I really enjoyed this book. Basically, it's a several-hundred page review of the major arguments for not only why scientists accept the theory biologi...moreI really enjoyed this book. Basically, it's a several-hundred page review of the major arguments for not only why scientists accept the theory biological evolution, but why it is so well accepted that it is stated to be 'true'. Each chapter breaks down a part of the evidence -- fossils, embryology, genetic evidence, observations of natural selection, the role of sex in evolution, speciation, and so on. Usually the general case is talked about, with examples about specific evidence, though the author notes that he can't give every case of, say, discovery of transitional fossils where and when transitional fossils should exist, as each topic he discussed was something that books could be written on by their lonesome. I knew a lot of the examples -- Tiktaalik, the fish-with-legs; the signs of human evolution of lactose tolerance but only in populations that herded; the strange geometry of arteries and nerves in the human head and neck that came from gill arches in the embryo very similar to the ones fishes have; etc. -- but I still would often find a specific case that I had never heard of. Even things that would be useful on Ask an Astronomer -- like that corals show that the Earth was spinning faster in the Paleozoic, and this amount matched up with both models of the Moon despinning the Earth and radiometric dating.
The last two chapters were especially interesting. The author singles out humans for a full chapter on their evolution, noting that acceptance of evolution always seems to boil down to whether people are comfortable with the idea that we share an ancestor with chimpanzees (and... well, everything else). The last chapter spoke about the moral implications of evolution -- both that just because something is true does not impose any stance on right versus wrong -- and takes a brief dip into the field of evolutionary psychology.
If you are already convinced by the evidence, you might get a bit weary about the author's insistence on noting that creationism/ID does not have any explanation about why such is so. I mean, for me, he's lecturing to the teaching assistants. But it is the elephant in the room, I suppose -- the idea that ID offers an actual scientific alternative, rather than being a disguised religious belief.
(Completely unrelated, but I find it amusing that the person who recommended this book to me noted that Richard Dawkins was a good biology writer, but the fact he was known for writing on atheism as well as biology meant that the recommender felt like any wavering theist would reject his biology books out of hand, while would take something like this as a way of seeing the evidence. Yet, this book has a blurb from Dawkins, which notes him as the author of The God Delusion, rather than, say, The Selfish Gene. Way to go, marketing department. *eyeroll*) (less)
I will say this -- my favorite aspects of Vows and Honor duology/trilogy/whatever is that the main relationship is between two women and is platonic*....moreI will say this -- my favorite aspects of Vows and Honor duology/trilogy/whatever is that the main relationship is between two women and is platonic*. The Oathbound is about two women, Kethry, who used to be a noble of a poverty-stricken house, but after her brother practically sold her into marriage, she took up the path of the mage, and Tarma, a swordswoman from a Nomadic Horse Clan, who became a servant of her peoples' Goddess in order to get revenge on her clan's murder. The two became partners helping Tarma avenge her clan and kin after that, with Kethry volunteering to help Tarma restore her clan.
Most of the book seems to be reconstructed out of short stories -- some of the short stories were shown in their original form in Oathblood. You can kind of tell in that a lot of Tarma and Kethry's adventures are self-contained but inter-related. I can see why Lackey chose those works to make a book out of. It works very well for the book**.
For me, this book is kind of like my mother's Turkey Soup. There's nothing terribly special or amazing about it, but it's comfort food and has enough meat to be filling. Swords and Sorcery is one of my favorite styles of fantasy***, but I don't know if this is an artifact of the books I choose to read, but it usually seems to be a male/female pair that quickly descends into a romance. (Not that male/female pairs and UST can't be well done -- I am a fan of Lina and Gourry in Hajime Kanzaka's Slayers series and one could even say that Harry Dresden and Karrin Murphy from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files are a modern update -- one where the warrior was female and the wizard was male.)
* Okay, a non-platonic lesbian relationship in a book would also be cool.
** Given I once blogged about converting books to anime, it kind of makes me want an anime series about Tarma and Kethry. Because that would be awesome, and unlike some anime I've seen, it would convert well.
*** Need to read some of the original works in the genre. I'll add it to my List. (less)
This time Harry Dresden, Wizard detective, is trying to find the traitor in the White Council, after Morgan shows up on his doorstep on the lam for a...moreThis time Harry Dresden, Wizard detective, is trying to find the traitor in the White Council, after Morgan shows up on his doorstep on the lam for a crime he didn't commit and Harry realized that hes got to either turn Morgan in or help him out (and get blamed for helping a criminal).
The good things: -- We get to see more of the White Council, find out more about Morgan, Luccio and Listen-to-Wind. We also see a bit of why the Council thinks about Harry the way they do, and some awesome magic. -- I once read a maxim about how authors are willing to make characters struggle for what they need (read: plot) but are willing to give in on things that the characters want but don't need. Not to spoil things, but Jim Butcher doesn't do that in this book. Harry might solve the mystery, but he gets dealt several nasty punches for it -- it's definitely bittersweet. -- The banter is good, and I always appreciate that most characters can keep up with Harry verbally. It's nice to see that Harry doesn't get all the good lines.
The bad things: -- The traitor's plot is clever, but the identity of the traitor was a bit of a let down. A friend compared it to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when a giant deal was made about a character dying, when you find out that the character was only a minor character until that book. That and I kind of pegged it -- partly because my friend told me this beforehand, maybe.
Plus, Mouse totally stole the show. Mouse is awesome. (less)
**spoiler alert** This is one of those books that I probably would have liked better if I hadn't gotten an idea about what I was reading halfway throu...more**spoiler alert** This is one of those books that I probably would have liked better if I hadn't gotten an idea about what I was reading halfway through, and then the narrative changed on me.
So, in the world of the Twelve Kingdoms, divine creatures, kirin, are able to mystically sense the best person for ruler-ship and that person then becomes immortal and Heaven's chosen ruler of the kingdom. If the king is good at his (or her) job, the kingdom prospers. If the king is actually callous and cruel, the kingdom suffers, demons start showing up, and eventually the kirin gets sick and the king loses his or her immortality and dies, as the Mandate of Heaven passes from him/her, and the kirin (or a new one, if the kirin dies) has to choose a new king.
This story follows Rokuta the kirin of En and Shoryu, the king of En. Both lived in Japan for periods of their lives -- Rokuta was abandoned as a child when wars meant that his foster parents couldn't feed him, and Shoryu used to be a warlord's son whose people were slaughtered by a rival. The story stars out with Shoryu attempting to patch up the kingdom after the previous king went crazy and started killing people (and insisting that his underlings impose his draconian polices or he'd kill them). The regent son-of-the-governor of one of the provinces, Atsuyu, is trying to get the king to delegate power to him to fix the levees before the fall floods, but Shoryu is still trying to clear house of all the previous administration's corruption. So Atsuyu kidnaps Rokuta and tries to use him to blackmail Shoryu into giving him power.
Now, here was when I think that this is the possibility of having a protagonist and antagonist who are both right and decent people but stuck on opposite sides and cannot easily reconcile. Sadly, as Rokuta investigates, Atsuyu loses most of his virtuous appeal as a governor, which shows why he didn't attempt to seek out an actual appointed position. Turns out, he just wanted power, while Shoryu wanted a kingdom to make peoples' lives better, so it ended up being a more straightforward story, with a bit of cleverness in Shoryu's use of his limited resources.
One thing I liked was Shoryu mentioning how powerful the idea of a Divinely-Appointed King was -- that the people wanted to believe in that he was a good king because the Owl King left them next to nothing, and that could be used as a weapon as much as his army to keep everyone from gathering their own armies and marching on the capital. On the other hand, as Rokuta is quick to remember, even a good ruler can go bad -- the Owl King was divinely appointed.
Don't get me wrong, it was a good book and I enjoyed it. I just got stuck on an idea of something else, which cast a shadow over the rest of the book.(less)
I really enjoy the Laundry series -- a mix of spy fiction and Lovecraftian horror, where mathematics, philosophy and computer programming can get your...moreI really enjoy the Laundry series -- a mix of spy fiction and Lovecraftian horror, where mathematics, philosophy and computer programming can get your brain eaten.
This book is sort of a parody or deconstruction of the iconic James Bond film/movie. After an EU meeting goes sour, Bob ends up linked to a dangerous American femme fatale and on assignment to the exotic Caribbean investigating an amoral billionaire and a doomsday object.
it probably says something about Bond that I have never seen a Bond movie in my life, but I knew most of the tropes in the book. And the contrast drawn between 'real spies' and 'James Bond' was noted, and why an antagonist might want Bond (because, face it -- he's not subtle).
It was also an entertaining story all around, even without the meta-narrative.
Plus, Bob's girlfriend, Mo, is totally awesome in this book, as are his (former) roommates, Pinky and Brain serving as his gadgeteers on the mission. And a short story involving the Laundry's Human Resources department and MMORPGs and why having Interns for Occult Spies is not a good idea. (less)
I'd say the best reason to read this is for its characters. The protagonist is Seyonne, a man who was once a magical-warrior prodigy and the shining s...moreI'd say the best reason to read this is for its characters. The protagonist is Seyonne, a man who was once a magical-warrior prodigy and the shining star of his demon-hunting people before they got their butts kicked and he was captured on the battlefield, stripped of his magic, and sold into slavery for sixteen long years. Seyonne thinks that he's pretty much crushed all hope of being anything more than a slave and is just trying to survive as many days as he can, though he has a bare few points of pride left -- which is how he ends up on the auction block at the start of the book.
Aleksander is the prince of the Empire that conquered Seyonne's people, and a mix of the most spoiled palace brat someone could come across and a damned clever, talented and adept person. He's the one who ends up buying Seyonne.
Aleksander and Seyonne's relationship is interesting and complicated as Seyonne's limited senses pick up both that there are demons in the court and that Aleksander has some inner nobility that Seyonne could sense even beneath Zander's casual cruelty. Both of these start to stir Seyonne to bring out things he thought dead and buried, and this begins to influence Aleksander (and, for that matter, so does Seyonne's statement that he's known enough pain in his life that nothing Aleksander can do to him will make him frightened of him.)
The book also has interesting female characters in the Lady Lydia, Aleksander's betrothed, and Caitrin, Seyonne's teacher's granddaughter. (We also see Seyonne's old fiancee, Ysanne, but don't get that much sense of her outside of Seyonne's point of view.) That's always a plus, though Lydia gets more development in the sequel and we also get more of a cast. Sorry, female characters doing interesting things is an important qualification for me. Unfortunately, the two of them and the other women don't get much screentime.
Transforamtion is the start of a trilogy, but also stands alone, which is nice for re-reads. (less)
I picked this up on a whim, knowing that Lilith Saintcrow was one of those authors that could be hit-or-miss about me. Uusually she's in the group of...moreI picked this up on a whim, knowing that Lilith Saintcrow was one of those authors that could be hit-or-miss about me. Uusually she's in the group of fantastic worldbuilding but the characters tend to make me want to slap them sometimes. I also occasionally have problems wiht her romance.
I have a weakness for sword and sorcery that is compounded by my insistence on interesting and varied female characters. (What can I say? For all it's flaws, I cut my teeth on Mercedes Lackey's Vows and Honor duology.) Consequently, I'll be a bit more daring about that than the fifty-million Urban Fantasy books I read.
I did like Kaia as a character. Her world sounded interesting, but I had some problems with immersion -- too many countries too quickly. I like that there actually seemed to be non-Europeans in her world, even discounting the G'mai. I like the fact she was competent, though I wished we could have more development of the other female characters (Kaia's innkeeper friend, for instance, or the G'mai woman that joins them in the second half of the book.)
There are some nitty-gritty things as well. The book also suffers from Fantasy Apostrophe Syndrome, mitigated by the fact that at least the apostrophe is signaled to mean something (the glottal stop). On the other hand, I still have problems pronouncing the names. That and the food and drink appears to be a case of 'call a rabbit a smeerp'. To some extent I can tolerate this, but when I start to remember all of this, it's a problem.
And about halfway through, the book switches from calling the female lead 'Kaia the Iron Flower' to 'Kaia Steelflower'. That and other changes make me wonder if Ms. Saintcrow wrote two novellas and stitched them together for this book. It could be that both are used by different sets of people, but I couldn't tell the difference.
With that, I segue into the plot. I enjoyed the first bits of the book, where Kaia and Redfist were being chased by someone unknown for reasons unknown, and the last bits of the book where the business about the God-Emperor from the back of the book comes in. The middle bits not so much, for something I've heard called 'the banality of pain'. Basically, Kaia believes she was abandoned by her people for being without magic* and not undergoing some kind of spiffy soulbond with a guy who was her True Love. When a G'mai dude shows up and starts following her around and telling her she's got magic, she goes into denial. For half the book.
* Okay, anyone older than 15 and/or who has read fantasy books for over a year knows how this plot will turn out. Me, I was hoping for an inversion...
Now, >TMI< I've suffered from a anxiety disorder &lgt;/TMI<, and have listened to friends who are depressed. Yeah, it does kind of sound like that -- the same thoughts keep circling around in your head over and over, no matter how many times you try to balance them. Fighting your way out of such thoughts are HARD. However, this might be a case of 'the terrible boredom of pain' (gratuitous Ursela LeGuin quote here) -- being psychologically hurt, doesn't make one angsty and deep, just hurting. Hard to portray without making me depressed though.
>spoilers< A nice touch was that Kaia's perception was shown as being flawed, rather than the Evil Relatives thing. But, it did make me question G'mai parenting practices if Kaia's extended family couldn't find a way to bring her out of her depression or even figure out what was wrong with her, even if her magic was hindering communications. At the least, they had ten years to bring in an expert to get through to her. >/spoilers<
So, I'd have to say I recommend this for people who can tolerate a bit of Angst in their books. I'll be looking for the next book in the series, but I'll probably wait until it comes in trade paperback, or pick it up used. (less)
So, I will endeavor to review the final book in a series without spoiling the other three.
Frankly, I'd hold up The Sharing Knife series as how to do a...moreSo, I will endeavor to review the final book in a series without spoiling the other three.
Frankly, I'd hold up The Sharing Knife series as how to do a multi-book romance without plunging into unbelievable melodrama. The 'will they or won't they' is settled in the first book, leaving books 2-4 as a story of a young couple with a 'forbidden' relationship trying to carve a place in the world. Book 4 opens with Dag and Fawn in the south, where the problem of Lakewalkers and farmers is shown in high relief. The south hasn't had a malice attack in living memory, so Lakewalkers are forced to interact somewhat, but even then they don't have a solution that satisfies Dag. Dag is able to find a teacher for what he wants to do, though, and then strikes up north to return to the part of the country he grew up.
I continue to like how things are set up. Fawn continues to be 'the smart one' in the relationship, something that Bujold never says but does a wonderful job of showing. A lot of times in 'normal'/'paranormal' relationship fiction I get the sense that the normal person is just a kind of placeholder, and Fawn is nothing like that.
The book also does a good job of showing Dag-as-mage, in that some of what he does is reinvented because he didn't have access to a teacher, and some of what he does is innovative. I also like the interaction between him and his teacher, Arkady.
The one problem I had with this book is that Bujold introduces a cast of characters for the trip north -- a group of settlers that Dag offers to help guide, another wagon that they help in the mountains, and a Lakewalker patrol led by Dag's niece. A lot happens with those -- one set of siblings are half-Lakewalker and the sister has both a decent amount of groundsense and a bad case of Caught-Between-Two-Worlds, both of which the party addresses. There's also a romance between Dag's niece and his teacher. A lot of these don't get as much time as I'd like, and some of the characters (the male settlers, for instance), blur together. It's possible I'll resolve this on a reread, but it was disenheartening in a series so good about character relationships.
Overall, I do recommend this series as one of my favorite fantasies and romance-oriented fiction. I'd recommend the series to anyone who wants to see 'forbidden romance' done right, without either character abandoning his or her home culture but instead trying to forge a new path. (less)
Okay, first of all, this is a tie-in for Firefly/Serenity, and you probably won't enjoy this unless you know who characters are and some idea of conte...moreOkay, first of all, this is a tie-in for Firefly/Serenity, and you probably won't enjoy this unless you know who characters are and some idea of context.
That being said, the plot is that the crew comes into a lot of money and gets chased down from past crimes. If you know the series, you know that odds are the crew isn't going to keep the Large Sum of Money, because... well, it's like how Wile E. Coyote will never catch that darn Roadrunner.
Anyway, we get some nice fantasies about how the crew would spend the money, with there being nothing surprising -- I did like Book's fakeout, though, that made me laugh out loud. One thing that bothered me was that Wash got to tell his fantasy, but Zoe just commented that it sounded good, and made a comment on River's, and we never see what she thinks. Even having her and Wash craft a joint tale might have made me feel like she wasn't left out, even if we did get a bit of her backstory in this story.
Oh, and the ending made Mal earn my friends' nickname of him as Captain Asshole. (My two friends didn't care for Mal at all when I showed them the pilot.) It was in-character for him, but... well, it was assholish. (less)
I picked this up after reading the short story by Kat Richardson in Mean Streets, which also featured Ms. Blaine. First off, it's nice to see a female...moreI picked this up after reading the short story by Kat Richardson in Mean Streets, which also featured Ms. Blaine. First off, it's nice to see a female paranormal detective character whose actual cases seem to have more weight than her love life. Normally there seems to be a strict gender divide in these things -- men like Harry Dresden and John Taylor occasionally have girlfriends and occasionally have horrible luck with women*, but generally that's not a major focus of the books' attention. Female urban-fantasy detective-types, like Vickie Nelson or Jill Kismet, tend to meet some hottie on a case in their first book and then most of the time the two are in the same room we switch modes so quickly I can hear the brakes squeal. And Vickie and Jill are the ones I remember because they weren't as bad as many. It seems like Men are from Noir and Women are from Romance.
* Few main characters seem to be gay or bisexual in these books. The only exception I can think of is Lilith Saintcrow's Dante Valentine, who had a female lover in the past and a male lover in the present. Even then, the gay relationship ended Badly. But, that has nothing to do with anything, unless you count the fact I spent ten pages thinking Harper was male in Mean Streets, well past a date with a guy.
I didn't notice this with Harper, in that she strikes up a date with an auctioneer she meets in passing, notes that she wants to keep things low-key until the case she's working on ends, and the book makes it clear that he's not True Love, or even that Harper is going to meet some guy and do the mode switch like that. (I have a soft spot for some romance, but boy am I picky about it.)
Anyway, to actually talk about the plot and not vent about My Thoughts on Romance, after an accident, Harper develops the ability to see into the supernatural world and manipulate it. She thinks she's going crazy until a sympathetic doctor steers her towards some friends that specialize in weird stuff.
On the job side, Harper takes a job to track down a missing college student, and locate an old piece of furniture for an elderly man. It was nice to see the cases weave together, in that there was no plot-related reason to think they were connected, but Harper uses information from both to connect them. It also gave a better sense of 'this person has a real job', and doesn't just get weird cases dumped on her doorstep one at a time by the Paranormal Fairy. (I think that Storm Front did that too, only the cases were actually connected.)
One of the flaws is that I think the book tried to push Harper's powers as 'too much, too soon'. There are a lot of info-dumpy things from Harper's teachers, and thanks to some Trouble Harper gets into, she gets a boost to her powers (with unknown side-effects). I'd rather see her powers, and Harper's initial skepticism towards them, develop a bit more slowly. The book also introduced a lot of supernatural beasties at once.
The ferret scenes were also adorable, in that Chaos acted like a ferret, and not some kind of fuzzy prop. I have a soft spot for animals, and my sister owned a ferret for years when we were kids. (less)
Mean Streets is an anthology of four stories by four authors, all featuring urban fantasy and private eyes. For the record, I was familiar with two of...moreMean Streets is an anthology of four stories by four authors, all featuring urban fantasy and private eyes. For the record, I was familiar with two of the authors Jim Butcher and Simon R. Green, but not familiar with Kat Richardson or Thomas E. Sniegoski. I'm going to review each of the stories separately.
The Warrior (Jim Butcher) I enjoyed this story. It involved the Carpenter family, some of my favorite side characters of The Dresden Files. Plus, we got some good world-building surrounding Michael Carpenter and Father Anthony Forthill's more temporal connections. It also tied up a bit of the fallout from the last book, Small Favor. And it's a solid story, with good pacing and use of characters, though from my previous experience with Butcher's short stories, I was not surprised by this.
However, I think I would have preferred this not in an anthology, as it is a poor introduction to the series. It spoils Small Favor mercilessly and relies a lot on previous knowledge, I'd say. Overall, I think it's hard to write a story about Harry after over ten books, and then write something that would make book 1 Harry accessible.
The Difference a Day Makes by Simon Green I've read about five of the Nightside books, so I'm familiar with John Taylor. Though this story had the opposite problem as the Dresden Files one -- John was John, but there wasn't that much to catch the interest of a fan. (Which goes to show that it's tricky to write for these things.) Part of that was that this felt like a simple case. John was hired to track down the missing memories of a normal who wandered into the Nightside. He ropes a friend of his, Dead Boy, into helping him out. John's power is that he can find anything, so it pretty much becomes 'I see the path, but there's dudes in the way'. I think the first five books of the series did a better job with limiting John's powers*, but there was no mention of those limits -- perhaps he overcame them in later books.
* In the first book, John mentions that someone targets him when he uses his ability, so he has to sneak peeks. Later books elaborate on what's going on with this. Here, there's no mention on the fact that John lights up like a Christmas tree (metaphorically speaking) when he uses his power, so he has to limit it.
The Third Death of the Little Clay Dog by Kat Richardson Funny story. Right before starting this story, I was wondering why there were no female supernatural PIs, or that the urban fantasy with female leads tended to be romance-focused. (Exception: the Marla Mason books by T. A. Pratt.) Then I read this story, with Harper Blaine... all right, at first I thought Harper was a male name, and the first-person narrative didn't enlighten me. (Considering I got to 'Miss Blaine' at some point, I changed my mind -- it was after the scene with Harper's boyfriend, which made me all 'yay, queer character', though.)
Anyway, this was one of my favorites in the anthology (I know, it was four stories, right?) -- it was well plotted and worked as an introduction to Harper's world, while giving some clues to her about her powers. I didn't see the ending coming, and it was a good mystery in that respect.
My one dislike of the book is that the Spanish felt forced -- you occasionally got the 'I speak perfect English, but I'm going to use simple words in Spanish anyway' situation. There also were some moments of info dump about Día de los Muertos and Oxacalan (Oxacan?) attitudes towards death. Most of it seemed right to my limited memories from Spanish class, it just felt off, like the author needed to emphasize 'hey, we're in Mexico, where they speak Spanish!' occasionally.
Noah's Orphans by Thomas Sniegoski So, we get a biblical situation with angel-in-disguise Remy Chandler out to investigate the murder of Noah, who had apparently survived. Not sure how I feel about this one. I have kind of a knee-jerk attitude towards Biblical literalism thanks to being a scientist*, so a fictional world where the Fall and Noah's Flood actually happened doesn't appeal to me. I did like that the angels were examined in more detail, as well as their relationships to humans. But, overall, this story fell a bit flat to me. I can't tell you if this is a 'I didn't like it' or 'it was a bad story' (or both), though.
* When people who believe X keep telling you that you're wrong and evil about something, and keep trying to undermine your work, it's not hard to develop a knee-jerk reaction to things, even in fiction.
Also? It might have been just me, but God came off as rather an ass in this, and He wasn't even on screen. Mind you, I think there's a lot of theology that either unintentionally makes God look like an ass to the unbelievers or has to work to reconcile some of the stuff in the Bible (and in life) to make God not look like an ass. (Usually, any argument about free will or why evil exists will fall into this category.)
Overall review is that I enjoyed 'The Warrior', but think it was meant for fans of the book series, and enjoyed 'The Third Death...' and mean to pick up that series. The other two I wasn't thrilled with. (less)
This is the third book in the series, featuring Marla Mason, the head of all the hidden magic society in Felport, an imaginary East Coast city in the...moreThis is the third book in the series, featuring Marla Mason, the head of all the hidden magic society in Felport, an imaginary East Coast city in the tradition of Gotham and Metropolis, though I'd say Felport is closer to the former than the latter. Aside from a new urban center, and the magic, Marla's world is pretty close to our own.
Anyway, in this book, Marla takes on Death, mostly because he steps in her territory and won't leave her alone. When having a character, even a powerful one, face a god, it can be pretty difficult. The series is good at making it clear that Marla can't go toe-to-toe with Death*, so she needs to be more clever than that. (Almost typed subtle, except Marla ain't subtle at all.)
* Marla has two powerful artifacts. The first is the knife Death wants back, and was able to surprise him once. The second has some pretty severe drawbacks, so Marla doesn't keep it on-hand.
Anyway, this was an entertaining read, both as to 'how do you beat someone who could kill you with a thought, and is only keeping you alive because he's the godly equivalent of a little boy that pulls the wings off of flies?**' and to see Marla's past. We also get to see some of the characters from the first book, which I didn't expect -- they were based in San Francisco, so weren't regulars in the city.
** I'd complain that Death really should have just killed Marla, except it's made clear that he's a little sadist, and that killing her would jsut make the knife pass to another mortal he'd have to deal with.
My one complaint was that the series used a bait-and-switch at the end. Marla finishes up the plot, and who should appear at her door but the bearer of the next plot. Metaphorically speaking, I mean. I hate when books do this. (less)
HDM is something I'm glad to review as an omnibus, rather than as three books. It does seem to suffer some classic trilogy problems in that the second...moreHDM is something I'm glad to review as an omnibus, rather than as three books. It does seem to suffer some classic trilogy problems in that the second book drags a bit. The third part was full of epic stuff and coolness and some excellent and amazing worldbuilding (the Gallvesparians, the mulefa, the world of the dead), but Pullman hit the theme of the book a bit too directly for my taste -- I think it would have worked better without Mary Malone spelling out the theme. (It verged a bit on preachy for this agnostic) Also, by the third book with the Magisterium, it was a bit hard to think of them as a direct threat when the Wrath of a Self-Appointed God was being brought in line. (To use a Harry Potter analogy, early-books Draco was more of an annoyance when we knew Harry had Voldemort-fighting to do.)
There is plenty I liked, though. I liked Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter as the morally ambiguous characters. Neither is particularly a good person*, though both feel very real. And the protagonists are interesting people, and it's a nice coming of age story. I could also gush for hours about the worldbuilding -- and it's sad that sequels to the movie will never be made, since I'd love to see some of the spectacular worldbuilding take form.
* Lord Asriel was very good at what he does, but he's the ultimate 'for the cause' person in that he'll sacrifice anything for it. Not a nice guy, but someone you want on your side, since it sure beats the alternative.
I suspect I'm the wrong audience for this, but I enjoyed it, despite its flaws. (less)
I am beginning to wonder if anything shelved with the romance novels instead of SFF will be the death of me when it comes to 'paranormal/SF with roman...moreI am beginning to wonder if anything shelved with the romance novels instead of SFF will be the death of me when it comes to 'paranormal/SF with romance'. There were elements of the story I liked -- most of them having to do with the plot, rather than the romance. But, overall I wasn't terribly happy with this book. Any spoilers I write will be at the end -- just warning you why I don't have the flag up.
So, the basic plot is that Earth's governments have been divided into city-states after wars and eco-catastrophes, with a sort of global police force that our Female Lead, Gina, belongs to. She decides to take some time off to investigate suspicious animal attacks in Arizona. Our Male Lead, the local sheriff, is a mix of help and hindrance, and Gina is trying to figure out why -- and why she finds him so very pretty.
So, my problems are twofold. The worldbuilding was a bit inconsistent -- I could never get a sense if the town Gina visited was the whole of the Republic of Arizona, or just a part, and if so, what happened to the rest of the state -- Arizona is a big place, and the town had a very small-town vibe. Actually, I had scale problems with a lot of the book -- one of the antagonists was a senator, and I could never quite grasp of what, since the US government no longer existed, and yet, he seemed to be markedly US focused. Speaking of him, he was obsessed with the idea of this Other -- modified people with special powers created in the last war and hiding.
The book generally seemed to regard the Other as something that most people thought was about on par with Roswell aliens and Bigfooy, and yet, a popular government official would openly mention them in speeches. If my senator was claiming that aliens were hiding among us, I'd be voting for the other person.
(Also, minor pet peeve with the use of synth- in front of everything -- I can see how things like chocolate and coffee would be commodities, but you do not need synth-alcohol, given you can ferment anything.)
As for the romance, Gina and Morgan hit two of my pet peeves in paranormal romance. The first is that I could never get a sense of their relationship outside of 'OMG, hot' -- I got the fact that they found each other physically attractive, but I never could pull past that to figure out how they worked as something other than a good lay. (Okay, I did get that Morgan was impressed with Gina's sense of justice, but from her all I got was 'OMG hot'.) The book did have a reason for this, but it's a spoiler, albeit one I saw coming.
The second reason had to do with the Others. A lot of times 'wolf' behavior was used as an excuse for Other customs... except, it was more related to the romantic idea of a wolf, rather than actual canine behavior. Someone really needs to read Limyaael's fantasy rants. Now, it could work, given that these are still humans we are dealing with, but I'd like to see something other than 'lol, werewolves' as an explanation.
In conclusion, I wasn't impressed. It might be something I would buy for a plane ride, but not something that will be staying on my shelf.
 Gina turns out to be part Other (werewolf, in fact), through her father, which is why she is attracted to other weres without even knowing it, including Morgan Hunter and his cousin, more than baseline humans. On the other hand, she's got a baseline human mother, which makes me wonder why one wins out over the other. And it still doesn't change the fact that I couldn't pick up anything else about the relationship from her end. (less)
So, I'm told this is a tribute/parody/something to the old Heinlein and Asimov space operas. I can see it -- I read a lot of Heinlein as a teen, inc...moreSo, I'm told this is a tribute/parody/something to the old Heinlein and Asimov space operas. I can see it -- I read a lot of Heinlein as a teen, including some stuff that my parents probably didn't know about. It is a little less problematic* than some of the old Heinlein, though, despite the former profession of the character. Seriously, you can feel the allusions to Friday throughout the first half and even the main character's name (Freya is the Norse goddess of beauty, related to the Germanic Frigga, which is where we get Frigga's day, or Friday). The ending is also something that reminded me a bit of the classic Heinlein ending.
Anyway, Freya is a robot -- though that word has developed about the same connotation as (the n-word), and for about the same reasons. She was originally designed as a courtesan (the jacket cover uses the word 'femmebot'), as one of the copies of her prototype, Rhea. Then humanity did Freya the disservice of going extinct around the same time she came off the assembly line, leaving her without a reason to exist and a way to stay alive.
One of the bits I really like in this book is that it takes Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics and starts questioning what that means for the robots. (Funnily enough, I remember reading an Asimov essay which was about how he came up with the Three Laws as a premise for stories where the robots weren't destined to revolt against humanity.) Outside of exploration bots that were never intended to operate around humans, everyone in Freya's world has an inbuilt deference to humans, to the point where Freya nearly loses it when she first meets Jeeves, a set of sibling out-of-work butlers running a courier operation, despite the fact she knows that she is in the stratosphere of Venus, breathing carbon dioxide in amounts that might kill a human if the anoxia didn't get to him first. Essentially, what happens when you have creatures literally designed to be slaves and overseer-slaves, and then suddenly kill the masters? Freya notes that her and her sibs (others of her model) could never be aristos (those bots, mostly humanoid personal secretaries and that kind of thing, that seized power as humanity declined), since they had too much empathy**, and her sibs refused to let each other be slaves.
Aside from the robots, the space opera had the old feel of real tech, with people fussing over mass limits and times -- Freya notes that many of the new robots off Earth are built or remade as 'chibi', because they have less mass so can live and travel cheaper. Also, chopping off limbs and buying new ones at one's destination is not unheard of, nor is putting oneself in hibernation or slowing one's internal clock. We also see a lot of the Solar System -- cloud cities on Venus, railed cities on Mercury, space elevators on Mars, a mining town on Callisto, and even a trip to Eris.
Now, Freya was designed to be a sexpot (sexbot?), so you do get some sex, especially with other beings that are far from human-shaped. If this bothers you, I'd reckon you shouldn't read it. There's also some consent issues later in the book.
One of my pet peeves is that the cultural mix seems off. Most of the characters with human names have Western ones, yet we get touches of Japanese culture -- the aristos take on bishoujo (big eyes, small nose, pointed chin -- think CLAMP) and chibi (big eyes and short limbs) forms, to the point where android and gynoids that can pass as human are considered ugly reminders of the past, and Freya herself was made by a Japanese company. Yet, we don't see any evidence of this in given names. I can believe Japan would go head-on into making robots, but I can't believe that we wouldn't get at least one Aiko or Michiru or something.
* 'Problematic' seems to be feminist-speak for 'this has some pretty sexist themes, but I don't think the author meant it that way, and I like it anyway'. Heinlein was very much a product of his times.
** I mean, you want someone created to be the perfect lover to have empathy up the wazoo, so that s/he can understand what you're going through and work with it. (less)
Glasshouse is a loose sequel to Accelerando, but you mostly need to know that for what the world is like. You might be able to read Glasshouse as a st...moreGlasshouse is a loose sequel to Accelerando, but you mostly need to know that for what the world is like. You might be able to read Glasshouse as a stand alone.
Anyway, it's late in the third millennium. Humanity has been kicked out of the Solar System by intelligent computer programs who'd rather turn all solid matter into more memory and RAM and photovoltaics, and has taken up residence living around wormholes linking brown dwarfs throughout the galaxy. The presence of massive amounts of data storage and matter manipulation has changed humanity remarkably -- at this point, you can look like whatever the heck you want (seriously, you can change sex like changing clothing, and things like being a centaur or growing two more arms are no problem), death is unusual (pretty much you have to have a bad accident or be killed), and you can keep a backup copy around anyway. However, a lot of times people accumulate too much emotional baggage in their long lives, so they end up having to wipe out most of their memories to get a fresh start.
Robin is one such person. He's not quite sure why he had it done -- sure, his past self left him a letter, but it wasn't that helpful. And someone wasn't satisfied with the job and is trying to kill him. Between that, a sense of purposelessness, and a woman he met who was also interested, Robin decides to sign up for an experiment that would keep him off of the net for a couple of years.
See, a lot of the late 20th and early 21st century was lost thanks to data forms going obsolete too quickly to be converted. So some social scientists were going to try to reconstruct it using volunteers. They created a clever social system to encourage participants to play their roles (and mimic the social constraints they believed existed at the time) and beamed everyone into new bodies in a simulation of 1950s America (or Western Europe). Robin became Reeve, a woman, and was partnered up with Sam, another volunteer, as her husband.
At first this is a funny (and a bit unnerving) take on the 1950s. Reeve struggles with norms that make no sense to her (like why the salesclerks won't sell her pants), her female teammates who are 'score whores' and obsessed with racking up points for good behavior and making sure Reeve does the same, finding Kay, the woman Robin knew on the outside, and worrying about Cass, who's husband/partner was turning quickly abusive.
Then Reeve gets a dream message from her previous self, who tells her that something is fishy about the experiment. Previous infiltrators were compromised, so her previous self had volunteered to have a memory wipe to better hide himself to get in.
Overall, I enjoyed this -- it had a mix of Stepford Wives and high tech, and probably would have been better than the recent remake. it does get a bit confusing at one point, since you have to accept that being able to treat human consciousness as data means a lot of things that aren't true right now. Can't say much because of spoilers. But, it was a good read, and the fact Robin/Reeve didn't remember a lot of things made it interesting since it allowed for us to discover Robin/Reeve's past as we read without artifice. (less)
This is proof that I read something other than science fiction and fantasy. With the Light is the story of Sachiko, a newlywed who has her first son,...moreThis is proof that I read something other than science fiction and fantasy. With the Light is the story of Sachiko, a newlywed who has her first son, Hikaru. Hikaru is a highly-strung baby and hates to be held and Sachiko can't figure out what's wrong with him until his pediatrician diagnoses him with autism.
The first volume covers Hikaru's life from birth to midway through elementary school. A lot of it resonates with me because my little brother is high-functioning autism, and I ended up giving my copy to my mother for Christmas, even though watching her try to figure out how to read it was interesting. It struck me as really well done -- several times I wanted to reach into the book and give Sachiko a hug and start telling her about my brother, who is autistic and gearing up to graduate high school. Or introduce her to my mother. It felt real, and compelling, and kept my interest, and I say that as someone who knows something about autism.
I also gave this book to my mother, who, as I mentioned, is the parent of an autistic child. She's not normally a comic fan, and wished the book was in prose, but she enjoyed what she read of it. For people who don't normally read Japanese comics, I'd recommend this as well, though it may take you a bit to get used to the conventions. (less)