A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novik
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“A Deadly Education” comes very close to being my 2020 book of the year. The best slug I can come up with is “Hogwarts, if Hogwarts explicitly wanted to eat you.”
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
The slug printed on the cover of this book is “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!” I have to point out that, as far as I can tell, there are zero lesbians. There isn’t a palace, and a vast majority of the book does not take place in space.
It’s spot on about the necromancers though.
Continue reading “Review: The Locked Tomb Trilogy”
I don’t usually read non-fiction, but “Strong Towns” by Charles Marohn turned out to be surprisingly readable for a book about city planning. It piqued my interest because his reasoning fits so neatly into how I’ve come to see the world, but he applies it in an area I haven’t really given much thought. The conclusions he reaches are fairly dire, but I have been finding dire conclusions less and less surprising.
American cities, Charles Marohn tells us, are Ponzi schemes. Detroit’s collapse wasn’t special; it was just early.
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You’re so statistically illiterate you thought p-hacking was when you cheat on a drug test
Yo mama is so religious she thought cross validation was asking what would Jesus do
You’re so clueless you thought a standard deviation was when you’re just, like, a little bit kinky
You’re so idiotic, you ran your epochs in a public school to increase the dropout rate.
Continue reading “Yo mama Turing-completes me”
By: Kameron Hurley
Genre: Science Fiction
This book was recommended to me with the nickname “the ooey gooey book” and it did not disappoint. The Stars are Legion is a science fiction novel set inside entirely organic world-ships. I don’t mean like, ‘a Star Trek spaceship but it is slightly green tinged,’ I’m talking people drinking the ceiling mucus and doing surgery on their vehicles. The writing and story were both enough to keep me engaged, but didn’t really go beyond that for me. If you’re desperately searching science fiction for novelty and like the idea of bio-ships, I’d definitely say pick this book up! Just…be ready for it to be gooey.
If you aren’t familiar with “Am I the Asshole?” you should check it out. It’s a subreddit where people go to, well, find out if they’re assholes or not. They post a description of their situation, and the rest of Reddit judges them. The posters can be anywhere from outrageous villains (“Am I the asshole for telling my adopted brother that he’s not entitled to my time because he’s not my real brother?”) to clear victims (“Am I the asshole for taking back the beer I bought for a party from which I was uninvited?”), and it’s up the readers to decide which is which. The most common judgements are YTA (“You’re the Asshole”) and NTA (“Not the Asshole”), with ESH (“Everyone Sucks Here”) and NAH (“No Assholes Here”) making rare appearances. Once judged, people will do anything from listening and trying to make amends to yelling at the people who called them assholes.
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Friendship is Optimal (Short)
Friendship is Optimal is an interesting little short story you can find online about the potential complications one can have with a misaligned AI. If you’re not used to thinking about “what might happen if an artificial intelligence wasn’t _exactly_ aligned with our goals,” you might find it interesting. If you are familiar with the concept, you might laugh at My Little Pony take on it.
Continue reading “Review: Online Works”
Author: Peter Watts
This novella introduced me to a brand new form of existential dread.
It’s set in the far future, where a crew of humans is woken up from cryogenic sleep once every hundred thousand years to build a wormhole. They’ve had no contact with humanity for a couple of million years.
Continue reading “Review: The Freeze-Frame Revolution”
Author: Lynch, Scott
I have Opinions about this book. To start with, Lies of Locke Lamora is very popular; if you look at a list of “best fantasy novels of the last few decades,” it will usually be in the top fifty or so.
Continue reading “Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)”
Some things that I read that I don’t like.
Continue reading “Review: Books to Avoid”
Author: Jim Butcher
This book is fun. It’s pure Jim Butcher goodness. Things blow up, there’s cool magic, the good guys are all stand up people, the bad guys are hateable. If reading N. K. Jemisin is like eating lemon roasted salmon on a bed of quinoa and then sitting and meditating for an hour, this is like eating an entire chocolate cake and then jumping on a bouncy castle. There’s a wizard who can’t handle doorknobs. There is steampunk sky ship naval combat. There are sentient cats who are at no point explained but are somehow plot critical. It is wonderful chaos.
Continue reading “Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass”
Author: Katherine Addison
Did you know there is a genre called “Fantasy of manners”? I sure did not before reading this book. And you know what? I’m okay with it. The genre uses a typical fantasy setting, but is centered around high society and social conflict. And that sure describes the Goblin Emperor to a t. There were maybe two action scenes in this entire book, and I think the narrator fainted during one of them. I’m not even clear if there was any in the world. One of the main conflicts in the book is getting a legal body to vote on building a bridge. Not passing the vote mind you, just getting them to vote on it at all.
Continue reading “Review: The Goblin Emperor”
Author: Joe Abercrombie
This was a weird book. It’s high fantasy low magic, and is set in a pre-established universe. The previous books in this world, The First Law Trilogy, are pretty highly spoken of on r/fantasy. But people on r/fantasy also speak highly of Branden Sanderson so I probably shouldn’t be trusting their recommendations (fight me).
Continue reading “Review: A Little Hatred”
Author: N. K. Jemisin
Genre: Urban fantasy
If you took Neil Gaiman, distilled him into a liquid, boiled that liquid down until it was pure refined Gaiminum, and then turned that into a book that is well written yet somehow still stumblingly awkward on occasion, you’d have The City We Became.
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Author: Naomi Novik
It’s hard to describe the thing I liked most about Spinning Silver. The best I can do is say that Naomi Novik set out to make a brand new, novel length fairytale (think old-school, not Disney) and she absolutely nailed it. It’s the kind of story I could imagine an old woman telling her village over the course of a winter’s night. Nothing about it is derivative though; it’s brand new and familiar at the same time.
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Author: Ann Leckie
The Raven’s Tower is a very strange novel.
Continue reading “Review: The Raven Tower”
Series by Jim Butcher
Genre: Modern fantasy
Alright, today’s review is for a series that I’ve been rereading, but if you haven’t read it, you’re missing out.
Continue reading “Review: The Dresden Files”
Author: Hank Green
Genre: Science Fiction?
“An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” follows April May, a walking collection of the worst millennial stereotypes, and her life after getting famous via a viral video. At some point there are also aliens, but that’s almost background to the actual story. In fact, for me the science fiction elements were the weakest part of the story. I was there to watch April May self destruct under the sauron-eque gaze of the public eye, and I was not disappointed.
Continue reading “Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing”
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Fantasy / Mythology
It is a well documented fact that Greek gods are assholes; That idea has been thoroughly explored in modern fiction. But one thing I’ve always felt was missing was a perspective for one of the many powerless women who were run roughshod over in those myths. And Circe provides that perspective.
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Series by Ada Palmer
Audiobook: The first book the audio book is subpar, but it is fantastic for the next two
When I started reading these books, I didn’t care much for them. I told Brendan that I likely wouldn’t finish the first book. That I would absolutely never recommend them to anyone. That they were weird, and he was weird for liking them.
Continue reading “Review: Terra Ignota”
By Nick Harkaway
Audio book: Great
If Kurt Vonnugent and the guy who wrote Catch 22 had an incredibly hyperactive baby, who at the age of 7 began producing novels while eating glue sticks, it would probably write Gone Away World.
Continue reading “Review: Gone Away World”
Series by N.K. Jemisin
Audio book: Decent
So sometimes I go to Goodreads to make fun of one star reviews for books I like. It’s kind of a vapid way to spend time, a way of feeling superior to people you disagree with without any of the actual risk of having to engage with them. You can skim what someone wrote and go “ugh, she just doesn’t get it,” and that can sometimes be fun.
The reviews for The Broken Earth Series were different, though. The primary complaint people seemed to have was that the books were too dark. “Too much child abuse to be acceptable.” “the book is just too darkly misanthropic.” “Why did she have to have so much senseless violence?”
Because the book is about systemic oppression. Because you can’t write a book about an entire people being hated and dehumanized without children being beaten to death. Jemisin isn’t deciding to perpetrate these atrocities; Jemisin is telling the story, in her way, of things that have actually happened. And finding reviews that are either asking that she not tell these stories, or that she somehow make them more palatable, infuriated me. (One review was a woman saying she was glad the books existed, she just simply didn’t have it in her to read them; that I can understand)
The Broken Earth series is a set of three fantasy novels, following a woman named Essun after discovering her son dead. It’s a good story, with plenty of interesting background, world building, and magic. The prose is good, but isn’t perfect. The plot makes sense, but feels a bit meandering. Some of her choices, like telling the story in second person, can be a bit hit or miss. But all of that is unimportant compared to how much substance there is to this book. Few fantasy novels have made me think about the real world as much as this one did.
I’d love to say “you absolutely have to read these books,” but some of the issues I had with the writing prevent that. If you’re a fantasy reader though, I think you should definitely check them out (especially if you sometimes think “I’d really like a book with a mostly female cast”).
If you’ve ever said to yourself, “It’d be really nice to read a series of disconnected shorts describing the path social spiders might take on their journey to civilization, and perhaps, the stars,” then this novel will do a fantastic job scratching that particular itch. Otherwise, you’re probably safe skipping Children of Time.
By Trevor Noah.
Audiobook: Narrated by the author. I’d prefer to listen to it.
Born a Crime is fantastic. Trevor Noah somehow manages to blend together musings about racism, a picture of South Africa under apartheid, and some truly ridiculous childhood stories into a consistently funny series of essays. I laughed a lot. I learned way more about the apartheid than I did in my U.S. public school. I cried at one point.
Continue reading “Review: Born a Crime”