Friday, August 10, 2012

Book Review: Birdie Down, by Jim Graham

As I have been away, mostly backpacking in the wilds of Wyoming, I've fallen a bit behind with this blogging stuff.  However--I finally have a review of one of the several books I've read recently, an intriguing  work of science fiction.

Jim Graham's Birdie Down is an engaging read that, despite a few flaws, is well worth checking out if you are a fan of what I might call swashbuckling science fiction.  The book follows the progress of the inter-planetary revolution begun in Scat (which I have not yet read as for some reason I got hold of "Birdie" first.  I plan to go back and read the first book next time I'm in the mood).

The story and the characters are engaging, although I didn't get "grabbed" until probably 50 pages in--getting a little close to my limit.  Mr. Graham has created a consistent world, and largely avoids the "Bat utility belt" approach to solving SF problems (you know: when all else fails, pull out some amazing high-tech device to solve the problem).  At times, however, I found it hard to keep track of things.  The author creates a very real feel by using the acronyms and nicknames for things that would be common to the characters.  I might recommend, however, that for those of us with shorter attention spans, he might want to occasionally throw in the full-length version, as I at times found myself a little lost.

A few other issues brought this book down from four stars to 3 or 3.5.  First and largest, the changes of POV need more markers, especially as there are enough characters that it's not always easy to remember who is on which side. This (like the issue with jargon) was exacerbated by the piecemeal approach I took to reading the first hundred or so pages, which allowed me to forget too much.  Things definitely were better after I was grabbed and read straight through the second half of the book, but I still needed more markers.  As an aside, that's an issue that's worse with e-books.  If I'd been reading a paper book, I'd have just flipped back to check out what I couldn't remember.

My second criticism is that the book needs better editing.  I was at times distracted by minor errors of spelling (typing) or word use.  If you are less anal than I about such, you probably wouldn't notice, but I did.

Finally, I was unsatisfied with the ending.  Although the story is brought to a resting point, I thought it left too many loose ends (a couple of them brought up just in time to be left), making it a little too clear that a sequel will be coming--and must be read if you really want to know how things will work out in the end.

Despite these criticisms, I will reiterate: I enjoyed reading Birdie Down and can recommend it as an interesting read, and I plan to follow the development of the Revolution.  I give it 3.5 stars.

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