I love this series, but this book does feel like half a book, the original having been split between this and the next installment (which might just f...moreI love this series, but this book does feel like half a book, the original having been split between this and the next installment (which might just finally be coming out in a couple of months, and thus leading me to reread the series... Yay!). Half the characters for this one, half for the next, but three of the main protagonists (almost the only three that are left standing) - Jon, Tyrion and Dany - were left for the next, and the majority of time in this book is given to people who were previously important but still secondary characters. Cersei, Sansa, Arya, Jamie - all Alpha class characters, not Omega class, and while I enjoy the story, I'm not sure that any of these people are going to be plot drivers in the final reckoning. At this point, they feel more like people playing with table settings in the dining hall before someone else bursts in to change the meal.
But then again, this is George RR Martin, and there is no surity with plot and GRRM. Doesn't pay to make predictions... (or to have favourite characters, since he'll just kill them off). There are certainly big things being set in motion in this book... but.. but.. I want more Jon. And Dany. And Tyrion. C'mon, July, and Dances!(less)
This is definitely not the best of the Discworld books (not that it's the worst either, but it's just not up there with a lot of them), but it was the...moreThis is definitely not the best of the Discworld books (not that it's the worst either, but it's just not up there with a lot of them), but it was the only one I had in my shelves here, so when on Saturday night I needed something light and amusing to destress with, I picked it up again. Moist von Lipwig, who we first met in Going Postal, is a decent romp of a main character, although his 'spikey' fiance Adora Belle Dearheart was less in the picture, and less fun this time around (which makes me sad, because she was just about the best thing in Going Postal). But there's still an amusing enough plot, nice bits of cameos from all the people we know and love in Ankh-Morpork.
That's the thing, really - overall, it's nice, but it just never comes together into anything better than nice.(less)
Always fun for a laugh - or more accurately, a lot of laughs, in a short space of time. Occasionally it almost feels a little dated, or possibly tame,...moreAlways fun for a laugh - or more accurately, a lot of laughs, in a short space of time. Occasionally it almost feels a little dated, or possibly tame, and then you realise that that's probably because it was the first of a style of writing that is amazingly pervasive these days (at least if you read the sort of things that I read). They all, i think, owe themselves to this book.(less)
I find it impossible not to like Tiffany Aching, although I don't know why I'd try not to, when I come to type it out like that. It's funny how a man...moreI find it impossible not to like Tiffany Aching, although I don't know why I'd try not to, when I come to type it out like that. It's funny how a man in his fifties (or so?) can channel a young girl (albeit an odd one), but hell, I'm willing to believe that Terry Pratchett can channel anyone he wants to. He definitely has an 11 year old "with more head than heart" but still a large sensitivity to what her peers think of her, right - I remember being one. And in this book, the answer to how you deal with a Hiver - a mindless, power-hungry, amoral force that takes over your mind and your body and can't die - is perfect:
Ask it what it really wants.
It makes more sense than anything else... but then, this is a book about Granny Weatherwax too, so that's just as should be.(less)
This book is where you really see that science fiction really can just be epic fantasy under a different name - the differences are in the types of ma...moreThis book is where you really see that science fiction really can just be epic fantasy under a different name - the differences are in the types of magic words used to explain things that couldn't happen in the real world (pseudo-science or sorcery) rather than major differences in style and focus. Dukes and Counts and castles, mystical powers and apocalyptic visions and a protagonist who is born to fulfill prophecy and remake the universe...
Yup, it's total epic fantasy. It's also totally beyond awesome. Various things about it shouldn't work, like the point of view that occasionally shifts every other sentence, the overly gifted and special main character, and the complicated justifications of plots within plots over top of other plots - only it all does work, and somehow combines into something huge and amazing. It also earns extra points with me for setting the bar in how the ability to see the future can be handled responsibly (by the author, not the character: most. abused. superpower. in. literature. ever.).
Definitely should be among the list of must reads for everybody, not just sci fi/fantasy junkies like me.(less)
It's been a decade since this was first published, so I imagine that some of the scientific theories discussed in it have been retracted, refined, rea...moreIt's been a decade since this was first published, so I imagine that some of the scientific theories discussed in it have been retracted, refined, rearranged or just ridiculed, but it's still an excellent read. Even if some of the facts or theories have changed by now, or some were made by the authors for the sake of a good dose of narrativium, the discussions on the process of science - how we go about it and how we should think about it - would hold up pretty well. And the interleaved story of the Wizards of the Discworld's Unseen University makes the whole thing a lot more fun - very MST3K for the popular science novel.(less)
I think I'll keep this at three stars. Maybe it's because, unlike the first one in this series, it touches on the mind, and hence the brain, and hence...moreI think I'll keep this at three stars. Maybe it's because, unlike the first one in this series, it touches on the mind, and hence the brain, and hence what I spend 12 hours a day thinking about. (Well, 12 hours of quite a lot - yeah, okay, some - of my days. Damn you, internet, and your possibilities for procrastination), and because I know a bit more of it, I'm less convinced by some of the arguments.
It could also be because this second installment of the Science of the Discworld series focuses on the development of the Mind (capital intended), which is necessarily a fuzzy concept, and one that many scientists will tell you is 'not a subject for serious/testable/REAL science', but I can't say I really incline to this idea, for two reasons. First, because it's the freaking bane of my existence in a neuroscience program that I continually have to listen to people explaining that, unlike those bloody awful psychologists, we in neuroscience do 'REAL science' - as the authors here mention with some frequency, science is about the process of the scientific method, not about your subject matter. (I could go on and on about this, but I'll spare the paragraph here, because I still have another point). Secondly, if we're talking about fuzzy concepts, the first book in the series was about the origins of the universe, the earth, and life on said earth - since these all happened billions or millions of years ago, we're necessarily talking about things for which most of the physical evidence is long gone, so finding out about them is a process of finding what you can and then stringing together as convincing a story as you can manage...
That's basically fuzzy city. At least we still have minds around today that we can try to poke at.
Anyway, the idea of telling stories is central to this book, and although at some points it kind of works against it, either because the stories don't make much sense or aren't really introduced too well (there's a repeated idea about barbarians vs tribalism that continues throughout, except that it keeps on being referred to before it's actually been explained, which bugged me), that kind of works with Pratchett & co's overall point: as humans, we're naturally programmed to Tell Stories, which may (or may not) relate to reality... but this relationship doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the likelihood of the story surviving.
It's an interesting perspective, and even if the details of their argument about what happened to make humans human don't really float your boat, it's a very interesting context from which to view many things about science, humanity and all that other fun stuff.(less)
Possibly the best book you'll ever read about Darwin, the physics and science fiction of time travel, and the invention of the steam engine. Not to me...morePossibly the best book you'll ever read about Darwin, the physics and science fiction of time travel, and the invention of the steam engine. Not to mention Wizards (and Wizzards). If that sounds like it jumps all over the place, that would be because it does. And although there is a clear overarching narrative/theme about Darwin and the theory of natural selection, the authors don't restrict themselves to just that story, and the science behind it, but discuss issues of science, maths, and stories that come up as the story of the wizards trying to save their Roundworld by ensuring that Darwin writes the Origin of Species wanders around amusingly.
The combination of mathematician, biologist, and novelist makes for a pretty killer way of getting to the analyse what we think and how we think about it in science and other fields, and although this book is kind of patchy, it's worth reading for the Secrets of Life essay (about how we understand evolution, and how it actually might work) alone.(less)