The Information Rothdas book review RSS
3.0 Stars
1-1-2015

A decent enough book, but its subject matter is almost exactly covered by a Computer Science/Electrical Engineering degree. The interesting bits were in the ancient history; a monk who discovered binary encoding in the 1500's, a Mesopotamian curse that all those who have not come to logic may live in everlasting filth, and the early flag-based telegraph system that France used before the electric version was invented.




The Girl who circumnavigated fairy land in a ship of her own making
3.0 Stars
1-1-2015




The Sand Castle
7.0 Stars
1-1-2015




An Unofficial Rose
7.0 Stars
1-1-2015

In this story one of the members of a group dies, thus freeing up her long time partner. The majority of the book is the maneuvering that the characters do to take advantage of this free relationship slot, and see it filled according to their desires or what they think is best. The various concerns are as devious and interconnected as any game of Diplomacy. Reading this book it is hard not wonder whether Britain conquered half the world because it's citizens were so conniving, or whether that trait is a result of their imperial experience. As always Iris Murdoch does a beautiful job of laying out a social graph at the start of the story, just a wonderful flood of info and characterization.




Asteros Polyp
3.0 Stars
1-1-2015




Call for the Dead
5.0 Stars
1-1-2015




The Tailor of Panama
3.0 Stars
1-1-2015




Seraphina
3.0 Stars
1-1-2015

An enjoyable and well written book, though quite definitely meant for the young adult set.




Wolfhound Century
3.0 Stars
1-1-2015

An inventive and mostly enjoyable russian themed fantasy/spy novel. One of the reviewers compared it to Le Carre's work, which is just mind boggling wrong. LeCarre is all about deep psychological study, while in this the characters are all fairly straightfoward. I found this to have much more in common with the Thomas Convenant series, with it's alternating periods of danger and tranquility, and the warring cosmic forces of nature and corruption. Even the golems are very similar to the ones from Donaldson's work.

While this isn't a huge deal, I would also point out the the mystery the protagonist is sent to investigate is just glaringly bad if you think about it for a bit. The solution to the great mystery is written down at the top of the relevant file, the relevant file is in the hands of the relevant officer, and the relevant officer is marked down in the central computer from when she checked out the file. I feel like the conspirators really weren't trying very hard.




The Spy who came in from the Cold
5.0 Stars
1-1-2015

A delightfully bleak book. At any point during the story you can ask yourself "Are things going to get worse?" and the answer will be "Yes!"




Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by Scott B. Smith
5.0 Stars
1-1-2015

Another one of LeCarre's classic spy novels. The hero is Smiley, a wonderfully understated British spy. His approach to concealing his intentions and not giving info away is to always be completely gray and benignly bland. He goes through the novel not raising his voice, asking a series of mostly friendly and harmless questions, and politely mirroring the people he comes in contact with. And at the end he has penetrated to the heart of the conspiracy and woven an unbreakable net around his target. Has one of the most nearly happy endings in any of LeCarre's books.




Teleportation Accident by Scott B. Smith
5.0 Stars
1-1-2015




The Honorable Schoolboy
5.0 Stars
1-1-2015

Another bleak LeCarre novel. This book represents something of a transition from his early works. In those books the Western spies might use truly terrible means in a sort of Special Circumstances way, but they were at least fighting against Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia, and there is a sense that basically anything would be preferrable to the enemy. In this book it is not at all clear who the enemy is, and the focus is more on internal corruption, greed, and self-serving, and the human cost paid by individuals caught up in these struggles. In some ways it reminds me of the Wire, and in general the characters who get caught up by the intelligence services fare about as well those drawn into the criminal justice system in the Wire.




The Red Knight
3.0 Stars
1-1-2015

I asked my friend for trashy fantasy books, and he gave me this. He was right on the money. This is basically the novelization of a D&D campaign, something like Keep on the Borderlands, and it works for about the first 300 pages. There are a few editing missteps ("ears" instead of "years")", and a few descriptions which weren't really thought all the way though (describing a pretty lady with long eye lashes, he writes that ~"she could lick her eyelashes with her tongue", which raises all sorts of questions). Overall though the first part is a good fantasy yarn. Unfortunately the book goes on for another 300 pages after that, and the adventures get very repetitive, and then there is another 70 pages of denouement/setup for the next book. It's all a bit much and ruined any chance the book had for a 4 star rating.




Vampire$
3.0 Stars
1-1-2015

An adventure book about hunting vampires in the 1980's. Has weird gender and religious politics, and a hilarious eroge interlude in the middle of the book, but the action sequences are of an enjoyable quality.




Personality Disorders and Other Stories by Juan Jose Millas Garcia
3.0 Stars
1-1-2015




Sharps by K.J. Parker
5.0 Stars
1-1-2015

A delightful book. At its best it takes the gritty-sword-and-shield action of Glen Cook and combines it with something approaching the fecund and inventive world building of Ian Banks. I'm not sure that the plot quite holds together under examination, but the individual scenes are generally great fun to read. In particular, Parker does a great job with the fencing scenes which are the heart of the book.




MM9 by Hiroshi Yamamoto
3.0 Stars
1-1-2015

Short stories about the government agency that fights Kaiju (Godzilla type monsters) which periodically invade Japan. The stories are written like Saturday morning cartoons, using light and broad strokes. The stories are generally enjoyable but not too deep.




Godslayer (The Sundering, #2) by Jacqueline Carey
5.0 Stars
1-1-2015

I know I am giving up all of my GoodReads cred by saying this, but I liked this book a lot. To repeat my review of _BaneWreaker_, this is a well done Sauron apologetic which re-arranges the original story in interesting ways while still managing to be its own tale.

As a small example, take the cover page of the book. You have your generic fantasy title, which ends up referring to something completely different than you would think. You have a noble white stallion (a Shadowfax analog), which used to be our protagonist's favorite horse, until Gandalf stole it and brainwashed it. And then you have the Gandalf-analog, who is a complete ass. He is like the snooty, too-perfect British suitor in a Rom-Com; there is basically no scene where you are not rooting for him to get stabbed.

This book isn't on the same level as Beowulf/Grendel, but it is still a fast-paced and enjoyable read that manages to turn its fantasy-cliche vices into virtues.




Banewreaker (The Sundering, #1) by Jacqueline Carey
5.0 Stars
1-1-2015

This is by far the best Sauron apologetic that I have read. While there is not an exact mapping, the characters and events in the book are clearly modeled after the The Hobbit and The LoTR, with just a bit of Covenant and other fantasy mixed in. However, the focus of the story has shifted completely, so that the reader is in the boots of the Orcs/Banelords/Dusky Easterners, and facing the threat of renewed Gondorian/Elven aggression.

Despite drawing so directly on Tolkien, this is still very much its own story. It presents a fantasy world closer to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, where both sides have grievances that go back to the First Age of Man. And the Mordor side is never a caricature; the author does a good job of portraying their affections, values, and viewpoint in such a way that you root for them at least as much as opposing side. The various events and set-pieces have also been moved around, so that while you might know the events that will happen, you are not sure of when they will happen, or who will fill which role. For example, mid-way through the book I was terribly anxious that the Gandalf-analog would carry out a Helm's Deep type charge from behind, ruining the plans of our heroes and their orcish army. Something else happened, but still, half the fun of the book is re-arranging the various puzzle pieces of known events and trying to guess how they will be arranged into the story.

Another selling point to the book is that it is much more straight forward than the original. Characters are clear and distinctive, and events move at a fast pace. Rather than rambling on about elven poetry, this book dives straight into the strategic/magical balance of power. Altogether delightful, assuming you are into this sort of thing.




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