Mar 072014
 

Here is my commentary on Chapters 8 & 9 of A Feast For Crows.
For those of you who don’t know what I am doing with these, I have been reading the various Game of Thrones novels for the first time and posting my thoughts over in the tor.com A Read of Ice and Fire.
This has been quite the interesting experience as it is a very odd way to read a book (or even odder a set of books). Since Google is awash with Game of Thrones spoilers, this limits my ease of look-up of details from earlier books. Funny how quickly the internet has become an external reference point/expanded memory. On the other hand, I have eBook editions and that helps balance things out as it is wildly easier to search them than paper monsters.
Since I am reading these for the first time, don’t post any comments about events later in the series, but also be warned that each chapters posts will contain all the details I find in the chapter or happen to think of as I am reading. I may even put in some extra material that I think I have figured out that I either don’t put in the tor read or white out there to not spoil others reads who may not have thought of such things.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 3:33 pm
Mar 022014
 

Here is my commentary on Chapters 6 & 7 of A Feast For Crows.
For those of you who don’t know what I am doing with these, I have been reading the various Game of Thrones novels for the first time and posting my thoughts over in the tor.com A Read of Ice and Fire.
This has been quite the interesting experience as it is a very odd way to read a book (or even odder a set of books). Since Google is awash with Game of Thrones spoilers, this limits my ease of look-up of details from earlier books. Funny how quickly the internet has become an external reference point/expanded memory. On the other hand, I have eBook editions and that helps balance things out as it is wildly easier to search them than paper monsters.
Since I am reading these for the first time, don’t post any comments about events later in the series, but also be warned that each chapters posts will contain all the details I find in the chapter or happen to think of as I am reading. I may even put in some extra material that I think I have figured out that I either don’t put in the tor read or white out there to not spoil others reads who may not have thought of such things.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 12:39 pm
Feb 202014
 

Here is my commentary on Chapter 5 of A Feast For Crows.
For those of you who don’t know what I am doing with these, I have been reading the various Game of Thrones novels for the first time and posting my thoughts over in the tor.com A Read of Ice and Fire.
This has been quite the interesting experience as it is a very odd way to read a book (or even odder a set of books). Since Google is awash with Game of Thrones spoilers, this limits my ease of look-up of details from earlier books. Funny how quickly the internet has become an external reference point/expanded memory. On the other hand, I have eBook editions and that helps balance things out as it is wildly easier to search them than paper monsters.
Since I am reading these for the first time, don’t post any comments about events later in the series, but also be warned that each chapters posts will contain all the details I find in the chapter or happen to think of as I am reading. I may even put in some extra material that I think I have figured out that I either don’t put in the tor read or white out there to not spoil others reads who may not have thought of such things.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 1:01 pm
Feb 172014
 

Rather than waiting until the end of the book and posting a giant mega-post like I’ve done for A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords I’m going to post my comments about the chapters in a more frequent fashion.
For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, I have been reading the various Game of Thrones novels for the first time and posting my thoughts over in the tor.com A Read of Ice and Fire.
This has been quite the interesting experience as it is a very odd way to read a book (or even odder a set of books). Since Google is awash with Game of Thrones spoilers, this limits my ease of look-up of details from earlier books. Funny how quickly the internet has become an external reference point/expanded memory. On the other hand, I have eBook editions and that helps balance things out as it is wildly easier to search them than paper monsters.
Since I am reading these for the first time, don’t post any comments about events later in the series, but also be warned that each chapters posts will contain all the details I find in the chapter or happen to think of as I am reading. I may even put in some extra material that I think I have figured out that I either don’t put in the tor read or white out there to not spoil others reads who may not have thought of such things.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 8:30 am
Feb 132014
 

We finished “A Storm of Swords” over on the tor.com read through. I’ve been reading along at the same rate as the read along–roughly one or two chapters a week.
I’ve adopted the following reading process for this book:
On Friday morning I read the next chapter and jot down thoughts. Then, when Leigh makes the post, I check to see how many other chapters (if any) will be in this weeks read. I read through Leigh’s comments on the first chapter. Then I read the other chapters.
this is proving to be an interesting reading methodology. It is really different than my usual mode of reading (read large portions quickly). I find that reading the chapters in these discrete segments tends to blur out some of the details from earlier sections. However, mulling about a chapter or two for a week as I wait for the next Friday, tends to sharpen some of the small details within a given chapter. Interesting effects.

Below the cut are the posts I made over at tor gathered together. The format is a link to the particular full article on tor followed by my comments. I think that for A Feast of Crows I may post these a tad more often as this was a rather large post to gather up.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 9:43 pm
Jan 272014
 

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is a wonderful novel. That it also happens to be Ann Leckie’s debut novel adds even more wonder as it is quite a book for anyone to have created.
Ancillary Justice is a quest set in a mystery/thriller set in a space opera set in a dual first person narrative. In the present, Breq, tells us the story of her quest to find a weapon with which she can fight the Lord of the Radch. We gradually find out what this means and who and what Breq is. In the past, Breq also narrates the events that led her to the present and we see what she was like. The flow of the book is done quite well with these inter-leavings and they each add to our knowledge of the story and the world that Leckie is building.
In the past, we learn (quickly) that Breq was once a part of a distributed consciousness. Her point of view is contained in multiple bodies all of which are ancillaries for a military star ship. Leckie explores this mode very well as we see a scene through multiple vantages but within a discrete tale.
Another very interesting story methodology used is that the language of the Radchaai does not usually use gendered pronouns. Breq has to make an effort to assign pronouns when she is in non-Radch space and her default mode is to use the pronoun she. I found this really interesting in that at first, I kept trying to figure out the gender of whomever Breq was thinking about. Eventually, I was able to relax my mental background processing and go with it, but it displayed how immersed our culture is in pronoun assignment. This, even more than the multiple-consciousness, really helped to underline that the Radch was a very different culture from our own. A very interesting and simple way of injecting a feeling of alienness into a story.
This was a very enjoyable book and I am very much looking forward to more of Leckie’s work. Highly recommended.

 Posted by at 10:22 am
Jan 132014
 

Just for the record, I have no problem at all with people posting a list of their works that are eligible for nomination for the prior year. Given the sheer volume of things that are published, broadcast or performed in a given year, these can be quite helpful. It can sometimes be quite difficult to determine the eligibility status of a particular piece of work–especially shorter works.
As long as they don’t subscribe to an Elbonian spam service, broadcasting their works along with offers to amazing blue pills, award eligibility lists are OK with me.

 Posted by at 8:29 pm
Dec 142013
 

Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis is a wonderful, razor tight combination of noir and physics-both meta and quantum.
When Ian first posted the idea for the novel on his blog in February of 2012, I thought it sounded great as I am very much a fan of Chandler and my expectations were high. I was not let down at all. The book is fantastic; the writing is lovely.

We begin with the death of the angel Gabriel. Gabriel was one of the Seraphim and was very dead as his reentry set the sky aglow and drifting bits cause an odd snow in Australia. Bayliss, one of our narrators notes this and reminisces about Gabriel that:

He wasn’t just lovely, he was the kind of lovely that could make a bishop stomp his miter and curse a long blue streak on Easter Sunday.

Bayliss is also an angel although he has bummed about on Earth and has adopted the mannerisms of a hard-boiled detective. Hard boiled, but like the best of them, he seems to have a soft spot for women in a tight fix and a desire for knight-errantry. That and a touch of rye in his coffee.

During the light show of Gabriel’s fall, Bayliss clues us in to why the humans moving around him with downcast eyes aren’t noticing much:

But nobody looks up anymore. That stopped soon after the last satellites died. In the minds of most monkeys, thirty years of meteor showers was weak tea compared to the loss of decent long-term weather forecasts.

This also gives us a nice piece of world-building. The story happens in the not too distant future (50 or so years I would guess) and there has been a war that destroyed the satellites and prevents any new ones from the debris layer. From the early blurbs I was expecting the noir, the angels and the mystery, but Tregillis also mixes the fantasy elements with a strong dose of physics and math:

The light of a distant quasar twinkled with chromatic aberration as the fine-structure constant gave him a farewell salute from the twenty-first decimal place.

So, is the book fantasy or SF? I would have to go with a lovely confluence of the two.

With Gabriel gone, Bayliss starts trailing “a mugg with a bit of high-class fluff on his arm.” The “fluff” is Molly, who will be our second narrative voice and will also turn out to not be so fluffy:

Curls like brushed copper fluttered beneath the brim of her cloche. Her stride was firm and purposeful, like that of a CEO or dominatrix, moving without hesitation on the slick snow-dusted paving stones. She walked like the world was made of red carpet.

Molly turns into a strong independent voice through the course of the book. This is a departure from the classic noir line where the woman is usually there for the detective to react to or react for. Indeed, it’s a departure even from the majority of modern fiction. I addition to being a sharp operator in her own right, Molly is fully fleshed out as a character. She makes mistakes but then she takes action for those mistakes, Nothing passive about Molly.

As the novel progresses, Bayliss operates on Earth and in the meta space of the Pleroma where the angels male their homes out of their own desires. At one point he cases Gabriel’s joint and encounters some visitors. A classic noir scene, but not a classic location:

The newcomers were rummaging Gabby’s collection of sonnets; he’d liked to carve them into the crusts of neutron stars. Next they’d be cutting the mattress apart and pouring out the coffee cans. There were two of them. Each girded the heavens with diaphanous wings more transparent than a rich widow’s grief.

This juxtaposition of classic elements and complete originals continues through the story. In addition to the little details, you’ll encounter this lovely structure in the overall plot. Surprises aplenty, but I won’t say much about those.

I started the book here in Rochester and then read a big chunk on the plane and finished it on December 7th. That happened to be my 50th birthday and reading this was an excellent birthday treat to myself. Later that day, in the casino at the Bellagio the cocktail waitress asked what we wanted and I ordered a vodka gimlet. I tried it for flavor and it was just as I imagined and so I sat there thinking about cosmic strings and words more beautiful than ice on fire. 2013 isn’t quite over, but I think I’ll go ahead and call it for Something More Than Night being my favorite book of the year.

(For one last fun note, check out Ian’s glossary of noir terms here. While not needed for understanding the book, it is a fun and useful list in and of itself.)

 Posted by at 8:03 pm
Oct 172013
 

The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White is a book of many threads. Two threads are the points of view of Phil and Ren. Phil is an Incrementalist, a member of a secret group who try to gradually improve the world by changing things for the better. A nudge here, a nudge there. They are also, functionally immortal. That’s a few more threads.
For you pleasure, there are also explorations of consciousness vs. memory vs. personality and the role of fear in causing damage to the bindings of society. You’ll get some observations on poker and on good meals with good conversation. Watch for cards as they get palmed and people who may not be as annoying as others have made them out to be.
Brust and White weave together a tale out of these slowly gathered threads. If you want to see the tapestry that emerges, you’ll have to pay attention. This isn’t a book that allows for a shallow reading. You get thrown in the deep end and the action starts quicker than you may even notice.
I enjoyed the journey contained in the weaving of the tale and won’t take that journey away from you with a bunch of explanation of the details that you should really experience as you reach them.
As I read this, I heard the sounds of pigeons under the chestnut trees on the Champs-Elysées, of purring cats and the smells of old bookstores and chocolate. I’ll leave it to you to find out why and just remark that this is a very good book.

 Posted by at 9:14 pm
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