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Friday, May 31, 2024

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 17Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 17 by 理不尽な孫の手
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally getting around to getting the princess on the throne, and I have to admit this was rather great. Intrigue, big fights, overwhelming support, resolution of betrayals, and just... a really satisfying story.

I'm so glad I've continued with this.

What a wild ride it's been.

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I'm Afraid You've Got DragonsI'm Afraid You've Got Dragons by Peter S. Beagle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was slightly worried that it wouldn't be quite the polished fantasy, coming from an 84 year old (albeit, classic) fantasy author, but it was quit satisfying.

It hits most of the hard points: dragons who want dragons, discovery of self, changing your opinions, and a bit of solid, hard-earned love.

Of course, it's mostly about owning your dragon-heart. And this is so very important.

I recommend this. Definitely worth the read, and it doesn't hurt that it's an author we all respect -- and not just for his prose, but for all that he has gone through.

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Thursday, May 30, 2024

AccelerandoAccelerando by Charles Stross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I remember being blown away by this twenty years ago, being flabbergasted by the fantastically rich, almost line-by-line idea smorgasbord of this Strossian youthful exuberance.

It was my first taste of his writing and I was gleeful to be burst apart with the so, so bright idea machine-gun fire.

Singularity fiction may not be for everyone, but a bona fide Rapture of the Nerds is a glorious, if rather ominous, thing.

Enter Accelerando, a saga of three generations, continued, redux, redux again, and redux again as humanity finds its way to ever higher computational states, uploads, re-instantiations, and enough fantastic Easter Eggs throughout the text to choke a colony of post-lobsters in the Oort cloud.

Truly, I think this novel is one of the brightest, kick-you-in-the-pants, funky future SFs I've ever read. A cat that becomes an AI? Klein bottle Earth-instantiation? Lobster astronauts? Visiting a funeral as a cloud of avians?

Or how about the realization that all business entities, once they become AI constructs, turn into basic primordial soup when left to run on their base principles? Muahahahahahaha Faster and faster breakdowns of value turn everything into slime.

Truly, this is one of those unique books that should never be forgotten. The generational stuff is fun and quirky, even if it is also a bit weird, but goodness gracious... THE CAT. Muahahahahahahaha

Post-human SF at its finest.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 16Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 16 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Much like the previous light novel, it is a comfortable, relaxing look at home harem life while planning for an immense future battle against ungodly powers, but this one just pivoted its focus to another target.

What traveling is done, is made super easy and thankfully remains amusing. I mean, a library labyrinth with a demon god slime that copies out every written work ever? Like... YES, PLS, CAN I HAS IT?

Ahem. Still a fun series, no matter the light perversions it glorifies.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 15Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 15 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was rather hardcore. Defeating a god under duress has never been more fun.

Now we're getting altered timelines, curses, reincarnation (redux), and an awesome battle.

Well worth the wait.

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For Us, the Living: A Comedy of CustomsFor Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As has been said, likely many times before, this first work of RAH is special for the fans. Not because it is a brilliant, exciting work on its own, but for the fact that it foreshadows some of the ideas that later live rent-free in our heads.

On the surface, it's just a fish-out-of-water piece. A 1939 man gets catapulted nearly 150 years in the future, and must come to terms with an amazingly different culture.

In actuality, it's a long and preachy thought-piece on a UBI-like utopia that explains itself very well, in down-to-earth terms, and skewers the 1939 customs in a way that might have been more shocking were it not for the fact that we're practically living in the same damn situation.

His core premise? Everyone should have the liberty to pursue their passions. For such a lifelong Libertarian, even rather conservative, RAH pulled off an interesting feat: he totally supported UBI and a precisely controlled economy -- where no hoarding is available.

(Context, at the time, Roosevelt will have raise the tax rate on the 1% to almost 90% and erected a ton of social support networks that WORKED, and this was a SF novel that took it even farther.)

With the basic standard of living having a nice floor, everyone who DOES want to work, can find their callings without bully or fear. Those who do work, make a nice profit because everyone has the ability to support whatever they want. A capitalist network is still in place, but it isn't marred by zero-sum mentality, hoarding, or maliciousness.

When you consider our world, today, with a greater divide between the rich and everyone else, with the strong-arm tactics to keep us all down, a thinking-piece like this novel is like a breath of fresh air and clear thinking, explained well.

No, it's not a traditional novel at all, and indeed, it was never published in RAH's lifetime, but that doesn't make it any less interesting.

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Monday, May 27, 2024

BadAsstronautsBadAsstronauts by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn't even have this on my radar for years after having read Grady Hendrix. But here I am, going back to the start and laughing with the rednecks as they build Rocket Jesus out of the scraps in their back yard.

I immediately started pointing at the book (in my head) and said, "OMG it's Rocketship Galileo but with a wildly different cast of characters and saucy -- and sauced up -- language!"

And indeed, it is.

It's fun and funny. And let's face it, I think I'd rather have these guys have rockets over Branson or Musk.

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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 14Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 14 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the whole Brust feel, meeting powerful people in a floating castle, even returning to the Demon continent, and having a great little encounter with demon kings.

But it was the later part, the nice little plot reveal, that has changed the entire feel of the series... again. :)

Fun stuff.

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Bullshit Jobs: A TheoryBullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A truly wonderful book. David Graeber may have gotten popular by just posing a simple question, but the outpouring of RESONANCE with the rest of us made this anthropologist see the need for a much bigger book filled with study after study, reasoning, demographics, a careful skewering of all official political stances.

But the point is blindingly obvious. When 40-50% of all jobs have their own workers wondering what the hell they're doing with their lives, either by the uselessness of their work, the mind-numbing, soul-crushing idiocy of constantly duct-taping a broken system, checking off boxes that lead to nowhere, and the rise of just trying to look busy at all costs when there's nothing to do, there IS a problem.

The author goes over everything, mind you. All the arguments why this obviously isn't the case, the loud, screeching mentalities that say it can't be the case, and all the actual self-reporting where people say it's absolutely the case, all the way through almost every industry.

A little tidbit, however: jobs that are absolutely necessary for a functioning society, be it teachers, sanitation, food production, or keeping roofs over people's heads generally pay the worst, as if to drive home the fact that those above them HATE them for doing something that might salve their souls. My words, not the book's.

We keep seeing it... you can either have a job that makes you fulfilled and you get paid peanuts, or you can you have a job where you sell your soul or even actively make many other people's a living hell and get paid a lot.

This is the premise. David Graeber writes about it wonderfully, carefully, with a ton of evidence, good reasoning, and goes into the causes, philosophies, and potential solutions.

If you want to get a good foundation on what those might be... I highly recommend this book.

It sure as hell punched all my buttons and made me want to write down all my own experiences.

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Saturday, May 25, 2024

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

There's a reason why so many people hold Mozart up as the best of the best, but his actual story is WILD. Between being a child prodigy, the rebellious rock star of the age, battling the jealousy of his peers, his utter, jaw-dropping brilliance in composing, and so much more, it's easy to come up with many, many theories.

Greenberg delightfully distills it down to some great common sense. He was not only composing everything in his head, just transcribing the notes fully formed, but he was a virtuoso in every other way, rocking all the instruments, being hell on apolitical wheels for his sponsors, and being just TOO GOOD at what he was about, often never being anything close to being appreciated in his lifetime. Some, yes, and those who GOT the music were blown away, but it was only repeated listenings and new generations that truly understood what they heard.

And this is no different then than today. Mozart is everywhere and still so very loved, and yet during his lifetime, he'd gone through so much craziness, only to be dumped in a communal grave at age 35, that it's enough for me to start screaming.

Well, maybe I'd couch my scream in the Magic Flute, but you know what I mean.

Great biography! Funny, pretty amazing, and rather more realistic, if not proven, look at his life.

Despite all that, a little part of my heart will always think the move Amadeus is cannon. :)

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Friday, May 24, 2024

PermanencePermanence by Karl Schroeder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I won't say this is my favorite space opera of all time, I can say it goes well above and beyond the average. If the point is to have fun, to grow as a person while running for a dream that practically landed in your lap, and then to discover you have a calling, then this book pretty much slams it.

It's highly balanced SF, with fun characters, well-thought-out worldbuilding (or rather, universe-building), interesting aliens, and mysterious spacecraft with twists as to their nature. We get to explore a lot of places, get into wild new troubles, and moreover -- it's satisfying.

There's commentary, of course, but the story and the journey is king.

Well worth it.

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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 13Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 13 by 理不尽な孫の手
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Happily grown family. Hell, indeed, this might be the most fantasy-related portion of the light-novellas. Growing up, growing wiser, and now, a featured harem.

The point isn't the harem, though. The storytelling is bucolic and wholesome and somehow regenerating.

No, nobody grew back any limbs and the dead didn't return to life, but life, itself, goes on.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 12Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 12 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Big changes, yet again. Finding Roxy, Rudy's mom, and big adventure -- but dark stuff happens, too.

I'm getting the impression we're headed to harem manga territory -- but it has heart and communication and understanding, so I can't really feel bad about it.

After this far into the story? We're in it for the long haul.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Moving Pictures (Discworld, #10; Industrial Revolution, #1)Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 5/21/24:

Ah, how I love Gaspode. And CMOTD. Truly, I love to hate CMOTD. He's everything we are today, and I hattttteeeeezzzz him.

Great re-read. These all tend to get better with every read. 3rd time now? Likely. And always a joy.

Original Reveiw:

This is a re-read and I'm upping my rating because, well, let's face it: this is the start of a brand new chapter in the Discworld and it follows the main style that I have grown to love over all the rest of the books. I was slow to love them at first, but as I continued to see Progress raise its great lumbering head above the trash heaps of Ankh-Morpork (from inside the river, of course,) I can't help but get all bubbly inside.

Memorable moments, and there are a lot of them going well beyond this review, include a certain wild dash of the head magicians, a certain talking dog, Mr. Cut-Me-Own-Throat, and of course the clever use of the old Greek "anamnesis".

And of course the lambasting of old-time Holy Wood. :) It's time has come.

(Sounds rather ominous, right?)

Quite funny through and through, too. And of course, it only gets better from here. The weight of the Discworld about to break the backs of a few elephants and a turtle. :)

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Eric (Discworld, #9; Rincewind, #4)Eric by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-Read 5/21/24:

Oh, those demon-summoners. They've got nothing on the bad luck of a single wizard. Sorry... Wizzard.

Original Review:

This is my second read and my reaction is pretty much the same as the first time.

Rincewind is funny.

Or rather, the situations he always gets into showcases the Discworld in awesomely epic ways and we always get vast adventures. Usually with some kind of weird sidekick and a healthy dose of Death.

All true, sure, but what if Rincewind was mistaken for a demon, summoned by a nerdy kid who insists that he is, because, after all, Rincewind came at his demon summoning. :)

Or how about Discworld's version of Troy? Meeting the Creator? Seeing the bureaucratic hell that is... um... hell? :)

It's a tongue-in-cheek romp and while it's quite hilarious and imaginative as hell, I'm caught in that unenviable place of having to judge it among all of Pratchett's other works rather than against the backdrop of all humor or fantasy books.

It's not my favorite Discworld novel. Not by a long shot. BUT it is a lot higher than some, and not even close to many of the later novels. Even so, I loved having Rincewind back again. :)

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Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 11Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 11 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thinking that Rudeus has a more efficient way to the other continent, he jumps off on a quick adventure to help his old family, while leaving his new family behind.

OF COURSE things won't go as planned.

This is all new to me, now, sine we're beyond the anime. I can't wait to spoiler myself.

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Monday, May 20, 2024

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 10Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 10 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

House, marriage, a little great home-life, and the slow tick-tock of things in the background growing to a fever pitch.

It's still great to see a little happiness and the beginning of Rudy helping to raise his sisters.

Good, wholesome stuff.

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The Brides of High Hill (The Singing Hills Cycle, #5)The Brides of High Hill by Nghi Vo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are a few things you really, really, really oughtn't forget. :)

This latest fantasy novella in the Singing Hills Cycle got a nice mystery turn going on, silmultaneously turning quite gothic and Silkpunk -- and then teakettles and -- other things -- rear up to exact a nice bit of fun.

Still enjoying the series! :)

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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 9Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 9 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit I'm a sucker for this romance. Hidden identity, mysterious circumstances, being SHY to the Nth degree, and eventually revealing yourself to your crush? So precious. :)

And it's ABOUT TIME. It almost got insane. To think it took this long to reach this stage!

Getting great now.

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Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Book of DoorsThe Book of Doors by Gareth Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This really hits the spot when it comes to fantastical magical action that just so happens to be rooted in modern realism. I feel like this is just about a bulls-eye if you like Claire North's work, really focused on characters and characterization while throwing a curve-ball in the form of books that bestow all kinds of magical powers.

Mind you, it's our world, but the magical aspects are still hard-core.

There are many more books besides the Book of Doors, but this one is the most fascinating one of all. It literally opens a door to anywhere - or any time. It's kinda OP. But the other people with different books are also rather OP, so we've pretty much got a book-lover's dream AND fantasy all wrapped in one.

Fun stuff. Worth the read.

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Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 8Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 8 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gone to school at long last. Of course, he's a bit OP at this point. Oh, well! Big man on campus... and picking up followers.

But what is the best part? Fitz. Of course. Fitz. Such a fun re-meet-cute. :)

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Friday, May 17, 2024

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 7Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 7 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sad, ED Rudeus arc.

Oddly, I rather enjoyed seeing him suffer a bit, make a few new mistakes, be lonely and depressed. It really establishes him apart from that good ole Gary Stu complex. But then, he really DOES have a lot of faults and goes through a bit more than a lot of shit, so I guess I can't really call him that.

It's just so EASY to come to that conclusion with all the genius OP bits.

I can't wait to see him finally go to school! It's about damn time.

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無職転生 ~異世界行ったら本気だす~ 6 (Mushoku Tensei, #6)無職転生 ~異世界行ったら本気だす~ 6 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It feels like the story is moving faster now. And yes, the manga and the anime are following this prime story pretty much perfectly.

Another huge turning point in this one. Death is hardcore, after all.

They head off to save Rudy's half-sister and mother and fun story hell happens. ... and then Iris happens, too. Sigh.

I'm having a lot of fun in this series -- again. :)

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Thursday, May 16, 2024

無職転生 ~異世界行ったら本気だす~ 5 (Mushoku Tensei, #5)無職転生 ~異世界行ったら本気だす~ 5 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Paul versus Rudy. I guess every family has its spats, but I really do appreciate how both were equally right and wrong at the same time. The actual fight was awesome, too.

Very happy with this fantasy series. All the direction changes are smooth and obvious once we get to them.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

WeywardWeyward by Emilia Hart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you're looking for a 3-parter novel that follows different generations of "witches" across more than 300 years, you might want to check this out.

It has the requisite men-being-assholes, ruining women's lives. It has journeys of discovery, sometimes even validation and/or vindication. It even has the standard line that women are obviously naturally tied to nature and that makes the superior.

The structure of this novel flits from views of all three women and eventually shows how they're all related. It's not bad, and it's exactly in the same tone I've read many times. Witchy women will win. Unfortunately, it feels, at least to me, as if it's running over ancient ground. I won't say that isn't great for potential readers, but I've been reading things quite like this for over 30 years and it just seems to grow with more hate for men and even more with the 'women are only held back by men' storytelling.

I'm tired, boss. It's just another kind of propaganda, as if we aren't all responsible for the entire mess, together. So, yes, tons of bad men out there -- so maybe we should all work together for once in a moon? But then, maybe certain readers only want this outcome. Overwhelming the readership.

But for me? I'm a pretty sensitive guy. I love to immerse myself in so many different ideas -- but that's actually kinda hard when I'm represented, over and over, as the source of all of women's hardship.

So, even if I think this novel is technically pretty good and the three women have decent arcs, I find myself depressed and hating the world. And for that? I give it 3 stars. Maybe it's not fair, and maybe no men should have anything to do with this growing genre of literature -- not if they want healthy role models or any kind of self-esteem. Or for that matter, for women who might think it a good thing to challenge and correct the men in their lives to be better, to do better.

Most WOULD be open to it. We can't assume that all are like the loudest and stupidest in the media.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2024

無職転生 ~異世界行ったら本気だす~ 4 (Mushoku Tensei, #4)無職転生 ~異世界行ったら本気だす~ 4 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Solid fantasy light novel, but it should be said that it is the direct source of both the manga and the anime by the same name. (English speakers, please present Jobless Re-incarnation).

Fun? Absolutely. This kid is a horny but still ethical kid that just so happens to be a fantasy reincarnation of a dirty middle aged man. Sound icky? That's kinda the point. He LEARNS. It's pretty wholesome.

Beyond that, this fourth volume is focused on leaving the Demon Kingdom, while on the way home, hijinx ensues, with a good long look at the Beastman Kingdom. I like how there's a lot of friendship-building going on.

Again, not my favorite story-arc, but better than the last, and definitely a built-up for the good stuff to come.

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Monday, May 13, 2024

Möbius: The Timeless ArtifactMöbius: The Timeless Artifact by Brandon Q. Morris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The good: fairly well thought out theory of time borrowing from Carrol's theories, but insisting on an eternal computational now that can run either forward or backward, depending on your instance.

Confusing? Not really. The novel spends a goodly amount of time explaining it, building up to aspects that flows into a somewhat interesting plot focusing on the exploration of the same concept.

Bonus points for the fascination with topology.

The bad: the plot is barely a vehicle for the concept and the characters and dialogue are well into the category of meh.

I'm glad I finished, but I was floating in a vast sea of average for a good deal of the book.

And yet, I DID like the focus on the science and the math. The research is real.

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Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood with Stops Along the Way at Murder, Madness, Mayhem, Movie Stars, Cults, Slums, Sociopaths, and War CrimesBecoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood with Stops Along the Way at Murder, Madness, Mayhem, Movie Stars, Cults, Slums, Sociopaths, and War Crimes by J. Michael Straczynski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 5/13/24

So, I got my best friend to watch B5 and it not only was a big success, she became a huge fan -- so much so that she wanted to read Joe's autobiography. I said hell yes because Joe happens to be one of MY heroes. So, I'm reading this again and I'm amazed AGAIN at how much the man went through even before he struggled as a writer.

The rest is utterly fascinating to me, too, but trying to figure out what I like more? It's almost a toss up between the RL stuff and his fiction.

The title is Becoming Superman not because he's indestructible. It's because a good person has to live by their values no matter how hard it can be.

As an INFP, this is practically everything to me, too.

Original Review:

J. Michael Straczynski has been on my radar ever since Babylon 5 aired. Being a writer, myself, I liked to pay attention to stories and attach them to their creators no matter what the medium was, and Joe Straczynski had quickly become a superstar for me.

Honestly, I would have just read this book for all the cool projects he had been involved with, from a large handful of He-Man and She-Ra, to the first (good) season of The Real Ghostbusters, to Babylon 5, to his writing and short acting debut within Thor (being the first man to find the hammer), to his long comic runs of Spider-Man and Superman, to even Sense8. And all of this is included, and a lot more besides. I wanted to rage, cry, and whoop for joy with Joe. I STILL can't get over the fact that he's never seen a cent out of Babylon 5.

But this book, strangely enough, is NOT really about that or any of the other projects. There's a lot of detail, sure, and it was fascinating as hell, but the real story is Joe's life.


I can't even really BEGIN to tell it. But suffice to say, he has gone through some major shit. His father was a real piece of work, and just let me mention this: I've read a LOT of books and this asshole ranks up there with fictional douchebags that are written AS sensationalized assholes.

I'm frankly amazed. By any normal standards, Joe should be a broken man taking the usual route of continuing the old tragedies, but he consciously used his parents as a model of what not to do and broke a completely new trail.

My words cannot do any of this justice. Joe writes one hell of a good story about his own life and backs it up with a lot of supporting research, but the spoilers are VERY hardcore. I can't just come out and SAY them because this was not just an autobiography -- it's a THRILLER.

Suffice to say, I think this book belongs on everyone's bookshelf. It not only demands respect in and of itself, but so does the man. He is a model of perseverance at all costs. He has NOT had very good luck, no matter how self-effacing he is in his prose. He's gracious, a good man, and not only is he an utter nightmare behind a typewriter, but he's also one of the most prolific writers out there. He wrote almost every episode of Babylon 5. But most importantly, he knew how to take a beating and NEVER BACK DOWN even when the big boys in the networks or the censorship brigades demanded that he change the basic story.

He never settles for less than the story he was made to write.

Of course, this strength had to come from somewhere. He went from having Superman in the comics save him as a kid to having saved Superman as an adult. I'm telling you, this man knows how to tell a FINE story. :)

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Sunday, May 12, 2024

The Day of the TriffidsThe Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Oh lordy, where to begin with this one? It's only one of the earliest, most fantastic apocalypse, post-apocalypse SF novels, with lumbering, spitting, man-eating plants becoming the dominant species of Earth after the grand majority of humans get blinded by strange lights.

So classic, almost even timeless, Triffids is the de-facto template for so many great novels and movies. Sure, we could point to War of the Worlds, but that was mostly straight war, not bothering much with normal people having to survive a VERY changed world.

Triffids succeeds on all levels, giving us the lingering taste of middle-class gentility and attempted civilization as whole cities stink with the rot of corpses.

What's not to love? Hoards of blind people being led about by a handful of the sighted? (Ooooh the allegories.)

In the land of the blind... we are beset with the hungry green. :)

I love this novel every time I read it.

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Saturday, May 11, 2024

Ultra-Processed People: The Science Behind Food That Isn't FoodUltra-Processed People: The Science Behind Food That Isn't Food by Chris van Tulleken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been reading on this subject matter for well over 20-25 years, with a continually increasing realization, over and over, that the real problem is in processed foods -- not so much fats, carbs, etc.

Here's the real deal. Shaming people for being overweight is becoming an increasingly stupid idea when greater and greater of percentages of people in certain parts of the world are in epidemic territory. It's not willpower. It's the FOOD.

When fresh foods made healthily are more expensive because they can't be kept fresh for almost indefinite amounts of time, when you can't mass produce them easily, both regular people and corporations have found it much more cost effective to use tons of chemicals to fake out a healthy meal, pretend to freshness, and seriously enhance, or even create a genuine addictive element, then we're running into the big, BIG problem of capitalism.

When we're faced with big corporations, be it Coke or the consolidated monsters of the aggro community, it's all about the bottom line. Constant growth, constant new profits. So, make the product addictive, process it to an inch of its life, make sure that people keep consuming.

The problem is multi-fold, of course, but the big one is the cycle that keeps the profit margin growing, be it massive advertising, squeezing out any and all alternatives, outright lying about the effects, whether in studies, marketing, or pushing deregulation and giving kicks to the government.

We know WHY it keeps going. But this book also goes into the SCIENCE and a full review of all the studies, including new ones, that point to the real facts: that these processing methods, including zero-sugar alternatives, flavor enhancements, spoilage prevention, all lead to very hard-core changes to our gut's biome. Sugar-free items do approximately nothing for weight loss. They're on the same level as sugared items. On the other hand, because so many of these chemicals are designed to make you feel like you could consume forever (or actually make you malnourished) then we're all constantly taking in a vast extra amount of calories despite being careful.

And this, in my humble opinion, is probably the most outrageous trap that we've all fallen into. Yes, all these processed foods are cheaper, but even while they might be considered neutral for your health, they are tricked, chemically, into making us want more and more of it. In a word, exactly like an addiction. A chemical addiction.

And THAT is fantastic for the bottom line. For them to replace all real food so they get rich. Cornering the market is more like creating a market of slaves.

And we let it happen to us. Fast food everywhere, plastic wraps on massively modified food products everywhere else. Chemicals that look like the ingredients on degreasers and shampoos, ingested hungrily despite decades of warnings against it.

And all because it is convenient -- and because all our safe alternatives are either hard-to-get or time-intensive to use.

We've all been had. We let it happen to us. All of us.

And let's make no bones about it: we ARE in an epidemic. None of these companies have any incentive to do the right thing. And we are forced into worse and worse choices.

Cook for ourselves? Sure. I'm doing it so much, too. But it isn't enough. Marketing will lie to all our loved ones, our children, and we few are like lone voices in the wilderness. We have to make a change, but big money won't be able to profit off it.

This book is great, by the way. It's VERY rage-enducing, but in a good way. I love all the focus on the science. It's a proper update for today.

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Friday, May 10, 2024

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 3Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 3 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Probably my least favorite sequence in the series, it was still pretty okay. Running around in the Demon continent after the great shake-up, being protected and growing up with a master demon swordsman, and dealing with racism -- it was okay.

But honestly? I'm much more interested in all that comes after. :)

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Thursday, May 9, 2024

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 2Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 2 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm reading the Light Novels well after having seen the anime AND reading the Manga. Why? Because I want to see if I'm missing anything! Also, when I get far enough in the series, I can lord over everyone else by knowing things nobody else knows.... maybe.

Ah, who am I kidding? I'm just enjoying the story again.

Turning point, here we go!

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

The Causal Angel (Jean le Flambeur, #3)The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 5/8/24:

Post-singularity gods and a war in computational heaven. :)

As good on re-read, and so much better as the capstone of the full trilogy.

So much damn destruction. Just -- wow.

This is peak SF, right through each level. :)

Original Review:

I cannot recommend this trilogy enough. It's smart, has mind-blowing images, really fast pace, and ideas to absolutely kill for, and kill again, and even aim for a true death before causality does a flip and the spooky zoku decide that it's time to revoke my entanglements and I lose a few hundred gaming levels.

This novel really feels N-Complete. I'm satisfied in a way that I rarely get, and I have decided to plop these novels into my most favorite books of all time. Sure, there are flaws, but what is most brilliant about them are very, very brilliant, and I can't overlook the beauty of them. I'll definitely revisit all of these novels in the future. They all belong tightly entangled together, and it's so much more apparent now than it would have been by the end of the second novel, despite my faith in the series.

All I will say is, Prison, Prison, Prison, Freedom, Freedom, Freedom. What a gorgeous ride this has been.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2024

The Fractal Prince (Jean le Flambeur, #2)The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 5/7/24:

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this series has got to be one of my all time-favorite SFs ever.

If anything, the second book is better than the first. Or perhaps, I just LOVE story-within-story stories more than anything else.

But here's the real scoop: There's nothing about this novel that I don't love.

That's right. It feels like perfection. It has wild future tech and a post-singularity universe, but it feels like a glorious romance right out of The Arabian Nights while simultaneously being a continuation of a hardcore Arsene Lupin novel.

I love everything about the Earth here. The wild code, the stories, the great tragedies, the Wrath.

But the end? My god, it blew me away.

This is going to be one of those novels I will always treasure.

Original Review:

“On the day the Hunter comes for me, I am killing ghost cats from the Schrödinger Box.”

I luuuuurve this opening line. His craft is exquisite, so far.

Update: The imagery is almost better than anything I've read in either sci-fi or fantasy. If you took out the better and deeper images from all thee matrix movies, threw them up against the wall with jinn and fairies and the greatest heist mysteries, heavily spiced it with near-impossible mathematical concepts and theorems that really need some deep explanations you're not going to even remotely get in this text, (save S. cat, but he gives a quick explanation for this one, although its been done in sci-fiction a lot already), you stir in planetary intelligences, diamond cities that crashed to earth, slow and quicktime peoples, AND warring sisters, then maybe you've got the first gorgeous fifty pages of this book. And don't forget to keep a copy of your mind before you read, or you might just lose a copy of your prime iteration. I want to give this 6 stars. Have I been waiting for something like this all my life since Singularity Sky? Maybe. :)

A quote:

"So. Sightseeing instead. How about watching a transhuman mind have a Hawking orgasm? From afar."
Mieli smiles. A warm rush of relief washes over her.
"I bet you say that to all the girls," she says.

The entire novel is poetry and math and all told with brilliant imagery. I've decided to bone up on my quantum physics, too, just so I can appreciate the story more. I may be relatively unique in this respect, because I don't really believe that general readership of sci-fi novels just "decide" to understand quantum physics in order to more fully appreciate a novel they had just read. Well, to be fair, I've read popular accounts in the past and have enjoyed them immensely, even if I pick up on less than one-tenth of the math. Ok, maybe I'm not that odd after all in wanting a greater understanding. At least, in this case, I feel really justified and encouraged after reading this brilliant work of math/fiction.

So I finished it and I can only say: Wow.

Well, I can say a lot more, because wow doesn't do it a third of justice. Or even an irrational third of justice.
What I will say is that these two books have now jumped to my top ten favorite books list. Together, because I don't want to cause other injustices to stories, and I have a very great feeling about the next book.

While I ought to recommend this book to everyone, I doubt it will be to everyone's taste. But then does everyone like Blake, Shakespeare, Manly P Hall's Secret Teachings of All Ages? Of course they should... But they are all very very different than this piece which might need to be its own genre from now on. I'm tempted to just transcend here and put an end to my misery.
Read em, peeps. Just read em, perhaps three times. You'll see.

Update, second read.

I laughed and I cried. I got more out of the whole story angle than I did the first time, all of the stories within stories, minds within stories, stories coming to life and eating your children, your children coming back from the dead to birth stories that would later eat the Earth and help the dead child become the God King of the Gogols? OH YES. Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times yes. He turned a fundamentally metafiction concept into a hypercube and spun it out with such verve and beauty as to kick my mind in its ass. I cannot say how much I loved this book. Again, much better the second time reading than the first, if possible, but I can't regret a single instant.

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Monday, May 6, 2024

The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur, #1)The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 5/6/24:

Now on my fourth read, and I'll be honest: few novels truly GET me the way this does. High speed plotting enmeshed in post-Singularity thievery that includes mind, time-theft, truly high-tech baubles, bodies, AI ships, and Game Theory.

Add that to truly erudite writing, clever confabulations of new words, and a truly fluid re-imagining of a society that not only can upload their minds, but can re-fashion a whole world and everyone's memories outside of their bodies -- and how it could so easily be used against them.

What I love most about it is the imagination. The exploration of themes that very well might come to pass for us if we're not careful. But most importantly, this is an exploration WELL beyond the technology we have today, done cleverly and terrifyingly.

But does this mean it's inaccessible? Hello no! It's full of Jean le Flameur, thief extraordinare, and his thief-taker always in tow. :) Funny, brilliant, and full of great truly high-tech mystery.

This late in the game, I'd kinda point fingers at Alastair Reynold's Prefect series and Bank's Culture series as similar titles... but truly, I love this best.

Original Review:

I am very surprised and delighted by this novel. I half-expected an idea or a theme from Stephen Baxter's Flux, but was thoroughly captivated by such a deeply thought-out world and a complex plot. I didn't find many issues with plot discontinuity, as such. There were quick scene changes that might have benefited by a more overt transition or two, but that is a minor issue compared to the tapestry of worlds within worlds that this author has written. Very enjoyable characters, and the twists are fully supported by the main premises. I found myself thinking of new twists that could be supported by his frame and was surprised by more that I hadn't thought deeply enough about. I think I'll enjoy reading this novel again, and not too far in the future. First, I shall read his second novel and see how much more craft he's crammed into his writing with such giddy fractal twirls.

I understand that this novel isn't for the general audience, but I'll tell you straight: IT SHOULD BE.

If you like this, then I recommend Charles Stross's Singularity Sky and Saturn's Children and especially Accellerando. Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash and Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon and Anathem. I would be remiss to leave out other cyberpunk masters, but let's face it: the good stuff is in the post-cyberpunk worlds, dealing with all of the complicated ideas and deeper developments.

The deeper exploration is where this novel really shines. From a strictly craft point of view, I loved the poetry in the techno-babble that verges on a simple techno-babel and almost teeters into complete cognizance. :) Actually, I lie. The quantum foam and Q-dots made me giggle. I loved every second of it.

Great book!

Second read was even better than the first, especially after getting to know all of the terms and players. I loved the poetry in the text, the visual imagery, the requirement for every reader to throw themselves and their souls into the story, only to come up, gasping for air, not quite realizing that the water was highly oxygenated and we could have been breathing it all along.

I laughed more times, this second read. I am almost to the opinion that everyone ought to read this book, or better yet, this trilogy, at least two times through before making a serious opinion of it. Only after thoughtful consideration have I finally come to the conclusion that this meta-tale, this monolith of story, this dire-light, this cutting of an epic gordian knot has got to be one of the classics of literature. It is dense. No doubt about it.

But it is ever so much more rewarding than I had ever expected it to be.

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Sunday, May 5, 2024

Red RabbitRed Rabbit by Alex Grecian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a surprising novel. It's a western, foremost, but it slipped most naturally into witchcraft, demons, and took on many of the best aspects of, say Blood Meridian, while owning the dark fantasy.

A pretty great adventure, all told, with interesting characters and full of flight, chase, and discovery.

Definitely worth the read.

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Saturday, May 4, 2024

The Rolling StonesThe Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


1952. Heinlein YA, full of charming, curmudgeonly, lightly naughty SF adventure.

Nothing says wholesome quite this way -- uprooting the family, buying a spaceship, making a few risky trades throughout the Solar System, and most importantly: having a good time.

Here's the thing about early Heinlein. It's wholesome, snarky, charming, and more than a little devoted to good figures and good science. SF space adventure that isn't so dark, disruptive. No Body horror, no death or destruction.

There are hoodwinks and clever negotiations, exciting challenges in flight, and the general annoyance of people. In other words, it's clever, funny fiction from another time.

Believe it or not, THIS is true escapism.

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Friday, May 3, 2024

Under the Smokestrewn Sky (The Up-and-Under, #4)Under the Smokestrewn Sky by A. Deborah Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honestly, I do think this is a rather expected end to Seanan's Improbable Road YA fantasy -- the one that that is referenced to heavily in Middlegame, etc.

The adventure ends satisfactorily, with all the proper reveals and sage wisdom, referring to the journey much more than the end.

So, while I was somewhat charmed by it, I have to admit that I wasn't blown away. It was decent. It gives me something to look forward to with the proper Alchemy references in the main series.

I don't know exactly why I feel a little let down, but I do, and I can't quite put my finger on why.

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Thursday, May 2, 2024

Gulliver’s TravelsGulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


And yet, this will forever be a fantastic 4-part novel, neeeigh, a glorious satire.

Most of us have seen or heard of parts of Gulliver's Travels, but alas it is usually only in terms of a giant beset by little-minded little-people so stuffed up with self importance that they can never see the proverbial giant in their living room, or, in the second part, a little person trapped in a horrible commerce grinding machine filled with giants.

But to me, I'm a huge fan of the 3rd part: huge minds trapped in their own vices and certainties, living in floating castles in the skies, unable to see the truth under their feet.

But honestly? It's the fourth part, the place where the smartest, most wise horses, enslave the dirty, brutish, trashy Yahoos (humans) and the place where Gulliver finally succumbs to the worldview of his new masters that shines the brightest.

There is nothing more brilliant than the pride of self-hate, of decrying everything in yourself or your people, to bemoan the very sense of our own purity or goodness, to place the biggest capstone on this great edifice of satire.

What? Isn't it OBVIOUS that we're all the greatest dumbshits, assholes, backwards-minded, filth-wallowing, UNWORTHY species on the planet? -- Ahhh, neeeiiiiighhhhhh, you've been listening too long to these damn horses.

We are everything.
But that means, we're also better than we think.

But I also admit... the first time I read this, I, too, fell into the trap of the 4th. :) Careful! Some satires are STRONG. Neeeiiiighhhhh... brilliant. :)

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Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 1Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Light Novel) Vol. 1 by Rifujin na Magonote
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, I'm kinda backwards on all this. I first watched the anime, then read the manga, and now, at long last, I'm reading the original light novels.

I don't mind all that much. I'm enjoying the story and the origins and the Rudeus's development as a man. The fact that he DOES grow as a character is the very best part of this, not the cool magic or drastic changes that hit like drumbeats through the series.

Funnily enough, there's practically NO major changes through any of the mediums. The core is the same throughout. That's actually kind of amazing.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2024

The FutureThe Future by Naomi Alderman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I swing back and forth on this one. I want to really love the in-depth near-future worldbuilding and often do. I also sometimes enjoy the characters, the hide-and-seek aspects, the high-tech insertions, and the big "let's save the world from the apocalypse" concept piece.

I even didn't mind the techbros, even if I kinda always despised them and their wild shortsightedness -- but that's par for all we have now. Billionaires trying to save the world, huh?

Well, this novel has a bunch of the things that go wrong. Unfortunately, I sometimes felt myself losing interest in the some of the characters. I appreciate the chaotic mess of ideas on one level, but I had a hard time wanting to hold on when the somewhat weak romance fizzled in weak threads.

I'm sure others will get more mileage out of this. I DID enjoy the ambition, however.

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