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Search tags: my-science-fiction-fantasy-reading-project
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review 2017-10-16 17:27
Use of Weapons / Iain M. Banks
Use of Weapons - Iain M. Banks

Cheradenine is an ex-special circumstance agent who had been raised to eminence by a woman named Diziet. Skaffen-Amtiskaw, the drone, had saved her life and it believes Cheradenine to be a burnt-out case. But not even its machine intelligence can see the horrors in his past.

 

Somehow, I had come to think of Iain M. Banks’ Culture as a pretty ideal society. This book shattered that somewhat for me, as it contains a lot of war & violence, plus a really cruel twist as the end of the novel. What can you do if you live in the Culture, but you’re not an easily entertained, peace-loving guy? Well, you can sign up for Special Circumstances and become a sort of super-soldier, getting horrifically injured, revived, regenerated, and going off to fight another battle. Even some of the Machine Minds in this one seem to be destructive and cruel.

But Banks accomplished what I think he wanted to—making his readers rethink what the Culture is all about (and maybe rethinking some the assumptions about their own culture). I look forward to tackling State of the Art next.

Book 265 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2017-09-29 18:03
The Vor Game / Lois McMaster Bujold
The Vor Game - Lois McMaster Bujold

Miles Vorkosigan graduates from the Academy, joins a mutiny, is placed under house arrest, goes on a secret mission, reconnects with his loyal Dendarii Mercenaries, rescues his Emperor, and thwarts an interstellar war. Situation normal, if you're Miles.

 

“Very good. But your most insidious chronic problem is in the area of . . . how shall I put this precisely . . . subordination. You argue too much.”
“No, I don’t,” Miles began indignantly, then shut his mouth.


Ah, another visit with Miles Vorkosigan/Naismith! That incredible bundle of energy, that intellect struggling to slow down to regular human speed. His problems with being the smartest guy in the room, but with physical limitations.

In many ways, Miles is like a jazz musician—he knows strategy (the melody) inside & out. When a new situation is thrown at him, he is able in incorporate it into his playing and take the strategy song to new places.

My favourite line? One of his captors at one point asks, “How many people are you?”

Book 264 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2017-09-11 21:54
Phoenix / Steven Brust
Phoenix - Steven Brust

Verra, Vlad's patron goddess, hires him to assassinate a king whose country lies outside the Dragaeran Empire, resulting in increased tension between the two places. Meanwhile, the peasant Teckla and the human Easterners persevere in their fight for civil rights. As Vlad's wife Cawti is a firm partisan of the movement, and Vlad is not, their marriage continues to suffer, causing Vlad to make some decisions that will change his life forever.

 

The fifth book of the Vlad Taltos series, and I feel like Brust has prepared the way to get back on track again. Vlad is our friendly, neighbourhood assassin and generally amusing, snarky guy, but he has been involved in Dragaeren politics for several books, with he & his wife Cawti on opposite sides of the divide. It’s difficult to write humour for a character who is engaged in a struggling relationship, and humour is the main attraction of this series, in my opinion.

And now for something completely different—at book’s end, we see a new Vlad emerging. Has he really put his assassinating ways behind him? Or will he find that it’s a difficult profession to retire from? Are he & his wife going to have to go their separate ways? How much longer will he have his beloved grandfather to lean on?

I’m glad Brust didn’t write another prequel to avoid the issues. I’m looking forward to the next book to see where the tale goes from here.

Book 263 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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review 2017-09-08 19:27
Grass / Sheri S. Tepper
Grass - Sheri S. Tepper

Generations ago, humans fled to the cosmic anomaly known as Grass. But before humanity arrived, another species had already claimed Grass for its own. It too had developed a culture......

Now a deadly plague is spreading across the stars, leaving no planet untouched, save for Grass. But the secret of the planet's immunity hides a truth so shattering it could mean the end of life itself.

 

There’s a lot of things going on in Grass. Religion, tradition, health & illness, education, relationships—all these things get batted around during the course of the book, and that’s a big load for just 500+ pages, but not unusual in a planetary romance of this sort. However I liked the main character, Marjorie Westriding, with her love of her horses, her ability to ask the right questions of the right people, and the willingness to put herself in danger.

As in her book The Gate to Women’s Country, Tepper explores human relationship territory in which men and women seem to talk past one another, with Rodrigo not taking Marjorie seriously enough and Marjorie taking him way too seriously. They do approach mutual comprehension several times during crises, only to back away quickly.

Also explored is the issue of who is worth caring for. The church of Sanctity has decided to let the plague run its course and the resurrect only a chosen few (although they refuse to admit publically that there’s a plague at all). Marjorie has done charitable work, helping the people who have run afoul of Sanctity, and wonders why they are treated so unfairly, even if it’s according to the church’s rule-book. When she & Rodrigo change planets, she begins to wonder if the native creatures of Grass give or receive consideration? What about the noble class on Grass, who believe themselves in charge but are actually humoured by the so-called lower class who run the planet’s economy and are much more educated than the aristocrats? When aristocratic children are abducted and abused by the mysterious Hippae on Grass, are they heartlessly forgotten by their parents or are their minds being controlled? And ultimately, are the people of Grass, who are immune to the plague, obliged to do anything for the rest of humanity?

Unsurprisingly the aristocrats and the priests come out of this tale looking poorly and I can’t help but think that Tepper had colonialism in mind as she crafted this tale. I can see where I’m going to get thinking about this tale for several days to come. Also, I’m disappointed to note that the following two Arbai books follow different characters—no more Marjorie.

Book 262 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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text 2017-08-25 21:24
Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 544 pages.
Grass - Sheri S. Tepper

It feels good to be getting back into my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project again, after 3 months of impulsive romance & urban fantasy choices.

 

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