Anime/SF Reviews -

The key to winning arguments... is to always be right

Sorted Summary of Anime Reviews

NameRatingVery short summary
Akira 2 Stars - ABOMINABLEA pointless waste of time.
Mobile Battleship Nadesico 3 Stars - MLARA space/mecha series done wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.
Neon Genesis Evangelion 4 Stars - CRUMMYWhy people with clinical depression shouldn't direct.
Mahoromatic 4 Stars - CRUMMYRobot maid series with lots of nudity crowding out what little time there is for plot.
RahXephon 4 Stars - CRUMMYLike Evangelion, but finds novel ways to be lousy.
Record Of Lodoss War 5 Stars - OKAYJ. Random Fantasy Series
Serial Experiments Lain 5 Stars - OKAYCyberpunk introspection.
Armitage III 5 Stars - OKAYA short, fairly pointless cyberpunk movie.
Ghost In The Shell 5 Stars - OKAYYet another short, fairly pointless cyberpunk movie.
Chobits 5 Stars - OKAYBoy meets robot girl.
Hand Maid May 5 Stars - OKAYLike Mahoromatic, but with no nudity and just as many annoying characters.
.hack//SIGN 6 Stars - SUPERIORSet entirely in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game.
Geneshaft6 Stars - SUPERIOREntertaining and touching space/mecha series with a weak plot.
Love Hina6 Stars - SUPERIORA romantic comedy.
Rurouni Kenshin 6 Stars - SUPERIORTwo seasons of excellent sword fighting followed by a season of filler.
Trigun 7 Stars - WOOTDeep space planet future gun action
Vandread 7 Stars - WOOTA space/mecha series done right.
Scryed 7 Stars - WOOTA battle series done right.
Hoshi no Koe 7 Stars - WOOT25 minutes of sheer bliss.
Angelic Layer 7 Stars - WOOTA lighthearted female-oriented battle series.
Full Metal Panic 8 Stars - TRANSCENDENTIntriguing and beautiful mecha series.

Sorted Summary of Fiction Reviews

NameRatingVery short summary
The Martians2 Stars - ABOMINABLEThe most boring story about Mars ever written.
Mars2 Stars - ABOMINABLEThe second most boring story about Mars ever written.
Neuromancer2 Stars - ABOMINABLEAn awful cyberpunk novel, with style but no content.
The Difference Engine3 Stars - MLARA confusing and boring alternate history, in which nothing much happens.
Nemesis3 Stars - MLAREven Asimov can write bad novels.
First Landing3 Stars - MLARA ridiculous Mars novel.
Red Mars; Green Mars; Blue Mars4 Stars - CRUMMYFull of interest, then throws it completely away.
The Diamond Age4 Stars - CRUMMYNanotechnology can't provide books with real endings, it seems.
The Fortunate Fall4 Stars - CRUMMYAnother novel suffers the Nanotech Curse.
K-PAX III: The Worlds Of Prot5 Stars - OKAYYet another K-PAX novel. Mildly interesting with no innovation.
Feersum Endjinn5 Stars - OKAYBizarre future Earth, crazy birds, and phonetic spelling.
The Gods Themselves5 Stars - OKAYWorth reading just for the second part alone.
Snow Crash5 Stars - OKAY"Of course I won the fucking sword fight. I'm the greatest sword fighter in the world."
Look To Windward5 Stars - OKAYA mildly interesting Culture novel.
Prey6 Stars - SUPERIORThe attack of the gray goo.
K-PAX6 Stars - SUPERIORWould we know the difference between an alien and a mental patient?
K-PAX II: On A Beam Of Light6 Stars - SUPERIORProt is back.
Halo: The Flood6 Stars - SUPERIORThe official novelization of Halo.
Excession6 Stars - SUPERIORThe story of an Outside Context Problem.
T2: Infiltrator6 Stars - SUPERIORSkynet sends an augmented human back in time.
T2: Rising Storm6 Stars - SUPERIORThe Infiltrator wasn't entirely destroyed, and the Connors have to stop Skynet again.
Cryptonomicon6 Stars - SUPERIORWorth it just for the tunnel sequence alone.
Wheelers6 Stars - SUPERIORIn the twenty-third century, aliens are discovered... in our Solar System.
Inversions6 Stars - SUPERIORA deeply confusing but ultimately interesting novel.
Voyage6 Stars - SUPERIORA novel of what might have been
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress7 Stars - WOOTSentient supercomputer masterminds Lunar rebellion.
Twistor7 Stars - WOOTHard SF, electromagnetic fields, and shadow universes.
Einstein's Bridge7 Stars - WOOTHard SF, particle accelerators, and wormholes.
Halo: The Fall Of Reach7 Stars - WOOTThe epic tale of a losing battle.

Foundation Novels
NameRatingVery short summary
Foundation's Edge3 Stars - MLARDialogue on planets, dialogue on spaceships. Nothing much happens.
Foundation And Earth4 Stars - CRUMMYLike Foundation's Edge, but with a couple of neat revelations at the end.
The Robots Of Dawn5 Stars - OKAYWould have been a better detective story were the plot not so contrived.
The Naked Sun6 Stars - SUPERIORSpacers ask Baley to solve another crime.
Prelude To Foundation6 Stars - SUPERIORThe great psychohistorian Hari Seldon had to start somewhere.
Foundation6 Stars - SUPERIORSeldon's Plan unfolds across the centuries.
Foundation And Empire6 Stars - SUPERIORThe Seldon Plan is far from invincible. It can be defeated.
The Caves Of Steel7 Stars - WOOTAn excellent SF detective story.
Second Foundation7 Stars - WOOTWhat is the Second Foundation and what are they up to?
Forward The Foundation7 Stars - WOOTIn the last years of his life, Hari Seldon struggles to implement the Plan.
Robots And Empire8 Stars - TRANSCENDENTR. Daneel Olivaw discovers that the First Law can be transcended.

Tom Clancy Novels
NameRatingVery short summary
The Cardinal Of The Kremlin4 Stars - CRUMMYThe Soviets might have an antisatellite laser! Ho hum.
Executive Orders4 Stars - CRUMMYA weak plot mixed in with too much pointless agonizing.
Patriot Games5 Stars - OKAYSimilar to the movie, except that the novel's ending is less interesting.
Red Storm Rising5 Stars - OKAYRussia and NATO slug it out with conventional forces.
Rainbow Six5 Stars - OKAYAn elite antiterrorist team faces an unknown enemy.
Clear And Present Danger6 Stars - SUPERIORAmerica slugs it out with Colombian drug lords.
The Hunt For Red October6 Stars - SUPERIOREngage the caterpillar drive!
Red Rabbit6 Stars - SUPERIORSoviet-era espionage done right.
The Sum Of All Fears6 Stars - SUPERIORNuclear terrorism hits America, described in vivid detail.
Without Remorse7 Stars - WOOTDrug dealers mess with the wrong man.
Debt Of Honor7 Stars - WOOTAmerica and Japan slug it out.
The Bear And The Dragon8 Stars - TRANSCENDENTRussia and China slug it out, while America is powerless to do much of anything.

New to Anime?

If you're new to this whole anime thing, I recommend starting out with Angelic Layer (for lighthearted fun), Scryed or Vandread (for action), or Full Metal Panic.

Anime Reviews

In something resembling the order I watched various anime series in, here's a description of them and my thoughts. I ordinarily hate it, but here I've Americanized all names (first names first). It helps to know that 'mecha' refers to giant robots, 'OAV' or 'OVA' is the anime term for direct-to-video, manga is to comics as anime is to cartoons, and that most titles of anime series have nothing whatsoever to do with their content.

I'm glad I watched all of these series and movies, even the ones I rip on (except for Akira, there's a reason why I dug out the two-star rating for it). Every anime series sounds weird until you watch a few episodes (some are still weird after that). Be open to new things.

As with everything on my site, I appreciate hearing your thoughts about this page. However, before you go off and E-mail me, first read this Frequently Asked Question:

Q: Why haven't you reviewed series X?
A: Because I haven't watched it yet. My time is severely constrained; I have watched a fair amount of anime, but it's taken me over two years. Everything I have watched in full I have reviewed here. When I finish another series, I'll review it. And yes, I will watch Cowboy Bebop eventually.

I have attempted to classify the genres of these series, somewhat successfully. Many anime series, like many TV shows, follow similar themes; e.g. robotic girls are fairly common, as are mecha. I've also attempted to note whether a series tends to be broken up by episodes or if it progresses continously - neither is better than the other, of course, it's the skill with which either style is executed that matters.

Fiction Reviews

Since coming to Caltech, I've reviewed and rated almost every science fiction (and otherwise) novel that I've read. In parentheses I have mentioned the genres, such as they are, of these novels. (updated a long time ago)
Stephan T. Lavavej
This is my personal website. I work for Microsoft, but I don't speak for them.