This book still defies description. I am cursed in that I can't review my favorites, partly due to a tendency to descend into drooling fanboy mode. It...moreThis book still defies description. I am cursed in that I can't review my favorites, partly due to a tendency to descend into drooling fanboy mode. It remains in my top 10 on the second read.
I don't particularly like the writing style, which tends to garner a lot of comment. People seem to either like it or hate it, but I'm neither here nor there. Sure the descriptions are intense, industrial, rich, and moody. But it isn't high art. And there is truth to the claim that China tries a little too hard to show off his vocab. And there needs to be some major league tightening up of pointlessly slow parts.
What I like about it - what I adore about it - is the boundlessly imaginative and frightening monsters and villains. Slake-moths are the most terrific and terrifying predators yet invented. Rudgutter and Motley. Handlingers and the militia. The ambassador of hell. Jack Half-a-prayer. The awesome Construct Council. The fucking Weaver. Oh my christ, the fucking weaver.
See, I knew I wouldn't be able to write a proper review. Giving up (again). (less)
The only book I have ever reached the end of, then turned around and started over from the beginning, it is an eye-opening exposition of Peak Oil, the...moreThe only book I have ever reached the end of, then turned around and started over from the beginning, it is an eye-opening exposition of Peak Oil, the observation that the world will soon enter a dire period of declining oil production. While he does wax toward hyperbole and some impractical social arrangements near the end, the first three-quarters are a lucid and sobering account of how dependent are all aspects of modern life on fossil fuels, and how important it is that we develop alternative sources of energy.(less)
Excellent popcorn fantasy. Alias discovers blue markings on her arm that give her unpredictable power. But she can't remember how they got there. In f...moreExcellent popcorn fantasy. Alias discovers blue markings on her arm that give her unpredictable power. But she can't remember how they got there. In fact, she can't remember much about her recent past, and comes to wonder if her more distant memories are even real. Who or what is she?
Various entities of evil vie for control over her and all come together in a rather exciting apex of carnage and mayhem. I do love to watch the fireworks when great powers collide.
As a Forgotten Realms book, it is pretty much PG-rated. But that makes the feat of entertainment all the more impressive, working with that constraint.
Tasslehoff the kender was awesome. Immune to fear, driven by curiosity, kleptomaniac-in-denial, top-knotted, I love it. All the characters were very w...moreTasslehoff the kender was awesome. Immune to fear, driven by curiosity, kleptomaniac-in-denial, top-knotted, I love it. All the characters were very well thought out and filled in. This must be what I remember so fondly about this series, and why it endures. Because, unfortunately, the story and writing are feeble. They only rise to quality when they are totally ripping off Tolkien, so even that doesn't count!
I have a long personal history with Krynn, because my first all-consuming online game ArcticMUD was set in this world. So between that, good artwork and quality characters I can't bring myself to assign 1 star, but as a work of speculative fiction, sadly I cannot go over two. I don't even feel the need re-read the remainder of the original trilogy.(less)
[2011 Update: I am re-reading this after not quite 2 years. I have come to regard this book as the best non-fiction I've had the pleasure of reading,...more[2011 Update: I am re-reading this after not quite 2 years. I have come to regard this book as the best non-fiction I've had the pleasure of reading, and recommend it emphatically if you have an interest in any of the subjects in which I have it categorized on my shelves.]
A masterwork, better even than Mr. Diamond's Pulitzer-winning Guns, Germs and Steel. Collapse bridges the gap between anthropology and environmentalism, and critically connects each with our own welfare, both collectively and as individuals.
Diamond rightly takes to task environmental attitudes that appear to mindlessly value endangered birds or coral reefs above people's interests or livelihood. That said, he also clarifies which aspects of the environment we should care about and why. He tallies dollars cost and lives lost. He illustrates in example after well-documented example the consequences for societies disregarding their resource base or destructive practices. He repeatedly and explicitly asks the question: "well it obviously sucks to be a blue-footed bubi bird, but why should Joe Blow Logger care when he has the more pressing need to feed his family?" Well he should care very much about forests because he depends on them for his income. If he wants those children not to struggle with poverty and a declining society and standard of living, he should further care about many other aspects of the environment.
The biggies throughout history that have played a primary role in virtually every societal collapse are deforestation and soil erosion and/or salinization. To that we add a host of other common problems that can and must be solved, including habitat loss, water management and pollution, greenhouse gasses, resource over-exploitation, and energy supply.
Diamond goes deeper than simply blaming corporations for their destructive practices. He examines the policies and economic realities that drive corporations in polluting industries like mining to behave as they do, or the pressures they face. The fact is, in a market economy, where profit is the motive, successful companies will pollute to the full extent that our laws and attitudes allow. He states: "I also assign to the public the added costs, if any, of sound environmental practices, which I regard as normal costs of doing business. My views may seem to ignore a moral imperative that businesses should follow virtuous principles, whether or not it is most profitable for them to do so. Instead I prefer to recognize that... government regulation has arisen precisely... for the enforcement of moral principles."
Of course the rest of the book demonstrates how it is far more urgent than a mere moral principle, but a practical one necessary to ensure any society's long-term survival. (less)
I am a huge fan of the Death Gate Cycle septet. Dragon Wing (book 1) is epic, Elven Star is still 5 stars, and Fire Sea is really good (4 stars). Howe...moreI am a huge fan of the Death Gate Cycle septet. Dragon Wing (book 1) is epic, Elven Star is still 5 stars, and Fire Sea is really good (4 stars). However, Serpent Mage (book 4) was disappointing on the second read. Weis and Hickman pretty much phoned this one in. Nothing of any gravity happened until page 370 of 400. I don't know what possessed them to draw out the meanderings of the uninteresting mortal characters for so long with so little action.
We do learn a great deal about the Sundering, the means by which the 4 fascinating mortal realms were created. And some new demi-god characters are introduced, members of the Sartan council responsible for said Sundering of old Earth. One gets the impression they are setting the stage for the next three books, beyond the procedural introduction to each of the 4 realms in the first 4 books.
Also, we see more complex layers to my favorite character, the ostensible narrator Haplo. Previously cast in the role of hero, his evil impulse and designs guide much of the story, partly because he is deprived of his dog (clearly a metaphorical and physical manifestation of his soul, though they are canny enough never to come out and say so).
I hope this is the only dud in a great series, but being as I remember very little of books 5-7, I fear they may not be very ... well you know, memorable. But I'll let you know, one way or the other.(less)
This is my second favorite of the Ethshar series, of which I'm very fond, after The Misenchanted Sword (5 stars). The world has an elaborate and very...moreThis is my second favorite of the Ethshar series, of which I'm very fond, after The Misenchanted Sword (5 stars). The world has an elaborate and very well-concieved system of magic, with vastly different rules and capabilities for Wizardry, Witchcraft, Demonology, and a host of other disciplines.
**SPOILER ALERT** The Unwilling Warlord tells the story of Vonn, an ordinary guy not only thrust into an extraordinary situation, but also suddenly granted extraordinary abilities. He develops Warlockry, a discipline with almost limitless power, but an unforgiving finite total use. Rather than pace himself and exercise temperence or judgement, he becomes Icarus, flying to fantastic heights, before burning and suffering a terrible fall. The joy of this book is watching Vonn discover his power and wield it to greater and greater effect. We know he is doomed, but are unable not to be thrilled by his exuberance. (less)
A fascinating defense of the abiogenic origin of oil, the hypothesis that hydrocarbons are ancient materials, generally originating in the Earth's man...moreA fascinating defense of the abiogenic origin of oil, the hypothesis that hydrocarbons are ancient materials, generally originating in the Earth's mantle and upwelling through the crust where they are reprocessed by microbes and mistaken for decayed organic matter.
Gold's book delves into all manner of implications and insights based on this premise. He comments on the origin of life, the possibility of life beneath the surface of other planets, earthquake instigation, the source of helium, thermodynamics, oil exploration, etc. That said, it is not a technically challenging book. I found it accessible and illuminating, informative and explanatory.
While Western geology has essentially abandoned abiogenic oil as a viable theory, I believe the jury is still out. Should new evidence come to light, this book may prove far ahead of its time. (less)
Very engaging summary of asteroids and their extraordinary utility to any space endeavour. Not to mention some motivating factors to get us to that po...moreVery engaging summary of asteroids and their extraordinary utility to any space endeavour. Not to mention some motivating factors to get us to that point, such as the threat of annihiliation by a Near Earth Asteroid or comet and large-scale solar power satellites as a future energy source. Lewis does come across as a dyed-in-the-wool, market-will-solve-everything capitalist, but I'm willing to forgive him that in light of his singularly insightful and well-presented argument for "mining the sky".
One of many interesting gems: the asteroid belt alone contains raw metals worth at current market value 500 billion-billion dollars, i.e. $100 billion for each person on earth when the book was written.(less)
My favorite book for some years in high school and college, Sojourn to me represents the peak of the 20-book Drizzt Do'Urden saga. It covers the years...moreMy favorite book for some years in high school and college, Sojourn to me represents the peak of the 20-book Drizzt Do'Urden saga. It covers the years early in Drizzt's life when he first leaves the Underdark and trains as a ranger under the hermit Montolio De'Brochee (sp?).(less)
The joy of fantasy adventure is always found in pitting powerful characters, be they good guys or bad guys, against one another. Fantasy in general, a...moreThe joy of fantasy adventure is always found in pitting powerful characters, be they good guys or bad guys, against one another. Fantasy in general, and Forgotten Realms books in particular are able to make the most of these confrontations because they have proscribed rules familiar to any D&D player.
On the basis of story and writing, this was cruising steadily towards 2 stars. Drizzt's traditional journal entries alone are enough to elevate it above 1 star. Not that they're deep or sophisticated or anything, but at least they try, which is more than the rest of Forgotten Realms books can say. So then our band of heroes and the dwarves of Mithril Hall square off against the drow-elf raiding party and I'm reminded of what good fantasy action is all about, and hence the 3rd star.
I can see why I would have handily given this 5 stars as recently as 10 years ago, but having been spoiled by the skilled writing of Bujold and other quality modern fiction, Salvatore just doesn't hold up anymore.(less)
The second half has some outstanding battles, but man is it a long, slow slog to get there. Averaging 1 star for the first half and 5 stars for the se...moreThe second half has some outstanding battles, but man is it a long, slow slog to get there. Averaging 1 star for the first half and 5 stars for the second half we get... 3. I'm actually going to keep this book with a permanent post-it indicating where to start reading.(less)