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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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Friday, February 16, 2024

Late Eclipses (October Daye, #4)Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-Read 2/16/24:

I'm loving the true introduction to the blood magic and the reveal about Toby's lineage. I'm totally on board this re-read now and I'm excited to see where it goes... again. :)

Original Review:

The series is getting better and better. Any kinds of hesitation I had when reading the first three books are fixed and blown away by this installment. Maybe it's because Toby is getting a little power-up, and maybe it's because of the continued serious consequences that aren't rehashes of what has already come before. The repetitions are not overdone nor are they inappropriate. Better yet, I've got a big hankering for some later reveals. It's one of the greatest joys of reading. I've got the fire in my belly and I've got to eat another right away. :)

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Thursday, February 15, 2024

An Artificial Night (October Daye, #3)An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-Read 2/15/24:

Since I'm now revisiting the series, I just want to point out that I really DO like this novel in particular. The whole trip to Blind Michael's land (multiple times) was really dark and really adventuresome. It really took these books in a cool direction.

It also means a lot that we get a lot more personality out of a certain salty sea witch. I love that woman.

Original Review:

Some aspects of this novel were slightly repetitive, but that's ok since it drove the point home that thank-you's are a strict no-no. Unfortunately, too much of it drew my attention to the writing.

Otherwise, I thought that this was the strongest of the three novels. The very nature of repetition, including the conflict with Blind Michael, was the novel's main strength. I really enjoyed the conflict and escalation, and even the super-heavy focus on the candle worked into something more than a plot device. I've got the feeling, without any concrete proof, that the work has been drawn into something much more subtle than the very straightforward heroic urban fantasy that it resembles.

That's high praise, by the way.

The melodrama was quite high, and I loved seeing the hard choices being made. It was definitely a turning point for the main character.

On to the next in the series!

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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Every Time We Meet at the Dairy Queen, Your Whole Fucking Face ExplodesEvery Time We Meet at the Dairy Queen, Your Whole Fucking Face Explodes by Carlton Mellick III
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I needed something FAST for Valentine's day that just might hit all the right buttons for humor and horror, and since I've dabbled in Carlton Mellick III a few times in the past and always got a good chuckle out of it, when I read the title of this one, I knew it was going to be all kinds of cool.

I mean, it's absurdist, surreal, wholesome, and utterly disturbing all at the same time, but that doesn't change the fact that it's amazing, too.

Let's just get the elephant out into the open, first. The title is literal. It's simultaneously cute as hell and gory. But then, the entire story is, too. Even with all the collateral damage, the side-story of bullying, the horrible consequences of all the little excitements of life, it's still WHOLESOME while being absolutely anything but. :)

And it's PERFECT for V-Day -- especially if you, my dear little reader, are a twisted little freak.

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Monday, February 12, 2024

Edgedancer (The Stormlight Archive, #2.5)Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Lift in book 2 much better AFTER having read this novella, but like most things with this particular series, it only gets better on each subsequent read.

Lift, our newest Knight Radiant, is such a little trickster, so focused on food and just making sure that the forgotten aren't entirely forgotten. I love her so much.

I mean, seriously. Anyone that slippery as a thief, with THAT kind of a personality, that of a chaotic good, is always gonna be fun as hell.

I can't wait to see more of her.

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Sunday, February 11, 2024

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, #2)Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 2/11/24:

I have nothing truly new to add to my previous reviews other than I still love reading these books.

I laughed, I cried, I shook with rage and with pure joy.

A good tale is a good tale. :)

Re-read 11/26/17:

I had made a last-minute decision to re-read this epic series on the strength of the third book coming out a few days ago and far from being overwhelmed (much), I was actually knocked over. :)

I think what I most liked about this one was the characterizations. Shallan has come so damn far, but compared to the first book, it's a toss-up who has gone farther. Kaladin or her. I mean, just in terms of personal growth rather than outright power, it's head-to-head. I love it. That's not to say that outright crazy powers don't manifest because they do. In spades.

Shallan's quest to the Broken Plains is the most surprising and delightful and I think I'll say that most of the novel is made gorgeous by it. Kaladin's being torn apart by conflicting promises, compounded by his powers being locked in his honor, felt more like a tragedy until much later. His story made me whoop in delight at the climax. What a damn blow-out!!!

Talk about a big battle, big events, mind-blowing situation, right?

If I'm going to compare the two books, like-to-like, it's really hard to say which one I like more. The first book was more solid throughout and I suppose I like the Bridgeman-made-good story better than the Bridgeman-falling-into-tragedy, but by the end, none of that matters. The total satisfaction quotient for the second novel might be more than the first. :)

I'm so glad I did this re-read. I'm getting really attached to all these guys and I might seriously want to rank the series up there with WoT in my personal favorites list. :)

Honestly, this epic fantasy is resting high with a small handful of my personal favorites already and the future is very, very bright. I can't wait to dive into the third book for the first time, now!

Original review:

I had been waiting a long time for this second book, having been hook deeply by the end of the first oh so long ago. The despair and subsequent revelations were present in both, but this one was all about the greater story development. Characterizations developed wonderfully and at relative right angles to how they began, but the surprises were truly satisfying. If you want an epic, then here it is. Both novels are very long and a lot happens. It never gets boring.

Sanderson's talents at creating magic systems that are truly unique are still in full force, as is his ability to tell a great tale.

Cognition made into intelligent spirits, gods of thought, the binding of ideals; put like this, it's amazing that he could make a book that was about war and saving humanity from a truly world-breaking intelligent storm. Great stuff!

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Friday, February 9, 2024

Star WellStar Well by Alexei Panshin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, there was a lot of talk about clothing in this SF. But then, we couldn't have a light comedy of manners, complete with skullduggery and confidence games, without a well-turned cut of cloth.

The Star Well is a backwater space station that serves mostly as a watering hole and gambling establishment for the well-to-do of the galaxy.

Honestly? It was pretty fun, if not glorious. Its speed was genteel and dry and the narrator nailed it just fine. I feel like I was watching 60's Bond in space.

I guess that's not too far off, being published in '69. I'll continue.

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Monday, February 5, 2024

Beyond the Shadows (Night Angel, #3)Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read in preparation or better appreciation of Nemesis.

I think I loved this one than the prior two books combined. For me, it was more about the full culmination of Dorian. I loved how he returned home to fulfill his destiny. All of it was just so delicious. From the first time reading, I wondered who or what he'd wind up doing through the first two books, but I never quite imagined how crazy it would get by this one.

Kylar, et al, was also a much better story arc this time. The middle book definitely suffered from the middle book syndrome, but this one made it all freakishly cool in comparison. I loved the war aspects, how Vi and he work together. Of course, the whole thing about Logan and Kylar is SO them. Idealism and honor really causes so many problems.

I can ignore a lot of the teenager hormone storytelling from the previous books so long as it winds up kicking ass. As this does.

I'm surprised I enjoyed it so well again. I expected a modified opinion. But no, it's still solid and very, very fun.

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No Longer HumanNo Longer Human by Osamu Dazai
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came upon this book by a really weird route. Believe it or not, my daughter was watching an anime named Bungo Stray Dogs and turned me on to it. When I was getting into it, some of the names made my ears perk up. There was Poe, Melville, Dostoyevski. After looking up the list of all the character names, I discover that ALL of the characters are authors or poets, but most are Japanese. Indeed, one of the most important characters IS Osamu Dazai.

Blown mind.

So, of course, being the nerd I am, I'm reading those authors I don't already know, namely, the Japanese MCs.

Fast forward:

This is one hell of a great book. It is written very well, fascinatingly so. Published in 1948, Dazai's style reminds me a LOT of Kafka. The themes of faking it till you make it as a human, the utter disgust with himself, the deep, unexpressed depression, is damn sharp.

Indeed, the feeling of being a social outcast, of not GETTING all your peers, of never being quite REAL is very recognizable. Indeed, the slow decline, the inability to do what is normally expected of you, the staying awake all night simply hating yourself is very much a depressive state.

Feeling unfit for society, of losing himself in so-called pleasures, drinking, prostitutes, and later, hard drugs, is pretty much the capstone on the fundamental mis-match he made as a human with society, itself.

The fact that I recognize all these fundamental things in myself is just an example of the brilliance of the writing.

Now let me circle back around to the anime. I laughed my ass off when I recognized that the anime was pulling from events of this novel right into itself. That author obviously takes a lot from his favorite works and twists them into some pretty cool magics and settings. A bout with the communist party in No Longer Human ties to the Port Mafia, all the flirting with self-hate and death is nearly interchangeable with the MC. I'm not far enough in the anime yet, but I can't wait to see how badly the romance will go.

I can thank my daughter for accidentally turning me on to this Japanese classic.

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Sunday, February 4, 2024

ExordiaExordia by Seth Dickinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was originally thrilled because this is a new book by the author of The Traitor Baru Cormorant and sequels, all of which I loved for their focus on the economics and the utter brutality. Yes, I know both can be one and the same, but bear with me.

This book was also brutal, but not in the economics sense.

This one is a frankly amazing alien-invasion novel that starts out like it could have been a BETTER, even funny, first-contact scenario. And yet, it becomes seriously DARK. And not just dark, but intelligently dark, well-grounded in geopolitical history, realistic political ramifications, secrecy, and worse.

The focus of sacrificing a few to save many is all throughout this, and in a very real sense, is one of best portrayals of evil I've ever read.

Sure, it seriously became Mil-Sf early on, and military tales are not usually easy or pleasant to get through, but this one is hardcore tragic and disturbing. Realistic, too. This isn't a silly, light SF war tale where intrepid heroes save the day.

It's savage and heartbreaking. It's also a fascinatingly complex tale grounded in real considerations, maybe even hitting far too close to home. Manufactured consent as a tool of warfare IS damn serious.

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Friday, February 2, 2024

Liza of LambethLiza of Lambeth by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Muahahahahaha. This is an odd one for me and no mistaking.

On the one hand, it's awfully melodramatic like so many turn of the 19th century novels were. We have our spritely, lively heroine trying to drag herself out of the London gutter, and she really doesn't seem to have a bad bone in her body -- and yet she becomes an ADULTERER. *gasp*

I honestly didn't find myself all that sympathetic with poor Liza, but I did get to a certain point in the novel where, if the roles of the sexes had been reversed, Liza would have come off quite splashingly. Indeed, the fisticuffs scene would have been fun. But it was at this point that I imagined that Maugham was having a bit of fun with us. It was his first novel, and while it fits the popular mode of the times so well, I just had this sneaky suspicion that he WAS making a point about the roles of the sexes (despite being cast as novel of class and poverty).

So, naturally, Liza suffers the grand fate of death by ADULTERY. Or is it a moral death? Anyway, so many heroines in the grand majority of popular novels up to this time tend to die by author's whim or moral platitude. Or bad drapes. Or something. And THAT was THAT.

Here's the thing:

I know this was meant to be a romantic tragedy, with Liza getting her just deserts and all, but I honestly just found it... funny. The whole thing. Like it was one gigantic tongue-in-cheek comedy.

This might be my modern sensibilities totally corrupting my sense of period literature, of course, but it didn't stop my knee-jerk reaction to laughter.

Once I stopped taking any of it seriously, I had a great time. The only thing that would have made this truly brilliant would have been a god-like narrator sweeping in at the very end to say, "Oh, well, moving on..."

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