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review 2017-07-05 17:10
Reamde - Neal Stephenson 
Reamde - Neal Stephenson

Gold farming in MMPORG, and game building, veterans and draft-dodgers, a British writer of fantasy with exquisitely hand-crafted languages and cultures and also an American fantasist of the most prolific stripe, Seattle hipsters and Iowan wind farmers, private jets and slow boats from China: everything and everyone has a foil in this book, but since it's over nine hundred pages, an exhaustive catalog would be really long, and far less entertaining. Stephenson manages to take a Clancy-like scenario, give it a Dickensian and international cast, keep up a Dan Brown kind of momentum even as he takes time for National Treasure sort of thinking. Lots of thinking.

 

And also I happened to notice a particular device Stephenson used to good effect: the first time a name is introduced he spells it kind of phonetically, the way the character heard it, but when the character actually appears on stage, as it were, the name is spelled as it is using the Roman alphabet and English transliteration. It's important because there are quite a few people with nonEnglish names and nonRoman writing. In the same way he keeps the plot going without taking the time to explain everything: eventually all becomes clear for a character without a lot of telling. I don't usually notice technical aspects of a novel's construction, but at over 900 pages I had a fair number of opportunities to ponder whilst doing other things which were not reading.

 

So, the upshot: an incredibly entertaining book that one can feel smug about reading. Recommended for ereaders because of the heaviness and awkwardness of holding a bound copy.

 

Library copy 

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review 2017-06-22 06:52
Review: Zodiac by Neal Stephenson
Zodiac - Neal Stephenson

Zodiac is the first book I’ve read by Neal Stephenson, an author I see mentioned fairly often, often with mixed reviews. My own reaction to this particular book is a little mixed. 

 

The title, Zodiac, refers to a type of motorized raft the characters used. The story is set in Boston and is told from the first-person perspective of a character who tries to catch, publicize, and prevent corporations from dumping toxic chemicals into the Boston Harbor.  Naturally the big, powerful corporation people aren’t happy and don’t take his interference lying down. 

 

The book is probably better classified as a Thriller than as Science Fiction. There was at least one small science fiction element but, for the most part, it seemed entirely based on technology and scientific knowledge from the 1980’s, when the book was published.  There’s a decent amount of science, usually explained well enough for the layman to understand, and I never felt like I was reading infodumps.  I learned some things, and I liked that. 

 

On the other hand, the story itself just wasn’t that appealing to me. Since the book is more story-driven than character-driven, it was hard to be too enthusiastic about it if I wasn’t enthusiastic about the story itself.  I liked the main character well enough, but I never felt attached, and I didn’t feel much interest in the other characters at all. 

 

As far as entertainment level, this was pretty middle-of-the-road for me. There were parts when I did feel more eager to learn what would happen next but, mostly, I didn’t feel any compulsion to keep reading when I had other things to do.  Fortunately, this was a pretty short book.  If it had been stretched out into a longer book, I might have had more trouble making it to the end.

 

Next Book

I’ll be continuing on to the fourth Temeraire book with Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik.

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text 2017-05-01 12:44
Anathem - DNF
Anathem - Neal Stephenson

Abandoned during the prologue, because a book that needs an explanation of place names and currencies and a glossary of terms before the story even starts is not going to be a good audio experience.

 

This came from the box of random audiobooks on CD that were loaned to me from a friend who loves audio but has very different tastes than I do. This is an odd choice, because it's not at all what she'd normally read. The synopsis sounded good, and this might very well be an enjoyable read, but clearly this would be best suited to a bound version, not audio. 

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url 2017-03-27 16:49
10 [Science Fiction] Books You Pretend to Have Read (And Why You Should Really Read Them
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
Dune - Frank Herbert
Foundation (Foundation, #1) - Isaac Asimov
Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
1984 - George Orwell
Last and First Men and Star Maker - Olaf Stapledon
The Long Tomorrow - Leigh Brackett
Dhalgren - Samuel R. Delany
Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
Source: io9.gizmodo.com/5924625/10-science-fiction-novels-you-pretend-to-have-read-and-why-you-should-actually-read-them
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text 2017-01-21 08:58
First Book Loot for 2017!

 

 
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New Arrivals at appear Midu Reads as the new year starts. I have 3 nonfiction books in the pile & am really excited about those! You can also see Assail by Ian C. Esselmont, a Joe Abercombie, Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, and  Monster Island by David Wellington--all of which are going to be awesome. There's also Dragon Horse by Peter Ward, which I bought because a) shiny, b) hardcover, c)it had the words, epic, fantasy, & China written on it!
 

Book Synopses

 

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1. Dragon Horse by Peter Ward

 

"Set in ancient China, two brothers fight the classic battle between good and evil as the Shadow-without-name attempts to break free from eternal imprisonment by utilizing the strength and power of the famed dragon horses. Rokshan and An-Lushan are drawn into this centuries-old struggle, along with a young girl destined to become the Spellweaver of her nomadic tribe.
 

As An-Lushan is pulled towards the dark, Rokshan must embark upon a dangerous journey and learn the innermost secrets of the dragons."

 

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2. Assail by Ian C. Esselmont

 

"Tens of thousands of years of ice is melting, and the land of Assail, long a byword for menace and inaccessibility, is at last yielding its secrets. Tales of gold discovered in the region's north circulate in every waterfront dive and sailor's tavern, and now countless adventurers and fortune-seekers have set sail in search of riches. All these adventurers have to guide them are legends and garbled tales of the dangers that lie in wait -- hostile coasts, fields of ice, impassable barriers and strange, terrifying creatures. But all accounts concur that the people of the north meet all trespassers with the sword. And beyond are rumoured to lurk Elder monsters out of history's very beginnings." Read more.

 

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3. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

 

"Cryptonomicon zooms all over the world, careening conspiratorially back and forth between two time periods--World War II and the present. Our 1940s heroes are the brilliant mathematician Lawrence Waterhouse, crypt analyst extraordinaire, and gung-ho, morphine-addicted marine Bobby Shaftoe. They're part of Detachment 2702, an Allied group trying to break Axis communication codes while simultaneously preventing the enemy from figuring out that their codes have been broken. Their job boils down to layer upon layer of deception. Dr. Alan Turing is also a member of 2702, and he explains the unit's strange workings to Waterhouse. "When we want to sink a convoy, we send out an observation plane first... Of course, to observe is not its real duty--we already know exactly where the convoy is. Its real duty is to be observed... Then, when we come round and sink them, the Germans will not find it suspicious." Read more.

 
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4. The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Obsession, Commerce, and Adventure by Adam Leith Gollner

 

"Tasty, lethal, hallucinogenic, and medicinal – fruits have led nations into wars, fueled dictatorships, and even lured us into new worlds. Adam Leith Gollner weaves business, science, and travel into a riveting narrative about one of earth’s most desired foods." Read more.
 

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5. A Buzz in the Meadow: The Natural History of a French Farm by Dave Goulson

 

"In A Buzz in the Meadow, Goulson returns to tell the tale of how he bought a derelict farm in the heart of rural France. Over the course of a decade, on thirty-three acres of meadow, he created a place for his beloved bumblebees to thrive. But other creatures live there too, myriad insects of every kind, many of which Goulson had studied before in his career as a biologist. You'll learn how a deathwatch beetle finds its mate, why butterflies have spots on their wings, and see how a real scientist actually conducts his experiments." Read more.
 
 
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6. Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

 

Betrayed by his family and left for dead, Prince Yarvi, reluctant heir to a divided kingdom, has vowed to reclaim a throne he never wanted.


But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself - all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of a hard, cold world, he cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he has sharpened his mind to a deadly edge.


Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast, he finds they can help him more than any noble could. Even so, Yarvi's path may end as it began - in twists, traps and tragedy...

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7. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

 

In An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, Col. Hadfield takes readers deep into his years of training and space exploration to show how to make the impossible possible. Through eye-opening, entertaining stories filled with the adrenaline of launch, the mesmerizing wonder of spacewalks, and the measured, calm responses mandated by crises, he explains how conventional wisdom can get in the way of achievement-and happiness. His own extraordinary education in space has taught him some counterintuitive lessons: don't visualize success, do care what others think, and always sweat the small stuff. Read more.

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8. Monster Island by David Wellington

 

It's one month after a global disaster. The most "developed" nations of the world have fallen to the shambling zombie masses. Only a few pockets of humanity survive — in places rife with high-powered weaponry, such as Somalia. In New York City, the dead walk the streets, driven by an insatiable hunger for all things living. One amongst them is different; though he shares their appetites he has retained his human intelligence. Alone among the mindless zombies, Gary Fleck is an eyewitness to the end of the world — and perhaps the evil genius behind it all. From the other side of the planet, a small but heavily-armed group of schoolgirls-turned-soldiers has come in search of desperately needed medicine. Dekalb, a former United Nations weapons inspector, leads them as their local guide. Ayaan, a crack shot at the age of sixteen, will stop at nothing to complete her mission. They think they are prepared for anything. On Monster Island they will find that there is something worse even than being undead, as Gary learns the true price of survival.
 
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