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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 SPOILER ALERT! 2018-08-12 22:17
Cats Like Cream by Renee Miller
Cats Like Cream - Renee Miller

Cats Like Cream by Renee Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being a successful employee at a real estate agency, Elwin strives to help people find their dream homes - but as it turns out, they get more than what they bargained for. With strategically installed cameras, he's able to watch the new residents settle in and, oftentimes, witness them at their most private of moments. But he can't touch, no matter how much he wishes to, as touching only leads to bad, and bloody, things.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I decided to read something shorter than my usual, as my mood craved a story more direct and to the point; you know, with less time to invest in but without sacrificing that valuable punch. I’m therefore glad I picked up this one, as despite my personal distaste of the cover, the tale within was incredibly unsettling. I always find it considerably more disturbing when the monster isn’t supernatural in origin, but very much human. The mere thought of just how much a person’s mind can figuratively short circuit, to the point where they consistently justify their depraved behaviour, well, it’s downright scary, but also deeply fascinating on some level.

This is the second time I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of reading about trichophagia, which is essentially the compulsive disorder of eating hair. Certainly not for the squeamish, as even with having a strong stomach it nearly had me gagging. Miller was able to portray Elwin in such a way that depicted him a victim to some inner demon that craved gratification. The blame for his misdoings was thus placed upon this evil entity, with little to no responsibility falling upon Elwin himself. With intimate knowledge of his troubled thoughts, some more relatable than others, I couldn't help but appreciate the work put into his psyche. However, even though I consider myself an empathetic individual, I found him to be a vile beast of a human being with little to no redeeming qualities.

Being approximately fifty pages long, the pace didn't loiter. It was difficult for me to tear myself away for this very reason, as the situation just kept getting increasingly more thrilling. When that ending finally arrived, it was hard to accept that it was over.

In conclusion: I very much enjoyed this venture into the life of a serial killer. A quick but satisfying read, and one I won't soon forget.

Notable Scene:

The beast clawed at the underside of his lungs. Elwin told it to be patient. It roared in reply.

© Red Lace 2018

 

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/08/12/cats-like-cream-by-renee-miller
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-08-07 13:52
Winterfair Gifts by Lois McMaster Bujold
Winterfair Gifts (Vorkosigan Saga) - Lois McMaster Bujold

This is the epilogue to A Civil Campaign, Miles and Ekaterin's wedding (including some last minute assassination plot) told from Armsman Roic's point of view.

 

Roic isn't your usual ImpSec trained armsman. He was a policeman in the Vorkosigan district capital and some heroism brought him to the attention of senior armsman Pym who recruited him. Then he "extinguished" himself in the bug butter disaster, and since then suffers from some kind of minority complex. Now he gets to meet Miles's galactic acquaintances when his Dendarii Mercenary companions join the wedding party - and is confronted with Taura, the bio-engineered super soldier Miles rescued from Jackson's Whole.

 

It's the little things that make this short story memorable: Taura's wariness concerning Ekaterin, absent Quinn's ambiguous wedding present - and Taura's agonizing over whether Quinn would actually hurt Miles (and Ekaterin). And there's of course the innate fear of mutants that hamper Roic's initial interaction with Taura, and Miles's desperate attempt to make her comfortable.

 

But the moments I enjoy most are the little glimpses again into the Vorkosigan family and friends. Gregor's attending Miles's wedding, Ivan getting admonished by Aral not to screw things up (only to leave some kind of obscene sculpture in the garden). This outside view again sums up nicely what's been shown so far in the series.

 

Overall, an enjoyable short story.

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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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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-08-05 21:22
Solitary by Alexander Gordon Smith
Escape from Furnace 2: Solitary - Alexander Gordon Smith

Solitary by Alexander Gordon Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Delving further into the bowels of Furnace Penitentiary, Alex Sawyer desperately tries to hold onto his fleeting sanity. After a failed attempt to escape the underground horrors, being thrown into solitary confinement is a fate worse than death. A hole in the rocky earth becomes his coffin, yet it won't save him from what roams the corridors, in search of warm flesh to eat.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

With this second installment I desperately tried to overcome my primary issue with the series - the suspension of disbelief that it relies so heavily upon. Unfortunately I just can’t get behind the all important plot point of how this prison even exists; world building has been pretty unremarkable in that regard. I mean, how could parents just be okay with never seeing their teenage children ever again, no matter what crimes they’ve apparently committed? I digress. I promised myself this wouldn’t be a rant-review, because in actuality, I enjoy the struggles of Alex quite a bit. Smith adds such raw emotion to the dire situation, and good, descriptive writing I can appreciate. Rather than Alex and his friends emerging into the light of freedom, they’re thrown into solitary confinement in this addition. Who knew general population would be greatly missed? I have to give credit where it’s due; the unpleasantness of solitary at times made my skin crawl. Despite the main protagonists being in their teenage years, little detail was left to the imagination - even their toilet habits were voiced. This is the sort of book I would have loved as a younger reader; pushing the boundaries of the young adult genre with its bleak themes. Perhaps I would have even dismissed the implausibilities in favour of enjoyment, but my mind doesn’t work that way these days.

I can’t say that Alex, as a character, developed a great deal. His way of thinking was much the same as the last - feeling helpless and doomed, followed by a sense of hope and determination. One thing in particular became very much apparent, and that’s the fact his actions wholly depend upon his companions. Without them, and I believe he’d be a very lifeless person. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I am a fan of independence. I often wondered what, if anything, he would have achieved if truly without anyone. He hinted once or twice about suicide, but again I think his relationships give him his every bit of strength. Perhaps he’ll find himself all by his lonesome at some point, as his allies are dwindling in number. A new character was introduced however, and I liked Simon and what he represented.

As for the plot, it was thoroughly entertaining, even if it was a recycled escape and fail trope. By now I know that Smith favours the action-packed scenes that keep readers on their toes, and together with the turbulence of Alex’s mind, it was enough to keep me invested. I enjoyed the change of scenery, and especially the horrors of the infirmary. Questions arose about the mystery behind it all; the black substance that transforms the subjects, the overall goal of creating monsters. There’s an endless supply of prisoners, after all, so what’s the point? To build an army?

In conclusion: Even though I preferred Lockdown a bit more, this one showed no signs of the series slowing down. It’s grim and frightening at times, and I appreciate the expressive way in which the story's told. If only more information was given to properly quench my concerns.

Notable Quote:

I wondered how many voices there were living in my head, and how they could all have such different opinions.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/08/05/649
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