I love Duane's world building in this book. Her concept of what wizards are, and their place in the universe, is too cool and unique to spoil here. DeI love Duane's world building in this book. Her concept of what wizards are, and their place in the universe, is too cool and unique to spoil here. Definitely a good, entertaining read for the younger YA set; I think I just came to the series a little too late....more
This is a very engaging and inventive saga about a group of explorers who inadvertently get dragged into a bigger journey than they signed up for. WhaThis is a very engaging and inventive saga about a group of explorers who inadvertently get dragged into a bigger journey than they signed up for. What at first looks like a simple First Contact plot soon develops all kinds of intriguing twists and turns. The relationships between the characters are especially well realized. Reynolds's solution to the Fermi Paradox (if life is common in the universe, where the hell is everybody?) is particularly inventive.
I listened to the audiobook version. The narrator is excellent, and distinguishes well between all of the characters. It's particularly fun to hear him voice the American actors, since he has a fairly pronounced UK accent in his narration (Scottish, I think, though it sounds like university has softened its harsher edges). This is a LONG book, but it's worth the trip....more
Jon's style is as engaging as always, but there are few answers here. The question of who gets shamed and how well people survive it is explored fromJon's style is as engaging as always, but there are few answers here. The question of who gets shamed and how well people survive it is explored from many angles, but no pattern emerges; it's all driven by the whims of the mob, which is both scarier and harder to defend against than if there were a consistent pattern. The title suggests that the book will describe what to do next, but Jon doesn't know any more than the rest of us on that score. Certainly it helps if you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on reputation management, but that just means that only the rich can outrun their shame. Ultimately the only thing that will end this cycle of destruction is if people on the internet decide to behave more decently toward one another. Good luck with that....more
Mary gets up to more of her inquisitive shenanigans, asking awkward questions about the things the rest of us would be too embarrassed to bring up. IfMary gets up to more of her inquisitive shenanigans, asking awkward questions about the things the rest of us would be too embarrassed to bring up. If you like her other books, you'll find a lot to enjoy here. The chapter about developing shark repellent is particularly surreal and entertaining....more
HUNTERS UNLUCKY is a hard book to pigeonhole. You've heard a lot of stories that are a little bit like this one -- enough to see the similarities andHUNTERS UNLUCKY is a hard book to pigeonhole. You've heard a lot of stories that are a little bit like this one -- enough to see the similarities and point at them -- but very few books try to accomplish everything that this one does. Even fewer succeed so marvelously, on so many levels.
First of all, this is a talking animal story. You've seen that before -- The Jungle Book, Watership Down, and Redwall, to name a few. But most of Hilton's animals have interesting twists that make them different from anything you've read about, either in the real-world or in more standard fantasy fare. The most prominent species in HUNTERS UNLUCKY, the ferryshaft, occupy an interesting ecological niche: they're omnivorous, capable of subsisting equally well on meat and foliage. While they are prey to some other creatures in their world, they are capable of being fierce and brave in their own right. As one of their would-be hunters remarks at a key point in the story, "Ferryshaft are not deer." This moves them out of the Designated Victim category in the talking animal genre, so that their fate is much more in their own hands (err, hooves) than would typically be the case in a story like this.
Second, this is a Bildungsroman (a coming-of-age story). You've seen those more times than you can count: the hero who starts as a child and becomes an adult, finding his or her place in the world along the way. This may be the most conventional part of the story, as Storm makes the journey from persecuted youngster to proud, charismatic and dangerous adult. But here, too, Hilton surprises, not so much with Storm but with the characters around him: former villains become heroes, seemingly peripheral characters rise up to become leaders, seemingly-wise mentors reveal the ways they are foolish, and even Storm himself transitions from learner to an unlikely mentor and guardian.
Third, this is an epic story: the plot spans generations and affects the lives of thousands of beings, with grand alliances, betrayals, conspiracies, and the rise and fall of entire species. Of course you've seen that before: epics are all the rage in fantasy these days. But how many epics have you ever heard of that focused on beings with no hands, no swords, no armor, no buildings in the traditional sense (though some of them get clever on that front) -- beings whose motivations and drives boil down to "reproduce and try not to starve or get eaten"? Can you really tell a story of epic scope with creatures whose lives and needs are so simple? Oh, yes. Well, maybe YOU can't, but Hilton surely did. And the richness and depth of characterization that she brings to those "simple" beings puts most epic fantasies to shame.
It is my conviction that stories, ultimately, are about people, not events, and Hilton's characters are people in a deep and meaningful sense. They have layers, and flaws, and unexpected virtues, moments of great insight and great foolishness. As alien as their world is, they feel very real. Almost all of the characters are sympathetic and relatable, even when they are at odds with one another. Some of the characters who seemed terrible and threatening at the beginning of the story ended up becoming some of my favorites by the end. Seemingly messianic figures are revealed to have deep and significant flaws. Hilton repeatedly challenges your sense of who the good guys and the bad guys are, and even when you find a character's actions horrible, there is usually some understandable, even sympathetic reason for them. (The one notable exception is something I can't talk about here, for fear of spoilers -- but it, too, is compelling, in a horrific, alien way that actually makes sense within the setting of the story.)
One reason I particularly enjoyed this book is that it not only reached for an epic scope, it actually achieved a satisfying ending. This is something that many writers struggle with, particularly when attempting something this grand. Hilton herself, for all her virtues as a writer, has had difficulty tying things up in a satisfactory way in her previous work. Not so here. The lives of the characters go on -- most of them, anyway -- but by the end of the Epilogue, you have a very fulfilling sense of having reached the end of a complete and magnificent tale.
Finally, I must give my enthusiastic recommendation for the audiobook version of HUNTERS UNLUCKY. The narrator, Rish Outfield, is exceptionally skilled: not only does he affect different accents for each species, but there are even sub-types of each accent for high-class and low-class members of those species -- and somehow he STILL manages to give each character his or her own unique voice, full of emotion and dynamic range. That is a LOT to think about for a single book, especially one with this many characters, but Outfield handles it all magnificently. This is a story that was made to be listened to, and with this narrator, the result is a pure delight....more
This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to incorporate firearms in their fiction but doesn't have first-hand experience with using them in angerThis book is a must-read for anyone who wants to incorporate firearms in their fiction but doesn't have first-hand experience with using them in anger. J. Daniel Sawyer and Mary Mason provide a comprehensive look at all sorts of instruments of mayhem. Just as importantly, they provide crucial context on what it is like to actually USE firearms, and the differences in psychology between different types of users. This book is never far from me when I'm writing about cops, criminals, or soldiers....more
I've been reading a lot about psychopaths lately -- research for a book, honest! -- and this is by far the most engaging and entertaining book on theI've been reading a lot about psychopaths lately -- research for a book, honest! -- and this is by far the most engaging and entertaining book on the subject that I've read to date. Ronson started out trying to write a book on one thesis -- that the actions of a small number of psychopaths direct the course of human events -- but his research led him somewhere else entirely. I appreciated his openness and honesty about his own foibles and failings; he makes himself a character in his own story, and the end result is better for it. This is a fun read, but also a sobering reminder of the way we are increasingly defining all deviations from conformity as one sort of madness or another....more
This book is as masterfully written as any of Sawyer's books, and it is by far the hardest of hard sci-fi that he has done so far.
But on a personal lThis book is as masterfully written as any of Sawyer's books, and it is by far the hardest of hard sci-fi that he has done so far.
But on a personal level, it really, really rubbed me the wrong way.
This is in no way a flaw of the story. Indeed, the fact that it was able to induce such a visceral reaction is a testament to Sawyer's skill. But this story raises many difficult questions about identity and the self, and I vehemently disagree with his answers to those questions.
Chances are good that you'll either love this story or hate it. Give it a try and see which camp you fall into....more
I listened to this book on Audible. Some of the technical parts were difficult to process this way, particularly when he's describing his "Rubik's CubI listened to this book on Audible. Some of the technical parts were difficult to process this way, particularly when he's describing his "Rubik's Cube" model of the brain; I'm told that the print copy contains diagrams that are very helpful in making sense of these parts. If you want to learn (and retain) a lot of details on brain physiology, this probably isn't the best way to consume this book.
On the other hand, I was listening to the book in order to understand more about the internal psychology of psychopaths. (It's for research on a book I'm writing.) In that respect, the audio version was great. The narrator has a rich, deep voice that spins out Fallon's tale at high speed and with wonderful diction, perfectly conveying the narcissism, glibness and recklessness of this self-described "prosocial psychopath." Fallon weaves together stories of his own personal life, from childhood to his mid-sixties, with the neuroscience that may explain how psychopathy works and where it comes from. Fallon is devilishly charming as he freely admits his defects in one moment and grandiosely brags about his accomplishments in the next. This is a fascinating look inside the head of a man who knows exactly how his brain doesn't work right, and yet has thoroughly embraced who and what he is....more
I can only handle David Sedaris in small doses; that much cynicism and misanthropy just isn't good to steep in for too long. That having been said, heI can only handle David Sedaris in small doses; that much cynicism and misanthropy just isn't good to steep in for too long. That having been said, he is usually hilarious and sometimes even poignant, and the essays in this collection are just the right size. Enjoy them like bittersweet chocolates: a little at a time, so you don't upset your stomach.
It's worth getting the audiobook version, because Sedaris is a master narrator of his own work. The chapters that were recorded live in concert are a special treat....more
I love the idea of a Cthulhu Mythos where the humans fight back. Lumley wrote this in the mid-seventies, and it shows its age in some ways, but it isI love the idea of a Cthulhu Mythos where the humans fight back. Lumley wrote this in the mid-seventies, and it shows its age in some ways, but it is quite entertaining. Necessarily he had to change the mythos somewhat in order to make his story work, chiefly by introducing a moral axis into the cast of Ancient Ones; this allows for the existence of weapons that are effective against the minions of Cthulhu and his allies, created by beings as powerful as they but less inimical to human life. This is very much counter to Lovecraft's own view of the universe as uncaring and inherently hostile to life, but that's sort of the point.
One definite plus to Lumley's version of the Mythos: the abhorrent racial attitudes of Lovecraft are nowhere to be seen. I guess an extra fifty years of progress helps in that regard....more
Classic Gaiman. I can tell it's one of his earlier works -- the Gaiman "voice" isn't fully developed, and he makes some choices in the way he narratesClassic Gaiman. I can tell it's one of his earlier works -- the Gaiman "voice" isn't fully developed, and he makes some choices in the way he narrates that I don't think he'd use today -- but the richly imagined characters, clever dialogue and vivid, fantastic settings that characterize his work are all here. I enjoyed the story greatly....more