while I loved the author's recently Vienna novels (The Quiet twin and The Crooked Maid), this book is so not for me that I found it hard to believe itwhile I loved the author's recently Vienna novels (The Quiet twin and The Crooked Maid), this book is so not for me that I found it hard to believe it's the same writer; a sort of (fantasy/pastiche) YA-ish Victorian era book reminding me of Lev Grossman's Magician series (another very not-for-me series) in setup and one I should have not wasted even the 15-20 minutes browsing and reading here, there, ending etc that having D. Vyleta on the cover induced me to
Another excellent installment that reveals, teases and ends on a somewhat frustratingly "someone started writing something important, read more in parAnother excellent installment that reveals, teases and ends on a somewhat frustratingly "someone started writing something important, read more in part 11" note that makes the next one another huge asap;
while this is Oida's turn to be the lead (and his card is revealed here, while we see a lot of his persona and understand his motivations better, so he becomes a much less annoying and arrogant character), and there is some resemblance with both #8 and #1 as a lot of it is travel through devastation of the Belot brothers war, there are lots more tidbits including intriguing hints about Telamon, the structure of the "Lodge" - or whoever are the behind the scenes conspirators, though still their motives are unclear (one was reminded by Oida's tongue and cheek talk to Telamon about the Lodge and how they are supposedly the good guys in volume 9 as the devastation of the war is here revealed even more closely than before)
overall, while not twisting hard like 8 or being as action/adventure/banter as 9, but more somber, more "this is the too real cost" of what we planned and have been executing behind the scenes, another installment that keeps this serial as a stay until midnight the Monday before the next installment, get it and read it asap one...more
interesting but not that conclusive and generally demonstrating that history happened because it happened - the author argues convincingly the well kninteresting but not that conclusive and generally demonstrating that history happened because it happened - the author argues convincingly the well known fact that military competition between states that are not that big to comprehensively ruin one another in fighting wars (see Rome vs the Persians in the 6th century), but big enough to raise (lots) of money to fight for long period of times because that is the thing "done" leads to military progress, while the availability of technology that is a game changer (gunpowder + sailing vessels) means that said progress can be projected everywhere physical conditions allowed
while looking at Russia and the Ottoman Empire for example, the book really forces its arguments as the Ottomans were quite powerful even well into this period (1500-1900) and only the defeat at Vienna in 1683 and the rise of imperial Russia which essentially focused its energies into defeating them for quite a long time (as for example Spain/Austria/the Habsburgs with all their other entanglements couldn't do) took them down in the 1800's, though even then they have enough power to be reckoned with, while same with Russia and its rise (piggybacking on the West's developments and having a farsighted Tsar and less entrenched bureaucracy true)
the other main fail of the book in trying to straitjacket things into their model is the huge difference between the "New World' and Asia, as in the former the book fits very well its conclusions (very small number of conquistadors with powerful technology defeating huge native empires, sometimes with local allies but sometimes like in Peru without and then ruling over them fairly uncontested), but in the latter, yes the Europeans (the Portuguese first, the Spanish and then the Dutch, English and French) came and took some stuff with force, got some bases and starting interfering in local affairs, but it took a long time to Empire and imposing their complete domination
Overall, mostly well known stuff tried to be fit into a straitjacket theory that has some merit (though again, I think it's been part of the narrative for a long while), but with tons of forced stuff that is glossed over or "explained" away when the theory doesn't fit any more; on the other hand better historically than similar books based on geography (here the author does a good job at debunking that), "protestant ethic" (somehow the Portuguese did it in Asia and the Spanish in the New World to start with and for a long time), racial reasons (the Europeans were the same in the 1200's when they got drubbed in the Crusades) etc...more
(review written Nov 2015) I actually read this book a while ago, either early this year or late last year but in a period when I was away from Goodrea(review written Nov 2015) I actually read this book a while ago, either early this year or late last year but in a period when I was away from Goodreads and I only remembered it now when looking for some other related books and Goodreads showing it
It's fairly long and not that easy a read as it follows various branches of a few Russian aristocratic families and their destinies after the revolution, so sometimes names/relations can be confusing
For someone who grew up under a communist regime the story wasn't that unfamiliar, though there a few surprises, mostly related in how accommodation was tried by many nobles as they misread the nature of the brutal regime coming to power ...more
very good book about the the turbulent 1980-1992 period; not a revisionist history that denies the evil that was the Soviet Union or the greatness ofvery good book about the the turbulent 1980-1992 period; not a revisionist history that denies the evil that was the Soviet Union or the greatness of the Western leaders that stood up to it in its last days (Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II first and foremost); highly recomended...more
the usual story but well researched and keeping a good balance between the events and the Fuhrer's involvement in them; the chaotic government of thethe usual story but well researched and keeping a good balance between the events and the Fuhrer's involvement in them; the chaotic government of the 3rd Reich, the German people's love and admiration for Hitler until quite close to the end and the way the army's leaders hesitation and doubts turned into hubris and enthusiastic acquiescence of Hitler's plans to invade Russia after the quick and decisive victories in Poland and the West are magisterially presented as well as the way the Holocaust happened - the liquidation of the Jewish people enthusiastically pushed by the SS leadership (Himmler, Heydrich and their immediate subordinates), while being modified to fit the circumstances (from the wild ideas about expulsion of the Jewish people to Africa when Hitler still cared about international opinion, to the decision about the "final solution" once the war started, first envisioned as Siberia where they would be worked to death once Russia was defeated and then finally the death camps in Poland once the Russian campaign stalled at Moscow in the winter of 1941 the clear progression which Himmler and his acolytes pushed non-stop, while Hitler gave them authority to do it is presented with evidence)
highly recommended and a definitive guide to the subject...more
This book can be summarized as LE Modesitt takes on The Martian (lots of the hard sf action in the book toward the end reminded me strongly of the MarThis book can be summarized as LE Modesitt takes on The Martian (lots of the hard sf action in the book toward the end reminded me strongly of the Martian, though considerably better as writing goes), Climate Change (see below) and the general themes of American decline (not that he cheers it as his heroes are from the recovering Noram - a union of North America with capital at Ottawa formed after the collapse of the USA in the mid 21st century and the underwater submergence of Washington DC, NYC and the Pacific coast), Chinese resurgence (again not that he cheers it as the new Chinese empire are bad guys here) and what's wrong with the youngsters (the cultural decay as described in the newsflashes that reach our heroes in space is quite funny and timely as of now) that have been a mainstay on his blog for quite a while now.
This being said, I really like the author's prose - despite the overuse of rueful - and of the current authors he is the second most in terms of books read by me (with over 40) - and I kind of like the way he structures his books despite that i disagree with a lot of his ideology (though to be honest, his world building generally has "out" clauses like the Imagers, the magicians of Recluce or say the Ecolitans in his earlier sf, that allow/demand society to be more cooperative than competitive to survive and even in the end he is honest enough to recognize that leads eventually to stasis)
So a hard sf page turner with two main characters who generally converse by email, one a scientist, another a pilot and who found themselves at the center of mystery and intrigue; also I thought this book was the closest of his recent sf to his fantasy, maybe in tone and characters and that was a big plus for me
Highly recommended and one of the best sf of the year...more
excellent book about the last years of the Ottoman Empire - though it essentially starts in 1876 with the palace coup that brought the young (and seemexcellent book about the last years of the Ottoman Empire - though it essentially starts in 1876 with the palace coup that brought the young (and seemingly inexperienced so easy to control) Sultan Abdul Hamid to power and the desperate maneuvers of the new Sultan to avoid immediate disaster as the Russian Army will be a few miles from the gates of Constantinople in early 1878, maneuvers that will prove quite successful and stave disaster for another 20 years, while later only the mildness and clemency of the Sultan who tried hard to be a modernizer allowed his opponents to dethrone him in 1908 (only to blunder into disaster in the Balkan Wars of 1912-3);
the bulk of the book presents the fall of the Ottoman empire into German orbit (started by Abdul Hamid who found in young kaiser Wilhelm a kindred soul) and the battles of WW1 and collapse followed by rebirth as a nation state and the massive population transfers of 1922-24 (which were lauded at the time and even led to a Nobel peace prize awarded to famed explorer Nansen who brokered them, but later became the model for the massive involuntary transfers of people in Europe, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent)
an epilogue discussing how the vision of Ataturk to keep the modern Turkish state within majority Turk areas led to the stablest borders in the area (the Turkish borders are essentially unchanged since 1923), while his rejection of expansion into the Mosul area (which was very weakly held by the British, had lots of oil and enough Turkish people to allow a claim to it, so it was part of the original Young Turk nationalist manifesto area - which Ataturk mostly followed) turned to have been so wise into retrospect; on the other hand, the De-Christianization of Turkey in 1923 (while understandable after the bitter religious Greek-Turk war of the previous years) had long term negative effects as the roughly 1.2 million Greeks and other Christians expelled by Ataturk of which many were skilled professionals and businessman were replaced by some 400000 Greek Muslims of mostly peasant origins, with the economy of Turkey not rebounding for decades
highly recommended and a page turner to boot...more
The blurb made me a little skeptical of this book as its kind tend to promise much when they set the mystery and then degenerate into a run-of-the-milThe blurb made me a little skeptical of this book as its kind tend to promise much when they set the mystery and then degenerate into a run-of-the-mill thriller with usually a silly background explanation to boot; this being said its format (interviews, diaries etc) and the writing style kept me entertained for a long while.
As expected my predictions above for the novel becoming a boring thriller and having a silly background explanation (this time a Star Trekkish one, but even sillier than usual in print, more like TV stuff) turned out to be true and while I read till the end as I wanted to see what happens with the characters, I wouldn't rate this even a 4 if for the format and the style, but the content fails kind of badly in the second part at least at being interesting sf
As I see this advertised as Themis files 1, I expect there would be a sequel or more (there are lots of hints about what), though it's unlikely I will bother to read it as the conclusion of this had enough closure (though again who knows, if the style/format remains interesting and action moves more toward space opera stuff it may rekindle my interest)
Overall - interesting style and format, page turner, but content more for people into thrillers and pulp sf a la Star Trek then modern interesting sf...more
Here is a translation of the blurb which gives a very good idea what the novel is about:
"Raven Connins is a serial killer with a very specific signatuHere is a translation of the blurb which gives a very good idea what the novel is about:
"Raven Connins is a serial killer with a very specific signature. He butchers his victims, cooks and cans them, then sells the product on the internet under the label "pork and beans, guaranteed organic".
Finally caught and sentenced to death, Raven is convinced that a "fluid" that fills him to bursting, pushed him to commit the crimes; he patiently awaits his end on death row while dreaming on recovering his "innocence". When Zac Blasko, a mediocre modern painter, contacts Raven to make his portrait as part of a series of twelve paintings on famous criminals, the one known as "the grocer of horror" sees a way to reach his goal. Gradually, as the portrait advances, Raven seems sure that the fluid flows into the canvas and he can finally die "pure".
But when Elona Adder destroys the portraits of the twelve apostles of crime by setting fire to her gallery, Raven is furious. Obsessed with the idea of dying washed of his sins, he knows that the fluid will come to possess him again. He decides to escape prison and find Blasko, without suspecting that he is not alone in that ...
Between murders, kidnappings and escapes from prison, a race against time begins, to try and force the artist to paint the portrait of Raven again before it's too late ..."
A few notes - the title, "War Drums" refers to another macabre object (lots of such in this book, not only the pork and beans cans that become collector items sold at high prices online, forged etc after Raven is caught), namely drums with covers made from skinned warriors
- as usual in a Brussolo novel, there is no get out of jail card or the usual thriller stuff (which keeps me away from the general offerings in the genre) - bad guys, super-powerful corner the good guys and when all seems lost, the good guys somehow win; no, here things go to their expected conclusion, though obviously there are twists and turns on the way; similarly, there is no particular super-bright policeman/woman, investigator etc as in Brussolo police are portrayed much closer to reality than tv/mysteries (overworked, poorly paid, eager to close cases unless there is media pressure etc etc)
- usually in a Brussolo book, I tend to like the twisting, world building/setup and the take no prisoners attitude, but here I think that the main characters dominate - the chilling Raven, old (now in his 60's after quite a while on death row) and seemingly frail, the troubled Zak, the computer guru Joan who wants to become Raven's disciple and continue his saga of killing, cooking and selling the product and who badly resents that Raven (who is from the older generation) doesn't take her seriously as who heard of women serial killers after all and finally the one character who is closest to the positive in this novel, Naomi Adder, estranged daughter of Elona and with a weird past of her own, though she is mostly a pawn throughout the novel rather than a driver of the action;
the secondary characters (from mysterious guru like figures, to Elona herself, to policemen, to a rich Japanese collector of the macabre and his henchmen, to a prison warden who is enthralled by Raven) are also standouts and add to the success of the novel
a great ending in Brussolo style obviously, so again don't expect "all solved, everyone lives happily ever" of the usual thriller
overall - dark, macabre, but excellent if you like this kind of stuff; while taking place in contemporary US, there is a sfnal atmosphere and the mysterious "fluid" adds to that also...more
very interesting novel though a little frustrating in that the story doesn't ultimately cohere and the strange, occasionally awesome universe buildingvery interesting novel though a little frustrating in that the story doesn't ultimately cohere and the strange, occasionally awesome universe building feels underutilized in the end; of course one can look in a different way at the novel and see the above as a feature not a bug, but at least for me this would require a different style that would captivate me mostly through the words not the story or world building as here
overall, I would say that if you are a fan of the author and love her writing style, you will probably enjoy this one more as I liked the premise and the way the story was told (see the blurb for details) but felt a bit underwhelmed in the end with a "this is all??" feeling...more