I dug it, especially listening to the audiobook. The narrators this time around were the amazing Michael Kramer and Kate Reading, who always make listI dug it, especially listening to the audiobook. The narrators this time around were the amazing Michael Kramer and Kate Reading, who always make listening a fantastic experience. Even though the book is light, I went a little more slowly through this than I intended, due to some life stuff and NCAA basketball (as a Maryland fan, this always happens this time of year). My only real complaint is that the book ended on a cliffhanger, which, though I knew it was going to happen, was sad. Now I have to wait for book 3. Whenever that will be. I liked seeing more magic in this book, and more magic users other than the Antari. It's interesting that there were two (main) story lines going through this book, with the major story completely separate from the first book. It seems that there will be some interesting things to learn in book 3 (I hope). I hope book 3 is closer than I think it is......more
A little bit of a slow start, but once I got invested in Esk and Granny Weatherwax, I really got into it (once I had a physical copy since the KindleA little bit of a slow start, but once I got invested in Esk and Granny Weatherwax, I really got into it (once I had a physical copy since the Kindle copy was so fubar, an issue I never got resolved). I even stayed up late on a work night to read, then came home from work and went right back to reading to finish it.
It seems relatively inadequate to describe the book using words, when so much of the book was how words have many meanings, and it's all really about intent. The book was also about conventions, and trying to break conventions...just because something's always been done a certain way doesn't mean it SHOULD be done that way. Or thought of in a given way. The book really emphasizes the need to get over mental inertia...but in a way that's fun and in fact funny. You, the reader, sees the point but don't feel bludgeoned over the head with it. And there may have been a little romantic advice at the end...
I know everybody says that the Discworld books don't have to be read in order, but I'm glad I took the opportunity to read this book before moving on to the second "Witches" book, Wyrd Sisters. I feel like I have a lot invested in Esk and Granny and am anxious to see what awaits them in the next book....more
I received an advanced copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Ken Liu had me hooked when I read his Hugo, Nebula, and WorldI received an advanced copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Ken Liu had me hooked when I read his Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy award-winning story, The Paper Menagerie (which can be found online). The Grace of Kings has a similar writing and story-telling style, though the novel is deeper and broader in scope.
I finished this book about a week ago, right before leaving for a few days of business travel, and I fear I've done Ken Liu a great disservice by not posting my review earlier. The Grace of Kings was a beautiful book of Chinese fantasy mixed with some steampunk-y elements set in a world that would seem to be like Hawaii or any other cluster of small-ish islands isolated by distance from the rest of the world. The story was wonderful and the language beautiful. If the book ever comes to audio, I'm going to pick it up and experience the book and the language again, but with aural wonder (I really hope the book comes to audio).
To say that The Grace of Kings is a book about a dynastic succession is to do the book a disservice. But from the highest view point, that's exactly what it is. An emperor dies, and the son that succeeds him is a terror. While the dead emperor wasn't exactly a benevolent leader, his son is far weaker, and allows himself to first be manipulated by his advisors...as he gets older, his authoritarian ways wreak havoc and breed fear and contempt across the land. It shouldn't be surprising that there is a rebellion, though the leaders who find their way to the top of the rebellion are a fairly unlikely duo. One is a commoner, a man who grew up fairly lazy and became a bit of a con-man. The other is the grandson of the one of the last great leaders in the land, one who was stripped of his power and dignity when the emperor (from the beginning of the book) takes over.
But this isn't really a book about the emperors or the rebels. It's a book of the event of the rebellion and the growth and rise of these people. It's about the people that helped the rebels...and of course, those that fought against them. The book spans the islands of this nation, torn apart by the malignancy of the emperor, a nation and a rebellion finding their identity, to some extent.
Throughout the story, Liu uses many conventions used in other Chinese fantasy, such as comparing battles to go (a game I want even more to learn to play after reading this book), martial arts, and mysticism. But he also borrows ideas from other types of fantasy, including airships and versions of submarines, adding non-traditional elements to what might otherwise be seen as a war novel in China. There is also a bit of a meta-story of the gods for this world, manipulating the events in their own play at war (where for them, war is a game, like go. At the end of the story, the reader is left to wonder just how much influence the gods have (my opinion is that they thought they were making greater contributions than they actually did, though a butterfly flapping its wings can have interesting effects...). I also thought the mysticism or "magic" used, between the use of herbs/teas as devices for clarity or for confusion of the enemy, as well as a smoke-handling woman who plays a key role in the eventual outcome, was fresh and fun to read.
This book was a joy to read, a stellar first-novel from an author whose translation work and short stories already had me hooked. I can't wait to see what Liu does next. The Grace of Kings will be out on April 7th, 2015, according to Amazon. I hope that others enjoy this book as much as I did (looking around at reviews from other ARC reviewers, they do...)...more
Typing this on iPhone, pardon typos. I realized that I finished the book after reading it for a week without even adding it to my "Currently Reading"Typing this on iPhone, pardon typos. I realized that I finished the book after reading it for a week without even adding it to my "Currently Reading" shelf so figured I'd do this now while I thought of it.
Basically, I liked the "android bounty hunter" part and didn't care about the Mercerism part. The emphasis on the latter yielded the 2 stars for "it was ok." I really liked the idea of hunting androids and the moral issues it creates. I also liked the idea of animals as an outlet for humanity, to a point of having electric animals. I liked the questions of relationships between really human-like androids and humans.
PKD apparently had a history of mental illness and, as with "We Can Build You," this book seemed as if written by two people--one "normal" person and one who was mentally ill. The result is that PKD portrays mental issues quite realistically even if they add nothing or detract from the story.
After this second story of his that I've read resulting in a solidly "meh" feeling from me, I don't feel a strong need or urge to try anything else from him...though I don't rule it out. It probably won't be this year, though....more
Great book, very smart and entertaining. If you liked this book and don't read the blog, you're doing yourself a dis-service. And read xkcd while you'Great book, very smart and entertaining. If you liked this book and don't read the blog, you're doing yourself a dis-service. And read xkcd while you're at it, too. In short, Randall Munroe uses simple math and physics to answer what if questions (such as, what if a pitcher pitched a baseball at .995 the speed of light?). He researches statistics and does modeling that even my non-math-inclined mother would understand. As a bonus, he cues his references and adds his classic comic style to it, too, to illustrate what he's talking about.
Everybody should read this book. It's chapters are short, making it a prefect bathroom or "short burst" book to read. I'm just sad that I'm done with it....more
A great collection of stories from submissions to the founders of the Sword & Laser book club. I think some of the authors have been published befA great collection of stories from submissions to the founders of the Sword & Laser book club. I think some of the authors have been published before, for some this was their first published work. All were interesting and while I did have some favorites, I thought they were all quite worthy of inclusion in the anthology. I don't envy Tom and Veronica and the other people who had to select which stories went in and which didn't make the cut. Judging by the quality of these stories, I'm guessing that the overall level quality of the of submissions for all the stories was high.
Brief notes as I read each short story...
Soft As A Feather When Done Right by Nicole Feldringer: A cute story about some unintentional magic when a kid doesn't want to go to school on Valentine's Day.
A Night For Sprits and Snowflakes by Aidan Moher: What would your last thoughts be when you die? How do you handle death when it's all around you? This story really moved me, as more or less depressing as it was. It was about an attack in a nameless war on relatively helpless mercenaries. Every person's last moments were captured, all unique. And one survivor, the "coward."
Saltwater Skin by Kristy Sutherland: A selkie gives up her skin to be with the man she loves. But is she able to defy the traditional "mythos" of the selkie and stay with her life outside of the water, or will she be like all the ones in the stories and steal her skin back to go to the water? And in those stories, if she has to steal her skin back, does that mean that the other selkies weren't truly loved?
Partly Petrified by Auston Habershaw: This story made me smile. I was reminded, during the scene with the golems, of Bilbo Baggins outsmarting the trolls in The Hobbit. Can you bluff your way out of a thieving gone awry?
The Lesser Evil by Day Al-Mohamed: I love it when the good guy wins and there's a happy ending. But I honestly think I would have preferred slightly more info on the magic and less on the steaks. But I still had a smile on my face at the end.
White Flame by Jeffrey N. Baker: The end of this was kind of gross. I actually got a Lies of Locke Lamora-type vibe from this one, but in a good way. It's interesting to consider how far you'd go for someone you trust, and also how/why people may abuse that trust.
How Fox Fixed the Sky by Stephen Case: This story reminded me of a lot of the Native American and other...more tribal myths, those that use animals. I liked it, but I'd like to know more of the influences, like which myths inspired it. That fox was pretty crafty.
A Good Man by Zachary Tringali: This story was kind of depressing, actually. Brotherly love spoiled by people seeking power for themselves, taking advantage of someone's physical weakness/sickness to bring a family to ruin. Oddly, this was the first story so far that I've actually found typos in.
Knowing Better by Paul Krueger: Another Fried Green Tomatoes moment in this story, I have to wonder if Krueger is a chef or otherwise works in a professional kitchen (or did in a past life). I only wish that he had been able to spend more time with the magic in Lysander's dagger and less on, "The secret's in the sauce." I wonder how Lysander was able to fool his boss for the cooking...
The Novice's Guide to Adventuring by Sean Tadsen: I like the idea of an adventuring guide and a guidebook of "do what I say, not what I do" with practical examples. Plus the two characters were a lot of fun.
The Osiris Paradox by Sarina Dorie: While this story took place in the stars, it definitely had a more mythical and fantastical feel than science fiction. Seems like an odd way to start the sci fi section, though that's not to say that I didn't like the story.
Leviathan! Leviathan! by Jacob A. Boyd: I liked this story a lot, the idea of "dragons" in the past being time-travelers trying to protect themselves. Definitely a new-to-me idea.
Jonah's Daughter by Adam Callaway: This one used a lot of big words. I had to use the dictionary on my Kindle a lot more than usual. I'm not sure what to make of using a whale as a spaceship-type vehicle. An actual whale. Or what scale they were traveling on or even if it was space. But it was an interesting idea.
Birdy by Rebecca J. Thomas: A relatively short story, more a ghost story than science fiction (or so it felt). I liked the idea of meeting the person you might have been, depending on what fate had in mind for you.
The Same International Orange by Luke R. Pebler: A sad/creepy story, for sure, and one that's easy enough to foresee possibly happening with robotics and automation these days. What happens to you when your job is taken over by robots? Worse, what happens when someone can look search your name online and find out everything about your actual life? Neither seem particularly far off.
Afterword by Mike Murphy: An author's life in his books flashes before his eyes. Definitely wild, given the books he wrote/had to live through.
Data Dump by Trisha L. Senbastian: Another easy-to-foresee near-future-ish book if you're terribly pessimistic. This time, it's about surgeons who can literally remove memories--a full dump or a partial dump--from a person. So much power...but who does it hurt?
Honeybun by Austin Malone: I'm reasonably certain that I saw a Futurama episode with this. I liked the comparison of "synthetic" people and thoughts to synthetic food--a honeybun.
False Light by Victoria Hooper: This was a bit of an odd story involving time travel and investigations of space pirates and mysterious deaths. I was kind of confused while reading this but I think that's more because I read it in the middle of the night while fighting insomnia.
Only Darkness by David Emery: A story that explores the boundaries between science and religion. It took a little while for me to "get" what was going on, but when I did, I enjoyed it....more
The latest Andy Carpenter book is, in my opinion, a return to form for David Rosenfelt. Where the last few books have had some over-the-top insanity,The latest Andy Carpenter book is, in my opinion, a return to form for David Rosenfelt. Where the last few books have had some over-the-top insanity, using recent (real world) terror events and outlandish plot devices, this was somewhat more sedate, but in a good way. This time around, Andy's detective friend Pete Stanton is accused of murdering a friend and being a drug dealer, and it's up to Andy and the team to defend him. As usual, in the process, they (mostly Andy this time) figure out who set Pete up and why without the insane theatrics of recent books in the series. Sure, there were crazy courtroom antics and some tense investigative moments, but in the end, justice prevails.
I love these books for how fun and light they are. It was a nice diversion from real life and I devoured the audiobook in a couple of nights of listening (and a couple lunches). If you've been frustrated by recent Any Carpenter books, you'll be happy to see a return to the "old" style of book. Andy, even though he's a fictional character, is probably the only New York sports fan I'd want to watch a game with. ;)...more
After reading this, I want to be a better Scrabble player. Not an "expert" (by ranking) Scrabble player, necessarily, as I really do want to have a liAfter reading this, I want to be a better Scrabble player. Not an "expert" (by ranking) Scrabble player, necessarily, as I really do want to have a life. But I want to get better. And I think that as I read this, I did become a better one (judging by the Words With Friends games I played), if only incrementally. I guess now I just need to find some word lists to study and figure out what works best for me. ;)
Oh yeah, Word Wars, one of the documentaries spawned by this book, was definitely entertaining. I pictured one of the players in my mind as Buster from Arrested Development. Turns out the guy really does look like Buster!...more
I have a complicated history with this book. I originally bought the paperback version of the book in the early 2000's when it was listed on a list ofI have a complicated history with this book. I originally bought the paperback version of the book in the early 2000's when it was listed on a list of "Top 100 Sci Fi and Fantasy Books Everybody Must Read" type things. I never got to the book, probably because I abandoned the list after being annoyed by Hyperion (which I later read with the Sword and Laser book club and loved) and A Princess of Mars (which I never went back to), both which were high on the list.
According to my Audible history, I bought it again in 2010. I don't remember if that's when I tried to listen to it, but I believe it was sometime around then. I remember being in an airport waiting for a plane to go see my sister in Indiana and getting a phone call from work about an issue there. Whether I got distracted by the work issue or just couldn't get into the narration by Harlan Ellison, I never got past the first chapter or so.
Late in 2013, someone posted a thread in the S&L Goodreads group asking "why" someone should read the Earthsea books. Maybe that's what lead to it being selected for the February, 2014 Sword and Laser book pick, maybe it was just that we were severely deficient in Ursula K. Le Guin reading, despite her being considered a master in the craft. I went back to Audible and found that there was a new version, a version narrated by Rob Inglis (who also read The Hobbit and the other Lord of the Rings books), this time compatible with WhisperSync for Voice. It seemed like the world was trying to really get me to FINALLY read this book...so I did.
And I don't get the hype. The book was OK, but nothing I'll ever put on a list of "favorites." The characters--even the main character, Ged--were fairly flat. Ged was the "most developed," but really all you needed to know about him is that his pride often got the best of him, and it became obvious early on that this was going to be a book about him learning (or not) to keep his pride in check. The supporting cast could have been anybody. The character I felt the most connection to was his pet, which was something that sounded like "otter" in the narration but I'm too lazy to go look in the book and see what it really was. The story-telling was equally flat. It felt more like a recitation of events, even when narrated by Inglis (who, admittedly, can sometimes be hard for me to understand as he has a bit of an accent, but most often reminds me of another narrator, Gerard Doyle, who I think of almost as a grandfather reading me to bed). The story plodded on, from event to event, with a rather disappointing climax followed by a very quick end (though by the time I finally got to that point in the book, I was ready to be done, so it was probably for the best). Most interesting in the book was Le Guin's development of the magical rules. She went into great detail plotting out the rules for the magic, the balance that must exist. I'm not sure how big the "true name" idea was before Le Guin wrote this book; it's certainly prevalent in current works (including The Name of the Wind and the others in the series by Patrick Rothfuss...he must have been heavily influenced by this book), but I suspect that a lot of my current favorite writers were inspired by her rules for magic.
I know I'm being a bit harsh on the book. I understand that it was written in a different time, and written for a young adult audience, and was one of Le Guin's first books. I have heard, mostly from the Sword and Laser Goodreads group, that her subsequent Earthsea books were better, as she developed both as a writer and became more comfortable in this world. That said, right now, I'm not itching to jump into those books. I don't rule it out as a possibility for the future, but for now, I'm content having read this classic fantasy novel and don't feel a need to read more....more
I finished this book last night and wow, was it a rush at the end. Just like The Way of Kings, the book had some slower points (the first set of interI finished this book last night and wow, was it a rush at the end. Just like The Way of Kings, the book had some slower points (the first set of interludes in particular dragged for me a bit) but finished in a whirlwind of excitement. There were some twists and turns along the way, though many of the end outcomes were somewhat predictable, such as (view spoiler)[Syl coming back to Kaladin and Jasnah still being alive (hide spoiler)]...
I'll write more once I've decompressed a bit. My immediate thought, now having finished this, is that I really want to re-read both The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance back-to-back. When I started Words of Radiance, there were definite parts of WoK that I had forgotten, and there were definitely things early on in WoR that played a role later...things that may have seemed small at first, or characters that I didn't think much of, until they came back or were referred to later...["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book had been on my "to read" list for awhile, but I didn't actually get to it until the Sword and Laser book club made it the October, 2013 pickThis book had been on my "to read" list for awhile, but I didn't actually get to it until the Sword and Laser book club made it the October, 2013 pick. I'd heard a lot of good things about the book and had a copy thanks to the Humble eBook Bundle (though I also ended up getting a copy of the audiobook and purchased a hard copy after starting to read that while in the bookstore and feeling guilty about treating the store like a showroom), so I read along with the club...sort of.
The book didn't really grab me. That isn't to say that it was bad (it wasn't), but it also didn't keep my interest piqued. I didn't feel a strong reason or pull to come back to read more, and in fact this one put me to sleep listening to the audiobook. The book was set in the US during the Civil War era in the NW territory of Washington. 16 years prior to the start of the book, a "mega" drill was developed and used to try to augment mining in the area, which catastrophic earthquake and a gas to seep up from below the earth's crust. The gas permeated the city of Seattle and turns those exposed to it to zombie-like beings. As such, the city was walled off to try to protect the people in the surrounding areas.
The main character is a woman named Briar, whose husband (Levi) was the inventor and operator of the ill-fated drill. Her son Zeke, born a little after the walling-off of the city, decides to go into the city to try to learn more about his father at the beginning of the story. From there, the story is a fairly predictable tale of a mother trying to rescue her son from the city--and its inhabitants, both which are perilous. Throughout the story, there are a few "secrets" that the characters have for the reader to discover, such as the true identity of the chief villain, and what really happened to Levi when the drill (the Boneshaker) caused the earthquake.
All of this should have been really interesting, really fun to read. I can't exactly put my finger on why this book wasn't all that exciting. Through most of the book, there was a lot of nothing going on. A lot of "run into an obstacle and literally fight the way out of it," with not much variety. I guess that the story of a mother trying to rescue her son wasn't particularly interesting in the context of the bigger world. It would have been much more interesting to see the actual bone-shaking event and see society try to survive and adapt, develop new tools to conquer their new world. Or it might have been interesting to have some resolution on what caused the gas and how the effects might be better counter-acted. Or, for that matter, even some resolution of how the society within the walled city might start to function and interact with the society outside of the wall. But no, none of that happened. Even at the end of the book, with the rescue plot-line wrapped up (I won't say if Briar was successful), the book just kind of ended. No resolution of what was next for her. In the beginning of the book, a biographer was trying to learn more about her, her husband, and her father (who had saved a bunch of prisoners from the gas right at the start of the emergency). He makes an appearance again at the end of the book, but again there was no reason for him to have been there, or any idea what HE ended up doing/finding/writing about.
In the end, I was left kind of bored by the book. I'm not sure why it had so much hype, unless people who are into steampunk just want to read about dirigibles and steam-powered tools. It wasn't bad though it really dragged in spots. The ending felt rushed. And it didn't feel like much of a purposeful story...but the book gets a lot of hype. Maybe I just missed something. The parts that didn't drag were entertaining enough, but I was left wanting more. Oh well. Onto the next book....more
I've seen mixed reviews of this book from typical Brandon Sanderson fans, so I'll admit that I wasn't sure what to expect. Unlike the traditional fantI've seen mixed reviews of this book from typical Brandon Sanderson fans, so I'll admit that I wasn't sure what to expect. Unlike the traditional fantasy that I usually read from him, this was a sort of post-apocalyptic (or post-Calamitous) sci fi ish story.
The backdrop for the story is that at some point before the story started, an event called "the Calamity" or "Calamity" occurred. Not much is known or at least said about Calamity, but it seems to be some sort of alien ship or spy satellite or something that has resulted in a new bright object in the sky and the creation of super beings on Earth. As the Prologue opens, these "Epics" have started to wreak havoc on the USA (it's not clear if this is a USA-only problem), though it's about to get super-crazy for the residents of Chicago. An Epic called Steelheart has come to town, and makes his move to basically run Chicago. After an event at a bank where he kills almost everybody--including the protagonist's father--and then buries the evidence and all the survivors (or so he thinks, though David escapes this fate), Steelheart turns the town to steel, forming Newcago. Surviving the event, David is the sole witness to one key thing: he watched Steelheart bleed. Normally, it's very hard to kill or even harm an Epic. In addition to super-powers, they also seem to have minimal weaknesses, weaknesses that must be determined and exploited.
But all hope is not quite lost. A group called the Reckoners has formed, and they work tirelessly to take out Epics. David isn't a member at the beginning of the story, though since Steelheart killed his father, he's made it his primary business to learn as much as he can about the Epics, their weaknesses, their patterns, their strengths...all Epics, not just Steelheart, though his hope is to one day take out Steelheart. The first third of the story or so is of David joining the Reckoners. Of course, he must prove himself and gain their trust, and then he has to be trained in their ways. After that, they work to learn more about Steelheart with the eventual plan of trying to take him down. The book culminates, as you might expect, with a massive showdown with Steelheart.
To be fair, this book was fairly predictable in many ways. It definitely had Sanderson's characteristic "new magic system" (in this case, the powers of the Epics and the "twist" that each had unique and specific weaknesses), which is always refreshing, but otherwise it followed pretty typical adventure-type story paths. There was a "twist" in the book that not only was I completely expecting to come in general, but I called what it was really early on. Nothing particularly surprised me. That's not to say that the book wasn't enjoyable--it was. But it wasn't as (pardon the use of the term) epic as Sanderson's work typically is. I'll probably read the rest of the series as the books get released, but I probably won't be lining up to buy and read them day one (like I am doing with Stormlight).
Oh yeah, I had a physical copy of this book that I'd bought at Barnes & Noble. I bought the physical copy because Sanderson released 4 versions for different booksellers, each with a different chapter annotated. The B&N version had chapter 1 annotated. It was fun to read that chapter after getting pretty far into the book, to see his process but also to see where he was setting up certain traits and such. I was happy to see that I'd picked up on various things he set up, and it was cool to see them come to fruition as he expected/outlined in the annotations....more
Over the course of my education, internships, and now career, I've met and worked with a few astronauts. I actually think I may have met author MullanOver the course of my education, internships, and now career, I've met and worked with a few astronauts. I actually think I may have met author Mullane while at an internship at Kennedy Space Center. Because of this experience, this interaction, nothing in this book was a real surprise. Astronauts are driven folks. They know how to act (how to hide things that shouldn't be shown like fear or concern, except when the cameras are off and they're in the company of their peers and teams that help make space missions succeed). They have big egos (well, a lot of them do).
Mullane's book was an often funny and sometimes somber (Challenger, other disasters) reflection of his life leading up to and then his career as an astronaut. From what I know from the astronauts I've met, it's pretty honest. Mullane doesn't sugar-coat things when they shouldn't be--in that sense, even though he isn't an engineer by training, he shares that with his ground-based brethren. Some of his honesty might be easier since he's now so far removed from his duties as an astronaut, but it's still refreshing to read.
Mullane broke each chapter into a fairly well-contained story on its own (though at the end, bigger stories spanned multiple chapters). This was a good thing and a bad thing; it made it easy to pick up and put down for short reading bursts. As such, this book took me forever to finish. Especially in the beginning, as he discussed his early life, it was easy to read a chapter then put down for the next shiny object. But that also made it convenient to read, easily read while waiting at a doctor's office or while in line.
If you've never met an astronaut and have ever wondered what the space program is like, this is a great book to read. If you have met astronauts, or you're an engineer in the field, you'll probably still enjoy it...but it might be more of what you already know. For me, it was a reminder of the people involved in the field I'm in, that there are human lives impacted by the work I do....more
And so it ends. I was introduced to the series in the early 2000's (most likely sometime between 2001 and 2003) by a friend and roommate, so I hadn'tAnd so it ends. I was introduced to the series in the early 2000's (most likely sometime between 2001 and 2003) by a friend and roommate, so I hadn't been involved for the 20 years that some people were, but still 10 years is almost a third of my life so it's not insignificant. It's bittersweet to have come so far and now have it be over.
The spoiler-free version: I enjoyed the book well enough. I was disappointed by some aspects and pleased with others. Most of the major plotlines were wrapped up, some more satisfactorily than others. There was some repetition that I didn't care for (really, how many times do we need to read, "The good guys attacked strongly and thought they were going to win...the bad guys counter-attacked and evened the odds" or something similar?). And it has an epilogue, which I loathe on principle. But I wasn't disappointed with the book, even if I thought some of it could have been edited out.
The spoiler version: (view spoiler)[I was surprised that the only real major character that died was Egwene. I guess one could consider Siuan a major character, as well...
I thought there was a bit too much "battle" but all in all, I really did enjoy the book. I wished we had seen more of Moirraine and Thom and Loial (especially Loial). I wished we had seen more about the Ogiers deciding to join the last battle. When I last remember leaving them, they were still at the great stump, deciding if they would get involved. I'd like to know what changed their mind.
In a similar "I'd like to know," the story of the Tinkers wasn't particularly wrapped up. It seems that they never found their song, which seemed relatively important for a book or 2 (especially in the Perrin storyline...which was one of my disappointments, see below). There was some vague discussion about whether or not the Way of the Leaf even made sense/should still be followed in this book...with no resolution. So that was a bit of a let-down.
I love Mat. I loved how he became the uber general in the final battle. I love Egwene (RIP, Egwene). I loved how Egwene sacrificed herself in a somewhat similar manner to how Lews Therrin made Dragonmount. Even though Elayne's story line kind of dragged for me, I was really happy to see that Birgette wasn't ripped out of the wheel completely, that she was still a Hero of the Horn and that she will be re-born.
I remain a bit confused about Logain. He was important, then he wasn't, then he kind of was, then he was power-hungry...now what? Will they go forward with a White Tower and a Black Tower? Will they make a Gray Tower? Will he become the equivalent of the Amyrlin in the Black Tower? Will both Towers start playing a more active role in Rand's dream of the future, those schools?
And what about those schools? And since the Sharans didn't sign the peace accord, and neither did the red-veil Aiel, what will happen?
There are probably some things I'm forgetting. Actually, I know there are because there was one "on the tip of my fingers" as it were and I just forgot it. Oh well.
My biggest disappointments were: 1) The introduction of the Sharans and the red-veiled Aiel in the final book with no real backstory. Yes, the red-veil Aiel were mentioned in another book and it was hypothesized that they were the Aiel men who could channel...but there were WOMEN red-veiled Aiel, too, so obviously that wasn't 100% right. The Sharans, they had been mentioned before, but there was no context for them, no back story. No explanation for any of the details about them, such as their tattoos or their weird armor. No explanation for why Demandred chose to be with them.
2) Padan Fain felt like an afterthought. He played such a major role in the beginning of the series then kind of disappeared. What was his deal? Why did it really matter?
3) Perrin. Oh, Perrin. We never were really told why Luc/Slayer mattered, either, or why Perrin had to kill him. Or really exactly why he was involved at the end of the world. And why Perrin needed to be near Rand at the last battle except Slayer's token involvement. Which really made the entire Perrin storyline (already frustratingly long) rather pointless.
4) What did Rand do to seal away the Dark One that was different from what Lews Therrin did? Is it just that he used all 3 powers (saidin, saidar, and the True Power)? The way it was "wrapped up," it implied that the Dark One would get loose again, that a perfect world without the Dark One is not possible, it's all about choices...and what was up with the "saa" in Rand's eye at the end? I obviously missed something there.
5) What happens to the Chosen that weren't killed? And while we're at it, since they could apparently be reincarnated or have new Chosen "created" at any time (M'Hael), will they come back when the Dark One inevitably returns?
6) Why open new story lines at the end? Min going to the Seanchen? Mohgadien getting collared? Aviendha's viewing in her 3rd trip to Ruidian? Did her contribution to Rand's peace accord reverse her viewing? And Rand's attempt at peace...what happens with all those?
7) Oh the epilogue. I was actually OK with it until the last few paragraphs, the cheese about Rand riding off with more money than he'd ever need. Jordan/Sanderson had already established that Rand was still "alive" by his bonds with Elayne, Min, and Aviendha, why spoil it by showing him ride off into the sunset? And when you do that, why do you open a whole new question of his NEW ability that seems very dream-world-y? (hide spoiler)]
Certainly, it seems possible that the world is still open should Jordan's estate decide to allow people to use it. I'd love it if Brandon Sanderson could write more in the world...but I also want him to get back to Stormlight, so wouldn't be opposed to others jumping in if the opportunity arose. :)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I love The Oatmeal. When I saw that Matthew Inman wrote this book, I pre-ordered it instantly. The book is a collection of cat-related comic strips (aI love The Oatmeal. When I saw that Matthew Inman wrote this book, I pre-ordered it instantly. The book is a collection of cat-related comic strips (are they really strips when he publishes things on the web?). It's funny. And I do think Oz is trying to kill most humans. I doubt that anyone who's met him would disagree....more
I love Penny Arcade. This is a collection of the strips from 2003, along with commentary from Jerry Holkins ("Tycho"). I bought it to pass the time onI love Penny Arcade. This is a collection of the strips from 2003, along with commentary from Jerry Holkins ("Tycho"). I bought it to pass the time on the plane when I couldn't read my Kindle. Even though I've probably read most of these strips before, I had a good time re-visiting them....more
This is another time when I wish Goodreads did half-stars. This was an almost perfect book for me...the only holdup I have is that sometimes the writiThis is another time when I wish Goodreads did half-stars. This was an almost perfect book for me...the only holdup I have is that sometimes the writing was confusing. I admit, the "confusion" may be on my end; work has been insanely busy lately with ops for one mission and the launch of another. This book wasn't conducive to reading after 12-16 hour days.
A winding (and in fact circling!) tale where nothing should be taken at face value, this is at its core a "traditional" story of a hero with a quest. The kids of the village of Ku-Fu fall ill, and it's up to one of the older village youth, Number Ten Ox, to find a cure. Enter Li Kao, who has "a slight flaw in his character" but is otherwise a well-known scholar. They end up on a quest that takes them all over China in search of a Great Root of Power, meeting a varied cast of characters along the way and in fact pulling together fact and fantasy to find what they seek and save the children.
I read this as a kid (when I was 10 or so) and remember liking it a lot back then. I didn't remember how the story ended, nor do I think I really understood all of what was going on...but I definitely enjoyed it as much this time around. Now that I know that there are two other books in the series (a loose series...), I think I'll end up reading the others....more
A book comprised of 3 novellas, I think if it had only been the first two, I would have given the book 3 or 3.5 stars. But the third novella (theoretiA book comprised of 3 novellas, I think if it had only been the first two, I would have given the book 3 or 3.5 stars. But the third novella (theoretically the most science fiction-y) killed it for me. I liked the idea of the church storing history and the idea of re-discovering science. But it wasn't always pulling me in--I had to be in the mood to read. And the third story didn't work for me, I was never interested in reading, and didn't enjoy it when I did. I'm glad that I read the book but I don't think I'll be recommending it to others....more
Geek Mafia, or as the book cover has it, G33K Mafia, is a techno-thriller that while being incredibly predictable, was also kind of fun to read. It waGeek Mafia, or as the book cover has it, G33K Mafia, is a techno-thriller that while being incredibly predictable, was also kind of fun to read. It was in no way particularly innovative. The print edition that I read was in serious need of copy editing (there were many typos and at one point even character names were wrong!). And frankly, everything from the initial con to the final line was formulaic at best and could be seen coming from a mile away. And for all those flaws, it was still fun to read.
The story starts with Paul, a comic book artist who has formed a video game company based on his comic book, about to get fired. While ruminating on this at a local restaurant, he meets Chloe, who offers to help him get back at his soon-to-be-former coworkers. He takes her up on the offer and finds himself falling in with a "crew" of misfits and geeks, techie con artists. Naturally, this mostly happens because he falls in love with Chloe. After the initial con, Paul comes up with an idea for a new one, runs it, and then gets pulled into yet another con. Soon, feeling like he's really part of the crew and wanting to impress Chlore, he comes up with yet another idea, seeing it through until almost the end when everything starts to go wrong. I won't spoil it, but what happens from Chapter 26 on is exactly what you'd expect with this kind of lead-in, right through the climax and into the ending.
I still kind of enjoyed it. I think what drew me in the most was the geek culture. It reminded me, in a lot of ways, of my time with a group I used to belong to (we weren't con-artists). It kind of brought me back to my old punk kid times. Geek Mafia won't win any awards and frankly I'm baffled by the praise it did get, but if you put aside seriousness and just want a fun, quick read, there are worse books out there. Just keep the expectations low....more
Audiobook from Penguin Audio Narrated by George Newbern Length: 28.75 hours
I hate to admit this, but I judged this book by the cover at first. I knew noAudiobook from Penguin Audio Narrated by George Newbern Length: 28.75 hours
I hate to admit this, but I judged this book by the cover at first. I knew nothing about the book when I started listening, I hadn't even read the blurb in the description. I saw a fantastical-looking image on the cover and, knowing that Tad Williams typically writes fantasy novels/series, I just assumed it was a fantasy novel. I was wrong. This is actually a cyberpunk book, a quite good one at that. There was only one downside to the book, which I may as well get out of the way now: it's not a complete story. The book ends with no plot lines resolved and more questions than answers...so, if you read this book, be prepared to read at least the next book in the series (River of Blue Fire. I say "at least" because I have only just started that book (and it's 24.3 hours long!), and I have no idea if it resolves any of the story. There are 4 books in the Otherland series in total (City of Golden Shadow, River of Blue Fire, Mountain of Black Glass, and Sea of Silver Light, the first two of which are available in audio so far).
The plot is intriguing. In a future-world setting (the book was written in 1996), virtual reality (VR) in the form of using an avatar to explore the "net," is fairly commonplace. Many people, instead of congregating/living in cities with malls and town centers and such, live good parts of their lives in the virtual world. At least, the younger people seem to do this. Main character Reny (a nickname for Irene) is a teacher of computer science/VR manipulation at a university. One day she comes home to find her little brother, Steven, comatose after spending some time in the VR world. Setting out to try to figure out what left him in the coma, she comes across a hint of a world called "Otherland," a world within the VR world. In parallel, a kid named Orlando is exposed to "Otherland" in a part of his online video game. They find themselves searching for answers on Otherland, enlisting the help of some others who have also found out about the mysterious world, all seeking answers for what it is and why it's harming kids. There is another story in the book, of a man named Paul. He may or may not have been a soldier in World War II, but somehow has found himself stuck in the world of Otherland without the ability to escape. There is also the story of those running Otherland, some with more nefarious reasons than others...
The entire plot is engaging, if sometimes a little confusing to keep track of who is where (especially at first, as the world and characters are introduced). That said, the book drew me in more or less from the get-go, and I found excuses to listen more as I went about my days. Williams, unlike many authors I've read recently, is able to describe the world and the technology organically through the telling of the story. Where some people would spend time info-dumping, Williams is able to make the world comprehensible by explaining things to characters, or having the reader go along with the process of discovery with the characters. For a book written in 1996, Williams was somewhat a visionary of technology and how people use it. In the book, there are VR systems (think: Oculus Rift taken to the extreme), normal day-to-day use of the internet, tablets, videophony...things that are in the early years of widespread adoption now.
The characters in this book are very interesting. I've read a lot of complaints, recently, from people who wish that there were more women and/or minorities in the books that they read, especially genre fiction. This book doesn't have that problem. Reny is a South African black woman, and one of her closest friends through the story is a native African. One of the main villains is Australian and there seem to be people from across the globe involved in either the world or trying to study the world. When Reny needs help, she turns to another woman (another professor in computer science-type fields) for aid, and though men are involved, they are on an equal footing with the women. While I normally don't fault a book for having weak female characters, it was refreshing to have such diversity in the book.
George Newbern's narration was fantastic, if a little slow. I found that I had to bump up the playback speed slightly, otherwise it felt like the pauses were a little too long, the speech a little too slow. This made some of the characters or world aspects a little hard to understand at times (pronunciation-wise), but that didn't detract from the story. It was always easy to keep track of who was talking and what was going on, thanks to Newbern's voices for the characters and for the main narration.
All in all, I really liked this book. I wish it had come to some form of closure, or at least given some more hints on the motives of the villains, but that's a minor complaint. I've already started the second book and can't wait to see where the story goes....more
I don't really know how to sum up this book. It was good, though I think the parts I liked about it were more the world-building than the actual plot.I don't really know how to sum up this book. It was good, though I think the parts I liked about it were more the world-building than the actual plot. Written in 1968, Brunner paints a bleak picture of the current day (2010). Sadly, his painting is quite accurate. This book reminds me a bit of Infinite Jest in its disjointedness that all somehow comes together to form a (mostly) cohesive narrative. In this book, though, the world-building and side-character development is done in parallel with the actual "story" parts (unlike the reverse story in IJ).
In this...story (?), Brunner's world is one of overpopulation (that is out of control enough that even the US has eugenics laws to ensure that only healthy babies are born--even the gene for colorblindness is reason to not be allowed to have a kid), where people are dependent on drugs and gadgets to form their identity, and technological advances are staggering. Though the actual narrative circles around the characters of Norman House and Donald Hogan, the real movers are Chad Mulligan and Shalamansear. Shalamansear is a super-computer, which constantly reminded me of a cross between IBM's "Watson" and what you'd get if you spent an afternoon Wikipedia surfing. Chad Mulligan is a sociologist of sorts, who is most likely a mouthpiece for Brunner himself.
Without spoiling the actual story, I will note that it ends up being Mulligan who "figures out" that Shalamansear is truly AI, and is aware. Almost ironically, though, he does this while constantly reminding his associates (namely Norman) and the public (through publications) of the importance of privacy, of the need to not rely too heavily on technology, while that is what the world is doing in a rather global scale.
Oddly, for me, the part about Norman and how Shalamansear relates to his story line, was not the story that kept my interest, though I think it is the one Brunner was trying to make the most important. Rather, I enjoyed Donald's story line, the one of espionage and social and political issues that arise from advances in genetic engineering (both in "red" China and in the US). I also really liked reading the "interludes" about sub-characters and the seemingly-random-until-you-figure-it-out "trains of thought" for Shalamansear. Brunner's world-building, while unorthodox, was gripping.
While reading, I noted a ton of passages that rang true today. I've listed many of them out in the Sword & Laser thread about Stand on Zanzibar, and some while I updated my progress. Maybe later I'll go pull a few more out. But seriously, if you've read this far into the review, you may as well go read the book. It's kind of confusing at first, but I thought it was pretty well worth-it....more
I really liked this book. After I got over the initial hump and got used to the "new" narrator, I didn't want to put the book down. I flew through oveI really liked this book. After I got over the initial hump and got used to the "new" narrator, I didn't want to put the book down. I flew through over half the book over the long Memorial Day weekend and was sad that I couldn't read all day Tuesday to finish it up--I had to go to work instead.
The Fall of Hyperion picks up mostly where Hyperion left off but from a different point of view. The reader is introduced to the narrator, an artist named Severn, a guest of Hegemony CEO Gladstone at a kickoff party for the war with the Ousters over Hyperion. Through a variety of mechanisms, the reader learns about what's going on within the Hegemony, with the Shrike pilgrims on Hyperion, and the war in general. The book ends after the war is over and the survivors are left to figure out how to rebuild.
In The Fall of Hyperion, I was most interested in what happened to the Shrike pilgrims. I grew to love (most) of them in Hyperion (especially the priest and the scholar) and wanted to know if they were able to get what they wanted from the Shrike. There were twists and turns along the way and only two pilgrims' stories ended up like I expected they would (although not without twists of their own), but I enjoyed the developments and story they went through. Not knowing what to expect for most of the pilgrims, I found myself on the edge of my seat as I experienced their trials with them.
I also enjoyed the politics and the technology outside of the world of Hyperion and the pilgrims. Some of it didn't make a lot of sense...I think it may have been an attempt to describe the world to setup for Endymion, but it was still interesting to learn more about how this futuristic world worked.
All of this praise isn't to say that the book doesn't have plot holes. I'm not sure if they're really "plot holes" or "things left open for future books," but there were definitely some aspects that didn't add up, such as (view spoiler)[how Brawne Lamia was able to walk on "invisible steps" and why the Shrike turned to glass when she did, or how--after the Core was more or less destroyed--Severn could still exist in any form in the "ether" of any world, and why that "ether" seemed to be more prevalent on Hyperion. And frankly, I didn't understand why Severn had to die on Earth with the Shrike watching. None of that made sense. (hide spoiler)]... I also didn't particularly enjoy the parts where Severn the narrator talked to Ummon, a sort of Zen-master speaking in poetry and koans. Those parts, as in Hyperion, felt forced, it felt like Simmons was trying to be artful and kind of failed.
That all said, I still really enjoyed the book. I'm happy to finally get closure to the story I started back in 2004 or 2005, and felt that this book definitely did feel like the second half of that book. I'm still on the fence about reading Endymion right away. On the one hand, I have it ready to go and the world is fresh in my mind--this would be the best time. But on the other, I'm not sure I "need" to (and I've heard it's a bit of a slog). Stay tuned to my GR feed to see what I decide.. ;)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Just as Hyperion tells half a story of the Hyperion pilgrims, Endymion tells half a story about evens starting about 250 years after Hyperion. In thisJust as Hyperion tells half a story of the Hyperion pilgrims, Endymion tells half a story about evens starting about 250 years after Hyperion. In this book, Raul Endymion, a Hyperion native, is commissioned by a surprising benefactor to find Aenea and then do a number of tasks. Aenea is the daughter of Brawne Lamia and the Keats cybrid from Hyperion, who (outside of the Hyperion/The Fall of Hyperion story) entered the Shrike Temple to go forward in time.
Aenea is considered a prophet or messiah of some sort, and as such is also being sought by the Pax, the church that has come to power after the events in The Fall of Hyperion. This is mostly an adventure tale with science fiction elements thrown in. It tells the story of Raul's commission, the story of how he and Aenea met, and then the story of their travels across the universe, seeking out things Aenea has only seen in dreams. They are chased by the Pax, whose story line is also interesting and somewhat twisty-turny.
Without spoiling it, I'll say that this was an enjoyable adventure. It was a little slow to start and toward the end felt a little dragged out, but all in all I liked it. I'm looking forward to reading The Rise of Endymion and hope that it continues where this story left off....more
I LOVED this book, all 1,000 pages of it (or 1,256 or so of the mass market paperback or ~50 hours of audio). Robert Jordan's widow did the world a grI LOVED this book, all 1,000 pages of it (or 1,256 or so of the mass market paperback or ~50 hours of audio). Robert Jordan's widow did the world a great service by introducing a lot of us (including me) to Brandon Sanderson. Everything I read from the man--even if it's not 100% up my alley--is fantastic.
The Way of Kings is no different. Though it's one book, it really tells about 5 stories, all running in parallel. This allowed the book to be fresh; it didn't feel like I got bogged down in one story for too long before another story came along. Better than that, I wanted to know what happened to each of the main characters. I cared about them, thought about them when Sanderson hadn't mentioned them in awhile. I found myself thinking about this book, especially the second half, when I wasn't reading, wanting to know what was coming next.
I'm still processing this book (and book within a book). But wow. I'll write more when I can get the words out....more
I enjoyed this book, for what it was. Yes, it was a fairly typical travel-adventure narrative, and some parts of it felt like parts I've read it everyI enjoyed this book, for what it was. Yes, it was a fairly typical travel-adventure narrative, and some parts of it felt like parts I've read it every other travel-adventure book. But really, who would have thought of going to the lowest point on each continent? Much less, who would have thought to go there on a bike (well, mostly on a bike)? It was entertaining and, as usual (for me anyway), sparked a desire to travel--maybe even on a bike. ...more
Original Review I'm still processing how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it was very Perrin-centric, and he's probably one of my least favorOriginal Review I'm still processing how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it was very Perrin-centric, and he's probably one of my least favorite characters. On the other, some things I've been looking forward to happened in this book and were pretty freaking good.
Either way, this was another great job by Sanderson, rejuvenating the series that Jordan left behind, and I'm eagerly anticipating the final tome.
2013 Re-read I decided to re-read The Gathering Storm and this one before the release of A Memory of Light as a way of reminding me where the series left off without having to re-read everything (that's planned for later this year or in 2014). In my original review, I rated it 4 stars; on the re-read, I rated it 3. While this was certainly better than I seem to remember the later Jordan-only tomes in the series to be (Winter's Heart, Crossroads of Twilight, Knife of Dreams...), it didn't feel as strong as The Gathering Storm. I think a lot of that is because the "biggest" thing I remembered from this book didn't happen until the end (you know the scene I mean, the one with Tom and Mat going on a quest...). I somehow had deluded myself into thinking that the quest was a much larger portion of the book than it was. I apparently blocked out most of the Perrin storyline as well as the Elayne storyline. Perrin's scenes tend to feel drawn out to me. Elayne's, while I typically like them more, were less interesting in this book. It was too much "politics," not enough cool ter'angreal making or her being a badass.
I mostly enjoyed 4/5 of this book. I listened to it on audio from Audible.com, which included (in 3 "books") The Sword in the Stone, The Witch in theI mostly enjoyed 4/5 of this book. I listened to it on audio from Audible.com, which included (in 3 "books") The Sword in the Stone, The Witch in the Wood, The Ill-Made Knight, The Candle in the Wind, and The Book of Merlyn. Apparently, I've learned that The Book of Merlyn wasn't a part of the original book and was published posthumously. I did not care for The Book of Merlyn.
Other than that, though, I enjoyed reading this. I haven't read much Arthurian legend before, and this was an entertaining introduction. It was interesting to see the differences between this book and Mists of Avalon; I definitely preferred The Once and Future King. I also really enjoyed hearing references made in other books--notably, the Wheel of Time series (which I've been reading). It's cool to see how other books have used the Arthur legends in spinning their yarns....more
I suppose I should start by saying that I didn't have high hopes for this book before I started to read it. I read Stranger in a Strange Land a few yeI suppose I should start by saying that I didn't have high hopes for this book before I started to read it. I read Stranger in a Strange Land a few years ago and thought it was just OK. I also wasn't sold on the dialect of the book's narrator early on--it took some getting used to.
In the end, I enjoyed the story of those who brought a revolution to the moon. In some places, it was too wordy--too much description and not enough action. However, upon reflection, this may have been Heinlein's subtle commentary on the nature of starting a revolution--and on TALKING of starting a revolution.
I have to think that this book, with its fairly lofty ideals, is one better enjoyed when younger (I'm 30 now, and just tipping over the edge of being too jaded to enjoy it I think). I think I'd feel differently about it if I read it 10 years from now....more
I read this book the summer after I finished high school, it's a book I still think of today. I've heard that part of what made its message so potentI read this book the summer after I finished high school, it's a book I still think of today. I've heard that part of what made its message so potent at the time was that the interlaced newspaper clippings were actual stories taken from actual papers of the time.