A fun, fast, good read. The setting is fantastic and the characters are well drawn enough to get over a few bumps, like the plot depending a little to...moreA fun, fast, good read. The setting is fantastic and the characters are well drawn enough to get over a few bumps, like the plot depending a little too much on convenient coincidences at times, but its a fairly minor point.(less)
This is a review with pictures in it. I see people doing this, and I want to as well. I can haz cats also, yes?
Anyway, this ye old secondary world fa...moreThis is a review with pictures in it. I see people doing this, and I want to as well. I can haz cats also, yes?
Anyway, this ye old secondary world fantasy, with maps and kingdoms princes and things and everything.
No, not like that, silly. It is Deep and Melancholy and Meaningful. Like this:
Do you SEE? It is FUZZY and PASTEL COLORED and there is BOOBS. That means it is PROFOUND.
Women in this book are not marginalized onto these pedestals replete with bizzaro stupid sexualization for no discernable reason (except BOOBS) like this
but for complex things about THEMES. IT IS LIKE FUCKING SHAKESPEARE, YO.
Doctor Who has Themes.
(Look, I believe in equal opportunity eye-candy, yes?)
This all the MORE DEEPER, because it is PURPLE.
There are also other themes, except BOOBS.
For example, there is FREEDOM and IDENTITY and NATION-THINGY-NESS.
This is INEFFABLE and SAD, because, you see, once there were SONGS, and now there are NO MORE SONGS. And there is MEMORY. SECRET MEMORY. And it is SAD.
BUT! Fear not, brave readers. Where there is PROFOUND SAD and BOOBS, there are...
No, unfortunately there are no X-Men.
But there are MEN.
But also not like that. Not ALL testoroney and nasty and things.
No, these real men SING.
And are NICE TO ANIMALS. And are NICE TO WIMMINZ. Whom they make CRY. But with JOY.
Well, SAD JOY. This is DEEP.
So, folk, it's ok - we can sit back and marvel at these men be men. Sometimes, they kill people or take people prisoner or are generally nasty and shit, but it's OK because IT HURTS THEM IN THEIR HEART.
The point is, a little bit of judicious forgivable killing is what forges the MANLY HEART.
Forged on the CRUCIBLE. Of WAR. Into MEN.
And it SAD. But with JOY, also.
(This book is very long.
All right, it is also very thick.)
So we have the MEN who weep INSIDE, and the WOMEN, who weep OUTSIDE, and the LAND that weeps to be REDEEMED.
Oh, the GLORY of the PAIN. And the RESOLVE. The STEELY resolve. Tempered by the CAMRADERIE. Of WAR. Of MEN.
BUT! I don't know if they win. Because I didn't finish the book. Because I was overwhelmed.
Yes, also because I swooned with all the TRAGIC MANLINESS,
but also because,
fuck the fascists.
Over and out.
Good god this takes forever.
Since I'm here anyway, hot-dude-spam, k? It's like a palette cleanser and makes me feel better after this book.
Sexy George Orwell. And he didn't even sing.
I would have stayed in tiny Paris garrets and drunk cheap red wine with you while getting tuberculosis anyday, Eric.
Commodity fetish, you say, Young Karl Marx?
Jaquen H'ghar is the sexiest ASOIAF character it is known shut up ok? (less)
Excellent. Disquieting and dizzying, maybe the most interesting use of steampunk aesthetics i've yet to run across, and the only book I can recall rea...moreExcellent. Disquieting and dizzying, maybe the most interesting use of steampunk aesthetics i've yet to run across, and the only book I can recall reading that has chapters of 1st, 2nd and 3rd person POV's. (less)
re-read - yup, even better. Only complaint is that it should have been longer. It's actually amazingly economical - things I remember as bein...moreNot bad.
re-read - yup, even better. Only complaint is that it should have been longer. It's actually amazingly economical - things I remember as being these enormous, detailed stories - Tyrion on the river, Daeneryn in Meereen, Asha in the snow, Theon in Winterfell, Bran under the hill, Arya, Cercei, Griff - are actually only one or two chapters, in most cases. Only Jon on the Wall really gets enough room to breathe. (less)
Gripping. I particularly appreciated the constant effort Hochschild makes to track down Congolese voices, such as have survived, rather that keeping t...moreGripping. I particularly appreciated the constant effort Hochschild makes to track down Congolese voices, such as have survived, rather that keeping them as silent victims in a European narrative, which is usually what annoys me in books about the Western encounter with the rest of the world. (less)
Well, this is an odd one. Mostly it's a rather good, light, very readable steampunk romp with a likeable heroine with conveniently 21st century sensib...moreWell, this is an odd one. Mostly it's a rather good, light, very readable steampunk romp with a likeable heroine with conveniently 21st century sensibilities. The main flaw in this respect is that while theres a certain lip service paid to the Evils of Colonialism, with lots of suffering downtrodden natives and so on, all the actual non-psuedo-european characters who appear are firmly meesteerious easterners or savage southerners.
But then theres the political subplot. While the main story is lots of feisty Victorian adventuress and her cute love interests quite faithfully racing around the world/recreating a mediocre backpacking blog - lots of waiting for trains, having awkward conversations with people who's language you don't actually know, being leered at by creepy men and seeing things you've already seen in photographs - the war story is brutal, firmly twentieth century and based on some combination of the World Wars.
It's a strangely juxtaposition. I didn't quite know how finely to tune my moral radar - how do I regard the heroine's spending a chapter angsting over sabotaging another racer's carriage in a shocking display of poor sportsmanship, when a few chapters later she witnesses an Einsatzgruppen style mass murder of an entire village? Likewise, the whole steampunk-victoriana aesthetic is wildly jarring against the WW2 backdrop. They simply come in entirely different color palettes.
The individualist focus of the former plot becomes almost tragically absurd with the industrialized mass murder connotations of the latter. In particular the subplot about the development of a new magic weapon, quite clearly standing in for the atomic bomb, is drawn as broad farce, all sex, secret identities and funny sounding food. I might suspect theres a certain commentary there, but it never quite makes it, and the end wraps everything up to easily and exquisitely neatly, never managing to bring together the contradictions.
It's largely a fun, lively read that can't decide what period it's sticking too and, to my eye at least, ends up (probably) unintentionally casting it's idealized Victorianism in a strangely unflattering, almost bizarre light. It's definitely an interesting read though, and perhaps i'm just over-analyzing. Then again, whats the fun otherwise? (less)
I liked this one better than Boneshaker (which I enjoyed quite a bit,) it feels less YA, and the relative lack of zombies is just lovely. The wider, o...moreI liked this one better than Boneshaker (which I enjoyed quite a bit,) it feels less YA, and the relative lack of zombies is just lovely. The wider, overlong-civil-war is more interesting and more immersive, and manages to occasionaly hit a real note of grandiose tragedy, as opposed to Seattle of the first book, which was bizarre enough to almost feel cartoonish at times. (To the point that the meeting between the two, at the very end of the book, seems disjointed.)
The racial politics, while not in the foreground, are better than in Boneshaker as well, though both here and in Clementine it's a bit convenient that the heroines specifically don't appear to actually be at all personally, you know, actually racist when theres a need to put aside racist social conventions. Another point is how throughly evil scientists tend to be, like in Boneshaker. I'm not averse to some nice mad scientist in my fiction myself, but theres a tension here (typically steampunk, maybe?) between embrace of technological progress - trains, ships, medicine - and a distinct distrust of any more technological progress.
I don't want to end of a sour note - I enjoyed the book a lot, it's well written, and the main character, while not likely to go down as one of the coolest characters ever, was still well developed and engaging (and a well realized Strong Woman who isn't a super ninja) and her behind-the-lines experiences as a nurse and a widow a different perspective on war than one typically finds. Definitely recommended if you're at all into this sort of thing. (less)
Resolutely silly. Already slightly dated and will be nigh incomprehensible in about 5 years due to profusion of super timely pop and politics referenc...moreResolutely silly. Already slightly dated and will be nigh incomprehensible in about 5 years due to profusion of super timely pop and politics references. (80's flashbacks - and currently set scenes - seemingly rife with nostalgia for Labour Party already incomprehensible.) Plenty of fun though. (less)
A bit too lightweight to be really enjoyable. The plot is paper thin and full of holes. None of the characters except the protagonist have any persona...moreA bit too lightweight to be really enjoyable. The plot is paper thin and full of holes. None of the characters except the protagonist have any personality at all, and she's a 19th century Russian aristocrat with improbably 21st century notions of proper identity-politics PC conduct. Even the setting doesn't have much going for it beyond mild geographic novelty - the alternative history is barely fleshed out, bits of English Victoriana show up nonsensically and the steampunk is halfhearted. Really, the only good bit is that theres lots of trains. (less)
This was quite fun, (terrible prose and all.) The conceit is rather thin - our villain protagonists soon prove themselves to have hearts of gold and a...moreThis was quite fun, (terrible prose and all.) The conceit is rather thin - our villain protagonists soon prove themselves to have hearts of gold and a good cause - and maybe a bit too long, but still perfectly enjoyable. Characterization which is not all together terrible and a really quick pace help, and theres the nostalgia crack factor. Ambiguous morally grey anti-villains far nicer than your run of the mill contemporary fantasy hero! Elves! Dark Elves! Running around the continent to collect bits of a mcGuffin! A quest! When was the last time you read a good quest? I miss quests. (less)
Jolly good and a return to form after the somewhat dreary sixths book. Yes, it's a travelogue, but it's a fast paced, exciting, occasionaly joyfully g...moreJolly good and a return to form after the somewhat dreary sixths book. Yes, it's a travelogue, but it's a fast paced, exciting, occasionaly joyfully gruesome travelogue, replete with catastrophes, calamities and crocodiles. Plots, schemes, desert islands, things on fire, battles and mutinies come fast and furious, and theres a few surprisingly touching moments as Novik rather brutalizes the minor cast.
A minor theme picks up issues of family, parenthood and the passage of time and grounds all the colourful running about with a sense loss and tiredness for these characters, which helps give the book some substance and raises it above a fluffy adventure story. I also particularly continue to enjoy the folding out of the alternative history, with the return of the African Empire of Tswana and the introduction of the Incas as significant political forces. There was one narrow escape that seemed a bit too convenient at one point, but otherwise a good read. Recommended for people who gave up on the series. (less)