Chasm City

Chasm City

Chasm City is is another book written by Alastair Reynolds in the Revelation Space universe. It chronologically takes place prior to the events of the first book, but I don’t believe it would make a lot of sense to read it first. So far this series has been the culmination of everything that I want out of a science fiction space opera. Similar to the first book it gives a very imaginative world with a vast scale in both the time and distances involved. The world building and atmosphere give a good balance of wondrous yet bleak outlook on the future.

The book is told from the reference of three separate time periods including the past, the distance past and the present. The author manages to transition between all these time periods in what I found to be a very clever way, but considering the nature of dreams and what is essentially a memory inducing brain virus it leaves the story open to an obvious unreliable narrator. I found this to make the twist ending to be a little more obvious than it could have been. Overall I enjoyed this book as much or more than Revelation Space. One of the time periods the story takes place in is during the period where humanity was sent from Earth on generation ships to a new home. The setting of being hundreds of years from Earth in the middle of interstellar space provides an almost horror-like mystery that I found very thrilling. Combined the with present day narrative of Chasm City itself being a once grand city that is now falling apart due to a virus that infects nano-machines gives a mental image of a world unlike any other than I have read before. Ultimately I believe this story to be about the main characters greatest mistake and his impossible quest to redeem himself. Alastair Reynolds has yet to not impress me and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.



Dune is a difficult book to adequately assess in my opinion. There are so many different points in time that you could have read this book and properly and wildly different understandings and mental visualizations. For example you might have read Dune back when it was first released prior to any adaptation or you could have read it after having seen the 1984 adaptation. You could have also read it relatively recently, but before the 2021 adaptation. For me personally I read the first book after having watched the 2021 adaptation and then read Dune Messiah after the 2024 adaptation of part 2. That being said I tried my best to read it with a completely clean mental slate as to try and not visualize anything as it was depicted in the 2021 adaptation. It’s impossible to not be influenced at least some degree, but I think I have these two universes separated in my mind.

To me Dune is far closer to the genre of fantasy than even Star Wars which I believe to be equal parts fantasy and science fiction. It clearly takes place in a world with extremely advanced technology including interstellar space travel, but the story seems to intentionally not elaborate on any of it. Instead it focuses heavily on what is essentially magic and mysticism. It’s possible that later books elaborate on the science in more depth, but if they at all follow the style of the first two books then I have my doubts.

There are many things I do not like about Dune and very few things I do like about it. I am not a fan of the concept of blood lines being important or holding any kind of significance. This is an extremely prevalent plot point throughout these books and occasionally mentions eugenics in order to guide specific traits in offspring to create a kind of savior. Which brings me to the idea of a singular savior. This is typical of a hero’s journey type story although Dune mostly subverts this expectation by the end, but Paul is still clearly one the most significant individuals in the book and the story couldn’t possibly occur without him and his special genetics and plot armor. The worst part of this book for me is the way the characters all speak in riddles and double speak where if they simply told each other what they meant the outcome for everybody would have been in their favor. It adds contrivances for the sake of intentional misunderstandings to drive the plot forward for what I suspect is to make things sound more mystical. While the prose is very fanciful and poetic I wish it were more explicit at times instead of almost solely relying on imagination to fill in so much of the gaps.

The world building in Dune is one aspect that I find enjoyable. One of my favorite things in a book is its ability to put vivid scenes in my mind and Dune does this very well. It makes me wish that more of the story took place on worlds other than the complete desert planet of Arrakis, however there is decent amount of diversity of locations on Arrakis as well as other worlds such as the Atreides homeworld Caladan, the Harkkonen homeworld Geidi Prime and even the Guild ships.

I will finish reading the other 4 books at some point in the future out of curiosity of how the story continues. It doesn’t provide the same feeling of imagination and wonder that I enjoy from a more science fiction oriented book. I don’t know exactly what the difference between fantasy and science fiction are as it is more of a spectrum rather than any hard dividing line. I suspect that on average a science fiction book will attempt to explain the inner workings of things which I find the most enjoyable to think about.

3 Body Problem

3 Body Problem

I was surprised to learn that there was going to be a Netflix adaptation of one of my favorite books. There had already been a Chinese adaptation announced and a Chinese animated series of The Dark Forest announced. It’s weird that so many adaptions of the same books would get made so soon one after the other. Learning that the directors were going to be the same two people that left a poor impressions on everyone after what happened with Game of Thrones I was disappointed. However, I was cautiously optimistic knowing thinking that they could do a reasonably good job given a complete source material so they weren’t responsible for crafting the events themselves. After the first trailer was released it looked decent, but unfortunately I was still greatly disappointed with this adaptation overall in the end.

3 Body Problem the Netflix series suffers from poor pacing and a lack of understanding of what made the book fascinating. It takes the concepts and thought provoking events and place them as a backdrop to the drama of individuals. The story of Three Body Problem the book is so grand and of such scale that mere individuals and their feelings about modern issues with society are nearly irrelevant. Yet that appears to be the primary focus of this adaptation. In the book the characters are more akin to chess pieces to move the story along or lenses to view the events from and to give perspective to the much grander story taking place. Reducing the book to the petty drama of individuals makes it feel like any other sitcom of no consequence. The tone at times was also almost comical rather than the deadly seriousness that the book had that made is so compelling. The constant mentioning of aliens and the one time the Fermi paradox was brought up felt nearly fourth wall breaking like the characters knew that they were in a story. Almost like if the characters in a zombie apocalypse kept bringing up how annoying it is that they were in a zombie apocalypse like all those zombie apocalypse movies they saw. The book up to the point of this adaptation very sparsely brought up the word “alien” as nobody in such a situation would actually believe such a thing so readily and the reader isn’t meant to believe it so readily either until the very end.

Halfway through it had already reached the climax of the of the first book. The pacing greatly suffers from being limited to only 8 episodes, but they had already exhausted the contents of the first book by 4 episodes. Instead they decided to pull content from the second and even the third book. These events do take place chronologically at the same time, but don’t really make sense to be told in this order. I find this to be poor delivery of these events because they make more sense as flashbacks once you fully understand the weight of what is occurring in the future. Not putting proper emphasis on the moments that matter and giving too much emphasis on the moments that don’t matter is a common theme among this adaptation.

The one aspect of this adaptation that I found to be well done was the events of the Chinese cultural revolution. Which ironically was one of the parts that the Chinese Tencent adaptations did poorly and quickly glossed over. The scenery, the costumes, the actors felt well done and authentic in these scenes and it almost feels like these parts were handled by a completely different studio and director to the rest of the show.

It is possible that there could be a season 2 considering where the story leaves off, but based on how focused on people and with almost everything taking place in 21st century locations I have little hope for a season 2 to do the events of The Dark Forest any justice. Nothing that we have seen in season 1 shows that they are capable of show a world nearly 400 years into the future and all the events that take place in space.

Revelation Space

Revelation Space

One of my favorite themes in a science fiction space opera is the wildly imaginative solutions to the Fermi paradox. Another book that I found to have a similar feeling of a bleak and hopeless future is The Dark Forest, the sequel to Three Body Problem. Both ultimately deal with the Fermi paradox and why we as humans have never encountered any intelligent life outside of Earth. Revelation Space takes place long after humanity has left Earth and in a society where humans have achieved near immortality alongside all manner of body and mind modifications. In a way it feels more cyberpunk in that regard that anything else I have read. Another fascinatingly unique aspect is that the balance of power is heavily in favor of small groups of what are essentially technology pirates rather than any larger military or government. Entire worlds are essentially at the mercy of these individuals and their whims due to their vastly superior technology and firepower. The scale of the universe and its usage of relativistic speeds through space and its effects on time and the characters were brilliant. The only other book that I recall that used the concept of relativistic speeds was Project Hail Mary and we never actually get to see the impact that this has on time between people that have their frame of reference in time become vastly different. The scale of time and the scale of death and destruction are also difficult to fathom.

The book starts off slow and takes a long time to pick up pace and have the pieces of the galaxy spanning mystery fall into place. The main protagonist is an arrogant archeologist whom is attempting excavate a world that was discovered to have had sentient life that suddenly got wiped out more than nine hundred thousand years ago. I never got the impression that there was any characters that were morally just in their actions. Everyone seemed to be devious to downright evil at times, but that is part of what I found to be compelling. There doesn’t appear to be any inherently good course of action to take and ultimately there is no telling whether the events that occurred were for better or worse.

I am looking forward to reading Chasm City next which is a prequel or at least occurs chronologically prior to the events of Revelation Space so I can move on to Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap. These books are very long and I found the narrator of the audiobook to be subpar so I am reading through them slowly.

Scavengers Reign

Scavengers Reign

It’s been awhile since I have seen a show like this and it makes me wish more animated science fiction was produced. Animation is expensive to produce so a show like this is a big risk to take. I am not certain at how this particular show was received, but I hope it does well so we can see more like this in the future. There seems to be an unfortunate stigma around animation in the western world as being mostly for children. I believe this bad reputation has been improving over the last decade as the new generation starts having more influence over the creation of shows such as this.

The immediate thing that stands out to about this show is how beautiful it is. It’s colorful and soft yet still manages to be mysterious and even creepy at times. The animation felt a little strange to me. It might be a stylistic choice or maybe even a money saving measure, but it felt as if the frame rate was lower than it should have been. It makes it look a bit jerky, but it is consistent so I got used to it quickly. The voice acting felt a bit dull as well. It might have also been an intentional decision as the whole show was quite somber. There were a few situations that had more emotive voice acting, but in general everyone’s speech was mellow and sometimes even monotone. My only other gripe is the sheer ridiculousness of some of the biological horrors as well as the solutions the characters find to particular problems. It is presumed that they haven’t been on this planet for a very long time, but even in the first episode they found solutions to problems that involves several extremely improbable chances of finding in a row. It was interesting for demonstrating the uniqueness of the world but it made it difficult to continue my suspension of disbelief that what they were doing could ever occur.

Overall I enjoyed this show more than I did not. I hope to see more shows like this in the future and possibly a sequel. I think there is still a lot that can be explored about the world of scavengers reign. However, instead of relying on shock value of biological body horror and violence I hope to see something with more critical thinking such as a mystery and fleshed out story.

Three Body Animation

Three Body Animation

Three Body Animation (2022) – BiliBili

I suspect almost nobody has seen this series as there is no proper way to watch it with English subtitles. Three Body Problem is one of my favorite books so when this animated series was announced it quickly got my attention. The trailer was magnificent in my opinion and did a great job of showing the very subtle and scary nature of how Trisolaris is always observing and plotting against humanity. Once it actually began airing I discovered that there was no way to watch it and that it was in fact an adaptation of the second book, The Dark forest, rather than the first book Three Body Problem. The Dark Forest is what I believe is the best part of the trilogy so that was great news. After waiting weeks and then months for some kind of translation or way to watch this I lost my patience and decided to do whatever it takes to translate it and create subtitles myself. Knowing absolutely no Chinese myself this was a bit of a difficult task. In the end I found some software that was able to process the video file itself and identify text on screen and extract the Chinese text and the timing in the video into a series of images. Then after feeding the images to OCR software to convert it into Chinese text I used a combination of Google translate and ChatGPT to translate the text into English. After a lot of grammar editing I combined everything back into a properly timed subtitle file and muxed it together with the video. Then I was able to properly watch the episode.

After putting in so much work I was rather disappointed in the end. For the majority of the series they focused on what is arguably the least interesting part of The Dark Forest. On top of that the pacing was awkward and the tone made it feel like a comedy when the source material was much more serious. The plot starts by showing the climax of the first book which involves the destruction of the ETO ship by slicing it into dozens of thin pieces using wires made of nano material. I enjoyed seeing this scene animated as it was quite the spectacular moment in the book. They also did this scene at the end of the recent live action adaptation of the first book. While that version was nearly all CGI for this scene as well I believe the animation did it far better. Another aspect of the animation that I believe they did a great job with is the character design. I don’t know how, but all of the characters are essentially exactly as I imagined them to be. I watched the live action adaptation prior to this one, but I think the actor they chose for Da Shi is not how I imagined him. Without the limitations of finding an actor who can play the role the animation is better able to characterize exactly as the book describes.

One of the aspects of the animated adaptation that I have seen get criticized frequently is the art style. Both the characters and the scenes seem to not appeal to many people. Personally I think the art is my favorite part of this adaptation and possibly the only redeeming quality. Without spending an obscene amount of money to make CGI at the level of Wandering Earth II this is the best that could have been done. With the amount of technology depicted such as space stations, futuristic cities, particle accelerators and alien space ships that are in the book I don’t think it would have looked quite right to use a more realistic style of CGI. The emotions that are able to be expressed by the characters with this style can also a bit more exaggerated as well as subtle which I think suits this show well.

I think this series had a lot of potential that it squandered with poor pacing and choosing the wrong aspects to focus on. The show only adapted a small portion of The Dark Forest so without another 4 to 5 seasons the slow pacing does not make a lot of sense. A lot of plots were clearly set up for later, but their plots went nowhere because the show ended before it could make much progress. Instead it spent a disproportionate amount of time on Luo Ji trying to get away from his responsibilities as a Wall Facer and abuse his position to find a woman from his writing and imagination. Then it turns into an out of place love story that goes on for much longer than it did in the book. They also changed some key plot points compared to the book which ended up devolving into a weird quantum time type nonsense. I didn’t entirely dislike the story they told, but I would have much preferred they stick to the source material more closely as I don’t believe the writers are as good at coming up with as fascinating fictional science as Cixin Liu.

I believe this show could still redeem itself with at least a couple more seasons as long as they resolve a couple of key issues. First and foremost the pacing needs to be sped up if they want to have any chance of making it to the most interesting parts of the book. In the next season they need to have Luo Ji come to terms with his role as a Wall Facer as quickly as possible and get to the part of the book that takes place in the distant future. Secondly the tone should be more serious rather than what I can only describe as a romantic comedy. And lastly and maybe most important of all is the plot should stick to the source material and adapt the story that people want to see. This adaptation could be great and I hate to see it in such an awkward state.

A Memory Called Empire

A Memory Called Empire

A Memory Called Empire (2019) – Arkady Martine

I know this is a bit blasphemous in the world of books, but the cover and title of this one really stood out to me. The contents of the book did not entirely disappoint my vague expectations, but I think calling it a space opera is a bit of a stretch. It has a lot of the elements of a space opera yet lacks one of the more critical ingredients which happens to the space. From what I hear the sequel does a lot to remedy this problem. As a standalone book I think it suffers a bit from having a seemingly grand scope and scale without actually getting there. There are also themes of poetry that is brought up frequently which is implied to be a significant aspect of Teixcallan empires culture despite there being very little poetry explicitly written. This is a general problem I have throughout the book in which the characters mention a lot of places and culture without the story getting there to show you first hand. Perhaps the author thought the imagination of such things was more powerful than if it had been written directly. The places, people and culture that we do see are well described and fascinating. It is relatively easy to extrapolate from what we are shown in detail to what is briefly mentioned and imagine a more flushed out world. The book could have done this itself, but it is already quite long for how much happens.

The book starts off strong with one of our primary characters Mahit Dzmare, an ambassador from a small independent space station, arriving to her newly appointed position on Teixcalaan. Her predecessor Yskander has died and likely murdered for reasons unknown and the circumstances and politics surrounding his death are numerous as they are mysterious. Lsel station where Mahit is from has a unique and peculiar technology called an imago machine that allows the recording and implanting of memories down through the generations. Mahit with her exceptional aptitudes in language and politics awarded her the honor of receiving the imago line of her predecessor despite it being many years out of date. Unfortunately the younger memory of Yskander that Mahit carries within her witnessing the dead body of his older self causes a malfunction in her imago machine. This leaves Mahit without the knowledge of her imago line an direct predecessors knowledge to help her navigate the politics of the Teixcalaan empire.

The murder mystery of Yskander is my favorite part of the plot which is the lure that kept my reading. It’s hard to stop reading something before you learn all of the details of a mystery if it is even moderately captivating. Besides the mystery the various descriptions of technology such as the imago machines and the city run by a perfect algorithm were enjoyable concepts. The city itself being described as a single entity is particularly interesting and I appreciate how the author never uses the terminology “AI” to describe it. This plot point didn’t feel as significant as I think it could have been, but it is possible it will be more important in the sequel. Despite not being completely enamored with A Memory Called Empire I am still looking forward to the possible conclusion in the sequel A Desolation Called Peace. Especially if becomes more space and not just opera.



Seveneves (2015) – Neal Stephenson

After describing my interest in the hard science fiction of Greg Egan to an acquaintance they recommend the author Neal Stephenson to me. They didn’t give me any particular book as a recommendation so I started looking up titles myself. To be honest I picked up Seveneves because the name “Izzy” caught my eye. This is apparently a completely fictional nickname for the International Space Station (I.S.S) that Neal created. It wouldn’t be much of a problem in text format, but as an audiobook I can’t imagine how tedious it would be to be saying “I.. S.. S..” or “International Space Station” 352 times. I queried the ebook and determined that the word “Izzy” appears exactly 352 times throughout the book. That is at least a third of the pages so rather frequent. While I would definitely categorize this book as hard science fiction I’d say it still revolves heavily around characters. Of which there are a great number of in this book. It was actually rather difficult to keep them all straight throughout this exceedingly long book. I believe there are nearly 900 pages total. Unfortunately in my opinion the story that was told did not warrant such a long book. To be fair I don’t think any of the book was unnecessary fluff. It is so long because of both the pacing and the great detail in which the world and events are described.

The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.

This is the very first sentence of the book. I have never seen the threat so quickly established. This immediately brings up a lot of questions. Such as, what is going to happen to Earth? What blew up the moon? What are they going to do about it? Will humanity survive? Only some of these very critical questions get answered which has left me somewhat dissatisfied. Of course once you finish the book you will know that some things were not the point the author was trying to make as the story takes a vastly different turn than expected by the end.

Around two thirds of the book takes place on Izzy. The main protagonist in the first two parts is Dinah who coincidentally is already onboard Izzy at the time the moon explodes. She is a bit of a quirky engineer who is working on developing various types of robots for purposes such as mining. Initially upon the moon exploding all of the large remaining pieces stay gravitationally bound to one another in roughly the same position as the moon had been prior. It is not until further analysis that it is discovered that the large pieces will slowly collide and an exponential rate until it turns into clouds of millions of smaller rocks that will eventually fall to earth. The hard rain will completely burn away the atmosphere and obliterate the surface of the Earth. This sets off a frenzy to create a plan to save humanity by any means necessary.

If this book was half as long or focused far more on the story in the third act I would have enjoyed it far greater. It felt like the third act was the story that the author really wanted to tell, but for some reason spend the majority of the book merely on the setup for it. It also ends so suddenly that it feels incomplete. That said I enjoyed this book more than I did not ironically due to the great detail in which events are described. You can really feel the horror, claustrophobia and futility the characters are going through when trapped in space with no planet to return to or ask for help. I will likely pick up another Neal Stephenson book in the near future. All of his books seem quite long, but Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon look interesting.

Silo Season 1

Silo Season 1

Silo Season 1 (2023)

I watched Silo back when it started airing in May 2023. I had never read the book and avoided starting the book while it was airing to get the most spoiler free experience. I’m looking forward to season 2 which was announced before the show concluded airing. I suspect I will have read at least the entire first book (Wool) by that point. Like other shows that I have seen while having previously read the book it will still be enjoyable to experience the fictional world in visual format even if there is no longer a mystery. I found all of the acting to be well done and immersive, but one random thing kept poking at the back of my mind. I kept imagining the character Allison who primarily appears in episode 1 was the character Ann Perkins from Parks and Recreation. It’s kind of silly considering any actor is going to play a number of roles, but in my mind this person is definitively Ann Perkins. Thankfully she is really only in the first episode so it didn’t cause a distraction the entire season.

The show reminds me of the situation from the movie 10 Cloverfield Lane. There are people trapped in a kind of bunker and the authority or authority figure is telling you that you absolutely can’t go outside because you will die. The premise of Silo is simple, but where I find it the most interesting is the world building and mysteries. Unlike 10 Cloverfield Lane the bunker in Silo is enormous enough to have an entire self sustaining city. Due to its size and number of people there are naturally a lot of places to explore and a lot of people who could be hiding things. The most obvious mysteries that are presented at the very beginning are whether the outside is actually poisonous, who built the silo, why they built the silo and when they built the silo. They mention these unknowns frequently, but they bring it up most notably in the first episode during a speech on “Freedom Day”. Which is a rather ironic name for a independence day type holiday while being trapped underground.

We do not know why we are here. We do not know who built the Silo. We do not know why everything outside the Silo is as it is. We do not know when it will be safe to go outside. We only know that day is not this day.

I believe the show does a great job at the beginning with hooking you with a compelling narrative and exciting mystery. However, after the first few episode it felt like it dragged on for quite awhile before anything of significant consequence started happening again. The slow middle had plenty of intriguing world building, but it didn’t seem to be bringing the audience any closer to solving the mysteries they so explicitly brought up at the beginning. Thankfully the ending felt satisfying and in some ways even conclusive despite there being another half of the story based on the source material.

The mix of CGI and real sets meshed well in my opinion as it was not obvious what was real and what was CGI without thinking more critically about it. It’s not something I often think about or take note of in shows. Something about the apparent impossibility of the environment on some of the scenes despite looking seamless. For example the scene of one of the larger sections of the Silo showing thousands of people despite only a small section of it being a real. Other notable locations being very bottom of the basement with the extraordinarily large chamber as well as the engine room felt impressive.

I am looking forward to season 2 of Silo despite the high likelihood of having read the first book by then. Despite being satisfied with the conclusion to season 1 I find there are still a lot of unanswered questions. I am fairly confident the story will progress in a way that will address them.

The Final Architecture

The Final Architecture

The Final Architecture (2021) – Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Final Architecture is a trilogy that consists of the books Shards of Earth (2021), Eyes of the Void (2022) and Lords of Uncreation (2023) by Adrian Tchaikovsky. These books were vastly different than the previous books I had read by the same author which was the Children of Time trilogy. I had read that the author had studied zoology which made a lot of sense in the context Children of Time trilogy. I was under the impression that all of his books would feature some kind of deep dive into the psychology, biology and culture of hypothetical forms of sentient life. The Final Architecture has plenty of this as well, but it is much closer to what I would consider a traditional space opera with political factions and space militaries at war. Some of the factions just happen to be aliens with biology not typically associated with intelligent life and with motives that are often incomprehensible.

The book starts off on a run down salvage ship called the Vulture God with a ragtag group of misfits that feels reminiscent of space westerns such as Firefly. Our main protagonist Idris is a seemingly unaging human. During the first war against the architects, which are a moon sized species that have the power to reshape entire planets, Idris underwent a procedure to allow him to become an intermediary. This is a highly experimental procedure with a very low chance of success. The goal being to reshape the persons mind to mimic that of the only human who was born naturally with the ability to perceive unspace and allow them to touch mind to mind with the architects. Merely informing the architects of their presence is often enough to convince them to turn away. Now many decades later at the start of the book Idris is working on the salvage ship in order to escape the atrocities of the past as well to prevent the current colonial human powers called the Liason Board from effectively enslaving him as an unspace pilot. The architects have not been seen in all of time and it is believed by many they are gone for good.

The plot takes off when our secondary protagonist Solace who is a part of a separate faction of all female genetically engineered humans called the Parthenon is sent to investigate one of the only known intermediaries not current under the control of the Liason Board. Solace being an old wartime friend of Idris is allowed to accompany the crew of the Vulture God on a salvage operation while she attempts to convince Idris to assist the Parthenon. During a would be routine salvage operation the crew makes a discovery that has far reaching ramifications.

What I like most about these books is surprisingly also what I dislike the most. The sense of mystery that is set up is both brilliant and debilitating. The frequency at which the main character mentions being incredibly close to figuring out the precise nature of unspace and the architects is so high that at times the book seems to break the fourth wall to poke fun at it. Which brings us to unspace which is both the most fascinating fictional science concept in the book as well as this increasingly vague undefinable concept that seems to only get more confusing as the book progresses. Other species such as the Essiel seem to have no problem understanding the very nature of unspace and the universe, but it would be far too convenient if they simply passed on this knowledge to humanity and other species. They also have a religious like belief that only they should be allowed to have this information. The variety of sentient alien life is extravagant. They don’t go into as much detail of their biology or psychology, but there is a lot about their various cultures. Including the culture of the Parthenon with it being a completely uniform biologically engineered all-female faction.

As a space opera enthusiast I highly enjoyed these books. The mysteries with their abstract nature are consistently interesting to think about. The action all the way from ship to ship battles to hand to hand combat were thrilling. However, no matter how much I enjoyed reading these books I don’t believe any more books set in this universe are necessary. It feels like a complete set where any more or any less would not be as solid of a series.