I really liked this book. It didn’t hook me at first, and I thought it slowed down a bit in the middle, but I’ve always enjoyed Reynolds’ work and John Lee is a great narrator. Ultimately, the ending was fantastic and I think the Goodreads score of 4.2 is completely justified.
House of Suns follows three first-person POVs. Two of these belong to Campion and Purslane, clones of a woman named Abigail Gentian born nearly six million years before when humanity was just starting to explore the galaxy. Since then they and the thousand other clones of Abigail Gentian have crossed the galaxy countless times assisting and observing the many human cultures that have come and gone during that time. The third POV consists of flashbacks from Abigail Gentian’s childhood, memories that all of the clones share. At the beginning of the novel Purslane and Campion are running several decades late for the Gentian Line reunion, an event that happens every quarter million years at which the clones of Gentian Line sync their memories and conduct various pieces of business. At first, this tardiness is a major problem as the two of them have become romantically involved and the implications of them both arriving late together are obvious. As it turns out, their tardiness saves their lives. When they arrive at the reunion and discover that the entire star system has been destroyed in an effort to wipe out all of the Gentian clones. Luckily there are other survivors, and together they have to discover why someone would try to wipe them out aa well as find the collaborator in their midst.
It’s during the investigations and politicking that follow the ambush that the plot slows down a bit. Although we learn a great deal about the characters involved I found some parts of this book drags. The ending however makes it worth it. Reynolds excels at portraying the weirdness of post-human societies and basking in the enormity of the universe. Read this book, or listen to it on Audible like I did, if you want a story that takes place on long time scales (60,000+ years), have a fascination with megastructure concepts, or like to ponder the relationship between memory and identity.
If you played the game like I did you were probably looking forward to the season finale of HBO’s Last of Us adaptation in which Joel tears through a hospital full of fireflies to save Ellie’s life. The internet has been filled with discussions of whether Joel was right to do what he did.
But all these arguments are irrelevant because there is no way that the doctor had IRB approval. I jest, because the fireflies almost certainly don’t have anything like an IRB (Institutional Review Board). What organization gets ahold of the first (as far as we know) person with immunity to cordyceps and decides the best route is to immediately kill them? The doctors could have run blood tests. They could have tried to infect Ellie on purpose to study how her body reacts. They had lots of non-destructive options and the fact that the fireflies wouldn’t question this clearly insane doctor who decided to kill the patient upon first meeting doesn’t bode well for their organization’s survival.
Obviously, writers for both the game and show probably went with this ending because it is the easiest to convey. It would be difficult to convey a long series of boring, uncomfortable, unethical tests. But people make bad decisions all the time so who knows maybe this scenario is more realistic than I’m giving it credit. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that bleeding and leeches were standard practice.
On a related note, why don’t the fireflies try to build their own communities? There’s obviously plenty of room and Tommy’s commune shows that it is possible. With their networks and resources, the fireflies should be able to build and protect at least one commune of their own.
Betrayal, both in its original form and in the D&D-themed variant Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, is a lot of fun. With the variety of end-game scenarios and the random map generation no two playthroughs are the same. Plus the game mechanics are basic enough that they don’t get in the way of the pre-built storytelling and roleplay opportunities that the game creates. I think it’s a really good game for people who want a pre-built RPG adventure. I’d give it a 4/5.
I know I’m late to the party, but I watched the first two episodes of Last of Us the other day, and I really like it! I haven’t ever paid much attention to announcements and trailer releases, so most of the time when a new series starts I’m often one of the last to know. For the record, I was aware that HBO was adapting the Last of Us video game, I just didn’t know it was coming out this January.
So, without knowing much about it besides Pedro Pascal being cast as Joel, I went in knowing basically nothing about the show. But not really nothing, Last of Us was a game I spent many a Saturday night playing during my freshman year. I don’t play games for completeness, but I loved the reclaimed cities and the unique fungus-based zombies. So I know all the story elements already. Although Pedro Pascal did a great job as the Mandalorian and is basically playing the same type of character in Last of Us, I was a little wary about watching a video game adaptation. The last one I tried to watch was just plain bad (Halo), and I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
It turns out Last of Us is pretty good! It’s true to the story and spirit of the show and follows the original plot closely. It’s precisely what I would expect a faithful adaptation to look like. It’s captured the spirit of the game and so far has done a great job of translating storytelling techniques between mediums. I’m looking forward to episode three, which Twitter tells me was very good.
I’ve been on a Max Hasting kick lately. If you’re a history buff, you have probably heard about him. I started with his book on the Korean War, then moved on to Retribution, his book about the end of the war in the pacific. And now I’ve finished his book on Vietnam.
This is another case of a book I first bought in print and never got to until I found it on Audible. The book itself is probably thick enough to stop a bullet, and its contents certainly deliver the tragedy that the title promises. That was largely the problem I had with getting through the physical version, it’s too big to care around in a bag easily and requires a huge time investment.
Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy gives the reader exactly what it promises. Hasting’s knack for description and emphasis on the very human stories of the people who lived through the conflict. Telling the story of a war where many of the participants lost much and in the end found themselves asking what the point of it was.
It’s a good book made even better by the excellent narration provided by Peter Noble. I give it a 5/5.
Episode eight of House of the Dragon showed us the end of Viserys’ reign. A frail and pitiful old man, he proved to be a feckless king who would have preferred a quiet life with his family.
Paddy Constantine gave an outstanding performance of a man who knows he has just one more chance to make things right. This episode was the end of House of the Dragon’s introductory period, and that means we now finally have an end to the constant recasting that was made necessary by the frequent time skips between episodes.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the time skips were a necessity writers handled well. My only issue with them is they can make the show harder to follow for more casual viewers. Now with Viserys’ reign over, that won’t be a problem, and we can look forward to watching the Dance of Dragons unfold in season two.
Tamsyn Muir has a distinct voice and a talent for writing prose that reveals nothing, hints at everything, and keeps you reading.
I don’t really know how to describe Muir’s writing to you. She manages to combine grimdark, internet culture, bible references, and Tumblr together into a compelling narrative. What’s more, Muir doesn’t mind reminding us that she will do whatever she wants and we will probably like it.
Nona the Ninth (NtN) is the third entry in what is now the Locked Tomb Series, it was originally a trilogy, but all of us who have ever tried to make something out of an idea know that these things inevitably grow.
The greatest warning I have to give about this book is that it is slow. Telling the story from the perspective of someone who is practically a child was a brave choice. Somehow, NtN manages to be a book in which nothing happens, a lot is revealed, and a plot where nothing but loose threads remain.
I really liked this book, it’s certainly not for everyone, but read this modern science fantasy novel if…
You want to finish a book with more questions than you started it with
You don’t care if the POV and authorial voice changes from chapter to chapter or book to book (Muir does this very well).
You want to sympathize with necromancers.
You like campy dialogue and internet culture.
If you have no idea what I am talking about, go read the first book in this series; Gideon the Ninth. If you want to tell me I’m wrong or just chat, come find me on Twitter. If you have any specific theories or thoughts about Nona the Ninth or the greater Locked Tomb Series leave a comment below.
A few months ago my partner and I got the idea to get a projector. We have high ceilings, a lot of bare walls, and not much use for them. So we started looking for a projector. There are a lot of options out there, especially now with companies like Anker getting into the portable projector market. You can get a lot of features for $500 like a rechargeable battery and integrated storage, but honestly, I can’t think of many actual use cases for those. Sure, it’s a nice idea, but how often are you going to go camping and bring a projector screen to you?
So after doing a bit of research and not seeing any huge difference in specs between the $500 and $100 options I decided to go with this little Topvision projector, which was on sale at the time and only $80. It has a 1080p resolution and enough inputs that I can plug a Roku stick and a pair of old bose speakers into. Now we have a great home movie setup in our bedroom.
It’s not perfect of course, sometimes the projector develops a fault, which I have found can be easily fixed by smacking it. We also wait to use it until after dark, when the image will be clearer. A brighter bulb seems to be the main advantage of getting a more expensive projector, but I think this one works just fine for us. It’s great for watching movies and television late at night and makes the entire experience much more cinematic.
I enthusiastically recommend one for anyone who has the wall space. You can go to this page for more product and book recommendations from yours truly.
Alastair Reynolds began his career as an astrophysicist working for the European Space Agency. He is an extremely prolific writer of short stories, many of which take place in the Revelation Space setting and provide the novels with greater context. Read this book if you are looking for epic interstellar adventures at sub-light speeds.
Blue Collar Space is a rejection of “Big Man Science Fiction” that focuses on the people who built the future those larger-than-life characters exist in. Its subjects include civil engineers on the moon, father-daughter lunar hikes gone wrong, and other examples of people living their lives and saving humanity in less glamorous ways. Read it if you want to be immersed in lives that our descendants might one day live out in space.
Of the four books on this list “Gardens of the Sun” has the most in common with the Expanse. It envisions a future where Earth has been wracked by climate change and the remaining authoritarian empires on Earth devote most of their resources to shape and rebuild the ruined environment. Genetic engineering has made many things impossible, including novel synthetic ecosystems in the outer solar system. With Earth’s governments on the verge of developing a new and improved fusion engine, the many settlements of the solar system are wary of an increased Earth presence in the outer solar system. Read this book if you want a future mix of political scheming, warfare, and hopeful but sometimes strange depictions of future science.
A classic of the hard science fiction genre. “Rendevous With Rama” is a science fiction classic that follows a group of astronauts sent on a detour to a massive alien ship that is using our Sun to perform a slingshot maneuver. While the governments of Earth and the other planets debate how to respond to the object, the scientists of Earth scramble to understand the object and advise a team of accidental explorers on how to make the best use of their limited time exploring the object. Read this book if you want a story that evokes a sense of the unknowable and the vast scale of our universe. You should also read it if you plan to watch the upcoming Dennis Vilneuve adaptation.
I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I am so excited about this book that I decided to start with a review of the prologue. Some might consider prologues to be annoying, but I think this is an example of a prologue done right. Just to be clear, there will be spoilers. You have been warned.
McClellan is one of the more prominent authors in the flintlock fantasy subgenre and helped it make it popular with his debut novel Promise of Blood. I’ve been a big fan for ten years now and for the past year, I’ve been included in McClellan’s “Street Team” group chat. I wasn’t able to beta-read the book, but it’s been fun to get a look behind the curtain at a book as it is being written. I can’t wait to read it and take about it with you all and I already think this book is worth your time.
It’s set in a world of industrial magic, where huge factories churn out magical glass called cindersand. Society runs on this vital resource, and it’s running out. But the wealthy guild families of Ossa aren’t about to let something as minor as the death of magic to stop them from scheming.
The book begins with our MC Demir accepting the surrender of a defeated city. Instead of killing its leader and decimating its population (killing 1 in 10) as is tradition, Demir declares his intention to spare the city. After all, they would not have rebelled if they didn’t have legitimate grievances. Right from the beginning we see Demir as someone with a conscience and a strong sense of right and wrong. And then the schemes of others breaks him.
While he had been busy accepting the city’s surrender someone else had been busy distributing counterfeit orders to his officers. The falsified orders in question instructed the army to raze the city. Demir was too late. His own soldiers fail to recognize him and push him aside. When they find him the next morning he is cradling the body of a young girl who was trampled by his cavalry.
If this first look at In The Shadow Of Lightning has you interested then you should definitely pick the book up or listen to it on Audible. Audiobooks are a great way to keep up with current fiction on your drive to work. You can also follow me on Twitter if you want to chat about it or be the first to know when my full review is posted.