Friday, March 24, 2017

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2)A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been looking forward to this sequel for some time and I feel kind of sad it STILL took me so long to get a copy of it! It follows two of the most interesting characters from The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Lovelace and Pepper, but it does so by filling in the gaps, jumping from the past to the future following the end of the first book.

Do not expect a straight continuation of it, though. This is more of a very interesting dual-character study full of straight commentary and rather interesting AI/Alien/Human interactions.

Lovelace/Sidra and Jane/Pepper are both outcasts and are hiding from the law for what appear to be very stupid reasons from the reader's PoV, but it's all about context. It might as well be about same-sex relationships, but indeed, this is much more interesting for a SF fan: a love story for an AI in an illegal puppet body and the intense relationship she has with an outlaw techie. :)

Their histories are quite the ride.

Don't let me simplify this too much for you because we've got a huge cloning consortium, continuing tragedy, loss, starvation, and love for the only friend, an AI, who is lost... on one side of the coin.

And then we have the search for identity and sensation and the deepest need to be free to reprogram oneself and live the fullest life that one can.

Together or separate, I think I could follow these two character arcs forever. It's the writing more than anything else. The world-building is fantastic, the kinds of aliens diverse, but it's the depth of character exploration than cinches the deal.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Antony and CleopatraAntony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish you all the joys of the worm.

You know, for the longest time, I had placed this of all of Shakespeare's plays among the highest in my estimation, for where else could I have so many references to melting or even have an early punk band write a song about it? (Melt, Siouxsie and the Banshees)

Indeed, Let Rome in Tiber melt! I really enjoyed the triumvirate of powers, the play on politics and the whole chaos of such an equal footing between Ceasar, Antony, and Cleopatra. Can we blame the woman? Should we rather blame the man? Could it just be the ego and pride of Ceasar we should point a finger at? The whole world was at all of their feet, and yet all of their egos were too big for the Earth to hold them.

Honestly, the first portion of the play was easily the worst and I didn't love it nearly as much as my first reading. Rather, I enjoyed the play of words and the references to the classic legends surrounding Cleopatra and the rug more than the actual revolving scenes and action.

This isn't quite true for the unfurling of the real tragedy, however. I did love that as much as I had remembered.

But I can't, in all fairness, keep the last star just for the strength of the end, so I struck it. I let Eros be my scholar.

Still, not dead, not dead.

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Waking Hell (Station #2)Waking Hell by Al Robertson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm about to go squee a gonzo squee in this review. :)

I'm a huge Idea fan for SF and I might even be a bigger world-building fan for SF, but when you throw all of that into a huge pile of post-singularity super-futuristic data communes where people can live their lives as data "fetches" or go through the process of putting a suit of meat back on you, it gets really funky.

Better yet, space-station spanning AIs that are more like gods than anything else, playing games and knocking each other off, or just having the tale continue where the last one left off, the aftermath of a war in heaven where all the little AIs rose up and ousted the big AIs and our hapless noir characters are thrown in the center of the intrigue.

HOWEVER. This book does not continue directly from that point. The aftermath is the Totality, and we've got a new set of interesting characters to follow and see through yet ANOTHER mind-blowing finale.

I can respect this. It's really hard to find a non-contrived way to throw our favorite characters from the last book into a situation quite this huge, AGAIN.

Fortunately, Leila and Cassiel's teaming up was an awesome choice and I rocked to the tale of parsing out the mystery of Leila's brother's death and the enormous whammy of Deodatus, (an AI god, of course,) and just what the hell is happening on the two Stations and Earth, itself. The story gets big and badass.

From a sheer imaginative standpoint, I give this book top marks, but the story is also solid as hell, too.

Where else can you have a hard time determining what's really real or a virtual construct, flying through data streams and fighting of true data bugs, deploying viruses in the shapes of skulls and flies, or having your memory broken up and sold to the highest bidders upon your demise? I mean, damn! This kind of thing blows me away with so much coolness! Nothing is ever really explained, but who cares. This is a smart book for smart followers of SF and if you haven't been reading Al Robertson's stuff, yet, then you're missing out on a real achievement of the imagination.

I suspect the author is going all out to write what he most wants to read, and I applaud the hell out of it. I can only wish that such books will gain tons of popularity because I could do with a LOT MORE of this post-cyberpunk post-singularity fantastic goodness. :)

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So yeah, I know I'm late to the bandwagon here and I nearly promised myself I wouldn't read it just because it was YA and super popular and blah blah blah, but I got over my stupidity and read it, even if I'm nearly 5 years late to the party.

And what did I think?

Ah, crap.

It's one of those near-perfect books.

Need I say more? Perhaps.

It punches me in the feels even when I feel like I've hardened myself against all this damn pathos and humor and hard looks at mortality and this unswerving existential courage.

It's smart and it doesn't hold back and while it's written from a teen PoV, it's just real and heartbreaking and real. Yes, it's the ideal of Art breaking through the Art and stumbling into Life. Only, it doesn't really stumble. It kinda does a wheelie and breathes hard at the same time.

I was fully prepared to read this and go... Eh? What was the big deal about? I was fully prepared to shake my head and go... so silly. But no, I was proven wrong and even that super popular stuff can also be good, deep down, too. Wow.

Hello, cancer.

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Wicked WondersWicked Wonders by Ellen Klages
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I've never read Ellen Klages before, but I can definitely say that she has a talent for understated and richly-drawn character tales.

These aren't meant to blow you away with reveals, but they are subtle and powerful explorations of youth (mostly) and they're definitely good for nostalgia.

A great deal of them will have slight magical twists, but I've got the impression that they're mostly nostalgic histories of Americana. It's mild and slightly subversive and the kinds of reveals are almost always social or personality.

It's nice.

Not particularly the kind of fiction I generally go for, and I generally liked the future SF in this collection better, especially the one about a baby on Mars, but I can easily say that all of these stories are very well written. Quality. :)

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

My Man Jeeves (Jeeves, #1)My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Slapstick Aristocracy? I guess that pretty much sums it up. The butler is always smarter and more ingenious than anyone else in the book. :)

It's pretty and pretty much the beginning of all other similar writings and imitators, and for that, I really appreciate it. Moreso, it's funny and still relevant even if it's just a tad dated. We've still got tons of historical novel interest, but this one was timely for its day in 1919.

The timing and the idiocy and the fairly complicated plotting in the background really made poor Wooster shine as the idjit that he is. I heartily recommend this for anyone interested in the humorous classics.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently, #2)The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had to re-read this because I'm insane but I'm happy to be so because I still loved it.

Total truth time: it's not quite as funny or as sharp in the individual zinger lines as Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, but the long-running story gags are fantastically wicked and cruel and even profoundly sad.

It's also more of an adventure tale for Dirk later on, but primarily, it's all a mystery. Sometimes, the plot is as much of a mystery, too, but I don't care. :) After the rising of new gods in Asgard and the fate of soooo many pebbles, and the dark, dark fate of a Coke machine, who really cares? The novel is brilliant and creative and so darkly funny. It's enough to make me despair for modern literature, and this came out in '88!

Here's another awesome tidbit. It's the novel that I first thought of when I first read American Gods. All the greatness of seeing Odin on the page or Thor blowing up an airport is all here and the characterizations are brilliant.

Can I even say that it's even more brilliant after knowing the legends much better? You bet I can! I read this when I was 14 years old the first time and let's be frank... I didn't know crap. I learned most of what I knew about Thor from this book and the fact that there was some silly Marvel comic that I wasn't even tempted to read was about it. And now? Soooooo Nice! :) Even the little In-Jokes about the gods are all here. It's a bit more erudite than I expected it to be. :)

But it's also so funny! Do I love eagles even more now? You bet! Am I even more annoyed with Yuppies? You bet! Do I want to run out and get some 300 count sheets and snuggle in them, perhaps get an eyepatch and avoid big strapping men with hammers? You bet!

Poor Dirk. I have to admit that his Horoscope is always dead-on. :)

My one complaint is that there wasn't a whole series made out of this. I still wonder just how amazingly cool it could have been to have a full bookcase full of these and point to it as the most amazing thing EVAH.


Some authors just overflow with goodness. Douglas Adams was one of them. *sigh*

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