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text 2017-10-28 18:24
Potentially the most disturbing/horrifying Laundry Files
The Delirium Brief - Charles Stross

I'm not that far in, but while they've always had an element of horror, with the lampshading of spy novels and the overall wit, the Laundry Files to me are more fun tentacular-horror entertainment than unsettling (though, to be utterly honest, some pretty horrific things happen in them).  Actually, The Apocalypse Codex got to me, but that's legit for some person reasons that made the evangelical pseduo-christian cult be something that is deeply deeply unsettling.

 

This one... well, things start out having gone all Pear Shaped, and Bob is playing damage control after the events... and things get more tangled from there.  I love the jibes at Trump, but without spoilers let's just say that within the first 1/8th of the book I've had an "Oh Fuck" moment.

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text 2017-09-21 19:06
techie giggling
The Jennifer Morgue - Charles Stross,Gideon Emery

I love how he snipes about power point and Apple user culture.

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review 2016-06-29 04:00
[Book Review + Giveaway] The Nightmare Stacks
The Nightmare Stacks - Charles Stross

There is so much about this series that I geek out on, it's a wonderful mix of sardonic humor, tech geekery, and tentacles from beyond.  "Case Nightmare Green" and "Jesus Phone" are phrases anyone hanging out with me for an extended period of time may hear.  Needless to say, I was both quite excited for The Nightmare Stacks and curious how a rather new side character would fare center stage.

And then I read this little snipped on Stross' blog:

"I have plans for book 7: let's just say that when the Deep Ones are anxiously offering you their assistance in dealing with your problem, you know you've got a Problem."

There might have been gleeful chortling on my part.

Of course, when writing a near present day CASE NIGHTMARE situation, there's always the risk of reality stepping in and jumping all over your plot.  Or as Stross commented on his blog, we now are in the middle of CASE NIGHTMARE TWEED.

"And in a classic example of the universe trying to obsolete my stories before publication, the UK went into total political, diplomatic, and financial meltdown last Friday. (There's a meltdown of similar proportions in the novel, but it's triggered by a much more fixable cause than a referendum-gone-wrong, namely an alien invasion.) So I guess that means "The Nightmare Stacks" is now lightweight escapism rather than a horrible threat!"

Is it wrong that I find his cuttingly sardonic books of looming horrific threat lightweight escapism regardless?

So, how did The Nightmare Stacks stack up against its predecessors?  Brilliantly.  I squealed excitedly when my review copy showed up in the mailbox, was immediately hooked by the opening lines, and then proceeded to tear through story with enthusiasm.


Alex, quite frankly, is in over his head.  This isn't exactly an unusual situation for us to encounter in the Laundry Files, but things have been getting worse since we first met Bob and the universe has not seen fit to go easy on Alex.  On the bright side, being a part of a (sensibly) paranoid top secret organization staffed with an unusual concentration of mad geniuses (sometimes more mad than genius, possibly as a side effect of the working environment) that's in the know about our impending doom means that Alex isn't completely alone.  Though he probably would be happier if said organization didn't deploy him in a role that guinea pigs and canaries would find familiar.

We've gone a bit beyond misguided cultists and the zealously inquisitive digging into things best left undisturbed.  This time, the great unknown is coming knocking on its own (and you thought Mormons were a hassle).


If you're looking at starting this book with minimal exposure to the series I recommend reading The Rhesus Chart, so at the very least you'll have some idea of who Alex is, his background, and exactly why the Laundry is in such a bother (beyond the looming CASE NIGHTMARE scenarios).  But if this book is your introduction to the Laundry Files, so be it, and I hope it inspires you to start at the beginning.  I also refuse to apologize for my overuse of parentheticals.

That being said, The Nightmare Stacks is out in the US today and Penguin Random House is providing me with a giveaway copy.  I'll keep this open until end of day July 5th.  Information collected will only be used to notify the winner and for shipping.

 

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Advance Reader Copy courtesy of Ace (Penguin RandomHouse) in exchange for an honest review; changes may exist between galley and the final edition.

Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2016/06/book-review-giveaway-nightmare-stacks.html
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review 2016-03-29 02:26
[Book Review] Arena
Arena - Holly Jennings

Competitive gaming is getting hot these days, and Arena takes it into a future with fully immersive and reactive virtual reality.  Gone are the days of competitions orchestrated by manual I/O devices like mouse and keyboard, and the rigors call for peak physical condition from the competitors.

Gladiatorial arenas of old have nothing on the Video Gaming League and RAGE.

Kali and her team enter this year's RAGE Tournament the top picks to win it all, only to meet a brutal defeat from a team no-one's heard of before.  Image is nearly as important as game play, so when their manager names Kali team captain, she assume's its no more than a publicity stunt for the novelty of the first female-led team in RAGE Tournament history.  But it turns out she's suited to the role, perhaps even better than their manager wants, and she'll need her entire team behind her with what's coming up.


Commercially, I think this book will do reasonably well.  It fulfills a number of high-interest check boxes while capitalizing on a Hunger Games like feel (only without the whole Capitol/District conflict) thanks to the brutality of the virtual reality experience and the tournament setting.

But for me, as a gamer and a martial artist, it was a bit of a miss.

I find it far easier to be negative than positive when writing a review.  If something bothers me it stands out and generally incites complaint.  If a book is amazing it leaves me grasping blindly for words.  This book came in at about the middle, some good, some not so good, and various comments about the wisdom (or lack there of) present.  In this case I made notes in the ebook as I read.

My reading notes/marginalia:
p. 40 - Speed balling, cause that's never killed anyone ever...
p.46 - Yes, seriously, who approved that?  Someone in the future didn't learn at all from past nuclear disasters that building a new one on a major fault line would be more than a little problematic?
p.48 - Well damn, guess I was right (re: speed balling).  also, the death wouldn't have been that quiet or clean... the body does not respond well to its respiratory system shutting down.
p.63 - Chris Kluwe might disagree (re: traditionally sports athletes don't have what it takes to be a video gamer)
p.129 - I'm sorry, there's no way this is a new concept or that they haven't been doing something along these lines so far (re: the revolutionary idea of training against simulations of opposing teams and their tactics)
p.167 - Um, wtf?  Are they suddenly having sex?  What is going on here?  (final conclusion, it doesn't seem that they were, but still, what just happened with their hips sinking into each other?)
p.190 - I can't help but have some love for the inclusion of bo staff.
p.190 - "So not impressed.  If he'd been shirtless, maybe." hahahahahaha
p.190 - I do think the author really fails to respect how dangerous it is to spar solid wood bo, even with protective gear (that they're not wearing).  I call shenanigans on the lack of broken bones.
p.194 - "You have no idea how much I want this."  Only the sneaking around in the back halls turns out to be a quest for pizza.  Love it.
p.241 - Again, I'm not buying this.  Yeah, publicity is good, but mental and physical well being needed to excel in a demanding sport does not pair well with nightly heavy intoxication and clubbing.  It would effect performance.
p.261 - Of course, where would gaming culture be without rape jokes.  Not unexpected, but /sigh
p.265 - Yes, people will watch it if it becomes a torture fest, so they're right to worry.
p.317 - Oh hi, Neo.

Going into the setting there are just a number of things I just don't really buy.  Among other things, I'm just not convinced that Kali is the first ever female team captain.  In a co-ed league, I don't buy it.  Even if it was just a marketing scheme, someone would have thought of it beforehand, and I fully expect there would have been at least a handful of all-female teams.  Similarly, I don't buy the idea that there's such a difference between "gamers" and "professional athletes," especially since everyone playing on a professional level effectively is a professional athlete and martial artist.  And the idea that they'd be required to go out, club till the wee hours of dawn, and heavily imbibe drugs and alcohol every night for the public eye?  No.  I'd buy some of that, but every night is pretty ridiculous with the training regime they are expected to maintain as well as their performance as athletes.

From my reading notes, I clearly was unsurprised at someone overdosing but also felt that the characterizations of gaming and celebrity cultures weren't too far fetched.  The ending has Kali going a bit too Neo for me.  And if you don't get it, go watch The Matrix.

For whatever reason, my biggest complaint is Rooke and Kali full contact sparring with bo (and yes, they were wooden staves).  No.  Just, no.  That doesn't leave inconsequential bruises, that breaks ribs and hands.

The book did make me laugh, and hallelujah, there were no love triangles.  No love triangles is worth at least a full star bump in the rating.  Light read with a strong YA feel.

Advance Reader Copy courtesy of Ace (Berkley Publishing Group) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review; changes may exist between galley and the final edition.

Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2016/03/book-review-arena.html
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review 2015-10-26 20:07
[Book Review] The Peripheral
The Peripheral - William Gibson

Rather late review for the September Speculative Fiction read.

The Peripheral could be considered a successor to Stephenson's Snow Crash, with it's blurring of lines between meat space and cyber space.  The country and economy as we know it isn't quite there, with business and money carving new territories, fabbing and building consuming the manufacturing infrastructure, and a blending of internet and virtual reality.  Instead of a hacker samauri and a skatergirl we have a veterans with PTSD and amputations, a younger sister with a knack for virtual reality, and money from the future playing its own game.

Discussion Fodder:

  • Did the characters make a Faustian bargain (regardless of the lottery involvement or not)?  Who's the devil in this story?
  • Who and what in the story is real?
  • Do the actions in Flynne's time and Netherton's time actually have no effect on each other's future/past?  By the nature of the forking into alternate continuas, do you think there are multiple Flynnes/Burtons/Conners etc?  What do you think happens when one alternate ends?  What about Griff/Lowbeer?  What would be the impetus to interact with continua?
  • What do you think of the peripherals?  The fact that "At the cellular level, as human as we are"?
  • Janice describes Flynne as a good person, regardless of what trouble she's gotten herself into, because "you are not doing this crazy shit, whatever it is, in order to make yourself rich," but to benefit others. 
  • What do you think constitutes an "evolved culture of mass surveillance"?
  • What do you think about Flynne bringing Conner in to a peripheral ahead of Burton?  Is access to a peripheral a kindness or a cruelty to Conner?
  • "The Jackpot" refers to a sort of rolling event or "climate" where things just get worse to the point of gradual collapse, then die-off, and a climbing out as discoveries and innovation provide the glue to hold society together.  How realistic or far-fetched does it sound to you?
  • When asked what he does, what people do in the future, Wilf responds with "Publicity."  Does that summarize what people seem to do in his time?  What about in our time?
  • Do you think that after everything they managed to "save" the continua stub that Flynne lives in?  Or do you think they're still headed to the Jackpot?
Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2015/10/book-review-peripheral.html
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