My habit of reading acknowledgements pages paid off in this book. Going in I knew the author had researched (and even practiced, in some cases) "aeriaMy habit of reading acknowledgements pages paid off in this book. Going in I knew the author had researched (and even practiced, in some cases) "aerial combat," a "sniper instruction manual," "accident reconstruction," and high performance vehicles. Gives a sense for what's coming, doesn't it?
Essentially, a CSI-type investigation into various accidents runs into trouble when it becomes clear that some are actually murders staged to look like accidents by a powerful organized crime syndicate. As you would expect, this consistently involves the reader in gory death, technical description, and profanity.
(The acknowledgements page also claims that each incident is a composite of real events related to the author by accident reconstruction experts. That idea made those scenes more interesting and immediate, even though I am fairly certain that at least two are actually based on urban legends.)
I know Simmons from his science fiction(Hyperion), but his other works are equally acclaimed, so this was my first foray into that arena. His stories are good, the characters interesting, and his references unfailingly erudite (i.e. I missed most of them).
I understand, and often enjoy, the use of technical details to enhance a novel. This is a frequent technique in thrillers, sci-fi, and other genres used to highlight crucial elements, build suspense, or enhance realism. When used on nearly every page of the novel, however, it starts to lose its punch and become encyclopedic. Simmons seems to have included almost everything from his research.
Finally, I found Darwin (the protagonist) to be a little bit too capable. Seriously, how many fields can you actually have expert knowledge in? He is presented as an incredibly wide-read intellectual, but still. All those details from Simmons research seem to have implanted directly into Darwin's immediate memory....more
Where Hyperion was a series of tales, this entry is an interweaving of storylines. The big ideas are still present, but focus now on delivering the clWhere Hyperion was a series of tales, this entry is an interweaving of storylines. The big ideas are still present, but focus now on delivering the climax of humanity on the brink. Impressively literary, the prose sometimes oversteps the degree of erudition I expect from my casual reading, but perhaps if I were more familiar with Keats I would be only impressed, rather than impressed and slightly annoyed.
Some plot holes remain, as well as a complete mystery about how all the time dilation actually works, but many of the disparate pieces are stitched together into a surprising and coherent narrative. The book concludes so ... well, conclusively...that I am not sure whether I will read the third part of the Cantos. I will, however, definitely pursue more of Dan Simmons' work....more
An excellent tale and beautifully told. There is much here to applaud and to appreciate.
This is one of the most skillful retellings of any fairy tale,An excellent tale and beautifully told. There is much here to applaud and to appreciate.
This is one of the most skillful retellings of any fairy tale, in that it is somehow its own story while at the same time following the narrative we know and expect. Daughter of the Forest is in fact an improvement upon the strange and capricious story that was the original Six Swans. All the essential elements are there, along with nods to many details, but Marillier's story is driven by characters and motivations not the whimsy of a morality tale. My favorite part is the way that, throughout the book, winning does not erase the wounds received along the way. Good triumphs over evil, but the costs are real and the scars remain until they slowly fade.
It took me a while to feel at home in Marillier's historical Ireland, but I fell in love with her well researched depiction of a nearly possible "once upon a time." My only consistent complaint had nothing to do with the writing, but rather the formatting: the chapters were too long. Each one had multiple breakpoints in it where a new chapter could have begun, but I felt compelled to read on. My recommendation is to invest in a good bookmark so that when you need to you can put it down safe in the knowledge that you can pick it up again immediately. ...more
Disappointing. After the final chapter of Xenocide made it clear why "Children of the Mind" was an appropriate title for this volume, I had high hopesDisappointing. After the final chapter of Xenocide made it clear why "Children of the Mind" was an appropriate title for this volume, I had high hopes for a re-energized franchise going in brave new directions. Nope. Just a rehash of what we've seen before, but with glaring new plot holes and a tidier conclusion.
I'm glad I made it this far, and I will probably read the final book when it comes out, but this has not been my favorite series....more
The main reason I enjoyed this less than the previous two is that I am less familiar with the historical events depicted. Laurence and Temeraire crossThe main reason I enjoyed this less than the previous two is that I am less familiar with the historical events depicted. Laurence and Temeraire cross a contintent and find themselves embroiled in the political build-up to the Dardanelles blockade and in the action of the War of the Fourth Coalition. The beginning is slow, but the warfare is very well done. Novik eloquently communicates the horror of a complete rout at the hands of a superior enemy. There is serious doubt about which of the heroes' goals will be accomplished and which will be thwarted.
I will continue the series, and continue to read up on the Napoleonic Wars....more
My favorite Pratchett so far, except forA Hat Full of Sky. While this story shares much with the rest of the Discworld, including characters, runningMy favorite Pratchett so far, except forA Hat Full of Sky. While this story shares much with the rest of the Discworld, including characters, running gags, and elaborate puns, it felt like a very different kind of story to me. Beneath the humor, this story takes itself seriously and entertains a few serious themes.
Monstrous Regiment takes a common trope (the Mulan story) and makes the very natural extension that an idea that occurs to one person may likely occur to another. The tropes pile onto one another humorously, all while delivering an enjoyable, tight adventure.
Then things start to spin up, and the conceit is taken to absurd lengths--except that everything in the world works together to make it absolutely plausible. Probable, in fact. Expected. And that is the genius of this book: it plays back and forth across the line of plausibility such that the line moves with it wherever it goes.
Though it didn't play out exactly as I anticipated, (view spoiler)[I thought Jackrum was going to be the Duchess, (hide spoiler)] the adventure concludes about how you think it will. Then Pratchett treats us with an epilogue that wraps everything together much more elegantly than I've come to expect from him.
Near the end we get a larger-than-usual dose of Pratchett wisdom that would be preachy if it didn't hit so close to home. The world he's made is a caricature, but it captures us like a political cartoon from the Ankh Morpork Times.
There is much of Pratchett's usual mild innuendo in here, but given the subjects and themes in the book, it becomes a much more sardonic sort of half-humor.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I was completely drawn in by Fforde's brilliantly envisioned and characteristically bizarre world. This one was more cohesive than the world of ThursdI was completely drawn in by Fforde's brilliantly envisioned and characteristically bizarre world. This one was more cohesive than the world of Thursday Next, and at times embraced a thoughtful cynicism (as opposed to his usual simply comic cynicism).
The humor and word use were great as usual, and I wish I had made a long list of favorites. The short list is: the phrase "obscenely obsolete" the infallible Rules, all of which are too random out of context to be funny here except "All children are to attend school until the age of sixteen or until they have learned everything, whichever be the sooner." I also highly recommend the unLibrary chapter for a unique treatment of librarians.
The characters' nonchalance toward injury and things like "life continuance" was a great illustration of the baldly utilitarian ethic of the Collective, and made for some rather macabre scenes. Note: In this book Fforde is a master of coined terms and euphemism. In particular, procreational activities are mentioned frequently but always circumspectly.
Since our first-person narrator Eddie Russett revealed his demise in the first sentence ("It began with my father not wanting to see the Last Rabbit and ended up with my being eaten by a carniverous plant"), I spent a lot of time as I read debating how Fforde would handle the ending. Most likely scenarios: main character is saved at the last minute and lives happily ever after; main character actually dies but we care about the people he leaves behind, who live happily ever after; or main character dies and it's rather existentially pointless. I only considered that last one because it was Fforde. As it turned out, none of these was quite right.
...and on the back flap I learned that although Russett will not be able to narrate again, two more Shades of Grey books are slated to fill out a trilogy ;-)...more
While very good, this doesn't live up to the flanking books in the trilogy. I didn't care about the characters as much (there were too many of them, aWhile very good, this doesn't live up to the flanking books in the trilogy. I didn't care about the characters as much (there were too many of them, as well), and the pace of the story was too slow and repetitive to really capture me. While one or two plot elements genuinely fooled me, the ending was not a surprise and was a bit disappointing, I thought. Then again, that may be partly a result of where the story had to stop as #2 in a trilogy. ...more
This version of the "jumping on the bed" classic is a great example of telling more story with the pictures than is present in the words. Bundling inThis version of the "jumping on the bed" classic is a great example of telling more story with the pictures than is present in the words. Bundling in a mild message of taking charge of your own problems, this is a winner...more
The writing was unforgivably heavy-handed, not only in the "underlying" message but also in the plot and description. If The Giver is the same and I jThe writing was unforgivably heavy-handed, not only in the "underlying" message but also in the plot and description. If The Giver is the same and I just didn't recognize that in middle school then I owe Lowry an apology, but I think even a middle grade reader would find the didactic approach of Gathering Blue insulting. Lowry didn't even bother to show the reader her potemkin village; she gave it a second-hand description instead.
In fairness, the last two pages offered a glimmer of redemption for the rest of the novel. I read them and thought, "Wow, that's an intriguing direction to take the story." Unfortunately, Kira's decision is neither explored nor supported by anything else in the story. What is meant to be hopeful comes across as an unsatisfying ending to an unpalatable book.
(Note that I only made it to those final pages because the print was large enough that I could skim easily, and because I wanted to be able to give an honest review.)
If you are looking for an insidious post-apocalyptic society, look elsewhere. For older readers, I recommend Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. For younger readers, I have heard good things about DuPrau's The City of Ember, though I haven't read it yet....more
This misadventure is a single novella-length story rather than the collection of short stories common in the Jeeves series. This is both good and bad,This misadventure is a single novella-length story rather than the collection of short stories common in the Jeeves series. This is both good and bad, as the extra room allows the farce to escalate to both hilarious and annoying proportions. And, as Bertie and Jeeves find themselves at cross-purposes, we see a little less of Jeeves' cleverness since he is shoved out of the limelight.
I particularly enjoyed the character of Dahlia, who is remarkably well-balanced despite her relations.
In all, a solid addition to the saga of Wooster chagrin....more