This is meant to be The Bridge-like and also to straddle his genres.
It starts well but then establishes itself as a fairly standard mega-parallel-verse-with-assassins story using Banks' multiple-first person characterizations. It soon flattens out and then degenerates into a confused, plot-lost, random sex scene, deus ex.., get-out-of-jail-free story with very little satisfactory conclusion. Even the exit 'gotcha' was less telling that the Sympathy for the Devil exit of Fallen (ok, an old average movie reference mixed with a book like this doesn't really make that much sense, but it's what leapt to mind).
I also think I spotted a couple of inconsistencies with the whole shifting thing, but would need to re-read it to be sure, and it may be that Banks was just trying to be really clever and I missed it. But its not going to be high on my re-read list, whereas several other Banks are: The Algebraist, Look to Windward and Feersum Endjinn.
Disappointing, but even so it still averages out well above a bad book and is a jolly little read with some interesting insight into the minds of assassins, torturers, drug dealers and random mostly unsavoury characters....more
A nice little book about a wildly disturbed 12-year old boy with an anger problem.
I didn't like the last two pages of the ending (no spoilers) and thA nice little book about a wildly disturbed 12-year old boy with an anger problem.
I didn't like the last two pages of the ending (no spoilers) and the protagonist thinks like characters in Dawson's Creek talk - verbosely and way above their age level. Indeed many of the events of the book strike me as a little age-askew. Another off-note is the year of the setting - I might have missed it, but it doesn't seem like 2009 to me (lack of video games, DVD, computers etc) and harkens to simpler times (the Cruiser bike) while still seeming to have a few modernistic splashes of psychology and peer pressure...
The book starts with a Marlowe/noir feel and sort of loses it as you get more into the main character, but it's a natural progression.
Most noticeable, this is my first Overdrive ebook for the Seattle Public Library on my eReader (the other books I borrowed are waaay to long to read just now) and made for excellent vacation on/off reading....more
Initially I bought this book thinking it would be a good primer on USA history.
Over the years it sat on my bookshelf I realized I should not expect thInitially I bought this book thinking it would be a good primer on USA history.
Over the years it sat on my bookshelf I realized I should not expect that as I learn of Howard Zinn, hear him on NPR a few times etc.
So, what do we end up with?
A long history of the USA from the "losers" (aka "people's") side. This is how Zinn portrays it. There are few victories, no joyous moments and only endless oppression and cruelty. And a repeated contrast on how history is written and how it was received by some segments. For readers who need this wake-up call, this is well done (and I've chatted to one person who was in University where this book made them realize that history was "written by the winners" as the cliche goes), for others it gets.... depressing.
Especially without a lifetime of alternative/standard US history indoctrination this comes across strong, often without the needed context. And it's neither truly impartial or biased in as much as it's clear there is an agenda here but it's not clear what the agenda is other than showing the 'other side'. No solution is offered for a better way, no new doctrine or different 'historical winner' is forthcoming, its lose, lose, lose for the People's History.
A pretty good pre-world war thriller come spy novel that ended somewhat on a dud note or rushed. The author seemed to run out of steam, or was settingA pretty good pre-world war thriller come spy novel that ended somewhat on a dud note or rushed. The author seemed to run out of steam, or was setting up for a sequel, or tried to play the ending very low key and hit the wrong note.
I haven't read any Alan Furst before, but reading other reviews it seems his other books are better, if not great, and the ending of this book was a little atypical.
I did enjoy my easy read of this and the main character (a Parisian Reuters correspondent who is an anti-Fascist Italian emigre) is very enjoyable.
Wow. I so nearly bailed on this at about page 80 or so, but a weekend away saved it (read a good 1/3 of it while everyone else was asleep in the hotelWow. I so nearly bailed on this at about page 80 or so, but a weekend away saved it (read a good 1/3 of it while everyone else was asleep in the hotel room).
Why I didn't like it? I'm starting to realize I don't like extended magazine-article novels. I really hated Big Weather a few years ago even though I loved the Outside article, and parts of this book were familiar enough I'm sure I must have read at least one of it's components before in a running magazine. But the result so often tends to be a not-compelling read with a meandering non-linear flow. As in this case.
I much prefer The Backroom Boys because it expands a bundle of articles but not to novel length - instead the book is a compendium of six stories.
And finally, with Born to Run the final chronology of events in the book left me confused, and the afterword (opening with a story about a race in Mexico - Geesh Louise, I thought I'd just read a non-fiction!) didn't help... when was Badwater 06?, when was the secret race? why were the Young Guns running support?
It gets better as you read it. It will make you flippant about running distances (I feel the need to blow off a quick four hour run on a trail somewhere and I've never done that before) and I think I believe the whole Running Man theory.
It was free from Tor in their great giveaway late last year, where they give away first novels and episode 1'This was 800+ screen on Small on my Sony.
It was free from Tor in their great giveaway late last year, where they give away first novels and episode 1's of books by their authors with Sequels etc - see Old Man's War and Spirit Gate for example.
I downloaded them all for backup and after The Execution Channel gave me a taste for another sci-fi this was the random choice.
And it was, really good. Unexpectedly good. Very Sci-fi. Not very Space Opera. One gun battle, one nuclear attack, no lasers. A little (can't remember the word but it's almost..) incestuous in it's focus on a tight family/friend pairing for the whole of the novel (almost like Jeffrey Archer) but this helps character development in a novel that could easily have had none.
Unrequited love. Interwoven chapters with flashbacks. Wow technology. A present day (novel) set in 4 x 10^9 AD. Ending... good.
Read it for a sci-fi that's written contemporary with the spirit of the 60's. ...more
Surprisingly good. I'm often surprised by Ken MacLeod - he writes clearly, wittingly and sometimes irritatingly Scottish. His irritations also sometimes roll over into technology (like his erstwhile peer Charles Stross) in this book but he mostly keeps it in check.
An alternate "now/future" book, not pleasant to the Americans at all and very correctly and righteously frustrated at the injustices of the "current/real" world at large. A spy thriller in many ways, with many unsavoury detail it sucks you in completely to the CIA, MI5, DGSE. A little overly complicated and confusing in the end; bluff, double-bluff, insinuation, mis-information and blow-your-mind-scifi keeps it from 4 star. It's premise of disinformation worked against it a little in the end, or maybe that was the whole point. I'd read it again except for the fact the airport thriller nature of it is one of the pleasures it imbued.
Sometime in the last few years, Ken has become one of the current leading lights of contemporary Sci-fi. ...more
Loved every piece of this book. One of the best non-fiction I have read.
Six chapters/sections on various "British" scientific endeavors: Black KnightLoved every piece of this book. One of the best non-fiction I have read.
Six chapters/sections on various "British" scientific endeavors: Black Knight (Rockets to Space!), Concorde (Wow!), Elite, Cellphones (I still hate Oftel), DNA (Saving the Human Genome project from corporate America) and Beagle 2 (our last, best hope).
Every one well written. Every one a good length. Every one compelling.
In a parochial somewhat British way all of these stories struck a chord, but they are also great stories. I'm a non-scientific geek (see stories 1 & 6). I work with cellphone software (see story 4); my high school years impacted by the games world of Elite (see story 3); Concorde is... Concorde (see story 2) and the Human Genome Project and Wellcome Trust (story 5) makes me believe defeating corporate America is possible (it was almost stolen from the world, and the American public by the American law that forbids the State to compete against private enterprise).
Well, it may have taken me a month to read this with everything else going on (Whistler biking trip, work, house prep) but it was worth it.
I think thiWell, it may have taken me a month to read this with everything else going on (Whistler biking trip, work, house prep) but it was worth it.
I think this is the first Novik/Temeraire worth 4 stars (although I am harsh and reserve the right to reduce to 3). (Of course, after writing this I realize I've already given all three of the Novik books 4 stars now, so I must be thinking of bfp stars, which are one star harsher. So b*gger it, I'm giving this one 5).
The only negative I have is that it felt very much like three(?) conjoined books - all were pretty satisfying and the last, based in the Napoleonic wars and the fall of Prussia was great.
I might even need to read Empire of Ivory more or less next. I haven't consumed a series like this for years. Partly due to coming late to a series that has several written books, and partly because it's just good and there are few more compelling things on my bookshelves.
Oh yes, and this was the 3rd book of this series I read as an ebook and I'm starting to feel the rub of being unable to easily share or pass it along (I would be willing to have this constraint if the ebook was significantly cheaper, but its the same price as the ppb). ...more
Mostly re-read this because it was a freebie ebook.
As I recollected, but it reinforced, many of the tragic-anti-hero aspects of the stories (and theirMostly re-read this because it was a freebie ebook.
As I recollected, but it reinforced, many of the tragic-anti-hero aspects of the stories (and their anarchist bent) remained but what I had thought was merely average writing seemed much poorer here.
The Elric/fantasy novels were always wildly signposted and somewhat transparent (in this book, which is a compendium of magazine shorts and letters-to-skim-through, it is even more obvious, if explainable).
There is little feeling of suspense, there is little feeling of excitement, and any insight into Elric's tortured character is WRITTEN IN VERY LARGE LETTERS rather than inferred or implied.
There is a always the chance some great literary subtlety is occurring that I am completely missing of course.
Somehow, however, these are still fine to read, and are pulp fantasy with an obsessive cult anti-hero and a soul-sucking demon for a sword. If you read fantasy then somewhere along the line, you should at least read the stereotypes, and it might be quite fun (the Hawkmoon saga is the better of the Moorcock's IMHO)....more
After I read the fun-dragon-fantasy of His Majesty's Dragon etc I tried to head to equally easy reading of sci-fi. I read my first David Weber only toAfter I read the fun-dragon-fantasy of His Majesty's Dragon etc I tried to head to equally easy reading of sci-fi. I read my first David Weber only to be a little disappointed. A stilted read even for what I was expecting (a military/Navy sci-fi).
It was also pretty bad writing - when finally starting the climatic battle in the end of the book, Weber decides to take us into a little side-explanation of why one ship is racing to a gravity wave and the reason why. No. No. No. This type of setup is meant to happen during the main body of the book (so it add knowledge to the climax) or glossed over.
Honor was an interesting character but also rough - it should probably be a branded on the forehead rule that a male author should never have a female lead in a stereotypical male role refer to herself as "not pretty". Really.
I think this was early in Weber's mammoth-series producing career, and I hope he got better, but I'm in no hurry to find out. However it wasn't painful so I could find myself reading another later, if only because a sci-fi version of Aubrey and Maturin (although so far there is no sign of a second lead) ala Patrick O'Brian is so appealling. ...more
Back-to-back Novik novels! It's great to be back in the world of fun-not-too-serious-doesn't-have-to-be-an-epic fantasy.
Throne of Jade continues quiteBack-to-back Novik novels! It's great to be back in the world of fun-not-too-serious-doesn't-have-to-be-an-epic fantasy.
Throne of Jade continues quite directly from His Majesty's Dragon but could be read standalone. This would be a shame as His Majesty's Dragon is a little bit better, fresher and tighter. It's clear the two books are well thought out - a few nice story transfers serve to seal the fact that Jade is not a tack-on.
The Throne of Jade falls into three parts - it starts a little clumsily with some transition to sending Laurence and Temeraire to China - there then follows a pretty good "long sea journey" section, dealing with many of the stereotypes of these sort of journeys and finishing with a pleasing third in China with a little bit of politicking and some nicely tied off conclusions (a fraction too quickly, especially compared to the slightly slower pace of the rest of the book).
Character development was choppy and the characters are still a little flat, but very enjoyable, with few questionable uh? moments, so that's fine for solid fantasy.
In all of it, the central premise of the existence and use of dragons in the 18th Century remains interesting and fresh and I am keen to move onto Black Powder War but as there is no lingering cliffhanger leading me there I am happy to wait and pace myself a little on this. There is enough pieces in Throne of Jade that I am sure the third installment has enough to keep the series cohesive. ...more
(apparently currently free as a download ebook from various places - Amazon, Sony etc - I paid $8 for it, but that's ok)
After the slog that was Toll T(apparently currently free as a download ebook from various places - Amazon, Sony etc - I paid $8 for it, but that's ok)
After the slog that was Toll The Hounds this was a great rip-roaring fantasy read. 800+ screens flicked through my ebook reader and were gone.
First of a series (of course) but very standalone, I think this is Novik's first book. Writing a little crusty in places but who am I to complain.
A fantasy-history where dragons are real, set in the Napoleanic wars - with some nice not-overdone back history mingled in - we have a luckless Navy Captain becoming the "handler" of a dragon and his move to the Aviation Corps. Hard to say more without spoiling anything, but there are a few surprises and a few obvious parts and some very fun parts.
I will read more of these (although a little peak at the reviews has me a little worried about #2)....more
Blech. I think that's a word, at least it's onomatopeiac. Anyway, that's how I feel about Toll the Hounds.
I waited a couple of days to write this reviBlech. I think that's a word, at least it's onomatopeiac. Anyway, that's how I feel about Toll the Hounds.
I waited a couple of days to write this review, just so I wouldn't be too negative, but I think it's only reduced my invective.
Anyway, after slogging through the 600 or so contract-filling pages I made a concerted effort in the last week to polish this guy off. And succeeded. But it's the weakest Erikson yet. It has hundreds of pages of filler and attempts to add colour (the humour of Kruppe and the Magus of Shadow is, umm, pathetic?) and attempts to be literary (I don't care what the effing ox thinks, ok!).
Characters do things randomly, some characters are omniscient (and perhaps omnipotent) but then choose not to do things until the last 50 pages (could have done it 550 blessed pages sooner), some characters die with feeling, some randomly, some scenes are so set that they lose all context (I could spoiler to death here the world's most meaningless duel when a simple suicide would have done, and the fight itself was glossed over after technically being the most complex to occur).
Basically bad. Not awful, but bad. I would 2 star it with my normal ranking but 2 star in goodreads is "ok" which I think is too generous, so 1 star it is.
I was reluctant to start Toll after #7 Reaper's Gale but I persisted. But before I do #9 I'll definitely be reading reviews and getting advice. I don't even mind it might be bad if I get to see the overall story progress, it's just that the Erikson books are such a damn time commitment I'm unwilling to do it in this case.
This was a free download from Tor. As I haven't watched the new TV show (really?) I actually kinda liked it - I've caught the odd episode on cable oveThis was a free download from Tor. As I haven't watched the new TV show (really?) I actually kinda liked it - I've caught the odd episode on cable over the years and this novel seems like it's basically as good setup/novelization of the start of the show.
Carver does a straightforward and enjoyable job of making a good fast read - many TV and film novels read like screenplays, this was _at least_ a novel....more
Interesting read, detailing the revisionist view of the Genghis Khan empire in the 13th and 14th Century.
Although the Mongols in the book don't like bInteresting read, detailing the revisionist view of the Genghis Khan empire in the 13th and 14th Century.
Although the Mongols in the book don't like blood and fight from afar there are a lot of people killed in this book as the story is essentially one of conquest and then establishment of culture. The author's main point is that the culture was quite sophisticated and polyglot as the Mongol's were primarily a herder/nomad culture so were happy to utilize the skills of the people they overcame.
No tax for priests, scholars, teachers etc... was one of the Empire's more enlightened principles....more
I remember reading this book at least twice and having it read in class/audiobook to me at school once.
This was the Harry Potter of it's day to me - bI remember reading this book at least twice and having it read in class/audiobook to me at school once.
This was the Harry Potter of it's day to me - best young adult fantasy by a contemporary author, nestling with Lewis and Tolkien's books for many years as the transition to adult fantasy geek occurred. ...more
A nice little short story (Pimpf) at the end of this novel deserves a 3.
This is a return to the Laundry for Stross, and I really, really, want to likeA nice little short story (Pimpf) at the end of this novel deserves a 3.
This is a return to the Laundry for Stross, and I really, really, want to like it. But I can't really like it. The story is kind of cool (can't say much without spoiling the plot), the main characters (Bob, Romana, Mo) are good, the writing is ok-ish. The blend of Lovecraftian horrors in a modern British bureaucracy is genius (as in the Atrocity Archives).
The damned modern-day-caught-in-the-moment-I'd-like-to-be-a-hacker-and-throw-in-computer-buzzwords-and-have-a-main-character-who-thinks-a-geek-should-dress-in-black-ness of it all let's it down for me. And there are lot of British Civil Service and Secret Service CAPITALS.