This was an odd time-travel story. The only thing that travelled back in time, really, was information, but it did so in an impressive way. Giant statues and monoliths began popping up in southeast Asia to commemorate some warlord’s victory… twenty-three years into the future. They result in political instability in the region as well as study in how such things are possible. This ends up being the ultimate in self-fulfilling prophecy: scientists figure out how to make these happen and the affected regions start falling apart, making them ripe targets for any warlord who wants to snatch up the mantle and declare himself to be the anonymous Kuin.
This was a pretty high-concept book, and the style was more literary than I’m used to seeing. In some cases, however, I felt it was more literary than it needed to be. Specifically, the author got into a habit of telling events out of order – not because of any time travel, but just because he felt like it. That got a little old, but it was not prevalent enough to make me stop reading.
So, all in all, it was okay. I liked the concepts involved, but the telling of it was not to my taste.
This was one of Heinlein’s juvenile books from the 1950s. It’s the tale of a young slave, Thorby, rise from the very bottom of society – a beggar’s slave – to the pinnacle of corporate wealth and power. I confess my motivation for reading this was that someone compared a bit of my own work to it, so I thought I would go check it out. I hadn’t read any Heinlein in perhaps 20 years, so I figured it was time to look again.
It was okay. Mostly, it simply didn’t age well. Maybe it was that it had been written as juvenile, which back in the 1950s was aimed quite a bit lower than today’s Young Adult fiction, or maybe it was merely that SF and narrative styles have changed a lot in 60 years. There were a number of sociological ideas that were belabored in a “Hey, look at my cool idea” way. That was fairly common in the early love affair between science fiction and libertarianism, but it’s kind of dated now. Also, the narrative style was a somewhat clutzy omniscient POV, which has fallen out of favor in the last few decades. As such, it robbed the story of the kind of punch-in-the-gut immediacy that I’ve come to enjoy in current fiction.
Nonetheless, it painted a broad canvas for humanity, and took our young Thorby through quite a bit of it. It did, however, end on something of a cliffhanger. Sure, things are more or less resolved, but there’s this big, fat challenge sitting out in front of our hero, and then the tale ends. As far as I know, he did not write a sequel, so it’s just left hanging.
So, I think that for its intended audience of kids in the 1950s, it was spot-on. Today, less so.
This is the second in Sawyer’s WWW trilogy, where we see the world wide web emerge into a conscious entity, making first contact with a blind girl whose sight has been restored through a computer implant along her optic nerve.
Now in the second book, we have young Caitlin deciding who to trust with the knowledge of the Webmind and what to do about it. Meanwhile, the story of the sign-language chimp finally connects properly with the rest of the story, and some of the world government’s begin to take notice of what’s going on.
I found this book more grounded and believable than the first. The way various people reacted was pretty much spot-on. The optimistic people imagined the possibilities. The paranoid people saw the danger. It was very much a first-contact situation with the full spectrum of reactions.
I’m definitely looking forward to the conclusion WWW: Wonder, but I’m pacing myself.
This is one of the annual Edge Question books, where the Edge website asks several prominent thinkers an interesting question. The result is a collection of short essays answering that question. Past questions have included “What do you believe but cannot prove?”, “ What have you changed your mind about?”, and my favorite so far, “What are you optimistic about?” The question that spawned this book was “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?”
Like most of these Edge books there were a few answers that were thinly veiled screeds against religion, but for the most part, the answers were pretty good. They included things like the Pareto Principle (aka the 80-20 rule), the idea of positive-sum games, that you can demonstrate danger but cannot demonstrate safety, that correlation is not causation, and black swan technologies. There are about 150 in all, and they give good food for thought.
My recommendation is to read this a little bit at a time, perhaps an answer or two each day. It takes a while, but it keeps the brain from getting numb.
I saw Thor 2: The Dark World over the weekend. It was pretty good, and I had a good time. I know Loki probably had the biggest expectations, given what a stud Tom Hiddleston has turned out to be, and he certainly delivered in my opinion. He got to be both good and evil, and I think his motivations for each were more understandable than for the earlier two films.
My only complaint was that I felt a little misled by one of the trailers. I don’t want to say how I was misled because that would include spoilers for the film, but the trailer I remember most strongly led me to think there would be a couple of specific plot threads that were simply not in the film. The film was plenty strong without them – stronger, I think, for the absence of one of them – but I still came away a little disappointed in not seeing them.
Oh, and if you go, stay until the very end, like when the lights come up and the ushers come to shoo you out of your seats. Like most of these Marvel films there was an extra bonus at the end. This one had two or three, scattered through the credits. One was the typical teaser for some future film – and that one might have technically been before the titles – but the other two were major plot points for the resolution of the film. Had I skipped out when the credits rolled, I’d have felt cheated that those had been left hanging. So stick it out, no matter how much you’re regretting your choice of the large Dr. Pepper.
This is the fifth book in Butcher’s Codex Alera, where a nation of elementalists is struggling through war, infighting, and a difficult succession. In this installment, Tavi is across the sea helping his new allies deal with some problems of their own, while things actually go from bad to catastrophic back home. The First Lord fights a losing battle against the Vord, while others uncover some secrets about what started the whole problematic succession in the first place.
As much as I enjoyed the earlier books, this one rose to the challenge and raised the bar even further. Tavi, who grew up as a poor child without any command of the elements (aka the “furies”), has spent a lifetime learning to adapt. Instead of overpowering his enemies, he has had to outthink them. His talents shone here more than ever before as he faced down the implacable Vord. Even the First Lord Gaius Sextus – the most powerful man in the world — found himself wishing for Tavi’s insight back home.
The ending, while resolving things for the moment, was also an excellent cliffhanger. It would seem that all the cards are now on the table. All the last-ditch heroics have been done. It’s all down to Tavi to rise to the occasion and… well… save the world is not exaggerating. I will be diving into First Lord’s Fury very soon.
Sadly, I have very little update to give. With one thing or another, October has passed without me making much progress on any of my current projects. Spending a week in the hospital was merely the lame icing on an unproductive cake.
About the only news I have to report is that Ships of My Fathers is no longer in the KDP Select program at Amazon which means it should be rolling out to Barnes and Noble as well as Kobo sometime this month.
So, back to editing Debts of My Fathers…
This is the third of Hemry’s (aka Jack Campbell’s) “JAG in Space” series, following the legal complications in Paul Sinclair’s career in the United States’ space navy. He is still serving aboard the USS Michaelson, and now he has risen up to the rank of Lieutenant. He is still the ship’s legal officer which is how he is usually dragged into the legal matters in the first place.
This time the legal drama hits closer to home for young Sinclair as someone close to him ends up in the crosshairs of a serious investigation. Instead of being a nominally neutral player in the legal games, this time he is hard over in the camp of the defense counsel, going up against the toughest prosecutor he knows. It’s not just personal. It’s desperate.
Overall I liked the book, but a couple of anachronisms bothered me. First, there was more of this notion of “US-controlled space” vs. “SAA-controlled space”. That bugged me in the first book, and it was back in full force here. Yes, I get the on-Earth naval parallels, but they did not translate well into space where the borders in deep space seemed to have no correlation to any planetary asset. Then there was a defense contractor conspiracy that seemed to be lifted right out of the Pentagon Papers. That translated into the future somewhat better – greed and ambition will always be with us – but I still found myself annoyed by it.
Still, the courtroom drama was good, and I liked the more personal stakes this time. I didn’t like it as much as the second book, but I will likely look for book #4 in due time.
Some of you already know this, but I was in the hospital for most of the week. It started with abdominal pain Saturday, and I went into the ER Sunday. Tests confirmed that it was a small bowel obstruction, a not-quite-literal knot in my small intestine.
I had the same thing happen five and a half years ago as a post-surgical complication, so I knew what I was in for: a few painful days with an tube up my nose and down into my stomach, like a personal Roto-Rooter truck trying to empty out my body’s septic system from the wrong end. The only alternative treatment is to simply cut out the offending section of intestine, which comes with its own laundry list of risks.
Anyway, I made it through with the support of my family of choice, and I thank all of you who did what you could to support them. I’ll probably talk more about this in the future, but for now, I am so weak that sitting up at the computer is pretty tiring.
Mur Lafferty is a legend in the podcasting community, from her award winning “I Should Be Writing” show back to her early years of “Geek Fu Action Grip” show. She has been publishing in small and indie press for a while, but this is something of a breakout novel for her. She recently won the Campbell Award for best new writer, and she has more books in the pipeline.
This is the story of Zoe, a down-on-her-luck travel writer in the big city. It’s not actually new to her, since much of childhood was actually in New York, but now she is on her own, unemployed, and feeling pretty low. But then she stumbles upon the city’s underworld of coterie, the polite term for monsters of every stripe from dragons to zombies. She is just desperate enough for work to get over her squeamishness and take a job writing a travel guide for New York monsters, pointing out the best hotels, entertainment, and *gulp* feeding grounds.
I liked it. It was a good exploration of the coterie culture and how it interacted with our world, both in secret and somewhat in public. The conflict managed to tie in with Zoe’s personal story, and it all came together nicely at the end. I suppose my only complaint was that the ending kept building battle up on battle. After a certain point through that escalation, I started feeling detached from the tale and the fates of the characters. Still, I’m looking forward to the next book where she attempts to do a similar guide for New Orleans.