jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA, Amy Shira Teitel

Exactly what it says on the tin, this book follows the paths of various spaceflight pioneers from the 1920’s through WWII and the early 50’s to just prior to the formation of NASA out of the NACA. The concentration of the book is on European scientists and inventors, focusing on Wehner von Braun, who gets a fairly sympathetic portrayal. The author’s narrative pushes the point that the use of slave labor in the construction of the V2 rockets was a decision of Nazi higher ups, not van Braun, who knew that a vehicle that requires such precise machining as a rocket would turn out as badly as it did when built by starving prisoners.

One odd absence is much on Robert Goddard, though his story has been told extensively in other books. We do get a good look at the American rocket plane program in compensation, and a warts and all gaze at the political maneuvering that went around the United States’ first satellite launch.

Recommended if you’re a real rocket enthusiast.


Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie

The book that caused much hand wringing by critics of the Hugo awards recently. Which once I listened to it rather confused me. Honestly, it’s a bog standard space opera with the remnant of a warship’s AI trying to topple the rotten core of an ancient, belligerent, and increasingly corrupt empire. The only thing really ‘progressive’ about it is the odd gender confusion of the narrator, who describes everyone with female pronouns unless corrected. But on those terms it’s well written and engaging.

Recommended.


Bryony and Roses, “T. Kingfisher”

Bryony is the daughter of an impoverished and recently deceased merchant who finds herself trapped in the enchanted mansion of a cursed, bestial noble when she gets lost in the woods during a snowstorm. Which would sound very familiar, except that her name is Bryony, not Beauty, and the Beast is in desperate need of a gardener first, and True Love second.

A short novel published under Ursula Vernon’s adult publication non-de-plume, this look at the classic fairy tale combines her usual wry humor with a gimlet eye on the usual tropes of fantasy. That said it’s a considerably darker tale than her earlier Nine Goblins, given the truths Bryony finds when she discovers that she’s not the first visitor the Beast has kept.

Recommended, unless you’re really offended by Vernon’s opinion on mint herbs.
jeriendhal: (Marty Greycoat)
Summary: Three years after the death of her beloved husband, Aral Vorkosigan, Sergyar's Vicerine Countess Betan Survey Capt. (ret.) Cordelia Vorkosigan is finally emerging from her fog of grief to begin her life again for the third time. At 76 she's middle-aged for a Galactic, and serving Barrayar for the rest of her life isn't in her plans, but raising a new branch of her family is. Possibly two, with a little help.

Three years after the death of his beloved lover, Aral Vorkosigan, Sergyar Chief of Operations Admiral Oliver Jole is finally emerging from his fog of grief, to find himself facing an extraordinary gift. The chance to start a family, using the preserved DNA of Aral and donated eggs from Cordelia. But he soon faces a choice between personal and professional happiness, and he can only choose one.

Review behind cut )
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
With the e-arc release of [livejournal.com profile] seawasp's next Phoenix book, it was time I got off my ass and review the last one. :)

* * *

Summary: Kyri Vantage, sole remaining true Justiciar of the god Myrionar, having driven out the false Justiciars from her home nation, sets out help her friend the exiled prince of Skysand Tobimar and his Intelligent Toad companion Poplock, to find the vanished homeland of the young prince and end his quest and exile.

To their surprise, they find it rather easily based on previously gathered clues. To their greater surprise, it's a veritable paradise surrounded by a jungle of deadly magic-mutated creatures. But despite the warm welcome they receive, there are snakes waiting below the surface. Snakes that have been waiting for a Prince of Skysand to return for a long time.


Review: I liked this story a bit better than the first novel Phoenix Rising. The previous book was very much in Epic Fantasy mode, full of travel to distant and exotic lands, with a large cast of characters. All well and good, but the piling on of details (particularly the stuff about the stranded Earth kids) got a little difficult to swallow after a bit. This time around Kyri and company have to deal with a single nation-state and the mysteries within it, which allows for a more focused plot and a somewhat smaller cast. [1]

All in all it's good fun, continuing an ongoing theme of forgiving one's enemies and the power of Good Feels Good to turn one's soul on the path of Light. Though I'll admit there were a couple of characters willing to dump a thousands of years old plan really quickly once Kyri showed up. [2]

Also there's a Kaiju. Because Ryk.

Recommended.


[1] Which fortunately also leaves out this universe's resident Mysterious Wizard ™, whom I grew to loathe in the previous book.

[2] It was rather odd that no commented (IRCC) on Kyri's rather unusual hair coloring. Then again, given some of the weirdness to be found in Zarathan, it might simply not have be worth mentioning. :)
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Phoenix Rising, Ryk Spoor

Summary: In this sprawling fantasy novel by [livejournal.com profile] seawasp, young noblewoman Kyri Vantage must take on dark forces as she investigates and seeks justice for her murdered family, enlisting the aid of a variety of unusual allies.

Review: This is Ryk Spoor's big arsed, doorstop sized fantasy series, which very deliberately combines Western fantasy with a generous helping from Japanese anime and manga (there's even a group of armored knights that bare more than a passing resemblance to the cast of Saint Seiya crossed with Gatchaman). Mostly it's a lot of fun, with a strong female lead and great action. I do have some problems with a couple of secondary characters, one of whom is a major crossover from his other series Digital Knight, which might confuse people not familiar with the series. And there's an immortal wizardly mentor character whose deliberate cloak of mysteriousness is just damned annoying (though to Ryk's credit, most of the other characters don't like him either. But aside from those nits it's great fun.

Recommended.
jeriendhal: (Muppets)
Summary: The magical land of Oz has fallen, destroyed by two evil wizards who escaped their punishments inflicted on them by Princess Ozma, combining forces in an uneasy alliance to conquer all. Only the sky kingdom of King Iris Mirabillis, Lord of Rainbows, remains free. And from there he sends his daughter, Polychrome Glory, to the Mortal World to find the champion they need to free the Land of Oz.

What they get is Erik Medon, an asthmatic, overweight fan of L. Frank Baum's famous series, who just found his dreams have come true. And is willing to fight for those dreams even at the cost of his own life.


Review: Okay, this book is unabashed wish fulfillment by Ryk Spoor. It's a Portal Fantasy with a stereotypical fannish geek who gets to live out an adventure in the Magical Land of Oz (at least the portions that are out of copyright). Nevertheless it's well-written wish fulfillment. Erik is painfully aware of his limitations as a Hero, even though he gets a fair set of Mighty Thews (not to mention 20-20 eyesight) after a year of intense training up in the Rainbow Kingdom. And Oz is not entirely the happy-go-lucky land of adventure from the books. Wisely, Spoor makes the assumption that Baum simplified and softened the retelling of Dorothy and her companion's adventures when he published them. This allows Spoor to attach more complex motivations and characterizations to both the heroes and villains in his tale, and enriches the narrative.

If I have an objection to this story, it's that Ozma had to be very deliberately and specifically Nerfed to allow Erik his moment to shine at the end. But “Ozma wakes up and makes everything instantly better” doesn't work in a modern narrative, so I'll give Spoor a pass on that one, and the active female characters are strong enough to make up for the loss.

The final battle does get marvelously loony though, as Erik uses his knowledge of sci-fi, fantasy and Japanese anime to fight the villians. It reminded me strongly of Jim Hine's Libromancer books, and that's not a bad thing.

Strongly Recommended.
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Listening to the Audible edition of Rendezvous With Rama [1] and just got to the bit where they realize why the southern cliffs of the Cylindrical Sea are 500 meters high compared to the 50 meters for the northern shore, to accommodate the sea's rise against the aft end when Rama accelerates.

Except when Rama stops accelerating, wouldn't that mean all that water would be coming back just as swiftly? Fifty meters makes a great wave break, but unless I'm missing something, the northern section would still be seriously flooded.

[1] Which is fairly terrible BTW. Clarke isn't exactly an engaging prose stylist to start with, but Peter Gamin sounds almost asleep while he's narrating.
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Summary: It's 1999 and Jason Wood is a private information analyst, working through the Internet and with advanced photography enhancement software to aid private clients and the police. One of his police assignments gets rather weird though, as a corruption case against a politician hinges on a photograph of him taking a bribe from a man who can't show up on film...

Shortly thereafter Jason and his love interest (and minor psychic) Sylvia Stake [1] find themselves, er, neck deep in the supernatural, as they uncover ancient vampiric drug dealers, a werewolf infested resort town, a boogeyman, and the return of magic to the world...

Cut for Length )
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
The Martian, by Andy Weir: In this debut novel by the creator of the webcomic Casey And Andy, potty mouthed astronaut Mark Watney finds himself the only living soul on Mars (aside from some fortuitous potatoes), after a chain of events force the rest of his landing team to abandon him for dead when a massive dust storm interrupts their mission.

Review: This manages to be a rarity, a rock hard science fiction novel that's also gripping and with good characters. Almost all the science checks out and Mark is a fun guy to listen to as he bitches and MacGuyver's his own survival, trying to stay alive for the four years until the next mission can reach him.

Highly Recommended.


Big Hero 6: Fourteen year old genius inventor Hiro Hameda must find out who a mysterious man in a Kabuki mask is who is menacing his hometown of San Frantokyo, with the help an inflatable medical robot built by his late brother Tadashi, and the local "Nerd Lab" at a nearby university.

Review: From a silly premise this Anime Meets Marvel/Disney/Pixar is surprisingly deep, with the grief of a loved one's loss driving Hiro and the villain into questionable actions. The members of the "Nerd LAb" are less well developed, but once I realized Disney was deliberately doing their own version of an anime Super Sentai "Science Team" I got into it.

And good lord the set designers went whacko creating this crossover between Tokyo and San Francisco.

Recommended.
jeriendhal: (Red Vixen)
Based on some discussion of the Liaden books I'd read recently, I've used my Audible credit to grab Rose Point the second book in [livejournal.com profile] haikujaguar's Her Instruments series. [1] I also picked up her non-fiction book From Spark to Finish which was on sale, which is chock full of sensible advice for Kickstarter campaigns. It's already giving me Ideas for finally creating an audiobook version of Captive of the Red Vixen, which I'm going to post separately about.

[1] Hopefully Reese will use some of her XP from the last book to up her Wisdom score though... ;p
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
I've got an Audible credit burning in my pocket and I'm not sure what to spend it on. Previously I've listened to old favorites like Bujold, and I've also given a listen to Gibson's Bigend trilogy, which I found moderately interesting. Anyone have anything to recommend that I might find interesting?
jeriendhal: (Wazagan)
Because I've never actually grown up...


Movies (blu-ray)

1. Much Ado About Nothing (2013)
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
3. Things to Come (Criterion Collection)
4. Death Race 2000

DVD’s

1. Max Headroom, the Complete Series
2. Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines.

Video Games (PS3)

1. LEGO Marvel Superheroes
2. LEGO Star Wars III, The Clone Wars
3. The Sly Collection
4. Sly Cooper, Thieves in Time

Books

1. Spheres of Influence, Ryk E. Spoor
2. Black Dogs, Ursula Vernon

Board/Card Games

1. Elder Sign
2. Last Night on Earth, The Zombie Game
3. Castle Panic
4. Star Fluxx
5. Memoir ‘44
6. Betrayal at the House on the Hill

LEGOS

1. LEGO City Cargo Train 7939
2. LEGO City Satellite Launch Pad 3366


Practical Things

1. Long sleeve work shirts, preferable heavy rugby shirts. (Size: Large)
2. Winter gloves.
3. Mustache/nose hair trimmer.
4. Toaster oven.
jeriendhal: (Red Vixen)
In which I discuss M.C.A. Hogarth, aka [livejournal.com profile] haikujaguar, who is a much better writer than I am.

jeriendhal: (Mayhem)
I was going to do this as a video review, but honestly I'm too tired and after the third flub I decided to do it the old fashioned way.

Summary: In this homage to E.E. "Doc" Smith's grand space operas, our heroine, ace racing plot and serious adrenaline junkie Ariane Austin and the crew of the Holy Grail, Humanity's first FTL starship, find themselves rather disoriented when their initial test jump drops them into a 20,000 km wide scale model of the Solar System. [1] Exploring it, they find a docking port that leads them out into The Arena, which is quite possibly the biggest of Big Dumb Objects in science fiction, which is a scale model of the entire universe, and the first and only destination point for any race that develops an FTL drive.

As they explore their new surroundings, the crew make several friends, and a couple of powerful enemies, and discover that Humans have a few inherent strengths that other races might lack. Which is a good thing, because the Holy Grail needs a recharge before it can jump home, and Ariane is going to have to a win few Challenges to earn that power.


Review: First a caveat. Spoor ([livejournal.com profile] seawasp here on LJ) and I are LJ friends, so I'm a little nervous about posting this, especially since he's been nice enough to say kind things about my own writing efforts. Going into this book, I'll admit I wasn't immediately turned on by the premise. I was never a big fan of Doc Smith's works, and neither of Big Dumb Object stories. [2] Nevertheless, after a bit of a slow start (the first hundred pages before they reach the Arena are a trifle draggy) it picks up speed and remains at a steady, enjoyable pace that drew me in.

The characters are mostly engaging. Spoor isn't quite on Bujold's level of characterization, but he's way ahead of the original Doc Smith. Ariane herself is mostly defined by her rock hard determination to win no matter what the risk. The standout characters are probably the first alien they meet, the Orphan, who has been surviving the Arena's dangers for a long time, and Ariane's crew mate Marc DuQuense. The latter is quite deliberately named after that DuQuense and is really, really not happy about that. But to tell more would be giving too much away. Suffice it to say that Orphan has some rather ambiguous motives for helping the Humans, though he's honestly ambiguous, and DuQuense is a nice combination of Smithian superman and modern angst that makes him appealing to read about. Aside from them, the secondary characters are all engaging as they do their bits, and the villains are either properly hissable, or honorable opponents.

Like any proper Smith book, it's good guys vs. bad guys, and you know who you're rooting for. And there's plenty of room for further adventures.

Recommended.


[1] I will note that despite the description of it, in the book Spoor neatly avoids mentioning whether Pluto is represented. ^_^

[2] I'll admit to being a fan of the original Ringworld when I was younger, but these days I wish Teela would die in a fire I can't stand it.
jeriendhal: (Marty Greycoat)
For Naziha Zahed: "The world's shortest life changing novel"



"The Catcher in the Rye."

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."

"Steppenwolf."

"I thought that was a band."

"It was a book first, dumbass."

"Okay, uh, The Rolling Stones."

"Now that was a band."

"It was a book first. Robert Heinlein. Look it up."

"Jerk. Um, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich."

"Oh, God. Depressing Russians."

"You ever met a happy Russian?"

"Good point. Oh, I know! Big Dog, Little Dog, by P.D. Eastman."

"A kid's book? Why would that be a life changing novel?"

"It's the first book I ever read on my own."

"Ah, right."
jeriendhal: (Default)
Summary: Isaac Vainio loves books. So do most librarians, but then most librarians don't have a pyromanic spider for a pet, or can reach into an Ann Crispin Star Trek novel to grab a disruptor to defend himself when three "Sparkle" vampires burst into his library to kill and interrogate him (in that order). Fortunately he's saved by Lena, a motorcycling combat-monster dryad, created from a cheap John Norman knockoff series, who lets him know that the vampires created by not-so-careful "Libromancers" like Isaac have been attacked by the immortal Johannes Gutenberg's unstoppable Automatons.

Oh, and Gutenberg, leader of the Libromancers, has gone missing, possibly has gone mad, and all hell is breaking loose.


Review: As you might guess from that summary, [livejournal.com profile] jimhines's novel doesn't take itself entirely seriously. There's action and angst aplenty, as Isaac deals with his mixed feelings about the Libromancers (who are generally good, but not all that Good) and with his growing relationship with Lena, who can break him with her little finger (or more likely her handy bokken) but who needs him because as a fictional character designed to be a teenage boy's wet dream, she'll instinctively mold herself to serve whomever she's attracted too, and her current love is missing.

But mostly though this book is about a guy who grew up with the usual sci-fi and fantasy reader's joy of books, and the wish he could use what were in them to really help people, and then finds out he can.

Strongly recommended.
jeriendhal: (Default)
I'm reading [livejournal.com profile] jimhines's Libromancer, which has the premise of modern magicians who can pull out whatever they can find in book into the "real" world. Which is quite useful if you're the protagonist, you're a sci-fi/fantasy nut, and you really need that laser pistol or magic sword right now. [1]

Except now I'm wondering if you can do the same with picture books. Because it's established you can bring out living objects, and now I've got the image in my head of a children's librarian giving a Little Cancer Patient their dying wish, then getting into an argument with the Porters that A) Of the two living witnesses, one of them is dead now and B) are you going to really force Kermit the Frog to go back if he doesn't want to?

I'm also wondering if the magic works on e-readers, because that would be really dangerous. I'm guessing not.

[1] Speaking of which, you have to wonder if he managed to grab the Sword in the Stone, would be able to pull it out of the book? Rimshot!
jeriendhal: (Default)
Summary: On the mental mend after a session of voluntary memory erasure, Robin, a citizen of a post-Singularity polity, volunteers for a closed sociology study of the volatile period between the mid 20th and mid 21st centuries, essentially LARPing in a stereotypical Western civilization town with a few hundred other participants to try and recreate the social norms of the period. Once inside though he/she is inside though, they start to realize the study's true purpose may be far more sinister.

Review: This is a seriously frustrating book to review. Charles Stross is an able writer, in this case creating a post-Singularity world much more comprehensible than his earlier Accelerando, thanks mostly to being to write it as a novel instead of a series of connected short stories. He's able to create a sympathetic lead character with believable skills and abilities, and isn't afraid to have his hero(ine) fall flat on their faces on occasion. That said, the plot of is highly dependent, to put it in the gentlest possible terms, on both the hero and their antagonists being idiots.

I don't say that lightly. The premise of Glasshouse is that the social LARP is in an enclosed station, inaccessible to the outside except through a single transmission gate, with total 24-hour monitoring of the participants, including through the personal computer implants that are common in Robin's era. (There's even a fairly blatant homage to The Prisoner around the fourth act.) Unfortunately Stross seems to realize the severe restrictions that puts on Robin when they begin devising their anti-establishment conspiracy, so they when they start planning their actions with the group they form, they essentially throw up their hands and say "Well, they probably aren't listening right now." Mind you, this after Robin has taken several actions that would probably have earned them closer monitoring than the average participant. And the only reason that this has a chance of working is because the establishment, the ones controlling the lives of hundreds of people, are three individuals in total.

Did I mention that one of the establishment keeps a vital piece of equipment that Robin uses to defeat them in a public library, secured with an ordinary 20th century tumbler lock? Facepalm.

The sad thing, I still enjoyed reading it, but my suspension of disbelief got yanked hard.

Recommended with reservation.
jeriendhal: (Default)
Still holding up as a nice satire of city politics, but I can see why modern kids might avoid it. Definitely a bit dry in the prose department for the Short Attention Span set.

One thing that caught my attention was the character of Mr. Jerusalem, one of the pushcart vendors. He's described as "...already an old man. No one knew how old." He also doesn't have a home technically, choosing to camp out wherever he parks his cart, sleeping under a tarp and cooking his meals on a portable stove.

Am I reading too much into this to think Judith Jean Merrill snuck The Wandering Jew into a YA novel?
jeriendhal: (Grumpy)
She was 89. I didn't realize that until just now, when I was Googling The Pushcart War which I just started re-reading for the first time in 30 years.

Sigh.

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