Eliza and the Bear - Friends
This is my review of Lock In by John Scalzi, which I read this weekend. In this book a virus called Haden’s has left many people ‘locked in’ to their bodies, where their brain is functioning but they can’t move. As a result technology is developed to help these people with Haden’s, such as virtual reality technology, and also technology which allows these locked in people to inhabit robot bodies, called threeps. Some people who got the Haden’s virus escaped being locked in but were left with changes to their brains, and technology has also developed to allow people with Haden’s inhabit the bodies of these people, who are called integrators.
The narrator is a character with Haden’s who is also an FBI agent, Chris Shane, who uses a threep to be able to work. On the first day of the job, Chris is sent to investigate a murder. It turns out that the murder suspect is an integrator, which means that the real murderer could actually be a Haden who has taken over the integrator’s body in order to commit the crime.
I have read a couple of books by John Scalzi before, which I have mostly really enjoyed, and I had the same reaction to this one. It has a really interesting setting, and I really enjoyed the way the book explored all the technology and the idea of how people would live if they were locked in to their bodies but had alternative means of interacting with the world. That aspect of the book was all really good.
The plot, for the most part, was also a good one. It was a fast-paced read and a nice mystery which took advantage of the science fiction setting, resulting in a really interesting crime story. I think the ending was a little rushed however, there was not much resolution after the reveal of the murderer.
The main negative of the book for me was the narrator. This is something I’ve found with other Scalzi books too. The book is told from the first person perspective, and there was something about the tone and voice of the narrator which just irked me. So I found the main character and narrator in this book to be really annoying at times.
That’s not to say it was a bad book, those criticisms are relatively minor, and other people may find the narrator to be a more compelling character than I did. It didn’t detract too much from the book though, because the setting and other aspects of the book were so good. So overall I thought it was a good book and I did really enjoy reading it.
I was tagged by my friend Chris for this book tag thing.
Rules: In a text post, list ten books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take but a few minutes, and don’t think too hard, they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you.
So this list is not a list of my favourite books, although there is undoubtedly a fair bit of overlap. I haven’t thought too much about this, so off the top of my head and in no particular order:
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- Gateway by Frederik Pohl
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin
- The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
- Hyperion by Dan Simmons
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
- American Gods by Neil Gaiman
- The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Oddly, although I am reading a lot of fantasy at the moment, it seems to be the science fiction books that have stuck with me the most! Well I suppose I did read a lot of those books at an influential age and also long enough ago that I have reread most of them.
I may have to revisit this at some point, when I can put some more thought into it and provide some more commentary on my choices. But this is the short version anyway!
I’ve now finished The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb, book two in the Liveship Traders trilogy. I previously posted up a review of the first book in the series, Ship of Magic. This isn’t going to be a long review, I find it is often most difficult to talk about the middle book of a trilogy. I will just say that, like the first book, I love the setting and the plot and the characters, and my only criticism is that the pacing is a little off at times, probably due to the sheer length of the book. But I am really enjoying these books, I am now reading the third book, Ship of Destiny, and I will post up a fuller review of the whole series when I am finished that one.
So I have now finished my Iain Banks / Iain M. Banks reading project and I thought I should post a wrap-up of sorts. I started the project at the beginning of the year because I wanted to reread some of my favourite of Banks’ novels.
I picked a selection of his books to reread, both his SF novels and his mainstream fiction. I also picked two books of his that I hadn’t read before, his non-fiction book Raw Spirit and his newest and posthumously-published book The Quarry.
I originally planned to read these at the rate of one per month, hence why I picked 12 books, but I got ahead of schedule and finished early. That is not a bad thing though, as I very much enjoyed reading these books.
I really loved rereading the Culture novels here, in particular my favourite one, The Player of Games, although I also really liked Use of Weapons and Look to Windward. Those books were all excellent.
Overall I really enjoyed this little project that I set myself. It was great to revisit so many of Banks’ books and it reminded me of why he is one of my favourite authors.
If you want to start reading any of Banks’ books then I would recommend The Player of Games as the place to start for his SF and The Crow Road as a good first book to try his non-SF fiction.
I’ve just finished Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb. This is a massive book, and it’s the first volume in the Liveship Traders trilogy. This trilogy is a sequel of sorts to the Farseer trilogy, which I read a couple of years ago. It’s set in the same world, but a different part of it, and features different characters. This book has a nautical theme to it as well.
The liveships are ships made from magical wizardwood. After three generations of one family die on the ship, the ship quickens and comes to life. These ships are rare but bring great fortune to their owners when they awaken, and the owners are part of the old Trader family tradition.
The book largely follows members of the Verstrit family, a Trader family who own the ship Vivacia. The captain of the ship dies, bringing the ship to life. His daughter Althea expects to inherit the ship as she has been trained to be a sailor. But at the last moment the ship is instead given to her older sister, who turns it over to her husband to captain.
However as he is not from a Trader family he has no link to the ship, and he must have a family member on board. He turns Althea off the ship and instead forces his young son Winstow to join the crew, even though he would rather continue his training as a priest.
So Winstow and Althea are two of the main characters of the book, as Althea struggles to regain her place on board the Vivacia, while Winstow tries to find a way off the ship and away from his father.
Away from the ship, the book also follows other members of the family as they deal with the debt the family has accrued in acquiring the liveship, and their dealings with the mysterious Rain Wild traders, tainted by magic. Another character is the pirate Captain Kennit, who has his sights on stealing a liveship of his own.
If that seems like a long synopsis, it’s because the book is massive, and it packs a lot in. There are a lot of different characters and plot lines to keep track of. That is my only criticism of the book, that it is so long and has so much going on, the pacing suffers a bit.
However I think a lot of big fantasy series often have that problem, where the trilogy overall if brilliant, but individual books are not quite perfect, and so overall the whole series becomes more than the sum of its parts. I suspect that will be the case with this trilogy.
I very much enjoyed this book, and although it seemed to take awhile for the story to get started, I am definitely looking forward to starting on the second book in the trilogy. I feel this book was largely focused on set up and worldbuilding and character development. But now the story is really starting to pick up and I am excited to see where the rest of the trilogy will go.
I’ve now read The Quarry by Iain Banks, the final book in my Iain Banks reading project, and indeed Banks’ final book, published shortly after his death.
The book is narrated by Kit, a social awkward 18 year old, who lives with his father Guy. Guy is dying of cancer and has gathered his old friends around him for one last weekend of fun. However they have an ulterior motive, as they want to track down an old incriminating video tape which Guy has somewhere in his possession, lost in his ramshackle dilapidated house. The irony is that Banks was already writing this book about a man dying of cancer when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer himself.
Unlike the other Banks books I have been reading this year, this is one that I haven’t read before. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, as it’s not exactly a pleasant subject, made worse by the circumstances of Banks’ own death. The book is a strange one. I liked the character of Kit, but I was underwhelmed by the plot and the rest of the characters. However the book has a couple of great Banksian rants in it about the state of the world and Guy facing his mortality and impending death. Those were really touching and moving, again made more so by the knowledge that Banks was dying as he wrote them.
Overall I had mixed feelings towards the book. It is not Banks’ best book, it lacks his earlier greatness, but it is also a very fitting final book, full of horrific irony and therefore inescapably moving. I am glad that he had time to finish the book before his death, and I am glad that I finally read it.
I picked up these two books, The Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke, on a bit of a whim. I was influenced by the amazing covers and then by the description of the books as YA fantasy with pirates and magical assassins. They turned out to be exactly as fun and enjoyable as I had hoped they would be.
The two books are a duology, one complete story split into two books. The main character and narrator is Ananna, the daughter of a pirate captain. She is supposed to marry the heir to another pirate clan, but she doesn’t want to marry him and so runs away. His family send an assassin after her - in this world, assassins use powerful blood magic and are practically invincible. When the assassin tracks her down there is an accident and he is cursed, binding them together magically so that he must protect her instead of killing her. Together Ananna and Naji, the assassin, set off to escape the further killers that are sent after her, and to find a way to cure the curse keeping them together. Along the way they have all sort of adventures with pirates and magic and wizards and spirits and fantastic creatures.
I really, really liked these books. Together they were just really fun and enjoyable to read, a great adventure story, with really good characters too. They were only short books, and they were pretty light, but I still thought they were very good indeed.
I’ve been trying to be a bit more active on Goodreads lately, so I thought I’d do the Goodreads book tag.
- What was the last book you marked as read?
The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke, which the first book in a duology. It’s a YA fantasy book featuring pirates and magical assassins.
- What are you currently reading?
The Pirate’s Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke, the second book in the duology mentioned in my previous answer!
- What was the last book you marked as TBR?
I don’t really use Goodreads to record my TBR list, I just add the book when I start to read it. But I am considering starting to keep a TBR list and wishlist on Goodreads.
- What book do you plan to read next?
Well I have a few fantasy series to choose from, but I think I may read an SF novel before jumping into any of those. I’m not sure, I’ll have to see how I feel when I finish the current novel I’m reading.
- Do you use the star rating system?
Yes. The rating scale I use is an entirely subjective one, where a rating of five stars indicates a book that I loved, four stars a book that I really liked, three stars a book that I mostly enjoyed, two stars a book that I didn’t like and one reserved for books that I truly loathed. Most of the ratings are skewed towards the positive end, as I tend not to finish books that I really disliked, and I don’t rate those ones, I just abandon them. I think I am quite generous with my star ratings overall, a lot of books end up in the 4 or 5 star categories.
- Are you doing a 2014 Reading Challenge?
I’ve posted about this before, my current goal for the challenge is 150 books, up from 75 at the start of the year.
- Do you have a wishlist?
I have a wishlist on Amazon where I keep track of the books I want to buy. As I said above regarding the TBR list, I am thinking of incorporating this into Goodreads so I can track everything in one place, and also easily see reviews from people whose opinions I trust or respect.
- What book do you plan to buy next?
Well having bought this lot, I am restraining myself for the next month or so. That being said there are a few new releasing coming up in the next two months which I will be buying as soon as they are published, including Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie, and The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss.
- Do you have any favourite quotes, would you like to share a few?
I’m not really someone who collects quotes, and I don’t have any on Goodreads, but I have a quote tag here on Tumblr so you can see any quotes I’ve posted or reblogged.
- Who are your favourite authors?
At the moment, Iain Banks, Neil Gaiman, Brandon Sanderson, Kurt Vonnegut… I could go on but I’ll leave it there.
- Have you joined any groups?
Recently I have joined a couple of groups, but I haven’t really been active in any of them yet. It’s something I’m interested in getting involved it, so I’ll try it out at some point.
- Are there any questions/comments you would like to add?
Personally, I prefer LibraryThing as a way of keeping track of my books, it has a better catalogue system. However it doesn’t have quite the same social component to it that Goodreads has, which it why I am trying to be more active on Goodreads. If you use Goodreads please feel free to add me as a friend.
My book haul from this weekend. What can I say? When I read trilogies or series, I like to do so without taking a break between books, I prefer to get immersed in the world and the story and the characters. I was in the mood for reading some big fantasy trilogies. I had an Amazon gift voucher, and you can figure out what happened next. Hopefully these books will all be good ones, and I am looking forward to all of them. I have a few other unread books to get through, mostly SF novels which I hope to read this month, so now I won’t be buying any more books for quite awhile!
I started off the month by reading Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. I’m reading this for my book group, but it is a book I’ve read several times before. I first read it in school, and later I read this copy when I was working my way through the SF Masterworks series, so I had last read it about 10 years ago. Nonetheless it was a book that had stuck in my mind, and I was keen to reread it and I am looking forward to discussing it at my book group.
The book is told through “progress reports” written by the protagonist Charlie Gordon. At the start of the book Charlie can barely read or write, and he has a low IQ. He is taking part in an experiment to increase his intelligence, which had previously only been tested on mice, such as the titular mouse Algernon. The experiment works and Charlie grows rapidly more intelligent, although he struggles emotionally to adjust to this. However soon it becomes clear that Algernon is regressing, and Charlie must face the fact that he too will lose his new found intelligence.
The book is not quite perfect. The main negative is that the language and some of the attitudes are very dated. There is some occasional racist language, but particularly the language and attitudes used to describe people with learning disabilities, which can be rather grating to a contemporary reader. I also thought that the book focuses too much on the sexual elements of Charlie’s development, which is something I do not remember from earlier readings of the book.
But those issues aside, I really love this book, it is an incredibly well told, touching and thought-provoking story. It’s a short book, just over 200 pages, and I read the whole thing in one sitting, I was just utterly engrossed by it. I would really recommend the book, it’s a very good read.
This is the penultimate book in my Iain Banks rereading project, Transition. This is a strange one, as it is clearly an SF book, but it is published with Iain Banks as the author, as opposed to Iain M. Banks. I can only assume this is because it is the sort of SF that doesn’t involve spaceships and aliens, and therefore doesn’t quite fit with his normal space opera SF novels. The book follows several different characters who are connected to an organisation called the Concern, which involves the transitioning between parallel worlds. There is a schism in the Concern and the book follows different characters from each side of this civil war. I liked the book, it is full of interesting ideas and wonderful, unreliable, twisted characters. It’s not my favourite of Banks’ books, but it fills a nice gap between his mainstream fiction and his harder SF novels, and for that reason I really like it and that’s why I included it in this project.
Books Read in August 2014
- The Way of Shadows – Brent Weeks
- Right Ho, Jeeves – PG Wodehouse
- Leviathan Wakes – James S.A. Corey
- Caliban’s War – James S.A. Corey
- Abaddon’s Gate – James S.A. Corey
- Cibola Burn – James S.A. Corey
- The Best of All Possible Worlds – Karen Lord
- Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami
- We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
- The Alloy of Law – Brandon Sanderson
- Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
- Replay – Ken Grimwood
- The Thief – Megan Whalen Turner
- Transition – Iain Banks
This month got off to a bad start, but picked up from there, and I ended up reading 14 books in August.
I also enjoyed the newest Haruki Murkami novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which I read just before I saw Murakami speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, a great experience.
I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be reading next month, as I am never very good at sticking to any TBR plans that I make. I have an SF novel to start off with, which I am reading for my book group. But otherwise I am feeling in a fantasy mood so I think I will also be reading a few fantasy novels or series in September too.