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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Assail (Malazan Empire #6) ★★★★☆

assail (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: Assail
Series: Malazan Empire #6
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 784
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Gold has been found in in the land of Assail. This leads a lot of people, in groups and as individuals, to suddenly have an interest. There are also those who are interested with longer term plans.

The natives, however, aren’t going to just sit down and let their lands be over run by foreigners who don’t care about the land and will destroy it in with their gold fever. These natives, also known as Icebloods for the trace of Jaghut blood they carry, are protecting the land from the Assail who sleep in the mountains. If one greedy miner or soldier awakens the Assail, the Assail will cleanse the continent of all life. The problem is, most of the Icebloods don’t believe the Assail are real.

Remnants of the T’lan Imass make their way to Assail, as it is the last bastion of Jaghut magic and in its heyday denied them entrance. Now that it is weakening, they can continue their purge of any Jaghut blood. Silverfox opposes these renegade Imass who rejected the transformation back to flesh and who do not know that there now exists a pocket world protected by one of their own. Silverfox must stop the massacre and let these Imass know that their vow is completed and they can rest.

Fisher Kal Teth, the bard, and Kyle the ex-Crimson Guardsman, who is now known as Whiteblade, are both Icebloods. Fisher meets up with an amnesiac Tiste Andii who has lost his memory but who Fisher suspects is Anomander Rake. Fisher, Kyle, Jethiss (the name the Tiste Andii takes on) meet up with other Icebloods to prevent the awakening of the Assail. In the end they are part of a new agreement between races to prevent the Assail from destroying them all. Jethiss makes a deal with the Assail for a sword and they cut off his arm and use the bones to make him a new legendary sword.

The Crimson Guard make their way to Assail as that is where the 4th Company is hanging on. Kazz, the leader of the Guard and the Avowed, knows something but won’t reveal it to anyone else. By the end of the book it is revealed that the Vow of the Guard used magic from Tellan and the Vow will not allow the Avowed to truly die. They have, in fact, become a new clan of Imass, but one that has not found their own redeemer who can give them final peace in death. So their search goes on.

Several other storylines wrapped around the above fill out the general picture of what is going on in the land of Assail. But these, the Chronicles of the Crimson Guard, are done.

 

My Thoughts:

Man, what a difference several years can make. Last time I read this was burnt out on Malaz, disappointed that there was no over-arching storyline and sick to death of existential philosophy. I gave this 2.5stars then. I suspect Life was kicking my butt back in ’14 and when that happens I just can’t handle any kind of sadness or despair things. It gets all blown out of proportion. I think I stated that I was completely done with Erikson and Esslemont?

And look at me now! I enjoyed this quite a bit on this re-read. Whenever a character began waxing philophical (which happened a lot less than I remembered), I just skipped it. Also having realized that these Malazan Empire novels are actually the Chronicles of the Crimson Guard, the ending was much more fitting. I also put Esslemont’s latest books in the running for the coveted Best Book of the Year award last year. And this is why it is good to re-read books.

This book seemed like it went at a slightly slower pace than the previous book, Blood and Bone. Another thing I noticed is that this ebook edition says it is only 542 pages but the paperback edition stands at 782. This felt much more like an almost 800page book rather than a sub600 one. I changed my info to reflect the larger number. Because I can 🙂

This finishes up the Malazan Empire novels and I can see myself reading them again in another 5-10 years. Unlike the Malazan Book of the Fallen, which I suspect my current re-read is my last, these books by Esslemont leave me feeling that I’d like to come back again some day. No rush but I’m definitely considering a third read through in the coming years.

A few things annoyed me and kept this from being a 4.5 or 5 star book. The whole Jethiss/Anomander Rake thing. Fisher suspects but won’t even say his suspicions or say the name Anomander Rake out loud. Also, Fisher is just about the only one who believes that the Assail are real and yet he refuses to name them or tell anyone why awakening them is a bad thing. He just says it is a bad thing and then shuts up and sulks. I just realized, I didn’t like Fisher. He’s an ass actually. Everyone else, I had no problem with but him, he pissed me off. Too bad he didn’t die. Other than that, this was right on par with the other Esslemont books.

I’m still shaking my head at how much of a change I had with this book from the last time. A modern day miracle I guess.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

The Bonehunters (Malazan Book of the Fallen #6) ★★★★☆

bonehunters (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 Bonehunters
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #6
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 804
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Adjunct Tavore Paran continues her pursuit of Leoman of the Flails and the rebels of the Shai’k rebellion. Leoman makes a last stand at Yghatan and in the process of burning the city down as a trap also unleases a Fire Elemental, which kills all of his followers and about 1/3 of the Malazan army. The survivors march for the coast where they are picked up by Admiral Nok and begin making the journey back to Malaz City. They meet up with the Grey Shields who wield incredible magic and have huge boats. They have a run-in with the newly expanding Letheri/Edur empire and scare the crap out of them with a show of magic. Once back at Malaz it is evident that Mallick Rell and Korbolo Dom have been plotting, as they are now heroes and Coltaine’s memory is that of a traitor. All Wickans are now under threat of pogrom. The Adjunct is told by the Empress to hand over the Wickans and control of the Bonehunters (the malazan army) and the Grey Shields. The citizens of Malaz attack the Bonehunters and the Greyshields, stirred up by agents of Mallick Rell. The Adjunct returns to her ship with the help of Kalam and her lover but wades through a veritable sea of blood to do so.

Karsa Orlong is captured by the Edur as a “Champion” so that he may face Rulad Sengir, the Edur emperor.

Icarium is separated from Mappo Trell and a new companion is given him. It turns out all the companions are part of the Nameless, a group that wants to use Icarium’s rages as a weapon. Mappo betrayed the Nameless by being Icarium’s friend instead of pointing him in the direction the Nameless wanted him to go. Icarium and his new companion are also captured by the Edur. They are used in a skirmish against Shadowthrone and it ends with Icarium, unconscious, going through a portal to the Lether/Edur empire.

Ganos Paran, as Master of the Deck, faces down Poliel and chooses sides in the war of the gods. He ends up becoming High Fist of another Malazan army after all its officers are struck down by plague, including Dujek Onearm.

And there are at least 5-10 other smaller plot threads running through out as well.

 

My Thoughts:

There is a lot going on in this book. And to be honest, that is the only thing that stopped me from dropping this a 1/2star. Because here is where the Existential Moralizing really begins. There were a couple of places where characters would talk back and forth for pages and the problem is that I couldn’t skip any of it because Erikson will throw in a line or two about some revelation or other plotline that is really nice to know. You know those Christian books where you get preached at instead of being told a story? Well, Erikson does that here with his own brand of suicide inducing despair filled philosophy. It’s done in really bad taste, as I felt like I was having a razorblade shoved down my throat.

I feel like I used up half my words for this review just typing out the synopsis. Also, for all my complaining about the philosphizing, there is a really good story packed between it all.

I always wondered why Surly/Laseen/Empress let things go downhill so fast and after reading the two Path to Ascendacy books, it’s very obvious that she is afraid of “Hero’s” capturing the people’s attention. To the point that she allows someone like Mallick Rell and Korbolo Dom to advise her, as they are despised by the people. She was skilled enough to run things for awhile but in this book we see her pretty much throwing it all away and no real explanation is given. It is intriguing.

I think that is all I have to say really. You can’t jump into the series with this book and it doesn’t wrap anything up and it is so big, that I feel like throwing up my hands and saying “read it yourself, if you dare” to get all the plot threads. Heck, we’re teased with a possible invasion of short-tailed K’Chain Che’malle and 12!!!! moonspawns. Look how powerfully Anomander Rake used just one, I can only imagine the chaos and destruction 12 might cause. That is just one of a myriad of topics I didn’t even bother to really think about for this review. Trying to cover everything is impossible and it leaves huge amounts of room for re-reading, as your focus will be different each time.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

 

 

Chapterhouse: Dune (Dune Chronicles #6) ★★★★☆

chapterhousedune (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: Chapterhouse: Dune
Series: Dune Chronicles #6
Author: Frank Herbert
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 452
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Honored Matres are wiping out Bene Gesserit worlds while on their search for Chapterhouse, the nerve center of Bene Gesserit’ness.

Duncan Idaho and Murbella are on Chapterhouse and Murbella is being trained as a BG Sister to see if Honored Matres CAN make that transition. Duncan is just doing his thing and staying in the no-ship so nobody can find him. He becomes the Teg ghola’s weapon master [as he has visions of face dancers and somehow steals info about super advanced weapons from their minds] and in the end takes off in the no-ship with Sheena, Scytale and others.

Scytale continues his bargaining with the Sisterhood but is pretty much stymied.

Darwi Odrade is now Mother Superior and has plans to tame the Honored Matres by melding them with the BG. But to do this she must kill the High Honored Matre and convince the rest of the BG to accept Murbella as a synthesis of the two sisterhoods. She succeeds and dies and Murbella is confirmed as leader of both groups.

It is revealed that the Honored Matres have been fleeing something even more powerful than them and it is now up to Murbella to guide humanity to survival against whatever this “other” threat is while combining the best of the Bene Gesserit with the best of the Honored Matres.

And some Jews. I don’t even know why Herbert put them in, but they are shoehorned into this story like nobody’s business.

 

My Thoughts:

This really felt like 2 books. One of those books I liked, the other I thought was a steaming pile of poo poo. And I mean really stinky poo poo.

One book was about sexual obsession (by the author) and child rape and pages and pages of philosophical gobbledy gook that was batted back and forth by cardboard characters like a badminton birdie.

The other book was filled with planets being wiped out by super weapons and the discovery of eternal life through ghola memory being awakened and threats so large that they might be the end of all humanity all across the universe.

I enjoyed the first 10% of this book, then went out of my mind for the next 45% and finally enjoyed the last bit, thankfully. All of that is just to show that I don’t hold it against anyone who hates this book, doesn’t like it or just think it stinks (like really really really stinky poo). But being the man I am, I was able to go beyond Frank’s weaknesses and still enjoy the strengths this book has to offer.

But I had the mantra “why Frank, why?!?” running through my head the entire time. He has huge awesome plot material and tons of cool action stuff and he focuses on conversations about power and sex and religion? For phracks sake man, let it go and just tell a great story like you did with Dune. I think that is what each book after Dune lost out on, telling a good story. Each sequel became the vehicle with which Herbert drove us around his little personal psychology museum and bored us to tears with his ramblings.

One thing about this re-read that I enjoyed, or at least noticed without feeling like I needed to pass judgement, were terms and conditions that ended up being used in the Dune 7 duology by Baby Herbert and KJ Anderson. Noticing those things made me a little more forgiving of them and made me wonder if perhaps they weren’t the total wankers I think them to be. Yeah, that’ll last until I start reading the Dune 7 duology. Don’t worry, there will be no good feelings of comraderie and brotherly love then. Nothing but cold scorn and derision for ruining such an epic as the Dune Chronicles.

So why the 4stars? I’m beginning to wonder myself!

  1. The Action. When it happened, it happened fast and furious and there was NO messing about. Death and carnage and billions snuffed out in a heart beat.
  2. The Ideas. Once you got past Herbert’s obsession with power and the really weird ways he expressed that obsession, some of the points on humanity and how humanity acts and interacts were quite intriguing. I suspect they’re not very original, but in SF, it really works.
  3. The Direction. This series had moved beyond the Atreides family directly and towards the Gene Gesserit as a whole being a shepherd to humanity. Humanity had gotten larger and so the need for some guidance had gotten larger. Where this was leading was great.

Of course, it ends on a cliffhanger with Duncan and the No-ship in unknown space just hanging out. Like, duuude, where’s my spaceship? If you read my initial review from ’12 you’ll see how I reacted to that. This time around, knowing I had the completed story, no matter from who, that made a difference.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

Consider Phlebas (The Culture #1) ★★★★☆

considerphlebas (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: Consider Phlebas
Series: The Culture #1
Author: Iain Banks
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 545
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

There is War between the Idirans, a culture of 3 legged beings with religious mono-mania and The Culture, a decadent collection of self-serving beings who live for pleasure and are ruled by AI and their machines.

We follow the story of Horza, a humanoid with the ability to change his face and body, a Changer, who is allied with the Idirans, as he attempts to capture a Culture Mind that has done the impossible and * insert super science term * jumped onto a planet, against all known rules of everything.

The Iridians want to capture the Mind to learn it’s tricks or at least to prevent The Culture from learning how it did what it did and The Culture wants it to learn how it did what it did. Unfortunately, it chose to jump onto a Dead World, a world that is supervised by a vast, intellectual non-corporeal being. One that brooks no interference or even cares about the differences that the Iridians and The Culture have.

Horza goes from one bad situation to another right up unto the end where he is betrayed by the Iridians, who view the Changers as no more than vermin even while using them. In the process he loses his lover and newly conceived baby and most of his Changer compatriots.

The book ends with everyone involved dying in one way or another and a history of the war and it’s conclusion. Bleak stuff.

 

My Thoughts:

Whereas the Player of Games really struck me as a dishonest take on the idea of Utopia, this book felt more honest and how humans would actually react. This was a novel about The Culture from it’s enemies perspective. That allowed us the reader to see things that we couldn’t in Player of Games. I would definitely recommend reading this one first just so Banks can’t sell you on the idea that The Culture is a true Utopia.

I ended up feeling bad for Horza for most of the book. He’s rescued from a death sentence only to be tossed out of an Iridian spaceship that’s about to go into battle. He’s then captured by pirates and has to kill a crew member to join. He then participates in several failed piratical ventures and in the final one is stranded on a Orbital that is going to be destroyed by The Culture in 3 days. He does escape and make it back to the pirate ship and takes it over as it’s captain. But a Culture agent is on board. The same agent who got him the death sentence at the beginning of the book. He then makes his way to the Dead World and gets permission by the Overmind to land. Only to have Iridian Covert Ops teams try to take him out even though he’s on their side. And while all the Iridians die, they also manage to kill everyone except Horza and The Culture agent. And it gets better. Horza dies just as he’s taken to a ship with the medical facilities to heal him. The Culture Agent can’t handle the guilt and so she goes to sleep for 300 years only to commit suicide when she wakes.

Now normally that much bad stuff would depress me. But this time around? It simply re-affirmed my faith in human nature, ie, that we’re a bunch of no good sinners who can’t pull ourselves up by our bookstraps. I love it when Utopia minded people get a good dose of fallen nature. Wake up and smell the coffee you idiots.

So far, all threats to The Culture have been external. I’m wondering when Banks will write about some local, internal threat that wants power. While the AI’s might be in charge, it’s definitely not as pronounced as it is in Neal Asher’s Polity series. I’m also still not convinced of The Culture as something real or viable. No central authority, no defining characteristics. It just doesn’t jive with my understanding of humanity.

What makes this a 4star book is the fact that the author is aware of everything that I’ve mentioned and takes it into account. I might think he’s wrong, but he’s not oblivious and it takes some good writing to promote something even while mainly showing its flaws.

★★★★☆

bookstooge