War Factory (Polity: Transformation #2) ★★★★☆

d256c6276aa7e43ce7408d202cdf0f95This 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: War Factory
Series: Polity: Transformation #2
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 472
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

There are viewpoints from: Captain Blight and Crew, who Penny Royal the Black AI hitches rides with; Sverl the Prador who is turning into a human, prador and AI, Thorvald Spear who started out hunting down Penny Royal and now carries out its wishes; Cvorn the Prador who is trying to re-start the war between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom; Oberon the King of the Prador who seems to be a Spatterjay virus infected Prador who is trying to change his subjects so they can survive long term; and finally The Brockle, a forensic AI who pretty much tortures people and other AI who have committed crimes until the Polity gets what they want from the criminals, the Brockle considers Penny Royal to be the biggest criminal in the Polity to date.

Penny Royal seems to be trying to figure something out but nobody is sure exactly what that is. In the process it is fixing many of its past mistakes, most of which are included in the list of POV’s above.

The End Point is Room 101, a War Factory (hence the name of the book) from the war and the journey is getting everyone there at the proper time.

 

My Thoughts:

It has only been 3 years since I last read this but really, aside from from a couple of overall things, it was like reading a brand new book. It probably doesn’t help that the synopsis is so vague because of how many viewpoints there are that are interweaving for the whole book.

Speaking of viewpoints, Asher handled them like a champ. Unlike that rat custard Gwynne, I never got annoyed reading them during this book. When a view point would change, I never felt like I was leaving something undone and wanted to stay. Asher wove his story adroitly and expertly and I for one appreciated that.

The only real downside was that Asher once again delves into crustacean sex, like he did in one of his spatterjay books. I don’t know why he finds giant crabs doing it exciting, but he sure does. Doesn’t matter if it is used as a device to kill Cvorn later on, but having Cvorn cut off a younger crabs genitals, stitch them on himself and then use them to have sex for again for the first time in decades is just not something I really want to read about. However, it is unique. So if you are looking for a unique reading experience, you’ll get that here!

I did like how Asher delves into what is murder. Being an atheist, he approaches it from the complete cessation of existence. So a society that can recreate an entity if they’ve recorded themselves onto crystal has to decide what is murder. Asher, like many technologists of today, simply assumes that the brain and every biological part, CAN be recorded and that we are nothing but a collection of data. It doesn’t bother me because this is a universe in which AI exist. Throw in some dragons and the probability factor doesn’t actually change, if you know what I mean.

Half of the action was spaceship oriented, which isn’t my thing, but thankfully the other half was all groundpounder action. Now THAT is my thing.

★★★★☆

 

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Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings #1) ★★★★☆

fellowshipofthering (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: Fellowship of the Ring
Series: Lord of the Rings #1
Author: John Tolkien
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Bilbo, after the events from The Hobbit, has settled down to a nice slightly eccentric life. He adopts one of his nephews, Frodo, as his heir and begins to write his memoirs. On his One Hundred and Eleventieth birthday, Bilbo disappears and leaves everything to Frodo. Only Gandalf knows that Bilbo has gone to Rivendell.

Several decades later Gandalf visits Frodo and reveals that the little gold ring that allowed Bilbo to turn invisible, and that he left to Frodo, is actually a ring of great power, possibly The One Ring that was made by Sauron to control all the other rings of power. Gandalf tells Frodo he needs to go to Rivendell to take counsel and that he, Gandalf, will return in a year to help guide him there.

A year passes and no word of Gandalf. Frodo has been preparing and his cover story is that he is moving to Buckland, another settlement of hobbits. Two of his cousins, Merry and Pippin, along with Frodo’s gardener Sam, have all been helping him move. On the way to Buckland, Frodo runs into a black rider that inspires complete unreasoning terror in his heart. No longer knowing who to trust, Frodo and his companions begin their trek to Rivendell.

Having several adventures, the hobbits meet up with Strider, a human ranger who Gandalf trusted. They all head for Rivendell, doing their best to avoid the attention of the Black Riders, who Strider reveals are Ringwraiths, Sauron’s powerful underlings. The Group makes it to Rivendell and Gandalf shows up. He tells them that the head of the Wizard’s Council, Saruman the White, has been corrupted by a lust for power. Now the world must deal with Sauron and Sarumon, both who want the One Ring for the power it contains. Elrond, the elven lord of Rivendell, tells that the Ring will corrupt any being who uses it and that it must be destroyed. The only way to destroy it is to cast it back into the fiery Mount Doom from which it was created.

A Company is gathered. They set out. Hindered in many ways, they must eventually decide what they are going to do with the Ring. Gandalf perishes defending them from a Balrog, a being almost equal in power to Sauron himself. Eventually, one of the Companions, a human named Boromir, falls under the influence of the Ring and tries to take it from Frodo.

Frodo flees, along with Sam and heads off on his own towards Mt Doom. The book ends with the Fellowship breaking apart and heading their own ways.

 

My Thoughts:

This is going to be a lot shorter of a review than my 2012 one.

I enjoyed this but was not raving about it. A thoroughly good story that is at once personal and cozy and yet epic in scope all at the same time. It is no wonder that this trilogy ended up spawning the Fantasy Genre as we know it today.

The reason this doesn’t get more than 4stars from, and never will, is all the blasted songs and poetry. Sometimes they contained pertinent information to the current story and other times they were simply a history lesson and at others they were just an expression by the character. You never knew which. I ended up just skipping them, plot points be forsaken.

Anyone who reads Fantasy should read this trilogy. Period.

★★★★☆

 

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Od Magic ★★★★★

odmagic (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: Od Magic
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 328
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Brenden Vetch saved most of his village from the plague but he couldn’t save his parents. He learned the magic of plants all on his own and now he wanders, listening to what the plants tell him. One day a woman named Od appears before him and tells him to go to her school in the big city, as she needs a gardener. He’ll know the entrance by the sign with the boot on it. Sick at heart and ready for a change, Brenden goes and finds the door. He enters, meets a wizard and finds out that only very special people ever find the door with the boot on it. All the other students enter through the front gate.

The King of the city, and his ancestors, started the school in honor of Od when she saved the kingdom hundreds of years ago. Slowly they have usurped its powers and decreed that only magic they control is allowed.

A wandering magician enters the city, only to entertain. But circumstances set the king off so he sets his own wizards on the trail of the magician to either control him or remove him and his troupe (said magician performs magics of illusions for the crowds) from the city.

At the same time the princess is to be married off to the head wizard, a man who is controlled completely by the rules of magic that the kings have set up. When she realizes this wizard will never allow her her own small magics taught her by her grandmother, she runs away to find the wandering magician to learn outside magic and to gain her freedom. This sets the King off even more.

At the same time Brenden accidentally shows what he is capable of to the head wizard. Realizing what he has done, Brenden runs away. The Head Wizard chases after him.

Everybody ends up in the North Country where there are 8 Stumps, which are beings of immeasurable power but who are afraid of humanity. Turns out Od is their representative to Humanity so they can all co-exist. Brenden must help the human magicians look beyond the limits they’ve set for themselves so that they won’t be afraid of unknown magic.

 

My Thoughts:

This hit the spot. I really needed a good book after the stinkers I had last week. I slid right into the rhythm of the story like sliding into silk pajamas. My mind and senses felt caressed by the writing. It was just plain soothing.

There was a LOT going on. Brenden’s story, the wandering Magician, the Princess, the Stumps, Od herself, and all of the side characters swept along by each of the main characters. In a good way, it was easy to lose myself in the story. But I never felt like McKillip lost a thread or made a mistep there. Each character was balanced within the overarching plot and at no time did I ever feel like a particular point of view was too long or too short. It just flowed together perfectly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, every sentence of it. I had no issues with anything, well except maybe for wishing it was slightly longer, but I feel that way about every McKillip book. Of course, she writes just the right amount for the story she is telling.

If you haven’t started to read McKillip’s body of work by now, then nothing I can say will galvanize you. You won’t get any contempt from me, just pity. And trust me, getting pitied by me means you’re pretty low on the totem pole…

★★★★★

 

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Barnaby Rudge ★★★★☆

barnabyrudge (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: Barnaby Rudge
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 864
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Barnaby Rudge is a young man who is an idiot. He never grew up past 6 and can’t remember one day from the next. He lives with his widowed mother on a stipend from Mr Haredale, the estate owner that Barnaby’s father worked for before he vanished all those years ago on the night that a murder was committed.

Mr Haredale, a staunch Catholic, has a niece named Emma. Her father was the man murdered all those years ago and now Mr Haredale is her guardian. She is in love with a young man named Edward Chester, the son of Mr Chester. Mr Chester and Mr Haredale are at odds with one another and neither guardian nor father want the match to happen. Emma also has a companion named Dolly Varden.

Dolly Varden lives in London with her father and mother. Her father is a jolly blacksmith while her mother is one of those creatures that only Dickens can bring to the page. Gabriel Varden has an apprentice, one Simon Tappertitt, who is in love with Dolly, hates Gabriel for some reason and thinks he is the most beautiful specimen of manhood to ever exist. Dolly is in love with Joe Willet.

Joe Willet is a young man whose father runs the Maypole, an inn that belongs to Mr Haredale. Joe Willet Sr is constantly treating Joe Jr like a boy and eventually Joe runs away and joins the army.

The main story is about how all of these characters interact through the 5 years leading up to the riots in 1780 in London, where a mob ran riot for several days in protest against Catholics and Catholicism. Barnaby is dragged into it, not knowing any better. Joe has returned from America (where he fought against American Independence, boo hiss!) and Edward Chester has returned from the Continent after having learned to make his living. Simon Tappertitt kidnaps Dolly and Emma during the riots, gets his just desserts and becomes a legless beggar by the end of the story. Mr Haredale and Mr Chester have a duel in which Chester dies. Mr Haredale gives his blessing and fortune to Emma and Edward. Joe Jr returns with an arm missing and his father starts treating him like an adult. Joe Jr and Dolly get married and run the Maypole together. Barnaby goes to jail for participating in the riots and is about to be hung when he gets a pardon because Joe Jr and Edward Chester work like the dickens (ha!) to get him free.

 

My Thoughts:

This was not plot oriented at all. Given, most of Dickens’ books center around his characters, but this one more so. The Riot of ’80 was the event that tied this all together.

I enjoyed this but it took me over 2 weeks to work my way through. I’d read a chapter and then put the book down for the rest of the day. Given, Mrs B was away for a family visit and I was dealing with job interviews and thinking about the future, so I was obviously distracted but still, I had to concentrate to pick this up.

I really don’t know what else to say. If you enjoy Dickens, you’ll enjoy this. This is probably not the book to start a Dickens Journey of Discovery though. This wasn’t quite as organic as some of Dickens other books and it shows. That is why I kept this at 4stars like last time.

I can say that one needs uninterrupted time, without stress or pressure, to fully appreciate Dickens. If one is harried, distracted and busy, it takes away from the experience.

★★★★☆

 

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Dark Intelligence (Polity: Transformation #1) ★★★★½

f5c20b1147913d15c73b181229ed7c8cThis 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: Dark Intelligence
Series: Polity: Transformation #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Thorvald Spear wakes up in a hospital. Which is odd, because he remembers being killed by a Polity AI named Penny Royal, almost 100 years ago, an AI that was supposed to be rescuing him and his men on a Prador occupied world. With his memory still a bit glitchy, Spear does know one thing for certain, Penny Royal must die.

Spear tracks down Penny Royal’s old spaceship. With the help of a powerful gangster named Isabel Satomi, who made a deal of her own with Penny Royal and is now regretting it, Spear plans on tracking Penny Royal down to whatever hidden lair it’s hiding in. With Satomi’s transformation having gone a bit further than anticipated (she’s turning into a hooder), Spear abandons her and sets out on his own.

Satomi wanted revenge on Penny Royal for the changes it started in her. But with Spear’s betrayal, she’ll happily kill him too. She heads to a world in the Graveyard (an area of space between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom where neither has an official presence) where she can gather her forces and pursue Spear and then Penny Royal. While on The Rock Pool, a world ruled by a prador named Sverl who also made a deal with Penny Royal, the other Prador revolt against Sverl and he is forced to help Satomi if either of them want to survive.

All during this time Penny Royal has been dancing around and through everything, apparently orchestrating “something”. It shows up at Masada, an apparent guest of the newly sentient Atheter. Both Spear and Satomi also show up at Masada. Satomi is now a complete biomech warmachine, like the Technician before its demise. With such a weapon, the Atheter can now claim full control of Masada and kick the Polity out.

Satomi’s consciousness is pulled from the hooder into a crystal memplant. Spear realizes he has been manipulated this whole time so Penny Royal can begin making good on all the bad things it did while a Black AI.

 

My Thoughts:

The only reason I didn’t give this 5 stars this time around was because there was a very awkward, unnecessary and completely gratuitous sex scene ¾ of the way through the book. Other than that, I loved this book, again.

It has only been about 4 years since I initially read this but that is something like 600 books ago, so this was a good refresher. I remembered some of the larger details but that didn’t in anyway detract from my enjoyment.

The first time I read this Penny Royal kind of came out of leftfield because I hadn’t been paying any attention to mentions of it in previous Polity books. On my re-read of the Polity, I paid more attention to that and now it is paying dividends.

Asher is not telling disconnected stories all set in his Polity universe. Each series builds on the previous ones but without turning into a Never Ending Series. Each series has a definite beginning and a definite end, as does each book. You have no idea how much I appreciate an author that still writes that way.

I would not recommend starting Asher’s Polity with this book. While you could, I guess, there is just too much in the background that you need to have read in his previous book for this to make sense.

★★★★½

 

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O Jerusalem! ★★★★½

ohjerusalem (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: O Jerusalem!
Series: ———-
Author: Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 745
Format: Paperback Edition

 

Synopsis:

A brief history of the events leading up to Britain’s departure from the Holy Land in 1948 and the war for survival that Israel then fought against 5 Arab countries.

Taken from newspapers, private journal entries, interviews, government documents, Collins and Lapierre weave a narrative of courage, horror, bravery, cowardice, ingenuity and turn what could have been a dry recounting by the numbers of the birth of a modern nation into something that had a face of its peoples.

 

My Thoughts:

My, my, what a good start to my first dedicated foray into non-fiction. I’d read this back in 2000 and just remembered that I’d really enjoyed it then. I thoroughly enjoyed it again.

I also enjoyed reading about events from both sides, both Israeli and Arab. Getting accounts from both sides allowed the authors to delve a lot deeper and to make connections that wouldn’t be possible without that knowledge. They also don’t fall into the trap of worshiping one side and demonizing the other.

That being said, they also don’t pull any punches. The Moslem Brotherhood is shown for the terrorist group it is. Anyone who watched the events of the Arab Spring in Egypt a couple of years ago will know their name. They’re as “moderate” as Hillary Clinton and President Obama. The authors also show how a splinter group of the Israeli military (the Stern Gang I think?) tried to pull a coup and caused the official army to have to fire on its own people, WHILE THE WAR WAS GOING ON.

It is amazing how politics played such a huge part. For all that the Arab leaders were talking publicly about wiping Israel off the face of the earth, privately they were dead set against such a war. But they wouldn’t keep their mouths shut and their people were ignorant savages and when you get that kind of combination, well, you get war.

There were very few footnotes or anything, but at the end of the book were almost 30 pages of sources and each chapter had its own little heading showing what sources were used to substantiate the chapter. Made me feel much better and that the authors weren’t pulling rabbits out of hats.

★★★★½

 

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The Hobbit (The Lord of the Rings Prequel) ★★★★★

hobbit (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 Hobbit
Series: The Lord of the Rings Prequel
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 235
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit. Who ends up with a wizard and 13 dwarves for dinner. And somehow gets finagled into going on an adventure to recover the dwarves lost treasure, that is guarded by the dragon Smaug.

Along the way Bilbo meets elves, runs away from goblins, plays a riddle game in the dark with Gollum for his life, finds a ring of invisibility, flies on eagles’ wings, fights giant spiders and is almost eaten by 3 trolls.

Eventually he and the dwarves reach the Lonely Mountain and Laketown. They rouse the dragon and Bard of Laketown kills Smaug and then elves, humans and dwarves prepare to fight over the treasure. Until a huge goblin army shows up and everybody fights them. The good guys win, the treasure is shared and Bilbo returns home a better, wiser and more eccentric hobbit than ever.

 

My Thoughts:

What a book. I’ve read this enough times that nothing is a surprise. And yet… I am still in awe at how Tolkien weaves such a children’s tale so as to keep me intrigued, for the umpteenth time.

What do I say? A simple tale of adventure that is the prequel to one of the worlds most renowned fantasy series? A tale of bravery, generosity and kindness overcoming perils, greed and hatred? A stout heart being greater than a dragon? I just don’t know what to say beyond the fact that I enjoyed the heck out of this just like I have all the previous times and I don’t have any issues with it.

Well, except maybe all the singing. I wouldn’t have minded if there hadn’t been any singing. In regards to the singing though, the only thing I can say positively about the horrific movie trilogy is that the song by the dwarves in Bilbo’s house is absolutely haunting and enchanting. Who knows how long this link will exist, but here’s a youtube link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8ymgFyzbDo

If only the Silmarillion had been this interesting. Well, at least I’ve got the rest of the Trilogy to look forward too!

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)