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January 2005: Book Reviews

This is an archive of my shorter book reviews and notes, which historically have been posted over at the 50 Book Challenge on LiveJournal, but which I’m starting to move over here. I’m posting them with altered date-stamps, but they might show up in my LiveJournal cross-post anyway. Bear with me, please.

Note: Many of these books also have full reviews available in the book review podcast (RSS).


I cannot even begin to explain how much love I have for this author. This is another great book– I think it was better than American Gods, but that might just be cause I’ve been to the House on the Rock and don’t think it’s all that.


Well, it’s taking me a bit to get through some of my books right now, so I decided to read Far-Seer by Robert J. Sawyer. The last book of his that I read, Hominids didn’t impress me all that much because it didn’t really stand on its own. However, Sawyer is a good writer, and he seems to write things that are similar to what I want to write, so it was a good choice to read.

Far-Seer is the story of a sentient dinosaur race, called Quintaglios. It seems like a “rite of passage” type of book at first: apprentice astronomer Asfar has conflicts with the Master Astronomer, goes on his first hunt, and then on his first pigrimage. But it’s actually a much bigger story than that, as what Asfar discovers on his pilgrimage is definite science fiction in the very best traditions of world-building and what-if’ing.

Probably the main criticism I have is towards the beginning, Sawyer doesn’t handle the “how are Quintaglios different from me” bits of description. There’s a bit of “as you know, Bob” in the descriptions, but it’s not too bad, and disappears almost completely by the middle of the book. Unfortunately, there are some things that seem odd. For instance, in a culture of powerful predators, there are strictures against weapons use, and yet the idea of weapons isn’t foreign. So where did the idea even come from? If you have teeth and claws– both of which regenerate quickly– who would need a dagger in the first place? Who would even think to make one?

My other criticism is that Asfar discovers in a few weeks what took humans about 500 years to learn about the stars. A little… unlikely, I think. Perhaps if Sawyer had had Asfar base a lot of his theories on those written by the astrologers who came before him, it would be more plausible. As it is, though, the explanation in the book is simply that he is “The One,” which is just a little too convenient and religious/prophecied for my personal preference in a science fiction novel.

Anyway, I originally bought this book because I intended to write a novel in which sentient dinosaurs take to the stars. I’m glad Sawyer has tread this path before (he also tread the path I was on with my other sci fi novel, which just tells me to keep reading his stuff). I enjoyed the read, and I’ll definitely go on to read the sequels, Fossil Hunter and Foreigner.

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