An intriguing book that mixes Crusades-era Muslim history with surprisingly modern religious extremist ideology. Not a dry book at all - the well-writAn intriguing book that mixes Crusades-era Muslim history with surprisingly modern religious extremist ideology. Not a dry book at all - the well-written characters and snowballing plot lines result in a satisfying read. I docked it a star for several ridiculous young female characters who were rendered hopelessly silly either by translation (the original book was in Slovenian), or by design.
I got this book because I read that it was part of the inspiration for the original Assassin's Creed game. The slogan of the Ismaili leadership ("Nothing is true; everything is permitted") is used in the game, and the book mentions Masyaf, a locale also in the game. Other than those two things, the book and the game have nothing in common. The game even warps the slogan to a completely different meaning than that developed by the book. ...more
Part futurist, part science fiction, part pure fiction
As the title suggests, Hoshor is not optimistic about the future of Homo sapiens. His thesis appPart futurist, part science fiction, part pure fiction
As the title suggests, Hoshor is not optimistic about the future of Homo sapiens. His thesis appears to be that because have learned to manipulate genetics, and because technology appears to be improving at an ever-increasing rate, before long we will have created mutant cyborgs that will replace humans. These mutant cyborgs (he calls them “Technology Augmented Bioengineered humans”) will have little in common with Homo sapiens, and thus societal and evolutionary pressures will cause them, without malice, only inevitability, to replace us. Maybe they’ll leave us in nature preserves, if we’re lucky. Also, the middle section points out that we may never get there because if current trends continue, chances are we’ll run out of food and water and kill each other first.
I say “his thesis appears to be” because the point of this rambling text is never made very clear. It touches on a wide variety of subjects: evolution, disease, population pressures on the biosphere, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, economics, civil rights and religion. It never spends much time on any one subject, preferring to let the reader explore cited works to learn more about the points being raised. This lack of focus is what caused me to ultimately lose interest in what was being said. It was very frustrating for me to read, because it has some fascinating ideas, but they’re mixed with science fiction and pure fiction masquerading as science. I really wanted to follow where it was going, but in the end, it never really goes anywhere.
I’ll give some examples of ideological bits that I found particularly frustrating.
“If you are not an adherent of the creationist theory of evolution…” The what now? There is no creationist theory of evolution; there is no creationist scientific theory of any kind; it is religion, a matter of faith, not science.
“Forty years ago less than five percent of scientists … promoted the belief that human activities were influencing global weather. Two years ago scientists skeptical of the world wide belief in global warming were considered heretics. Fortunately balance is beginning to return…” What is this? Climate change denial, or am I misreading it?
In the section Man/Machine, the adoption of new modes of communication are discussed, and: “we will discover society has diverged. The young fully embracing these sweeping changes and the older generations resistant and further alienated.” Ageist much?
Interplanetary Space: “An unbiased observer from space might even consider humanity to be a plague species, permanently undermining the health of its host planet.” To quote George Carlin: “There is nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The PEOPLE are f**ked. Difference. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great. Been here four and a half billion years. … The planet has been through a lot worse than us.”
I honestly did enjoy reading Requiem for Humanity. It brings up some fascinating thoughts, intriguing ideas, and though it is a bit on the gloomy side, it has a lot to say. The problem is it’s not saying anything about anything. It’s just saying things. If there was a point, I missed it, and I think that’s a shame, because I think this author does have something to say....more
The Ptorrigan Lode has an intriguing beginning, with a former musician, former explorer pilot, currently burned-out addict waiting inTrippy and tense
The Ptorrigan Lode has an intriguing beginning, with a former musician, former explorer pilot, currently burned-out addict waiting in a space station dive bar for his dealer. Demanding that Jay follow through on some task having to do with his brother, his dealer withholds the addictive drug Chappa without which Jay will eventually die. From there the story wends its way through twists and turns and lands at its satisfying finale having filled in just enough space-station-sized details to bring its world to life. Lance packs a lot into a compact package, as this novella deals with addiction, love, betrayal, action, pathos, and some really wild alien technology along the way. The characters are relatable without being trite, and are mostly detailed through their interactions and smartly-written dialogue. The story is stark and real, with some hard edges and some particularly gruesome revelations, including the source of the drug Chappa. I’m not usually a reader of shorter fiction, but this one grabbed me and made me think. I really enjoyed it, and recommend it for anyone looking for a quick and gritty hard sci-fi fix....more
The first thing that struck me about Blood of Requiem was the majestic prose. It catches you right from the start and grabs yourLyrical but tedious
The first thing that struck me about Blood of Requiem was the majestic prose. It catches you right from the start and grabs your attention. There’s some powerful wordcraft at work here. Unfortunately the characters and story don’t fulfill the promise made by the strong prologue. The flow of Daniel Arenson’s writing is wonderful, and his descriptions are solid, but most of the characters in Blood of Requiem cling to a single defining idea and don’t show the range of emotion or nuance you’d expect from a real personality. There are a few exceptions; the young Vir Requis (weredragons) Kyrie Eleison and Agnus Dei have a bit more depth to them. For the rest, a word or two is sufficient to encapsulate the whole of the character. Dies Irae lives up to his name: angry. Benedictus is gruff and noble. Gloriae is arrogant and cruel. Lacrimosa is pretty and weak.
This brings me to another point: the distracting nature of the nomenclature in this novel. All the main characters are named after phrases from Christian rites or hymns – or maybe just cribbed from Mozart’s Requiem mass, I’m not sure. Even the place names are derived from Latin or Greek. Requiem – mass for the dead – is the destroyed realm of the Vir Requis. Fort Sanctus – holy – is the destroyed seaside tower where Kyrie grew up. Confutatis – silence (of the damned) – is the capital city of the cruel leader Dies Irae – day of wrath. Dies Irae’s griffin mount is Volucris – Latin for flying creature. The leader of the “real” dragons is Nehushtan – a term for a sacred Hebrew relic in the form of a snake. These are interesting choices, and they provide shades of meaning for readers in the know. The problem I have with it is that these are powerful words and phrases in themselves, drawn from the history of Christendom, and they impart more than just shades of meaning. I found it a huge distraction to be thinking about the parts of a Requiem mass, or the prayers of an ancient Christian liturgy while trying to read a fantasy work. I would have been a lot more comfortable with less impactful character and place names.
The world of Blood of Requiem is broad and imaginative. Arenson’s biggest strength is the power of his descriptions, and he uses that to good effect describing the various lands and settings through which his characters move. The seaside tower of Fort Sanctus, early in the novel, is particularly vivid. The descriptions of combat are intense. The physical descriptions of characters are detailed. But… (you knew there was going to be a but here, didn’t you) that’s really all there is to the novel. The plot is weak, involving nothing much more gripping than a long, long, long long long chase around the world. The descriptions of dragons soaring over seas and mountains and meadows and forests are gorgeous, but eventually they get repetitive. There is very little tension or layered conflict built in to the story.
This lack of rising and falling in the plot leads to another weakness of the novel, and that is the repetitive internal monologue and reactions of characters to each other. Because there is nothing much really going on, there’s a lot of space to fill, and when Arenson isn’t filling it with his outstanding descriptions, he fills it with characters pondering about one thing or another. After a while, I grew very weary of the mooning of the Vir Requis and their yearning for the majesty of their splendorous past. I wanted to strangle Lacrimosa after the tenth or twelfth time she broke into tears over some minor setback. And I really got the fact that Dies Irae’s childhood trauma turned him into a monster, after the first couple times I read it – the continuous reminders were unnecessary.
Overall, the novel is a good read, but the lack of variety in the characters and the aimless narrative prevent me from giving it a very hearty recommendation. The book’s redemption is its outstanding description and strong action sequences. The book is very strong technically as well: it’s one of the cleanest indie novels I’ve read, in terms of layout and editing. Anne Victory (credited as copy editor in the acknowledgements) is a huge reason for why the book is as good as it is. I salute Arenson for taking the time and effort to polish Blood of Requiem, and I am curious to see what he does with the rest of the series, because there’s a lot of potential here....more
The son of a great leader grows up to fulfill his destiny. A keeper’s daughter is the key to overthrowing a kingdom. On the journeyGypsy Magic Rebels
The son of a great leader grows up to fulfill his destiny. A keeper’s daughter is the key to overthrowing a kingdom. On the journey of a lifetime, she falls in love with her best friend. And there’s Gypsy magic! And invisible people! And a fat princess! This book features quite an array of story elements that could easily have overwhelmed even a veteran of epic fantasy, but Samantha Warren wrangles them into a rewarding tale with only a few minor missteps. Blood of the Dragon is quite a novel, but for an independent author, it’s head and shoulders above the pack.
Blood of the Dragon could be a sweeping, epic tale, but instead it takes a more personal interest in the small group that gets swept up in events. The larger forces at work in Layr are described, but they are not the focus of the tale. Keeping the reader’s viewpoint at a manageably personal level helps bring the characters to life. Chelandra and the dragon Ychthorn as well as Alured the king are presented particularly well. Other characters vary, from Bolgor the nondescript, to Bellithana the fairly standard mage/healer, to Prigol the invisible man with an unfortunately almost invisible personality. Fortunately the dialogue and action that everyone gets involved in more than makes up for the sketchy nature of a few of the characters. The dialogue in general was very good, though I admit to being distracted by the occasional anachronism:
“I want to try something. Are you up for it?” asked Thorn.
“Uh… does it involve me ending up in some kind of pain?”
The dragon pondered for a moment before shrugging. “Potentially.”
“Cool. Let’s do it.” […]
“Awesome. Stand over there.”
I’m not particularly used to fantasy characters calling things cool and awesome, especially considering the tone of some of the surrounding dialogue, but whatever. It is, after all, fantasy, so anything goes, right?
The action scenes are spectacularly good. Warren has the ability to build tension out of almost nothing, right to a fever pitch, and then maintain that level for pages and pages. There are passages in this book that you just can’t put down. The last quarter or so of the book is especially good. One thing after another keeps happening, and it doesn’t let up until the very end. The action sequences really help rescue weaker parts of the book, too. Where the pacing gets occasionally uneven, it always seems there’s something wild that happens to yank the story right back on track.
Blood of the Dragon has some meaningful themes, including the cruelty of slavery, the responsibilities of a free person in a free society, the recognition that there may be more to certain groups than common knowledge allows, but it never overemphasizes these themes. They come across strictly through the story telling. I suppose the “every dragon deserves to be free” card does get played a lot. Overall, though, the novel gives you things to think about without forcing them on you or being overly blatant.
I have to thank Warren for one thing in particular: I had just about given up on ever finding any good fantasy novels outside the mainstream publishers. There is just so much garbage out there that some “authors” are spewing and putting up for sale without editing, without proofreading, without even finishing the story sometimes. It’s clear that a lot of time and care has gone into making this a complete story and a pleasant reading experience, and that deserves recognition. It’s not perfect—it has its typos, its rough spots that could have used a little more editorial TLC, but I can safely say that Blood of the Dragon is by far the best independent fantasy novel I’ve read. I wish there were more out there like this one....more
What if a rogue AI, a distributed process running on tens of thousands of computers all over the internTaut, insightful cyberwarrior’s technothriller.
What if a rogue AI, a distributed process running on tens of thousands of computers all over the internet, could recruit boots on the ground from among “the disaffected, the dispossessed, the displaced, the disgruntled. Worldwide”? What if it created an organization as distributed as itself, with no centralized power structure, with individuals having knowledge of only their local comrades, with no individual knowing the whole big picture? What if it had effectively unlimited financial resources and was able to have its minions manufacture various deadly remote controlled avatars for it (and them) to use? How would corporations and governments stop such an entity? Could they?
These are some of the questions posed in Daemon, probably the most amazing first novel I’ve ever read. Suarez gets everything right. His mind-bending worldwide plot is remarkably plausible, even with 2004 (the year the book was written) technology. His characters are as authentic as the varied settings where the action plays out, and the action – it never stops. His writing chops aren’t the only thing that is so impressive. Suarez has big ideas, too: fascinating takes on globalization, government bureaucracy, legal, correctional and criminal organizations. There’s even a dose of philosophy and moral calculus, but nothing heavy handed. His background as an independent systems consultant lends a frighteningly realistic edge to the deadly effective technologies employed by the ruthlessly efficient Daemon.
The coolest thing about this book for gamers is that the whole system was designed by the head of CyberStorm Entertainment, the most popular fictional game company in the world. The company’s WW2 FPS and fantasy MMORPG are central to the plot. Suarez is even able to weave elements of game culture into the real world, as the Daemon awards experience points to its minions for completing tasks, and rewards them with ultra-high-tech gizmos that can have almost magical abilities. It even lets them see things in “D-space,” a 3D environment superimposed over the real world GPS grid, projected onto specially designed sunglasses, and complete with wireframe buildings and callouts for other Daemon followers which indicate their relative strength and experience level, just like the stuff that appears over a character’s head in an MMO. That all may sound goofy and a little dorky, but it is seamlessly integrated with the world of the book and makes perfect sense in the contexts where it’s used.
I dread this book being turned into a movie, because it’s just the kind of thriller that Hollywood loves, and it’s chock full of just the kind of technology that Hollywood inevitably gets so very wrong. Suarez makes it all come to life so effortlessly. You never feel like you’re in some technology training seminar, but at the same time, he gets enough of the nuts and bolts across to make it believable and comprehensible even to a technology tyro. The bittersweet thing about this book is that I’m sure that in just a few years it will all be quaint and dated – a snapshot of the possibilities available at the turn of the 21st century.
I recommend reading it while it’s still awesome....more
The cover of this novel is perfect: it has an RSS feed icon painted in blood on a cracking concrete wPolitics, virology, high tech blogs & zombies
The cover of this novel is perfect: it has an RSS feed icon painted in blood on a cracking concrete wall. That image pretty much covers all the bases: the cracking concrete walls of a post-apocalyptic society, painted with the blood of the infected, depicting what has become in 2039 the most reliable source of information: blogs. The rest of the novel is so powerful that the zombies in Feed almost fade into the background. The zombies are merely the fallout of a couple of genetic experiments gone wrong. Their ever-present groans are just background noise. They are important in the lives of the young bloggers who comprise the After the End Times infotainment site, but the big news story they’re covering is the focus of the story.
The presidential campaign trail is so believably portrayed in this book that I’m convinced that the author has had some experience in the political arena. In fact, everything in the book is like that. The world inhabited by attitude-girl Georgia, her devil-may-care brother Shaun, and their blonde gearhead associate Buffy is painstakingly detailed. The near-future tech they use is advanced, but not too advanced. In their time, technology is understandably focused around keeping people safe from the walking dead. The warping of near-future society is intriguing, from the rise of blogs after the mainstream media failed to get a grip on the epidemic, to the agoraphobia everyone feels to some degree because the infected are out there. Even the viruses that bring the dead to life are described in detail, almost rising to the level of a character in the book.
All that provides a foundation of bedrock for what is ultimately a good old fashioned mystery. The story is engaging, though it does take a while to really get going, and the villain, once he appears, is a little too obvious. Even the candidate whose campaign they are following is too good to be true: a total boy scout. Georgia even points it out more than once, which only made it worse for me. The zombie action is plenty tense, and the book is full of delightful suspense (I’m looking at you, horse ranch). The dialogue: a little too glib, but I’ve come to expect that sort of tart rambling from urban fantasy writers. None of the book’s minor faults spoiled for me what was a beautifully written, suspenseful, action-packed, funny, tragic whodunit....more
Surface Detail is the first Iain M. Banks Culture novel I've read. As such, I enjoyed it probably more than I shoIntricate, overstuffed, massive tale.
Surface Detail is the first Iain M. Banks Culture novel I've read. As such, I enjoyed it probably more than I should have. The galaxy in which the Culture civilization lives is fascinatingly detailed with wonderful technologies all the way up to the “indistinguishable from magic” variety. The personalities are fascinating too, including everything from a bloodthirsty combat ship, to a bigoted (vs. AI) captain of industry, a super-genius asexual precise-minded diplomat to the dead, and a quadrupedal bi-trunked gentle soul who ends up serving the head demon in a virtual Hell. So what does Surface Detail do, that it doesn’t deserve the full enjoyment I got out of it?
For starters, the plot is convoluted and loaded with dead ends, some narrative threads unceremoniously dropped and their characters yanked in another direction fast enough to give them whiplash. There are too many characters that don’t live up to their full potential. They are marvelously vivid, but many of them exist for no other purpose than exposition on the various details of the Culture and other galactic and virtual and extra-dimensional denizens. Banks does a wonderful job of bringing the galaxy to life, but then he doesn’t do much of anything with some of his intricate creations.
Despite the flaws, Surface Detail is BIG enough in scope and ambition to absorb those flaws and in some sense make them work. It’s an overstuffed book. If it works for a couch, why not for a book? Yes, the main story sometimes gets buried under the fluffy cushions of the narrative. There is so much there there, and the secondary plots are so well developed that it is easy to get lost. The book sometimes seems to lose sight of its protagonist, which is unfortunate, because she’s a remarkable character. So if it sounds like I am being angry with this book for being so good, well, I guess that’s part of it.
In some sense it’s just all too much and it could use more focus. On the other hand, each different direction the disconnected characters take is so thorough, it’s like a bunch of concurrent novellas jammed into the crevices of a fully realized novel. I loved the setting, and indeed, the main story, because I had never encountered this writer’s demesne before. Those more familiar with the Culture may be more burdened by the book’s flaws, but for me, it was mostly just icing on the icing....more
After watching Tina Fey for years, it’s obvious that she’s a comedic virtuoso. Since she was an SNL headHard to read through the LOL tears. Brilliant!
After watching Tina Fey for years, it’s obvious that she’s a comedic virtuoso. Since she was an SNL head writer, then started producing and writing a multi Emmy award winning sitcom, it should be no surprise that she’s a very funny author, too. What is surprising is the breadth of this book. Fey deftly juggles essays about growing up, working, being a mom, writing, and being a boss. Her brilliant sense of humor is front and center, but she also manages to make serious points and comment on issues important to her. It all just works together.
Bossypants veers from silly to pithy to tragic to hilarious to thoughtful, feminist to nerdy, around and around again. It keeps the reader entertained and thinking at the same time, and that is Fey’s genius at work. She wields insightful commentary and fart jokes with equal aplomb. It’s a delight to read, frequently surprising and always amusing. I can’t recommend this book enough, for both women and men. If you can’t find something to laugh at in this book, you are a robot....more