I have not read the series in which this novella is set but that didn't interfere with understanding what was happening. Chu manages to include enoughI have not read the series in which this novella is set but that didn't interfere with understanding what was happening. Chu manages to include enough background so that any attentive reader can pick up on "what's what."
Cameron Tan, the son of the series' protagonist, now hosts the alien consciousness, Tao, and is being trained up to become a Prophus agent. At the moment, though, he's on a college study-abroad program in Greece trying to bring his grades up when the Prophus' rival, the Genjix, unleash the long-expected war against them and he and his friends are caught behind enemy lines with vital information. The novella is the tale of Cameron learning to lose his soul to become the "good" agent he needs to be to ensure the Prophus' victory.
Is the story worth reading?
I gave this three stars because I liked it well enough but if I were to refine that rating, it would be a 3.1 or 3.2, at most. I wasn't taken with or interested in Cameron, and the concept of an alien species hiding out amongst humans is a well-worn trope. I was reminded, just off the top of my head, of Philip Jose Farmer's The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, Parke Godwin's Waiting for the Galactic Bus, A.A. Attanasio's Merlin/Arthur series, and the film "The Hidden" with Kyle McLachlan (1987, IIRC). All of which - from my impression of the writing shown here - were more interesting and better written (or filmed).
A guarded recommendation, then. I'd probably enjoy the novels at the same level but if reviewing that year's reads, I might be hard pressed to remember them.
A better title for this book would be "The Islamic Face of Imperialism." At least the first half of the book, where Karsh looks at the expansion of IsA better title for this book would be "The Islamic Face of Imperialism." At least the first half of the book, where Karsh looks at the expansion of Islam and Islamic states throughout the Middle East and North Africa up to 1918. (A major weakness of the book is the author's neglect of sub-Saharan Africa and points east of Iran.) For me, this part of the book is unproblematic. That religion has been used since recorded history began (and certainly before) to justify the means and ends of all sorts of polities and their ambitions should be obvious, and Karsh is good at showing how Mohammad and his successors from Abu Bakr down to the last Ottoman sultan were masters at it.
The second half of the book, however, reads like something else as Karsh abandons any references to Islam as a religion and focuses almost exclusively on the (secular) activities of the Moslem Brotherhood and the Palestinians. This part of the book wasn't bad. Though Karsh is an Israeli academic, I thought he was remarkably fair in his explanation of the situation in the Middle East. The problems I had with this section were (1) it did appear to be a change of focus from the first part of the book and (2), for all his objectivity, in his attempt to prove his argument that Islam is at the root of all the problems in the region, Karsh absurdly downplays or ignores any actors outside of Arabs and Moslems.
So it's another one of those guarded recommendations. I can't wholeheartedly praise the book but Karsh has some interesting things to say and presents them in a well written, thoughtful and reasonable style. For example, his analysis of the Palestinians' inability to respond effectively to Zionism was insightful. As well, his contention that Islamic political/social theory has not developed in the same way as the West's and that, as a result, neither side understands or can adequately respond to each other....more
The two-star rating is an average of the four long short stories (short novellae?) gathered in this collection.
"Goddess at the Crossroads," written byThe two-star rating is an average of the four long short stories (short novellae?) gathered in this collection.
"Goddess at the Crossroads," written by Kevin Hearne and part of his Iron Druid series, is a bland, forgettable, not-well-written tale about the narrator's encounter with Shakespeare and the real-life witches who inspired the Scottish play. I've seen Hearne's name before but if this story is a reflection of his writing style, I'm not going to be seeking out any more of his work.
The same is true about the second entry, Laura Bickle's "Ashes." The writing is bland, the characters uninteresting, and there's nothing to recommend it to the reader.
The last two entries save the collection. The quality of writing and the interest I took in the characters in both stories are like night and day compared to the first two tales. Aliette de Bodard's "The Death of Aiguillon" is set in the world of her novel The House of Shattered Wings but it's a standalone and the reader doesn't need to know about the Fallen or the circumstances of war-ravaged Paris to enjoy this story about a woman who realizes that the price for comfort and security is sometimes too much to pay. A similar theme pervades Jacqueline Carey's "One Hundred Ablutions." I'd be hard pressed to say which one I liked more; both are pretty good.
I can't recommend purchasing this book but if you see it at the library or in a used-book store, you might consider it for the last two stories' sake....more