So our hero sets out to play and review 15 million year old alien games. Hilarity ensues, but the world does get saved in the end. The love interest -- the hero's (girl)friend of years -- is oddly touching, with a really different existential outlook. Overall, a very fun read. 4 stars.
I then read 2 books I spotted in the library: volumes 6 ("Metal Swarm") and 7 ("The Ashes of Worlds") of the Book of the Seven Sons series by Brian J. Anderson. Man, I blogged reading volumes 4 and 5 over 6 years ago, February 24, 2007. This is about as heavy duty a space opera as you can imagine: 5 alien races, 2 races of robots, several human groups. There are at least 30 narrative threads, maybe more than 40. Chapters are generally 2-4 pages, so it keeps moving and you keep turning the pages. Note, the books are about 450 pages each for 3150 pages total, so my 100 pages per narrative thread heuristic is probably not too far off.
But, trolling alert, the writing is just so bad. In 2007 I described it as "sophomoric". So many wrong or unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. So many extraneous sentences. And his bad guys, particularly, are all like "bwahaha, I love dismembering humans and seeing their blood splatter because I love dismembering humans and seeing their blood splatter". So, mercifully, I am done with him. He has another set of Dune followups written with Frank Herbert's son, I believe that I will never read them, yay! Which brings us to the title of this post. If I were to be told that Brian J. Anderson was actually an AI fiction generation program, I would not have a problem believing that. The writing is that formulaic and stilted.
Finally, I read 2 books by Saladin Ahmed: "Engraved on the Eye", a short story collection, and "Throne of the Crescent Moon", nominated for the Hugo Award this year. These were easy reads, and somehow, I guess that I have some fondness (I would not have thought so) for "The Arabian Nights"; the Islamic/Arabic overtones seem very familiar, although the constant religious overtones did get very slightly annoying at times. But a good story, with the old ghul-hunter, his dervish swordsman assistant, and a young woman who is a were-lion.
I've always been fond of the early (unsuccessful) attempts at science: magic, tarot (for characterizing experience), astrology (for characterizing personalities). I liked here when he off-handedly mentioned the 8 elements: sand and lightning, water and wind, wood and metal, orange fire and blue fire. So 3 forms of earth and 3 forms of fire, definitely different.
Anyway, both are easy and fun reads, 3 stars.