Lord of Light ★★☆☆½

lordoflight (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: Lord of Light
Series: ———-
Author: Roger Zelazny
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 304
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Humanity has made it through the stars and to a new planet. At least, one spaceship did. But on this planet, they found it inhabited by incorporeal demonic beings, other sentient beings of various powers and the crew of the ship all gained mutant powers. Combining these powers with their technology, they became veritable gods and began the conquest of the world.

They conquered. They rule. They live in heaven while the rest of humanity starts the cycle of civilization all over again.

One of the gods, the Buddha, Sam, opposes them at every turn. He starts new religions, he tries to jump start innovations. Sam is killed, many times, is sent to Nirvanna, goes into hiding and eventually weakens them enough that humanity can begin remembering its heritage.

This is the story of the Lord of Light throughout the ages as he opposes the gods in many different ways.

 

My Thoughts:

I’ve never been a big fan of Zelazny. I was introduced to him in my early teens through the Amber books. I was too young and didn’t understand them and stopped at book 2. When I read the whole series again decades later, I was very underwhelmed. So I wanted to try one more of his books to double check my opinion. Yep, Zelazny is not for me, at all.

While I was reading this I felt like I was reading a combination of John Wright’s Count to the Eschaton series and Dave Duncan’s Seventh Swordsman. Both of those obviously came much later but since I had read them first, well, the punch from this was gone.

Zelazny was obviously in love with Buddhism when he wrote this and it miasmates from almost every word. No, “miasmate” is not a real word, but I’m having the problem of getting across the bone deep stench that permeates a dead corpse and somehow applying it to this story.

There was nothing technically wrong here. I just don’t like Zelazny’s style and his choice of conveying a Science Fiction story was sideways instead of being told straight forward. So I can now say with 100% certainty that I don’t like Zelazny’s writings and I’ll never read another again.

If you’ve never read any of his stuff, this might be a good place to start. It is a standalone and showcases his style to the tee. With the Amber you’re potentially committing to 10 (albeit very short ones) books. Chances are if you like this you’ll like his other stuff. My experience also leads me to think that if you don’t like this,you won’t like his other stuff as well.

★★☆☆½

bookstooge

 

 

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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

 

The Skinner (Polity: Spatterjay #1) ★★★★★

skinner (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 Skinner
Series: Polity: Spatterjay #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 433
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Sable Keech, a dead ECS agent, is a member of the Anubis cult. When he died 700 years ago tracking down infamous slavers who sold their product to the Prador during the Prador War, he was reified and continued his hunt for the Eight most prominent members. Jay Hoop was their leader and Sable has accounted for the other seven members. Rumors bring Sable to the world of Spatterjay, named after Jay Hoop. A world where a peculiar virus gives immortality but with the risk of becoming inhuman.

Janer, a human who was indentured and now works for, a Wasp Hivemind, is on Spatterjay on orders from the Hive. He doesn’t know why and in all honesty, he doesn’t want to know why. But the Hive wants to expand and a world outside of the Polity would suit it perfectly. Janers is along for the ride and the promise of ten million new carth shillings, enough to allow him to be free of the Hive forever.

Erlan. Young hooper. A hooper is someone with the virus. A young hooper is anyone infected for less than 200 years. She was infected and then left Spatterjay to explore the galaxies. But now she’s back and she’s not sure she wants to keep on living. Her mission is to find Captain Ambel and either have him kill her or show her how to live, as all the Captains of Spatterjay are over 700 years old.

Throw in a Prador trying to clean up its trail from the Prador War 1000 years ago, one of the Eight who isn’t dead, Jay Hooper who is now a 12foot tall monstrosity that is practically unkillable, some mercenaries and a couple of AI’s and you’ve got yourself quite a story!

Oh, I forgot to mention the sentient Sails, which might just try to take the planet for themselves.

 

My Thoughts:

This was the best Polity book by Asher so far. It had super bloody ultra violent action. It had dead people, it had the Skinner. That thing is surviving even after having its head cut off and kept in a box by Captain Ambel. Hiveminds and Prador and the list goes on and on and on.

While the Prador War was mentioned in passing in the Agent Cormac books, it was more of a blip than anything. Here, while it was 1000 years ago, we get a lot of information about it that helps develop the Polity into a more realistic society. It isn’t all knowing and all powerful and the Prador War showed that. That is a good balance to some of the power we saw in Agent Cormac where it appeared the Polity just rolled over everything.

If I had to recommend a place to start the Polity books, this would be it. It is filled with awesome new ideas and the action and thrillaminute ride never stops. The other thing is that while this is part of a trilogy, it tells a complete story. The Skinner is brought to justice, each of the characters finds closure in one way or another and there are no dangling threads “forcing” you to read the next 2 books. You could read this and see if Asher’s style is for you and if it isn’t, you don’t have that “incomplete” feeling that a lot of series rely on these days.

This is a good sized book. This edition is only 400+ pages, but when I read it back in 2010, it was over 700 I think? Probably those larger numbers were based on a paperback edition. Either way, this is not something you skim through in an afternoon. I spent a day and a half devouring this and “devour” is a good word. Everything on Spatterjay is trying to eat something else, all the time.

I also liked the introduction of the Hive Mind. Sadly, beyond a couple of short stories in some of his later collections, Asher never really delves into this aspect of the Polity. So don’t get too excited about it as it never pans out.

As a re-read, this almost came across as a new book. I remembered the basic details of Spatterjay being a world where everything was eat or be eaten and that there was stuff to do with the Prador and that a dead guy was involved. But honestly, this book and my review from 2010 are part of why I now review the way I do. That review did nothing to help me remember what I had read, while I’m hoping this one does when I decide to re-read it again in another decade or so.

Last time I rated this 4 stars. This time around, with it still being so enjoyable and such a fun read, I’m slamming that up to 5 stars.

★★★★★

bookstooge

 

 

The Human Factor (Omega Force #8) ★★★☆☆

humanfactor (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 Human Factor
Series: Omega Force #8
Author: Joshua Dalzelle
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 250
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Jason and Omega Force are back and on track. Only to get pushed off a cliff when they find out that human bounty hunters are looking for Jason.

Humanity has allied itself with a little known species and has been given the slipdrive and a new planet. All the aliens want in return is the old drive from the ship that Burke destroyed in Savage Homecoming. This is all being done in secret with only a select few knowing about the wheeling and dealing. One of those select few cuts her own deal with the aliens, takes over the colony planet and strongarms Earth into making her its ruler.

Now it is up to Jason, with no help, to save Earth again. Of course, one of the girls saves his bacon. But is it the former military captain who is now an Admiral, or the Pretty Pretty Princess? The mystery, the enchantment, the romance of it all!

By the end of the book Earth and everyone on it now knows they are a 1bit player on a very large stage.

 

My Thoughts:

The Galactic Princess girl from the previous book is pretty much dismissed. Kellea saves Earth but only because Lucky writes her a note telling her that Jason still loves her. Come on, a fracking battle robot has better relationship skills than these 2 humanoids? I don’t like relational drama in my books. Jason is still acting like an 18 year old boy instead of the man he is. For all that the Princess was the focus of the previous book, I also didn’t like how she was just shelved when it wasn’t convenient for her to be around. It felt VERY heavy handed by the author especially after how she was so played up before.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the rest of the book. Probably one of the best Omega Force books so far. There is so much potential here and it’s really only limited by the author’s imagination. I hope he’s up to the task of thinking of new, cool storylines and doesn’t fumble and turn this into one of those “it’s obvious the author has no idea what to write so he just threw some stuff onto the wall to see what sticks” kind of things.

Writing relationships is definitely not Dalzelle’s strongpoint and I hope that he either does a lot of practice and gets better or just leaves it alone in future books. If he can avoid making “relationships” a prop in his stories, he’ll probably be ok.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge

 

Ghost in the Shell (2017 Movie)

gitsblurayGhost in the Shell.  I’ve got a history with this franchise, so I’ll get that out of the way first. Going to be a long paragraph.

I got into anime in roughly 2001. Things like Tenchi Muyo and whatnot. In my quest to explore more anime, I joined various forums and heard tons and tons of praise for an anime movie called Ghost in the Shell. I watched it and was shocked at how graphic it was in terms of sexual content and violence. I wasn’t into paying attention to artists or directors at that time, just the name. So Ghost in the Shell, to be abbreviated GitS for the rest of this review, became something that I wanted nothing to do with. By 2004 I was more aware of things like artists, creators, directors, etc, etc. I became a huge fan of the Appleseed movies and realized that Shiro Masumi was the creator of them. That was when I realized that he was also the creator of GitS. So I figured I’d check out the source material for GitS and read the manga. That was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in regards to my anime/manga time. Halfway through the manga was a large section that was in color and it was a pornographic orgy between the Major and her lovers.  I’ve never read another manga by Masumi again and it cooled my interest even in Appleseed.

When I met Miss Librarian, later to become Mrs Bookstooge, we both had an interest in anime and manga. She started talking about this tv show, GitS: Standalone Complex (abr GitS:SaC). I was shocked that this lovely christian woman was watching something like that, as I figured it was at the same level as the original movie or manga. Thankfully, she informed me otherwise and we ended up watching it together after we got married and it became one of my favorite animes. GitS:SaC 2nd Gig was just as fun for me. GitS: Arise (a reboot/retelling of the origins of Section 9) was even better but had such a limited dvd run that I was never able to afford them.

Edited to Add: It appears that Amazon has the Arise franchise on bluray for pretty cheap. I now know what I’m getting myself for Christmas

So the long and the short of it is that I have a very mixed set of feelings about GitS. I love the ideas, what it means to be human in a world where robotics and humanity are almost interchangable. I just didn’t like the graphicness of the movies.

Ok, now on to the review for this live action 2017 movie.

First, I probably wouldn’t have given this the time of day, given my history with the movie side of GitS, except for all the ballyhoo by “social justice warriors” decrying the complete rascism and whitewashing of everything in Hollywood. I think Hollywood is already a pit of iniquity, so to hear people like the SJW’s suddenly getting up in arms about it just made me roll my eyes. It also kicked in my perversity gene so now I wanted to watch this. Yep, kind of the opposite side of the “it’s popular so I must hate it” coin.

This was the origin story of Major Kusanagi. I enjoyed my time watching this. There is a lot of angst about just what Major is, as she can’t remember things very well before her inception into the new robotic body.

Plotwise, I was afraid they were going to just copy a version of GitS:SaC and have the Laughing Man storyline. Thankfully they didn’t and had their own little cyber-hacker monster storyline. It did a good job of introducing us to the world of tomorrow. I did feel that Section 9, which deals with cyber-terrorism, wasn’t explained so well. I had no problems with it but I’ve also got some GitS experience to fill in the blanks.

I really liked that the head of Section 9, Aramaki, spoke in japanese. I’ve seen the guy in other japanese movies and enjoyed his performance. Aramaki was always in the background and that was kept the same here, as it should be. The guy they chose to play Batou was spot on and I enjoyed how he got his distinctive set of eyes.  I thought Johansson did a good job of playing Major and that the studio made the right choice in employing a big name actress in the lead role. They wanted to draw in more than just die-hard GitS fans and Johansson’s presence would definitely do that. With the Major being a construct, they can also easily replace her with other actresses in future movies and have it be explained by her changing shells. Bodies for the Major are like clothes, easy to change.

Overall, I enjoyed this more than Doctor StrangeNot a movie I’d want to own or even rewatch to be honest but if they make more and turn it into a franchise, kind of like the Resident Evil franchise, I’ll definitely tune in. If you liked this movie, then I’d definitely recommend watching the 2 GitS:SaC tv series.

 

bookstooge

Pines (Wayward Pines #1) ★★★☆½

pines (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:
Pines
Series: Wayward Pines #1
Author: Blake Crouch
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF, Thriller
Pages: 315
Format: Digital edition

 

* SPOILERS *

I am usually not one to worry about spoilers in my reviews. However, this book is predicated on the tension created by the main character, and hence the reader, not knowing what is going on. So read further at your own risk. I’ll make the last paragraph a quick summary of how I felt about the book without any spoilers so you can have something to read if you’re worried about spoilers.

 

 

Synopsis:

Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke wakes up next to a river. He stumbles into town, apparently called Wayward Pines, without much memory of anything. He is taken back to a hospital where it is revealed to him that he and his partner were hit by a mack truck and he left the hospital without permission. Little things aren’t adding up though and Ethan’s inner self keeps warning him.

Alone, with no money, no weapons, no vehicle, no way to contact his superiors, Ethan must survive whatever is going on at Wayward Pines. He does remember that he was tracking down some other secret service agents who disappeared after investigating Wayward Pines.

When he comes across his ex-partner, who is now inexplicably aged 30 years and runs into another woman claiming to be from the 1980’s, Ethan is completely confounded. Then when it becomes obvious that the road doesn’t lead out of the town and all the ways out on foot are fenced off, Ethan knows SOMETHING isn’t right.

Ethan finally escapes, only to fall into the hands of David Pilcher, a super rich, super smart genius who has predicted the end of humanity due to gene and environmental failure. Pilcher has setup Wayward Pines as the last bastion of Humanity and it is now 1000 years since Ethan walked the earth. Humanity is no more and what humanity became, brutal carnivores that were intelligent but without enough intelligence to build a civilization, now roams the desolate earth. Pilcher deep froze his 1000 chosen in the hopes of restarting humanity and by the end of the book Ethan chooses to become his right hand man and enforcer.

 

My Thoughts:

My very first thought when starting this was that Ethan was doing some sort of cross reality transfer between blackouts, much like the main character in Ted Dekker’s The Circle series. Something was obviously off, but I had no idea what. After the second time when Ethan pulls some bone headed, gut reaction, thing, I just decided that I wasn’t going to figure out what was going on and to let Crouch chauffeur me to the end of the book, like he was going to do no matter what I wanted.

It was a very frustrating experience but not at all bad. It was meant to be frustrating and I felt so much sympathy for Ethan even while yelling at him in my head. He didn’t know what was going on and I had no idea what was going on, so I couldn’t even call him on being stupid. And he really does some stupid things. For a former military vet AND a secret service agent, he didn’t strike me as aggressive enough or willing to do what was necessary. Now, he’s injured and without money or much clothing, so some of it is understandable. But if you wake up in a town where other Secret Service agents have disappeared and even the sheriff is acting weird, you steal some clothes, some money, a car and get out. And when the road loops back and you’re weirded out, head out cross country on foot, but BE PREPARED! It wasn’t until he was being chased by the blood thirsty mob of townsfolk that he really started showing his qualities as a vet and agent.

The revelations by Pilcher about his Frozen Chosen [hahaha] and the state of the Earth was really interesting. Of course, Crouch’s assertion that humanity would e/devolve into some kind of super predator is so much bs that I knocked a star off just for that. For frack’s sake, genes don’t work that way. If there was a breakdown in the gene code, you’d simply have a massive die off of humanity. I’m a diabetic being kept alive by 1st world tech, so I fracking know. Genes breaking down would lead to massive deaths at births and any that survived would be crippled in body and or mind and would be killed off by nature in one form or another. It would NOT turn us into super predators that could survive the conditions. But with all of that, I have to wonder where the next 2 books are going to go? How do you fight a whole world over run by creatures like that?

Overall, I enjoyed my read of this; much better than his blankety blank Dark Matter and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the trilogy as I have no idea what those 2 books could possibly contain.

★★★☆½

bookstooge