**spoiler alert** I'd been meaning to get around to reading this for at least 15 years. And it wasn't bad at all.
I'm not too deeply steeped in super-h**spoiler alert** I'd been meaning to get around to reading this for at least 15 years. And it wasn't bad at all.
I'm not too deeply steeped in super-hero lore, so maybe I'm missing some of the deep meaning.
I find it more of an interesting take on what the world was like and expected back in the mid-eighties. It's amazing how quickly I had taken that "we're all gonna die in a nuclear holocaust" fear and shoved in a box in a back closet of my mind -- not forgotten, just not perticularly useful right now and not likely to be used again any time soon. The fears of the early 21st century are different - both more personal and immediate (geez this packed train platform would make a great bomb target -- what did that guy just drop in the garbage can there?) and more heart-freezingly long-term (Will my daughter be able to live a life as affluent as mine - or will energy be too expensive, food too expensive, chunks of New York underwater, and the US handing off world leadership to China by then).
Anyway, the spoiler-rific part that stuck with me revolves around the final moral question of the book. Is killing 3 million New Yorkers worth it if it prevent an inevitable nuclear war?
The answer, of course, is mu (you question is based on false assumptions). From 1985, I can see how Moore thought nuclear war was just a matter of time. Even through the duck-blind of his character Ozymandias and a modified world history, I really do think that the author thought we were all doomed.
He was wrong. Ozymandias was the smartest man in the world and he was wrong. We made it past the end of the Cold War, we made it through the 1990s (when Viedt predicted the world economy and environment would collapse without war). Things aren't all rose-colored, but Moore never said they would be.
The ends rarely justify the means because you can never truly know what the ends will be.
But that's the surface, in this case much of the plot. The deep part is a look at the process of grieving. It isn't the simple seven steps. Our main character Mau (I kept reading it as Man at first...our everyman vs. the gods), is pretty clear that he will not settle for that last step, acceptance.
One of Pratchett's most well known characters is Death. But the likable Death of the Discworld books is not in this book (and yes, the Death of Discworld has appeared in other works by Pratchett not set on that world). Instead we get Locaha, who is much more of a fallen-angel Lucifer than an embodiment of the end of life...more a cheating trickster opponent than a welcome friend.
Maybe I'm reading too far into it knowing that Pratchett has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.
But Pratchett has the right and the reason to be angry. We all do....more
My wife mocks my reading of Harry Turtledove because it's so far from literature. To her, the flat characters and forced plots pull her out of t*Sigh*
My wife mocks my reading of Harry Turtledove because it's so far from literature. To her, the flat characters and forced plots pull her out of the story to often to enjoy the ideas or just the ride. Conroy shows me much more of what that must feel like for her.
In a lot of ways, I don't blame the othor for most of the problems in this book - I blame the editor. It's the editor's job to point out when the author swaps point-of-view in the middle of a conversation. It's the editor's job to put in this extra line breaks between shifts of focus and to try and balance the chapters to some form of consistency. It's the editor's job to cut unneccassary referrence to future events (a bomber called "the Polish Pope"?). I really feel like the editor said "It's alt-history, who cares if it's badly edited, these morons will read anything."
So am I a moron for reading it?
The idea that Japan would fail to surrender after the triple-blow of two nuclear bombs and a declaration of war from the Soviet Union seemed like a stretch to me when I first picked up this book. I was not aware of the Kyujo Incident, an attempted coup to prevent Emperor Hirohito's surrender to the Allies. With a successful Kyujo Incident as his point of departure, Conroy spins a believeable history right up until his characters become a bit too involved. Then we get a deus ex-machina (or emperor ex-helicopter, as the case may be) ending that leaves reader scrathing their heads feeling a bit as if they've been robbed.
Nope, Conroy is not my new Turtledove. More's the pity....more
First, let me say that I have only a little experience with the Call of Cthulhu (CoC) system from Chaosium (a single enjoyable adventure cut short byFirst, let me say that I have only a little experience with the Call of Cthulhu (CoC) system from Chaosium (a single enjoyable adventure cut short by the GM moving to New Jersey) and no experience with Savage Worlds. That said, I'm a sucker for WWII gaming and feel that there's always room for Cthulhu in any gaming setting (Lovecraftian horrors are like Jell-O that way).
There was very little of the Cthulhu in the Investigator's Guide. It was a pretty straight-up player's guide for running a SOE/OSS/Spec Ops character in a Western Europe WWII setting. Much of the background and information is stuff covered by say GURPS WWII, GURPS WWII: All the King's Men, GURPS WWII: Dogfaces, or GURPS WWII: Hand of Steel. For a CoC player I imagine it's most valuable as a way to expand from the normal 1920's setting to the 1940s. I feel like the changes to the Savages Worlds rules were greater to bring the characters into a setting with a greater focus on a Sanity stat, but again, I'm not as familiar with the system.
I'm looking forward to delving into the Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper's Guide To The Secret War where I imagine I'll actually learn more about the alt-history of the setting and how the historical Nazi occult, the crazy conspiracy stuff (see The Nazi Occult by the inestimable Kenneth Hite), and Lovecraftian Mythos will merge. If I actually get a chance to play in this setting, it is unlikely to be in either CoC or Savage Worlds, so I'm glad to also own the FATE conversion book (unread as yet) and GURPS WWII: Weird War II
All loose ends wrapped up...In my review of Fifty Below I worried that Robinson was going to pull some magic "it'll all work out" bit. The thing is, hAll loose ends wrapped up...In my review of Fifty Below I worried that Robinson was going to pull some magic "it'll all work out" bit. The thing is, he did...and I didn't even see it until it was done. He uses a sort of narrative time-warp to go from pie-in-the-sky brainstorming to 'maybe we can do this' to 'up and running'. What I'd expect to be a ten-year plan suddenly is going in about a year of narrative time. Hell he wraps up with a trple wedding (close-enough).
That said, I enjoyed the book. The Frank/Caroline spy-thriller side feels a bit Crichton-esqe forced at times. My favorite parts is how the world changes and so many people just go forward with the new normal. Odf course we're putting up solar-cells, or course we're home gardening, blackouts are a normal part of winter in DC.
The end of the world screaming is alwaysinteresting and entertaining, but there is no real end. Everything keeps going. The unthinkable becomes history - how could it have happened any differently?...more
30 foot high super-tanks. U-boats that crawl out of the water on treads. Backpack helicopters. Aircraft carriers made out of ice. Spaceplane bombers Flying30 foot high super-tanks. U-boats that crawl out of the water on treads. Backpack helicopters. Aircraft carriers made out of ice. Spaceplane bombers Flying tanks
They actually built 2 of those in at least prototype form.
Funny stuff, well-organized, and aimed at the fan of WWII as a pulp-adventure. I wish the author had kept going. Yes, I know the Germans had a real knack for the absurd weapons, but he couldn't find anything in the Pacific Theatre? Weren't the Japanese going to bomb the Panama Canal with submarine-launched bombers? Where are they?
I was a bit disappointed in this book. Mostly the disappointment was suffering in comparison to the earlier volume Rapunzel's Revenge. This didn't feeI was a bit disappointed in this book. Mostly the disappointment was suffering in comparison to the earlier volume Rapunzel's Revenge. This didn't feel nearly as tight a story or as meaningful. The reinterpretation of the giant's castle in the clouds to a floating airship penthouse was clever, but the addition of pixies and brownies to the world (especially the pixie/brownie interaction *ugh*) did little to define the world. There were references to Old World and New World but it just didn't hold together as well as the scenes with the dwarves in the first book.
Since I had a whole philosophical/economic discussion in my review of Rapunzel, I was prepped to find more social commentary in this volume. But i didn't find it, unless you're looking a simplified version of War is a Racket. Not a bad book, just a disappointing sequel.
Oh my was this fun! I enjoyed the heck out of this book. My daughter is enjoyed the heck out of this book. It's clear the author enjoyed the heck outOh my was this fun! I enjoyed the heck out of this book. My daughter is enjoyed the heck out of this book. It's clear the author enjoyed the heck out of this book.
So the book starts with a historical account of Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, and the Difference Engine (and it's progeny the Analytical Engine) - presented in an entertaining storytelling style, complete with footnotes and endnotes - (akin to the Cartoon History of the Universe I, Vol. 1-7: From the Big Bang to Alexander the Great). So far, so good. But this section ends quickly and on a down-note with Lovelace dead of cancer and Babbage unable to get over himself to actually build any of his designs.
But as we have seen in so much alternate history from The Difference Engine to Fiddlehead, the idea of a Victorian-era steam-and-cogs computer is just too good to let facts reign and history to have the last say. So Sydney Padua transports us to a pocket universe where the laws of physics are set to maximize entertainment value and the book roars onward, now looking increasingly like Girl Genius, Vol. 1: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank only with a historically accurate cast of characters instead of a fictional one (well except for Minion the Footman).
Oh, and the footnotes continue. Almost every statement uttered by Lovelace, Babbage, or various supporting characters in the book is straight from their own writings or supported with primary documents. And the supporting cast is broad from the Duke of Wellington, to Islambard Kingdom Brunel, to George Eliot, to Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson, to Queen Victoria herself. Eventually the footnotes themselves become a character in a Wonderland-inspired investigation into the truth of Ada Lovelace's character and contribution to the Analytical Engine and computer science as a field.
And throughout this all, as we watch these absurd Victorian characters and learn about the design of the Analytical Engine and the logic of computing, there's another story being told. The author is able to show us so much about Babbage and Lovelace's personalities and victories because of the triumph of computing. The Google Books project and others like it have opened the world of historical primary sources to interested amateurs like Padua in a way that really has never been possible before. The author is able to wade into decades-old debates with a sharp pen and over-looked sources because of the work of Babbage and Lovelace's intellectual progeny who have continued the drive to organize, collate, and analyze the world's knowledge.
This was a fun little volume. Each 2-page spread contained a map on one side of the territory in question and a textual history on the other. The histThis was a fun little volume. Each 2-page spread contained a map on one side of the territory in question and a textual history on the other. The histories are light and light-hearted, more of a cocktail-party discussion than historical dissertation.
The list of proposals and oddities included are really widely spread, from failed colonial ventures through 1800's colonial adventurism to more modern protest publicity stunts. Added to that are various foreign territories and countries that someone though ripe for annexation.
That said, some trends do start to appear. There seems to be a long-running desire for a common state for much of the territory in the Appalachian Mountains independent from bordering lowlands - West Virginia seems to be the only successful plan of many for this region. Northern and Southern California really don't seem to like each other. And nobody seems to know how to handle the Dakotas or the American Southwest.
The biggest take-away is that the borders of US states were not inevitable and more often than not seem to be based on little to no particular facts. ...more
This volume does add several new dragons to the Dragonology universe that I think are welcome. Also welcome are several practical tracking tips useful for any type of tracking, not just the tracking of cryptids....more
I've tossed this in my re-read pile because I've technically already read the story as it's published on the Web.
That said, I've noticed a lot more deI've tossed this in my re-read pile because I've technically already read the story as it's published on the Web.
That said, I've noticed a lot more details in the story while reading the print edition than the online pages. The Foglios are always good for putting tons of detail in the background of their illustrations. This volume is especially full of sly nods to other web comics in the advertising on the walls of Mechanicsburg. However, I've been finding more little hooks in the writing - I'd forgotten Klaus's warning to Gil about Zeetha the first time around.
I'm almost tempted to complain about the plethora of new characters being introduced, but I'm not having too much trouble telling them apart. Instead, my appetite has been peaked for more story and back-story. The Foglio's Europa feels amazingly deep and I want to dive into it and keep digging.
As a final aside, I feel like the whole coffeehouse scene was at least a bit written as gift for Kaja and Phil's favorite baristas....more
I recently saw an interview with Olivia Wilde where she argued for more leading roles for women in film - espcially action films. I humbly submit thisI recently saw an interview with Olivia Wilde where she argued for more leading roles for women in film - espcially action films. I humbly submit this book for a move treatment.
This volume is sequel to the excellent Boneshaker, and while I didn't find myself as impressed by Mercy Lynch as I had been by Briar Wilkes, I think the plot and pacing of this book is better than the first Clockwork Century volume.
I seem to be a bit on a train kick, having just recently completed Raising Steam. There are some inevitable scenes in any cross-continental race aginst time on a train. Also, both stories have engines that are nearly characters in themselves. Sir Terry Pratchett inevitably explores this concept in his volume, and I feel like this was an opportunity Cherie Priest missed. Our first introduction to the book's namesake engine is nearly perfect. It lurks just off-screen like Jaws or the Alien, with a menace all the more powerful for its vagueness. However, familarity lowers this effect over time.
The dedication at the start of the book has the author asking the reader to not nit-pick history with her (a valid concern anytime you enter alt-history, particularly Civil War). With that in mind, I was still somewhat dissapointed by the layout of the train that dominates the center of the book. (I was expecting something more like the historical Polish armored trains - http://derela.republika.pl/armtrain.htm). Yes, the choice of how to arrancge your train cars has a major effect on plot development. Also, how the railroad network of the countryside is laid-out effects plot when you are dealing with a train-chase.
I'm a plot-first reader, so the historical/logical inaccuracies of having a heavily-armed locomotive in the front of a collection of poorly-protected passenger cars didn't bother me too much. Mostly I lament the missed opportunity seeing the drama of how historical train chases and running fights shook out. (I'm still waiting for someone to do a movie set in the Czech Legion's retreat across the Transiberian Railway in 1918 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolt_o...).
This is a tight little novella that I had missed as taking place between Boneshaker and Dreadnought. It is the first of the Clockwork Century books IThis is a tight little novella that I had missed as taking place between Boneshaker and Dreadnought. It is the first of the Clockwork Century books I have gotten to that doesn't revolve (at least in part) around Blight, sap, and rotters.
Instead the driving force is the decades-long Civil War and the mad-genius tech absurdities being sought to break the deadlock. I grant you, this is also a theme in Dreadnought and Ganymede, but here is stands a little more alone if only because of the shorter length. Focus on this storyline also produces a stronger "a pox on both their houses" take on the Civil War than I am used to. As a born-and-bred Connecticut Yankee (my ancestors sat beside John Brown for abolitionist sermons in a little church in Torrington, CT) I find that a little hard to swallow at times. Yes, the Union was run by a bunch of arrogant, bloody, mechanistic bastards who at times made Marshal Foch look like a humanitarian; but there's no question in my mind at the right and wrong sides of the Civil War.
As usual Cherie Priest has a real knack for summoning characters into the reader's mind in full depth and color, even for minor walk-ons. I swear part of this is the amazing names she provides (Croggon Beauregaurd Hainey, Maria Isabella "Belle" Boyd), they're just amazing pulp poetry....more
While I enjoyed having Ganymede set in New Orleans and other booSadly, the last of the Clockwork Century novels.
Also sadly, no time spent in Seattle.
While I enjoyed having Ganymede set in New Orleans and other books set outside of Seattle, this was the first volume to be so very untethered to that ruined city. It was much more broad in scope, with the fate of nations (the continent! correct Gideon, again) in the balance, and it felt a bit weaker for that.
I feel like Cherie Priest read World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War and saw it is an inevitable end-game to her zombies, but the Blight-zombies were never so contagious as the classic Romero/Brooks variety. I'm afraid I just had trouble imagining 2 nations equipped for war having much trouble with a bunch of former drug-addict zombies. That and a final note at just how permeable the battle-lines of this 20-year Civil War seem to have become.
For all my complaints though, I'll miss these characters....more
The world of Dragonology shifts a bit with this volume, as budding dragonologists as prompted to closer and more intimately familiar with fire-breathiThe world of Dragonology shifts a bit with this volume, as budding dragonologists as prompted to closer and more intimately familiar with fire-breathing beasts. The original Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons didn't really deal with the possibility of taming or riding a dragon. I blame Anne McCaffrey for making every kid want to ride a dragon.
The real reason for this book though is the model. It is very pretty, very easy to assemble, and looks very nice hanging from a ceiling. Note: the model is designed to hand, not to sit on a shelf. Note 2, your child may turn against the idea of hanging the model since the book warns that it may attract dragons thinking it is a trapped juvenile....more
These books are just more fun that really should be allowed.
This particular volume really showed some subtle edges to unreliable narration, even if itThese books are just more fun that really should be allowed.
This particular volume really showed some subtle edges to unreliable narration, even if it is technically thrid-person omniscient. Alexia is surprised by the depth of knowledge and competence of Ivy and then surprised again by the depth of character of Felicity. I think these two incidents really show some of the faults in Alexia's preternatural overconfidence and over-competance. It shows that Alexia isn't really a Mary Sue with so much more knowledge and skills than those around her, but maybe the character just assumes she has a deeper life and many of her companions are cardboard cut-outs when they truly have deeper lives.
For all that literary pondering, I am glad that I'm able to read this on Kindle. A professional gentleman of a certain age garners quizzical looks for reading pulp paperbacks that prominently display steampunk ladies on their covers, especially while riding a public conveyance.
*Warning* Reading this series may affect your syntax and vocabulary choices.
Alternate history of the discovery of the New World and it's settlement. In the mid-1400's, cod-fisherman discover new lands to the west in the AtlantAlternate history of the discovery of the New World and it's settlement. In the mid-1400's, cod-fisherman discover new lands to the west in the Atlantic. The land is not nearly as far west as America is in our world and the fishermen's discovery pre-empt Columbus (thus creating a larger presence of English, Breton French, and Basque colonists). The new land is dubbed Atlantis, distinguishing it from Terra Nova that more closely fits our North America. The land is devoid of all mammals (including people) before the European discovery - instead being full of flightless birds (like giant dodos and what I think are tree ferns.
Unlike most of Turtledove's alt-history, this book (the first in a new series) doesn't follow a half-dozen to dozen different and barely interacting POV characters through a set (and newly created) place and time. Instead, the formula is much more traditional, limiting POV to a few characters all from the same family. The book jumps generations, covering Edward Radcliffe, and his two sons Henry and Richard in the 1400's settling Atlantis, Red Rodney Radcliffe and his second cousin William Radcliff (sans e) battling over the former's piracy in the 1600s, and winding up with Victor Radcliff fighting the Seven Year's War in the new lands. Here we have a slight break from the family ties as we also get inside the head of Victor's opponent, Roland Kersauzon, the umpteenth-generation descendent of the Breton fisherman who led the Radcliffes to Atlantis in the first place.
It's the geography of Turtledove's latest world that keeps throwing me. The cover art clearly depicts a world in which the Atlatic seaboard of North America rifted off along the Appalachian mountains and never drfted as far west as in our world. But there is no textual support for this. The shape of Atlantis is never discussed (aside from being mainly north-south in alignment with a central mountain range). Details of the coastline are vague, except for Avalon Bay, which more reflects San Francisco Bay than anything on the East Coast (not surprising since it is on the west coast of Atlantis). I kept expecting to realize "oh, Stuart is in New York's spot" but instead, I'm thought more and more that Turtledove had just created a new land in Atlantis, instead of stealing land from North America. Maybe United States of Atlantis will clarify things. I'm just amazed at the power of cover art to shape my expectations....more
15-16 years ago I went on a kick of reading end-of-the-world books. I guess as a recent college graduate I really wanted to see how the world could ra15-16 years ago I went on a kick of reading end-of-the-world books. I guess as a recent college graduate I really wanted to see how the world could radically change, confident in my own abilities to weather the storm. I found myself annoyed at the seemingly inevitable addition of magic in all these stories. A plague hits and suddenly supernatural powers walk the earth. One of the rare exceptions and the book I was looking to see matched was Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournelle which lacks supernatural involvement despite its title.
Here is another end of the world story, following much the same rails as Niven & Pournelle, and yet I found myself fighting against the extrapolations and conclusions.
The disasters are different, and EMP attack versus a asteroid strike, but much of the collapse follows the same tack, down to the religous-crazy-cannibal-barbarians.
Part of my discomfort is the poor characterization - out POV character is like a bad Jack Ryan rip-off spackled over the author's reflection in the mirror. Second comes the right-wing tack and assumptions. Hippies in Asheville described as being dependent on hand-outs an inevitably dying-off (around here, it's the old hippies who run the farms). Any talk of communal sharing is matched with a note about "here come the commissars" or "now we're living in Animal Farm."
But I pretty much expected that from an techo-thriller/alt-history with a foreward by the Newt. 4 years ago my wife and I completed our own alt history writing project (http://paulmcneil.wordpress.com/) with a distinctly Liberal slant.
Ultimately, what sets this book apart from both the other end of the world stories and the disaster responses that the CDC, FEMA, and Zombie Squad ask us all to be prepared for is 2 points. Unlike most end-of the world books, the disaster doesn't kill-off a huge percentage of humanity and then technological society collapses. Instead it is technology that fails and the huge weight of humanity that destroys society. This is very close to what we see in real-life disasters. However, real-life disasters we see on our TV sets are limited geographically. It is just a matter of time until those over the hill come to help or you can get up and walk over the hill yourself.
I think World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is the book that comes closest to this idea of people being a disaster on their own if their support system is removed. World War Z is much better written than this book, but the idea of the national redoubt and writing-off large swaths of the country would have worked in this scenario as well.
Ultimately, I can't answer the big question of this book. Is it worth the effort to prepare for a massive EMP attack? The threat as presented seems insurmoutable. No reasonable amount of resilience would have prevented much of the outcome from this book, no matter how many times our characters lament the lack of plans for response....more
The third graphic novel in the series by Alan Moore was formally challenged by a librarian in Jessamine County, Kentucky in 2008. When the library refused to remove the book (it was requested originally by a patron) or at least relocate it from the graphic novel section which was located near the young adult section of the library. When this appeal failed, she checked the book out to herself to keep it off the shelves. When an 11 year-old patron reserved the book, she and another librarian removed the hold. They were fired the next day.
So what's so bad about this book? Isn't the League series just about literary characters from the Victorian period running around like superheroes?
The author, Alan Moore, is known for stretching genres and challenging readers (he also wrote the graphic novels 'Watchmen' and 'V for Vendetta'). In this book, I think he was in large part looking for a censor to incite.
The main story is set in a 1958 England that has suffered under the rule of Big Brother straight out of Orwell's 1984. Other sections are less comic-based and used varied literary styles to continue the story and setting, including a fictional Shalespearean play, pulp novels, a sequel to Fanny Hill (illustrated in the style of one of the original editions) and most damning, a Tijuana Bible depicting graphic sex between repressed proles of the 1984 setting (supposedly published by Big brother to keep the proles happy).
Is it pornography? The Tijuana Bible section says it's published by the fictional government 'Pornsec', so I'm tempted to take it at it's word.
But the Tijuana Bible section (or the Fanny Hill illustrations) shouldn't be taken alone. The levels of satire are deep and complex. The literary references are enough to keep and English Major on wikipedia for hours. Critically, the book has been acclaimed. Thus the book fails the third prong of the Supreme Court's test for obscenity.
Mr. Moore was looking for people like the county librarian Jessamine County to offend. He was also looking to tell a deep and interesting story. He succeeded at both."...more
Like with Neverwhere I found myself wishing I had more first-hand experience with the city setting, in this case Seattle.
A genThis was fun.
Like with Neverwhere I found myself wishing I had more first-hand experience with the city setting, in this case Seattle.
A generation ago, a bigger than historical Seattle was flooded with deadly, zombie-making gas (called The Blight) and walled-off when a local mad-scientist type drove a mining machine straight out of those old GI Joe cartoons through the downtown. Now it's the 1880s, the Civil War is still raging, and the son of the mad scientist wants to go into the dead city to exonerate his long-gone father.
Except the city isn't dead. People live there depending on absurd steampunk mechanisms to pump in air and keep zombies out. So now the kid's kick-ass mom has to go into the post-apocalyptic city to get him out.
Through much of this book, I could feel the book-club or gaming group hashing out the world on a results-centered basis. "They need to wear those cool steampunk goggles...but why? I know, the Blight can only be seen through a polarized lens!" "But why would people go through all that trouble to live in the city? Oooh, what if you could make a drug out of the Blight? Good one!" The author is also in love with grand names for characters: Leviticus Blue, Andan Cly, Croggon Hainey, Hale Quarter, and don't forget Jeremiah Swakhammer!
There's a feminist scree in here somewhere about how our main character, Briar Blue (nee Wilkes) is defined by the men in her life, her father, her husband, her son...but she still gets to shoot zombies with a Spenser rifle, so it's all good, right? ...more
Hey, you got spy novel in my supernatural pulp. You got supernatural pulp in my spy novel!
Are they good together?
Actually, they're bit jarring togetheHey, you got spy novel in my supernatural pulp. You got supernatural pulp in my spy novel!
Are they good together?
Actually, they're bit jarring together. In places the supernatural swirl is a nice flavor in what feels like an Alan Furst novel. But then the supernatural becomes more explicit, and (like in Wise Child) the lose of ambiguity lessens the power a bit. Tim Powers however is very good at describing the sheer weight and alieness of his supernatural, so the shift from one flavor to another is not a negative one.
A was a little concerned what almost halfway through, the POV suddenly shifted from Hale to Philby. I was afraid Book 2 would be from Philby's perspective exclusively. I was happy to see the POV jump back to Hale and even to expand to Elena. I think I just didn't lilke Philby's character, which may have been the point....more
This is the first of the Clockwork Century books not to be named after some great big absurd piece of steampunk technology. Instead we have a deeper lThis is the first of the Clockwork Century books not to be named after some great big absurd piece of steampunk technology. Instead we have a deeper look at the world of Seattle and the politics of controlling that city and the drug-trade that fuels it all.
I feel a bit like I ought to go back and re-read Boneshaker to see if it had a good justification for the continued presence of the Doornails and Chinatown in the Blighted parts of Seattle. I can almost see Chinatown staying in the walls instead of facing abuse outside, but the doornails seem to just be hiding in general. This book makes it clear that the maintenance of the Underground is failing after 18 years and that only the influx of scads of drug money are paying to keep everything running. Since the Doornails seem to be sap-agnostic and trending towards anti-drug-dealing, I have trouble seeing how Yaozu and the Station will continue to subsidize their existence. I could buy the idea of noblesse oblige with the more psychotic Dr. Minnericht, but clearly the status quo is unsustainable.
And that's the central idea of the book - although told through the ideas of a drug-addicted 18-year-old orphan. Rector Sherman (and most of the other characters) doesn't seem to have the mental capacity to see the cracks in the system, but others from the outside do and try to force an earlier collapse only to fail due to poor intelligence work and general hubris. ...more
Unfortunately I have to classify this volume as (so far) the weakest of the Clockwork Century books. I think the failure is due to the divided narratiUnfortunately I have to classify this volume as (so far) the weakest of the Clockwork Century books. I think the failure is due to the divided narration between Josephine and Andan. While Boneshaker also had divided narration (between Briar and Zeke), the two views felt like two sides of the same coin and Briar's POV easily carried me through my annoyance at Zeke's adolescent stupidity - in fact Zeke's naivete helped color Briar's world-weariness.
Andy and Josephine don't mesh as well. Their stories are too far apart and they have little chemistry when they exist on the page together. If I had to cut one narrator out of the story, I'm not sure whose story I would rather see.
Fundamentally, the main plot is Josephine's. She is the one connected to the strong sense of place in New Orleans. She is the one who connects the submarine, the guerillas, the Texians [sic], the zombis [sic again], the pirates, the voudou [I'm getting sic of this now] queen, and Captain Cly into the main narrative(s).
But it is Andan Cly who ultimately gets the most agency in directing the actions of the plot and Cly who is connected to the broader story of Seattle, blight gas, and undead. Also, he's smitten with Briar which I can totally understand. (Were we supposed to think he was going to be tempted to stay in Louisiana with Josephine? I'm not sure she'd have him, and why stay with Josephine if Briar's waiting for you back in Seattle?)
Now for a quibble. I know Cherie Priest asks the reader to give her a pass on history since her research on the Civil War is at least as accurate as her zombies. My main problem is geographical. It doesn't show it on the map provided, but (to quote wikipedia) "Lake Pontchartrain is not a true lake but an estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico". Maybe there's a reason (besides Plot!) that they don't try to sneak the Ganymede out via the Rigolets (the lake is only 12-14 feet deep, but the modern Mississippi is dredged to 200 feet deep), but it's never addressed in the text. I'm just difficult....more
Microscope claims on its cover to be a role playing agme of fractal history. I'm not sure that RPG is the right label though.OK, this is fascinating.
Microscope claims on its cover to be a role playing agme of fractal history. I'm not sure that RPG is the right label though. I can see how starting with veteran role-players (and I mean character- or story-driven role-players, not crunchy-bit or min-maxing roll-players) is a good place to start.
OK, start over. What's the idea? To create a fictional history. Kind of like being a GM or author doing your world building.
Cool, so a framework to build worlds around, allowing collaborative building? Kinda, but kinda not. Yes, all the players (suggested 3-4 but 2 or even 5-6 can work) are building a history, and riffing off each other, but you are not collaborating. Each person can dictate parts of history.
And here's the interesting part. This is not narrative-focused. You aren't working to see how it all turns out. You already know what the end-point is - it's one of the first things written. Game-play is focused on the fractal, interstitial spaces. What happens between the beginning and the end.
I know, all deep and stuff.
It sounds like it can really work, especially with the right group.
This was a quick little book and the author makes no bones about it being slight. That said, it just didn't pull me in. The mixture of steampunk histoThis was a quick little book and the author makes no bones about it being slight. That said, it just didn't pull me in. The mixture of steampunk historical and fictional characters felt a bit forced at times and very little new territory was covered that wasn't handled so much better by The league of Extraordinary Gentlemen - including many of the same characters. Lansdale also just seems to be enamored of crude behavior and curses to no particular end. It could be a commentary on Old West vs. Victorian norms, but instead reads like the scribblings of a Junior High-School boy....more
**spoiler alert** This not one of Turtledove's better works.
The initial idea is interesting. Why did Nazi Germany accept Allied occupation when so ma**spoiler alert** This not one of Turtledove's better works.
The initial idea is interesting. Why did Nazi Germany accept Allied occupation when so many other countries have fought long guerrilla wars against occupying forces? How is 1946 Germany different than 1979 Afghanistan or 1960s Vietnam? How is it like the former Confederate States in the 1860s?
These are important and valid questions that I feel were swept under the rug. Instead, the narrative seems strongly linked to the US experience in Iraq circa 2006 (before the Sunni Awakening and troop surge). However, if this book is a veiled commentary on Iraq, then Turtledove missed a perfect opportunity to weigh-in on one of the major debates in policy regarding the War on Terror - namely the use of extralegal force (torture, detention without rights, rendition, etc.). The division of post-war Germany into Western Allied and Soviet zones creates a opportunity to contrast the effectiveness of different tactics in counter-insurgency - between a buy 'em off/win hearts and minds plan used by the Americans and unbridled force used by the Russians. In our own history, these are the tactics that those two regimes did use. Instead, Turtledove shows us that the Soviet NKVD is certainly ruthless, but he never even mentions the Marshall Plan (which, in his defense was discussed but not yet implemented within the time-frame of the book.
Instead of answering deep military/historical questions or addressing the policy and moral arguments of the war he is modeling off of, Turtledove instead gives huge benefits of the doubt to the Nazi partisans. Heydrich's organization is presented as monolithic, with no internal power struggles. While their tactics are often taken from the al-Qaida playbook, Heydrich's men also succeed in multiple truck bombings of national monuments (proposed but only rarely completed by al-Qaida) and a dirty bomb attack. Competence at this level is not seen now and was not seen in 1940s Germany (Just read up on the many attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler to see just how large the logistical and pure luck challenges of such campaigns can be). The most annoying benefit given to Heydrich though is in the surprising backbone given to Republican opposition to Truman's prosecution of the war in Germany. Although Congress does control the purse-strings, and progressives did argue strongly for cutting-off funding for the Iraq War after the 2006 mid-term elections, a successful recall of troops from an overseas war due to Congressional budget-writing never saw a chance of happening. In Turtledove's world it sailed through entirely too easily.
In all, I feel like this book was forced. Ideas were not well thought-out and our heroes were hamstrung by an author who failed to properly research their options.
Ken Hite is always fun. I'm more than a little bit of a WWII buff, but I consistently couldn't identify the line between history and fiction in this bKen Hite is always fun. I'm more than a little bit of a WWII buff, but I consistently couldn't identify the line between history and fiction in this book....more
Steampunk is fun. This particular volume is pretty-straight-forward pulpy steam-punk.
There are some big plot/world questions I still have, but I willSteampunk is fun. This particular volume is pretty-straight-forward pulpy steam-punk.
There are some big plot/world questions I still have, but I will hold out hope that some of this will be addressed in later volumes.
I agree with Amanda that Miss Hobbes is not given nearly enough screen-time and at times feels a bit shoe-horned in. I don't think it was an editor's choice to force a female lead on the author however.
I was rather annoyed by the 'head-jumping'. There's no trouble in switching POV, just don't do it in mid-paragraph - add at least a section break. And, if you (as an author) start alternating POV by chapter between two characters, be prepared to keep that convention going unless something in the story justifies disturbing the pattern.
This prose novel covers the events of the first fee Girl Genius comic volumes. I find I can't really review the novel because I have trouble telling tThis prose novel covers the events of the first fee Girl Genius comic volumes. I find I can't really review the novel because I have trouble telling the comic images from my own mental images on reading the prose. Maybe it would be different if I had read the novel first...
There are some benefits to prose over sequential art. The prose form allows us to get into the heads of characters to see what they are feeling. The text descriptions also explain exactly what certain expressions represent, where the comic drawings depend on the reader to interpret for facial gestures. That said, felt the text descriptions were pale compared to the detailed beauty of the Foglio's comic style.
In the 1930s, the world was becoming increasingly dominated by totalitarian states, and these were not just the banana republics that we have grown acIn the 1930s, the world was becoming increasingly dominated by totalitarian states, and these were not just the banana republics that we have grown accustomed to seeing in Africa, Latin America or the Middle East. Totalitarianism, whether in the form of fascism or communism, seemed to have a monopoly on new thinking and revolution. It was far from unthinkable that this was the new way of the world.
It was into this world thatSinclair Lewis injected It Can't Happen Here. The fictional rise of Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip is rapid and shocking, showing just how fragile America's constitutional balance of power is. I found that rise to be a bit precipitous (vs. similar fictional American fascist movements laid out in The Plot Against America or The Center Cannot Hold and [The Victorious Opposition]. Sinclair is a better author than either Roth or Turtledove, but the later books take things slower. Those feel more plausible, but Sinclair's history is amazingly possible.
Another place where Sinclair seems to skip a cylinder is in the brutality of the Windrip Corpo regime. The repression is brutal and torture is always awful, but Sinclair did not have a conception of the mechanized murder and evil that was to come in the Holocaust. Turtledove does not flinch from a proposed Confederate Holocaust and the threat of the Holocaust is ever-present in Roth's book. But I can in no way blame Lewis for failing to foresee the twists that the mind of Adolf Hitler would take (even if Japanese behavior in Nanking and other Chinese cities had given a taste of what was to come).
And don't rest on your laurels America, thinking that the age of totalitarianism is past and so is the threat that Lewis wrote of. I worry about the claims made by an imperial presidency, regardless of party. Always question those who have all the answers. ...more