The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

Filed under:Mystery — posted by Randolph on February 19, 2022 @ 5:24 pm

The Long Way Home is the 10th book in the Chief Inspector Armande Gamache series. This book is very enjoyable, mostly exploring the relationship between the involved characters and brings out some idiosyncrasies. From the last book, Peter was sent off by his wife, they scheduled a meeting to revisit their relationship after one year. When he doesn’t show, she became worried about him and invoked Gamache’s assistance.

The first thing I noticed about the book is the cover. It is textured as a canvas and the image is upside-down. The backside is the same image but right-side up. I think this refers to Peter. When he parted, he worked on his art. Art was his problem when his wife showed him up having all the success. He was the one who studied art, In order to restore their relationship, he had to stand on his own.

Louise Penny has a wonderful writing style. The way she describes people and scenes makes the reader feel like he is there among the action, part of the conversation. I had felt some of the previous books hadn’t maintained the same quality, but this one is one of her best. This book has a slower pace than most, and a slow pace is normal for this series. Gamache is a thoughtful, patient protagonist.

Gamache would normally talk through the mysteries with Beauvoir, but now has several companions from Three Pines to add thoughts, concerns and support. I wonder if this is part of the reason Louise took him away from La Surété. I am looking forward to reading the next book.

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on January 12, 2022 @ 6:08 pm

This book is about the investigation into an attack on a Mercury outpost. The main character, Swan Er Hong, is on Mercury during the attack and is lead on a mystery from her recently deceased relative, Alex. Swan is an expert in building ecosystems, mostly in Asteroids. Alex had left her a message that leads her to Fitz Wahram from Titan who Swan describes as a toad, big chest, big stomach, short legs. He is the main supporting character we don’t really know much about except he seems to be an official of some sort and had access to a lot of resources.

Earth’s global warming had destroyed most ecosystem and most of the animal life. During the investigation, Swan and Wahram take it upon themselves to fix the Earth by parachuting animals throughout the world in aerogel bubbles. I’m guessing Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR) doesn’t understand either aerogel nor bouyancy.

Swan, as a protagonist, doesn’t seem to make many decisions. During the majority of the book she is a passive observer and just goes with the flow of events. I understand that KSR writes a lot about politics and our pollution issues, but the Earth repopulation seems to be given more thought than the main plot. And it seems peculiar that Swan and Wahram are of one mind on how to go about a solution. It’s even more surprising that this simplistic action would actually work without first restoring ecosystems for the animals.

The pacing of the book is odd. For the most part it is very slow. This is compounded by the tendency of KSR to use unusual words that you either have to look up or ignore. Admittedly, many of them are interesting, but the habit just slows the reading process. Too often there are simpler synonyms that would have worked just as well, except for slowing down the reader.

The other issue in pacing is that between paragraphs too much can happen. After leaving Mercury for Pluto, there is only one blank line between being barely underway and arriving, there is no indication of time passing.

Clear to the end, I was expecting the book to pick up, I’ve liked other books he’s written. This one just didn’t pan out and the ending really felt anticlimactic.

I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on December 16, 2021 @ 5:32 pm

I wanted to like this book. It is rated very well but I don’t see it. The book is too long, over 600 pages where I feel that less than half of that would have been adequate for this story.

The book is set sometime after the movies. Han and Leah have their twins. It has a few settings, all new places to this universe.

The book starts of very poorly. It felt like the author was putting words down just to get past the setup. Corran’s wife is kidnapped. He knows she was kidnapped and is held in stasis, but nothing else. This started off feeling wrong. Maybe the stasis is explained in the end, but it doesn’t seem rational. Nor why he can ascertain that and nothing else. It was just a setup so he has ample time to mess around becoming a powerful Jedi.

Other characters from the movie appear. Luke, the most prominent, doesn’t seem reasonable from the movie settings. He seems to fall out of character when Corran needs to make a point – mostly to the reader.

Backstory for Corran is often provided through dialog. As in “You remember when…” Then two characters discuss something in detail that both of them know.

Corran encounters lots of odd characters. Yet many of them appear only briefly and provide a critical skill or give him equipment he direly needs and didn’t realize he needed.

The writing is mediocre. The story line seemed interesting, but someone else should have told it. He goes to excess in making up words to create an otherworldly feel. It mostly just slows down the reading, although I do believe he has some skill at creating words that provide a good feel for the situation or thing described.

It felt contrived and overly dragged out with weak supporting characters.

Paint Pouring: Mastering Fluid Art by Rick Cheadle

Filed under:Art — posted by Randolph on November 3, 2021 @ 3:26 pm

This is a great introduction to the techniques of paint pouring. It provides clear techniques with plenty of examples of what you (or at least a professional) can do with the technique.

Babylon’s Ashes by James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Randolph on August 8, 2021 @ 5:25 pm

Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy: Knowledge Here Begins Out There by Jason T. Eberl

Filed under:Philosophy — posted by Randolph on July 31, 2021 @ 7:18 am

Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell

Filed under:Fantasy — posted by Randolph on July 14, 2021 @ 4:58 pm

I was looking for a quick read and this caught my eye. It’s about a witch, Lily Ivory, who moves to San Francisco, partially to escape her life as a witch, and opens a vintage clothing store. Lily begins an investigation into a missing girl, which relates to some paranormal events.

The book is billed as a mystery. Although there really is no mystery involved. Lily knows the details pretty much from the onset, I think it’s more of a Fantasy/Adventure with a lot of humor thrown in. Lily is constantly encountering odd characters with even more peculiar traits, each bringing a surprise turn to events.

One, Brownwin, is a wikkan, becomes her business partner and provides an impetus to maintain her witchly ways. Another encounter involves a warlock who tricks her into taking a creature off his hands that becomes her familiar.

The characters are fun, even if a bit flat. The story is fairly dynamic and often funny. I might try another in the series, I was hoping for more of a mystery.

Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Adventure,Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on July 1, 2021 @ 3:51 pm

This is book 5 of The Expanse series. In this book, the social order is breaking down. With ships heading through the gate to enter new star systems to start new lives. Colonists are leaving from gravity wells for other systems, leaving Belters fearing that their livelihood will disappear. This leads to radical splinter groups forming. Some of the ships heading to the gate are disappearing, piracy and someone repurposing them is considered, the main Belter splinter group is suspected.

The Rocinante is under repairs that will take a while. Each of the crew takes this opportunity to go address personal issues, each heading in a different direction and each providing a different story.

James Holden remains on Tycho Station and bides his time investigating the disappearance of Monica Stuart.

Alex heads off to Mars to resolve some issues with his ex-wife and to see friends. His ex refuses to talk to him, so he spends a lot of time with Bobby. Bobby is looking into the disappearance of military equipment, including full ships.

The leader of the radical splinter group, Marco Inaros, happens to be a former husband to Noami Nagato, and is turning their son, Filip Inaros, into an active terrorist. Filip led a raid on a Martian outpost to steal some stealth paint. Marco then used that to hide asteroids and then bombard Earth.

Each of the crew ends up getting caught up in the terrorist story from different angles. Noami ends up with Marco, who tries to turn her to his cause. Alex and Bobby are investigating missing Martian ships, sent to search a hiding ship, discover a large fleet owned by Marco. Amos gets caught up in the bombardment on Earth and ends up rescuing Clarissa Mao.

Clarissa becomes a de-facto member of the crew, much to Holden’s chagrin. She seems to fit in and apparently has more control over her emotions and doesn’t use her abilities.

All the main characters make an appearance in this volume. It makes for an excellent story.

Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Science Fiction — posted by Randolph on May 13, 2021 @ 3:55 pm

This is the fourth Book in The Expanse series. In this book, a Belter ship has gotten through the ring to a planet in a new star system. Having established a foundling colony, a company ship arrives with scientists and a private army claiming rights to the planet. The planet has an incredibly large deposit of lithium which the colonists expect to make them wealthy. The planet also harbors some alien artifacts.

When the company, Royal Charter Energy (RCE), arrives, a small independent team of the colonists attempts to destroy the only landing zone. Their bomb explodes as a shuttle is attempting to land causing it to crash killing most onboard.

The company hired Murphy to lead the expedition. He is a gung-ho ex-military type who displays sociopathic characteristics. He uses the shuttle’s destruction to start a campaign of bullying the colonists and killing them with the slightest provocation.

Mars and the UN cooperate to hire Jim Holden and the Rocinante to act as a mediator and try to understand and make peace between the two factions, they give him a lot of liberty to broker deals.

Presumably, the human activity activates the alien tech on the planet. An apparent meltdown unleashes a tidal wave and a high-speed shockwave threatening the colony. Then Fusion stops working, threatening all the ships in orbit.

One of the side-stories is that Murphy configures one of his shuttles as a guided bomb. Then he starts training some of his more extreme personnel as a space military. Alex discovers the shuttle modifications and Noami suits up to set up a remote shut-down on the shuttle. She is caught and imprisoned by Murhpy’s men. A rescue attempt succeeds only when one of Murphy’s men is enticed to change sides.

Miller guides Holden through the alien tech, revealing that it has failed and needs to be corrected. Holden has no choice but to go along if he is to save the three ships in orbit and have any chance of surviving. This exacerbates his problems both with Murphy and with the colonists. The colonists accuse Jim of holding information back in an effort to keep control over the situation. Some suggest he is controlling the tech as problems didn’t start until he arrived. Murphy suspects ulterior motives and follows Holden with the intent to stop (kill) him.

Overall, the book had too many characters to keep track of. But the story maintains a good pace, picking up as it moves along. It is well-told and maintains a good level of action and suspense all along.

Chrisjen Avasarala and Bobby Draper make minor appearances at the end foreshadowing the next book. I feel these characters add a lot to the stories and this suggests they will have a continued appearance in the next books.

Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey

Filed under:Science Fiction,Series — posted by Randolph on April 29, 2021 @ 11:00 am

This is the third installment of The Expanse series. The protomolecule has left Venus and created a mysterious ring near Uranus. All powers want to be represented should something come of it, and have no idea what is there.

At the start of the book, a young belter is flying a ship at high-speed to the ring intending to travel through it. Mars tries unsuccessfully to stop him, but he enters the ring but doesn’t come out. Later, we learn that inside the ring the maximum speed is reduced because the protomolecule viewed this as a threat.

Mars is filing a claim against the Roci and he is blocked from leaving Ceres. When a news team comes with intent of interviewing the team and heading out to the ring. A journalist has gotten the hold lifted so the Roci can fly to the ring on the pretense of doing an interview. It is later revealed that Clarissa Mao, sister of Julie Mao and daughter of the president of the business Holden destroyed is out for revenge.

Being guided by Miller, Holden ventures into the heart of the ring. Here, stars are not visible, and anything exceeding a protomolecule-imposed spead limit is herded into a central orbit with no escapte. Holden does an EVA and flies to the central core of the ring, there he learns that the protomolecule has the potential to cause the sun to go nova and destroy all of humanity – if it views humans as a threat.

Meanwhile some of the people have decided that the best course of action is to attack the ring, a course of action that could destroy all of humanity. From here it becomes an action story where Holden has to avert the threat and convince all ships to power down in order to convince the protomolecule that they aren’t a threat.

The book is exciting. I read it after having seen the third year of The Expanse series on tv and found the book much more interesting. The story is told as a kind of third person somewhat-omniscient narration. The narrator provides insights on on character at a time, changing with each chapter; this provides great insight into each character. These perspectives make the story more engaging than the tv series.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace