Wednesday
May232018

Artificial Condition

I derailed my Hugo reading to zip through the newest Murderbot novella. This is the second book in the series and it's just as good as the first. I love everything about social anxiety bot!

So Murderbot is kind of on the run as it heads to the site where it massacred dozens of humans, looking for... answers to questions it doesn't really have. On the way, it meets a pilot bot AI unit it quickly starts referring to as ART -- Asshole Research Transport.

The banter between ART and Murderbot is top notch. The two of them watching TV together made my entire month.

Anyway, ART helps Murderbot get to the mine where MB failed to protect its humans and murdered them instead. But in order to have access to the right part of the mining operation, it has to take on employment from a group of researchers. Things go very very wrong from there and Murderbot and ART have to get creative to keep Murderbot's new human clients alive.

Murderbot didn't get what it expected out of the answers it found and I'm really curious to see where it goes next. Whether it goes back to the humans who "freed" it, or if it continues having intergalactic adventures. Anyway, I love Murderbot forever.

Wednesday
May162018

All Systems Red

It's another novella read for the Hugo ballot. I've now got only two each in the categories of novel, novella and novelette to read. And with the exception of only a couple that just weren't for me, I've been thoroughly enjoying myself. There is SO MUCH good SFF out there.

Anyway, I LOVED this book so much! I was worried I'd hate it because all of the people who've been gushing about it love grimdark and I just do not love grimdark. At all. But while there are some grim components to this story, I found it heartwarming (in a weird way) and hilarious.

So this story is about a bot who thinks of itself as Murderbot, and who is more a cyborg with lots of integrated human-clone parts with the synthetic bot parts. It has emotions because of the human parts, but it's still a bot. And it's got social anxiety and just wants to hide in its pod and watch TV.

But then things start trying to eat the humans it's been contracted to protect and it gets all mother bear about the people around it, realizing how much it likes them and doesn't want to see them harmed.

So yeah, I love this story and will be picking up the next one in the series very soon. Yay!

Tuesday
May082018

Star Wars: Last Shot

Look! Three blog posts in two days! This is what I get for reading a lot but letting the blog reviews fall behind. Anyway, this is a tie-in for the upcoming Solo movie and it's a pretty good book. I just couldn't get into it but I'll explain.

To start, this is a Han and Lando book, with Chewie and some new characters along for the ride. They think they're saving Cloud City from a madman, but the madman is after far more. Han and Lando get the gang together and hijinks ensue. There are twists and turns, plenty of blaster fights, and some good banter.

Problem is, I know this particular author can do SO MUCH BETTER. I've read Older's other fiction works, including his short story in Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. And this story is by far the weakest of them all. Older has an authorial voice that is PURE MAGIC and it is not present in this novel. He's also the example I always use for distinctive character voice when I teach writing classes. And that is also not present in this novel.

And the book is so much weaker for it. I mean, there were so many times when I really wasn't sure whose POV it was and that's... just not something I've ever experienced before from one of Older's books. And so I was far more disappointed in this story than I think I otherwise would have been.

It also didn't help that the timeline was ALL OVER THE PLACE and even with the chapter headings, I was frequently confused by what the hell was going on. It finally all came together at the end, but still. I was frustrated most of the way through this book.

If you haven't read any of Older's other books, read this one first and then go find his Shadowshaper and Bone Street Rumba series because they are magnificent.

Anyway, this is still a good Star Wars story, especially if you love Han and Lando. My favourite character was Peekpa, the Ewok slicer (aka hacker). She was delightful and I need so much more of her!

Tuesday
May082018

Six Wakes

This is more of my Hugo reads, though I suspect I would have gotten around to reading this one anyway. It's got a cool concept and I like the author. I'm glad that the current Hugo ballot is forcing me to read some great things I was putting off.

Anyway, this is about a generational ship setting out to colonize a new planet. Which is usually a pretty good setting to start with. This ship is being maintained by a small crew of clones. They get old and die, and a new body is cloned for them with their "mindmap" uploaded into the fresh new body. Very cool.

And then the book starts with crew waking up simultaneously with their previous bodies floating around them, clearly having been murdered, with a ship that's slowly going out of control. So they have to get the ship put back to rights and find out who murdered them and why. Their mindmaps have not been updated since before they left Earth, so the crew is missing more than 20 years of memories. Even the killer is unsure of their own guilt!

Despite the dark situation, I like that this book never got truly grim. When grimdark has become such a dominating genre, I'm always so pleased to find something that shows the best of people in bad situations.

I really liked the characters in this book and I really liked the story overall. It was interesting and fun, and the mystery aspect was excellent too. I thought it got a little hand-wavy regarding the revenge-plot that put them all in their situation, but the ending was satisfying overall.

My only real problem with this story was that the author's POV game was a little weak. I couldn't always tell who the POV character was until something jarring well into a chapter. I'm pretty sure this was due to a lack of deep-diving into character emotions, as I didn't really feel connected to any of the characters. I just didn't have enough of a sense of most of them.

But it's a great read and I definitely recommend it.

Monday
May072018

Thud!

So this is another Discworld novel featuring Vimes and the city watch. It was pretty good, but I finished it about a week ago and don't remember much of it anymore, which isn't the most glowing review. But I was in a haze of preparing for and then recovering from my daughter's birthday party, so it's probably not the book's fault.

This one is about Koom Valley, that battle between the Dwarves and Trolls that causes trouble every so often. This time, there's a lot of heated rhetoric, a Dwarf leader is murdered, the Trolls are suspect, and Vimes's authority as the law is under question.

But then the bad guys rather stupidly put Vimes's family in danger and then it's basically all over for them.

It's an interesting read, and so topical it hurts, with all the roasting of stupid rhetoric and old fashioned beliefs based on what turns out to be baloney anyway.

And I really enjoyed the bits where Vimes reads to his son. That the ridiculous book (and is there any other kind for toddlers?) comes into play at the end is just... very Pratchett.

Anyway, good read and another good addition to the Discworld series. I'm getting close to the end now, and it's a little sad.