25 May, 2020

Review - Stonewielder by Ian Cameron Esslemont (Malazan Empire #3)


Stonewielder (Novels of the Malazan Empire) was probably my least favorite of Esslemont's books and Esslemont's are generally lower on the totem pole than Erikson's main Malazan series, so I guess what I'm saying is this might make for my least favorite Malazan book. Luckily for this book, the Malazan series is arguably my all-time favorite series so this book still rates higher than almost all books ever.

There's a lot going on, as usual here, and Esslemont doesn't seem to be able to handle it as well as Erikson does. I like him when he's got more of a straight-forward story and a focus on characters. However, my position has always been that without Erikson, I think we would be praising Esslemont just about as highly as we do Erikson for what this series accomplishes, even here at its worst. 

I'll let you read the blurb, which is easy enough to find, but one of the things that stood out to me and, even though the comparisons with Erikson are inevitable, really made me start comparing the two, was there is a whole Chain of Dogs type campaign (see Deadhouse Gates) in this book that was adequately done, just not as brilliant as in Deadhouse. I mean, it was hard to read in the sense that I personally felt the privations, and I think that's brilliant writing to be able to pull off, but it's a shame to always have the comparison.

In the end, I think this series is in great hands with Esslemont as long as I keep in mind how utterly brilliant Erikson is when he's at the helm and that no one in the world really had a chance to keep up. This review sounds like a railing against ICE, but I swear I'm trying to defend him. ICE has got the chops for this series that is more vast than anything I've ever read.

4 out of 5 Stars (maybe 2 out of 5 compared to the Malazan series, but not compared to other books I'm not hopelessly in love with)

21 May, 2020

Review - Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie (First Law #4 but standalone)

"'Things aren't what they used to be' is the rallying cry of small minds. When men say things used to be better, they invariably mean they were better for them, because they were young, and had all their hopes intact. The world is bound to look a darker place as you slide into the grave.”

7268583I felt like this was apt for today's political climate...

“You should laugh every moment you live, for you'll find it decidedly difficult afterwards.”

There was a lot of this type of sentiment throughout Best Served Cold. Do this, for you're not doing it after. Which is definitely the theme of the book. Some hints that revenge, as cool as it is for a story (especially a Joe Abercrombie story) is kind of a waste of your life.

I know this is absolutely all over the place for a "review" but it was great getting back to Abercrombie. His work with characters is stellar, as expected, especially Shivers here. His books are endlessly quotable, especially Nicomo Cosca (I think both above are from him), and that is in BSC too.

I was highly satisfied. Expectations met and exceeded in places.

I like that this was fully contained and stand-alone, yet if you've read in the world, you'll be rewarded.

I was a little disappointed in his Shattered Sea trilogy. Loved book one, but the later two just didn't work for me. Sadly, I think that had to do with his amazing ability with characters, but I didn't like them very much in books two and three.

Best Served Cold was nice to read to get back to what I love about Abercrombie while at the same time following characters I really loved.

Steven Pacey was the audiobook narrator and he was absolutely perfect for this. Great voices for all involved, from gruff northman, to females, to ... Friendly. I forgot I was listening to a book and I was lost in the story. That's a good narrator.

BSC is also a book that works well for audio. It's straight-forward at its heart with character focus. Some books (like Reality Dysfunction recently) just don't work, there's too much that my brain needs to see to remember and keep the story straight. BSC worked.

4.5 out of 5 stars (highly recommended)

P.S. Though technically known as book 4 of the First Law world, it's not necessary to read the previous books. It's standalone. I had this experience though I barely remembered any of the reoccurring characters.

20 May, 2020

Review - The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway

6505695What got me to read The Gone-Away World (Vintage Contemporaries) was the tag line on the back saying there would be mimes and ninjas. Then I read another book by Harkaway and was blown away by his prose so this book was inevitable even though it was the first I was planning to read.

Having read it, I'm not sure how much I can tell about it other than to say it will easily be one of my favorite reads this year.

It's nuts, literally as insane as you can imagine when they're selling it with mimes and ninjas. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, at least in the current narrative portion, but I have to warn you that it's filled with flashes to the past. It's the narrative conceit here. It's not as much as Wizard and Glass (Stephen King), but it's not too far off either... You've been warned, but I think that helps knowing.

This is one of those books that you have to be along for the ride, not necessarily the plot. There are so very many tangents that you have to just enjoy it. They're all over the place and not just in the fact that you're doing yet another flashback.

While I'm acting like this is a bad thing, it's really not. I just know how much of a shock this kind of narrative can be. Wizard and Glass is my favorite in the Dark Tower series, so that's where I'm coming from.

If you like zany characters, ninjas, weirdness, and definitely mimes in an odd-ball, off-the-wall, tangent-filled, joke-filled post-apocalypse .... then you're totally going to love this.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

18 May, 2020

Audiobook Review - The Science of Sci-Fi: From Warp Speed to Interstellar Travel by Erin Macdonald

48982218. sx318 I have to admit, I've always been a little curious as to what sci-fi gets right. The Science of Sci-Fi: From Warp Speed to Interstellar Travelwas a lot of fun to listen to and confirm some suspicions while learning some brand new things.

Like the fact that the universe is always expanding and accelerating and how long it would take, at a certain acceleration to reach lightspeed. Thus ... is the universe expanding at faster than light speed (FTL) at this point? The didn't address this specific point, but I'm still curious.

And that's what I really enjoyed about this, I'm still curious. It was probably good that I just listened to The Order of Time too.

She mentions quite a few science fiction books, but mostly focuses on television and movies, especially Star Trek (not a whole lot of science in Star Wars, though she does address it in the FTL section). I was impressed she referenced one of my all-time favorite shows, Community, for it's multiverse episode (which is seriously the best, please watch it).

Interestingly enough, she (and others) have actually tried to calculate what warp speed would look like and it seems to be possible, just the energy required would require pretty much all of it.

Definitely highly recommended.

4 out of 5 Stars (Recommended ... still)