A Few Straggler Books

Ahem. I am mildly furious at my WordPress install right now.  I had written about a thousand words on this post two nights ago, and noticed that the autosave feature was chugging along nicely.  However, a bit past midnight, while still writing, we lost power in my house.

Now, I write these posts on my 7-year-old laptop because it has a nice big screen.  What it doesn’t have is a battery that works for more than 1 or 2 minutes.  So, trusting that autosave had been doing its thing, I quickly shut down everything and powered off the computer.  I knew I might lose a little bit, but not a huge amount.

Sadly, that whole thousand words is gone.  There is no evidence of any autosave revisions anywhere that I can find.  So I’ll have to recreate it, but I don’t have the will to re-blather that much again, so—perhaps luckily for you—you are in for a much more succinct version of this post than I had originally intended.

As a quick aside on the title, I had actually started this one right after my last post, and had intended to publish it in short order.  In that context, “a few straggler books” makes sense, since this post finishes off my discussion of books I’ve finished reading recently (for values of “recently” that encompass the last 8–12 months).

It is just as well that I didn’t post it right away, since I haven’t done much in the past month.  (I did get out to see one movie, 50/50, which was very well done.  Both touching and funny, and a lot less vulgar than I’m used to for a movie with Seth Rogen in it.)  So now I have something meaningful to post, more or less on my usual (i.e. monthly) schedule.

(One of these days—when my PhD is done—I will cultivate a more regular blogging habit.  I know you all shall be waiting with bated breath.)

Anyway, my thoughts on some more comparatively recently-finished books are blow.

The Sorcerer’s House, by Gene Wolfe

I won this from the Ranting Dragon giveaway as part of their Locus Reading Challenge.  I am somewhat ashamed to admit that, despite owning a number of Wolfe’s most famous works and hearing nothing about praise for him, The Sorcerer’s House is the first book of his I’ve actually read.

Thankfully, his reputation does not seem to be overstated.  The book is an epistolary novel, mostly letters from ex-con Bax to his twin brother, his brother’s wife, or his old friend from jail.  The letters relate the strange goings-on as, recently released from prison, he finds himself the heir of a large house in a town he was just passing through.  Things get stranger from there.

While the plot is compelling enough, Wolfe is most lauded for the quality of his prose, and such praise is well deserved.  His writing is rich and nuanced and complex, and he expertly gives each character a unique voice that comes across on the page.  He seems to hit on all cylinders: complex, interesting characters doing interesting things via beautifully-written prose.  Just what I look for in a novel.

Though I did read it in a couple of days, I will say The Sorcerer’s House was not a quick or easy read.  The epistolary structure and potentially-unreliable narrator meant that you definitely had to pay attention to what you were reading.  So Wolfe is perhaps not what you are looking for when you want some brain-dead entertainment that is a fun way to kill some time.  He offers a richer reading experience, one that I look forward to partaking in again as I read some of his classics.

You know, when I get around to them.

The Floating Islands, by Rachel Neumeier

I picked up The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier because it had a pretty cover.  I bought it because I like floating islands.  Well, that, and I had a discount, and one of the staff at Bakka had posted a complimentary blurb about it on the shelf.  This is a YA novel, and so a bit out of my usual purchasing pattern, but it turned out to be an enjoyable read.

The story opens with recently-orphaned Trei arriving at the aforementioned Floating Islands where he is coming to live with his mother’s relatives.  On the way, he sees their winged warriors flitting about and vows to become one of them.  His relatives are nice, and after a rough start, he and his cousin Araene become close.  Araene chafes at the restrictions put on women in her society, but has found a number of clever workarounds.  Together, they face new tragedies, danger in the form of an invading army, and adventures neither of them could have imagined.

This was a quick and enjoyable read.  It was reasonably inventive throughout, and had some incredibly cool bits.  There were a few stylistic quirks that bothered me a bit, but I think that is mostly attributable to the, well, YAishness of the book.  I don’t read a lot of YA, but what little I have read has some… quality… that I can’t quite identify but that stands out for me just enough to make me notice it.  Anyway, quite a fun book overall.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente

Of course, I was just saying I don’t read much YA, and yet here I am, talking about another YA novel.  I picked this one up mostly due to the overwhelmingly-positive buzz, and I had seen the author on panels at Worldcon in 2009 where she impressed me.  Most of her work that I’ve looked into doesn’t quite strike me as being the kind of stuff I generally like to read, but when this one—a children’s fantasy that was the favourite book of a character in one of her other novels—came along, I figured it was time to take the plunge.

The story concerns a girl, September, who jumps at the chance to visit Fairyland when the Green Wind shows up and makes the offer.  (That was something of a refreshing change. She didn’t go there by accident, or while trying to get away from something else—it just sounded like fun!)  She makes new friends, sees wondrous things, and general wackiness ensues.

Valente’s Fairyland come across as a bizarre mashup of classic fairy tale tropes, Disney films, and clever original ideas.  It feels both familiar and new at the same time, and makes quite an interesting backdrop for September’s adventures.  Along the way September meets an entertaining cast of companions and enemies, and tries her very best to accomplish her quest.

The book, like Fairyland itself, walks the line between familiar and comfortable and wholly original.  I really enjoyed it, and bought a second copy to give to my niece.  As I had suspected after her panels at Worldcon and after reading her blog, Catherynne M. Valente is a clever and talented writer, one who is well worth checking out.

The Lifecycle of Software Objects, by Ted Chiang

This book is really only a novella, published in a fine edition by Subterranean Press.  Oddly, this was perhaps the most disappointing of the four books I talk about here.  That is not to say that it was bad, by any stretch—it was interesting, thoughtful, well-written, and eminently readable.  It was disappointing because the last thing I read by the author (the legendary Ted Chiang) was the short story “Exhalation“, which BLEW MY FREAKING MIND!

So it’s a case of my expectations being set too high.  I had been hoping this novella would be as awesome as “Exhalation”, and perhaps for some readers it is, but not quite for me.  So The Lifecycle of Software Objects was a letdown compared to “Exhalation”, but still very good overall.  Such is the life of a writer so lauded as Ted Chiang—even he can’t always live up to his own hype, I guess.

Anyway, this novella is an exploration of the issues surrounding artificial intelligence, and the implications of having to “raise” them from infancy in order for them to be useful in any way.  As I said, it is well done, thoughtful, and easy to read, though—uncharacteristically for stuff I read—nothing blows up.  (That I was still compelled to keep reading is perhaps a strong sign of Chiang’s skill as a writer.)  It wasn’t quite what I was hoping for after enjoying the hell out of “Exhalation”, but I still look forward to delving more into Chiang’s earlier works.

I Actually Read Some Books!

As anyone who reads this blog has no doubt noticed, it is mostly miniature movie reviews.  That is not at all what I intended this blog to be, and I am still confident that it will be more than that in the future, but for now, with the crushing weight of finishing my PhD research pressing upon me harder every day, it will have to be enough.

Except for today.  Today, I am going to talk about books, rather than movies!  While my love of collecting books never lessened during my graduate studies, unfortunately the time I spent actually reading for pleasure did.  When I left Toronto last fall and realized just how willing I was to sit and watch reruns of TV shows I had already seen, I decided I needed to remedy this sad neglect of my library.

While I have not come remotely close to the number of books I would like to be reading, I’m on track for at least one per month this year.  (Usually the book gets read over the span of 3–4 days, then nothing for a few weeks.)  I have also started going through the years worth of unread comics I have been collecting, to try and catch up.  Those will perhaps get their own post later on.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on some of the books I have been reading, in no particular order.  Originally—as with many of the movies I see—I had intended to grace each of these with their own, more in-depth blog post, but since I read some of them quite a while ago, some briefer musing are in order.

The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher

Though urban fantasy is definitely not my thing when it comes to reading, I actually picked up the first book of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files a while back after reading a blog post and discussion about series that keep getting better with every book.  The Dresden Files was suggested by many, many participants, with no qualms, caveats, or exceptions.  Since it was up to book 9 or 10 by that point, I figured it might be worth checking out, so I grabbed the first volume, Storm Front.

I think I read it in its entirety that first night.

As I said before, the general content (Harry Dresden, the protagonist, is a Wizard private investigator in Chicago) is not really my thing, but Butcher tells a story with break-neck pacing, lots of humour, and a compelling mystery.  It’s not a deep book—I wasn’t thinking about it for days after, or anything—but it was incredibly enjoyable.  The book was told in first-person (again, not usually a favourite), the action took place over a few days, and the world-building, plot development, and character development were deftly intertwined to keep the pages turning effortlessly.

I was tempted to continue the series right away, but I try to vary the authors I read, so I put off reading the next books until earlier this year, when I read books 2 and 3 (Fool Moon and Grave Peril) back-to-back over a couple of days.  I’m happy to say that so far the trend is holding.  The follow-ups to the first one are not necessarily better, but they are certain as good.  Each book so far is also standalone; while they do refer to events from previous books, they are definitely their own stories, as well.

About the only quibble I might have is that a lot of character development is done off-stage.  Since each book takes place over the course of a few days where months might pass between books, we have newly-blossomed relationships suddenly appearing, new characters well-known to the protagonist introduced in media res, and so on.  Butcher handles this very well, but all the same, a lot of that kind of stuff is what I might like to read about.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading more Dresden Files, albeit after I get a few more authors read in the meantime.

Angelmass, by Timothy Zahn

Timothy Zahn is probably best known for revitalizing the Star Wars brand—of novels, at least—with Heir to the Empire.  As you can see if you view his bibliography in that first link, he has written quite a lot outside of the Star Wars universe, and Angelmass is one of those.  I picked this one up ages ago; in my younger days I had read Zahn’s Star Wars novels, so if I see a new book of his I always at least pick it up to have a look.  This one sounded interesting.

he initial premise is that there is a black hole—Angelmass—that emits particles that cause humans in their proximity to behave calmly, reasonably, and without lying.  An empire of human colonies called the Empyrean requires that all politicians wear them; the rival human empire called the Pax believes the “angel” particles are an alien plot, and send in a spy to learn more about them.  Naturally, wackiness ensues.

Of course, by “wackiness”, I mean a sort of complex, multi-layered thriller that weaves several narratives together, peeling back mystery after mystery until we reach the end.  I think it paid off on that initial premise in spades (though at this point I forget if we ever learned exactly what the “angels” were), and I was happy to have read it.

There was one aspect of the novel’s structure that irritated me a bit, though it is really about personal preference.  The novel has a number of viewpoint characters, all of whom start apart in what appear to be entirely unrelated stories that eventually converge.  (I have noticed this structure in a number of other big space opera and hard SF novels, too.)  I find it irritating in the beginning—I hate being sidetracked from one character’s story into another one that seems entirely unrelated!  As I said, though, it all comes together, and that quibble really is just because a preference of mine.  (I don’t mind novels with multiple viewpoint characters, but I prefer when they start together and later split up.)

Anyway, Angelmass was an interesting and enjoyable novel.  I will definitely keep my eyes open for Zahn’s other non-Star Wars books.

The Sunless Countries, by Karl Schroeder

Karl Schroeder is one of my favourite writers these days, and I’ve talked about his works here beforeThe Sunless Countries is the fourth book in his Virga series, and is, perhaps, a bit more standalone than the previous two, even though characters from earlier books do show up.

The Virga series started big with Sun of Suns, which introduced us to a world that was a giant bubble floating in space, with people living in rotating cities that floated inside, clustered around artificial suns.  (As you may have gathered, I think this is awesome sauce!)  The follow-ups Queen of Candesce and Pirate Sun expanded the ideas and the world, and happily this trend continues into The Sunless Countries.

Apart from the awesome ideas and mysteries presented as part of the plot, what delighted me most about this book was the fact that the main character—one Leal Hieronyma Maspeth—is, essentially, a grad student.  (Technically, I think she was a postdoc or lecturer, but her life was close enough to grad student for me.)  She gets caught up in events much larger than her, but rather than just letting herself get swept along, she begins to chart her own course.  She is a fun character who more than holds her own in the face of big events and even bigger ideas.

I really enjoy this series.  You should too.  It is full of exciting plots and characters backed by ideas that are truly big.  Just what I want out of my science fiction.

Hammered, by Elizabeth Bear

I have read a number of short stories by Elizabeth Bear, drop in on her blog periodically, and have bought several of her novels, but only with my recent purchase of—oddly enough—her first published novel, Hammered, did I actually sit down to read one.

Hammered is the first book of Bear’s Jenny Casey trilogy.  Jenny is a retired augmented soldier who is simply trying to endure the pain of her physical and psychological trauma and lead a quiet life.  Her former employers want her back, however, and aren’t willing to take no for an answer.

(How’s that for movie tag-line writing! I should get paid to do this kind of stuff.)

What follows is a peculiar sort of novel.  Or, at least, peculiar compared to the stuff I normally read.  While the novel has plenty of action, not much of it rests on Jenny’s shoulders.  Hell, for much of her story, she can’t even take any action.  Sections from her point of view are in first person; it shifts to third for the other characters.  And despite the machinations around her, the story is basically about Jenny’s personal growth.

But it works.  It works well.  It kept me up late at night reading it.  This kind of book is not the sort of SF I normally read, but I’m glad I did.  I do, perhaps, wish the ending had been a bit punchier—I was a little irked that the book ended just as they were exposing some cool stuff that I wanted to know more about.  Of course, I guess that’s what the next book in the trilogy is for….

Napier’s Bones, by Derryl Murphy

I picked up Derryl Murphy’s Napier’s Bones at Ad Astra last April after hearing some good buzz about it (and because it was pretty, like all of CZP’s stuff).  Uncharacteristically, I actually got around to reading it!

The world of Napier’s Bones is one in which numbers have a power that underlies everything, and a select few can manipulate that power.  Those select few—numerates, like the protagonist Dom—tend to seek out artifacts that boost their mojo, often battling it out with other numerates seeking the same item.  (It’s kind of like Highlander except with numbers instead of swords.)

This is probably the most relentlessly fast-paced novel I have ever read.  It starts off with Dom on the run after just barely escaping another, more powerful numerate, and I’m pretty sure there was not a single chapter thereafter in which he was not in immediate peril at some point.  It’s almost like the novel was all climax and no rising action or denouement.  (A tantric novel, perhaps?)

This led to Napier’s Bones being a rather intense read, as the characters—and the reader—never get a chance to relax and catch their breath.  Help is found (mostly unexpected), mysteries are unraveled, and a lot of craziness goes down.  Minds may have been blown.  It was a lot of interesting and bizarre fun, and I am happy to have read it.

This Hurts My Soul

So, I came across this New York Times article, Selling a Book by Its Cover, via SF Signal.  Feel free to go and read it for context, but I’ll summarize the key things that impacted me as I go along.

My first thought as I began reading was, “Cool!”  I was delighted to know that it’s easy to find a vellum-bound set of the works of Goethe in the original German.  I mean, I can’t read German—but I could learn.  And I know people who could read it.  I would totally love to have such works in my library.  (I’d probably want English translations, too, but I’m a sort of completist that way.)

Now, I should perhaps explain that I’m a big fan of books as artifacts.  I own over a thousand books, and one day I hope to read them all, and more besides.  My favourites—as physical artifacts—are the pretty ones, the durable ones, the impressive-looking ones.  I like the notion of books that last, the idea that a hundred years from now, or five hundred, the books on my shelves might still exist, sending their content forward through time for others to discover and read.  Hence my preference for the hardcovers and acid free paper over the yellowing paperbacks that may not survive my own lifetime, much less any thereafter.

This is not meant to imply that I am a Luddite when it comes to the e-book revolution.  I  haven’t quite jumped on that bandwagon yet, mostly because the readers aren’t quite good enough to do what I think they should.  I actually hope that e-books become the new and cheaper mass market, and that printed books become higher quality—that way, I can read the e-book, and if the book impresses me a lot, I’ll by the artifact to grace my shelves.  (I would hope this would lead to more reading and less shelving in my life, but I have my doubts because I do like the pretties.)

All of this is my roundabout way of saying that I have a lot of respect for well-made printed books, and I think they are something that should be preserved.  And so it was that when I got to the part in the article when they started talking about books as set dressings, it hurt my soul.  It was especially cringe-inducing to read about books being mutilated so they could fit on shallow shelves as spines-only, or being completely rebuilt into artwork (“Making trees from books”).

Rationally, I know this is silly—there are lots of books out there that are no good to anyone, and if they aren’t used for these sorts of things, they’d probably end up trashed.  It still hurts to hear about used bookstores selling stock into destruction however.

Egad.  Maybe I should have been a librarian or archivist.

Reading Summaries Continued

As a break from software debugging, I thought I’d continue my capsule reviews of SF books I’ve read so far this year.  Hold on to your seat for another three reviews!

Bright of the Sky, by Kay Kenyon

Kay Kenyon’s Bright of the Sky is somewhat reminiscent of the sword-and-planet style stories, in which an earthman has strange adventures on another world.  Kenyon’s take on the sub-genre, however, takes a fully modern approach in terms of both style and content.

Bright of the Sky is the first book (of four) in the series The Entire and the Rose, and tells the story of Titus Quinn, a former star pilot who is given a chance to return to the parallel universe where he lost his wife and daughter during a ten-year sojourn that spanned only three months of Earth-time.  The world he encounters once he crosses over is quite unlike anything he’d ever imagined, although his suppressed memories slowly return as he explores once again.

Kenyon builds a unique and interesting world, with a hint of wonder and magic explained by science beyond our comprehension, but focuses on telling a very personal story.  Her narrative thoroughly inhabits Quinn’s head, pulling the reader along with the ebb and flow of his emotions and drive to find his daughter and get his revenge.

All of this made the book a page-turner in the best possible way, providing a wonderful, exciting backdrop with an interesting character and intense, personal motivation to drive the action of the story.  Despite this, it still maintains a grand, epic scope that I hope continues through the subsequent books.  I thoroughly enjoyed this, and its sequel, A World Too Near, is sitting on my shelf already, waiting for its turn.

Eon, by Greg Bear

Greg Bear’s 1985 book Eon is something of a classic already, being rather well-known in SF circles.  I found it a bit heavy for my usual tastes, though, as often seems to be the case, once I got through all the background and setup and into the exploration of the big ideas and mysteries, the pages started to fly past.  It was fairly long, had a large and complexly interwoven cast of characters (both human and post-human), and was rather heavy on politics, but it was a rewarding read.

My only real gripe about Eon comes from its age — the premise springs from an apocalyptic nuclear exchange between the United States and the U.S.S.R., and so reading it after the fall of the Soviet Union makes it seem somewhat anachronistic.  It’s only really noticeable since the novel is heavily political, and so it’s thrust into your consciousness repeatedly, making it hard to gloss over.  As a result, I’m not sure I’d recommend this to a general reader, despite the excellent caliber of Bear’s writing and story.  If the mis-speculation won’t bother you, you won’t go wrong with Eon.

Mainspring, by Jay Lake

Jay Lake’s Mainspring is a steampunk novel — or perhaps, more accurately, clockpunk — that posits an alternate universe where the Earth moves through the heavens on a track, propelled by a gargantuan gear around the equator.  This naturally leads to a few major differences with our world — the existence of God, for example, is no longer simply a matter of faith, as the constructs that drive the universe are visible for all to see.

Lake wastes no time in starting the adventure — the opening scene has Hethor, a clockmaker’s apprentice, visited in his room by the Archangel Gabriel and being tasked to find the Key Perilous to rewind the Earth’s mainspring.  Of course, this first leads to trouble, and then to travel, as we’re taken along with Hethor on something of a tour of Lake’s intriguing clockwork world.

Perhaps the greatest flaw of Mainspring is that there are so many interesting ideas and backdrops that it feels like we’re being rushed through them — as a reader, we start to get comfortable with a particular place and scenario, only to be whisked away into a new and dangerous and unfamiliar situation.  In this respect, the reader’s distress no doubt mirrors that of the protagonist, but at the same time, I would have loved a more thorough exploration of some of the settings provided by Lake.  (There is something to be said for leaving them wanting more, however — the sequel Escapement may well do this.)

My only real criticism — and I use that term lightly, since I thoroughly enjoyed this book — was that the ending felt rather abrupt, and relied (almost literally) on deus ex machina to solve things.  While I didn’t dislike the ending, I’m left feeling there is an ending out there that I could have been happier with.  Nevertheless, I most certainly enjoyed the ride, and am looking forward to reading Escapement.

Summary of My 2008 Reading So Far

As the one year anniversary of this blog creeps closer, I’ve realized I haven’t done many of the things I had planned for it.  While I’ve been moderately good about posting my thoughts on movies and the like, my discussion of written entertainment has been alarmingly lax.  (I attribute this to the desire to be more timely with movie discussions, since they only live in theatres for a short time, but it is also, no doubt, due to my inherent laziness.)

That said, I have (surprisingly) been doing quite a bit of novel reading this year — at least, for me.  Ever since I started university over 10 years ago, my novel reading has dropped off, primarily because if I start reading a good novel, I have real difficulty putting it down, and that doesn’t slot well into a demanding school schedule of assignments and projects and labs and exams.

I never stopped buying the novels, though, and so when I finally did an anlaysis of how fast I was buying books, compared to how fast I was reading them, I decided that I had to start reading a lot more.  Thankfully, this has been a pleasant task.

While I had been intending to do individual posts about each book that I’ve read in 2008, at this point I know that’s never going to happen, so over the next few posts, I’m going to give some brief capsule reviews of those books, and hopefully set the ground for individual discussion of my future readings.

I’ll start with the first three novels I read this year.

Triplanetary, by E.E. “Doc” Smith

Triplanetary is an early pulp space opera, part of the Lensman series that laid the foundation for much of the space opera that came after.  In the series, it is first chronologically, although most people recommend the third chronological book (Galactic Patrol) as the proper starting point, so as not to spoil some of the surprises and mysteries in the later books.

So, the writing quality here was absolutely dismal.  It was incredibly rough, the characters were quite flat, the “science” was preposterous… and yet, I really couldn’t put it down.  As was said in the introduction of the Science Fiction Book Club edition I was reading, the series is driven by “pure story” — for all he lacked in polish and craft, Smith sure as hell came up with interesting ideas, and strung them together so that I needed to see what was going to happen next.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Triplanetary in general, but it’s an interesting early example of the genre, and I do intend to read the rest of the series, to try and learn from Smith’s sense of plot and pacing.  I just don’t think most modern readers would be so forgiving of the flawed prose as I am.

Queen of Candesce, by Karl Schroeder

Queen of Candesce is the sequel to Shroeder’s Sun of Suns, which is a novel I absolutely loved.  It picks up following the fate of one of the first novel’s characters, Venera Fanning, and while it is technically a sequel, it is really a stand-alone novel in the same universe, about a character who lived through the events of that earlier book.  I say this to clarify that it’s not a middle book, or an incomplete story — while reading it with Sun of Suns under your belt will give it a fuller context, it really is a self-contained story about Venera.

These books are both set in a most interesting world — I giant, air-filled sphere floating in space, filled with miniatue fusion reactors that act as tiny suns, with free-floating settlements in rotating cities clustered around them.  Flight and freefall is the natural state of things — there is no up or down, except that created by the rotation of the cities.  This leads to a world quite unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before, and would be worth the read itself.

Thankfully, however, Schroeder gives us plenty of other reasons to read than just his fantastic world-building.  Where E.E. “Doc” Smith was pure story and little craft, I think Schroeder hits an excellent balance between the two — presenting an intriguing page-turner, but with quality writing, compelling characters, and a new and exciting world to explore.

The premise of Queen is that Venera Fanning finds herself stranded in the huge, ancient city of Spyre after the events of the previous novel.  With practically nothing but her wits and will, she has to navigate a confusing world full of new cultures and odd rituals, striving to acquire enough resources to make her way home.  While this made it quite different from Sun of Suns, I did find one compelling parallel between the two books — ultimately, both of them are about the main character letting go of their obsession, their anger, their despair, that thing that was hanging over them and controlling their lives.  I’m curious to see if that’s a thematic element that is continued the the recently released Pirate Sun.

This series is exciting and fun, and these books are certainly among my favourites these days.  If the notion of air pirates, zero-gravity sword fights, ancient mysteries, and a scientifically plausible universe appeal to you, you need to read these books.

Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson

Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin does not, perhaps, need me to promote it, given that it won the Hugo award for best novel.  It has been widely reviewed and praised, and it deserves every bit of praise it gets.  It’s a fantastic novel — beautifully written, with a scope that is vast and cosmic, but told quietly through the lives of three friends, alternating moments of tension, mystery, revelation, and wonder.

That said, it’s not the style of novel I usually enjoy — in fact, the first hundred pages actually took me quite a while to get through (a lengthy wait in an airport helped with that), as the front of the book follows the main characters from childhood.  While this gives a lot of interesting character background and development, it doesn’t so much deal with the big ideas and concepts, which is what I find most interesting in science fiction.

Once I got through that first patch, however, I couldn’t put the book down as the characters — now grown — started to engage with each other as adults, and with the mystery of the Spin, the event that cut the earth off from the rest of the universe, slowing the passage of time on earth to such an extent that the sun would go nova within the lifetime of everyone alive on earth today.

Anyway, Spin is a beautiful, wonderful, book.  If, like me, you’re a reading that likes getting immediately into the thick of things, I still encourage you to keep pushing with this book, because the payoff is completely worth it.  Highly recommended.