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review 2017-07-23 17:43
Bizarre, but enlightening book
The Mount - Carol Emshwiller

I'm knocking off one half star because there's something about the beginning, where it's really hard to get into.   I guessed it might be that both another reviewer out there, and I, had trouble telling who the narrator was.   (It's mostly from one point of view, but you get two more in there, too.)   There was also the whole really short sentences stacked up one against each other, and it's was bizarre and frustrating in the beginning.   Charley's Hoot name is Smiley - and that's the name he prefers to go by.   His the mount of the next in line to rule, His Excellent Excellency, Future-Ruler-of-Us-All.   As such, he's treated... not quite well, but better than most mounts.   (There's a hierarchy: Seattles, the strongest who can carry the most, Tennessees, who are the fastest, and everyone else, who are considered nothings.  In addition, male mounts are called Same and female mounts are called Sues.)  The Hoots, alien invaders who have short, weak legs use humans as mounts.   They spent a considerable time giving treats and pats, telling everyone who will listen how kind they are, and preening over how smart they are, and how they can hear and see and smell better than us.   

 

Meanwhile, Charley's father, Heron (Hoot name Beauty) has rebelled, leads a group of people who are considered 'wild.'   What they want is democracy, to choose who they are, though.   When Heron manages to save Charley, he doesn't realize just how indoctrinated his son is: how much his soon loves the Little Master.   (Or how much the Little Master loves Charley.)   

 

About this time, I started really getting into this book and reading much more quickly.   I got more invested in Charley as he started questioning everything everyone told him, both his father, and the Little Master.   Before, he'd been passive, and now he was actually thinking, becoming something other than what he'd been physically and emotionally and mentally trained to be.  

 

From there on in, I was reading as fast as I could to see what would happen to Charley and what would sway him to one side or the other: as a Hoot's mount, or his own person.  It's harder than I wanted it to be: Charley took so much pride in the fact that Smiley was considered perfect in the Hoot society, he was so brainwashed, he was so simpatico with The Little Master, that he couldn't simply be torn from that life and adapt to another.   He may have been in chains, but those chains gave him hot and cold running water, food he was used to, and a comfortable roof over his head.   With a nasty master, this could have still been hell.   As it was presented, His Excellent Excellency was presented as a loving master.  

 

Still, the ending galls, enough for me to knock off another half star.

 

Compromise with a slave master just feels wrong and I was left unconvinced.   Charley had matured enough to throw off his shackles, and the Little Master felt more like he found Smiley convenient rather than truly feeling for him.   Fondness, yes, but not the love and adoration that Charley had for the Little Master, so it still felt like a slave-master relationship rather than the loving friendship it was presented to be.   Charley was always the one more forgiving, more patient, more accommodating.   Even with the Little Master trained to be able to walk, it didn't feel like it was enough - how far he could walk, how little he gave up - to make up for what had come before.   

(spoiler show)

  

A worthwhile read even if a little unsatisfactory at the end.   I also read early on that the author seemed to be rewriting The Silk and the Song, an older short story that is available for free and in which humanity is enslaved by an alien race that uses them as the same sort of beasts of burden.   Perhaps, but when the author talks about her own inspiration for this book, she talks about a class she took that dealt with predators and prey and which you can read a bit about here.  So while there's the obvious slave/master connotations, there's a predator carrying around prey.   I wouldn't have really paid attention, or thought about why the Hoot's had such weak legs and bodies, if not for reading that interview halfway throughout.   I also felt like I never really felt that aspect, or that it didn't speak as much to me, as the whole using a people as slaves.   (Although in retrospect, the whole 'do good and get treats' makes a little more sense in how people train predator animals.)

 

So I really, really enjoyed this, and despite my slight complaints, I can easily see myself reading this.   I feel like maybe on a reread I'd pay more attention to the details that would make the prey/predator dynamic seem more obvious.   For now, though, onto new books!

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review 2017-07-23 16:35
Audio Book Review: Lucifer's Star
Lucifer's Star - C. T. Phipps,Michael Su... Lucifer's Star - C. T. Phipps,Michael Suttkus

3.5 stars

*I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

Eric is a new narrator for me. From the first sentence Eric had a positive, hopeful sound to his voice for me. I can hear his deep breaths between lines. There is a short (about 3 or 4 words) that didn't follow character tone in the beginning, I caught only because following the book at that time. Eric does do different tones for characters, giving them a sound of age and their own voice. I did pick up on one small repeat, I almost missed it as it was quick.

I just love that first sentence! What a sight that would be. The sentence really drew the picture for me.

We start with Cassius in a big battle in his life on Crius. This battle is one that lingers in Cassius's mind, and what he's trying to escape from. There are sections that are memories, though with this being audio you don't see the italics that indicate it's different than the here and now. It sounds like two conversations happening at the same time. Then Cassius doesn't talk to himself as much and is easier to catch as the book goes on. The book is focused on Cassius and his time on his current ship. The people are also residing on this ship are not who they seem to be.

As we learn these people aren't who they say they are, we see much more in this unstable universe. The different groups in the universe are all working at different angles. Even the people in the organizations have different angles they are working. So much to play with here!

Cassius grows through the book, as he grows to realize he has friends. Cassius is running from who he is. He wants to be someone that's not of the Archduchy to live his life with the guilt he feels. Through what he learns in the events he lives through, and the connections made, Cassius learns of details he didn't know before. I love the moment when Cassius gets a...closure with someone from his past. Cassius confronts feelings he'd been holding in.

Cassius grows attached to people which helps him along in his journeys. We learn a few have rather heavy pasts as well. The crew on the ship he finds himself on has many who are fugitives in their lands or pasts that aren't of the best actions. There are moments that feel drawn out with details of histories of people and descriptions, but the story comes together and the ending is non-stop.

I found that the AI take in this book was very interesting. There is also cloning in this book. Biodroids were a neat creation. I know we haven't heard the last of these. I don't want to give to much on this as it's a big play in the book. You have to read or listen to the book to get the details. We learn details that all come to a head at the end of the book with a special type of AI.

This wouldn't be a fun space story if we didn't get action scenes. We get just that, in space and on planet action. Even among the crew on the ship.

The world feels vast and full with crew that Cassius has acquired. I look forward to continuing with Cassius and what is in store for him next.

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review 2017-07-22 18:59
Calm (Terran Times, #50) by Viola Grace Review
Calm - Viola Grace

Keeping calm was Meri’s life, making others feel it was her job. Loving a Negotiator was her destiny.

Meribeth has been the assistant to a few Alliance personnel, but Negotiator Kao is her latest boss. At his insistence, she had gills installed to enable her to accompany him on wet assignments, but his ulterior motive was not clear until he is out of the armour and his own body is finally exposed.

Vehn Kao has spent years encased in armour as a Negotiator, but the moment he comes out and sees Meribeth with his own eyes he knows that she is everything that he has ever wanted in a woman. She is intelligent, witty, attractive and has a tremendous passion just below the surface that he wants to bring out in an explosive release.

Meri wants to be good at her job and Vehn want to take her calm and shake her up

 

 

 

Review

 

 

If you like mer people, you should like this science fiction romance short story. There is all a nice exploration of skin hunger in the romance as well.

 

A lovely way to spend the afternoon.

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review 2017-07-22 16:00
Beyond the Usual Alpha-Beta Search: "Deep Thinking - Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins” by Garry Kasparov, Mig Greengard
Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins - Garry Kasparov,Mig Greengard

“In 2016, nineteen years after my loss to Deep Blue, the Google-backed AI project DeepMind and its Go-playing offshoot AlphaGo defeated the world’s top Go player, Lee Sedol. More importantly, as also as predicted, the methods used to create AlphaGo were more interesting as an IA Project than anything that had produced the top chess machines. It uses machine learning and neural networks to teach itself how to play better, as well as other sophisticated techniques beyond the usual alpha-beta search. Deep Blue was the end; AlphaGo is a beginning.”

 

In “Deep Thinking - Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins” by Garry Kasparov, Mig Greengard 

 

My personal experience with Go dates back at least a decade. I remember getting slaughtered every time by the free GNUgo software, just as I had been by every human opponent for the last 20 years. Never got the hang of it, though I was school chess captain back in the day. Totally different mindset. I first came across it in a little-remembered crime series called 'The Man in Room 17', with Richard Vernon and Denholm Ellit eponymously solving crimes without leaving their office, where they were always playing go. I also remember a funny little story while I was attending the British Council. Back in the 80s, a Korean guy gave me a game. After every move I played, he stifled a laugh and started a rapid fire of, "No! Cos you purrin ['put in', I presume] there, then I purrin here, after you purrin there an' I purrin here, you lose these piece" None of which made anything clearer. At chess, the first (okay, tenth) time I got mated on the back row by a rook, I learned not to leave the king behind a wall of pawns. Never got my head round the simplest 'joseki' (corner opening) at Go. Beautifully elegant game though.

 

If you're into Chess, and Computer Science of the AI variety, read on.

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review 2017-07-21 13:30
The Rose Society by Marie Lu
The Rose Society - Marie Lu

I knew this series would be dark based off of the first book, but wow this series went farther with that than I originally expected it to. Honestly, I'm so glad this book went there. It stands out from the numerous young adult books that feature characters with special powers.

 

The main character, Adelina, is not the typical main character you'd expect. She fully embraces darkness and feeds off of others fear. She revels in the deaths that she causes and her ambition drivers her further to being a villain. It's incredible to read about because it's such a unique story and Marie Lu artfully depicts Adeline's ambition, as well as her madness. 

 

Adelina is not the only stand out character in this book. Due to events at the end of the last book, a new set of characters becomes the main cast of the story, aside from Raffaele and Teren. Teren is very clearly crazy and dangerous and I really liked the direction his character went in. It was believable, but also chilling, especially when it's clear that his mind isn't all there. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about Raffaele though. His chapters seemed the slowest, but honestly he seems like the only one in this series with his head screwed on right.

 

The main reason that I wasn't blown away by this book was because it didn't shock or wow me in any way. I enjoyed the characters and the story, but the plot played out almost exactly as I expected it would. I was hoping that this ending would surprise me like the last one did, but I had predicted how it would end before even picking up the book.

 

The romance in the book didn't overwhelm the plot, but there is somewhat of a love triangle. There also seems to be a bit of insta love with Magiano and Adelina. Honestly, I don't know why someone full of joy would be attracted to Adelina in any way, but somehow that happened. There wasn't really a build up to the attraction and I'm kind of confused by it. I quite like Magiano, but he deserves better than Adelina, especially because she still pines for Enzo.

 

As much as I enjoy the characters and where the story has gone, I was looking for a little more from this book. The beginning was fairly slow and consisted mainly of planning and setting up for the action at the end of the book. If you can get through the slower part, then the end definitely makes up for it with plenty of action.

 

Overall, I did enjoy this book though and I will be picking up the next book. However, my need for The Midnight Star is less than the need I had to read The Rose Society. I'm not sure if it's because I feel like I know how the series will end or if it's because this book didn't end nearly as dramatically as The Young Elites.

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