This is a fairly well written treatment of the rise of Christianity and of "traditional religion" during Late Antiquity. The author effectively arguesThis is a fairly well written treatment of the rise of Christianity and of "traditional religion" during Late Antiquity. The author effectively argues that "Paganism" and "Pagans" were a term of art retroactively applied by Christianity to traditional religious practices and beliefs following Christianity's rise to power. Before this occurred, there were no "Pagans" or "Paganism," as such, because the peoples of this era did not think on or reify their beliefs in that fashion. He then makes the case that the difference between Christian and "Pagan" beliefs for much of third and fourth century were rather arbitrary and that one would be hard pressed in many instances to say whether a given individual was actually a Christian as one would think of Christianity today. Basically, borders were fuzzy and loose within the larger culture of the Roman Empire and the switch to Christianity happened mostly gradually and often for very social reasons.
I found this book to be a nice switch from the normal "Christians versus Pagans" linear narratives of many other texts....more
Wow, I glanced over other reviews just after I finished reading this (a few minutes ago) and people seem to be very polarized about this book. This isWow, I glanced over other reviews just after I finished reading this (a few minutes ago) and people seem to be very polarized about this book. This is because our viewpoint character is now Mo, Laundry agent and wife of Bob Howard, our protagonist from all previous books in the series. Stross has said that he wanted to mix things up and that Bob has advanced to the stage of being so powerful that he's less interesting as a character (at least for him as the author) so he's going to have other protagonists for a couple (few?) books.
In this book, we get to see the Laundry and Bob from the point of view of Mo. It turns out that Bob's view of the world and of his relationship to his wife is not exactly that of his spouse. As someone who has been married for over a decade now, these parts actually rang as relatively true. People are complaining that Mo is a "bitch" and giving the book one or two stars because of how "mean" she is to Bob. Really, people? Are you all single, 20 something dudes who have never been in the struggle which a marriage and differing viewpoints in one can and will be?
Anyway...as to the book itself. This is Stross' take on a superhero novel in the Laundry universe. You can either hate that outright or roll with it. I enjoyed it even if it was a bit of a side jaunt from the Lovecraftian spy stuff of earlier novels. Hell, the last book was a *vampire* book in modern London. I thought it was well executed and I found it a bit of a page turner, finishing it with an hour here and there in the same week in which it was released. I don't know if it does a lot to advance the larger series plot of the Laundry universe but it does give another viewpoint on the Laundry, its agents and actors, and the stakes involved.
If you like this series, it is worth reading unless you're utterly unwilling to deal with a possibly self-centered spouse of our previous protagonist (or unless you're some gamergate asshole unable to deal with another POV). I think Stross put a lot into depicting Mo fairly, even if she isn't terribly sympathetic or even likable at times. I do think it is worth pondering what kind of relationship two agents of a secret occult government agency would have, as walking wounded with severe PTSD and other mental issues, after all the things that they have seen....more
If you're only going to read one book on the Crusades, read this book because after its 700+ pages, you'll never want to read another!
This was actuallIf you're only going to read one book on the Crusades, read this book because after its 700+ pages, you'll never want to read another!
This was actually a very good history of the lead up to the First Crusade all the way through the Fifth Crusade. This is over 200 years of history of the "Crusader Kingdoms" of the Levant and surrounding Near East territory. If you hate history that gets into names, dates, and battles, it isn't one for you but I think it hit a good middle ground for the general educated reader of history. It was looooong but, again, it is 200 years of history in a fair amount of detail. It also covers a lot of the larger geopolitical situation in Europe, with the Catholic Church, and the Abbasid and other dynasties of the Middle East (and Mongols!!).
I wanted to like it more. It had an interesting setup: remote piloted robot soldier drones forcing na American world peace on an unstable world, whethI wanted to like it more. It had an interesting setup: remote piloted robot soldier drones forcing na American world peace on an unstable world, whether you like it or not but then it mostly turned into a "run and gun" action novel. It was perfectly readable but not really earth shattering in any way....more
This was an entertaining enough read though the main character's personal superpower did get a little old after a while. The reason I didn't rate it mThis was an entertaining enough read though the main character's personal superpower did get a little old after a while. The reason I didn't rate it more highly is I found that the last third was a bit predictable and seemed to set itself up for a sequel as much as anything else. I did enjoy it enough to read over the course of a day and a half but I wouldn't rate it in my top of the year for books I've read....more
This is second book in the Incarcedero trilogy after the Twelve Fingered Boy, following the "adventures" of Shreve as he tries to puzzle out his newfoThis is second book in the Incarcedero trilogy after the Twelve Fingered Boy, following the "adventures" of Shreve as he tries to puzzle out his newfound power, escape from the seemingly endless custody he's held in by various parties, and decide how to address whatever is sleeping in Maryland. This is probably my favorite YA series that I've read in a while and readable by teens as well as parents of teens, such as myself. I really rather enjoyed the book, the writing, and the sensibilities behind it. This was a really good read....more
Despite being a huge Robinson fan, I've never read two out of three books in his "California" trilogy, written back in the 1980s.
This book is full ofDespite being a huge Robinson fan, I've never read two out of three books in his "California" trilogy, written back in the 1980s.
This book is full of what clearly became themes in his later works. Lots of detailed descriptions of landscape, hiking, and being out in the open, along with the strange (yet actually normal) interrelationships between normal people. There isn't a lot of overall plot in that it is an utopian novel set in a small town struggling with a legal zoning fight in the city council. Our craftsman carpenter protagonist loves the last hill that is going to be developed if he doesn't win but he's also known most of the other characters, including his antagonist, since childhood. There is a love triangle between the woman that they both love and a bit about his grandfather, a depressed hermit, who is one of the architects of the legal framework of their society. In the sense of plot, there is not a lot of "there" there. It is a book about the people and a kind of dream of southern California life. As a resident of California for almost a decade now, I can kind of dig that and, as a utopia, it sounds like a great place to live, really. It isn't tense except on the interpersonal level though.
The book it not too badly dated. The parts from his grandfather's journal, many years in the past in 2012 (!) don't sound too out of place for our world except for the focus on the AIDS epidemic as a plot point (not surprising for writing in 1988). The 2065 "present" is quaint in ways without networking, outside of people using their TVs to videoconference, and no mobile computing or cell phones. All phones are wired and I feel like a relic just reading that.
I enjoyed it and I think Robinson fans would enjoy it. I'm not sure if this is a book, versus just going to the Mars trilogy, that I'd recommend to people that don't know Robinson. It definitely gives you the early stages of things that are very present in the Mars trilogy, his global warming trilogy, and various other later novels....more
I think I may be a sucker for this series and/or author. I loved this book. I read it in two evenings, which I rarely do anymore.
This book, like the fI think I may be a sucker for this series and/or author. I loved this book. I read it in two evenings, which I rarely do anymore.
This book, like the first one (titled either "Low Town" or "The Straight Razor Cure") is a procedural/mystery novel that is also about as "low fantasy" as low fantasy can be. Our first person protagonist is a broken soul who grew up an orphan in "Low Town," the scummy slum of the capitol city. Even given certain options in life, he fucked it all up. The first book, as history within it, chronicles how he, as a stupid youth, volunteered for a magical version of World War I (including trench warfare) followed by a serving of working for the secret police on his return. The end result of his decisions is he becomes the unofficial kingpin of Low Town, running drugs and addicted to them. What makes him more interesting as a character is his tough facade is a facade (though he is tough as nails in the ability to take a beating) because somewhere, down there, in his damaged war veteran soul, there is some more than vague sense of right and wrong. While giving a pretense of self-interest, he winds up sticking his nose into things that a sane drug dealer would just leave alone.
This is the case in both of these books. While they could be read individually, I do think reading them in order is best since they do build on themes and history over time....more
This was definitely an odd book. The plot, as such, doesn't really go anywhere in particular and, to be frank, you don't necessarily expect it to do sThis was definitely an odd book. The plot, as such, doesn't really go anywhere in particular and, to be frank, you don't necessarily expect it to do so. This is more of a meditation on character, identity, and, maybe, loss. Definitely a "mood" sort of book more than many other things, though there is a bit of an arc within it.
I liked it but I'm not sure which of my friends, for example, would really enjoy it. I think it was interesting though....more
This book is a bit rough. If you hadn't read the rest of Cherie Priest's "Clockwork Century" series, I don't think it would really be a very good readThis book is a bit rough. If you hadn't read the rest of Cherie Priest's "Clockwork Century" series, I don't think it would really be a very good read. It is a classic "middle book" but it doesn't really even move the whole series forward the way, say, "Dreadnought," did.
Its main reason for existence seems to be to provide a return to the late 1800's zombie plagued and blighted Seattle of "Boneshaker," the first book in this series. We get to see Zeke, the protagonist of that book, from the viewpoint of Rector, our drug addicted and dealing protagonist who is finally being forced to grow up and decide what he wants to do with his life (or if he's even going to have one). Other than the Tom Sawyeresque moments between a trio of young men, there really isn't a lot going on here. Sure, there is an overall plot culminating in a (lackluster) battle but there really isn't much tension in this book and it kind of drags along.
I feel bad giving it a mediocre review and rating but, compared to the others in the series, I found it a bit lackluster. I put it down one third of the way through and read another book and really only finished it so I could read "Fiddlehead," the last book in the series that follows it....more
As the joke has been going, if you enjoy orbital mechanics as a main character, you'll enjoy this novel. I was commenting to someone that the book couAs the joke has been going, if you enjoy orbital mechanics as a main character, you'll enjoy this novel. I was commenting to someone that the book could be 100 pages shorter if we dumped the super detailed description of orbital mechanics that occurs as an info-dump over and over again. Then I met someone who had gotten annoyed enough to begin counting pages when it happened and got to around 259 pages of it. *sigh*
Stephenson is the Stephen King of Science Fiction: only writes massive novels that no editor is up to the challenge of editing (and I *liked* Reamde!). There is a kernel of an excellent novel (or two) here but this is just a monstrosity that I finished out of spite.
The novel is divided into thirds: 1) Lead up to the destruction of Earth in a few years' time 2) The orbital antics following the destruction 3) 5000 years later with the re-terraforming of the Earth
The first third was a pretty good novel. The last third *could* have been a decent novel with a bit of work. The middle third was kind of shit. All of this with waaaaaaaay too much detail on how space mechanics work from an author who was a consultant at Jeff Bezos' private space venture in Seattle.
Needless to say, I was disappointed and question whether I'll be reading any more of Stephenson's tomes after all of this, and I've read every novel he's ever written....more