I was in 5th grade. Twee and silly, even if you are a kid. Like so many animal stories, I think this one is ruined if you actually have any experienceI was in 5th grade. Twee and silly, even if you are a kid. Like so many animal stories, I think this one is ruined if you actually have any experience with the animals in question. In real life, rabbits are annoying pests that taste good fried or stuffed with orange sausage dressing. If you don't cull the population, they'll breed and eat themselves to starvation. Their ecological role is to be eaten. It's essentially their purpose in life to provide a big strong link in the food chain. Something is supposed to eat them if you don't - generally speaking foxes, bobcats, various raptors, and the occasional weasel. Any time you read about someone praising how wonderful it would be for rabbits to eat your garden, you know they live in the city somewhere and never see an animal.
Regarding the author's intended commentary on sharing with the poor, it didn't really come off to a 5th grader - who read this as being commentary on ecology by someone with no understanding of it and wouldn't have connected this to the Marshall Plan even in context - and looking back as an adult, find his characterization of the needy to be condescending patronizing crap. My understanding is that modern printings are edited to be more politically correct because condescending and patronizing was apparently his thing.
Far and away the weakest Sanderson I've read. Features a stock Sanderson plot with stock Sanderson characters, but simply doesn't jump through as inteFar and away the weakest Sanderson I've read. Features a stock Sanderson plot with stock Sanderson characters, but simply doesn't jump through as interesting of hoops along the way. While the magical system is as always interesting in itself, the story isn't engaging and the pastiche setting vaguely based off of the real world seems to serve no purpose and is ultimately distracting rather than vital to the plot. Or in other words, this is unusually bad world building for a Sanderson novel, and a high fantasy setting would have probably served him better.
Much more looking forward to 'Firefight' than the upcoming sequel to 'The Rithmatist'.
It might however be worth noting that my 9 year old enjoyed it much more than I did, so, if you are 9, perhaps that ought to be taken into account....more
I'm having an increasingly love hate relationship with this series. The early books in the series had enthralling build ups but very weak endings. StrI'm having an increasingly love hate relationship with this series. The early books in the series had enthralling build ups but very weak endings. Stross seems to have overcome his problems building interesting exciting finales, but the books themselves are getting more and more boring in the lead up.
And I'm really beginning to loath Bob as a narrator. It's getting to the point where I'd be ok with Bob being eaten by some tentacle cosmic horror if I could just get his overly self-aware, self-important, not as funny as he thinks he is, hipster meme dropping self to just shut up. Really, as an exercise in realistic creation of a semi-autistic English IT nerd, I have to admit it's pretty convincing, but Bob is turning into one of those pathetic nerds that irritates even other nerds. Sadly, I'm more and more convinced that the reason Bob's characterization is convincing, is Bob is just Charles himself.
Backing up a bit, my first encounter with Charles was through the 1981 edition of the Fiend Folio, which was unique in being largely the creation of the UK branch of nerds rather than the Wisconsin clan. One problem with this novel is if that if you don't understand what I just said, you won't understand the novel either. On some level as a geek I like that Stross doesn't bother to explain himself to the reader, but if he's going to do that he should go full bore and stop putting full summaries of the setting and recaps of past events every 20 pages. But even more so, I'd just rather he stop trying to prove he's a real geek and just get on with the story telling. Seriously, at this point adding oblique references to Numenera and the hundreds of other geek bits of the moment is doing nothing to make this a better story. It's all wink, wink, nudge, nudge and let's see how many geek bonus XP we can earn if we reference some obscure element of the first episode of the original Star Trek, etc.
But any way, in Fiend Folio Charles came up with the idea of the Slaad. Now the truth is, that the Slaad were a mix of genius and epic fail. They were genius enough to survive as beloved reoccurring content for a particular sort of geek, and epic fail enough that everyone that has looked at them seriously has said to themselves, "This is (almost) totally wrong." It's not that they weren't cool enough, it's just that back in those days if something was supposed to be an embodiment of Chaos, no one really thought very hard about what that meant and the resulting creatures aren't really actually very good at embodying chaos as a concept. Instead, they are a couple of good ideas married to a couple of bad ideas that basically makes them a kind of demon-lite. Mechanically, they served a very important role in D&D in that they were one of the few monsters that had actually been written to realistically provide a challenge to high level PCs. Conceptually they may have been light weight demons, but mechanically they were foes++. As a game token, they worked really well. As reification of some idea to toy with in your intellectual space, they just didn't - solid crunchy play things on one level and half-baked never refined ideas on the other.
That's largely what the Laundry stores have always been, except that at least back in the day - as he was with the Slaad - Stross was a content provider. In these latest works, Stross seems less like a content provider and more like a content aggregator that is half Google web crawler and half 'Will it Blend?'. Every paragraph dumps 50 meme references so that I really think it would be possible to reconstruct Stross's browser history in detail by pulling apart the novel, right down to which essays on The Guardian he read, which reddit threads he browsed, and on which days he visited DailyKos or DU to figure out what his colleagues across the pond were reading.
The result of this is that Bob is the only believable character in the series, and only because Bob is Charles. When Charles tries to give a voice to any other character in the series, it just completely falls flat. Now, as a DM I've encountered this sort of problem before. In my experience, 80% of RPers are only able to RP themselves. But in a session of D&D or WEG Star Wars or Delta Green, it really doesn't matter if the player can only be themselves, because its kind of cool to get answers to the question, "What would my friend do if he found himself in a burning building being overrun by 5th dimensional star vampires?" or "If my friend was secret agent, how would he handle a plot by occult shape changers to take over the government?" But it's a bit annoying in a novel, particularly a novel with such an increasingly one dimensional Marty Stu as Bob is becoming.
A bit of a spoiler here, but on page 1 of the book I guessed that Stross was going to kill off Mo. I'd seen it coming for a couple of books now. Mo is just getting in the way of Bob's increasingly sexy geek mojo. For the last three or four books, Bob would have been getting it on with a whole host of sexy eager girl super spies, if it wasn't for that whiny weepy ball and chain he has to go back to and which is a continual drag on his libido and sense of cool. It's clearly what Charles wanted to do, even as he had his alter self scrupulously adhering faithfully to his marriage vows.
Although everything in the story went pretty much exactly how I expected in every plot point, I guessed wrong about Mo', and I haven't decided for myself whether I think my guessing wrong is the best thing about the story because it means Howard/Stross has chosen the best angels of his nature, or whether I find it lazy cowardice as an author because Howard/Stross can now keep having his cake and eating it to.
Lastly, the story is no longer in the least bit scary. Stross still has never once excelled in terms of fear that moment Howard is racing across an alien landscape in order to close a door before something too big to imagine eats his whole universe way back in the first book. I hesitate to even classify this thin soup of totally scareless scenes as horror, except that by convention stories about vampires are in the horror category and Stross keeps name dropping to increasingly little point the Lovecraftian mythos. But when you are saving the Earth by sticking a sticker on it, it's long left horror and entered the world of camp. ...more
Pratchett is amazing and prolific, but like so many that are prolific he's not always as amazing in every outing as he has been in some other one. ForPratchett is amazing and prolific, but like so many that are prolific he's not always as amazing in every outing as he has been in some other one. For me, the story arc of the Ankh Morpork guards and their iconic leader Sam Vimes ends with 'Night Watch', which was an amazing novel (despite the time travel trope) filled with novel ideas and observations. Ultimately, the 'Guards' stories proved for me to be Pratchett at his best and his most solid series of stories within the larger cycle. Nothing further needed to be said on that account. A story ought to end somewhere, and since it must it should end at a dramatic and satisfying point.
Snuff just seems superfluous. There is little here that Pratchett hasn't done before and better in previous excursions with Vimes. I felt I was accidently rereading one of the other novels. Vimes does no further growing as a character nor is focus on goblins doing anything intellectually for Discworld that Vimes and stories of some other trod upon or misunderstood species hasn't done before....more
Stross continues to churn out nerd flavored popcorn, but its beginning to taste a bit stale. When a work becomes this long, it either has to grow or bStross continues to churn out nerd flavored popcorn, but its beginning to taste a bit stale. When a work becomes this long, it either has to grow or become stagnant. So far the work isn’t maturing.
On the good side, Stross does for the most part manage to actually give this story an exciting and not anticlimactic ending. And Stross’s RPG sensibilities, and the intersection of information technology, secret services, with Cthulhu Mythos continues to charm on a basic level. I just wish the stories still felt like they belonged in the Cthulhu Mythos. Stross is bordering on committing travesties on par with Brian Lumley attempting to insert benevolent deities in to the canon, though obviously this would be far from Stross’s own instincts.
In this adventure, our fearless IT professional/computational demonologist/Her Majesty's Secret Servant is once again involved in trying to stop a plot organized by the mind of the thing slumbering in the Black Pyramid on the Leng Plateau. This time the mind has hijacked a darkly comical band of evangelicals from America, who in the name of the false Christ proceed to act out various nightmare scenarios on the poor benighted populace of Colorado. Once again we have all sorts of geek name dropping, so that with a little research you could probably figure out the specific articles and blogs Stross has been reading over the last year. But all that techno-babble – even if it is real world technobabble – more and more feels like dull exposition that we really should have been over with by now. Even more so, the story is departing further and further from its Delta Green roots, and with it from its Lovecraftian roots. The story is becoming noticeably less dark and less like a horror story, and more and more like a comic book or superhero caper with a bit of non-comic book code approved violence and adult themes. Stross is mainstreaming his story, but in the process he’s losing the numinous horror that makes a Lovecraftian story work.
One of the rules of a Lovecraftian story is that the human mind simply can’t handle the universe. The more knowledge you gain, the less stable you become. Humanity has no choice but sheltering in helpless ignorance. Lovecraftian heroes are doomed. They may save the world, but always at the cost of themselves. Bob however is increasingly sane and resilient. Faced with cosmic horrors beyond imagination, Bob is unflinching and increasingly treats his horrorshow world as normal, relatable, and even controllable. The unknowable fear becomes known. Ultimately, the high point of the series was way back in the Atrocity archives, with the young Bob running like heck to escape from a monster that threatens to eat the entire universe. The human villain of the Apocalypse Codex by contrast is a laughable sad trope TV Evangelist with a Guy Smiley grin, who never quite manages to get past chewing up the scenery and for me never got passed the really bad image on the cover.
Far from being a horror story, the novels are beginning to boil down to geek wish fulfillment. There is a lot of having your cake and eating it going on here. It’s not enough to impose your will on the cyberspace universe, wouldn’t it be great if you could hack and program the real world too? Bob is devotedly married to a hot loving wife, but he keeps being forced – forced mind you – into these situations where he has to be intimate with some hot geek spy. She even had to full tongue kiss him, entirely for his own good and against his will naturally. There is lip service given to doom and gloom about the future, but not the real existential fear of it. Bob is not even faced with as much doom and gloom as your average civil service zombie, or corporate code monkey in a cubical farm for crying out loud. Nothing threatens to overturn or undermine Bob’s basic belief systems. There are no hard choices. His hands can stay clean of the blood of innocents – and even for the most part enemies - even in the middle of a potential megadeath event with the existence of humanity on the line and everyone out to kill him while working for an agency run by Lovecraftian sorcerers. There is no life of meaningless drudgery. Life has a purpose – even if it is only fighting back the alien horrors from the dungeon dimensions (that now even get to have some dialogue). In villains, it is increasingly less Nyarthalotep and more Dr. Doom. The sidekicks have more to do with Modesty Blaise than Robert Olmstead or Henry Armitage. Bob has to deal with the fact that he sorta kinda has to give up his atheism, but not in any way that causes him real pain or difficulty. Rather, Bob gets to give up the religion he doesn’t want in an exchange for a life filled with meaning and purpose that he does want.
It’s all so far from the weighty consciousness burning all consuming horror that is found in the originals. Everyone gets their action hero shining moments of awesome, including now our affable put upon IT nerd. Indeed, it’s hard not to believe that the writer is having so much fun that he is deliberately taking steps to distance himself from all of that horror stuff. The only problem with all of that is that it makes the series far less original and far from introspective. Where Lovecraft was channeling everything from his fear of miscegenation to a phobia of fish, Stross is channeling what? Fear of Americans and organized religion? You think he could do better than that. Bertrand Russell channels Lovecraft most potently when writes, “Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way.” Now that is someone channeling the fear of mankind in the face of the faceless Azathoth. Stross is more and more just channeling his geek cred. ...more
After a scintillating first novel, Huso goes into something of a sophomore slump here. The second book clearly has higher literary ambitions than theAfter a scintillating first novel, Huso goes into something of a sophomore slump here. The second book clearly has higher literary ambitions than the first, but in the process it loses the charm that the first one had. Personally, I think that Huso would be better off sticking to innovation in heroic fantasy and writing stories with a happy ending. His gaming roots make him more suited than that. Not since ‘Eyes of the Calculor’ have I ever been so upset at the treatment given to two characters by their author. If you liked ‘The Last Page’ it was because you were rooting for his highly sympathetic characters. But, in the sequel, while it can perhaps be justified to say that the events of the first novel have changed the characters forever, you never really wanted them to be changed and certainly not like this....more