Learned a lot about the Byzantibes, and the reasons for the rise of Islam. Had notable omission (The Great Schism is barely mentioned, as is the AlexiLearned a lot about the Byzantibes, and the reasons for the rise of Islam. Had notable omission (The Great Schism is barely mentioned, as is the Alexiad), and they spend rather a long time discussing the literary trends of the society (TLDR: you were either really Christian, or really into the style of 4th century BCE Athens), but over all fairly solid. ...more
Trilogies are hard. A standalone novel can be polished and edited into a sheen, a series has enough room to course correct. But a trilogy hangs togethTrilogies are hard. A standalone novel can be polished and edited into a sheen, a series has enough room to course correct. But a trilogy hangs together and seperate, each one must thread the needle. Justin Cronin threads needles like a sniper, at two thousand pages. The Passage trilogy took old tropes-immortality gone wrong, a lab accident, surviving past the ends-and made it into a human tale of loss and sacrifice. A must read. *note* Review of ARC. ...more
World building books are an odd duck. They talk around stores rather than tell them, give you history that is pointed at a specific event without beinWorld building books are an odd duck. They talk around stores rather than tell them, give you history that is pointed at a specific event without being overt. The World of Ice and Fire honestly reminded of an RPG campaign setting book, in the vest sense, if to cpx have a best sense or any kind of sense. It brings breadth to the world, depth to the histories, hints at untold secrets, and let's you work out who exactly Baelor the Blessrd is in relationship to the modern characters.
I do have qualms. They have great maps of Westeros, and one very zoomed out, unlabeled map of all the world. I had to dig out my copy of Dance of Dragons to figure out where the none cities were, and I'm still not clear on where Asshai By the Shadow is. Most of the Essos section is oddly focused: a hitherto unmentioned China expy is introduced, complete with a second set of semi-Mongols that ride zorses, but Quarth, where Danerys spent most of a book, and the cities of Slavers Bay get perhaps a paragraph each. It makes sense both in character and out that Westros get most of the focus. I just question what was focused on with the remaining pages.
I am rating this as one it is, not against what it competes with. There are many books that is rate a 4 or even a 3 that I l would connect with better, emotionally or intellectually. You read this to appreciate the prowess of one of the greatest world building minds os our time. ...more
The town of Night Vale is a place that isn't like the rest of the world, where time is odd and weird things happen.
The podcast, Welcome to Night Vale,The town of Night Vale is a place that isn't like the rest of the world, where time is odd and weird things happen.
The podcast, Welcome to Night Vale, is a wonderful twisted mix of dark humor, cosmic horror, philosophical musing, and occasional moments of simple humanity.
The book, Welcome to Night Vale, therefore cannot approached without wondering what it would be, in relationship to the podcast. Partly in terms of continuity: I remember thinking that if nothing changed in Night Vale, it would hardly be worth writing a novel which has no impact on the surrounding work, but it couldn't be too big or it would be essentially required reading; they went a bit closer to the former side, but it's a difficult balance to keep.
More important though, is comparing it in terms of quality. In an odd sort of way, the podcast is to the novel as, for example, Firefly is to Serenity. You want it to be bigger, yes, and longer, yes, but also, better, deeper, fuller, more faceted. You want it to be something different yet related. You want it to blow your socks off in a way that not even Old Oak Doors managed. You want Welcome to Night Vale: the novel to be more than just a really good episode of Welcome to Night Vale: the podcast.
This is not more than a really good episode. It isn't really a good episode. It's not Old Oak Doors, or A Beautiful Dream, or even The Woman from Italy. We're talking The Traveler, which had some ok moments but didn't really go anywhere. Or Cooking Stuff Thanksgiving Special, which tries to have something to say about relationships but doesn't quite land the punch.
The biggest problem is... well, The town of Night Vale is a place that isn't like the rest of the world, where time is odd and weird things happen. This is objectively true. But it is also said by numerous characters multiple times, characters who live in Night Vale and who should not be having these thoughts. People in Night Vale tend to take things in stride: you have no memory of your childhood house and librarians are monstrous and a fellow office worker suddenly ceased to exist and you die when you go to a pawn shop. For me, that is part of the charm. But in the book, some of these things are taken at face value, and others the characters are entirely questioning. Night Vale is normal if it is the only place you know, and it's odd that people are acting otherwise.
Also, perhaps because he wasn't part of the story, the characters talked a lot about Cecil, and we are given a lot of bits and pieces of his news briefings. And while I love the character, he felt pasted in, like a character on a TV show who is only in an episode to justify airing what is otherwise an entirely unrelated backdoor pilot.
It's not that it's bad. It's just more of the same. And the fact that it's a novel, which has to give you the interior, just makes it harder to maintain the mood of surreaist horror/comedy that underlies the universe. I wanted to like this, very much. But past performance, sadly, is not a predictor of future results....more
It's odd how quick Stephen King hit his very specific stride. Carrie was good, but 'Salem's Lot is about a cast of a dozen people in a small town in MIt's odd how quick Stephen King hit his very specific stride. Carrie was good, but 'Salem's Lot is about a cast of a dozen people in a small town in Maine, good people and bad people and flawed people, and one of them is a writer, and there is something terrible about to happen. The writer wrote a book about a man in prison, even, and another major character is an alcoholic, making the characters less biographical than prophetic. But that's just the King toolbox at work. Set aside that you've seen some of these components before, and what's left is dark, brooding, full of failed people, petty people, people who let their worst parts take charge long before any vampires came to town. Which is to say: vintage King. Less polished, more fierce than a more recent work, but still, you know what you're in for. If you've liked his other stuff, read this one. If you don't care for it, this one won't change your mind....more
I'd read the first two books a whole before reading the third, so I'd forgotten some of the details by the third book. A lot of really cool ideas andI'd read the first two books a whole before reading the third, so I'd forgotten some of the details by the third book. A lot of really cool ideas and characters. Gods Gardeners is one of the great fictional-but-oyr-works religions. Doesn't necessarily build to a profound conclusion the way a trilogy could, but that wasn't Atwood's point. ...more
Checked this out of the library after a review on NPR. It was... Ok. Less special than the review indicated. The mystery aspectst over promised and unChecked this out of the library after a review on NPR. It was... Ok. Less special than the review indicated. The mystery aspectst over promised and under delivered, the narrators mind has fallen apart in a way that doesn't seem earned, and the unreliable narration (always sexy) didn't redeem it. ...more
This, the second tale of Henry Palace and the end of the world, is an entirely worthy and beautiful successor to The Last Policeman. A bad situation hThis, the second tale of Henry Palace and the end of the world, is an entirely worthy and beautiful successor to The Last Policeman. A bad situation has gotten worse, as the little things we take for granted (coffee, internet, electricity, water) are slowly crumbling, as society itself. (As a side note, this reinforces one of the problems I had with SevenEves earlier this year: society on Earth seems altogether too functional for it to be the end of the world). And I'm trying to think of things that can be said about this book, but you know what? This book just offers more. More of a narrator who is everything a policeman should be, rational and virtious and just, in the midst of world where such traits will not save you. More of a society on the brink, but one which feels the weight of three of the longest months mankind has eve lived. More of the delightful and horrid tone of doom which follows you around until you have to remind yourself that yes you are going to die, but probably not this coming August. More of what is an almost flawless work. A World of Trouble is waiting on my bedside table. I'm going to get to it in a few days. Such gems as this deserve to be savored. ...more
I like a lot of Tad Williams. I consider him one of my favorite authors, with an emphasis on my rather than favorite, the kind if connection that comeI like a lot of Tad Williams. I consider him one of my favorite authors, with an emphasis on my rather than favorite, the kind if connection that comes from reading Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn at the right age.
But two books into Bobby Dollar? It has good moments, but it often feels like an attempt to be Harry Dresden. Only Dollar, having essentially no real history he knows of, hasn't earned Harry's cynicism. I don't know why angels or demons need secret strike forces. And to be blunt, the angels meet seem... Mortal, both in their powers and their morals. Bobby has a habit of fleeing and letting infernal civilians get ravaged by whatever is chasing him.
Compounding the whole thong in Happy Hour in Hell is that the driver is Bobby's love affair with the demon Caz, which fell pretty flat the first go-round for me and didn't really improve much this time.
But who knows? It's a trilogy, and maybe it'll end with a note of grace. I'll read the last book, probably. But only after the latest Dresden Files. ...more
**spoiler alert** Note: I read an ARC. If they took out the long explanation of future Kindles after they released the ARC... I'd be surprised.
Do you**spoiler alert** Note: I read an ARC. If they took out the long explanation of future Kindles after they released the ARC... I'd be surprised.
Do you want to read about the ending of this world? About knowing that the sky is going to come crashing down, that society is walking dead and only sheer force of will is keeping it from tearing itself apart? Because do I have the book for you: The Last Policeman.
Ok. Well, you know what? You don't need that depression. You want to see man survive in adversity! We know so much, we can do so much, we are cunning and with the right tools and engineering know-how we might be able to make it through mishap and disaster in outer space. Isn't that right, The Martian?
Ok. Enough of that: SevenEves. It's... good, it's good. Sure, you're mostly in orbit, so you don't get the wonderful sense of doom that The Last Policeman gives you, where you keep having to remind yourself that you're not actually going to be killed by a big rock. But that's not what Stephenson wants to talk about. And sure, the technical fixes are not really as interesting as Andrew Weir's, with explanations that are just dense infodump without the saving grace of a narrative voice to liven things up. But there is a profound scope and a wonderful sense of ideas flying fast and furious, like you'd want from the man who wrote Snow Crash, and yes, clearly STepheonson has played way too much Kerbal Space Program, but it is building to something remarkable, and...
Then, we get to the third act, five thousand years in the future. And I'm going to have to SPOIL things here, but stay with me.
Because here is for me where things fall apart in a hundred ways. Are seriously seven races (or twelve, depending on you count them) refusing to interbreed beyond apparently the occasional one-off because of what the Eve everyone else felt was crazy said five thousand years ago? How come in the pointless infodumps of what "katpult" means we are reminded of how people would say "pull" when shooting skeet, behavior that existed for about a century five millinea ago? Why does one of the characters know what a truck is? Do they worship the technology of the early 21st century as well as their ancestors? Why is the traitor the descendant of the almost sociopathically meddling former President?
And on and on and on. We all knew the miners and the submariners had survived, somehow, with a tiny fig-leaf for that. It just dragged a four star book down into the depths. Read the two first parts, and then imagine a more glorious dawn instead....more
If you have a world building idea, the easiest way to explore it is to kill someone there and have someone else look for the killer. From Michael ChabIf you have a world building idea, the easiest way to explore it is to kill someone there and have someone else look for the killer. From Michael Chabon's Yiddish Policeman's Union to any given urban fantasy, a murder is an instant hook that gives a character both a motive to act and an excuse to go anywhere, to ask questions and build the world, and that's not what is happening in The Last Policeman. Well, not just that. Because yes there is a murder for Detective Hank Palace to solve, and yes it does bring us interesting places to show us an interesting world. But Ben Winters is interested in a more existential question than whether an insurance man hung himself in a McDonalds bathroom: Why look for the answer? Better yet, why not hang yourself there, as well? Because momma, we're all going to die. Of course, it's a little more pressing an issue here, with the approach of 2011GV1. Suicides are up, phone lines are down, people are quitting jobs to paint or taking jobs to survive just a little longer, the US government is doing what it takes to keep society from shattering for just a little longer. What's one death more? Why does it matter why one man died today if he'd be dead in six months? But really, the fact death is coming later or sooner doesn't change the fact it was coming either way. And while no answer is really given other than perhaps, as Rorschach once explained, we do it because we are compelled... Well, positive nihilism may not be a ethos, it beats the alternative. The final strength of The Last Policeman, it should be said, is the voice of Palace himself: by the book, analytical, believing in law and order even as order threatens to subsume what is left of law. He will be a great detective one say, he's told ironically, but he could have been a fine detective in a more mundane world. Here though, at the end of all things, he burns comet-bright....more