Libby has been great. It’s so much easier for me to justify reading a book, especially a short one, when it just shows up on my devices ready to read. And a 3-hour plane ride turns out to be an excellent time to get some reading done, and since I finished that book let’s get some reviews of what I’ve read since I last posted one of these things, as there have been a few. This is a long one, sorry about that!
All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries
One recommended book that I’d been putting off is All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries.
“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete Failure”
This novella is pretty much exactly what I love about Science Fiction. It takes an idea, doesn’t overburden you with details, and just explores the idea in a way that gives you some room to think and make your own conclusions. In short, I don’t want to be TOLD that a corporate overlord who’s a bit more concerned with being cost-effective than being safe is bad, I want to see the outcome. And this enjoyable little read did exactly that.
I’m not sure it’s one that I’d buy and put on the bookshelf, I’ll have to wait until I’ve gone through the rest of the series to know for sure, and I’d probably prefer to have an anthology edition anyway since it’s novella length, but this one is definitely worth grabbing from the library or used bookstore if you see it!
My only regret is that I only had a hold on the first book, and now must wait 3 weeks for the next book in the series. Time to hack the LibSystem’s governor protocol and download some media.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Neil deGrasse Tyson
I couldn’t help but enjoy this, as it’s read by the soothing tones of Neil deGrasse Tyson himself. I don’t have much of a review other than to say: Does what it says on the cover.
The power and beauty of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them. In other words, after the laws of physics, everything else is opinion.
Gives a really fun and up-to-date review of Astrophysics, without delving into too much detail. I think this book could be enjoyed by anyone, even if you don’t have a lot of background in this sort of thing. Tyson does a great job of making it accessible and interesting, and gives a lot of interesting little tidbits you can use to impress your friends. If you ever wanted to be able to prove why the Star Trek Warp Drive could be a real thing, there’s a bit in here that’d do it!
This one is definitely a fun read, and I highly recommend you give it a listen just to hear the man himself nerding out about what is clearly his passion, however I’m unwilling to give it the permanent place on the bookshelf, partly because the field can change pretty rapidly and I’m not sure it’ll be accurate about a few of the concepts in a few years?
Which will be a great reason to check out the next revision and listen to it all over again!
The universe may be under no obligation to make sense to you, but Neil deGrasse Tyson sure make it fun to try!
Mister Monday – Garth Nix
I’m a big fan of the Old Kingdom (Sabriel) series by Nix, so I wanted to try something else by him. I grabbed this one off the library shelf to see what was up. Turned out to be another fun romp in a very similar style to the Old Kingdom books.
One thing I like about both series is the fun combination of pseudo-modern sensibilities with some wacky magical type situation. It’s not the Harry Potter muggles-vs-wizards thing, it’s a lot more personal. I suppose kind of like Harry discovering he’s a wizard, but without falling into a whole new world of people prepared to support him. I find that more interesting. And the magic system is definitely unique and interesting, so that grabbed my attention.
Sometimes it is easier to see the light when you stand partly in the darkness.
I did feel like perhaps Nix wasn’t quite hitting the right tone for the age of the characters. Yes, it’s YA, but I guess I expected the dialogue to feel a bit more real given what I remember of Old Kingdom.
I did enjoy it, with the usual YA caveat, and I’ll definitely add the next book in the series to my to-read list, but I don’t think that I’m willing to put it on the shelf yet.
Autonomous – Annalee Newitz
Another one brought to you by Multnomah County Library and Libby, which suggested to me a book I’d never heard of: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
“Nothing like drugs to take the edge off drug problems.”
Fantastic world building, I definitely want more! First time I’ve had that Neuromancer/Snow-Crash feeling since I read those two I think, and I’ll say right up front that I’m pretty willing to grant this one a permanent spot on my bookshelf next to those two.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, one of the things I like about this sort of SciFi is the Black Mirror method of storytelling. Just show you the world, don’t make too many judgments about good vs. bad, let the world unfold and make up your own mind. Worldbuilding is one of the things I love most, and giving me a world that just flowers with ideas and opportunities pleases me, even if the characters don’t fill it out as fully as they might.
“He was a user of his own consciousness, but he did not have owner privileges. As a result, Paladin felt many things without knowing why.”
If I have a criticism of the book, I think it’s fair to say that the dialogue and pacing could be tightened up a bit. For all the lovely catchy ideas and exploration of the world it does come off a bit like a first novel. This doesn’t bother me really, as I was sucked in by the world. I think some people might put it down halfway through, but I really did think it was worth getting through to the end.
It’s a fun action adventure which has a nice fun balance between humor and adventure, both dark and grim, and full of hope. I think it’s the kind of thing I’d be happy recommending to anyone. Give it a go!
“Paladin had nothing to say to that, so he decided to pry. “What do you do?” “I make custom penises.”
Autonomous bio-hacking protocols engaged!
Off Armageddon Reef, et al (Safehold Series) – David Weber
It had to be the greatest irony in the history of mankind, he thought. The last Christian in the entire universe was a machine.
I have, over some time, read 9 books in this series, either by actually reading, or by listening to audiobook. I have enjoyed every one of them. I wish there had only been 6 of them.
It’s a weird situation to explain. This series was a lot of fun, an interesting mix of sci-fi, politics, military action, alternate history, and educational. It tickled me in a lot of ways, and has made a great series to listen to while out walking, however I really feel like it could’ve used from a bit of editing overall, and perhaps less of a sense that the author was getting paid by the word/book. Some scenes are tight, decisive, and convey exactly what’s going on, and some tend to start feeling rather excessively long. It kept me wanting more at every moment though.
I really enjoyed the sailing portions of these books. I’ve learned what a schooner sailplan is, what a topgallant mast is, some interesting stuff about signaling and communication via flags and lights, development of naval cannons, and more! And every bit of action was incredibly gripping.
And a bunch of the politics sequences were also very gripping. But some of them just… weren’t. The pacing lurching up and down really didn’t do it for me, and I found myself skimming sections to get to the next part of the story I wanted to hear about. I really enjoyed the big-picture conceit of the series though, the quest to take down the corrupt and dogmatic Church had a very Luther’s Reformation feeling to it which I enjoyed, but it just needed to be tightened up a bit.
The very first thing that happens with any zealot is that he removes his brain just in case any thoughts that might challenge his zealotry should happen to stray into it.
It also really suffers from the classic fantasy naming problem. “Lywys Gardynyr” or “Zhaspahr Clyntahn” definitely sound more fantasy-like, but it makes it rather harder to track who’s who. This was especially jarring to my as I thought I’d figured out the pronunciation for a few of them, and then I listened to one of the books as an audiobook and found out I was wrong, which took rather a long time to re-write in my head.
It doesn’t really have a lot of twists and turns. A few very memorable gotchas which was fun, but for the most part it’s fairly formulaic.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend this except to a very specific audience. You kinda have to want it. But if you do, and you don’t mind a bit of skimming and ignoring typos, it’s really quite good. If I want to read it again though, I’d just get it from the library again, no real need to have it on the shelf.