Valour by John Gwynne is the newly-released sequel to the wonderful Malice which I read earlier in the year. I adored that book, and it is a testament to that fact that I bought this massive hardback almost as soon as it was published.
As I said in my previous review:
It’s a fantasy novel featuring a gripping plot, a range of wonderful characters, and some interesting magic and fantastical creatures. I really enjoyed the book, I was very caught up in the story, and all the various characters and plot lines. It’s a big book and I felt totally immersed in it whilst I was reading.
Continuing the story started in Malice, the sequel is every bit as good. It’s an excellent book, fantasy which is dark and grim but also hopeful, and with brilliant characters on both sides of the good and evil split. This was another one that I couldn’t put down, and I will be looking forward to the next instalment in the series.
My SF book group has chosen to read Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. It’s a debut novel which has won or been nominated for an impressive list of genre awards. I wasn’t just sure what to expect from the book and I was a bit skeptical. To be honest I’ve drifted away from SF slightly in the past year, I’ve been reading a lot more fantasy and mainstream fiction. Well this book reminded me of exactly why I love space opera and SF, it was the best book of that type that I’ve read in ages.
It’s a difficult book to summarise. The main character is an AI with multiple bodies. In one strand of the story she is on a mission of revenge, but in another strand of the story we get flashbacks to the military events that led her to her current position. The twisting, tricky structure reminded me of Iain M. Banks at this best, which is high praise coming from me!
The book is just incredibly inventive and brilliant. I thought the way the book handled AI was fascinating and unique. The world building in the book was superb, it is really such a good setting. The interesting take on gender and language in the book was also excellently done. As well as all that clever stuff, the book also has the key basics of good plot and good characters.
Overall I just loved the book, I really couldn’t put it down, and I think it is the best SF novel that I’ve read for a long time. I would highly recommend it to science fiction fans.
I recently finished reading MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood, the final instalment in her trilogy of the same name. I really loved the previous two books, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, both of which I read over the past few months. This is a continuation of the story started in those books, bringing together the two groups of characters, and continuing the story of what happens after the plague, while also adding more back story of life beforehand and the activities of MaddAddam and the God’s Gardeners. As with the previous two books, I really liked this one. The setting and the characters are all excellent, and as I have said before, I think Margaret Atwood is such an incredibly clever and interesting writer. This book as the conclusion to the trilogy left a few loose ends, which was somewhat disappointing, however that by no means detracted from my enjoyment of the book or the series overall. I’d highly recommend this trilogy, and I plan on reading more books by Atwood in the future as she is a brilliant writer.
So the good news is that I get an afternoon off work. The bad news is that this is due to a fire at work and we had to wait around for three hours before being sent home. No idea what is happening tomorrow either.
If you follow me here on Tumblr then it may not have escaped your notice that recently I have been posting less frequently than I have done in the past. I’m going through a spell where things are busy and stressful at work, and in my free time I am mostly just reading and trying to relax. So my time for Tumblr has decreased a bit lately, but I am still here and I still plan to post new things, especially keeping up my book reviews.
However I have recently unfollowed a lot of people, to streamline my dashboard. No offence is intended if you’ve noticed that I’ve unfollowed you, it’s not personal, I just need fewer posts appearing on my dashboard, and I chose to unfollow people who post a lot, or who post things that stress me out.
Despite that, I am also looking to start following more blogs which post book reviews, as that is mainly what I’m interested in at the moment, so please feel free to make recommendations if you know any good book review blogs.
I’ve just finished rereading Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks, one of my favourite of his Culture novels and the latest title in my project to reread Banks’ books.
It’s a really tricky book to write a synopsis for, so I am just going to quote from the Wikipedia page:
The narrative takes the form of a fractured biography of a man called Cheradenine Zakalwe, who was born outside of the Culture but was recruited into it by Special Circumstances agent Diziet Sma to work as an operative intervening in less advanced civilizations. The novel recounts several of these interventions and Zakalwe’s attempts to come to terms with his own past.
The book is made up of two narrative streams, interwoven in alternating chapters. The numbers of the chapters indicate which stream they belong to: one stream is numbered forward in words (One, Two …), while the other is numbered in reverse with Roman numerals (XIII, XII …). The story told by the former moves forward chronologically (as the numbers suggest) and tells a self-contained story, while in the latter is written in reverse chronology with each chapter successively earlier in Zakalwe’s life. Further complicating this structure is a prologue and epilogue set shortly after the events of the main narrative, and many flashbacks within the chapters.
The forward-moving stream of the novel deals with the attempts of Diziet Sma and a drone named Skaffen-Amtiskaw to re-enlist Zakalwe for another job, the task itself and the payment that Zakalwe wishes for it. The backward-moving stream describes earlier jobs that Zakalwe has performed for the Culture, ultimately returning to his pre-Culture career as a general on his homeworld. It transpires that the payment he requires from Sma relates to an incident from his earlier life.
You see what I mean when I said it was complicated? But the reason I love it is because it’s also brilliant. I love its complexity, both the narrative structure and the characters within. I love its unreliable narrator and plot twists and deceptions. I love that it’s another take on the Culture, distinct from the previous two books, adding more to such an incredibly rich setting. I love the wit and the writing, and how there is humour mixed with the grimmest of acts. Basically it’s Banks at his best.
Books Read in March 2014
- The Martian - Andy Weir
- The Explorer - James Smythe
- Black Swan Green - David Mitchell
- Alif the Unseen - G. Willow Wilson
- Northern Lights - Philip Pullman
- The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman
- The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman
- Hyperion - Dan Simmons
- The Fall of Hyperion - Dan Simmons
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
- The Giver - Lois Lowry
- Adam Robots - Adam Roberts
My monthly book summary for March - a pretty mixed month really, but I got through twelve books. Highlights include The Martian by Andy Weir, Hyperion by Dan Simmons, and the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. I have a lot of books lined up for next month, starting with some SF titles for my book group, then moving on to some big fantasy novels that I’ve been looking forward to. I’m hoping it will be a good month.
For my SF and fantasy book group this fortnight we read Adam Robots, a short story collection from author Adam Roberts. We don’t usually read short stories, but we picked this one because we’d all read and enjoyed two previous novels by Roberts, Jack Glass and Yellow Blue Tibia. I admit we were also influenced by the amusing title and brilliant cover art! In his introduction to the book, the author explains that his aim was to write stories which cover the various sub-genres of science fiction, and so there is a robot story, a time travel story, a military SF story, a genetics story, a first contact story and so on. Part parody, part homage, part exploration of genre, part just plain excellent story telling, the book covers a great deal of ground for SF fans. As with all short story collections, some stories are bigger hits than others - it will be interesting to discuss this with my book group and see if we agree on which stories are the better ones, somehow I suspect we won’t! But overall it was a really enjoyable collection and really showed off Roberts’ versatility as a writer, although that was already clear from his earlier novels. I am looking forward to reading more of his books in the future.
I read these two YA novels as a bit of a palate cleanser between a couple of big, heavy SF novels. That being said, they weren’t too much of a palate cleanser as they are both quite grim in their own ways.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is the story of a Indian teenager living on a reservation, who leaves to attend high school in the nearby all-white town. He has to deal with bullying and racism, grief and loss, and figuring out his identity between his two worlds. It’s a great coming of age story, full of humour and hope alongside the darker subjects it covers.
The Giver by Lois Lowry at first glance seems to be the story of a boy, on the verge of adulthood, living in a future utopian society. However slowly the truth is revealed and the harsh realities of his world become apparent to the reader and the main character. It’s a great dystopian YA novel, from back before the genre was so popular. I really liked the story, at first it seemed a bit short but actually it’s nice to read a self-contained story rather than a sprawling trilogy at times.
Both books I picked up because I’d heard great things about them here on Tumblr, from various book blogs I follow. They seem to be modern classics of the YA genre and I can understand why. I’ve said before that I’m obviously not the target demographic for these sorts of books, but I still enjoy reading YA fiction on occasion and I think these two are both great examples of why it is worthwhile for adults to read YA fiction and discover some great books.
After 12 months of unemployment, 175 jobs applied for, and 23 job interviews, I have finally got a job. I start tomorrow and I am currently a frantic mix of excited and terrified. Yay?!
That was me almost a year ago. Now I’m starting the process again. I’d almost forgotten how absolutely horrible it is to look for a job. Ah well, one application down, who knows how many to go…
I really should stop obsessively playing the 2048 game. I am sure there are other things I should be doing. I vowed I’d stop when I finally won a game, but now I’ve won it several times and I’m still hooked.