I'm adding this to my "history" shelf for a reason. It's not just a movie tie-in with EXCLUSIVE, 100% UNOFFICIAL secrets or something that you'd ever...moreI'm adding this to my "history" shelf for a reason. It's not just a movie tie-in with EXCLUSIVE, 100% UNOFFICIAL secrets or something that you'd ever find advertised in TMZ. Instead, it surprised me by being and exhaustively detailed and comprehensive look at the four-year process of getting Star Wars made.
A lot of the broad info I already knew, but this book is worthy of calling itself "definitive." Lots of primary sources from Fox and Lucasfilm make their first appearance in this book, most of them from around the time of Star Wars's release. Lots of interviews, storyboards, personal conversations...just a treasure trove of new data.
It's also a cool look at the process of getting any film made, something I'd never read about before. It's cool for that reason apart from my admitted fanboyism.
And yes, it does tend to venerate George Lucas. Not entirely unfairly, I think; the story of the book is one of incredible success against overwhelming odds in the real world too. For all his latter-day faults, nobody can question that Lucas turned popular film-making on its head (to say nothing of his technical accomplishments).
It was okay, but it was almost fetishistic in its praise of writers. As a writer, I didn't buy it at all. Also, I've barely see...moreDid not finish at 50%.
It was okay, but it was almost fetishistic in its praise of writers. As a writer, I didn't buy it at all. Also, I've barely seen any of the shows that the book is about so it didn't have much impact for me.
I'm not sure if Ancillary Justice quite deserves the praise it's getting as best book EVAR...but it's close.
You get a good summary of the book's plot...moreI'm not sure if Ancillary Justice quite deserves the praise it's getting as best book EVAR...but it's close.
You get a good summary of the book's plot by reading the back cover, so I'll skip it here except to say that Leckie did a great job of selling me on the ship AI as the main character. In the chapters where she is still a ship, the Justice of Toren, I got the impression of her thousands of bodies while never getting overwhelmed, despite her doing multiple things at the same time. As Breq, the individual, I really felt her sense of loss.
That's really what the book was about, in a nutshell. Loss. Breq loses almost everything, and all she has left is a crazy, suicidal scheme. Her home culture, the Radch, is all about casual annexation of its independent neighbors in ways that sound downright chilling. Summary execution, cultural absorption, and economic exploitation are just the way things are done. They're the best and the worst of the space Romans, or maybe the space British.
The best part is that they're not either of these things. The worldbuilding, more than the plot and characters, is what makes the book so awesome. Language is key throughout the plot. The Radchaai, for instance, have no concept of gender, and refer to every character as "she." When Breq is outside the Radch, her difficulties with figuring out what gender terms to use get her into trouble. The religion of the Radch and its focus on casual divination and syncretistic absorption of annexed faiths makes for fascinating reading...finally, science fiction that doesn't have a casually dismissive attitude toward faith.
It's a great book. It's not dense or obscure, but Leckie definitely doesn't hold your hand. Although people inexperienced in SF the first quarter of the book will probably be tough going, there's good payoff at the end. I haven't read many other award contenders this year, but I voted to give Leviathan Wakes a Hugo a few years back, and I'll more than likely vote the same here.(less)
This book did get my interested in classics of western literature in a way that my high school literature classes did not. Still, I could have done wi...moreThis book did get my interested in classics of western literature in a way that my high school literature classes did not. Still, I could have done without the 2edgy4me attitude and the weirdly misogynistic division of literature into "men's" and "women's." (less)
Amazing book. Worthwhile for anyone. It's not just about World War I, it's about how prejudices and strategic myopia and poor communication and person...moreAmazing book. Worthwhile for anyone. It's not just about World War I, it's about how prejudices and strategic myopia and poor communication and personal pique and inflexible pride lead to disaster. That's a lesson that's broadly useful. (less)
I wanted this book to be a little more in-depth from a historical perspective, but that's my bias. For what it is, it's a fantastic book. The stories...moreI wanted this book to be a little more in-depth from a historical perspective, but that's my bias. For what it is, it's a fantastic book. The stories of North Korean defectors do a lot to flesh out the vision of North Korea as a parody of itself that's propagated in a lot of popular media. Yeah, the Kims look and sound like complete doofuses, but their profound effect on the lives of everyday North Koreans can't be underestimated.
I read this book in just a couple of days, so compelling were the stories. The portions of the book that take place after the defectors reach South Korea were especially interesting. Not all of their stories were suddenly happy because they were in a land of freedom and opportunity. Problems (personal ones, not geopolitical ones) tended to follow the refugees.
My only complaint is that the book is, by its nature, one-sided. Obviously I give pretty much no credence to official North Korean accounts, but the people the author interviews are by their nature a self-selected bunch. I'm not sure if this is a problem that has a solution, but I at least wanted the author to acknowledge it.
This is such a nitpick, though...the book was by and large amazing and very readable, and I recommend it to anyone.(less)
This is, without a doubt, one of the most fun books I've read this year. Maybe it's not quite as good as Caliban's War, but seriously I read this book...moreThis is, without a doubt, one of the most fun books I've read this year. Maybe it's not quite as good as Caliban's War, but seriously I read this book in two days, and that was only because I literally fell asleep reading it the first day.
It's got a couple of things going for it. First, the main character, Mark Watney, has an awesomely snarky voice. It avoids being try-hard annoying, and instead comes across as authentic. Given that over half of the book is from his first-person perspective, it works out really well.
Second, the hits just keep coming. Watney starts with being stuck on Mars, and then things get worse. Weir invents more and more surprising problems for Watney to have, and then more and more surprising resolutions. Some classic (real life) Mars missions play a key role, for instance. I kept reading just to see how things would go poorly for Watney next.
Third, Weir obviously has a lot of love for NASA and space exploration in general. Even though it starts with a mission failing, and there are a lot of screwups along the way, in the end it feels hopeful, even encouraging. It's a feel-good book, especially for fans of space.
I can see why this book is shooting up the NY Times bestseller list. It's approachable and fun for anyone, but serious enough for hard-SF folks like myself. Everyone should read it.(less)
Great book. Didn't suffer at all from the fact that it's the 7th book in a series and it's the first that I read. Unlike most historical fiction I've...moreGreat book. Didn't suffer at all from the fact that it's the 7th book in a series and it's the first that I read. Unlike most historical fiction I've read, it focuses mostly on fictional characters and takes place in a time where the lack of records means that the author could do a lot of plausible things with the setting.
And I love Anglo-Saxon England. Anglo-Saxons > Normans.
The main character, Uhtred Ragnarson, is well-built and consistently interesting. He's an incredibly capable warrior, to the point of being a bit of a Mary Sue at times, but he still fails plenty throughout the book and is unlikeable enough to avoid that label. And besides, it's fun to see him pull the wool of his enemies' eyes.
I liked this book enough that I'm going to need to search out more of Cornwell's work. His reputation is well-deserved.(less)
A fun book with a really different setting. Slow to get started, but main character Walt Longmire's personal life was sufficiently interesti...more3.5 Stars.
A fun book with a really different setting. Slow to get started, but main character Walt Longmire's personal life was sufficiently interesting that I was willing to put up with it. The central murder investigation plot moved forward only in fits and starts, however, despite some cool set pieces. I was surprised by the killer's final revelation, but not entirely satisfied. I thought it wasn't built up enough to be truly "surprising but inevitable."
Nevertheless, I recommend the book on its other strengths.(less)
A lot of the stuff I have to say about this book I already said when I reviewed Star Wars: Scoundrels, the previous new Star Wars release I was really...moreA lot of the stuff I have to say about this book I already said when I reviewed Star Wars: Scoundrels, the previous new Star Wars release I was really looking forward to. It was disappointing, especially for an author I really like. The action just wasn't there, I didn't care about a lot of the characters, and in the end it just seemed kind of like it was phoned in.
Unlike Scoundrels, I'm having a harder time deciding why this book didn't grab me. There was plenty of action, but none of it had much weight and I didn't feel like the outcome was really in doubt. There were some interesting characters, but I didn't really buy into their motivations or care if they survived. The plot was sufficiently epic--almost too epic--but it just left me with a big "meh."
I had fun with it, and I don't regret picking it up, but compared to the other Star Wars books I've read recently (here I'm thinking of Kenobi and Allegiance) my predominant feeling is one of disappointment. I wanted to love it like I loved Caliban's War but it lacked pretty much everything I liked about that book. I'm willing to concede that it could just be me, so I don't want to scare anyone off, but I think that going in with lowered expectations might not be the worst idea.(less)