You never know what to expect when reading a book by Elizabeth Bear, and All the Windwracked Stars is no exception. This is a post-apocalyptic novel cYou never know what to expect when reading a book by Elizabeth Bear, and All the Windwracked Stars is no exception. This is a post-apocalyptic novel centered around figures of Norse mythology who are trying their best to stave off the next round of apocalyptic disasters. The main character is an immortal who has managed to keep her naivet...more
My husband recommended this novel for me, and it meets a lot of my interest areas. This Is Not a Game talks about the gaming world gone one step furth My husband recommended this novel for me, and it meets a lot of my interest areas. This Is Not a Game talks about the gaming world gone one step further into the real one, and then explores the social and economic consequences of same. The novel has a very cyberpunk feel to it while at the same time showing none of the traditional modifications. It reminds me a lot of The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, with modern-based tech as opposed to steampunk.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the book is its very complexity. Walter Jon Williams keeps numerous threads running throughout the book for which the interrelationships are not clear from the start. There are many types of books this one can fall under, but ultimately it’s a mystery. Dagmar is the main character, and she is responsible for crafting complex games run through the Internet but intersecting with the real world as an effort to advertise brand-new products. The games may involve international travel or just research but draw players into a world where treachery is the natural state of things.
As a concept, this is an intriguing one. It would be enough to carry the book. But Williams does not stop there. Our story actually begins with Dagmar making an unexpected stop in Jakarta as its economy collapses. She finds herself in a space much like her carefully crafted games, only with potentially deadly results. Instead of pretend, her life is at risk because of economic riots and various factions seizing control of parts of the city. She has to call upon her boss and close friend Charlie to rescue her.
His companies have made him rich, very rich, but she has no idea just how rich he has become.
And that is about as far as I can go with giving plot information while still avoiding spoilers. The complexity of this novel is incredible. The characters are interesting and their relationships wind all the way through their lives since college. Dagmar is caught between two of them and tries hard to maintain her friendship on both sides without betraying either. Offhand I would say there are easily four to five plot threads running through this book.
Did I enjoy it? The answer has to be yes. However I found myself in one of those odd places where the reader’s perceptions don’t match the writer’s. Ultimately I was disappointed in the resolution. Not that it didn’t work. Williams is an incredibly skilled writer and there was nothing wrong with the path of the book chooses. I just feel of the tales to be told the one that captured my interest the most became incidental toward the end, and to me this is a weakness.
What’s odd about that opinion is simply this: I know full well the way to make people identify with the book is to make it personal. I find my reaction curious because it was that very personal that I felt was almost a copout. Not so much to spoil the book for me, but enough that I wanted to see the bigger picture more and was denied the opportunity. This is a warning of sorts for me, because I also tend to write complex novels, though not on Williams’ scale. It warns of the danger of presenting such an ingenious idea that the reader can get caught up and regret when that idea is not seen through to the end, though honestly I can’t see how that end would look. Every thread resolves. All that complexity ties together. It’s not like anything was left hanging or unresolved. It’s a matter of balance and focus. Ultimately, I think I need to walk away with the understanding that it was a good read. Anything else is just my reader 50%.
Of course, walking away is difficult. This book was intriguing enough to stick around in my head and make me intensely curious. So fair warning, if people do as I ask, most likely spoilers will appear in the comments thread. My question is, if you have read the book, what was your reaction? While I attempted to keep things obscure, I’m sure upon reading the book that you can translate the specifics I have hidden to protect those who haven’t read yet. So in the comments, would you please tell your reaction and whether you preferred the path the author chose, or wanted more. Include a spoiler warning where appropriate, but everyone reading the post has been forewarned. ...more
Warrior Wisewoman 3 edited by Roby James is an anthology of science fiction stories focused around strong female characters. These characters may notWarrior Wisewoman 3 edited by Roby James is an anthology of science fiction stories focused around strong female characters. These characters may not be the lead, and the definition of strength is a broad one, opening the potential for a wide variety of interesting tales.
As with most anthologies, some stories resonated with me more than others, but none of the included tales jarred me, which is not always the case. A few of the stories that stood out for me (in order of appearance) are listed below, along with a note as to why with every effort to keep from spoilers.
The Race by Jennifer R. Povey
Though the wisdom I see is in the sister rather than the main character, the story is a compelling read about competition and what the race to win can cost. The main character matures on the page, and the conclusion worked for me.
The Envoy by Al Onia
Unlike The Race, The Envoy is strongly thematic. Like many of the stories in this collection, Onia’s tale deals with the resolution of war through a central female character, but it also explores the sense of self and how the greater good can be worth more than the individual, even when that greater good is of people with whom the individual has not direct relationship.
Bearer of Burdens by Melissa Mead
This story is told from a male point of view, and the thematic character is presented as a victim and a horrifying image at first. As the tale develops, though, the main character comes to love and respect her. Still, ultimately, he fails to understand until it’s too late, but within that understanding, the reader comes to see the world through more complex eyes. Similarly to The Envoy, the choices made by the thematic character are not those traditionally supported in Western culture, but the way the story builds to them makes her decisions better than what appears to be the story’s path.
The Truth One Sees by Kathy Hurley
The saying “I won’t believe it until I see it with my own eyes” influences much of Western culture and how people perceive the world. This story looks at a case where the truth is unseen, and if known, would be misunderstood with disastrous consequences. The main character educates under the mask of a fortune teller, hoping to get the chance to teach those with the power to harm that instead they should look for peace.
There were many others–as I said, I didn’t dislike any of the stories–but these should give you a taste of what you’d find in the anthology. Of course you might have listed the other stories first over this lot because tastes differ. On the whole, this anthology touched on issues of culture clash, finding peace in odd places and odd ways, and how humanity leaps first then suffers the consequences. These are themes I appreciate, and the blend of stories that used them without seeming repetitious offered an enjoyable read.
Iron Man 2 may be the first novelization of a screenplay that I have read, and as an introduction, I think it was quite a good one. I m an old time coIron Man 2 may be the first novelization of a screenplay that I have read, and as an introduction, I think it was quite a good one. I m an old time comic book reader, and I ve gone to every comic-based movie that I can, including the first Iron Man, so when LibraryThing.com had some review copies of Iron Man 2, I signed up. I wasn t sure what to expect though, because I hadn t read a comic-book to screenplay to novel before, as I said, and I was concerned that the feel of a comic book would be lost in a novel, or that it would not appeal.[return][return]Face it. Most comic books, especially the old Marvel Comics which originally brought Iron Man to life, have a larger than life aura that defeats efforts to constrain them to the expectations of life. It s big, beautiful, brutal, life on the edge and without any sign of social conformity. Very few comic book heroes are people I d enjoy having in my life. They tend to be arrogant, obsessed, driven, and so totally focused that the details which make life livable are just cast aside as unimportant. What that means is that if you re not the super powered or gadgeted hero, you become something less than an appendage and more like an inconvenience. And none of that changes the fact that within a comic book, these stories are compelling, inspiring, and just work.[return][return]When they first started making comic book movies, ignoring the Superman franchise, of course, a lot of people thought that transition wouldn t make it to the big screen. The roaring success of these movies, and how those involved transformed paper images into a full-featured show, left readers like me stunned. These obnoxious people were conveyed in such a way that once again inspired and compelled, while maintaining their true characters. That didn t stop me from wondering if the same feel could make it back to paper without losing something in the translation. Frankly, the idea of spending some 300 pages with an arrogant megalomaniac had me nervous.[return][return]Let me reassure on both those counts.[return][return]Irvine manages to capture the same feel as the comic books (something quite similar to men s adventure) while not alienating me as a reader. In fact, I was thrilled by some of the lines, and appreciated the balance between the outward and inward lives of the characters.[return][return]He manages this balance in part by using multiple points of view, some of which are known and familiar, while others, including the villain, a mirror image of Tony Stark himself, are new to me. While there are some moments when I m feeling the oh come on part of hanging out with someone as arrogant as Stark, or when the sheer lack of honest and open communication makes me want to slap the characters, these same moments are very much in character. And the consequences are real and plausible.[return][return]Not only that, but Irvine has captured how Stark thinks in a beautiful way that opens a window into that kind of genius. While there s no way I m going to turn around and build myself a flying machine, nor am I so naive as Stark who continues to protest that the Iron Man suit is not a military weapon while he s flying around stopping the bad guys with the suit, I have a touch of that kind of focused problem solving, and I can tell you the portrayal is spot on.[return][return]Which segues nicely into a couple sentences I just had to pull out to say wow. I hope they work as well out of context, and give you a taste of the skill at which this tale is undertaken (Note that there are minor spoilers):[return][return]This is from his first meeting with the villain, when he s using a smaller version of the Iron Man suit that he s still testing out:[return][return]If he d been in the Mark IV, everything would have been fine. But in the Mark V, he had a fight on his hands. & It was like instant coffee if the Mark IV was Jamaica Blue Mountain; all it did was make you wish for the real thing.[return][return]And an illustration of the sense of genius I was talking about:[return][return]For a moment Rhodey had a daydream of how this same presentation would be going if it was Tony Stark doing the pitch. & Because Tony was an engineer at heart rather than a businessman, he spoke the language of the barely possible, the thing that could be done if the brain could be stretched enough to see the way to do it.[return][return]It should be clear that I enjoyed the book. It s a fun ride, and definitely a candy-type book.[return][return]That said, there were some weaknesses I wish could have been handled better. The biggest one was how the story had too much going on for so short a book. While I understand that some of the threads may be introduced to set the stage for Iron Man 3, it seemed a little much for so many huge happenings to occur in the same short time span when they were completely unrelated. Since details would require major spoilers and I try to avoid that, let me just say that there were three main plots going on, ignoring the ongoing relationship issues between Pepper and Tony, and though they crossed over every once in a while, I felt there was a little too much popping up when needed going on to make that happen. I d have preferred a little more foreshadowing and prior integration to bring these things together smoothly.[return][return]And the other is a continuity error, which is something that drives me nuts. The end is dependent on something happening with the suits that logically should not have been possible because of the way the suits are designed around Tony. Now, with Stark the way he is, I can see it happening, but why not mention that he s done so, in his head at least. And how is it that Rhodey knew it was even a possibility? I m curious if any of you who end up reading this noticed the same thing, but I m hoping my comments here are intriguing but without spoilers.[return][return]Anyway, yes, I had quibbles, but my walk away was pure enjoyment. If I let quibbles taint my reads, I d never enjoy anything. If you like the comic book over the top feel, Iron Man 2 offers that and more. It s not a deep think by any means, but it has its moments, and they all add up to fun....more