Say hello to Kabe (pronounced Ka - beh), a tripedal, three-and-a-half meter tall triangular bulk of politely plodding philosophical awesomeness, who cSay hello to Kabe (pronounced Ka - beh), a tripedal, three-and-a-half meter tall triangular bulk of politely plodding philosophical awesomeness, who can stand so perfectly still while lost in thought that silly humans often mistake him for some sort of humongous, statuesque work of art. Also, mistakenly, even though he’s a Homondon (a vegetarian species), Kabe’s very large mouth makes the sight of him eating distinctly alarming.
These outwardly endearing qualities are hardly the extent of adorableness that is Ambassador Kabe Ischloear. Here’s an excerpt of him traipsing through the snow:
He could hear his own footsteps as they sank into the untouched whiteness. Each step made a creaking noise. […]
He looked back at his tracks in the sow covering the canal path. Three lines of footprints. He wondered what a human – what any bipedal – would make of such a trail. Probably, he suspected, they would not notice. Even if they did, they would just ask and instantly be told […]
Ah, so little mystery these days. Kabe looked around, then quickly did a little hopping, shuffling dance, executing the steps with a delicacy belying his bulk and weight. He glanced about again, and was glad to have, apparently, escaped observation. He studied the pattern his dance had left in the snow. That was better… But what had he been thinking of? The snow, and its silence.
Yes, Kabe is hilarious. He spends pages locked in philosophical debate with Ziller (a cantankerous misanthrope and composer living in exile on a Culture Orbital – which is a ring-shaped world with the surface and continents of a planet, a bit like Halo), and Kabe listens, pondering his surroundings with a prodigious sense of humor.
This is the first Culture novel that I gave five stars, since I was never bored.
Look to Windward is a deeply philosophical book. At one point, Hub, the sentience directing the Culture Orbital and its surrounding Solar System where a lot of the action plays out, explains what it’s like to be a Mind, an AI a trillion times cleverer than we; the perspective of death, of responsibility, of shame and kindness and other concepts that result from that small foray into the depths of every sentient soul…
This book deals with suicide, bereavement, and religious rationalization of mass violence; with the mores of life in a technologically unlimited anarchist utopia. And oh, does it succeed, and more.
One thing, I got through almost half the novel before I realized how totally awesome it was, and went back to re-read many parts a second time with a much deeper appreciation for the characters and subtle waves below the surface.
The ending is pretty much amazing.
Read this now, or next time you’re in a deeply philosophical mood. ...more
Even before I finished Armor by John Steakley this morning, I began to laugh a maniacal laughter from the very depths of me.
Armor is utterly modern aEven before I finished Armor by John Steakley this morning, I began to laugh a maniacal laughter from the very depths of me.
Armor is utterly modern and classical simultaneously. It reads like an oil painting with deep characters at the center of a blurry canvas, where chaos is a smear of black paint, and speed a rake of colors.
The story's divided into pieces and begins with Felix.
He’s on a military starship orbiting a hostile planet called Banshee, about to be dropped into combat along with 10,000 fellow warriors. The invasion is similar to Normandy on D-Day, and we get our first glimpse of Felix in the mess hall the morning of the drop. He’s a little like this:
A woman vomits at the breakfast-line right in front of Felix, whose attitude’s one of and-no-fu*ks-were-given-that-day.
He climbs into his armor. And it begins.
The next 80 pages are hard to read. “Mazes,” “bunkers,” and “beacons” are about the most complex scenery beyond the scorching sand dunes. Bleak imagery and nightmare mark the killing ground of massive, ugly bugs that outnumber the warriors a thousand to one, and nearly everyone dies.
By the end of the book, the symbolic hostility of the planet Banshee weaves a recurring theme.
“Remember where you are,” Felix will say. “This is Banshee.”
He is the sole survivor, and you get more insight into his character, as it’s slowly revealed that far from a one-dimensional badass, Felix is a broken soul. His desire to die barely matched by his stubborn, masochistic refusal to do so.
More on this later.
Part 2 begins the parallel story of Jack Crow, right in the midst of a messy prison escape. The shift is abrupt, and perspective changes to first person.
Jack Crow is a Galaxy-famous pirate and anti-hero -
A self-centered asshole with the morals of a cockroach, Crow mistakenly believes he’s the toughest man alive. And, being in a lot of trouble, he strikes a deal with a ruthless Captain mutineer (the main antagonist besides Banshee itself) to charmingly infiltrate and subvert a research colony in exchange for a ship and lots and lots of money.
It's an ugly deal for the colony, and Crow begins to have second thoughts.
Suffice it to say that before the finale, Jack Crow becomes:
Part 3, melding of the stories.
Against all odds, Felix has survived 20 drops.
Banshee wants him dead, the gigantic aliens they fight begin to recognize him, and he is forced to watch as those around him are destroyed one by one.
And yet, like some grotesque cosmic joke, Felix lives… for a while.
That’s all I can say, except that I love Felix. They don’t make heroes like that anymore, they really don’t. He is indestructible and frail. Maybe I like him because he's what every hero should be, like you, but better, and with thousands of dead aliens at his feet.
I read the first hundred pages of Battle Royale and fell asleep. That night I dreamt that I was in The Program. (I remember fleeing a pretty intense gI read the first hundred pages of Battle Royale and fell asleep. That night I dreamt that I was in The Program. (I remember fleeing a pretty intense gunfight and thinking nonsensically: dammit, at least I'm getting good exercise.)
I hardly thought about it until the next evening, when I began to read again and only finished as the sun rose.
You cannot know gunfights or car chases until you've read Battle Royale.
It's fantastical, it's pulpy, and it's brilliant. I wish it had been written with more realism, but you can't have everything. Perhaps Koushun Takami will write another, some day....more