Bonesteel is terrific. Before starting this, I reread its predecessor - straight through till almost 4AM. Which is pretty impressive for a reread of aBonesteel is terrific. Before starting this, I reread its predecessor - straight through till almost 4AM. Which is pretty impressive for a reread of a murder mystery.
Remnants of Trust is *better.* The author is more deft and consistent in tone: the only drawback to The Cold Between was its shifts in genre/tone, from romance to murder mystery to space opera. Here we have a complex political thriller that's consistent from end to end. Bonesteel builds out the Central Corps universe and the intrigue established in the first book. We get to see more of the enigmatic PSY Fleet, through another terrific character, the young, pregnant captain, Guanyin.
One of the best things about the book is that one of its main, and viewpoint, characters, is a self-acknowledged thorough-going bastard. Elena's first captain, Celik, is a horrible person. And yet, Bonesteel brings him to life as a real and complex person, thoroughly motivated, self-aware - and yet our empathy doesn't become sympathy: Bonesteel never lets him off the hook. Celik's one of the most interesting characters I've read in ages.
Elena's representative of a maturity in military SF: she's so much more real and nuanced than the mil-SF heroines of the past couple decades. It's probably no coincidence that she reminds me more of Cordelia Vorkosigan, another series character written by a woman, than, say, Honor Harrington. She's *people* - kind of messed up, learning, choosing a path other than a heroic career, trying to do the right thing. I can't wait to see what's ahead for her....more
This is, as the blurb says, "neither a textbook nor a treatise." It's essentially an indictment of Bush Administration policy in the "War on Terror."This is, as the blurb says, "neither a textbook nor a treatise." It's essentially an indictment of Bush Administration policy in the "War on Terror." It's well done for what it is, and provides some solid background to its main argument. Nonetheless, it's a polemic.
If you're looking for something actually on International Humanitarian Law/Law of Armed Conflict, spend the $100 or so and read Gary Solis. ...more
Disappointingly pedestrian, trite, and flat. Ahsoka's a favorite character, and I'd been looking forward to this book. Unfortunately, there's almost nDisappointingly pedestrian, trite, and flat. Ahsoka's a favorite character, and I'd been looking forward to this book. Unfortunately, there's almost nothing of interest here. It's saved from a 2 star rating as the quality of writing (as opposed to plot and characterization) is fine, and the final scene has some real soul to it that was lacking from the the book overall.
Spoiler-free: Ahsoka's on the run after Order 66. She tries not to get close to people, but she does. The Empire shows up where she's hiding out because macguffin. She tries to bail on them to not drag them in any deeper, but returns to save the day.
The climactic fight is a particular failure: it needed a "Chekhov's Gun" setup but was didn't get one, so it seems Ahsoka pulls a key ability out of nowhere. The boss villain is no challenge at all, and the fight's over in one or two beats.
The novel's only redeeming feature is a couple scenes with Bail Organa, particularly the final one where Fulcrum comes to be, as Bail builds out the network that's about to become the Rebel Alliance. That's the only place where Ahsoka feels like the well-defined, strong-willed character from the animated series, and where the author reaches deeper than the most shallow cliches. ...more
An excellent general-audience book on how digital technologies are enabling ordinary volunteers to save lives in disasters around the world. The authoAn excellent general-audience book on how digital technologies are enabling ordinary volunteers to save lives in disasters around the world. The author is one of the founders of the movement, having created a crisis-management platform in his dorm room in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Meier gives an overview of the problems of coordination and information processing facing crisis response efforts, then details the evolution of computing and communications tools across a series of case studies of environmental and political crises.
The author is steadier and less gee-whiz than, for example, Jane McGonigal in Reality Is Broken. He has a practitioner's sense of the limitations of the possible, and a designer's understanding of the systems necessary to contribute in a useful and timely way in a crisis. For all that, he manages to be at least as inspiring: the potential for ordinary people to help in a meaningful way is greater than ever, thanks in no small part to the author's own efforts.
Digital Humanitarians is an inspirational, informative, readable short book. Its only shortcoming, which is somewhat shocking, is that it doesn't provide a list of generally available resources and means to contribute: readers will have to pick them out of the text and do some googling. A short "How You Can Help" section would have been a great improvement. ...more
Leaving Mundania is a nice little participant-observer account of live-action roleplay as game and community. Stark immersed herself for three years iLeaving Mundania is a nice little participant-observer account of live-action roleplay as game and community. Stark immersed herself for three years in larp, from participating in a decades-long-running campaign to pick-up larp at conventions, to running her own game for non-larping friends. It's journalistic - with a bit of pretension to artsiness - rather than academic-ethnographic: sort of NPR-lite in tone and intended audience.
For a very short book, it's comprehensive, covering military and emergency-response training, and with two fascinating chapters on the rich Nordic Larp scene as well as presenting a range of genres and styles in American larp.
At first, Stark's writing was a bit annoying: she has a tendency to misuse big words. The later chapters are stronger, in part from Stark leveling up as a larper, and setting aside her own insecurity to write more authoritatively.
Stark addresses issues of racism and sexism in American larp: her half-chapter on a Black athlete and a White cop who are both closeted larpers was some of the book's strongest writing. By comparison, an anecdote about a woman whose in-game trial for seduction became mired in OOG slut-shaming felt like it pulled its punches.
There's a bit of Henry Jenkins' early work to Leaving Mundania: Stark is making a persuasive case for larp as not weird or dangerous, and in doing so is less critical and more fluffy than might be hoped. Still, as a result, the book is a good one to give to friends/family to explain a hobby, or to the resolutely mundane to explain geek culture more generally. ...more
I first read Dreadnought! thirty years ago. It was the first Star Trek novel I'd picked up since reading the Alan Dean Foster anthologies as a littleI first read Dreadnought! thirty years ago. It was the first Star Trek novel I'd picked up since reading the Alan Dean Foster anthologies as a little kid. This was several years before TNG, and there really wasn't much Star Trek content around. I *adored* this book, and when I heard of "The Next Generation," I hoped that it'd be based on this novel.
Thirty years on.... I still kind of adore Piper, the newly graduated lieutenant assigned to the Enterprise. And, the plot of Dreadnought! was taken wholesale for Into Darkness - and done a lot worse. That said, the book's flaws are glaring after a generation of a lot better tie-in content. It reads like fic that could've used a better beta reader.
Piper's accused of being a Mary Sue, but I think that's a tremendous abuse of the term. I found her utterly believable as a very bright, very green kid thrust in way over her head in her first day out of the Academy. She's good with tech, but embarrassed that she learned her hacking from YA novels (!); consistently two steps behind Kirk and the bridge crew, again, to her painful embarrassment; and she's really not very good at reading the people she gets close to.
She saves the day.... to the extent that Kirk points her and shoots her at the bad guys. I love their relationship - just a few moments of her desperately wishing she was good enough to serve under his command, and him seeing her potential. I also really appreciated her awkward, messed up attempts to be a good friend to the Vulcan cadet she *completely* knows better than to have a hapless crush on. YMMV.
There are two egregious flaws: one, a lapse into a Randroid rant against exactly the sort of socialism the Federation is founded on, and a weird temporal disconnect: Piper breaks up with her boyfriend on graduation, when they're assigned to different ships. She isn't on the Enterprise long enough to change out of civvies, but somehow the boyfriend's been on his ship long enough to be deeply involved in a conspiracy. It's jolting.
But in all, it's a fun romp, better than the movie that shamelessly ripped it off, and I wish there had been a lot more of Piper. ...more
An excellent undergraduate book for a technology and society class or a social sciences survey class looking to break the textbook mold. Aside from itAn excellent undergraduate book for a technology and society class or a social sciences survey class looking to break the textbook mold. Aside from its readability, my favorite thing about Superconnected is the seamless and comprehensive way it presents information as the product of contemporary scholarship. Too many undergraduate texts present knowledge as something that exists, rather than a thing that has been made, and is still being made. Chayko's bibliography is pricesless, an excellent starting-off point for more in-depth study.
The book covers a lot of ground, and is suitable for selecting particular chapters. From a history of digital technologies, it covers surveillance, globalization, formation of the self, relationships and family, and the workplace. I found the self and relationship chapters the best, the one on institutions (family, education, work, religion, and politics) a bit too brisk.
I'm eager to use it in the classroom, particularly to combat the pernicious anti-technology messages so many students seem to have taken to heart from grade school. It's also a work that begs for active discussion based on students' experiences. ...more
I notice reviews are a bit lower for this second volume in The Great Library, with readers reluctantly dinging it a star for being a middle book. I diI notice reviews are a bit lower for this second volume in The Great Library, with readers reluctantly dinging it a star for being a middle book. I disagree: I found it The Godfather II, The Empire Strikes Back. It's a much tighter story than the first, and some seem to miss the broad scope of Ink and Bone. I thought it a strength: we go much, much deeper into the Library's politics, architecture, power, control, rather than being taken around the world at large. The friendships formed in the first volume deepen profoundly. The emotional intensity is even higher: Caine introduces a (sort-of, no spoilers) character, gets us to fall in love with them, and delivers them to a heroically tragic fate, within a few pages, and I at least was as moved as I'd be at the loss of one of the core characters. She writes the hell out of this.
The first book ended with Jess's good friend Thomas captured, tortured, and believed dead. Jess learns otherwise, and the whole group mounts a rescue operation - which drags them even deeper into the politics of an empire at a crisis inflection point. The Library's rulers know its power is fragile enough to shatter with a blow, and that they've inadvertently created a band of revolutionaries with just the tools, access, and motivation to deliver that blow.
It's very reminiscent of the early Russian revolutionary movement: a handful of scholars against a vast, mighty, autocratic empire. But at a more personal level, we get to see deeply into the lives of our protagonists, from Wolfe and Santi's fierce PTSD'd devotion to each other, to Jess and Morgan's continued uncanny ability to say exactly the wrong thing to each other, to Jess's final abandonment of sentiment towards his birth family.
We also get a lovely tour of Library-ruled Rome, where automata prowl the intact Forum. The continuity of culture, without the break of Christian control and Germanic sacking, is kind of heartbreakingly wonderful. Beyond being a terrific dystopian adventure, the series remains a love letter to the ancient world, and to the power of knowledge.
There are horrors, wonders, thrilling escapes, edge-of-the seat battles, amazing discoveries, crushing losses... and another year till the next book. It's going to be a hard wait. ...more
Ink and Bone is the best thing I've read in years. It *should* be derivative; it should be another of the market-glutting YA dystopias. But it's not.Ink and Bone is the best thing I've read in years. It *should* be derivative; it should be another of the market-glutting YA dystopias. But it's not. It is: a love letter to learning and the written word; a scathing indictment of "responsible innovation" and the precautionary principle; a very real and compelling take on the "unusual academy" story; a rip-roaring adventure; a very well built alternate history; a book I started at 11 pm on a weeknight and stayed up till 3:30 am reading in a single go.
The Library of Alexandria was never sacked; rather it made a bid for supreme power in the ancient world by maintaining an absolute monopoly over the permanent written word. And to maintain power, it suppressed the printing press, of course, and nearly all innovation (except for its own purposes). It's now the 22nd Century of a late-medieval world with a bit of steam tech, and the Library's grip on global empire is firm, held by an Archivist and a hierarchy whose internal politics would shame a Borgia pope.
Jess's family deals in black market books, and his criminal kingpin father has gotten him an apprenticeship in Alexandria - all the better to continue the family business from the inside. But the Welsh Army's marching on Oxford, the radical Burners are suicide-bombing branches of the Library....
If you like the feel of Harry Potter, or Ender's Game, but want better worldbuilding, heightened passion, fresher characters, you may love Ink and Bone as much as I did.
It's a coming of age novel, a fish out of water story - lots of classic tropes, but burnished to their finest. The Battle of Oxford is incredibly vivid: the *smell* of it lingers in my memory. Jess's friends are the standard diverse mix, but actual people - his frenemy-ship with the aristocratic Dario, his deep fondness with the gifted engineer Thomas, are deeply enjoyable; and I think I'm more in love with his sweetie than he is.
The worldbuilding is interesting: pagan culture never ended, but the Abrahamic religions grew up around and amongst it. It's a world without the Enlightenment, but without imperialism, scientific racism, systematic oppression - except by the Library against everybody, but that apparently only weighs on the (pre-Westphalian, small) states foolish enough to attack a Library or its people (Apparently Austrian troops tried to sack the Milan Library... which is why there's no more Austria, described in one of the book's more chilling exchanges).
SPQR is eminently readable, an ideal choice for a long plane flight or suchlike, for a reader of casual nonfiction. It's not a great choice for the avSPQR is eminently readable, an ideal choice for a long plane flight or suchlike, for a reader of casual nonfiction. It's not a great choice for the avid amateur.
Beard takes as her task the first millennium of Rome, from it's mythical founding to the death of Commodus and the end of a stable imperial succession. That's more than a bit misleading, enough so that I contemplated downgrading the book to 3 stars. Tiberius through Commodus, a period including, as she notes, what Gibbon called the greatest epoch in human history, are dismissed in a short chapter. Her argument is that Augustus established the imperial system, and all that really happened subsequently was a different face on the coinage.
The end of the book feels like the work of a postmodernist historian who's Had It with writing popular Whig history and just handwaves the ending. It's exasperating.
Otherwise, she takes Cicero's career as her starting point, looking backwards and forwards from that last generation of the Republic. It's a good framing device, and deftly handled. She's very readable, and the first half or so of the book glides by. The chapters on the Augustan system are much rougher: she chooses not to tell stories, but get deeper into the political order, and ends up with neither a smooth read or a deep analysis.
In all, if you want to read a book about Rome, this isn't bad: it covers a lot of ground in a readable style. Otherwise, either give this a pass or expect some irritations. ...more
I've long since lost my taste for literary fiction. The Last Hot Time is everything literary fiction is not: it's *painterly,* where the craft is moreI've long since lost my taste for literary fiction. The Last Hot Time is everything literary fiction is not: it's *painterly,* where the craft is more powerful for not drawing attention to itself with how clever it is trying to be. It is not mundane; it captures transcendent passions. It does not turn up its nose; it gets its hands deep into the muck of our souls.
The Last Hot Time tells a coming of age story, and a very good one. But what it mostly does is capture a hundred shades of sweet pain. It is melancholy, and the fear of losing a love not yet found, and knowing oneself too well, the kind of absolution that burns away guilt but never responsibility, the fear from knowing that you'll have to peek behind the curtain rather than being comforted by the illusion.
It is layers upon layers of nuance in a very short book. It is imagery that will stay with you forever. It is a reminder of why True Names matter and why words hold power. It might make you cry. It will likely haunt you. It is not perfect, but it is all the better for not being so.
*Find* a copy. Clear a late night. Savor that feeling when you turn a corner to unexpectedly confront perhaps not *great* art, but true art. ...more
I actually enjoyed reading this anthology: it's a superb collection, and with introductory material for each chapter that's concise and fresh. It takeI actually enjoyed reading this anthology: it's a superb collection, and with introductory material for each chapter that's concise and fresh. It takes a historical approach, which I found surprisingly helpful for getting a feel for the evolution of an academic discipline: it starts with Taylor and Weber, proceeds through the postwar cyberneticists and human resources theorists to feminism and corporate social responsibility. Most all of the articles are well written and accessible (one or two are either turgid or chopped to bits for length).
The volume hangs together as a coherent whole better than most any edited collection I can think of. Whether your field is management or science and technology studies, this is a reference you want to have handy. ...more