? Or makes the campfire just to have something to do?), and not only does the campfire allow any observers to show where the child is,  the child is made nightblind by the light of the fire, and can’t clearly see what’s happening away from the light.

 

And the scale of everything!

 

And holy shit the stuff that the Interstellar ships Blue Space and Gravity find, holy shit!!!

 

The ideas!  The scale! The cool outerspace stuff!  Everything about why it’s so quiet out there!

 

But.

 

But?

 

But I find my mind wandering, I find myself struggling to stay engaged with the story, I’m finding it difficult to care about all this amazing stuff because I’m not connecting with the characters.   Cheng Xin is cool, but I don’t feel like I know her as a person. I don’t feel like I’m invested in what happens to her. I’m going to keep reading, I just which there was more character driven stuff going on.

 

I’m that persnickety reader who wants cool big ideas and characters.  Because if I care about the characters, I’m gonna care triple about the hella awesome ideas.

 

Which got me thinking – which books have I really enjoyed because I loved the hella cool science ideas and the characters were really cool?

 

Darwin’s Radio  by Greg Bear – Big ideas about biology, evolution, human sociology, how we quantify and qualify scientific knowledge, how diseases work and what exactly makes something a disease (a rose in a corn field is considered a weed).  Characters were predictable but still very relatable.

 

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – the characters will grab you and pull you back into the story with them, but oh yeah there is freakin’ planetary geology! And plate tectonics! And like, literal earth science!!!!  And probably genetics? And i’m not entirely sure what else because I haven’t finished the trilogy.

 

The Quantum Magician – Big ideas on quantum entanglement, genetically modifying entire races of humans to survive on different planets, how religion and faith actually work, really hella cool characters. I’m still mad at the main character, Bel, for what he does to his friend William. I hope to see Stills again. The puppets still horrify me. Like, six months after I read this book I am still mad at Bel!  And I’m still in awe of all the cool science in this book!

 

Machineries of Empire trilogy by Yoon Ha Lee – seriously the best characters of the year, and big ideas about psychology, social engineering, something brilliantly terrible called Calendrical Mathematics, some fun observations on how language is connected to how a person thinks,  and a thing that happens between two characters that still makes me burst into tears. It’s been over a year, and I am still freaked out about this thing that happened – a thing that couldn’t have happened if not for the cool science and psychology concepts the story revolves around.

 

Blindsight by Peter Watts – Something I’m coming to love about Communication is that the better you think you are at it,  the worse you probably are at it. I’m coming to the conclusion that the worst possible way for human to interact with each other is through verbal communication. So, how many ways can we screw up talking with aliens?  A lot. This one takes social and psychological concepts behind how communication works (and yet, it totally doesn’t work), alongside excellent characters and a scientifically plausible explanation for why and how Vampires could really exist.

 

There’s a bazillion more big huge wonderful ideas and compelling characters books, but these were the few that quickly came to mind.

 

What are some of your favorites?

Gillian Philip has been making me all sorts of squeerolling happy lately.  It was only April of this year that I read Firebrand, the first book in her Rebel Angels series. And just, WOW.  Go read my review.  no, seriously, go read it. And then go read the even better review of the second book in the series, Bloodstone, which just came out.

Ok, so what’s better than these two incredible books?  well, two things, actually.  Thing the first, is Gillian’s superb guest post below on character point-of-view, and thing the second is Tor is giving away two copies of Bloodstone!  See details at the bottom of the post for rules about the giveaway.

about the author:

Gillian Philip was born in Glasgow, lived for twelve years in Barbados, and now lives in the north of Scotland with her husband, twin children, three dogs, two sociopathic cats, a slayer hamster, three chickens and a lot of nervous fish. She’s the author of The Darke Academy series (writing as Gabriella Poole), the  Survivors series, (as part of the Erin Hunter writing team), a long list of children’s and young adult stand alone novels, and the Rebel Angels dark fantasy series.  She’s been nominated for the David Gemmell Legend award, the Carnegie Medal, and been shortlisted for numerous other book awards. Learn more at her website her twitter, and her facebook page.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

A viewpoint on points of view…  by Gillian Philip

When I wrote Firebrand – and I still remember how much fun it was, for me if not for my characters – I had the best time spending an entire book and months of my life in Seth MacGregor’s head. Every word was written in his first person narrative. I lived with that boy every minute of every day and it felt like having… well, let’s see… a very, very close younger brother constantly at my side (anything further might verge on creepy, ahem). I knew what he was thinking and feeling, I knew what he was planning, and it felt very much as if that came from him, not me.

Now, Seth had actually started his life as a minor villain in Bloodstone (the first of the series I actually wrote) and he’d barged in, taken over and demanded it be all about him. I didn’t mind.  I liked him. I liked him more than I really should have, given the kind of things he got up to in Bloodstone.

Read the rest of this entry »


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.