Toll the Hounds (Malazan Book of the Fallen #8) ★☆☆☆☆

tollthehounds (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Toll the Hounds
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #8
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1299
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

I’m really struggling with this.

The Tiste Andii have a big part. Nimander and the young Andii, led by Clip, are on a journey to Black Pearl to pledge allegiance to Anomander Rake. During this journey Clip is possessed by the Fallen god and it is up to Nimander to stop him. Rake himself leaves Black Coral and faces down Hood himself and kills Hood with Dragnipur, thus bringing Hood into the realm of Dragnipur. This allows Hood to bring his armies of the dead against the forces of Chaos within that realm. Rake then faces Traveller, who is revealed as Dassem Ultor, First Sword of the Empire and not only dies in a battle with him, but is killed by Dragnipur as well. This places him in Dragnipur’s realm as well and somehow makes it possible for him to confront Mother Dark and convince her to take her children back.

Karsa Orlong and Samar Dev had been travelling with Traveller and are witnesses.

There is a lot going on in Darujhistan itself. Cutter and others have returned. The remaining Bridge Burners who run a bar, have a contract taken out on them by the Assassins guild. Rallick Nom and Vorcan both recover in the Azath House and get back into the thick of things. Gruntle ends up working for the Trygalle Guild and Mappo takes their services to try to get back to Icarium. Only Mappo and Gruntle get called into the Realm of Dragnipur to help lead the forces of the Dead against Chaos.

The Broken god is also making a play outside of Black Coral to subsume the newly ascended Itkovian, now known as the Redeemer. Using his own corrupted blood, a black addictive druglike sludge, he enslaves the high priestess of the Redeemer and it is up to a former Pannion Domin of all people to defend the Redeemer, who has chosen not to defend himself.

After the battle between Rake and Traveller, and the battle that ensued for control of Dragnipur, Caladan Brood emerged in control of the sword. With the help of the remaining Torrud Cabal, he destroys the sword with Burn’s Hammer, thus releasing all the souls still in existence within the sword.

 

My Thoughts:

Last time I read this, I called this a bloated piece of crap (to summarize). This time around, I have much more to say.

It IS a bloated piece of crap. At 1300 pages, this easily could have been pared down to 800 or 900 pages simply by removing the monologuing by every character about despair, hopelessness, the pointlessness of existence, etc, etc. I found myself skimming pages at a time and not missing any actual plot points. Erikson becomes as bad as Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged with the monologue by John Gault. Erikson gives full vent to his existential beliefs and in all honesty, it is horrible.

Lots of Christian theology and personal philosophy coming up, so be warned.

Sometimes, books can affect us in deep and profound ways. We always hope that it is for the better but sometimes it isn’t. This time around, it wasn’t for the better. Over the last 10 years I have learned that I am particularly susceptible to the weakness of hopelessness and despair. Whether in a sermon or in a book, if the negative is at the forefront, it will bring my spirit down and affect me physically. I can not live without Hope. That is part of why I am a Christian.

Erikson puts forth that Oblivion is the end of everything. Good, bad, right, wrong, all will end in nothingness. You can only witness existence and hope someone else will witness you as well. This directly cuts across the fact that God Himself is our witness. He has always been and He will always be. Oblivion is not the end of God, even though it is the end of humanity who are not saved by Jesus Christ. Our lives are being watched and recorded by God and we are not alone.

Erikson also writes how everything good is essentially pointless since it is tainted in one way or another. God is not tainted. God is Good. Everything good flows from a Perfect God and it IS good because it aligns with His character. Erikson takes everything that is written on our very hearts as good and drags it through a shit hole and stabs it with a rusty butter knife all in an effort to show how it really isn’t good.

Sadly, it wasn’t until I was at the 80% mark that I realized how this was affecting me. My attitude was horrible about pretty much everything and the world seemed grey and blah even while I was objectively having a good time. I could have taken steps to counteract this much earlier if I had realized what was going on. I do plan on reading either Mark of a Man by Elizabeth Elliot or one of C.S. Lewis’s books immediately after this.

In the future, I will never read this book again. I also plan on waiting an extra cycle before attempting the next Malazan Book of the Fallen. I’m giving this book the “Worst Book of the Year” tag as well to help remind my future self to never even look at this thing again.

★☆☆☆☆

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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Reaper’s Gale (Malazan Book of the Fallen #7) ★★★★☆

reapersgale (Custom).jpgThis review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission 
Title:
Reaper’s Gale
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #7
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 940
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Edur/Letheri Empire continues to totter on. Rhulad Sengar, instrument of the Broken God, continues to fight against various champions and continues to die and be resurrected. He is cut off from his Edur family and allies by the Letheri beauracracy and it is really the Prime Minister who is running things.

The champions. Karsa Orlong has a plan and he can’t let Icarium get in his way. But after a confrontation in the streets, he realizes that Icarium has his own plans which do not involve fighting with the Emperor. Icarium unleashes an instrument of magic but something goes wrong and we don’t know if he survives the magical conflagration or not. Karsa faces Rhulad, treats like the boy he is, takes the magical sword and with the help of all the spirits chained to him, forces a path to where the Broken God resides. Instead of killing the Broken God, he simply rejects him and has the blacksmith who made the cursed sword destroy it, along with all the power invested in it by the Broken God.

Gnoll, the Prime Minister, has setup a secret police, the Patriotists. Their end goal is to destroy the Edur, take wealth for themselves and become the rulers in the shadow. Much like any secret police, they end up going to far and with all the other events going, the populace rises up and kills most of them.

Tehol Beddict, with the aide of his manservant Bugg who is the elder god Mael in disguise, continues his economic war against his own people. His goal is to bring down the whole economic system so as to bring about something different that can last. Successful in the end, Tehol becomes the new Emperor.

The Awl, tribal plainsmen, are the latest people under seige by the Letheri. With the arrival of a prophesied leader, Red Mask, who is guarded by two K’Chain Ch’malle, the Awl have a chance of not only surviving but of destroying the Letheri army sent after them. It turns out that the Greyshields were allies of the Awl against the Letheri but the Awl betrayed them and left them to die on the battlefield earlier. Redmask fails and his “guardians” turn on him and kill him for said failure. In his death it is revealed that he was an outcast Letheri and was simply using the Awl to get revenge on Lether. A handful of Awl children survive and are taken underwing by the newly arrived Barghast army which destroys the Letheri army. The two Ch’malle return to their matron, their reasons still a secret.

The Malazans, the outcast Bonehunter army, land on the shores of Lether and begin an invasion. Adjunct Tavore is as silent as ever and nobody in the army knows what is going on. Fiddler speculates that she is simply going after the Broken God and not just Lether. The Malazans split up and fight their way to the capital, only to find it already in chaos due to the Patriotists, Karsa Orlong’s killing of the Emperor, Icarium’s machine gone wrong and Tehol Beddict’s plans. They put Tehol on the throne and are set to go elsewhere, whereever Tavore decides.

There is yet another storyline dealing with a disparate group of Tiste Andii, Letheri slaves, Tiste Edur, Imass, Eleint dragons and the birth of a new Azath House. Dealing with betrayals from long ago, it has no direct impact on the overall storyline in this book and as such, I’m not typing up the details. This “summary” is already longer than most of my whole reviews.

 

My Thoughts:

My “review” from 2010 is a good 1 paragraph sum up of the book. Obviously, as shown by my summary above, there is a bloody lot more to this book.

While I enjoyed the storyline immensely, I have to admit that Erikson’s philosophy once again ruined what could have been a 5star book. Pages upon pages of selfish mutterings and hopeless thoughts and the dwelling upon of pain and hurt real and imagined, past and future. My main problem is that Erikson is great at pointing out flaws, in people, in situations, in institutions, in laws but then he doesn’t have his characters propose any solutions beyond “I will Endure”. He spends a section using his characters to talk about how the whole of existance itself was nothing but a betrayal by forces of chaos conspiring against each other. If Erikson thinks even half of what he writes, how does the man get out of bed each morning? He writes the true Existential Existance. It is pointless. That is depressing and it really brought home to me how much Hope I have being a Christian. Thank God.

With so much going on, I had to simply sit back, enjoy each section as it was presented to me and not try to put it all together. Even though this is book 7 in the series, Erikson is still just giving us pieces of an overall puzzle that has a lot of missing pieces. Erikson knows the whole picture but is only giving the readers some of the pieces of the puzzle and forcing us to figure out what the whole might look like from the little we do know. Forcing each reader to become a literary archeologist or to give up the series in disgust.

Now, with all of that out of the way…

I still liked this a lot. When the various plots were rolling along, I couldn’t put this book down. The Malazan storyline didn’t start until past the halfway mark and I kept waiting for them to be included which I think took my attention away from earlier parts of the book. There was a Segulah woman as a champion but she never fought Rhulad. She escaped, which kind of disappointed me, as I wanted to see how she would have fared against the Emperor. Karsa was just an obnoxious twit the entire time and it was obvious that Rhulad couldn’t defeat him.

The whole Awl storyline almost more about the mystery of the K’Chain Ch’malle than anything else. For a species supposedly extinct for a million years, they’re surprisingly active. So where have they been hiding out? I also wondered who Redmask actually was. I’m sure there are two sentences in one of the earlier books that explains it but I suspect I’ll just go on the Malazan Wiki and find out. Why do all the hardwork when someone else has already done it?

Aaaaaand I just looked. No other references to Redmask. Just one of those loose puzzle pieces that Erikson likes to scatter about.

While the storylines are interesting and engaging, there is almost no point in saying “this was a good part” because somebody dies in every “good part”. Hence the name of the series. And yet I still read this series for a second time. Not sure if that means that Erikson is actually a really good writer or that I’m just a sick reader who needs help.

This was the last book in the series that I rated highly when I read them initially. I have a feeling that the next 3 will be just as bad the second time around. I am girding up my loins for that.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

 

Temple of the Serpent (Warhammer: Thanquol & Boneripper #2) ★★★☆☆

templeoftheserpent (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Temple of the Serpent
Series: Warhammer: Thanquol & Boneripper #2
Author: C.L. Werner
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Thanquol is blamed for the loss of the warpstone in the previous book and various skaven faction leaders all plan on killing him. To survive, he goes on a mission with the assassin faction to wipe out the leader of a city sacred to that faction. The assassins were driven out long ago and a race of lizardmen took it over. Now it is up to Thanquol and a small army to penetrate a dangerous jungle, find the city, kill the leading magician and make it back home. Hopefully with loads and loads of loot.

There is a magic toad, who has the power of mathematics from the higher powers, that is orchestrating many strings. In response to the skavens coming to the city, he brings a boatload of humans to balance out the equation and to see what the final solution will be. The final solution? Every single human dies by the end of the book. Almost every single skaven is killed and the lizardman magician dies as well. The toad goes back to contemplating mathematics.

Thanquol gets back to the ship and after a fight with zombie pirates, abandons the ship in a lifeboat and the magic toad magically has it go back to the skaven capital. That is how the book ends.

 

My Thoughts:

I rather enjoyed this dark fantasy. Having a villain as the main character allows me to root against him and when things fall apart around him, it isn’t a bad thing but a good thing. It also helps that skavens as a race are just despicably cowardly creatures and the author does a fantastic job of getting into Thanquol’s head and showing how he can switch his thought process on a dime. Each skaven is completely self-centered, so what is good is what is good for them at that moment.

I knew that the human storyline was going to be a bloody mess, but I figured the mercenary guy, Graetz Adalwolf, might survive. I did not see him killing himself to escape the attention of the magical toad. Good call though, as that would probably end up having been hell on earth for Graetz. There was only one female human character, so she was the obvious love interest, but it was written in such a desultory manner that it was no surprise when she bites it at the end. In fact, with just a very small re-working, the whole human storyline could have been done away with. But since they provided at least half the blood and entrails, this story would only have been half as fun without them.

Boneripper. Once again, not really a character but a name. Thanquol seems to have quite the limited imagination when it comes to naming his rat ogres, so when they unsurprisingly die in one violent way or another, he just names the new one Boneripper. Bonerippers remind me more of a force of nature than a character. Kind of like a super violent magical spell that Thanquol has, but in the shape of an ogre.

Now, like I stated at the beginning, I did enjoy this. I only rolled my eyes once, right near the end. Some human zombies that the skaven army had encountered takes over the ship that Thanquol needs. Can anyone say “Pirates of the Caribbean”? Sigh. But it did allow the current Boneripper to die and become a food source for Thanquol on his magical boat ride back to his home. Ok, that whole “magical boat ride back home” thing had me rolling my eyes too.

But I still want to read the final book in the trilogy. Considering how I’ve felt about previous Warhammer books, that counts as a stunning success for me.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge

 

 

 

Ghosts of Tomorrow ★★★☆½

ghostsoftomorrow (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Ghosts of Tomorrow
Series: ———-
Author: Michael Fletcher
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 396
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Mark Lokner has scanned himself and gone online while the world thinks he is dead. Just to be safe, Lokner1.0 has copied the scan and put Lokner2.0 into a secure digital space.

88, the scan of a young girl, gains her freedom and begins manipulating the real world so she will never be in danger again. This brings her into direct confict with Lokner1.0 AND Lokner2.0.

Agent Griffin Dickinson, with the military scan of Abdul Giordano, a 17 year old marine who died, is on the track of a group who illegally scan children. Scanning is a one way ticket and the head and brain are pureed after the fact. When 2 operations in a row go disastrously wrong for Dickinson, he’s about to quit. Then he gets a tip from 88 that sets him on the trail of the Lokners as the source behind all the illegal scans and children farms.

With the help of Abdul and an assassin scan loyal to 88, Dickinson must confront Lokner while the world around him is falling apart. It doesn’t help that 88 has her own plans for humanity and 88 has no mercy.

The book ends 1000 years in the future with scans as the de facto life form.

 

My Thoughts:

From a purely entertainment factor, this book was pure awesomesauce. Child assassins in suped up killer robot bodies, digital minds going insane, epic battles where scans take over electronics, massive and humongous acts of devastation, this had it all in spades.

Fletcher doesn’t shy away from brutality. Whether in thought or action, I as the reader was not spared. From the horror of how children are kept as livestock to be harvested for their brains and sold into slavery to the idea of corporations “selling” the idea of scans as a way to cheat death, for a mere 20year term of servitude, with all the attending small print we as citizens of the 21st century know to fear.

There was no hope. Griffin, the human who wants to be a hero and save the world, ends up being broken and then the woman he loved, who is now a scan, plots to have him killed so he can be scan’ed and join her. How soul destroying is that? Then the end where 88 turns all Skynet was so telegraphed that it didn’t really come as a surprise.

I thought Fletcher did an excellent job of portraying just how something like “scans” would work out in our world. How it might be used, abused, misused, etc. It was very eye opening. However, it was all predicated on the fact that a human brain could be digitized. If you think something like that could actually happen, then this was a very scary dystopean prophecy. If you don’t, then it’s just another prediction about a future by someone who has lost hope themselves.

While I enjoyed my time spent on this, I have to admit, I didn’t have any desire to seek out other books by this guy. I don’t enjoy wallowing in hopelessness and despair. It also didn’t help that I’m convinced that to you have to have a mind, body and will to be alive and to be human. Remove one and the other two are just ingredients, not something viably alive.

I did have one confusing issue. Most of this takes place in 2046 but right near the end things jump to 3052 but it feels like it should be 2152. It didn’t come across as a jump of 1000 years but just a generation. I might have mis-read though, as I don’t pay attention to dates real well in books.

If I see another Fletcher book really praised AND it has super cool over like this one, then I might seek it out. But if not, I’m good with having read just this one. Fletcher’s worldview is just too depressing for me.

★★★☆½

bookstooge

 

 

Grey Seer (Warhammer: Thanquol & Boneripper #1) ★★★☆☆

greyseer (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Grey Seer
Series: Warhammer: Thanquol & Boneripper #1
Author: C.L. Werner
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 296
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Thanquol is a skaven magician, one of the Grey Seers. After having several of his plots foiled by Gotrek and Felix, Thanquol is sent on a dangerous mission to Altdorf, capital of the Empire, to recover the Wormstone, a huge piece of warpstone that will give its user tremendous power.

Of course, being skaven, Thanquol plots how to seize the stone for himself or at least how to use it to climb up the rungs of power. But since his “allies” are skaven too, they all are also planning on how to take it for themselves.

Upon finding out that the Stone is actually weapon more effective against skaven than humans, Thanquol plots on how to wipe out the city of Altdorf AND the skaven city of Under-Altdorf, thus gaining prestige and favor with the Council of 13. A human wizard of Altdorf has been keeping an eye of the skavens and with his cronies does his best to stop said plan. The other skavens of Altdorf also do their best to stop Thanquol, since dying isn’t really what they want to do.

The book ends with Thanquol’s plan going awry yet again, most of the skavens fighting him dying and most of the humans fighting the skavens dying.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, Boneripper is just a name that Thanquol gives to his current giant rat bodyguard. It’s almost more of a title than a name, as he seems to go through them at a pretty rapid pace. Now that I know that, I won’t be expecting a real duo as main characters.

I’ve not read any of the Gotrek and Felix books, which I gather is where Thanquol is originally introduced. From the little bit that is referenced, I’m not sure I WANT to read those books. They sound like a right pair of brutal thugs. Given, I’m getting that from Thanquol’s viewpoint, but even still.

So, I finally read a book about the skavens. Giant magical rat people with all the characteristics of rats. Cowardly, self-serving, backstabbing and generally bad guys. You’d think that would depress me but for some reason it really didn’t. What DID get me down was how the humans opposing the skavens were just as much scumbags, even the wizard guy. With characters like that fighting against Chaos, I’m kind of glad Chaos ends up taking this world.

I keep going into these Warhammer books thinking they’re alternates to the Forgotten Realms books. Ha, not even close. Warhammer is bleak, bleak, bleak. It is a good thing I have a month or two between them. Any sooner and I’d be overwhelmed and have to defenestrate myself, which just wouldn’t be cool.

I’ll definitely be finishing this trilogy. I’ve also got 2 more Age of Legends trilogies to work through but after that, I don’t know that I’ll be staying in this world anymore. It’s just too bleak and depressing for me.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge