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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-08-17 15:07
Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold
Diplomatic Immunity - Lois McMaster Bujold

Once you catch the bug (again), you keep reading... so, still on my reading spree through the Vorkosigan series, and I fear once I run out of books I'll restart from the beginning. *sigh

 

On the return flight from their honeymoon, Miles is assigned to investigate a situation involving the military personnel accompanying a Komarran trade fleet. One officer seems to have gone missing, and another missed the call to duty, his retrieval causing a major incident and all of the involved being arrested on Graf Station in Quaddie space. And something seems to be happening in Cetagandan space.

 

This is my second run through this novel, and I have to say, the situation here is quite the opposite from Komarr. I had good memories of the latter novel, rather lackluster ones of this. But the reread turned the tides quite a bit.

 

First of all, the whole novel is from Miles's PoV, it includes sarcasm, irony and in-jokes (shopping anyone?), this inimitable drive forward, and makes for one coherent story, not bogged down by relationship-issues or angsting over said relationship-issues etc. Just a simple reminder of the Vorkosigan-stories of old, a good old mystery that needs to be solved, nothing more, nothing less. And his inner voice leaves me at times with tears of laughter, and at others with a pensive smile or even a lump down my throat. That's what I'm looking for in books, relatable characters, flawed characters, characters who don't take everything that's happening to them lying down. And how far has Miles come from his beginnings in Warrior's Apprentice to the final few pages of this novel? How far has Barrayar come?

 

Of course, it helps that Bel Thorne makes an appearance and that his character-arc gets some closure. And the deep irony surrounding their reacquaintance, all the changes the characters have undergone since the end of Mirror Dance ("So I've killed Admiral Naismith after all") are meaningful, yet understated.

 

Ekaterin takes a bit of a backseat here. All her contributions (which save Miles and Bel in the end) remain off-screen. But that's okay since we know she keeps her head in emergencies... and quite frankly, she's a supporting character and having her PoV would distract from the ongoing mystery. Armsman Roic again takes over the task of guarding Miles. His feelings of inferiority become a tad repetitive, though, but he's definitely showing some growth into his role by the end.

 

Generally speaking, it's the small things that make this a very enjoyable reading experience: shows of loyalty, things/opinions just expressed with a small gesture, Miles fighting for Bel's life, exasperation all around at Miles's shenanigans etc. It's not the grand stories, the mysteries why I enjoy this series so much. It's rather the connecting subplots (like here the shout back to Cetaganda), the worldbuilding, the 3-dimensional characterization, the slow moments of introspection and realization. The saga might be set 1000 years from now, but it's still dealing with the same basic issues we do every day. Which is what makes is so eminently re-readable (even the weaker parts).

 

So, overall a pretty straight-forward detective story, mixed with old and new friends, a helping of political messes at home and abroad... despite having already read the book before, I was still captivated and at the edge of my seat for the latter half. Pretty good sign, isn't it?

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-08-13 20:26
Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold
Borders of Infinity (Vorkosigan Saga, #5.3) - Lois McMaster Bujold

This is an omnibus edition of Bujold's 3 earlier novellas, framed by Illyan's interrogation of Miles into the enormous bills the Dendarii Mercenaries seem to accumulate under his command. The framing story is set shortly after Brothers in Arms.

 

Mountains of Mourning (5++++++ stars) - set after Miles's graduation from the Imperial Service Academy, just before The Vor Game

 

already reviewed here - still dearly loved.

 

Labyrinth (3 stars) - set after Cetaganda/Ethan of Athos

 

Miles is sent to Jackson's Whole to extract a geneticist - whose terms are that Miles has to kill the last remnant of an experiment into creating super-soldiers, animal genes mixed with human DNA. But Miles doesn't find a monster, but a frightened, disillusioned girl.

 

The weakest of the 3 stories. Not because of the message, but it seems very compressed. Jackson's Whole and Taura would have deserved a longer introduction, especially because both will turn out to be quite important to Miles's growth as commander and human-being. The way the story stands now, Taura latches on too quickly... I don't know... one tumble in the sheets (well, a stone-cold floor) and she's convinced Miles takes her as fully human? And Miles thinks that the body can't lie? I mean, I'm happy Miles thinks for himself (sometimes too much) and doesn't simply follow orders stupidly - and Taura is certainly worth saving... but... still not satisfied with this story.

 

Borders of Infinity (4 stars) - set right before Brothers in Arms

 

Miles is sent to infiltrate a Cetagandan prison camp. Initially set to rescue one person he ends up organizing the whole camp.

 

Again a story that could profit from expansion because again Miles convinced those disillusioned prisoners who are merely existing instead of living, entirely without hope, that there's someting worth living for, a future worth fighting for. Bujold doesn't pull any punches describing the situation there. The Cetagandans are complying with the interplanetary charta to treat PoW... but only literally, reality is quite another thing entirely. You actually feel hope and even sanity leak from you while reading this story. In the end even escape isn't a victory to celebrate.

 

Curiously, this prison escape also marks the beginning of the end of Admiral Naismith - even if Miles only later learns that fact years later (in A Civil Campaign).

 

Overall, 3 stories definitely not to be missed in this saga.

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review 2018-08-09 11:56
Give People Money
Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World - Annie Lowrey

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

This is more an introduction to the topic, I think, than a fully-developed treaty on how exactly a UBI (Universal Basic Income), but it remains an interesting book no matter what. While heavily focused on the USA, it also considers other countries, so it’s definitely not just US-centric with no mentioning the rest of the world (examples from Finland and India, for instance, are included).

The idea itself (giving a basic sum of money to everyone, every month, so that their basic needs are ensured) is not new. Lots of people will tell you “money can’t buy happiness”, but let’s be honest: when you don’t have to worry about when (when, not if) power will go out in your home because you can’t pay your electricity bills, when you know you can give your children the food they need, it makes life better all around—and also allows you to focus on finding a job and other needs, or simply help you not getting sick all the time, or any other issues one faces that lack of money can cause.

Of course, it clearly opens the way to many disagreements, including fear that “if people have money, they’ll become lazy and complacent”. Which is, 1) I guess, very specific to “work hard, thrift societies”, 2) not necessarily true, 3) why should the “American way” (that false assumption that if you only work hard, you will be successful no matter what) be the only valid one? Most people want a job, especially since our world in general values a human life according to whether it’s “productive” or not—another issue we’ll need to address sooner than later, since automation and incoming AI are very likely to make us redundant when it comes to jobs, and we’ll need to rethink ourselves in other terms.

Is it doable? Possibly, I think… provided governments think about it the right way, and provided people don’t consider it in terms of “something that should only go to a certain class of people”, or “welfare queens will abuse it”, or “those people will only buy drugs with it”, or “it’s good if it’s for us, but we don’t want immigrants to have it” (apparently, the more diverse a society, the more this question reveals rampant racism: “we want it for US, not for THE OTHER”—and sadly, I wouldn’t even be surprised if that was a wide-spread opinion).

The book considers these questions, as well as others and what they really entail, such as giving supplies, clothes etc. to people rather than money: it’s all well and all, but we don’t think about all it implies. One of the examples involves giving shoes to people in a poor village, with two unwelcome effects: what they need is not necessarily shoes, but, for instance, clean water; and doing this also deprives the local shoe-making economy of customers. If those people were given money instead, they could help that economy (by buying shoes, by buying a cow and starting their own farm/business...) AND get the water they need, too. To me, it makes sense.

On the other hand, the way the book is currently laid out doesn’t show references well enough. And while the ideas developed here are definitely food for thought, I believe they stand better as an introduction, as stepping stones for more in-depth research and reading, rather than as sturdy research. I wouldn’t call that an issue, because it does pave the way to opening up to the idea of a UBI, and to really thinking about it, about what’s trickling down from it and how current demographics may influence it (in a good or a bad way). I simply wouldn’t take the book as THE work of reference about it.

Conclusion: 3.5 stars. Clearly a good starting point if you’re getting interested about this subject, and aren’t sure how to approach it.

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review 2018-08-07 19:48
Review: “Kings Rising” (Captive Prince, #3) by C. S. Pacat
Kings Rising - C. S. Pacat

 

~ 5 STARS ~

 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-08-06 17:18
Post von Karlheinz von Hasnain Kazim
Post von Karlheinz - Hasnain Kazim

Untertitel: Wütende Mails von richtigen Deutschen - und was ich ihnen antworte.

 

Als Journalist der Zeitschrift Der Spiegel ist Kazim täglich mit Massen an Reaktionen auf seine Artikel konfrontiert... Er ist der Meinung, dass er nicht alles, was ihm an Hass und auch absolutem Blödsinn entgegen"gekotzt" wird, einfach stehen lassen kann. Und so tritt er in Dialog mit Leuten, die ihn oft lediglich wegen seines Namens und Aussehens rassistisch beschimpfen, diffamieren oder bedrohen. Denn:

 

Meinungsfreiheit bedeutet nicht Widerspruchsfreiheit.

 

Und genau darum geht es. In Zeiten, wo Likes in den Social Media bestimmen, was man zu lesen bekommt, und Widerspruch sowie gegenteilige Ansichten dementsprechend schnell ausgefiltert werden, sind viele nicht mehr gewöhnt, damit umzugehen. Das Spektrum an informierten(!) Meinungen verarmt zusehends, und intelligenter öffentlicher Diskurs findet so gut wie nicht mehr statt. Das ist die eine Seite.

 

Die andere ist die Verrohung der Sprache, der fehlende Filter zwischen Hirn und Mund/Fingern. Ich kann mich erinnern an die Anfänge meiner Online-Zeiten: Da gab's eine sogenannte Netiquette, an die man sich zu halten hatte in den verschiedenen Newsgroups oder Foren. Davon ist aber weit und breit nichts mehr zu sehen. In welcher geistigen Umnachtung man sich auch befindet, man postet oder mailt, beschimpft oder droht mit sogar strafrechtlich relevanten Taten. Ein Hinterfragen des Tons findet nicht mehr statt, geschweige denn der Wortwahl. Fürchtet man sich vor Konsequenzen? Gibt es überhaupt Konsequenzen? Scheinbar nicht.

 

Es ist salonfähig geworden, rassistische Dinge offen und unter eigenem Namen jemanden an den Kopf zu schmeißen... ganz im Sinne von: Steter Tropfen höhlt den Stein. Jeden Tag sieht man dies in der politischen Auseinandersetzung. Es prescht jemand aus der 2. Reihe mit einer rassistischen Äußerung nach vorne. Vielleicht wird die Aussage noch zurückgenommen, aber das ist vollkommen unwichtig. Denn die Samen sind gesät, das nächste Mal wird der Aufschrei leiser sein, bis er verstummt und die eigentlich unerträgliche Aussage einfach Alltag wird. So geschieht es in der Flüchtlings- und Migrationsdebatte seit 30 Jahren in Österreich.

 

Je nach Ausgangskommentar entgegnet Kazim nun entweder sarkastisch/ironisch, fallweise durchaus spöttisch, sehr oft aber auch sehr sachlich und erklärend. Wie darauf dann vom Kommentarautor reagiert wird, ist mitunter entlarvend...

 

Jedenfalls halte ich dieses Buch für eine Pflichtlektüre für alle, die auch nur halbwegs offen durchs Leben gehen, sich in Social Media bewegen oder in Foren partizipieren. Ich muss leider gestehen, dass mein Frustrationsplafonds sehr rasch erreicht ist, sodass ich es nach 1-2 Tagen wieder aufgebe, offensichtlichen Unwahrheiten, die stupide nachgeplappert werden und auf denen trotz Gegendarstellung insistiert wird, entgegenzutreten. Daher Hut ab, Herr Kazim!

 

Für Stoff zum Nachdenken und Diskutieren ist jedenfalls gesorgt - und das kann einer Gesellschaft nur gut tun.

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