The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Randolph on September 11, 2019 @ 7:34 am
The Obelisk Gate on LibraryThing.com

This is the second book in the Broken Earth fantasy trilogy by Jamison. This book continues from where the first one ended seamlessly as if part of the same book.

This book follows Essun, who is [still] looking for her daughter and Nassun, the daughter, who is growing in strength and facing personal doubts. This book also follows the guardian Shaffa, who is undergoing his own transformations. Through his eyes we learn a lot more about the guardians.

Essun and How find themselves in a comm named Castrima with its own unique marvels telling of a former vast technology that is related to the obelisks. Essun is trying to come to terms with saving the world by capturing the moon as indicated by Alibaster at the end of the first book.

Through How, we learn a lot more about the stone eaters. How reveals a lot more of himself as we see him grow (?) or maybe just reveal more of himself.

The story is written well as Jamisin takes the reader through the well-developed world she has created. The series is enjoyable and compelling. I strongly recommend reading it in order.

Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Allen C. Guelzo

Filed under:History — posted by Randolph on August 15, 2019 @ 8:12 pm

The series follows the life of Abraham Lincoln starting with his father and grandfather to build a picture of the family and of Lincoln’s childhood, then going through his death.

The story is told in three parts. The early history and his family relationships. Then his political career, telling of his leaving the family, his successful command during the Blackhawk War and finding his place in the world through several failures, gaining success in a law and his joining the new Whig party. And following his career in politics and how he left the Whigs for the new Republican Party and, by a small chance, gained the opportunity to run in the 1860 presidential election. Much of the last section deals with the Civil War, and how he managed to make the issue of slavery a crucial part of the war in spite of the resistance of slave-holding states still part of the union.

The lectures paint a much more complex image of Lincoln than we usually receive. Although a stanch abolitionist, he believed slavery would die out on his own and would be willing to compromise his position for the sake of the union. Yet in the end, he still managed to make his goals a reality.

The lecture series is interesting and well worth the little time commitment to listen to. The accompanying book doesn’t add much, but provides an outline to the lectures with a couple of questions to highlight key points.

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

Filed under:Fantasy — posted by Randolph on July 29, 2019 @ 1:41 pm

The Fifth Season is a fantasy novel set in a similar world to our own. The world is a single continent with a few short-lived islands along its perimeter. The people’s technology is roughly equivalent to Roman equivalent, although their science is more advanced by a bit. Their society is fractured into villages, called comms, short for communities. These are tribal and heirarchical with people at the bottom working for the right to live within the comm.

They have a magic technology based on Earth science. Their practitioners, geomancers, can sense even the smaller movements of the Earth and, when needed influence them. So they can suppress earthquakes, stronger geomancers can influence volcanoes. This comes at a cost, they draw heat from life and earth around them creating a small frozen waste around them, thus they are shunned by society and forced into strict training.

The writing is odd – in a pleasant way. Most of the story is in third person with limited access to the thoughts of a couple of characters. One of the threads is told in second person, which feels weird, especially being inside the head of other characters. The writing itself is easy to read, the sentences are not very complex. The characters are complex enough to be interesting and make the story compelling.

The book includes a glossary at the back of thematic words used in the book, making a nice reference. I found it helpful early on. There is also a map of the continent in the front of the book.

The book is good. I kept looking for time to read more of it and am looking forward to the two other books in the series.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Poetry by Nikki Moustaki

Filed under:Writing — posted by Randolph on July 25, 2019 @ 3:30 pm

This book teaches the reader about the basics of poetry and does a good job of it. It describes many different forms with examples, and goes to explain things like meter and variation, different rhyming forms, scansion, rhythm and other without being boring or too technical. It goes into discovering purpose and symbols, identifies metaphors and all that stuff they pretend everyone gets in high school classes.

I found the book enjoyable and interesting.

The Beatles and Philosophy edited by Michael and Stephen Baur

Filed under:Philosophy — posted by Randolph on June 20, 2019 @ 3:50 pm

This books in in the series, Popular Culture and Philosophy by Open Court. As with the others, it is a collection of essays by various philosophers on a variety of subjects and tied to subjects of pop culture, in this case, The Beatles.

This book covers topics such as reality, social philosophy, moral philosophy, existentialism and a few others. Each is tied to Beatles songs.

I generally enjoy this series, I like how concepts of philosophy are tied to subjects we are familiar with, this helps grasp the concepts and to remember the lessons. However, I felt this volume was weaker than the others. The tie-ins sometimes felt contrived and different philosophers often found very different, and somewhat contradictory, messages in the same lyrics. This does not aid learning the concepts.

Overall, I did enjoy the book. Several of the essays were very good and enjoyable to read. I think I’d recommend others in the series over this one.

Conan Omnibus Volume 4 by Timothy Truman

Filed under:Adventure,Fantasy — posted by Randolph on May 24, 2019 @ 6:06 pm

Normally, I really enjoy reading Conan. With this omnibus, I have mixed feelings.

On the positive side, the quality of the art is very good. A lot of detail goes into important images, he uses the page changes well and mixes the image formats on each page in a pleasing manner.

I also like the pacing. I find most comics paced too fast. The authors don’t make good use of timing or pacing.

The stories are decent, I wouldn’t rate them much above that. It’s moderately typical of Conan stories and they can become generic. These stories had a lot of the generic qualities.

On the negative side, I didn’t really feel like this is the same Conan as the Robert Howard stories. There is much more emphasis on the violence and his relationship to Crom is completely different. That doesn’t detract from the value of the story unless you are looking for a traditional Conan.

The other element that bothered me was a setting error. In a place where clocks are a rare wonder and, if I remember correctly, never appears in the original stories, Conan casually blurted out “I’ll be back in an hour or two.” Although minor to many, this really detracted from the setting for me. I doubt Conan has ever nor would ever have need nor understand mechanical time.

Overall, the book makes for a mild diversion, I can’t recommend it if you like the original Conan. The character’s behavior does not match the expected archetype. If you favor this version of the character, or just enjoy the story, it’s ok.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on April 15, 2019 @ 2:09 pm

Aurora is the story of the first interstellar colony ship from Earth. The story is in several parts describing latter parts of the trip, arrival, initial landings, and others that would give away too much.

The story is both good and weak. The general plots are excellent and told well, but the story breaks down for me at several points.

The first part of the story involves a lot of AI and training it. Then this is abandoned is parts of the story where it seems it would be relied on. It is ignored when problems and conflicts arise, then appears again acting on its reasoning that should have happened earlier in the conflicts.

The author has a good story and tells it well when characters are interacting. Then he has a very different style when trying to convey actions of large groups of people, resorting to telling the reader about events rather than showing him or having characters reacting to the events. At these times, I found the writing much weaker and felt much less involved in the story.

At one point in the story, people 3-D print guns which explode when they need them. I couldn’t imagine someone not trying them out before hand and just learning to shoot, learning how the weapons will work. After the guns failure, they resort to using available tools as clubs rather than printing better weapons or armor when a bow or a sword would be very useful.

During these crises, it becomes apparent that the ship has no police forces. On a ship of around 2000 people over several generations, I find it hard to imagine one not being needed. Yet they do have a court system.

The science was inconsistent. I can accept new science for the sake of fiction and suspend disbelief, but when it isn’t consistent, that bothers me. The big case in point is that the starship had magnetic fields to deflect small particles in space to avoid damage. Yet when flying through a planetary atmosphere to decelerate, they aren’t there long enough to generate heat. Clearly he doesn’t understand thermodynamics, great amounts of heat should be generated due to the high speeds.

I was also disappointed in the ending. I know he was trying for symbolism with Freya adapting to open spaces, but it didn’t work for me.

Overall, it started off well. I found the middle of the book interested and enjoyable, but it went downhill from there.

Outlaw by Edward W. Robertson

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on March 11, 2019 @ 6:48 pm

This is the first book in the Rebel Star series. It is a free book available from a large number of sources by a self-proclaimed best-selling author. The plot looks interesting. It did look promising but failed to pan out.

I found the characters flat and uninteresting. The writing was unimaginative with artificial and cumbersome analogies thrown in in the wrong places. Information was injected into paragraphs at arbitrary places breaking the flow of the text.

DNF.
If someone can convince me it is worth reading, part of me would like to finish it. But it seems there are too many good books to spend much time on a bad one.

Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy, edited by William Irwin

Filed under:Philosophy — posted by Randolph on March 6, 2019 @ 3:03 pm

This is another book in the Blackwell Philosophy of Pop Culture series. In this book, Alice’s adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are used to discuss ideas in philosophy. I thought this would be a good book, given that almost everyone is familiar with the subject and many people have read one of the two. This book may well encourage you to reread them.

Since Lewis Carol was interested in logic and word games, that provides a lot of the material for this book. The queen, who sees time backwards and who wants to remove people’s heads, and Humpty Dumpty, who reserves the definition of words he uses to suit his immediate needs, along with many others, provide a wealth of fodder for these philosophers to help educate the reader in different philosophical ideas.

Many parts of the book were concerned mostly with logic, or the lack thereof. I found these sections a bit tedious with little new for those who are well-founded in logic.

Another large portion concerned language and words. Looking at what a language is, word definitions and context. Can you readily fix a language with dictionaries and grammars when they are always changing?

Other philosophers (in the collection), addressed feminism, social contracts and nuclear strategy. It is clear that Lewis Carol thought a lot on these ideas after seeing what these authors have found among the works.

These subjects make you rethink what you knew about the books. They are full of some interesting ideas that are lost on the young reader. The book has a lot of interesting information in small bites that make it easy to read and worth the time.

Hawkeye, Vol 1: My Life as My Weapon by Matt Fraction

Filed under:Fantasy,Humor — posted by Randolph on February 25, 2019 @ 6:11 pm

This was recommended by a friend and I was glad for the suggestion. The book consists of two short stories in the graphic novel. This is a collection of the first issues of Hawkeye comic books.

There are two protagonists in one persona, Hawkeye. The two are Clint Barton and Kate Bishop. The backstory is that Clint was one of the Avengers, with no special ability but an extraordinary talent with the bow. When he was presumed killed, Captain America passed the bow on to Kate, who possessed similar skills. The story works on the relationship between these to versions of Hawkman.

I found the characters and the stories are interesting. The artists, David Aja and Javier Pulido do a good job. I like the composition, both the scenes and the page layout. They make good use of color to delimit segments of different sequences within the story. Although I felt the pacing was too fast, a common issue with graphic novels in general.

The story is both exciting and funny. They way the two characters interact can draw you in and make you believe and like both characters. It is well worth a good read.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace