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1-10 )
11. Ken MacLeod: Dark Light

Terry Brooks, in addition to his Shannara series of eclectic fantasy, also writes a series of, well, might possibly be called modern fantasy. A Boston lawyer tires of his job, buys a magic kingdom -- Landover -- and becomes High King. It turns out to be a long running scam ran by an embittered mage and a spoiled prince, and the first couple of books deal with how the new High King manages, somehow, to consolidate his grip on his kingdom, and keep it in spite of various problems appearing.

The books, in this the Landover series, tend to have very similar structure, and be easily chewable feel-good fantasy. In this the third book, the key to the power of the High King gets lost in a magic ritual, and ends up in the showcase of yet another spoiled, evil mage from the earlier years of the kingdom. With the help of the very reluctant dragon, of a brave 11-year old girl and the core team of the series, everything turns out good in the end.

Nothing remarkable. But not bad.
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1. Terry Pratchett: Mort
2. Terry Pratchett: Soul Music
3. Eric Flint: 1632
4. Terry Pratchett: Going Postal
5. Neil Gaiman: Stardust
6. Terry Pratchett: Thud!
7. Mikael Parkvall: Limits of Language
8. Jared Diamond: Vete, Vapen och Virus (Guns, Germs and Steel)
9. Charles Stross: Singularity Sky
10. Terry Pratchett: Hat full of Sky

This is the second book in Ken MacLeods Engines of Light trilogy. I have somewhere the first book, Cosmonaut Keep, and I suspect I've read it once - however, I couldn't really remember much of anything from that book, which made reading this a slightly absurd experience.

The earth has seen at least three independent sapients. And each of these has been propelled out of the solar system into a radially opposite part of the galaxy by some sort of planetary sapient entities, who basically view most of the planetside entities as annoying when their wars end up being too large and spacebased, and fix it by removing them.

In the previous book, this happened with modern day man -- and we find ourself at a planet, where a vigorous interstellar trade is taking place, with intelligent kraken handling the star travels, with human traders tagging along. We also find a stone age civilisation, who with flint knives and bone needles manage to produce hanggliders, hot air balloons and impressive aeronautics. And with one of the oddest gender models I've ever seen. Gender and sex is separated; and gender is very much defined by whether you work outdoors (including fight the wars), or indoors. This separation, though, is very strong -- and the protagonists have some trouble when the one woman in the gang is tagged woman by this culture, and they need to figure out which of the men might pass for a woman according to this new set of criteria.

It's an enjoyable read -- but had points where the dialog broke down, and you ask yourself what on earth made the characters change mind that swiftly.

michiexile: (Default)
1. Terry Pratchett: Mort
2. Terry Pratchett: Soul Music
3. Eric Flint: 1632
4. Terry Pratchett: Going Postal
5. Neil Gaiman: Stardust
6. Terry Pratchett: Thud!
7. Mikael Parkvall: Limits of Language
8. Jared Diamond: Vete, Vapen och Virus (Guns, Germs and Steel)
9. Charles Stross: Singularity Sky

Terry Pratchett does write some children's fiction set in the Discworld too. The Tiffany Aching series definitely ranks among my
absolut favourites in the entire setting -- through Wee Free Men, Hat full of sky and Wintersmith (so far) we follow young Tiffany Aching, whose grandmother was the resident witch down on the chalk, where the ground is so soft that no real witches appear, but where the ground also contains flintstones, harder than any mountain granite ever gets.

Tiffany is a child prodigy among the witches; but simultaneously slightly disadvantaged. Hers is the stewardship of her land -- and she can draw tremendous power from the land in times of threat. But whenever this threat is not necessarily that imminent, she ends up being not really impressive, and very much in doubt as to whether her feats have been just imagined.

Nevertheless, Tiffany commands the deep respect of Granny Weatherwax -- and as long as she remembers that as well as her home, she is capable of everything.
michiexile: (Default)
1. Terry Pratchett: Mort
2. Terry Pratchett: Soul Music
3. Eric Flint: 1632
4. Terry Pratchett: Going Postal
5. Neil Gaiman: Stardust
6. Terry Pratchett: Thud!
7. Mikael Parkvall: Limits of Language
8. Jared Diamond: Vete, Vapen och Virus (Guns, Germs and Steel)

[livejournal.com profile] krfsm recommended and lent me his copy of Charles Stross' Singularity sky. A semi-tsarist luddite multiworld state didn't manage the singularity very well when it came, and now that a repair-bot gone viral visits one of its colonies and pulls the entire planet through the singularity in a few weeks, the fleet is sent out to Deal With The Problem.

Onboard are two original inhabitants of the anarchic conglomerate planet Earth; one sent out from the UN as a diplomatic representative, and one whose job it has been to upgrade the warships to be able to fly close timelike paths; thus actually doing the WMD big nono.

And we get to watch as with great eloquence, massive techno-shock hits a planet stuck in the equivalent of Tsarist Russia; but where the Commissar's can carry nanotech.

I read it. Closed it. And immediately wished for more. Have to see whether my friends might have more of [livejournal.com profile] autopope's writing to lend me.
michiexile: (Default)
1. Terry Pratchett: Mort
2. Terry Pratchett: Soul Music
3. Eric Flint: 1632
4. Terry Pratchett: Going Postal
5. Neil Gaiman: Stardust
6. Terry Pratchett: Thud!
7. Mikael Parkvall: Limits of Language

In this semi-popular history tome, Jared Diamond launches what he thinks of as a new research direction for historical research, using geographical, botanical and paleozoological explanations for the huge differences between different continents in terms of disease resistance and technology levels observable during 1492-now. His thesis is that Europeans are superior, not because that we are genetically better, but because Eurasia has a latitudinal extension, whereas most other areas have a longitudinal extension, and this makes technology spread easier, and thus makes for a robuster development.

Interesting as the thesis may well be, I found myself growing more and more annoyed by the very humanist style. Every statement was presented in the following way:
"Soon, I'm going to tell you $THESIS holds, because of $ARGUMENT and $ARGUMENT. Now, $THESIS holds because @ARGUMENTS. I have already told you $THESIS holds, because of $NEWARGUMENT and $OTHERARGUMENT."

The repetitiousness gets tedious after a while.
michiexile: (Default)
1. Terry Pratchett: Mort
2. Terry Pratchett: Soul Music
3. Eric Flint: 1632
4. Terry Pratchett: Going Postal
5. Neil Gaiman: Stardust
6. Terry Pratchett: Thud!

This wonderful book by Mikael Parkvall at the Stockholm University is a linguists Guinness Book of Records. It deals with language oddities - in marvelous extent, and with a Very Nice wit to go.

I loved reading it and would recommend it warmly to anyone prepared to find out just what makes Pirãha special.

6. Thud!

Jan. 23rd, 2007 05:53 pm
michiexile: (Default)
1. Terry Pratchett: Mort
2. Terry Pratchett: Soul Music
3. Eric Flint: 1632
4. Terry Pratchett: Going Postal
5. Neil Gaiman: Stardust

Thud! is one of my absolute favourite Pratchett book. It delves into the Dwarf/Troll conflict, with frequent references to a board game uniting some of the partisans, (very enjoyable game at that: the game rules have been spelled out by $SOMEONE, and you can buy beautiful boards if you want to) and a lot of not very opaque references/analogies to the differing rôles of Imams in modern western society.

It's a lovely read, featuring my favourite Discworld clique: the Ankh-Morpork Watch.

I've finished three books today, and need to discipline my brain. The reviews will suffer in length from this.
michiexile: (Default)
1. Terry Pratchett: Mort
2. Terry Pratchett: Soul Music
3. Eric Flint: 1632
4. Terry Pratchett: Going Postal

Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller.

And when he tackles faerie - one of my favourite themes - the end result is, as always, absolutely WONDERFUL.

Stardust tells us the story of the halfbreed son of an inhabitant of the 19th-century english town of Wall, which stands on a gateway into the land of Faerie. He falls helplessly in love with one of the girls in town, and when she tries to brush him off, he takes it as a Quest, and immediately sets out.

The expected fairy tale themes pop up again - toiling for a false love, and realizing the true love while working; regaining long lost relatives and status; and so on. It's a fast, and incredible read, and I probably cannot write more about it without spoiling it helplessly.

Go read.

While you're at it, go read everything he's written.
michiexile: (Default)
1. Terry Pratchett: Mort
2. Terry Pratchett: Soul Music

This what-if by Eric Flint (with a slight flavour of alien hi-tec sci-fi as crenelation) takes an american Hillbilly town to the middle of the ravaged Thuringian countryside in the middle of the 30-years war. I received it for christmas from [livejournal.com profile] thette who thought I needed to read it - and afterwards I can see why.

It's lighthearted fluff reading for the most part of it, with romances all over the place, some thoughtprovoking scenarios (if we act like bigots, we will -be- bigots - and this is regardless of whether we're devaluing blacks or germans) and quite a few portraits of dubious if surprisingly well-researched historical accuracy.

Apart from the fact that Gustavus Adolphus figures prominently (the germans NEVER tire of telling me how MY KING slaughtered the german countryside way back when), this book hits close to home.

Literally.

The town of Grantsville drops into the German countryside at walking distance from where I live. In fact, the characters walk to where I live at one point in the story. (And drive armoured pickup trucks, but never mind that)

For the parts of the book NOT playing just outside my apartment door, they play mainly at Gustavus Adolphus being besieged in the city of Nuremburg - i.e. just outside my previous apartment door.

And I'm impressed that I do not find more fault with such familiar environs. I'm not convinced by his geological utterances concerning the cliffs around Jena. I'm also not convinced by his toponymy - Badenburg simply is a BAD name for this part of Germany (for any part of Germany for that matter - it combines a morpheme meaning 'spa' with one meaning 'fortress' - and thus the only places named that way in Germany are a restaurant (but those are called ANYTHING) and a section of the royal castle gardens outside Berlin. It is very much the case that names have a local ... feeling to them. Around Nuremburg - things can very well be called ober- and unter- something, whereas around Jena, similar village pairs tend to be gross- and klein- something. Similar differences pervade, and give you a sort of sense where to place a randomly picked german place name.

And Flint simply picks wrong.

On the other hand - these are nitpickeries, and it is impressive that he doesn't trigger more annoyances.
michiexile: (Default)
1. Terry Pratchett: Mort

Soul Music is another of the Discworld books by Pratchett. For those who have seen This is Spinal Tap, a good way to describe the book is 'This is Spinal Tap', but in Discworld.

Music is set loose in the world, and infects a promising bard. He leads a hard rock sensation through a helter skelter ride through the Discworld, alluding to almost ALL clichés and properties of the Rock world. We see groupies, fans, bad bands, hotel room destruction, you name it.

In the end, it turns out to be a Bad Demonic Force, and is expelled by the by now (in the Discworld series) familiar theme of Death realising he should get back to do what he's supposed to do and relieve the family members who step in once he fails his duty once again.

Comfortable read, and noticably better written than Mort, although it is very much one of Pratchett's purer theme books - that take one Roundworld phenomenon and sees how far it can run with it.
michiexile: (Default)
I just decided to try the 50-book challenge thingie this year.

Some ground rules / ground rule changes:

  • I will blog about each book. Need not be much, but it'll happen.
  • I will not keep to new books - since I work my brain rather hard during workdays, I reread a lot. I am going to count these.
  • I will not count non-fiction. Or almost not. At least no work-related literature.


So. Mort, by Terry Pratchett. This is one of the three best introduction books. (I'd say that starting to read the Discworld series at the first book may be non-optimal. The starts of the three Grand Trilogies are better)

It starts of the Death trilogy - three books about Death and his family, and how he time after another gets distracted and leaves The Duty. It's a neat read - as Pratchett veteran, it is rather clear that his writing and worldbuilding still has to mature at this point; on the other hand, the later books have matured so much that you'll have a hard time keeping up without some grip on the world before hand.

It's a feelgood book with some nostalgia. It's not by far the best he has written, but it's a DAMN good introductory book.

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