28 February 2005

February's Book Report

Incidentally, this whole idea is being shared in our household. See Make Tea Not War for some other opinions on many of the same books.

Orbiter by Warren Ellis. Nice little book about wanting more space exploration. I heartily agree with the sentiment.

100 Bullets: The Counterfifth Detective by Brian Azzarello. Okay hard-boiled detective story. The resolution left me pretty 'meh'. Maybe it would have been better after reading the prior volumes - it felt like it might be a deconstruction of their own formula, thus not so interesting if you didn't know the formula already. Oh well.

Lord of Lies by David Zindell. Second volume of the Ea cycle. Much better on this read (second or third, can't remember which). Zindell has an amazing talent to make interesting philosophical questions into good novels. I don't know how, but he does it. Also pretty good as a basic adventure story.

The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross. Bizarre Lovecraftian bureaucratic spy novel. When I first read it, I thought it was fun. Then I spent a week looking back on it appreciating more little things about it. Absolutely great.

Enlightenment by Roy Porter. A history of the Enlightenment in Britain. Very good indeed, and made me nostalgic for studying philosophy. Also made me angry at religion. Can't people just get over it and realise that religion is a dead piece of history? Several of these guys pointed it out 300 years ago, and they were hardly the first. Bah! I also managed to, in a bout of foolishness, take it back to the library when only halfway through. Very annoying. I may have to buy it.

Fitzpatrick's War by Theodore Judson. Set in a few hundred years, in a strangely changed world - electrical technology has been suppressed - this is the memoir of a military engineer who was a close friend of a Alexander the Great style dictator. It seems to be partly a satire of contemporary American fundamentalism and adventurism but it's also a really good portrait of a man who contributes to some evil deeds and his moral awakening to what he took part in. So, a lot of humour for a serious book. The putative editor of the memoir is constantly putting in amusing footnotes to make sure you know when the memoir goes away from the historical record or is simply obscene or ridiculous by his standards. To be fair, we really don't know if Bruce, the soldier, is more reliable than the editor, but it seems that he is. Very good indeed. I shall certainly be looking out for more of Judson's writing.

The Golden Age, The Phoenix Exultant and The Golden Transcendance
by John C Wright. Dense but interesting transhumanist science fiction. The first book takes a while to get into, as he just drops you into the world of at least 30,000 years into the future and a lot doesn't make sense for a few chapters. Stick with it. Once you get a handle on the different kinds of minds that people have then, this is a fantastic story of Phaeton, an adventurous soul in an unadventurous paradise. Great ideas and some sublimely funny moments, such as when one of the characters is travelling through the wilderness, lighting a campfire with her heat projector and living just like her ancestors in the stone age.

Rifles by Mark Urban. A very readable history of the 95th Rifles from 1809-1815. That is Sharpe's regiment, by the way. Urban does a great job of getting to the stories of the men there, focussing on a few particular people to tell the story. A must-read for any Sharpe fan, and a should-read for anyone with an interest in that piece of history. It's particularly interesting to read the facts about events that Cornwell writes Sharpe into. It's also terrifying - I really can't imagine how anyone could go through such events without succumbing to utter despair...

The Right Hand of God by Russell Fitzpatrick. Final one of the trilogy. Let me say again how wonderful it is to discover a series by an author who finished the whole lot before publishing, so that they are released rapidly. I raise a toast to Mr Fitzpatrick in recognition of his industry! In terms of the actual story, it ends... unexpectedly. Not quite a standard fantasy novel conclusion. Interesting, and I think I'll need to ponder the implications of it for a while before I completely get what happened. Good, just like the first two.

The Remarkable Worlds of Professor Phineas B Fuddle by Boaz and Erez Yakin. Very strange, very funny comic about a couple of scientists from a ludicrous steampunky world journeying to some very odd alternate histories.

The Zenith Angle by Bruce Sterling. I have a distinct memory of writing about this already but do not appear to have actually done so. Not his usual stuff, but a pretty brutal indictment of the anti-terrorist culture in the USA at the moment. My memory is too vague for anything more specific than that.


Make Tea Not War said...

You have definitely forgotten a few eg. Zenith Angle and the Phineas B Fuddle

The Gamester At Large said...

You're right. I wonder where they went...

Anyhow, they'll get added to the main post now.