Seal of the Worm (Shadows of the Apt #10) ★★★★½

sealoftheworm (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: Seal of the Worm
Series: Shadows of the Apt #10
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 641
Format: Digital Edition

Synopsis:

Che and her compatriots are stuck in the kingdom of the worm. They find out that the worm kinden found an alternate source of power to magic or aptness in the form of a giant centipede that they worship as a god. This god wipes out all thought of magic and aptness from the minds of those in its vicinity. Che tries to raise the populace to revolt but it ends up turning into a run for survival as the Worm begins to devour all of its underground slaves in preparation for breaking forth upon the surface.

Empress Seda figures out a ritual to re-seal the seal of the worm but she needs so much power to do so. To obtain this power, she will use the death of the thousands of Inapt subjects of the Wasp Empire. She begins a progrom using the Slave Corp and once the camps are established, uses the Red Watch to oversea the setting up of machinery to distribute the bee-killer gas in the camps.

General Tynan, now governor of Collegium is torn between his duty to the Empire and plain old common sense. The Empress has him rounding up Inapt instead of fighting the Empire’s enemies. He is eventually driven out of Collegium by Stenwold Maker and his sea-kinden allies. Tynan retrenches in the Wasp capital and prepares to face multiple armies that are all taking advantage of Seda’s preoccupation with the ritual instead of running her Empire.

The Worm begins breaking out all over the world and destroys half of Capitas (wasp capital). When Seda begins her ritual, a lot of the guards at various camps rebel and do not use the bee-killer on the prisoners. Seda reaches out to Che, as her sister in magic and Che drags Seda to the underworld. They duel and Che wins. Totho, rogue artificer and rejected lover of Che, is also in the underground kingdom. He is captured and taken to be fed to the worm but has a belt of grenades. He is able to use the grenades and destroys the giant centipede. This destroys all the worm segments attacking the surface world and fighting grinds to an immediate stop.

General Tynan, now in charge, makes treaties with the various armies and their cities. Stenwold dies in a worm attack. Tisamon is finally set free from Seda’s magical imprisonment as her bodyguard. Che and Thalric make their way to the surface.

 

My Thoughts:

I did not race through this book. I would read 20-30 pages here and there and it took me almost 2 weeks to finish this off. Yet at the same time it was not because I wasn’t enjoying it. I immensely enjoyed this re-read. It just felt like a big steak that I simply couldn’t gulp down. I had to take the time to cut it up into small pieces and then chew each of those pieces thoroughly.

My only real complaint was how the worm god died. As I was reading it, it struck me how exactly the same it was as the movie Edge of Tomorrow. Both this book and that movie came out in 2014. They were released within months of each other so I find it hard to believe that one influenced the other. At the same time, the whole idea of a belt of grenades killing the big baddie almost at the end of the story seems too similar to ignore.

I had forgotten that Stenwold dies. I was under the impression that he went back under the sea with his lady friend. It was rather fitting though, since the group that started the book are now all dead. Very “circle of life” and all that.

In that vein, I thought Tchaikovsky did a good job of wrapping up all the various characters and their storylines. Very few have a happy ending but those who live have a decent ending and a chance to go on. After 10 books of almost continual warfare, you really can’t ask for much more than that.

The series overall upon this re-read came out even better. Tchaikovsky can write and each book told a good story while advancing the series narrative. The quality of his writing was top notch and shows that he has mastered the art of writing entertainment. I bought this decalogy when it came out and this re-read has shown me that that was money well spent. I started this re-read back in February of 2017 and am finishing it now, so its been 1 ¾ years of making my way through this. I have enjoyed my time and don’t begrudge it in any way.

I realize that Tchaikovsky isn’t going to be for everyone, but he is one of those authors that I think everyone SHOULD try at least once. Highly recommended.

★★★★½

 

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Alphabet of Thorn ★★★★½

alphabetofthorn (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: Alphabet of Thorn
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 300
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A foundling, named Nepenthe, is working at the royal library. She has a talent for interpreting odd languages. She meets a young mage-in-training named Bourne and gets a book written in an Alphabet of Thorns. She begins to translate the book and it appears to be the story of Axis and Kane, a king and wizard from so long ago that they are only myth.

The more Nepenthe translates, the more confused she becomes. Kane records Axis conquering kingdoms that don’t exist, yet. Nepenthe and Bourne figure out that Kane has figured out how to move through time. And next on the agenda, is the Kingdom that Nepenthe lives in.

During all of this, Bourne’s uncle has risn in insurrection against the new Queen. The Queen, a mousy recluse, must master her own unknown powers while the old Magician who runs the school that Bourne attends, must keep the kingdom from falling apart.

In the end, it is revealed that Nepenthe is the daughter of Axis and Kane but she forces her mother Kane to choose between her and Axis. A life of conquering all in her path or a life of peace. Kane chooses her daughter.

 

My Thoughts:

This was one of those tough reads. I wanted to shake Nepenthe so much, even knowing she was under the spell of the Alphabet. It was rough watching her keep secrets knowing that if she could only tell someone things would be better.

But other than that, this was another fantastic book. It had the taste of a fairytale with the story of Axis and Kane but it was the old school kind of fairytale, the one with that darker edge. It was mysterious as we the reader didn’t know what was going on or how everything was going to tie together.

Some books you can just rush through and let the story kind of overwhelm you, like eating 5 hamburgers at a picnic. This was not that kind of book. None of McKillips’ books are though.This was a smooth vanilla icecream with a peanutbutter ribbon running through the whole thing. The sweet smoothness of the icecream is offset by the rough saltiness of the peanutbutter. It just doesn’t get any better! Well, chocolate icecream makes it better.

alphabetofthorn

 

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Technician (Polity #12) ★★★★☆

technician (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: The Technician
Series: Polity #12
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 512
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

We the readers are returned to the world of Masada, introduced in the Agent Cormac books. Now that the Polity has “been invited in”, things are changing. One of the few surviving Proctors from the old regime was attacked by a hooder but not killed. This Hooder, known as the Technician, left something in the proctors head and the Polity wants to know what. The proctor goes on a crazy trip for about 20 years where he just sits as an invalid on a prison island until an AI decides that it has had enough. Things are orchestrated to start a chain of events to give the proctor back his memories and for the Polity to find out what was in his head.

The gabbleducks, the native life of Masada, are shown to be the devolved descendants of the space faring race the Atheter that went extinct millions of years ago. They commited race extinction after being exposed to Jain tech and left behind a machine whose sole job was to prevent them from ever regaining sapience again.

Now that the Polity has an Atheter AI, the gabbleducks and some unknown something inside the proctors head, all on the same planet, this machine awakens. There is a climactic showdown between it and the Technician and some top of the line Polity vessels. The proctor transfers his memories (or, the last living Atheter’s) memories to a gabbleduck and the AI wakes up. The Atheter appear to be on the rise.

We are also introduced to Penny Royal, a black AI. It was split into 8 parts and the 8th was excised, as it contained the psychotic bits. However, the AI Amistad kept that 8th part for study and during all of this Penny Royal gets its hands on the 8th part. It apparently destroys it.

 

My Thoughts:

I somehow messed up and read this before reading The Gabble and Other Stories, which introduces how the Polity found the Atheter AI and does a bit of setup for this book. However, Asher does enough fill in for the reader that it isn’t strictly necessary to have read that book first. It just would have been nicer.

Ok, first. Asher is in fine form with his bashing of religion and returning to the world of Masada allows him free reign to setup strawmen that he not only knocks down, but pretty much uses a flamethrower on. I’ve stated it before, but Asher’s god is Scyenze and he’s as vitriolic and mocking as any old high priest you could think of. That was pretty much why this stayed at a 4star rating like the last time I read it. If it wasn’t for that, this would have been approaching 5star easily.

This was AWESOME. Splatterpunk space opera at its finest. The proctor gets his face eaten off by the Technician and then gets a prosthetic from the Polity medical team later. On his journey he CUTS HIS OWN FACE OFF AGAIN because he hates the Polity so much. I’m sorry, but how can you not love that?!?

The introduction of Penny Royal was good on this re-read. It is a side character and so when I read this the first time it didn’t even register when Asher ended up writing a whole trilogy about it. Now that I’ve read that trilogy, seeing its introduction is pretty cool.

The human side was done just as well. The proctor, with his mix of literary attendants both for and against, makes for a great survival story. Between the planet and the wildlife and the Tidy Squad (a group that hunts down the former regime) and then the Polity forces, you get a full range of interaction.

Asher does good work on single novels. I won’t call this a standalone because knowledge of the Polity and Masada is pretty vital to really understand it but I think someone “could” read this and figure out what they needed. I’m pretty pleased with this read through.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Chasm City (Revelation Space #2) ★★★★½

chasmcity (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: Chasm City
Series: Revelation Space #2
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 708
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis: Spoilers

Tanner Mirabel wakes up with his memories scrambled. All he really knows is that he has to track down and kill one Argent Reivich, the man who killed his boss and boss’s wife. Tanner is now on Chasm City, light years from Sky’s Edge and he is without allies, without money and without much information. Thankfully, his memory is slowly coming back.

Tanner gets involved in problems on Chasm City when he’s kidnapped and used for a Hunt. The rich immortals living on Chasm City are bored and the Hunt is one way they alleviate such boredom. Between some unexpected allies and his own military background, Tanner turns the tables and suddenly has some allies, some money and some serious firepower. Unfortunately, while his memory is returning, other memories are also returning, the memories of Sky Haussman, the founder of Sky’s Edge. Which is impossible as Sky was crucified and killed a LONG time ago. Maybe Tanner is just going insane.

Tanner tracks Reivich down to an asteroid where Reivich is undergoing a Deep Scan, one where he will destroy his body but upload his mind. During all of this more and more memories are returning and Tanner finds out that the real Tanner is hunting HIM. Tanner is Kahuella, a war criminal from Sky’s Edge. There is a showdown between the two Tanners and “our” Tanner wins when he releases an unknown ability, the ability to bite with envenomed fangs and kills the original Tanner. ALL of “our” Tanner’s memories come crashing back and he realizes he is Sky Haussman and that the dreams of Haussman he’s been having aren’t from a bio-plague but true memories.

Tanner chooses to remain as Tanner and start a security company on Chasm City and give the Hunt the set of rules we are familiar with from the previous book.

 

My Thoughts:

In-freaking-credible! I enjoyed this read so much that I’m not really sure what to focus on. The only downside I guess.

I didn’t give this 5stars because I’m not sure how this will hold up to a re-read. 75% of the tension was not knowing what was going on with Tanner and his memories and now that I know, I don’t know how that will affect future re-reads. And that is it.

This had everything I wanted in a good Science Fiction story. Aliens, sentient and otherwise, weapons of mass destruction and little weapons, a grand amount of fighting and death and carnage that really racks up the body count. It was very similar to a Polity novel but Alastair’s style is so different from Neal Asher that there is NO mistaking the difference or feeling that you’re retreading territory.

The Sky Haussman episodes felt very much like history lessons but there was enough intrigue going on that it didn’t come across as boring info dumps. I have to admit though, most of the time info dumps don’t bother me, except when they do. I still haven’t figured out what the difference is though.

Alastair handles the time differentials skillfully. This book pretty much takes place at the same time as Revelation Space and so we get ties to make that book slightly fuller and here we find out information to make a re-read of RS richer.

Tanner makes for a great character. He’s driven, has a great skill set, has a conscience and still isn’t above killing people who are gunning for him. Following him as he remembers things was great fun. The whole memory thing was wicked weird, as the very idea was unsettling. If the mind can be so easily mucked around with, nothing is then sacred. But then, most materialists believe that the mind is just a series of synapses and electrical responses that can be transposed onto another medium “once we know enough”.

Apparently this was a novella first before it was expanded to this full length novel. So check the length of the one you’re reading if you’re not sure. I read the full novel and am not sure I’d want to try this as a novella.

★★★★½

 

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The Pickwick Papers ★★★★★★

pickwickpapers (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: The Pickwick Papers
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 6 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 943
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Samuel Pickwick, gentleman bachelor and amateur scientist, has formed a small group of like minded men and they all decide to go exploring the Countryside of England to expand their knowledge of their Great Country.

As such, the 4 Gentlemen, Mr Pickwick, Mr Snodgrass, Mr Tuddle and Mr Tuppman, set out to see what they can see. Along the way Mr Pickwick picks up a servant by the name of Sam Weller, the company meets an honorable countryman by the name of Mr Wardle, the 2 younger gentlemen of the group fall in love and marry the niece and daughter of Mr Wardle, Mr Tuppman is disappointed in love with Mr Wardle’s spinster sister Miss Rachel. Mr Pickwick becomes embroiled in breach of promise suit with his landlady due to the machinations of the dastardly duo Dodson & Fogg, attorneys at law and ends up spending 3 months in debtors’ prison for refusing to pay the fine, as it would all go to the lawyers instead of the landlady. Pickwick and Weller have multiple runins with their lowclass counterparts, Jingle and Trotter and are made fools of several times over. Sam Weller’s father comes into the story with his own adventures of his second wife, a widow who owns a tavern and is a strict adherent to the sect of Preacher Stiggleton, who preaches teetotally while cooling drinking pineapple rum punch by the hogshead.

These are but a part of the adventures the Pickwick Club has over the course of 2 years and at the end of the book everything turns out for the best. Marriages and children abound, bad characters reform, love and generosity overcome all hardships and obstacles and Mr Pickwick retires to a city house with Sam and his wife Mary to keep him in order.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, yes, I did give this 6 stars. I know circumstances played a part, ie, several dnf’s had my reading expectations abysmally low. But even without that, this was just a fantastic book.

It started a little rough and in a rather formal vein but that was for the first chapter only. Then it turned into Dickens’ more relatable style. I’m a Dickens’ fan through and through.

This was an interesting little plot-less book. I say little because even though the “official” page count is over 900 pages, when I used Calibre’s page count plugin, this was barely over 600 pages. I suspect the pictures and chapters each had their own breaks which artificially inflated the page count.

I think humor was the most prevalent of the emotions that Dickens was trying to call forth and my goodness, he did a grand job. Sam Weller, Pickwick’s man servant was a font of pugnacious, pugalistic one liners and retorts that had me in stitches. He was also a bit more knowledgeable about the world at large than his master and thus was able to guide him safely through some troubled waters.

Romance, pathos, politics, social justice’ing of the day (Dickens was dead set against the whole idea of Debtors Prison. But to be fair, he actually had solid reasons, not just vapid, idiotic, baseless, pointless and generally useless ideas like the sjw’s of today), hijinks and lots and lots of drinking.

Through it all, Pickwick navigates the adventures as best he can and we can cheer him on, groan with him, laugh with him (and Sam Weller) and generally love every second spent reading this book. I’m also giving this the Best Book of the Year tag.

★★★★★★

 

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Hilldiggers (Polity #10) ★★★★☆

hilldiggers (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: Hilldiggers
Series: Polity #10
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 564
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Back before the AI’s took over the Polity in the Quiet War, a group of humans had left to follow their own dreams. Unfortunately, there was a violent split in the group and one group went to one world and the other group to the other world. Both performed lots and lots of gene-splicing and mucking about to stay alive on their respective planets. Once their civilizations reached a certain point they became aware of the other planet and war ensued. The war ended when one side used gravity weapons, the eponymous Hilldiggers, to totally wipe out the underground cities of the other.

The winning side had gotten a hold of an “Object” and learned a lot from it. They held this Object in various cylanders on a space station. A woman conceives at the moment that the object tries to get loose and 9 months later gives birth to quadruplets. These quads are the brightest humans on the planet and seem driven to succeed at whatever task they want.

The Polity has been monitoring this system for quite some time and is now sending in a Consul to see if the system would like to join the Polity. They send in an Old Captain, a man of Spatterjay who is more virus than man. But this man has a countervirus working in him as an experiment.

When one of the Quads leads a military coup, the Consul must navigate between 2 worlds, the Polity and the mysterious Object, which seems to have its own agenda.

In the end, the coup, which was instigated by the Object, fails but ends up freeing the Object, which continues its travels and recon. The 2 worlds make peace once it is realized the victorious world started the war for profit and both worlds decide to slowly look into entering the Polity.

 

My Thoughts:

Even though I read this back in 2011, I didn’t remember anything besides the Object so this was like reading it ♪for the very♪ first♪ time♪. I have to say, I enjoyed this a lot and reading my review, I enjoyed it a lot more than last time.

I know last time I was convinced that the Object was the Dragon that we are introduced to in the Agent Cormac series. This time around, I’m not really sure and actually rather doubt it. It just didn’t fit the description. It would be nice to know for sure one way or the other though.

There was a lot of fighting in this book and having an Old Captain, with a twist, made for a good character to represent the Polity. We also get viewpoints from each of the quadruplets and a Polity Drone. While Asher seems quite able to handle so many viewpoints and to tell one cohesive whole of a story through them, trying to summarize it all is a real pain in the butt.

I am trying to think WHY I enjoyed this so much more than last time. Part of it is that I’ve read enough of his newer books to realize that he’s not going to be writing a Spatterjay trilogy ever again and so I don’t expect his books to be that. I think that it didn’t help that I simply gorged on these back in ’11. I read 5 of his books within a month and that can really detract.

I was able to sit back, take in the various viewpoints and just let the story roll on. I have found that I’ve been doing that a lot more recently and it helps me to enjoy the book.Instead of trying to guess or predict, I just let the author guide me along. I don’t try to fight the current of the book. I am The Tai-Chi Master of Book Reading, hahahahaa!

Another greatly enjoyable book by Asher in the Polity universe.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Revelation Space (Revelation Space #1) ★★★★☆

revelationspace (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: Revelation Space
Series: Revelation Space #1
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 596
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

An archeologist on the world of Resurgam is trying to prove that the extinct inhabitants of the planet had gotten to the technological standpoint of space travel. The rest of the colony just wants to terraform the world so they can live. A coup occurs and the archeologist, Dan Sylveste, is imprisoned and yet given enough freedom to perform his research. He eventually proves his theories right but still hasn’t answered how the aliens went extinct.

Ana Khouri, separated from her husband in a military accident and sent to the wrong world, has become an assassin for the near immortal rich in Chasm City. She’s hired by Madam to go and kill Sylveste. Khouri is hired by some Ultra’s (space goths from what I could tell who love to meddle with their bodies) who are on their way to Resurgam as well. They want Sylveste as well, to heal their captain, who is being taken over by some sort of viral plague that is melding him to the ship.

The Ultras kidnap Silvestre and his wife, while Khouri must deal with a digital avatar of the Madam in her head. Also on board the ship, is a shadowy something called Sun Stealer, which drove Khouri’s predecessor insanse. Sun Stealer is also the name of the being on the final monument of the aliens on Resurgam. Sylvestre also has the digital recording of his dead father in his head. Good times.

Turns out there is a dead species of aliens who lived to make sure no other species ever reached a certain technological level. They left artifacts scattered around the universe that would lead to the destruction of any species that interacted with them and that is what lead to the destruction of life on Resurgam.

The humans are all being manipulated by various alien factions to use the device so humanity will be the next target and draw away attention from them. Things don’t go according to the aliens plans and the humans survive and now know about the traps.Silvestre and his wife decide to stay on the artifact as digital incarnations while Khouri and the lone surviving Ultra head back to human space.

Hopefully to warn everyone. We aren’t told.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a VERY complex storyline, hence my rather inarticulate ramble of a synopsis. The universe that Reynolds has created reminds me a lot of Neal Asher’s Polity and Asher’s fascination with the Jain, long dead aliens inimical to all other lifeforms. Here Reynolds calls them the Inhibitors but it is not until nearly the end that we find out about them clearly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this. Unfortunately, most of the characters were rather unlikeable so my enjoyment was tempered by disgust. Khouri was the least objectionable person but she was a pawn for almost all of the book. I would say the ideas and the storyline were able to overcome the characters. That doesn’t happen very often for me.

After reading this, I feel like I have a decent grasp on modern Space Opera. Between Revelation Space, The Polity and The Culture, I can say it is something that I really like when it is done according to my tastes. I was apprehensive about starting this series, as I ended up disliking Banks’ The Culture book quite a bit. Thankfully this seemed to be more in line with The Polity, a series that I’m pretty in love with.

The inclusion of techno-porn (ie, the abundant description of technologies above and beyond the call of duty) did make me skip whole paragrapsh while reading. From a layman’s perspective, talking about that kind of thing does nothing for me and is just babble. So I skip it. It also tends to date your book for those who do know what you’re writing about, as theories go out of style like fashion. Sometimes being a little vague is ok.

I tore through this in about 3 days. Started it on a Thursday evening and finished it up by reading all day Saturday. I’m glad I’ve got all 7 novels in the series lined up. I hope the others live up to this one.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)