Another book that I read when much younger, on my mother's advice, from my mother's shelves. When I was young, I thought all science fiction was AMAZI...moreAnother book that I read when much younger, on my mother's advice, from my mother's shelves. When I was young, I thought all science fiction was AMAZING. This is in part because everything was new to me, and in part because I was reading my mother's recommendations from my mother's collection - books that she chose among books she liked well enough to keep. It was quite a disappointment, when I had read all the books in her collection that interested me, to discover that, in fact, there was such a thing as bad science fiction.
Anyway. When I finished this a while back, I felt the ending was kind of weak. And then, thinking about it, I realized that the ending was weak because it wasn't the least bit surprising and that it wasn't the least bit surprising because it was, in fact, such a powerful ending that it had been reused many, many times, not necessarily as an ending, but as a trope. So of course it was expected to me, reading the book now, in 2013, having not only read the book before but having been repeatedly fed the ending in multiple forms.(less)
**spoiler alert** This book is damned good. It does have one flaw, but it's forgivable. Seanan McGuire's worldbuilding is amazing - I recall her sayin...more**spoiler alert** This book is damned good. It does have one flaw, but it's forgivable. Seanan McGuire's worldbuilding is amazing - I recall her saying she has 10,000 years of backstory - and it's clear that some of that backstory is starting to come forward and play more of a role. I think this is pretty exciting.
Okay, that flaw: there's a human police officer who was OBVIOUSLY MAGICALLY COMPELLED to look into Toby's life, and Toby somehow didn't pick up on this? She was pretty stressed, I understand, but it was bizarre to me.
I've read one book by Hines before, and it was... okay. I like his online writing, and I liked the premise of this book, but I didn't go into this wit...moreI've read one book by Hines before, and it was... okay. I like his online writing, and I liked the premise of this book, but I didn't go into this with high hopes.
It was really, really damned good. Not quite five stars good, but close.
Edit: okay, I upped this to five stars. Two reasons. One, I realized that Isaac is probably the first male protagonist that I could point to and say, "yes, that, that is my gender right there." Maybe this isn't surprising given how much I agree with Hines' politics, but it was still a really pleasant realization. Two, I'm still thinking about this book weeks later.
The premise - that there are people who can pull things from books into the real world - is of course fascinating to anyone who's read a lot, and the main character has specifically read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. It would have been possible - and probably entirely satisfying - to do this in a way that was very light, fluffy, like popcorn. That is not what Hines has done here. This is a world with a long history, a depth to it, and a story that struggles with issues of morality.
Without giving a spoiler, I'll also say that he resolved one of the plot threads in a way that made me want to jump up and down with joy shouting "yes, FINALLY someone did this!" Moreover, he did it with a twist that I wouldn't have expected that ties in with a lot of the moral issues.
I am very much looking forward to the sequel. Or, inshallah, sequels.(less)
In the last year I've read four Angry Robot books. One of them was promising but flawed. The other three were amazing.
This wasn't the flawed one. The...moreIn the last year I've read four Angry Robot books. One of them was promising but flawed. The other three were amazing.
This wasn't the flawed one. The big draw for a book like this is the premise, and the premise here is excellent: a technology, distributed and used like a drug, which allows humanity far greater control over and interaction with our own minds.
The dangers in a book with such a premise is that the characterization will suffer, or that the worldbuilding won't be very good outside that premise, or that the plot will be so thin that the book is basically just an advertisement for a technology that only exists in the author's mind. None of that happens here; the plot is solid and fast-paced and feels like it follows organically from the setting and the characters. The characterization might be the weakest part of the book - and that's saying a lot, because the characterization is really very good.
I like the fact that everyone in this book thinks they're doing the right thing, even as they're fighting tooth and nail against people who *also* believe they're doing the right thing. The author's opinion as to which of them is the *most* right is fairly clear, but I never felt like I was being hit over the head with it.
Religion - almost entirely Buddhism - plays a major role in the book, which I really appreciated. I think the treatment of Buddhism is perhaps fairly shallow, however, and I would have liked to see the interactions of other religions with the premise. There's a sequel planned for later this year, I believe, so maybe I'll get my wish. (less)
I didn't read all of this, and what I did read, I certainly didn't completely understand. What I did understand - and what I sort-of-vaguely-got-some-...moreI didn't read all of this, and what I did read, I certainly didn't completely understand. What I did understand - and what I sort-of-vaguely-got-some-of - was extremely insightful and occasionally mind-blowing. This is a book that I'll have to come back to, probably several times.
Delaney has a sensitivity to language that is just phenomenal. I recommend anyone interested in writing speculative fiction read at least some of his essays about writing, because they come from a completely different point of view than most of what people have written about writing in that field.(less)
I read Descartes' Error as an undergraduate. In grad school, I learned that my advisor's wife (herself a neuroscientist of some renown) had a very poo...moreI read Descartes' Error as an undergraduate. In grad school, I learned that my advisor's wife (herself a neuroscientist of some renown) had a very poor opinion of Damasio's work. However, by that point, this book had already changed my life.
Damasio provides here a popular account of research in neuroscience that started with the famous case of Phinneas Gage, who, upon having a railroad spike shoved through his head by an explosion, changed from being an upstanding, reliable citizen into a scurrilous bastard with a gambling problem. From this, as well as experimental work with other victims of brain damage, Damasio draws the conclusion that "reason" as we typically think of it is not an abstract process, but a fundamentally embodied one: the brain and the body are in constant communication, and the brain uses feedback from the body to evaluate, prune, and select for further exploration the branches of a decision tree that, for even the most minor of problems ("when should we get together next?") would be otherwise unmanageably large.
My interest in cognitive science and neuroscience were the natural outgrowths of my interest in computers and science fiction. I grew up, as did most people of my generation, with the metaphor of the mind as a computer, executing logical programs in a way that would have made Aristotle - and Descartes - proud. I knew from studies of psychology how apparently irrational the human mind could be, but until I read this book, I always thought the mind was, fundamentally, a separate thing from the body. This book convinced me they are, at least as we implement them, inseparable.(less)
I picked this up because of people saying "if you like Stross' Laundry series of books, you might like this."
I've read every one of Stross' books. I admire him. I want to grow up to be just like him some day. This book kicked the Laundry's ass.
But let's not get bogged down in comparisons. This book is, on its own merits, FUCKING AMAZING. I would give this book six stars, if I could.
After I finished this last night, while I was falling asleep, I tried to analyze what makes this book so good. I came up with a number of factors.
There's not much to say about the language. It isn't lyrical or poetic, but it's smooth - smoother than most fiction. It doesn't get in the way. The descriptions are evocative.
The characters are very rich, there's a definite sense of a distinct personality to each of them.
The world is very richly drawn, and has a history that goes back hundreds of years, some of which actually affects the plot.
The plot is extremely good. Or should I say plots? It's no spoiler to learn that the viewpoint character has complete retrograde amnesia (you learn that in the first chapter), and one of the first plot threads is, of course, who did that to her? The answer is both completely surprising and, in retrospect, the only possibility. The author gave me all the details I needed to reach the correct conclusion, but for a number of reasons, I didn't notice them - in part because I was too distracted by *other* details. I'll want to reread this just to study that trick.
This is a fairly long book, and at no point did I feel like it was dragging.
Anyway. I'm impressed. If you like Stross' Laundry books, read this. Or if you like horror, or urban fantasy, or good mysteries. Heck, I want to find as many reasons as I can to recommend this book, because it was awesome.(less)
I've become a very picky reader. It takes a lot for me to give a book five stars. This book isn't perfect. It's, um, about three steps from perfect. T...moreI've become a very picky reader. It takes a lot for me to give a book five stars. This book isn't perfect. It's, um, about three steps from perfect. The description in particular - and I'm not generally fond of lots of descriptioon - is rich and dense and *amazing*.(less)
I won't say this book was flawless, but it was damned close. And it was amazing. The plot, world building, characterization, language, all of it, amaz...moreI won't say this book was flawless, but it was damned close. And it was amazing. The plot, world building, characterization, language, all of it, amazing.
Reading this book was like eating an amazing meal. Reading this book was like taking a bite of a cuisine you haven't had before, and discovering that it's amazing, delicious, mind-blowingly good, and there's a whole plate of it before you, and what's more, it's pretty damned good for you.
I enjoyed this in a way similar to how I enjoyed N. K. Jemisin's The Killing Moon and the Shadowed Sun - a familiar story structure and familiar archetypes but a world very, very different from what I've read before, with the reprecussions of those differences echoing through the story and characters. (And often when someone uses the word 'archetype' it's code for 'flat character', but here - and in Jemisin - that is most certainly not the case.)
I'm definitely reading more from this author.(less)
This book has flaws. But it took me a full day after finishing it to figure out what they were. The pacing is excellent, the voice and characterizatio...moreThis book has flaws. But it took me a full day after finishing it to figure out what they were. The pacing is excellent, the voice and characterization are flawless. There are a couple of places where I disliked the sentence structure... in 506 pages of prose. The plot was nicely twisty and I felt very satisfied by the ending of the book.(less)
In my experience, there are two kinds of Toby Daye books. There are the good ones, and the great ones. Well, there's the good one. The others, frankly...moreIn my experience, there are two kinds of Toby Daye books. There are the good ones, and the great ones. Well, there's the good one. The others, frankly, are great. If you like intelligently-written urban fantasy with a protagonist who isn't effectively a demigod, I can't recommend these books highly enough. This one is especially interesting because we get to see a Fey setting we haven't seen before in these books, and that personally I haven't seen in any of the urban fantasy I've read (even that that has a lot of elves.)(less)
I enjoyed this. I like Verity's voice - it is similar to October Daye's in ways that I enjoy, and different in ways that I enjoy. I felt the pacing wa...moreI enjoyed this. I like Verity's voice - it is similar to October Daye's in ways that I enjoy, and different in ways that I enjoy. I felt the pacing was better than the first (which I also enjoyed.) I love the detail of the world-building.(less)
This was a fun, engaging, informative book, but I wished it had gone deeper into both the evolution of parasites and the effects of parasites on evolu...moreThis was a fun, engaging, informative book, but I wished it had gone deeper into both the evolution of parasites and the effects of parasites on evolution. Of course, it's hard to get scientific evidence about the past. Someone should really do something about that.(less)