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Friday, April 19, 2024

SevenevesSeveneves by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 4/19/24:

I have to say it's even better on a re-read. I think the trick is in my expectations. Stephenson has a weird way in his writings, pulling certain kinds of bait-and-switches that work extremely well for some of us -- especially when we're so tired of boilerplate plotting.

This isn't any kind of standardized novelization, and for that, I love it even more.

I think I got a lot more out of this, this time. I was now looking for parallels between methods of survival from the pre-and-post timeskip, of psychology, reliance on different technologies, and the most commonplace failings of humanity, itself.

There is a richness in the post-timeskip I don't think I truly appreciated the first time around. After all, after 5k years, that's an awful lot of recorded history on top of where we are now. Not so big as to be insanely out of reach, but seriously impressive if you consider technological necessities and advancements (or regressions).

From a purely world-building perspective, the novel is a true delight. In the pre-timeskip, it is an engineer's dream. I still believe it's a great two-for-one bargain. :)

Original Review:

I don't know what all those complainers are going on about. As far as I can see, I just got two novels for the price of one. The first 2/3rds is all hard science fiction, where science matters and the whole thing is tied together with plausibility. The last third is pure unadulterated speculative fiction with damn fine worldbuilding and extrapolation from the first 2/3rds.

Let me back up. I can honestly say that I loved the gigantic erector set that was the first novel, but I will admit that I wasn't head over heels in love with most of the characters, and the few that I really liked were at least two dimensional. This isn't a condemnation. A lot had to be covered to get us from a happyish world, through a blown-up moon, to a mad scramble to survive before the earth gets fireballed by our ex-moon. That means the International Space Station needs one hell of an upgrade. A lot happens, and it's tragic and heroic and beautiful. I've read a lot worse hard sf, and when I say it, it's not a condemnation, either. Hard sf is a lifestyle choice. It's hard to do and successfully pull off a great story with great characters against, say, any other novel that doesn't care about consistency and scrupulous attention to detail.

Mr. Stephenson pulls it off, and I'm not just touting him because I'm a lifelong fan of his writings. I'm saying the novel is solid.

Now on to the second novel. A lot of people have a problem with this one, going, "What the fuck?" Not me. This is where we stop being grounded and we let our imaginations fly. A lot can and will happen in 5000 years from the last hurrah of the plausible and likely end of humanity.

So I see another tradition being followed, one I like even more than the strict master of hard sf. I immediately got sucked into the imagery, the action, the curiosity, the mystery, and the unfolding of a brand new Earth. I don't need to bring up all the greats who have done hopeful and optimistic futures, although I will if anyone asks, but Mr. Stephenson has served up a beauty.

So much is bright and colorful about it, and I'm including the different human races, the flying, the landscape, and the revelations about what the people find down there. No spoilers, but suffice to say there's always a way to bring conflict in, even though the future is hopeful. It was a sheer pleasure to explore, and if the novel was NOT an extension of the first 2/3, I'm pretty sure that most of the haters out there would have thought it was an interesting tale on par with any of the classics. It's all about survival, rebuilding and restoring, genetic engineering, massive scale engineering, and the supremely toned-down idea that love endures.

It was very touching.

All right. I'll mention Brin. It reminds me of the best of Brin.

So that brings me back to the main question: Should these two novels be considered one? There's obviously ties throughout the second one, but I'll be honest with you, they could have been added long after the fact, just so the second novel could see print. That's a very negative way to view it, in my opinion, because I happened to love it for what it was.

Is it a sign of the times that old-style adventure novels set in the deep future can't get published any longer? I hope not. I'd love to see more, assuming the stories still kick ass.

But to answer my own question... Yes and No. The first novel could easily have turned into an ultimate bummer. The second novel could stand on its own. Left to itself, the first novel would have absolutely needed some sort of machinery of god or perhaps the triumphant return of the assholes who had raced to Mars. It would have needed something, anyway, to satisfy the readers. We aren't reading traditional fiction. It wasn't a character study. If the only way to give the reader what s/he wants is to give us a resolution that doubles as a whole second novel, then I say, "Hell yes!"

Because at least this way, I wouldn't have to wait a long time for a sequel when I wasn't satisfied with the first. Can you imagine, or do you remember when Hyperion came out and you got to the end and went, "Huh?" with no Fall of Hyperion to complete it? It's the same deal, although, I'll be honest, Hyperion is still better than this novel. (If you peeps haven't read it, then do so. It's still very high praise to be compared to it, even in a lesser capacity.)

Of course, Neal Stephenson has a whole catalog of some of my absolute favorite reading list, so I'm amazingly biased here.

Was this novel good? You betcha. Did it surprise? Absolutely. Do I recommend? Yes, for fans of the SFF genre with keen eyes and adjustable expectations.

Update 4/27/16

This has been nominated for 2016 Hugo for best novel!

While I think it's pretty awesome in retrospect for the ideas, the science, and the rather epic scope of both saving the race in the first part of the novel and the far-ish future ramifications in the last 2/3rds of the novel, there were also wide swaths of boring info-dumping, too. I might have gone hog-wild all over this novel as the biggest contender for the Hugo, otherwise, but that might also have something to do with how much of a fanboy I am for the author. :)

Unfortunately, this is isn't my first or even second choice for the Hugo winner for this year. Good promise, but the pacing was off.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Titanium Noir (Titanium Noir #1)Titanium Noir by Nick Harkaway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This really hit the spot. I won't say it is the most fantastic Noir I've ever read, or even the best SF Noir, but I had a great time, anyway.

The hook: I kinda thought it was going to be Titanium as in the metal. I was RATHER amused to find out it is more about TITANS. :) Or rather, about the special immortality treatments that make its users progressively larger and larger people every time they use it. The rich, of course.

So mix it all up with a murder mystery, with sex and violence, and it has all the earmarks of the most familiar and the joys of the unusual.

Amusing and fun, in other words.

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Monday, April 15, 2024

Solo Leveling, Vol. 8 (Solo Leveling Novel #8)Solo Leveling, Vol. 8 by Chugong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This light novel truly threw me for a loop. All of the other 7 isekais followed a very comforting LitRPG progression, always throwing greater enemies at a stronger hero, but almost at the beginning of this one, it... finished. :)

The rest of the novel pulled off a great Superman storyline, fully grounded in regular life and became thoroughly nostalgic.

That, and it really speaks to those of us who love a good New Game + :)

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Solo Leveling, Vol. 7 (Solo Leveling Novel #7)Solo Leveling, Vol. 7 by Chugong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delicious continuation. I knew there was going to be a total invasion of the Earth by the Monarchs, and we got a few tastes right away, but the scale just started breaking like a dam and now the Earth is doomed.

This LitRPG/Isekai is really hitting the spot. It's just going to get so bloody, now.

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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Solo Leveling, Vol. 6 (Solo Leveling Novel #6)Solo Leveling, Vol. 6 by Chugong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very fun change in direction for the overall story-arc. We get to know the world-wide top hunters and finally get a showdown with the vengeful hunter that wanted to get some satisfaction for his brother.

But more than that, we're getting a great reveal about the rulers and monarchs and the epic war on our way.

Love the scope.

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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Mammoths at the Gates (The Singing Hills Cycle #4)Mammoths at the Gates by Nghi Vo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While this is named Mammoths at the Gates, it ought to be renamed Memories at the Gates. It's really an honoring of a lost life, a funeral, and yes -- it's more of the signature story-within-story storytelling I've grown to love in the Singing Hills Cycle.

These novellas are very much worth reading -- if only for the altered focus in fantasy.

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Into the Riverlands (The Singing Hills Cycle, #3)Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series is wonderful for its focus on story-within-story storytelling. This one, no less than the others.

Calm, understated, with a wonderful atmosphere and interesting characters, this is a fantasy series I always look forward to. It isn't flashy, but it does have depth.

Of course, that's not to say there isn't something a little wild about this. A piggy can be quite exciting. :)

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Friday, April 12, 2024

Solo Leveling, Vol. 5 (Solo Leveling Novel #5)Solo Leveling, Vol. 5 by Chugong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I great return to where he began, stronger, more capable, and ready to ask the biggest question.

So OP now, but that's fine, because now the baddies are equally badass. :)

Really fun light novel/Isekai/LitRPG.

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Solo leveling - light Novel (Solo leveling Vol 4)Solo leveling - light Novel by Chugong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The slow buildup of real-world danger in the background finally explodes in this light novel.

But after quite THAT much solo-leveling, it's just a delight to see how the real stuff goes.

Of course, now that he's pretty much superman, I have to wonder where the other novels will lead.

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Thursday, April 11, 2024

Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive, #4)Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 4/11/24:

It's always a journey with these. Sometimes you never know why the author is taking us on these side-trips, but once you DO know, it tends to blow your mind.

I particularly enjoyed the mental-health focus of this particular book. Not just for Shallan, but for Kaladin, too. It's almost as if Brandon knew we'd need so much of that during '20. But truly, it's just as welcome now.

That's just a side note, however.

This novel is so much more than that, of course. It's adventure, epic-scope and epic-stakes fantasy, and the characters keep on growing.

Of course, by now, we have learned SO much about how the worldbuilding works -- and more importantly, how the Cosmere works. I'm loving it all.

I cannot WAIT until the next.

Original Review:

After reading this very long novel, there should be some kind of fatigue. I mean. I think it's longer than SK's The Stand. So a reader OUGHT to be drained by the attempt. But no. Not this time.

All these Stormlight Archives rage over me like the world-storms within the novel, recharge my heartstone, and make me utter all four oaths.

Seriously. There should be a warning label on this book. "Careless consumption will lead to fandom."

Okay, to be fair, I was already a huge fan of Sanderson for, like, forever. But ever since reading the last three books of WoT, carefully managed under his hand, I've known that he had all the chops. After reading almost EVERYTHING of his, since, and slobbering all over the place to get my hands on his OWN epic masterpiece since book one, to get the fourth at this point is something of a...

Okay, let me say it.

We're a cult. A completely mind-blown cult. We're all so invested in this story, have drunk ALL the kool-aid, and we're willing to walk off all the cliffs (or chasms, if you will,) to get the next one.

And it totally satisfied. Oh, not only that, but it twisted all our expectations (or at least mine) and tore me to shreds, and made me despair. And then it built me back up again, made me wonder how the hell they were going to get out of this for a long time before subverting all my new expectations yet again.

Let me just say this: Sanderson is a master storyteller. He knows what he's doing every step of the way. He keeps tossing that coin and tells us it's all a trick even while he's pulling yet ANOTHER fast one on us and we not only enjoy it, but we beg for more of this strange covenant.

Or I might just say that we're all addicts and the IDEA of Sanderson in our heads is on par with a huge bank. In our heads, we just know that it can never fail. And if it seems to, our confidence is so huge that we make SURE it doesn't fail, and then, when our heads catch up to what's actually going on, we realize, out of the blue, that it was ALL A RUSE and he played us all yet again.

Or maybe I'm just reading WAY TOO MUCH into this. :)

Suffice to say... WOW, WHAT A BOOK! :)

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Sunday, April 7, 2024

Solo Leveling, Vol. 3 (novel)Solo Leveling, Vol. 3 by Chugong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So solid. This isekai/LitRPG light novel continually surprises and expands into new directions.

S-Rank already, our solo-leveler is rapidly becoming a god even among gods, but better, the story is making it all that much more necessary.

It really helps that the whole setup might be really, really messed up. It's great to read this now, but I'm seriously going to love reading the manga later.

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Solo leveling - light Novel (Solo leveling Vol 2)Solo leveling - light Novel by Chugong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So fun! It's very much LitRPG, but with all the added benefit of being popular as a manga and now an anime.

But for SOME people, like myself, I love to get the whole story right away in the original novel format, or, rather, the light novel format.

Our hero is getting SO powerful, now soloing high ranked dungeons all by himself, all the while hoping to keep his identity and true abilities hidden for as long as he can.

Unfortunately, many people want him. It's pretty great seeing an introverted protagonist. :)

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Saturday, April 6, 2024

The Practice, the Horizon, and the ChainThe Practice, the Horizon, and the Chain by Sofia Samatar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've always been rather impressed by Samatar's wordsmithing. And this new novella showcases a more SF case for lyricism tackling the chains of our society, our own minds, in a futuristic prison-mine that just happens to support a whole society.

The subtext is quite clear. On the backs of the broken is the world built.

I enjoyed this look across the divide. It is as hopeful as it is tragic.

Understanding is always the key.

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Solo leveling - light Novel (Solo leveling Vol 1)Solo leveling - light Novel by Chugong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently ran through all the animes for this one and was thrilled to hell about it. It's a total Isekai, or rather a full LitRPG story.

And since I just finished THAT, and was utterly bereft that I had no more story, I just had to skip even the manga and go to the light novel directly.

Great decision.

And now, I just figured out the entire first season is right here in this first Vol. *squeee*

Let's solo level and become overpowered! :)

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The TerraformersThe Terraformers by Annalee Newitz
My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I'll just say that I AM a fan of Newitz, generally, and I really DID see a lot of potential for this book. I mean, here we are, far-future, likely all our animal cousins uplifted a-la Brin, and we might have a rollicking adventure with a moose sidekick across another world.

And with that, we DID get something like that.

But then we had to have a book that was more like Becky Chambers's style, with the warm fuzzies and systemic problems solved mostly by sweet-toothing our way through the adventure.

We have horribly invasive Homo Sapiens limiting the communication centers, sometimes the intelligence, of all these other animals. Between the strong-arm tactics, the invasive monitoring, the whole corporate-structure-is-evil feel, we get whole segregated communities exuding enough subtext to choke a moose.

And honestly? Because it's played so straight, without any true nods to just how close it resembles our world and just how closely we can read some of these species as races, it just feels -- icky.

It tries to pull off the feel-good, but instead, I feel like I've been wallowing in creepy animatronics-land. It didn't help with the pole-dancing mole-people.

Anyway, it just didn't work for me. At all. I guess I'm getting tired with write-on-editorial-demand Chambers lookalikes, too. I feel like this could have been pretty great if it was a much harder SF grounded in a harder ecology-fiction mode. Hell, that would have been extremely TOPICAL for today, too.

Instead, it was as soft an SF as you could ever desire.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Water OutlawsThe Water Outlaws by S.L. Huang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one was a pleasant surprise. I expected a Wuxia-type fantasy, complete with some magical weapons, ancient Chinese-type martial arts, and that was what I got. Kung-Fu.

The quality is undeniable, too.

I was pleasantly reminded of Guy Gavriel Kay's fantasies and Ken Liu's Dandelion Dynasty as I read this, but if I am to be entirely honest, it didn't have quite the vastness or depth of worldbuilding of either. It DID, however, have a good, classical story of a scorned loyal warrior forced into exile and the safe arms of bandits, only to have to defend her new home against corrupt officials.

This kind of thing is an old, comfortable story, and this novel did it very, very well.

Fun stuff!

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Sunday, March 31, 2024

Great Masters: Robert And Clara Schumann   Their Lives And MusicGreat Masters: Robert And Clara Schumann Their Lives And Music by Robert Greenberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Robert Greenberg always delivers. His lectures on Musical masters never fails to enthrall and edify.

That being said, with no complaints about the lectures, I should say that I'm a bit... how should I describe this... ANNOYED with the whole Romantic ideology.

I'm not referring to modern romance. I mean the old, "Let's have it big and emotional and 'Oh, gosh' idealism." I'm talking about Percy Bysshe Shelly, but not Mary. One was AWESOME while one was Edgelord pretentious.

And so we get to Robert. Clara was pretty damn AWESOME while Robert, with his likely descent into Syphilis, had a decent enough pretentious career... where he eventually became a mentally-ill burden.

WHAT??? Am I dissing a mentally ill person? lol, no, but all things being equal, she was the one who wore the pants in the relationship.

Knowing what I know now about Brahms, I rather wish he had flitted away with Clara, leaving the Olympic masturbator Robert behind.

But then, maybe I'm just mean. It doesn't help that I was never that awed by any of Robert Schumann's works.

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The Book of JoanThe Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I bounced. Hard.

I'm sorry, but DESPITE having a few concepts roll around in the novel that might have burrowed into my flesh OR a few passages that had some beauty, the grand majority of the text was nearly utterly ugly.

Why would I say such a thing?

Well, let me just describe it thus: Imagine Slaughterhouse Five without the time travel or the history, make it a universal mortification of the flesh and have everyone totally self-consumed with their lost, shriveled, stolen sexuality, turn it into an implausible SF that is more focused on clumsy literary metaphor, and the rest of the novel reads like a lowly trip through hell.

Sure, it's heavy on the feminism, too, but I hardly minded that.

You know what I minded? The fact that humanity would be nothing more than self-obsessed worms crawling around in the dirt bemoaning our lost sexuality. Like there's NOTHING more to us than that.

But then, maybe that's what some (or maybe even a lot) of people think.

So, I bounced. I kept trying and trying to find redeeming qualities, but it not only made me mightily uncomfortable in all the wrong ways, it even made me angry right down in my core, where that last inch of idealism cannot and will not be sacrificed.

Maybe I make too much out of this. Maybe I'm just saying it's a "oh hell no, it's not you, it's totally me", but in reality, I think the book is a bit of poison. Slow-working, agonizing, and soul-destroying.

So --no, thank you.

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Saturday, March 30, 2024

Death's End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #3)Death's End by Liu Cixin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 3/30/24:

So. After re-reading the series, getting to this one... I *KNEW* it was going to destroy me. I *KNEW* it.

I should just mention here that some SF just goes above and beyond. Some goes WAY above and beyond. And then some just blow the fucking roof off the membrane of the universe and totally destroys us.

So, yeah, this one is of the latter kind.

I personally get a ton of satisfaction out of the fact that Liu Cixin manages to weave utter lows and ultimate hope together in a Hard-SF, real physics way. I understand the science and it just keeps -- destroying me. After Dark Forest, it was dark enough, but this just kept tying the rope around me to drag me through the mud again and again.

This one has ALL the scope, all the mud-dragging, all tragedies piled on tragedies.

And yet, it was also, at the end, a hopeful book.

I am in awe. Again.

Original Review:

This is one of those rare mind-blowing novels of such fantastic scope and direction that words just can't do it justice. It's the third book that started with the Hugo-Winning The Three-Body Problem, continued with The Dark Forest. They're all fantastic, but I have to honestly say that I loved this one more than the rest.

We've got the scope of some of Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence* going on here. I'm talking universe-spanning scope, going straight through time like a hot knife through butter and right on out into the expanding reaches of the imagination. The first book dives into the tiniest particles and higher dimensional spaces, the second deals with the apparent macro universe and the ongoing conflict between the Tri-Solarans and Humanity, and the third concludes with some truly and amazingly harrowing experiences, from the end of the stalemate, the near-genocide of humanity, and the grand realization that it's all gone even more wrong.

And things only get worse from there.

I'm properly flabbergasted by this book. There are enough fantastic ideas crammed in here for ten books, maybe even twenty. And even if it wasn't so idea-rich, from the extrapolated sciences, extremely well-thought-out consequences, and even further extrapolations from there, we even get some of the more interesting characters ever written in SF.

My appreciation of The Dark Forest only increases when set beside this one, and although I didn't consider that novel quite worthy of the Hugo as the first novel was, it was an amazing set-up for this last novel's execution.

The Dark Forest is an expression of the idea that the universe is an extremely hostile place. Any two alien species that meets is likely going to preemptively wipe out the other or face the reality of being wiped out. Such conflicts at such huge scales and high-technology and physics can be utterly amazing and one-sided, from start explosions to local space conversions between dimensions, such as turning a local three-dimensional plane of existence into a two-dimensional one.

Utterly shocking. Utterly amazing.

We even get to visit, early on, the tombstones of entire alien civilizations that escaped the Dark Forest by hopping into the fourth dimensional frame from the third dimension, only to discover that the great time-stream is shrinking, a bunch of big fish already having consumed all the small fish, and now the pond of existence is shrinking to almost nothing.

Each new discovery or option or hope is explored and dashed. The conflict, the Sword of Damocles, never leaves the tale. The Dark Forest is always evident, and it's depressing and awe-inspiring and a great story and I was honestly in awe of all the new directions it took.

I've read a LOT of SF. I've never seen anyone pull this off quite as well as this.

He builds on every new idea and makes a universe as frightening as it is amazing, and nothing ever stays the same.

And best of all, he leaves humanity as it is. Hopelessly outmatched. Always hopelessly outmatched. No matter what we do, how we advance and improve or build upon inherited technologies from our one-time friends, dark gods, and demons, the Tri-Solarans, there's always a new snag.


Honestly, there's no way to review this except to tell everyone out there that there's just too many great things to say about it, that it is a monumental undertaking, that it is an endlessly fascinating and impressive corpus of work, and that everyone should avail themselves of this trilogy.

It's just that good. I'm in awe.

Some things are just heads and shoulders above the rest. Well, perhaps, this one is a whole storey above all the rest, too. :)

*Correction ;)

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Tuesday, March 26, 2024

The Saint of Bright DoorsThe Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a particularly difficult novel to review because it took me quite some time to realize that it was based on a rather more thorough, expanded Buddhist concept of heaven and hell -- and not a Lovecraftian-lite exploration of a thoroughly transformative and consistently transforming city that literally sprang up out of the mind of a mortal god.

Confusing? Yeah, well, it was a bit for me, too. I was tempted to just roll with the immersion, try to figure out what being raised to murder a god-who-is-your-father had to do with seeing otherwise invisible demons on the streets or enjoying a masterfully imagined city that reminded me a LOT of Christopher Priest's later novels.

Honestly, however, even though I appreciated what was attempted here, I can't say I thoroughly ENJOYED either the story or the writing. At times it seemed to be trying too hard. Conversely, when it did manage to relax into greater descriptions, I enjoyed it much more.

I suppose I would have enjoyed it much more had I known more about the Buddhist realms and the teachings and how to directly apply it to a more subtle fantasy-realist storytelling, a-la the older Christian mythology novels.

Still, kudos where it stands out!

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Monday, March 25, 2024

Wyrd Sisters (Discworld, #6; Witches, #2)Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-read 3/25/24:

Doing a grand re-read of all of Discworld because it just seems to be THAT necessary.

Let's put it this way: in this damn spherical world, things are NOT that wholesome, intelligent, or magical. That's why the DISCworld is so important.

And yes, even Ankh-Morpork is more wholesome than this damn place.

Now, let's just listen to nature a little bit, okay? The king might have something to say. :)

Original Review:

There have been many great reviews on this old favorite of Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld, and I won't wax eloquent, (or otherwise), save to mention that it's full of Headology and Shakespeare references, between murdered kings and lost heirs and crowns and a mummer's farce and a showdown between Witches and the King, but even so, it's all fun as hell.

I think this is the first novel of the Discworld series that truly comes into its own... or the first one that Pratchett uses as the template for all the ones to come. Since this is a second read of the whole series, I found this one to be an awfully familiar and warming experience.

I still think that there are better Discworld novels out there, but not by very much. :) All in all, it's a fun read.

I can't quite tell whether I like Ogg or Weatherwax more. :) I never really connected with Magrat.

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Sunday, March 24, 2024

Sourcery (Discworld, #5; Rincewind, #3)Sourcery by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-Read 3/24/24:

This time, I just read Sourcery without any kind of critical eye. Indeed, I just let myself fall into this Rincewind novel as a source of pure enjoyment, of popcorn power-reads -- and just like that, I had a pure, delightful time.

Power corrupts, but funny power corrupts funnily.

Original review:

This is going to sound rather critical despite my rating, but I feel like I ought to be rather honest. The basic over-story is pretty good, as is the action and most of the humor, but there was still swaths of text that felt like it was trying too hard.

More funny, more witty, more like Color of Magic than Color of Magic. It wasn't just Rincewind, whom I always loved. Rincewind reminds me of Schmendrick from Last Unicorn, only he really doesn't have any magic at all. Ever. And yet, his whose sense of identity and action is still totally in line with being a wizard, and he even puts everything on the line for it. I like that.

I even liked Nijel the Barbarian and Conina the Hairdresser and the Sapient Pearwood Chest is always a delight, but other than a good smattering of good scenes with all of them, I kept stopping the book and wondering if it would ever get on with it.

The adventure seemed good, but it was really focused on the zingers just a tad too much and I got tired of them. Isn't that odd?

Even so, it was mostly pretty awesome as Pratchett usually is. :)

As an afterthought, I was thinking about Rincewind in relations to Pratchett, himself. I was thinking that maybe Pratchett was Rincewind. As a writer, it's always about faking it until you make it. Keep with the decision and call yourself what you will be. Believe it and move mountains, just like Rincewind. Or Pratchett. :)

And then there's also the hallmark self-depreciation, the humor. There was that really big inspiration, that one unique idea that hit Rincewind with great fanfare.... with his companions calling him an idiot right after he expressed it.

Pretty classic. :)

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The Seven Wonders of the Ancient WorldThe Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Bettany Hughes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sure, I expected a book on the seven wonders of the ancient world, but this book was pretty special. We didn't just get the 7 monuments -- we got an extensive historical context leading up to and far beyond the building and the impact they had on the world.

I especially loved the cultural, military, religious, and intellectual carry-through that leads us, even today, to admire every thing about it.

This was easily the most comprehensive joy-ride through the wonders that I've ever read.
100% recommended.

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Saturday, March 23, 2024

Witch KingWitch King by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really fun read. I was totally down with Kai, the Witch King, from the get-go. It never gets bogged down, switching effortlessly from the aftermath of a great betrayal, waking up mostly dead and having an adventure, to perfectly-paced flashbacks from when he DID become the Witch King.

All told, it was just really fun. It helps that he's a pretty good guy, for a demon -- and the Hierarchs are pretty horrible. For an epic fantasy-type, it really has all the earmarks of a great popcorn fiction read. I won't say it is the best, ever, but I had a good time, so that IS something.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

A View from the Stars: Stories and EssaysA View from the Stars: Stories and Essays by Cixin Liu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, here's the skinny: I hoped I would get a bunch of new stories and essays, timely or otherwise, regarding SF, science, prediction, or just the scoop on all his novels.

And to be sure, there was some talking about the novels, some about prediction, science, and the nature of SF. It was light, nothing deep, and the essays were, on the whole, solid, if not groundbreaking.

The short stories were good, but they were not new. I had read them in other locations. As were, oddly, most of the other essays.

It might be a pretty good book for anyone just getting started with Cixin Liu, or for those who have read at least the trilogy, but I was slightly disappointed that it was mostly all a re-read.

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The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval WorldThe Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World by Shelley Puhak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This history book really hit the spot. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Merovingian princes, but this particular focus on the strong QUEENS that were the power behind some of the most bloody times, just before and after 600 AD, was a brilliant piece of shading-in for me.

Early Medieval times, a good stretch before Charlemagne, are quite romanticized now. Getting this breath of realism, not just convoluted white-washing for the men, reveals a number of strong, intelligent women embroiled in some rather convoluted politicking. The French Royal line was never quite as barbaric as we are led to think. So much of history is erased by the successors. But in this case, it's just the church and the men who went so far out of their way to erase THESE particularly smart and strong women -- because of their successes.

I know it's kind of a thing these days to glow up women in either history or mythology, and it is what it is, but frankly, I'm impressed by the amount of meat and bones on these particular Frankish women.

This isn't weak history. It's very fascinating.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Wicked Problems (The Craft Wars, #2)Wicked Problems by Max Gladstone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cannot recommend this series enough.

Indeed, it is not only fantastically written, practically overflowing with great lines and references and wordplay, it is also one of those rare, beautifully blooming world-building exercises that straddle the fence between the oh-so-familiar and the expertly sharp Lovecraftian-mythos-turned-legalistic-actuarial-oligarchy.

Sound too complicated?

Yes -- and no.

Max Gladstone is one of those writers that can suck you in, make everything JUST FINE -- right before he throws you into godzilla vs cthuhlu scale conflict.

So why isn't EVERYONE reading these Craft books?

Honestly... I have NO IDEA. They're WILD, creative, emotional, and exciting.

In this particular novel, we get to have ALL of the great PoVs that came from the original 5 book series in what could only be described as an Avengers-Level narrative.

And here's where *I* love it most: As I read all of these, originally, I was giddy with the idea that it was pulling off a Charlie Stross Laundry Files moment, but instead of secret service, it was legal challenges, industrial espionage, and ELDER GOD corporate wars.

Not only do we get all of that here, but it just keeps raising the stakes.

Now, was I rather surprised to see it go in quite this direction after Dead Country, where it felt so down-to-earth and shaped like a western? Yep! But getting back into the lovecraftian-fueled big cities IS a fantastic literary device, custom tailored to keep us on our toes or skeleton wings or alchemical marriages.

My only desire is to turn EVERYONE on to these wonderful novels, to make sure that they never get lost, that they become as truly big as they OUGHT to be.

Quality is quality, and these have it all.

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Monday, March 18, 2024

One Salt Sea (October Daye, #5)One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-Read 3/18/24:

I think I liked the core conflict of the Selkies the most, with dear auntie's big ask, her sorrow, driving it all.

Stopping a war is all fine, of course, but some things go deeper. Family.

Original Review:

I am enjoying the series a great deal more than I had for the first few books, so much so that I'm afraid that I've reached the fandom stage. I loved the stakes on this one and things really changed in a good way. Sure, most people don't classify THAT kind of change as very positive, but it has given Toby a great tension that I kinda thought had been lacking. Perhaps I love the whole concept of murdering your darlings. At least the cat is free to explore. :)

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Saturday, March 16, 2024

Dead Country (The Craft Wars, #1)Dead Country by Max Gladstone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know why this book or the rest of the Craft series isn't getting so much more attention than it has. The worldbuilding is lush and deep, its rules-based magic system so gorgeous and legalistic even as it is so balanced.

But this one -- this was was so grounded, very much a western in its basic plot form. It was very surprised how much I loved falling into it, growing more lush in its fantasy and UF feel.

I always loved the Craft series, and this is slightly different, even though we're back in the PoV of my first, and favorite character.

Coming home is hard. Coming to terms with yourself and your connections to everything you've ever know, is even harder.

Highly Recommended.

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Dawnshard (The Stormlight Archive, #3.5)Dawnshard by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had nothing but a great time with this novella. New (and very funny) radiants on a trip across the open seas to foreign lands, learning great new Cosmere secrets and securing allies while also giving us a great story.

To me, this is just more of the great worldbuilding and core story to the rest of the Stormlight Archives. I can't see how it shouldn't belong in the huge core novels, other than the fact that it IS a side story.

But since I'm loving every part of the journey, I just can't separate a damn thing.

I LOVE the reveals and the new tech. :)

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Friday, March 15, 2024

Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3)Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 3/15/24:

I'm still enjoying the frelling hell out of this. I really appreciated all the focus on Dalinar's past even MORE on re-read. Especially when we get to the point where all my perceptions of this place -- and the other -- gets turned on its head.

No spoilers.

But, HOLY HELL what a ride THAT became! ;)

Original Review:

Holy c**p.

This was amazing.

I thought it was going to be hard to top the first two doorstoppers, but this one not only outdid the others in page-count but also in the quality of the storytelling. Every aspect of it was brilliant.

I'm not usually one to gush on and on about epic fantasies. Most are pretty okay and I can slog through and eventually enjoy certain ones like GoT all right, but a few really manage to jump right out there and grab you with character, world-building, and overall story with heart, rage, heartache, and amazeballs reveals that are about as far away from the usual as you can get but still slam you with the reality and inevitability. I'm talking about Dalinar.

I mean, sure, we get a lot of great stuff from Kaladin as he grows into his new heroic role and learns a lot of disturbing things about the Parchendi, including the fact that humanity is the invaders to this land, that we are the villains. And Shallan continues to grow as an illusionist and her love story is quite satisfying if generally on the backburner to the main action. Doesn't matter. I think I'll always love her and all her split personalities.

But even though we think we've learned a lot of things about the ultra-honorable Dalinar and we're satisfied with the fact that he's bonded with the Stormfather himself, the reveals regarding his missing memory is kinda shocking, to say the least. I mean, it's kinda flooring. And now all the unspoken and referred-to actions of his younger self now make a lot more sense. He's an animal. All about the passion and the Thrill. The blood-rage, the thing that consumes all. How did he get here from there? Ah, that's the trick, no?

Well, I can tell you all that it is all brilliant. :)

But don't just think this is all character development. Indeed, most of it is occurring during really fantastic scenes of action or during inopportune times. The momentum is maintained. And then there's a whole squad of flying, storm-riding heroes. Matter-altering women, master illusionists, blade dancers, immortal assassins, gods, and my personal favorite... the cognitive realm itself.

Oh, yes, we are treated to the homeworld of the Spren. A lot of it. And a very cool place it is. :) Nature spirits or creatures of pure thought, who cares? It's damn cool. :) And the reveals about humanity? NICE. :)

I think this one might be my favorite. It obviously builds on the previous novels, but it has the wonderful distinction of not just gliding. It pushes and strives for a lot more and I couldn't be happier. :)

Bravo, Sanderson! You've got a life-long fanboy here!

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Sunday, March 10, 2024

WeaponizedWeaponized by Neal Asher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The good:

This establishes the pre-EVERYTHING of the Polity universe, pre-Prador (tho, that war begins here,) pre-AI political dominance, pre-outright-Jain nastiness, and firmly sets the stage for what will be the first Polity novel, ending with the Prador War.

What's so good about this, if ya'll have read the rest?

It is closer to ourselves.

Indeed, we get a more tight look at colonization, needing to change ourselves to adapt to deadly planets, and the lines we draw or completely break when survival is on the line.

Indeed, this novel breaks out all the fun guns with outright transhumanism taking the front stage while a Jain-infested planet tries to kill them. How much of a monster can they all become?

I love this kind of SF. Sure, Asher has done even better in the future, but if we consider just WHERE this takes place in the full timeline, it works extremely well as a starting point for ANYONE interested in the series.

Fair warning, though: It goes all out bloodthirsty and does make a few assumptions about our knowledge of the full universe. It's a compromise, but for anyone wanting blood and guts, with alien, AI, and nanotech nasties, I can't recommend a finer action novel.

The bad:

There's nothing much new here for long-time fans. BUT, that being said, it IS still a fun ride and satisfies many hard-SF urges. Indeed, I can't get enough.

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Saturday, March 9, 2024

Spice and Wolf, Vol. 5 (light novel)Spice and Wolf, Vol. 5 by Isuna Hasekura
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Surprisingly, this light novel really clicked with me. Maybe it's because Holo and Lawrence are getting along a bit better, with less of the game-playing, but I think it's because I really enjoyed this one's plot.

The merchant intrigue was really quite fascinating this time.

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Thursday, March 7, 2024

Spherical Harmonic (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #7)Spherical Harmonic by Catherine Asaro
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Well, this is the first of the whole series where I was actively put off by the language. It was the super short, "Surge. Blah. Blah. Blah," stuff. I know it should have given me more descriptive impact, but it went on far too long and I was wondering if I was going through some cerebral infarction.

Getting beyond that, I was just trying to figure out what the importance of being a jungle-captive, which maybe didn't have to be so bad, but then it all boiled down to assumptions and piss-poor communications and then the obvious straw man of the Traders being the baddies, I started zoning out. Yes, it's the aftermath of the war, but these situations are now getting annoying. I may need to call it after this one.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Spice and Wolf, Vol. 4 (light novel)Spice and Wolf, Vol. 4 by Isuna Hasekura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A little mystery in a small village leads to a little bigger religion-centered conflict.

And yet, it still manages to be a cozy merchant/romance fantasy. And better yet, I didn't have to endure such a nightmare of horrible "let's prove his fidelity to me" hijinks. That, I hope, is DONE.

This one was a lot more comfortable.

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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Spice and Wolf, Vol. 3 (light novel)Spice and Wolf, Vol. 3 by Isuna Hasekura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All right, so, the others were pretty focused on making that money and being a little more honest with each other about their feelings, but THIS one made me AGGRAVATED.

To go so far -- on both sides -- to assume you're right, to take up big risks on the market, even going so far as to make the other angry to accepting a MARRIAGE proposal?

Okay, fine, this does sound like any number of romance tropes, even bad ones, but UUGGGHHH it is so frustrating to read.

And yet, it still works here.

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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Spice and Wolf, Vol. 2 (light novel)Spice and Wolf, Vol. 2 by Isuna Hasekura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This light novel is very much a fun light adventure featuring a ill-turned merchant and his befriended wolf-god, Halo. She's well on her way to wrapping him entirely around her finger -- but then, Lawrence sure seems to be doing a fair job of that, himself.

Very cute. I can't tell whether I enjoy the merchanting stuff, including getting into shady dealings, more than the romance. It's a seriously slow burn.

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Friday, March 1, 2024

Spice & Wolf, Vol. 01Spice & Wolf, Vol. 01 by Isuna Hasekura
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This light novel is hitting quite a few sweet spots for me. It's wholesome, for one.

A traveling merchant meets a wolf girl who just happens to be a god of commerce. She's cute, scary, and seemingly as lonely as he is. Most of the time, it's all business, but the rest is pure romance.

It's unusual enough to sit just right. :)

One of these days I may read the manga or the anime, but for now, I'm sticking with the original novella translation.

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Divine Might: Goddesses in Greek MythDivine Might: Goddesses in Greek Myth by Natalie Haynes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An intermediate overview of the female goddesses in Greek Myth, nicely tied to modern, even recent adaptations in pop culture.

But no worries, Haynes proves once again that she's got her finger on the pulse on the classics. An enjoyable read. Indeed, I take it back. It is also good as a primer on this subset of the Greeks. I particularly enjoyed the passages about Artemis and the Furies.

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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Machine Vendetta (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #3)Machine Vendetta by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the Prefect Dreyfus novels. It's a great blend of detective novel matching well with a high-tech belt of many hundreds of orbiting colonies in a system in Reynold's overall Revelation Space universe.

It is great because we get to see things at the calmest before the technoplague, but also because we see how they all lived at their so-called awesome SFnal height.

Not that things are all that calm or easy. A lot happened in the first two novels, but it may not be necessary to read those before picking up this one. It's pretty clear that the artificial (and one might say, derived human, advanced) intelligences are the biggest bads, or at some times, just really annoying. It's clear, however, that they are seriously formidable -- and one seems to have it bad for Dreyfus. :)

So very enjoyable. The worldbuilding is vast and complicated, but never a pain. The mystery is always the key, but the reveals are even more delicious.

Highly recommended for all you space-opera, hard-SF mystery fans.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Night Angel Nemesis (The Kylar Chronicles, #1)Night Angel Nemesis by Brent Weeks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went ahead and re-read the original trilogy in preparation for this, but oddly, I wonder if that was necessary.

Yes, it's great to know the growth of the characters from before, but really, there wasn't much of a direct continuation aside from things we'd have to learn afresh, anyway.

That being said, Kylar has issues. Guilt from what happened before (no spoilers) only grows into new, fresher pain and guilt through the events in this novel. It's fine, mind you, but he truly likes to beat himself up for a guy whose profession is ASSASSINATION.

I actually rather loved this book. It doesn't have a lot of the characters we grew to love except Vi and Kylar, except by off-action mention, but we DO have a lot of Kylar and his growing misadventures as he tries to save a baby or two. Of course, these are rather important babies, and the Chantry also wants them, so there's no lack of tension.

Indeed, the whole Nemesis part of the book truly seemed to be this one RATHER interesting guy who ALWAYS had Kylar's number, but upon reflection, I do think the true nemesis is Kylar, himself.

Great action, and a long, crazy adventure. And even if it is rather more focused on him, I didn't mind it.
Just don't expect this to hit quite the same highs as the previous ones. It's a slightly different beast.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Stephen Fry's Incomplete & Utter History of Classical MusicStephen Fry's Incomplete & Utter History of Classical Music by Stephen Fry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mild, brief Fry humor amid a nicely huge, or rather, broad, if brief, selection of music throughout western history.

No, there ain't no Greeks here. Let's start with the monks a-chanting, head on through the Medievals, the Madrigals, Renaissance, etc through Haydn, and what we've got is a very brief SURVEY.

But hell, that's fine. I enjoyed every second of it.

Um. Except the Madrigals. I hate chorals, too. I'm fine if we just stick with the boondocks of the Medieval period, or better yet, just give me ALL the "Sumer is icumen in" on repeat for approximately a full day of revelry right before some asshole lord comes in and kills my wife and takes my daughter. It is 1225 AD, after all.

That reminds me though:

It's 1364 AD

Imagine Guillaume de Marchaut’s Mass being played so somberly at Charles V’s coronation, only to have the tip-tops of the passage end with “ASSSSHOOOOOLLLEEEEE”

But everyone would be too embarrassed to stop the mass. The King would just be looking side-eyed at the composer, thinking how best to murder Machaut.

The music continues somberly, and then at the rise of the next chant, another “Assssholllleeeee” graces the pews.

No one dares to stop the music now. It’s holy, after all.

And then, another “Assssshoooollleeeeee.”

By now the king is going to murder the FUCK out of Machaut, but in the meantime, all the church, the nobles, EVERYONE, is snickering, having a horrible time trying not to burst out in laughter.

Near the end, Marchaut bows his head, saying, “Worth it.” to the person sitting next to him.

THIS is why classical music kicks ass. Even if it is apocryphal.

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Monday, February 26, 2024

Great Masters: Brahms- His Life and MusicGreat Masters: Brahms- His Life and Music by Robert Greenberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Muahahahahahaha I think I rather love Brahms. His music is bombastic and really appealing, but after this little lecture series on Brahms, the man, himself, is highly amusing.

He LOVED messing with people. Between his devoted care of the Schumanns, his undying hate of Wagner, his many, many fireplaced works that might have been lost brilliance, this damn guy ALSO loved to insult many people to their faces while staunchly defending them behind their backs.

He's just that kind of guy. And money? He always dressed threadbare, earned tons of money, and just did all he could to give it away as soon as people threw it at him.

In a way, I think ALL of that expresses his musical genius, too. He threw it ALL at us, endlessly gregarious and generous.

What a damn guy.

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The Inverted WorldThe Inverted World by Christopher Priest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 2/26/24:

Oh, Portugal.

Ahem, I mean, this really is a rather unique novel. I re-read it mainly because I wanted to give tribute to Christopher Priest, who died very recently. What a writer!

In this particular book, I am fascinated to see just how many odd perceptual plays mixed with outright different PHYSICS alterations to reality come together to create a uniquely human attempt to make sense of one's world. This is as true in this one as in the majority of all his other, equally wonderful novels.

They're almost all of them grounded so very well, curious, familiar, and intensely OFF in ways that would normally make most of us scream and run for the hills, but his characters are so -- used to.

It's truly wonderful and odd.

I have a theory about this one. Even though this was a novel from 1974, it's almost like we jumped ahead to ST:TNG warp bubble physics, but without spaceships, it's focused on the ground with a manually moving city that requires constantly laid tracks.

Does that sound odd? It should. And it actually seems to make all the sense in the world... once you get there.

Original Review:

This novel is actually all kinds of amazing when it comes to the exploration of a few core ideas and more than very decent when it comes to exploring humanity, perception, and irreconcilable differences.

The story is ostensibly a coming of age story, an acceptance of one's world, and then, eventually a deep dissent without a true solution, but it comes across so easily, so effortlessly, that I'm truly unsurprised that this was nominated for the Hugo in '75 and won the British SF award in the same. So the characters are good, the story is very solid... then what, exactly, makes this novel stand out?

The concept. An intersection of our Earth with these people's Earth. Not original enough? No problem. How about an infinite space of earth along a fluid time? The city is on rails, a direct concept that is carried over to Railsea, travelling slowly into the future and away from the past, which doesn't sound so surprising except when you realize that if the inhabitants actually walk in one direction or another, they actually explore the real past or the future. Infinite space along a traversable time, the inverse of the Earth we actually live in.

But this is where the story gets interesting. There's guilds and explorers and the crossing over along very predefined instants where the two Earths meet, and then we start asking questions about perception.

It's truly much more than this, but it gives you a nice taste and it's truly a grand exploration of ideas across many points. :)

Truly a great recommendation for any SF lover. :)

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Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2)The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 2/25/24:

After just finishing this again, I'm shaking.

What an amazing book. And not just for the implications for alien life and the Fermi Paradox, but for the strict interpretations of Game Theory, deep strategy, and the sheer imaginative scope of future, nearly impossible to avoid, destruction of humanity.

Some SF need serious read-throughs, and this one absolutely fits that bill.

A good deal of the opening is just pure characterization, but I think it all serves a great purpose, illustrating that a person's mind-set and willingness to be open to things, or even just trying to maintain happiness, IS a wildly excellent strategy in both the short-term and long -term.

Maybe we should all consider that.

Original Review:

Will the Dark Forest sprout the seeds of love?

It's an excellent question, even if it induces a deep pessimism and the likelihood of eventual suicide. And yet, this is exactly what we're asked to consider at the end of this excellent novel.

First things first. How does it compare to the first novel? Well, it's a very different read. I can even say it's sedate and deliberate, despite the axe being held over the Earth and all its inhabitants for hundreds of years. We've got a sociology experiment going on here, with lines drawn between optimism and pessimism, faith and despair, and it shows in everything that goes on in the world. In this respect, the novel is very much a product of the many classics of the SF genre that never need to rely on great space battles to tell a good story, and while there IS a space battle, and it's very interesting, it is by far and away the least important message that the novel is wanting to get across.

Strategy is the real plot motivator here, like playing an extremely long game of Go. Lies and the game of darkness is necessary and obvious from the start. Whomever plays the game best will manage to save their civilization. Humans? Or Tri-Solarans?

The secret is there all along, from the first few pages to the last few, and yet we have hundreds of years, societal upheavals, blackmail, and the unsatisfied desire to live a simple and good life.

I started the novel assuming that I'd have a problem with the characterizations again, as I did with the TBP. For the longest time, I just assumed that I'd be dealing with cardboard characters that were only there to promote and ultimately propel the story forward. (Which would have been fine, in fact, because the TBP was so full of wonderful ideas and scope that it held its own regardless.)

I honestly didn't expect The Dark Forest to actually hold up its main character, Lou Ji, to a higher standard and push him through the tale as strongly as it did. Perhaps, had I known that he'd be as strong as he was, I would have paid much closer attention to him from the very start.

As it is now, I'll know what I'll need to do upon a second closer reading. What was mostly unsaid was his internal debate, but that's no matter, because it was always there, mostly hidden in the same way that the Dark Forest hides all.

With some effort, though, his motivations and plan could easily be mapped and enjoyed as an omniscient reader, enriching the tale's excellent ideas with a truly heroic and sacrificed man.

Will the dark forest sprout the seeds of love? Who knows. But it's clear that Lou Ji plans to live his life under the assumption, up to and beyond the point of his greatest despair. I loved it. This novel is not an idea novel, after all.

Sure, it has plenty of interesting ideas, from turning fight vs flight into a moral and then a forced imperative, to assuming that the best way to fight transparency is with the occult. Speculative science took a serious back seat in this novel, but that's okay. We had plenty of other things to keep us busy.

As for the bad parts of this novel? Well, the translation of certain terms are extremely unfortunate. I can't tell you how much I absolutely hate the terms used for our heroes and our villains. Wall-Facers and Wall-Breakers? Seriously? Yes, I get it. You face the wall and contemplate how to scale it, planning move after move until you cannot be beat. Got it. Wall-breakers break the Wall-Facers. Got it.

But, my god, they sound so stupid in English. I would have been fine with a dumb name like Go-Masters or Chess-Masters. At least we'd have a better image in our heads than someone who sits like a dunce in a classroom after being scolded by the teacher. Seriously.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the stratagems between these contestants with the weight of the worlds upon their shoulders, even if it did seem a bit contrived that the UN would decide to prop up a few of their best and brightest to face off with the Tri-Solarans in a battle of wits. (The Tri-Solarans still have their molecule-probes, and they can place them wherever they want to watch and plan accordingly, so with this greater intelligence on their side, the UN planned to force all that intelligence gathering upon these Wall-Facers as either the heroes-that-must-be-beat, or one fantastic diversion to put the enemy off the trail. Not bad reasoning at all, if you can convince the enemy to fall for it. Fortunately, they did.)

I truly believe that the two novels go nicely with each other, and now, I'm even more excited to read the third, but now my expectations have been adjusted away from epic space craziness into the true beginnings of real communication and discovery. Again, shall we go over the dichotomies of faith and despair? I thought not. :)

It's a very thoughtful novel. I recommend it to everyone who loved the Three Body Problem with the caveat that you ought to expect a grand social and strategic battle of wits that showcases an understated and lazy hero who's only claim to fame is a deeper understanding of the stakes and the will to keep his mouth very tightly shut. (That part was very satisfying.)

Was it challenging? Yes. Was I slightly disappointed at times? Yes. Did I get over it? Absolutely. :)

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Friday, February 23, 2024

Masque World (An Anthony Villiers Adventure)Masque World by Alexei Panshin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm surprised that this little comedy of SF errors, with boorish family members and boorish ideas of parties ACTUALLY turned out to be an SF XMAS tale.

*takes note*

An XMAS SF, mildly humorous, customs-humor on a backwater world.

It very much has the feel of better-times and celebrations for no particular reason. Sometimes this is exactly what we might need in these dark days. :)

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Monday, February 19, 2024

The Thurb RevolutionThe Thurb Revolution by Alexei Panshin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's something nice to be said about genteel, clever behavior in a light comedy-SF, and it's mostly the fact that we hardly see anything like it in today's literature.

Why can't we have genteel social commentary anymore?

Oh, right, because that life seems to have moved on. And yet, this IS very nice.

The kind of revolution in this novel is probably not what you think. It's a handful of young men rebelling against a stodgy old general. The revolt is limited to running away, writing articles, and a bare minimum of a bear-trap.

And above all, POLITE SOCIETY.

I didn't realize I needed this.

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Sunday, February 18, 2024

Mort (Discworld, #4; Death, #1)Mort by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 2/18/24

YA Discworld? Check. New Job? Check. Making mistakes? Check.


So funny, so clever. A fantastic re-read.

Original Review:

Being one of the first and the latest of all the Pratchett reads, I'm really surprised just how much I loved this one. I'm upping the star count to a full five just because I think I liked Mort, the character, even better this time around.

DEATH on DISCWORLD. :) Seriously, there's nothing quite like it. Him. The personification. :) He meddles so much with humanity, tries to get drunk, and hires an apprentice. Not all in that order.

Death is the mewling cat at the party of life. :)

The story is a bit more interesting, I must say, than the ones immediately preceding it, and of all the books, I think it captures the essential spirit of all the ones to come after. High praise, no? I hope so. :)

Very funny stuff. :)

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Equal Rites (Discworld, #3; Witches, #1)Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-Read 2/18/24

I forgot how much I loved this one. Especially on the third read, I love piecing together all the bits and pieces that develop later with their origins. Simon, for example. The only thing I really miss seeing here is Ridcully. The current archchancellor has his charms, of course, and the sparks do fly between him and Weatherwax, but I think it would have been REALLY funny to have her opposite to Ridcully. That's just me. Fan fiction in my mind.

And that's also a bit of something, no? Discworld lives and breathes. It's EASY to live there. Just gotta make sure you don't take a tumble in the Ankh. That's were the dead people go.

Originalish review:

The Great Pratchett Re-Read Continues!

The third book begins the "real" development of the whole Discworld mythos, and rather than focusing on setting, it goes whole-hog (or Witch) into character and a rather deep social issue.

It is, at its core, a novel about breaking down the walls that the sexes tend to put up to keep the other side out. Witches can be wizards and vice-versa. :)

I didn't appreciate this as much the first time although I got the whole social bit perfectly... and mainly that was because I hadn't quite gotten as invested in the characters that would soon become the main driving force of the novels.

But now that I've had the pleasure of reading every novel, I'm fine. Just fine.

But Weatherwax seems to be not quite fully formed here. Isn't that odd? Or perhaps it isn't. This is the first time we see her and I have nothing but fond memories of the woman she reveals herself to be later. BUT, of course, such things always come with time. Thankfully, the wizard/witch battle was still brilliant. :)

Standing out was the Head Librarian, again, and Simon. And of course, our little witch was fun to follow but, unfortunately, she's not Tiffany.

Even so, I'm so glad to be revisiting all this! :)

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Saturday, February 17, 2024

Speaking Bones (The Dandelion Dynasty, #4)Speaking Bones by Ken Liu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit this capstone to the series deserves all the praise. Indeed, the whole Dandelion Dynasty is one of the most impressive epic fantasy series I've ever read.

It's the characters, the fate of two nations, and the so-impressively-amazing worldbuilding -- but it's also the investment WE the readers put into it. Ken Liu pulled off a real piece of literature here.

The two cultures are so fleshed-out, so amazing in their own ways, and so destructive. We get it all right here in this final novel. The full war, the many tragedies, the hope of peace, even greater tragedies, and eventually, a new chapter in the two cultures.

It's so vivid, heroic, devastating, and endlessly fascinating. I loved every aspect of the high technology/automation on one side and the wyvern-like beasts on the other. There's no real way to describe it than to LIVE it in the pages -- and that's what I would recommend for ANYONE.

This is really great stuff.

Like, truly great stuff.

I don't think I'll ever be able to forget it.

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