I just got to this book, since I'm not planning to buy it in hardcover, since it wouldn't fit on my shelves that way. My mother read it before me and...moreI just got to this book, since I'm not planning to buy it in hardcover, since it wouldn't fit on my shelves that way. My mother read it before me and complained that it wasn't as good as the previous, since it consisted mainly of logistics; I however think logistics are pretty awesome, and have been known to give up on books which cannot explain to me how the foot-soldiers got from A to B, so this is perfectly all right with me.
This book is not, however, rolicking good fun, or not quite so much so as the previous in the series. Given how book four closed (being vague now, so as to avoid a spoiler) this is not precisely a surprise. However, this is the book in which the characters truly make themselves, betray themselves, save themselves, find themselves, and in the process, really get the alternate part of this alternate history going.
At a few points in this series I have felt that Novik was passing lightly over the more awkward and unsightly parts of history, and not fully exploring the consequences of dragons in war, but I do not think that can be said here. Like the rest of the series, recommended.(less)
Hah! So, in a CRAZY coincidence, it turns out that book one is really a better starting point than book six. I know.
I really liked about this book tha...moreHah! So, in a CRAZY coincidence, it turns out that book one is really a better starting point than book six. I know.
I really liked about this book that both the hero and heroine were mildly fucked up, and the book and most of the characters knew that, and lived with it. Elena, the POV character, is a werewolf who's been passing as human. She was bitten some years ago by Clay, the man she once thought was the man she was going to marry. (At the time, she thought he was a man, that is, as well as that she was going to marry him.) She's pretty pissed at him for the whole "turning her into a werewolf" thing.
Which is why she's living in Toronto and shacked up with a nice mild-mannered accountant. Okay, I don't think he's actual an accountant, but he's everything "accountant" is shorthand for, so go with it. But she goes back to the pack when she gets a call that they need help.
It's pretty evident from pretty much the beginning that Elena is going to end up with Clay, which bothered me; he turned her into a werewolf without her consent! I mean, we don't have a human analogue, but he radically altered her life without asking or even warning. It helps that Elena is mad at him for that, but at one point she says something like "I didn't want to talk about it, because I might have to listen to him, which meant I might have to forgive him."
The thing is, I don't see why listening to Clay entails forgiving him, it's not like he had a really good reason: "I had to turn you into a werewolf to save the last unicorn!" The book is maybe a little coy on his reasons, but it's suggested that it's because Clay can't always control his animal instincts, and some werewolf-y part of him wanted Elena for his werewolf-y mate. Now, for the most part, Clay is not an abusive control-y sort of person; in fact, he's rather desperately trying to make up to Elena for his mistake those years ago. And yet, it's a pretty big mistake, I'd say!
However, if I have given the impression this is going to be about men who cannot control their passions and the women who surrender to them, that's very inaccurate. Elena can certainly control herself well enough, but she's inherently a violent and aggressive personality, so when she suppresses instincts, they're generally the more tender ones. Unlike some supernatural books when sort of defang the creatures of the night, Elena slaughters her way through this book, never killing people without a reason, but killing willingly enough when a reason comes up. Clay and Elena are well enough suited, I just uncomfortable with the fact that it's treated like Clay has suffered enough from seven years of Elena's rejection, and it's time she got over it.(less)
Although I tragically do not have access at the moment to the material necessary to test my hypothesis, I theorize that this book's popularity is prob...moreAlthough I tragically do not have access at the moment to the material necessary to test my hypothesis, I theorize that this book's popularity is probably due to masses of people having read it while toked up. It probably seems very deep and meaningful that way.(less)
Looking at the covers of other editions, I realize how lucky I am to have gotten this one. All the other covers are incredibly creepy--and not in the...moreLooking at the covers of other editions, I realize how lucky I am to have gotten this one. All the other covers are incredibly creepy--and not in the way that the book is creepy, in an 'oh my god why is that child's head malformed?' way. This one is pretty much creepy in precisely the way the book is creepy.
Anywho, Karen Aich sent me this when she discovered I hadn't read Margaret Mahy, and then I didn't read it for a month because I am an awesome friend like that. It's YA, a genre I regard with deep suspicion, since even the best of it still carries memories of adolescence, a period I have been attempting to avoid since I was nine. Also, it's (as many of the editions state on the cover,) a supernatural romance, which is the sort of thing that frequently fails to have any laser-pistols or zeppelins in it at all. What I am saying is, it's very much not my thing.
That said, I put it in my bag as my emergency back-up book, and finished it within the week, in a succession of fifteen minute bus-rides.
Laura is young girl who lives with her young brother and underemployed mother who has a certain sensitivity to the preternatural. When the creepy guy junk shop owner ensorcels her brother, she goes to get help from Sorenson Carlisle, who she's always sensed was a witch. This is much more straight-forward than in the book, where everything is freighted with uncertainty. Rather like one's adolescence, sigh.
Laura is fourteen, and Sorenson (Sorry) is seventeen, if I'm translating their grades right, (Forms are magical!) and Laura is confused and somewhat dismayed by her adolescent sexuality, whereas Sorry is confused and thrilled by both hers and his. The changeover of the title refers to a transformation which might allow Laura to harness her power to defend her brother, but one doesn't have to look very deep for a metaphorical reading.
One of the reasons I got pulled into the book is the writing, both for its own sake, and because their are bits of it where it seemed like I could detect its influence in Karen's writing. The style is sort of quietly clever, as in this bit:
The show was between a window full of handbags and suitcases for people who wanted to travel elegantly and a shop full of dresses 'for the fuller figure' which showed large, tactful dresses all in wine-red and grey this week.
I feel that giving a review consisting of twelve \o/ in a row might be considered a cop-out.
But it's tempting. This book is a sequel to Wolf Star and...moreI feel that giving a review consisting of twelve \o/ in a row might be considered a cop-out.
But it's tempting. This book is a sequel to Wolf Star and The Myriad, which I have already reviewed, and both of which I've given four stars. This book skips ahead a year from Wolf Star, and picks up at the point where events veer from the obvious path for them to take after the close of the last book.
The book's main dramatic arc is about the war against the alien threat known as the Gorgons, a terrifying life-form which overturns their scientific understanding of the universe. So terrifying, that the Romans have unilaterally surrendered to the Americans, specifically to John Farragut, the only man to successfully take back a ship once the Gorgons boarded. The Roman Emperor surrendered command of his legions, and gave his patterner, Augustus, to Farragut. Augustus is a creation of advanced Roman medical science, capable of synthesizing unfathomable amounts of information, pushing the human body past sane limits, and programmed to be blindly loyal to the Caesar.
The war is desperate, and gets more desperate all the time, Farragut and the Romans are still at each others throats, allies only by bitterest necessity, and forced to rely on the non-military League of Earth Nations for military support. But the main tension for me in this book was between Farragut and Augustus. Farragut is a man born of privileged, his father is a judge, and his mother is a US senator, inheritor of wealth that puts him in the top 1% of the Earth's population. He's risen in the Navy by hard work, tactical genius, and a gift for people. He's an idealist who knows how often reality falls short of his ideals, and doesn't let that stand in his way.
Augustus was created by Roman science to be a weapon, a synthesis of man and machine with memories that go back only eight years. He's the sort of man who likes to pull the wings off flies to watch what happens, and he sees most humans as insects. Except the wings he's interested in are the wings of the human brain. (Metaphor failure, eject, eject!) He's a sadist, is what I'm getting at, who gets his jollies putting pins in the tender places of the minds of people around him.
Augustus despises Farragut, not only as an American, but as an idealist, but Farragut is the one man given authority over him by Caesar. Farragut is so relentlessly fair that he cannot help but respect Augustus' dedication and abilities. Basically, they are so incredibly slashable that I cannot stand it. (less)
I find the first-person girl-demon-hunter genre increasingly baffling. Why is it always in first-person? Why is the romance so formulaic? Why do I kee...moreI find the first-person girl-demon-hunter genre increasingly baffling. Why is it always in first-person? Why is the romance so formulaic? Why do I keep on reading it? This entry in the genre doesn't really answer any of those questions, but kept me reading it in search of the answer to a new question: “How is this book so fail?”
Several specific sorts of fail aside, it's not a bad book of its sort, if its the sort of thing you like. Androgynously-named Girl is an exorcist in a world where demon possession is legal, if done with the host's consent, and the concomitant crime keeps her fairly busy. It's an interesting world, and Black has put a lot of thought into the social implications, and even the religions that grow up around demons.
When I say fail, I'm making some assumptions about what the book is attempting to achieve (and what it fails at.) I'm assuming it's intending to be soft-core erotica, and as such, that it intends to be erotic to its target audience of presumptively heterosexual women. Why, then, does the narrator persistently tell me how sexy she is? The effect is a bit like she is a phone-sex-worker, assuring you she is sexy, sexually aroused, and performing sex-acts, but without any heavy breathing which might add plausibility. Even if this were an interest of het women, someone who seems more interested in how hot they are than in their partner is sort of off-putting. She seems to feel there is something thrillingly transgressive in her interest in sex, and willingness to perform oral. While I am certainly not against women enjoying sex, this is a necessary but not sufficient condition for hot smut.
And there is a lot of smut to no purpose; the scene may function so that the reader can see Androgynously-named Girl skip out on the morning after, demonstrating her commitment issues, but I don't really need to sit through the bad-sex for that. It seems to be operating under the misapprehension that there is something inherently erotic in a listing of sex acts, or that merely telling the reader that something is sexy is sufficient to produce that effect.
At the same time as she is informing the reader that she is sexually adventurous, this seems to consist primarily in wearing low cut jeans that display a tattoo at the small of her back. She is first perturbed, then unwilling interested to observe physical affection between two men, who are certainly aware she is present and watching. She struggles with what this means about her. Um, hello, it means you are watching sexy men make out, this is not exactly some radical new kink.
And then there is the kink. The two sexy men mentioned above incorporate elements of sadism and masochism in their sex lives, and I'm being ridiculously over precise and yet vague because her narrative POV is useless for determining exactly what's going on. You see, Demons, once they posses a human host, can enable it to withstand and heal a great deal of damage, which is obviously relevant if your sex life includes pain. Androgynously-named Girl seems to be meant to learn a heart-warming lesson about kink, but she is reconciled to their relationship when she is told that the sadist of the pair, because he is a demon, is not really a sadist, in human terms, that is, he enjoys inflicting pain, but doesn't derive sexual pleasure (except, it later develops, that he does.) So their kink is okay, not because they're consenting adults who can make their own choices, but instead because he's a demon, who's not a psychopath (unlike, she seems to imply, anyone else who's a sexual sadist.) I'm oversimplifying, but really, the whole thing is a bit of an incoherent mess.
Oh, and there's a recurring theme where, in the course of her adventures, she'll get injured, or something, and worry that sadist boy is enjoying it, and do a visual check on his dick to determine where the mercury lies. It managed to be unintentionally funny pretty quickly.
There's a whole theme where she's possessed by a (naturally) sexy demon, who turns her on, about which she feels conflicted, etc, etc, but I was reading mostly in an effort to figure out wtf, and I couldn't really care too much about that.(less)
I am a bit suspicious of this book, because I cannot pin down precisely why I enjoyed it so much. In general, I do not enjoy military fiction, but thi...moreI am a bit suspicious of this book, because I cannot pin down precisely why I enjoyed it so much. In general, I do not enjoy military fiction, but this one took me from "stayed up late" to "stayed up early." It's a sequel to The Myriad, a book which gives you a very decent military SF story, and then in the very last chapter gives the reader a surprise kick to the balls. (I am not equiped with balls, so my surprise was extreme.) I think I would recommend it if you enjoyed David Feintuch's early Midshipman books, before they became repetitive and whiny. I cannot say if fans of Military SF would like it, though, because the charms of that genre are opaque to me.
I think you could read Book 2 without having read book one, but you will be depriving yourself of certain subtle enjoyments (and a kick in the nuts). Everything which is right about this first one is right about this one, from my review of that one: The world and its characters more original than I expect from the genre, and the physics are almost a character on their own. It's action packed, and neither the military action nor the periods between ever seem to drag.
One thing that annoyed me: much of the military action was between the Roman empire, which never fell, merely went underground for two millennia (is this awesome y/y?), and the US of A. Consequently, it's a very western clash of civilizations. In the USA military, I recognized patronymics from all over the world, but the ranking officers seemed to have suspiciously Western-European surnames.
On reasons why I enjoyed it, I think part of it is that the characterization is deeper than is the standard in some military SF, such that one wanted to know what happened to the characters more than the outcome of the battle.
Another caveat: at one point, the US military sends our heroes to investigate a Roman project with a suggestive code name. My respect for military intelligence is not vast, but I do think they have generally proved themselves capable of coming up with codenames that cannot be deciphered by an idiot with a thesaurus.(less)
I keep on reading Bujold's Sharing Knife books, because I keep on expecting Bujold to suddenly stop sucking and go back to being awesome.
This is not t...moreI keep on reading Bujold's Sharing Knife books, because I keep on expecting Bujold to suddenly stop sucking and go back to being awesome.
This is not the book in which she does that, and yet...
To be honest, the problem with these books is not that they're bad, but rather that they're by Bujold, and they're not very good. I described them to Karen H. as a good book to take along on a long bus ride if you wanted to get your knitting done. However, I think if you took this book on a long bus ride, your knitting would not get done. This is not precisely high praise, and yet I did find this entry in the series more compelling than the previous two.
It has all the problems of its predecessors, of course: Fawn remains too wise for her years, and the action in the book sort of drags. But, in this one, I think Bujold has finally gotten to the part of the story she was looking forward to, and it does actually become interesting in a purely "what happens next?" sort of way.
I'm not saying anyone should go out and read the first two to get to this one, it's certainly not worth it, but if you've read the first two and were wondering if you ought to inflict this one on yourselves, I would cautiously recommend it. It may make you feel that the effort in reading the first two was not entirely wasted.(less)
**spoiler alert** Much less rape-ful than I was expecting!
I know, not a strong recommendation, but via the informal SF grapevine, I had heard that th...more**spoiler alert** Much less rape-ful than I was expecting!
I know, not a strong recommendation, but via the informal SF grapevine, I had heard that this book was essentially Pern with the rape taken seriously, and while this is true, it takes place in the context of a society that recognizes rape when it happens and disapproves of it. That said, I cannot say that it might not be triggerful. A major theme of the book is consent, and the varying degrees to which it can be free.
As someone else said, this book is horrible for names. About half of the characters have the phoneme "ulf" or an allomorph somewhere in their name, many of them at the beginning, many of the characters change their name at some point during the book, and there are tonnes of characters to keep track of. Adding insult to injury, for me, the authors acknowledge in a note at the beginning that they have chosen to use Norse names, more or less rubbing in the fact that they could have used names I might have been able to tell apart, but chose not to.
Having said that, I love this book. It made me cry, it gave me heroes, and it gave me wolves who were wolflike, so I can't ask for much more.(less)
Pretty much exactly like the first, The Lies of Locke Lamora. In fact, enough so that at one point I got annoyed; Locke and Jean are in the middle of...morePretty much exactly like the first, The Lies of Locke Lamora. In fact, enough so that at one point I got annoyed; Locke and Jean are in the middle of a splendid con when they get involved in another scheme against their will, soon are out of their depth and struggling desperately not to salvage their con but stay alive. However, Locke, and the writing, remain witty enough that I stayed up late to finish it, so formulaic though it is, it's executed well. Locke remains charming even when he's not so entertaining as he thinks he is.
"We may need to ready ourselves to repel boarders."
"With what? One stiletto and hurtful insinuations about their mothers?"
On the other hand, neither is the book quite as witty as it thinks it is: several twists will be genuinely shocking only to people who have never seen The Sting (and if you haven't, it's marvellous, and includes a young Robert Redford and Paul Newman, so get to that) or in fact, any con movie. However, if you like books about talented con men up against a challenge cut to their measure, then you will probably enjoy this series.
One thing I dislike about the book, although quite obviously merely a personal preference, is that Lynch spends the opening reminding you how incredibly brutal the world Locke inhabits is, and there are some fairly stomach churning bits that felt a bit ostentatiously gory. I get it: life is cheap and the men and women of power are brutal.
This sequel does better than its predecessor at including women in the narrative, and writes a lot more queerness and colour into the world as well. It doesn't change the fact that the main relationship remains that between Locke and Jean, and at one point, a character says, in essence, "Ha, I knew it, you two are friends!" when I feel the more obvious inference from the evidence would be that they are lovers. (less)
I was writing my review as I read this book, and prepared to recommend it with some caveats, when in the last ten pages, the author pulled out somethi...moreI was writing my review as I read this book, and prepared to recommend it with some caveats, when in the last ten pages, the author pulled out something that pissed me off so badly I would very much like to mail him a half-pound of dead catfish by surface mail in August. I'm giving it three stars, because it's good writing, and perhaps it deserves four, but I'm just not capable of that kind of magnanimity.
First, in its favour, the book is a good example of the noire detective story in a fantasy setting. I've seen it done before, but I don't think I've seen it done better. The protagonist, Eddie LaCrosse, is not so cynical that he is unlikeable, if liking the protagonist is crucial to your enjoyment, as it is to mine. The characterisation is serviceable, if not precisely subtle and multi-layered, and the fantasy world approximately Lankhmar in general tone.
The quotes on the back describe this book as hilarious, but I actually didn't find it all that funny: not as in "that's not funny, I'm offended!" but rather I really only found one or two points where I recognized that humour was supposed to be (and IMO, succeeding at) happening. Probably a sensahuma mismatch, your mileage may vary.
Now, (with vague spoilers) on to my caveats, building to an unhinged rant: the hard-boiled detective novel really is the novel of defensive white man-pain, and don't expect that to change here. Eddie's left a trail of dead women behind him, which is tragic, really. For him, obviously. The funny thing is that Eddie seems to recognize that he's nothing special, and that the women he loved and lost deserved to live as much as he did (if not more); and yet, this is Eddie's novel, and it's littered with dead women who give his backstory a tragic zest.
At point, Eddie needs information from an effeminate homosexual-- who abruptly drops his mannerisms, claims they're a show, and grudgingly gives Eddie the information he needs-- after his partner has been assaulted and his business been threatened. Maybe it wouldn't get to me so much if he wasn't the only queer presence.
A minor annoyance as well: the title. There is only one narratively significant blonde in the book, but nothing makes her particularly 'sword-edged,' and it annoys me that apparently a snappy title is more important than respecting the actual fact of her.
At the end, however, our hero retires to his hole in the wall detective agency, and in walks the identical twin of a woman he lost many years ago. I cannot actually think of a way to make the substitution of one woman for another more insulting. Oh, sure, Eddie muses to himself that "I knew she wasn't Cathy, of course; one woman couldn't replace another," and yet, she walks into his life in the last ten pages of the book, and could not be more obviously signalled to be the woman meant to make him happy if Bledsoe had festooned her with garlands spelling "SHE'S THE ONE." It's one thing to have an epilogue hinting that the protagonist is on the verge of finding romantic happiness, but to use identical twins in this way; rather than a book which acknowledges the differences between individual women, this one brings a woman in and the punch-line is that she's exactly the same. She is doubtless distinct from her twin in many ways, but the book ends, and the reader never hears of it. (less)
Because spelling is my Waterloo, I avoided this book for the longest time, even though it was popping up everywhere, because a book about a Scottish l...moreBecause spelling is my Waterloo, I avoided this book for the longest time, even though it was popping up everywhere, because a book about a Scottish lake seemed profoundly boring. If you have been too, thank god, because I'd hate to be the only one that dumb.
Locke Lamora is the name of our protagonist, who we follow from his start as a precociously larcenous six year-old to a masterfully larcenous adult. It's a bit like Oliver Twist, if Oliver hadn't been such an obnoxiously moral little snot, a bit like Illusion by Paula Volsky, without the lurking dread, and a bit like Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells without the female characters. I found, no matter how out of control events spiralled, I remained fairly confident that Lamora would eventually come out on top.
Locke lives and fleeces his prey in a near-Venice on the border of SF and Fantasy: Camorr is built on top of and within the ruins of a city abandoned by aliens. He works at the head of a brotherhood [sic] of Gentlemen [sic] Bastards.
On which editorial sarcasm, let me expand: There is one female character who is explicitly aligned with Locke. She is Sabetha, the woman Locke loves, and who is entirely present by her absence. She is referred to as the reason that Locke doesn't seek out prostitutes, and he is much mocked for his devotion to her. However, she never makes an in-person appearance, and her conspicuous absence doesn't do a lot to deflect a homoerotic reading of Locke's friendship with Jean Tannen.
The book takes a very non-judgemental approach to Locke's larceny and occasional murder: Locke may regret or not the deaths he is responsible for, and avenge the deaths of his friends or allies, but the only real difference between any of the thefts he is subject to and thefts he perpetrates is how they affect him, and the book doesn't really pretend otherwise. Locke manages to be likable withal.
A fun read, if the by turns grim and cheerful amorality will not bother you. I would like to read the sequels when they come out.(less)
I did not realize that Ragamuffin was the sequel to this one, but it quickly became obvious to me. It wasn't too much of a problem; they're both capab...moreI did not realize that Ragamuffin was the sequel to this one, but it quickly became obvious to me. It wasn't too much of a problem; they're both capable of standing on their own. It was a bit odd to know the eventual fate of the characters, though.
In contrast with Ragamuffin, the characters in this one felt slightly more introspective. Part of that is because John deBrun has amnesia, and consequently spends a fair amount of time wondering about himself. Pepper seems more roguish and dangerous (at one point he's taken for Baron Samedi) than psychopathic and genocidal, with the result that he's slightly more likable in this one. I notice that the Amazon review describes this book as "at times overly violent", but it seemed to me a kinder and gentler book than Ragamuffin, and I would not describe either as 'overly' violent, although both are certainly very violent.
Crystal Rain spends more time with the societies that have developed in isolation, and Buckell has obviously imagined them in greater detail than the book gave him room to show. Good if you like clashes of civilizations, extrapolated societies, and moderately amoral protagonists. The only that that would have made me happier would have been a few more female characters; as it is, it squeaks through the Bechdel test.(less)