Labyrinth of Reflections ★★★☆☆

labyrinthofreflections (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: Labyrinth of Reflections
Series: ———-
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 271
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A Diver, a person who can exit the Deep at will, is caught up in something much bigger than he can imagine. It starts with him stealing the information for a new “cure for the common cold”, which leads to a job offer by the company he stole it from. He is then kidnapped and given the same job offer by a mysterious Man without a Face. This job? To go to the 33rd level of a first person shooter game and rescue a user who has somehow become stuck and who the company hired Divers can’t rescue.

The Diver has adventures, finds the love of his life in a virtual brothel and rescues the stranded user, only to find that the User isn’t a human. He might be an alien, a human from the future, a human from a parallel universe or a newly emerged computer mind. Nobody knows but they all want a piece of the action.

Leonid, the Diver, takes the rescuee to a safe place and allows him to make his own choice. In the process. Leonid is attacked by all the forces the Deep can muster as well as by the creator of the Deep itself. With the help of the rescuee, Leonid fights them all off and somehow gains the ability to connect to the Deep without a modem (hahahahahahaa). The visitor leaves and Leonid leaves the Deep and decides to meet his virtual love in real life.

 

My Thoughts:

This was originally written in ’96 or ’98 I believe and my goodness, does it show. Lukyanenko waxes eloquent about the tech of the day and it isn’t pretty. Pentium computers, MEGS of ram, 28800 modems, Doom. Then he mixes it with non-existing tech like full virtual reality body suits and the Deep, which works on the unconscious as a way to get around the horrible graphics of the day. It was such a mish-mash that it kept throwing me out of the story. You just can’t DO the things he writes about on a 28.8K phone line.

This was pre-Matrix and the ideas are pretty cool, when Lukyanenko isn’t waxing full on melancholic Russian that is. That gets old really fast. And I mean, really, really fast.

This felt more like a book where Lukyanenko was writing out his ideas of what it means to be human (while denying God and Communism in the same breath) and it felt rather sophomoric. At the same time, several of the ideas here were carried over almost wholesale into his Nightwatch series.

Overall, I don’t feel like this was a waste of my time but I certainly wouldn’t want to introduce anyone to Lukyanenko’s writings with this book. I’d definitely steer them towards the Nightwatch.

★★★☆☆

 

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The Algorithm of Power ★☆☆☆☆

algorithmofpower (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: The Algorithm of Power
Author: Pedro Barrento
Translator: Craig Patterson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 701
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

In 2061, the world decides to be run by a computer program instead of governments and to divide the world up into 100 regions where various ideologies, religions, philosophies and whatever can have their own little place without needing to elect anyone or be in contact with anyone who disagrees with them.

One storyline, in 2300, follows a young woman who leaves her region after her sister’s death and in the new region comes across a young man who has unfettered access to the network. She falls in love with another man and through machinations, ends up on a boat with both men heading for this Control Center.

The second storyline is about the rise of the Network and how the world we are introduced to in the beginning of the book came about.

 

My Thoughts:

Pig Ignorant Eurosnobbery.

North Korea, China, the US Army, they’re not all going to just sit back and let something like this happen. A lot of individuals wouldn’t just sit back and let this happen either.

And the passive energy field that separate the regions? Beyond handwavium, their application is completely ignored. That kind of tech would have gone into somebody’s military and then gone to the world’s militaries. World War III was much more likely of an outcome than what is shown.

Don’t even get me started on the lack of Religious intelligence here. This author obviously doesn’t understand ANY religion. I know that Christians wouldn’t accept being corraled into one little part of the planet. The whole point of Christianity isn’t to live with people you agree with, but to spread what you believe to others. You can’t do that, there is no point in being a Christian. Then the muslims and their jihads? You think they’re just going to lie down? Ahhh, the lack of understanding in this book was appalling.

I also didn’t like a single character.

The writing. I’ve got conflicting data here. Antao, in his review, states that this was originally in English. The kindle edition I got states:

Translation: Craig Patterson

So, was that translation of certain phrases in the book, translation from English to Portuguese or from Portuguese to English. Mr Barrento lives in Portugal, so I wouldn’t think he would need help translating his book to that language? I couldn’t find which language this was written in first, nor did I look that hard. Not worth it.

Either way, no matter, the writing was choppy, didn’t flow and kept me at arms length. I always felt narrated AT while reading this book and that was off putting.

I doubt I’ll ever come across another book by this author, but if I some how do, I certainly won’t be reading it.

★☆☆☆☆

bookstooge

 

 

Spring Snow (Sea of Fertility #1) ★★☆☆☆

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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 & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Spring Snow
Series: Sea of Fertility #1
Author: Yukio Mishima
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Japanese Lit
Pages: 399
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Kiyoaki, son of a wealthy samurai family, has been raised in the Ayakura household. The Ayakuras are an ancient royal family and the Matsugae’s hope that some of the Ayakura’s polish will rub off on Kiyoaki.

The Ayakura’s have a daughter who is in love with Kiyoaki. However, Kiyoaki is the forerunner of the emo-goths and so self-absorbed that he ignores or repels anything having to do with anyone else. He rejects Satoko’s love and she is then affianced to a direct descendant of the Emperor.

Kiyoaki loses it, starts a torrid affair with Satoko without thinking about any of the consequences. Satoko becomes pregnant, is forced to abort the baby and in response joins a nunnery. Kiyoaki refuses to believe that Satoko would spurn him and in the process of trying to get her attention, catches pneunomia and dies.

 

My Thoughts:

Ugh. And that pretty much sums up every single feeling I had about this book. It was “Literature” with a Capital L.

It was beautifully written and the translator did a fantastic job of keeping that beauty intact. However, nothing could disguise the pathetic, childish, self-centered, disgusting character of the main character. Kiyoaki was a typical young man but without getting any of his sharp corners ground down by his parents or his friends. So at the end, he cracks and breaks.

This was reading about the worst of people, just because the author felt like writing it. In the introduction, by the publishers, they give a little history of the author. He killed himself at the age of 45. If his mindset continued like this book, it’s no wonder.

This was supposed to be a tetralogy, but I’m not sure how this can be a series since the main character dies. From the tone of the book, I’d guess that the series is all tied together by some esoteric “Idea”. Ugh. Again.

I will NOT be reading any more by Mishima.

★★☆☆☆

bookstooge

 

Rivers of London (Peter Grant #1) ★★★☆ ½

rivers (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 & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Rivers of London
Series: Peter Grant #1
Author: Ben Aaronovich
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 396
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Peter Grant is a constable in good ol’ Merry England. Of course, he’s not actually a very good constable. In fact,he’s being shuffled over to the section that deals with all that nasty paperwork stuff, because there, he’ll be “making a contribution”.

Until the night that he sees a ghost while guarding a murder scene.

He then is taken as the apprentice to the apparantly sole magical cop and starts hunting down the killer from the murder scene. With the help of the ghost, Father Thames and Mother Thames (who are having a turf war at the moment), his friend who he wants to be more than a friend and his “Master”.

Peter Grant solves the case, but not without several instances of random people beating each other to death with a 4foot club and then having their faces fall off. Oh,and don’t forget the riot filled with all the cultured people from the opera, who go out for a night of looting, vandalism and a little murder on the side.

Along with all this, it is up to Peter, as part of his apprenticeship, to solve the problem of the Thames’.

That’s asking a bit much from a loser like Peter who can’t concentrate on one thing for more than 10minutes.

 

My Thoughts:

I read the Gollancz edition of this book, which is the proper English release. I kind of wish I had read the American release entitled Midnight Riot. One, I think that Midnight Riot is much more of an apt title for this book’s specific villain and two, I would hope that some of the slang would be changed to make actual sense to someone who doesn’t live in downtown London. It might have been English, but it wasn’t the Queen’s English, that is for sure.

And that was about my only complaint.

I don’t enjoy Urban Fantasy for the most part, not even Harry Dresden. But every once in a while a book or series will transcend the inherent weakness in this sub-genre, the cliched banality, the soap opera level pointless dramatics, the “makes no sense whatsoever” so called romance and impress me. So I tend to be rather hard on the poor book when it comes from “that side of the tracks”. Oh, all those “quotes”? Another thing I hate about UF.

But this isn’t a rant about me hating on UF. It is a review of a book that I rather enjoyed when I wasn’t sure I was going to or not.

There was a lot more dry humor than I was expecting. For about the first 75% anyway. I enjoyed the style of humor and never found it boring or over the top. Then things got serious and the humor went away. I missed that. The magic system wasn’t explained, but since I’m not a huge “give me the details” kind of guy when it comes to spaceships or magic, I was pretty ok with that. I know some people thrive on “world building” like that though, so be aware.

The Rivers of London bit was well done too. Every river having its own little godling? And it all being a family thing? Top notch. We’ll see how, or if, it plays into the series in a bigger way or not. But considering that one of the nyads has a thing for old Petey and he’s not saying no, and his friend/dream lover that will never be, is potentially out of the picture and that Peter pissed off one of the older nyads, well, there is just too much potential story there to let it all go to waste.

Glad I started this and I hope it continues strong. If the series stays as good as this story, I’ll probably be bumping my ratings up to at least a 4star.

★★★☆ ½

bookstooge

 

Sixth Watch (Night Watch #6) ★★★★☆

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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 & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Sixth Watch
Series: Night Watch #6
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 403
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

A rogue vampire has started biting people in broad daylight and what’s more, they’re just taking a “sip” from each victim. Anton figures out that the vampire is sending a coded message to him using the initials of the victims.

Once he figures that out, ALL the prophets have the exact same foretelling. Something dealing with the numbers 1-6 and the End of All Life on Earth.

So both Watches, Night and Day, give all acting Authority to Anton to figure out what is going on. It turns out that an old Agreement by the Sixth Watch and the Twilight, in the personafication of the Two In One, has been breached and that gives the Two In One the right to wipe humanity down to 1%.

The solution is to invoke the Sixth Watch, which involves both Watches, the Witches, the Vampires and Other “Others”. Huge sacrifices are made by many people and the Agreement is null and voided. Humanity and the “Others” are all saved.

Anton is sacrificed and gives up his “Other” powers and becomes truly human. Thus ends his story in the Night Watch universe.

 

My Thoughts:

What a great end to this series. This was just as good as all the previous books and had that perfect mix of pathos, humor, tension, fear and maturity.

I think what I liked best about this book and the series, even while I’m opposed to it, is the fact that Anton goes from an idealistic Light One to a pragmatic Human. I suspect I enjoyed his journey because in SO many ways it mirrors my own journey through life.

I also liked how Anton’s sacrifices include having his family make sacrifices. The load wasn’t all on his shoulders and there was nothing he could do about it. Watching his 16year old daughter choose to sacrifice her future as a Zero Ultimate Other, man, that’s tough.

While there are a lot more stories to be told in the Watch series, I suspect that Lukyanenko has reached the end of his interest and thus chose to wrap things up nice and neat. Anton has always been the center of the stories and with his story done, I think the flavor would irrevocably change, enough so to affect any future stories.

This is one of the few Urban Fantasies that I’ve been able to stomach over the last couple of years and I think that speaks well to Lukyanenko’s skill. I also think it shows that somewhere I’ve got some Russian blood in my past. That or I’m the reincarnation of Turgenev. Haha.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Night Watch (Book 1)
  2. Day Watch (Book 2)
  3. Twilight Watch (Book 3)
  4. Last Watch (Book 4)
  5. New Watch (Book 5)

The New Watch (Night Watch #5)

af49a3da99e008d678d8bee90f0d862cThis review is written with a GPL 3.0 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 Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot. wordpress.com & Bookstooge’s Reviews on the Road Facebook Group by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

Title: The New Watch

Series: Night Watch

Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Pages: 420

Format: Kindle digital edition

 

Synopsis:

Prophets and Tigers and Daughters, Oh My!

So it seem that the Twilight is an intelligent being and it does what it needs to to protect itself. The Mirrors are one such manifestation.

Tigers, a being that hunts down prophets, is another. At first blush it appears that Tigers want to prevent prophecies from being heard, hence, come into being. Come to find out, they are a goad to the prophets, making sure they DO prophesy and hence bringing about chaos, which the Twilight feeds on.

At the same time, Anton realizes WHY his daughter was brought into being. Anton must make a choice which will affect his daughter and all the Others that are and ever might be.

 

My Thoughts:

I think this was the best Night Watch book to date. Anton has come full circle, where he is now the mature Other who understands the whys and wherefores. In the first book he was the young new Other who wanted to change the world with magic. He has to deal with a situation where he has to explain the “facts of life” to a young Other who just wants to make everyone “good”. Ahhh, the irony. It really allowed Lukyanenko to show off his writing chops.

The manipulation by both Zabulon and Gesar in the creation of Anton’s daughter left me breathless. To have foreseen the threat posed by an intelligent Twilight and to have so cold heartedly mucked about with peoples’ live and destinies was both awesome and scary.

It is hinted that Gesar will soon be getting bored in Russia and moving on. It would seem that Anton is the logical successor should this happen.

I started this Night Watch series almost a year ago. I have enjoyed each one and while I don’t know if there will be any more, I certainly hope so. This is Urban Fantasy that I enjoy and can recommend. The style definitely won’t appeal to everyone, but I like the Russian soul, as it is the same whether old or new.

Last Watch (Night Watch #4)

azure_813eca040b19d63a2ef8fa68feee3e4eThis review is written with a GPL 3.0 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 Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot. wordpress.leafmarks.com & Bookstooge’s Reviews on the Road Facebook Group by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

 

 

 

Title: Last Watch

Series: Night Watch

Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars

Genre: SFF

Pages: 402

Format: Kindle Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Someone is trying to recover an artifact of power that Merlin himself created. In doing so, they are murdering both Light, Dark and Inquisition. They are using humans and modern weapons enspelled.

Anton is tasked by both Gesar and Zabulon to find out what is going on and secretly, to find this monumental artifact. Can Anton please all 3 branches of Others while fighting off a new group calling themselves the Last Watch and protect his daughter?

Former friends and foes come together in a new Watch story.

 

My Thoughts:

Good stuff! This tied in quite heavily to the previous book with the Vampire who wanted to turn everyone into an Other. This time around you have various members from each of the Branches trying to bring back dead Others, who live on the 6th level of the Twilight.

The 3 story setup works quite well once again. Anton isn’t angsty and his melancholy is almost non-existent, which is ok.

Twilight Watch (Night Watch #3)

e637ce0aa6aa1980f80b92d583157539This review is written with a GPL 3.0 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 Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot. wordpress.leafmarks.com & Bookstooge’s Reviews on the Road Facebook Group by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

 

 

 

 

Title: Twilight Watch

Series: Night Watch

Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Pages: 432

Format: Kindle

 

 

Synopsis:

Anton is now a mature family man with a little 3 year old daughter. His wife has left the Night Watch and while he is still in it, his heart isn’t.

Throughout the 3 stories presented, Anton must wrestle what it means to be an “Other”. He must decide if the Light and Dark ones are different after all and if the Inquisition is what he wants, or if it too is an empty body politic.

 

My Thoughts:

The idea of a book or spell that can turn people into Others was interesting. The complications, the effects and the ripples from even the Idea of such a thing are shown in each of these stories.

The writing was much more polished, less chaotic and random, than the first book. The downside was that the morose and melancholy nature that I so enjoyed from the previous books was also tamped down.  Kind of like a campfire after the first 30min. It is now warmer and much more able to fulfill your needs [ie, roasting those horrible ‘smores] but it doesn’t LOOK like a wild raging fire any more.

Tamed.

Lukyanenko’s philosophical musings, given voice by Anton’s thoughts, while running in the same vein as before, are much more “Others” versus “People” instead of “Light” versus “Dark”. Anton ends up thinking that ALL “Others” are like magical vampires, as they live off of the magic of people and the world. Which of course, is utter and complete bollocks. That is on the same level as saying that I am a grass vampire because I breathe in the oxygen it produces. In all honesty, Anton has matured and now has a family to be worried about, he doesn’t need to sit around and mentally masturbate to such puerile philosophy.

I also liked how the Inquisition was shown to be the place for those who had given up hope instead of the last Bastion of Hope for Others.

Originally, I believe this was the last book. At least, I know I’ve seen “The Night Watch Trilogy” on a bunch of older editions of this and earlier books. I do know that there is a fourth book, called The Final Watch, and I’m wondering what Lukyanenko will write about to wrap things up. Aaaaand I just looked and there is a fifth book entitled New Watch, so it looks like I’ve got a bit more reading a head of me than I thought. I’m ok with that.

Day Watch (Night Watch #2)

7ff1e2a82df5adc6c645c9e77f80403bThis review is written with a GPL 3.0 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 Bookstooge.booklikes.blogspot. wordpress.leafmarks.com & Bookstooge’s Reviews on the Road Facebook Group by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

 

 

Title: Day Watch

Series: Night Watch

Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Battle Axes

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Pages: 480

Format: Kindle

 

Synopsis:

3 interconnected stories centered around a game being played between Geser and Zabulon with some very long consequences for both the Light and the Dark.

And the Inquisition is showcased a bit more.

 

My Thoughts:

Whereas the first book, Night Watch, dragged me all over the place, this one simply left me feeling deliciously melancholy for the whole book without feeling depressed. That is a rare thing and something I treasure. The Elric of Melnibone series accomplished the same feat, but at its heart it is just an action story. Here we have a story of Dualism and how it affects those who are in the fray.

The stories were interesting but I gave no thought to trying to figure out what game Geser and Zabulon [the leaders of the Light and the Dark in Moscow, respectively] were playing. I simply sat back and let the words sweep me away. One of the things I didn’t like was that Lukyanenko used a lot of song lyrics in this and I’m sure they either tied into the story or if one knew of Russian pop culture, would have been much more meaningful. I simply skipped them and didn’t feel like I’d missed a thing.

One of the things that got my back up in the previous book was how Dualistic it was. This was even more so, but it showed the inevitable consequences of believing in Dualism, in just about any form and hence defeated itself, philosophically speaking. It also made me thankful for a God who isn’t just some nameless force schlepping around in the background.

I had watched both movies, Night Watch & Day Watch, after reading Night Watch and was a little afraid that I might have spoiled the book for myself. Nothing doing. The movie and the book don’t appear to be related at all. However, if I see certain plot points in future books, I’ll know they just crammed in things from them into the movie Day Watch.

Night Watch (Night Watch #1)

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Title: Night Watch

Series: Night Watch

Author: Sergei Lukyanenko

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Battle Axes

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Pages: 498

Format: Kindle

 

 

 

Synopsis:

There is a War going on, between the Light and the Dark. Humans don’t know about this war until they become “Others”, people with extraordinary abilities who must then choose either the Light or the Dark.

Anton is one such Other and we follow him through several stories as he learns and grows in the bleakest place of all, Russia.

 

My Thoughts:

I was all over the place with this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, hated it in places, was ready to call down the fires of heaven upon Lukyanenko several times and was completely and wonderfully morose through most of the book.

I was expecting one story. What I got was 3 or 4 and it worked well. Each story started out from the viewpoint of someone other than Anton and then chapter One would begin from Anton’s pov and it was 1st person. It was a jarring change but I found it to fit perfectly with the tone of the whole book.

One of the things that made me want to put this down was the utter and complete Dualistic nature of the Light and the Dark. Neither were evil or good, but simply Were. And Light always came off as the weaker [which it usually does in Dualism, see Terry Brooks Word & the Void as another example] and in fact Anton pretty much says so in the first story.  That leads into how the Other leaders of the Light and Dark play games with humans, the opposite Side and their own members. Anton encounters this several times and it almost breaks him. I know it would have broken me.

Anton. What a fantastic character. Drinking vodka by the *whatever large units one drinks alcohol by*, falling in love, doing his best while not understanding half of what is going on and pondering. I love pondering even while sometimes hating it. Recently, during one of the Classic Club reads, I told someone that I felt like I had a Russian soul, ie, I wasn’t happy unless I was miserable. That sums up Anton and in many ways I felt like if I had to be a character, I would have to choose Anton.

This was a translated work so it was tough to tell if the rough edges were because of the author or the translator. This book was by no means a wonderful jewel of literature but it was an engrossing look into the Urban Fantasy landscape. And unlike a certain Wizard (filed under W in the telephone directory – That is Harry Dresden, future me, since you’ll probably forget), Anton’s complaining and misery didn’t wear on me. It was him and it fit like a glove.