March 31st, 2006, 10:36 PM
April '06 SF BOTM: Hammered by Elizabeth Bear
Hi all. Time to get started on discussing this one.
April 1st, 2006, 06:12 AM
I read Hammered several months back. I liked this novel quite a bit, primarily based on characters (especially the Mitch and Razorface pairing), and pacing. For a first time novel the writing felt quite assured. At times it felt like it was starting to get predictable, and then Bear would throw in a nice surprise.
My biggest complaint was that it doesn't offer much of a satisfying conclusion; as someone has previously noted, this felt like a single giant novel that the publisher decided to split into three parts (although my feelings on this had changed a bit by the time I finished Worldwired, but that is a different story).
April 1st, 2006, 08:22 AM
Finished reading this book yesterday afternoon. Here is what I liked and dislike... about the book.
Quite a good story and for me this was refreshing science-fiction. I don't think ever reading a story that way. I did liked the writing style which was a little bit confusing at first. I'm not sure if I use the right term but when we were in Jenny Casey story, it was first person story then for the others characters it was 3rd person. First novel I've read using both writing "style".
I didn't liked very much the end... well didn't like is probably too strong but I wanted to know more about the end. Did it end ? I guess I'll have to read the other books!
The french in the book is, well, strange in some ways. Some place it is quite good and others, well it is plain unreadable if you ask me. My main language is French. Born French and learned English later. Actually I'm a Québecois (yeah french canadian) so by saying the characters were talking Québecois, I would say "No way!". I do not know if it was desired but I can say there is at least one french error in the book... I'll have to find it out, because I do not remember where!
About the characters, Jenny is very interesting and kept me in the book. I always wanted to know more about her. Mitch was cool and Razorface was actually very interesting. At first, looked more like the bad guy but in the end, he's a gentlemen, I guess.
One good sentence that made me laugh. It is on page 96 and Jenny and Razorface just arrived in New York I believe. He's already walking, and I set the alarm and the flamethrowers before I follow.
That's it for now... I'll post more later if something else comes up from other posts!
Thanks to this place to have made me found out this book and new author.
April 1st, 2006, 04:28 PM
There were a lot of things that I liked about this book, and I ended up reading and enjoying all three books in this trilogy.
I loved the Feynman AI. As a physicist myself, I've worshipped at the altar of Feyman since I was 14. I thought Bear did a great job of bringing him to life as an AI.
I liked the fact that Jenny was a completely atypical protagonist. For one, she's older. Your average SF/F protagonist is 30 at the oldest. Jenny is around 50, and the world-weariness shows. Plus, she's Native American but fully assimilated, as so many people are, and her main self-identification is not with her ethnicity but being a veteran. Usually if you have a protagonist from a minority ethnic group, that is their primary focus, but that's not always true in real life.
I also thought that the Ellie-Gabriel-Jenny romantic angle mixed together with Gabriel as widower and Gabriel as father and Jenny as surrogate mother aspect was well done, and just as tangled & complicated as those things can be in real life, but with added maturity coming from the fact that all the characters are older and not purely hormone-driven anymore.
I agree that the story just stopped instead of ending, which is a bit of a shame. But the other two books in the trilogy have a very different flavor than this one, which makes the whole thing more interesting.
April 3rd, 2006, 05:58 PM
I liked the premise. I believed the characters, and didn’t mind the book ending where it did – I actually liked how Jenny’s overall arc moved from her bitterness and cynicism to a type of rebirth, particularly with how that rebirth was so closely tied to everything she hated.
I didn’t always buy the storyline of her sister and the bad drugs going around New Jersey (New Jersey? I forget already - the book's at home). I found myself wondering why it was in there, in spite of the very cool characters and the whole world of gangs and super assassins etc. All very interesting on their own, but the tie between that and Jenny’s journey seemed very tenuous, and got weaker for me as the book went along. My second issue was I got a bit confused with the various incarnations of the AI – especially with the one in Jenny’s head that ended up in the starship. Wasn’t that the whole point of trying to invent the AI again in the first place? To get him to help run the ship? So why did he want to sneak on the ship through Jenny’s brain? Maybe I just need to re-read the AI bits again.
That being said, I liked the dialogue (my French is atrocious, so no issues there), I bought the characters, I liked the AI element, I plan to read the rest of them. It wouldn’t end up on my top 10 list, but I liked it. Thank you to Elizabeth Bear – it felt very personal, so if you happen to wander through this forum, Elizabeth, nice work.
April 6th, 2006, 07:11 PM
Well, I've been spending the last few weeks since I read it trying to think of something to say about this one. I don't really have anything bad to say or anything glowing.
One thing I really like about SF in general is its ability to deal with Complicated Issues. That's something I didn't feel like this book really did. That said, for what the book was, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it as a cop/buddy story and a military conspiracy story, but not really as a SF story. (I could say much the same about Pandora's Star, which I really enjoyed. Liked it for lots of things, just not its SF.)
All of the relationships were interesting to me, especially the Razor/Mitch relationship. The Jenny love triangle was not AS interesting to me, but it worked.
I would have liked to see something explored, though, whether it be ethical or social or something. As it was, this was a nice little adventure romp with some SF underpinnings.
(((After further thought))) I guess there was some interesting discussion about whether the AI was alive or not and at what point that happened, if at all, but it seemed at little peripheral to the main event.
As to the ending. I didn't have a problem with the ending. It basically wrapped up the conflicts of the book. It doesn't really deal with the issue of the space colonization race, but that was never of central focus in my reading of the book anyway. One thing the ending didn't really do was make me want to rush out and read the next two. I wouldn't mind reading them, but they haven't rushed to the top of my TBR pile.
April 7th, 2006, 12:28 PM
I think the next two books will more than fulfill your desire for issue exploration, if you choose to continue with the series: international politics, alien communication, child exploitation, genocide, all-powerful AIs. The first book seems like a slight taster compared to the other two, in a way.
April 9th, 2006, 08:06 PM
I'm wondering if I read this book too fast! The bold and italics, is this actually in the first book or is this more present in the 2nd and 3rd ones ? For me and from what I remember, the self-identification of Jenny is related to her "artificially reconstructed" body. Maybe it is only my head that stuck on this information...
Originally Posted by Archren
April 10th, 2006, 01:49 PM
No, her Native American heritage is clearly in "Hammered," vis a vis her two sisters. Remember the feather symbol that she kept around from her younger sister?
You're right though about her self-image being very entangled with her cybernetic/metal implants, but since those are the result of her war wounds, I sort of tossed that in with the "Veteran" status. That's a good point, that they're separate.
April 10th, 2006, 05:00 PM
Now that you mention the feather symbol from her younger sister, Nell isn't it ? This rings a bell... and probably went through that too quickly in the book.
For me I did focus more on the implants throughout the book since I kept telling myself how can you live with all the stuff. I don't know my reaction if I would have to live with all the mechanical implant. Maybe I'm too afraid of doctors and stuff related to that. But then again I think it is normal to prefer to have 2 hands instead of only 1 even if one is mechanical.
April 17th, 2006, 04:41 AM
April 19th, 2006, 04:35 PM
Some thoughts on Hammered
I just finished the book. The part when I really got hooked was when Richard contacted Jenny.
I agree with Zor Prime, the format is a little confusing with the place/date changes and like him I am French canadian and Bear should have had her grammar edited. If you're going to use another language, do it properly.
I also agreed with Robbie about Jenny's character development, well done. I also found the A1 dilemma problematic because he got on the ship in the end...now what.
The ending was disappointing because there were too many loose ends. What happened to Razor, Gabe's girls, Elspeth, Richard's clones???
April 20th, 2006, 12:43 PM
Glad you (mostly) enjoyed it. Yes, there are tons of loose ends. Unfortunately, it is the first book of a trilogy that was written as one work, then broken up into three by the publisher. The other two are Scardown and Worldwired, and frankly, they're even better than Hammered.
That's interesting that the improper French Canadian bugs the people who understand it. I think for the first time in my life I might be glad that I'm monolingual. Bear isn't Canadian herself, she from Connecticut, and I guess her French Canadian sources weren't good enough.
BTW, I also like the way the children are written in the book: smart cookies by any measure, but not really mature yet, but trying their hardest to make the best of what's going on. Not overdone for innocence or cuteness, but not just minature adults either. What do you think?
April 21st, 2006, 10:10 PM
Archren, would you say Scardown and Worldwind tie up any of Hammered's loose ends? When you say "they're even better..." has Bear changed the date/time heading format I found distracting and oftentimes unnecessary in Hammered? And does Jenny continue her adventures? I like her character. I suppose because I'm of her vintage. You don't often see older heroines(Paulgara of the Belgarath series comes to mind)
I believe the faulty French to be a big issue. Not to over state the point, but I will, I was very put off. She started off well enough but the further she went, the worse it got until the end and sexual encounter (I didn't see that one coming). She failed miserably to convey the Quebec patois. She had some dirty talking going on and the scene could have been pretty juicy. Instead, I was incredulous/distracted by the gross lack of editing.
The sick kid (Genevieve) was forgettable, and Leah is a big loose end. Richard just drops her after basically 'using her' to get to Jenny. Bear goes out of her way to portray Richard as extremely conscientious; staying quiet so Jenny forgets he's there, not even responding when she wants to talk. I enjoyed those cerebral dialogues. It was reminiscent of 'Chocky' by John Wyndham.
Wasn't Leah being prepped to be one of Jenny's flight students?
April 22nd, 2006, 05:21 AM
Scardown and Worldwired do tie up the loose ends from Hammered.
And they very much do continue to primarily follow the adventures of Jenny, although several new characters are introduced and we continue to get large chunks of 3rd person narrative from other points of view. Several of the important characters from book 1 don't make it to the end of book 3.
The two girls play critical roles as the story progresses.
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