Line War (Polity: Agent Cormac #5) ★★★☆ ½

Linewar (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: Line War
Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #5
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 580
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Erebus, the rogue AI that has been corrupted by Jain nodes, is on the path to destroying the solar system. With fake attacks and whatnot, he manages to clear the way to Earth itself. Standing in his way is the haiman who committed murder for a jain node and Ian Cormac.

Cormac has been running all over the Polity, ostensibly chasing down Erebus but in reality picking up clues that lead him to only one conclusion. ECS, the Head Honcho AI, colluded with Erebus right when Erebus first found jain nodes. Its justification was that humanity was stagnating,but with millions and possibly billions dead, Cormac puts the smack down on that particular AI and kills it. A submind takes over but with the spectre of Cormac haunting it should it ever decide to go so outside of bounds.

The Dragon Sphere takes Mika and allows her access to Jain AI, which in turn allows her to deal with the gabbleduck/Atheter AI, possibly.

 

My Thoughts:

Nothing from my original review from 2010 has changed. This was a particularly wordy story and there were a lot of details that just didn’t need to be there. It really bogged the story down. Instead of an adrenaline filled gorefest of robots and monsters I got an indepth tour of things I didn’t care one whit about. That’s why I knocked half a star off this time.

There is still a lot of action but sometimes it felt like it was really hidden away. Also, Cormac played a MUCH smaller part. The biggest thing he did was at the end when he killed ECS. I guess this just didn’t stand up to a re-read as well as some of the previous books. The ideas were really cool the first time around and covered up all the weak points. This time around, I was seeing the weakpoints.

I had forgotten that the Atheter memcrystal came into play so early in the Polity books. I just read a big part of it’s conclusion in the Polity: Transformation trilogy last year. That is one nice thing about re-reads, seeing various threads that you’d forgotten about being more deeply woven into the story.

I do wonder if we’ll ever see Agent Cormac again. He hasn’t shown up, that I’m aware of, in later Polity books. But if we don’t, I’m completely satisfied with how this 5 books sub-series ended.

★★★☆ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. Line War (2010 Review)
  2. Polity Agent (Book 4)
  3. Brass Man (Book 3)
  4. The Line of Polity (Book 2)
  5. Gridlinked (Book 1)
  6. Polity: Transformation Trilogy

 

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Dancer’s Lament (Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #1) ★★★★ ½

dancerslament (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: Dancer’s Lament
Series: Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #1
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 418
Format: Hardcover

 

 

Synopsis:

Before there was Cotillion and Kellanved, there was Dorin Rav and Wu. Taking place in the city of Li Heng, this is the story of how they became partners.

The plot of the book, however, is how the city of Li Heng survived a besiegement by a jumped up king who thought he was somebody. The 4 mages of the city, under the direction of the Protectress (a tiste liosan) end up confining Ryllandaras, the man-jackal in a magical prison. The Itko Kan’ians, the besiegers, have the help of a Jaghut and it takes the Protectress unleasing the full might of her Warren of Light to drive back the besiegers.

Wu, and Dorin, have plans to take over the city during the turmoil but they simply aren’t strong enough and end up being exiled from the city. But now they are partners and can begin working together.

 

My Thoughts:

Finally. A Malazan book that I can simply sit down and read straight through and enjoy fully without feeling like I’m juggling 3 different 5000 piece puzzles all mixed together. You have no idea how much that upped my enjoyment of this book.

I think Esslemont showed his true colors with this book. He is a good standard fantasy writing kind of guy. His Malazan Empire novels felt very much like he was trying to copy Steven Erikson’s style and it just didn’t work for me. But this? Besides Gardens of the Moon, this was the most enjoyable Malazan book that I’ve read. Now I am really looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.

In the Malazan books, Cotillion/Dancer and Kellanved were shadow’y characters doing things behind the scenes and never being fully fleshed out. Even when they were supposed to be main characters, they were actually hiding and felt like side characters. This time, they were simply people. It was refreshing.

There were lots of hints and little asides from other Malazan characters, so if you’re one of the Book of the Fallen fanboys who who loves unlocking a ton of meaning from 2 sentence fragments, you’ll still have something to chew on with this book. The rest of us can simply sit back and enjoy the story.

In Esslemont’s The Return of the Crimson Guard the malazan army unleashed Ryllandaras and in this book we see how, and why, he was confined. It was nice to make a clear cut connection between one book and the other instead of having to guess and speculate and turn my brain into 77 pretzels to make my pet theory fit.

Another aspect of this that I enjoyed was the lack of Existential Despair philosophy. Everybody was NOT whining about how meaningless their lives were. In fact, they acted like real people and didn’t even think about that. Dorin and Wu had to survive, plan how to take over a newly discovered Warren of Shadow and see if they could take over the city. Not much time to sit on their fat asses and complain about how hard they have it (unlike almost every Steven Erikson character. Man, that guy has his characters doing more talking than doing, in the middle of freaking battles for goodness sake!!!).

To end, I really enjoyed this book. A lot. In fact, I plan on buying it in hardcover, I enjoyed it so much. How don’t know how much more of an endorsement I can give a book. * grin *

★★★★ ½

 

bookstooge

House of Chains (Malazan Book of the Fallen #4) ★★★★☆

houseofchains (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: House of Chains
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #4
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1044
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Plot Line One:

Karsa Orlong, a young Teblor, sets out on an adventure with 2 of his friends. They discover out in the wide world that the Teblor are enslaved and an insular people. Karsa vows to become the warleader his people needs, even if he has to fight each and every Teblor. Along the way he gets involved with Leoman of the Flails and becomes Shaik’s bodyguard. Read Deadhouse Gates to see how that turns out. At the same time, the Teblor gods reveal themselves to Karsa and he bursts the bonds holding his people enthralled. Karsa’s plotline ends with him becoming the Knight of the House of Chains and everyone who knows him saying that the Broken god will regret doing so.

Plot Line Two:

Adjunct Tavore sets out with a green army to subdue Shaik’s Rebellion, not knowing that Shaik is now her younger sister Felisin. The green army has a handful of seasoned warriors, one of which is Fiddler, who is now going by the name Strings. Shaik the goddess is trying to control some bit of magic and in the process control the desert Raraku. The desert rebels and lots of ghosts rise up and destroy Shaik’s army. Tavore’s army does a tiny bit of fighting, but more mop up than anything. Tavore kills Shaik in single combat, never realizing it was her sister Felisin.

Plot Line Three through Fifteen: (actually not kidding, really)

Tisten Liosan, white skinned bastards, are looking for their god Osric/Osserc/etc. They get they’re butts handed to them on several occasions and decide to go home.

Various Imass do various things, like chasing after renegades, fighting with Liosan’s and defending the true Shadow Throne.

Cutter and Apsalar take service with Cotillion and end up going their own separate ways because they love each other too much to hurt the other with the duties they have to perform.

Lots of other stuff that had no immediate import and might not have any at all. Impossible to tell.

 

My Thoughts:

I am at the point where I am disgusted at Erikson’s choice of storytelling mode. He is fragmenting his overall storyline just because he can. I can’t assign a real motive to this mode of telling, so I’m going to call him out for just being a jerkwad.

Each successive book that I go into this Malazan re-read it gets harder and harder to overlook how deliberately obfuscated Erikson makes his story. A good story will only go so far and he’s fast approaching that breaking point where I give up in disgust. When I was originally reading this back in ’10, it was at this book that I basically gave up trying to keep track of what was going on for a synopsis because the story fragmentation really started to spread here. I am no longer seeing this approach as a positive thing like I originally did.

This was an engaging story and that is the only thing going for it. Part of that was because the first 23% of the book dealt strictly with Karsa Orlong and getting him from when he was a wee young lad of 100 or so to where we met him in Deadhouse Gates. He’s not a particularly bright or likable fellow but at least I was able to follow one complete story narrative for a long period of time.

I was having a hard time giving a crap about some of the storylines because they were such small fragments of the overall book. How do they tie in? You mean I have to wait for 3 more books to find out? No thank you.

The philosophizing got a little ridiculous. Felisin the younger, an adopted waif by Felisin, is kidnapped by one Felisin’s major allies, a twisted wizard. He destroys her. Sexually, emotionally, psychology. And when she gets rescued and is secretly recovering, she waxes loquacious on the subject of how her mother needs the wizard and so her rescuer’s vengeance needs to be put on hold. And she is 14. I just about threw my kindle on the couch at that. Girls who are raped and tortured don’t calmly discuss why their attackers are justified or how the greater needs of a geographical area outweight their own personal needs.

My main issue now is when does the story no longer outweight the twin sins of soapbox preaching and story fragmentation? I am going to do my best to read the whole series, but will definitely be noting the point where the balance finally does tip.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

  1. House of Chains (2010 Review)
  2. Memories of Ice (Book 3)
  3. Deadhouse Gates (Book 2)
  4. Gardens of the Moon (Book 1)

Polity Agent (Polity: Agent Cormac #4) ★★★★☆

polityagent (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: Polity Agent
Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #4
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 580
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Another jain node is experimented upon, this time by a haiman. But she’s a bit smarter than Skellor and doesn’t allow it access to her, thus putting off its growth and takeover.

At the same time, it turns out that the Maker civilization, which created the Dragon, was also using jain tech and planned on seeding the Polity with the nodes and thus allowing the Polity to destroy itself. Well, the Makers ended up destroying themselves first, but Cormac must track down the remaining nodes that they sent with the Dragon.

And if that wasn’t enough, it appears that a rogue AI, that left the Polity after the Prador Wars, has succumbed to jain tech and is actively trying to destroy the Polity as well.

Bloody jain tech, it just wants to kill everything…

 

My Thoughts:

This was the first book in the Agent Cormac series where things weren’t wrapped up by the end. The Haiman’s [a human who is aug’ing themselves until they can handle AI level of data] storyline was the slowest and the least completed. In many ways her plot line almost felt unnecessary except for when she propelled the other plot lines forward. I can’t remember enough about the next book to know if she plays a big part or not. I guess I’ll just have to wait and find out.

Cormac tracking down the other nodes and the Rogue AI lines were pretty closely intertwined. The rogue AI, named Cerberus, kept laying traps for Polity ships and they kept falling for it. Not sure if that was deliberate or if the Polity AI’s really were that stupid? Considering how long range Earth Central plans, I’m betting on “deliberate”.

I had forgotten how many people died. Almost everyone we’ve met so far, except for Cormac [of course!], the biologist Mika, the Dracoman Scar and AI’s, die. Subsumed by jain tech, destroyed in battles, tortured and killed by bad guys, etc. Even the revelations about Horace Blegg means he is out of the picture, his usefulness at an end. By his own side too, ouch!

This is fun to read and I enjoy the violence and blazing guns and super weapons and smarty pants AI’s. I don’t feel that this book lost anything upon re-read. Things might not be as “new”, but it was just as exciting as before. If you’re looking for some bloody good science fiction, try this sub-series of Asher’s Polity Universe.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Polity Agent (2010 Review)
  2. Brass Man (Book 3)
  3. Line of Polity (Book 2)
  4. Gridlinked (Book 1)

Beyond the Shadows (Night Angel #3) ★★★★☆

beyond (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: Beyond the Shadows
Series: Night Angel #3
Author: Brent Weeks
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 699
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The kingdom is safe now that the Godking is dead. Ha. The godking’s various sons are duking it out to see who will rule in his stead and once that is determined, the winner is coming back for some real vengeance. At the same time another kingdom is taking advantage of the chaos to annex a large of chunk and they’ve brought troops to back up their claims.

Logan won’t take the kingship since he pledged his oath to Terah Graesin but she is the worst possible thing to happen. Kylar must kill her to allow Logan to ascend the throne. He must do it in such a way though that it doesn’t look like Logan asked him to do it.

Kylar is still linked to Vi and both Elene and Vi are in the Sisterhood. Who want to use Kylar, somehow. Superpowerful magical swords are involved, as are near immortal creatures and a host of millions of undead. Elene gets possessed by Khali but for the purpose of containing it [as it is a fallen angel] so Kylar can kill her with the magic swords and thus truly destroy Khali.

It all comes together in one HUGE battle is so stupendous that I’m not going to even try to describe it. Kylar saves the world at great cost and everyone is sad at Elene’s sacrifice and Vi still wants to jump Kylar’s bones.

The End.

 

My Thoughts:

Good stuff!

My only complaints are as follows. The profanity still sticks out. Seeing the F word is just jarring. It doesn’t fit. Second, the amount of history we’re deluged with from Durzo Blint is a bit much for one book. I’d really liked to have seen a prequel trilogy following his adventures in his various personas.

Other than that? Rock’em Sock’em Robot success!

True love. Magic swords. Magical killer creatures that are unstoppable. Hordes of undead that aren’t all human sized shamblers. 2000 women who can control magic? Aes Sedai anyone? That really stood out to me this time. It just seemed a very blatant ripoff where as back in ’09 I didn’t even make the connection. Either way, I enjoyed it this time around.

The storyline dealing with Dorian Ursuul, the prophet and son of the Godking, was wicked hard to deal with. He sees the future, gives up his gift because of what he sees and then ends up becoming something just as bad as his father ever was. Since he was introduced as a character who wanted to only do good since the beginning, that fall from grace was just brutal! Weeks really digs into what it could cost to see the future.

The violence is not ratcheted down any either. There was one scene where I just put my kindle down and had to catch my emotional breathe. Kylar was bound on a water wheel to kill him for him killing the queen. His own friend Logan, who became king of that action, was the one who had to pass sentence. Logan also knows that Kylar heals super quick, so the water wheel will take days. He breaks a table leg off and just smashes Kylar’s arms and legs so that he’ll die. A friend having to execute his best friend, having to physically destroy him, it was intense. I had ALL the manly feelz.

While the writing definitely shows that this trilogy was Weeks’ first go, it is in no way sub-par. It just isn’t as nuanced as experience will make him. Heck, comparing this to the latest Light Bringer Novel, Blood Mirror is a good exercise in watching someone grow their literary wings.

It would be cool if at some point Weeks returned to this universe, but at the rate the Light Bringer novels are coming out, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Beyond the Shadows (2009 Review)
  2. Way of Shadows (Book 1)
  3. Shadow’s Edge (Book 2)

Memories of Ice (Malazan Book of the Fallen #3) ★★★★☆

memoriesofice

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: Memories of Ice
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #3
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 945
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Pannion Domin is a threat both martial and magical and it will take the combined forces of the outlawed army of Dujek Onearm, former High Fist of the Malazan Empire, and their former enemies in the guise of the combined might of Caladan Brood’s army and the sorcerous might of Anomander Rake and his floating city of Moonspawn.

At the same time, Silverfox [the fully grown woman encompassing the souls of 3 other mages] has called the T’lan Imass together again for the first time in over 300,000 years. She is the physical embodiment of an Imass magician and has the power to reverse the oath the Imass took in their war against the Jhagut. She refuses and this has fallout for her personally and for the forces of Dujek and Brood who were counting on the Imass to counter the undead forces of a race thought to be extinct, the K’chain Ch’maile.

All through this, the gods continue their own war. The fallen/broken god has declared war on the pantheon and he wants to destroy them all for bringing him to this world. Fenner, the god of war, has fallen and a new risen god, Treach the Tiger, has ascended. Old lost gods are finding their thrones and each god is choosing for or against the broken god. And amid the total destruction and war on the souls of the men themselves, it is revealed that this part of the story is but a small part of the overall narrative.

Now THAT is depressing.

 

My Thoughts:

First thing I noticed was that with this 3rd read, I was able to not focus on all the shiny little bits and put the story together as a whole. In previous reads I found a huge disconnect from the leadup to the battle of Capustan to the final showdown at Corel. This time around there was no disconnect and the story naturally flowed without any jarring. It was really nice to UNDERSTAND the slightly bigger picture.

Erikson shows once again that he is a freaking master of writing. The battle scenes were incredible. Vivid, intense and brutal. You can feel the slippery blood, the complete exhaustion, the fear and the adrenaline rush. The interactions between characters was excellently done as well. There was NO cardboard, only flesh and blood come to life on paper. What’s more, everyone was “distinct”. They weren’t archtypes, or ideas, or variations on a theme. They Were People.

And that leads into the start of my issues. With the characters being so real, the hearbreak and despair and utter desolation that they one and all suffer is wrong. In previous reads, I was taken up with the story, trying to figure out how everything fit together. In being focused on that, the emotional side of things were glossed over. Not this time. The death of main characters hit hard. They weren’t alone but had made connections, so when those threads were cut, it was like a spiderweb quivering all over. No on person was ever alone in their anguish or loss. It hurt to read as it was so real to me.

The second, and far bigger issue for me, was the wholesale injection of existential philosophy in a huge way. Existentialism is one of the most depressing philosophies, in my opinion. In small doses, it provides a way for men to show their true grit against completely overwhelming odds. However, in larger doses, it can overwhelm the reader with utter despair and destroy your psyche.

It is probably apparent which happened to me.

By the end of the book I was dreading every instance where I saw italicized walls of text. That meant that some character was thinking and every thought of every character was nothing but despair and hopeless angst. It wore me down.

On my first read through of the whole series, it took me until Book 8 to feel this way. Since then, I’ve had some “experience” with the hard side of life and reading about despair and suffering isn’t theoretical anymore. Reading about suffering isn’t so fun once you’ve had a taste of it yourself. I think I’m going to be taking an extra cycle before dipping my toes into this series again.

More specifics about the story itself can be found in my Memories of Ice Readalong Updates.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

  1. Memories of Ice (2008 & 2010 Reviews)
  2. Gardens of the Moon (Book 1)
  3. Deadhouse Gates (Book 2)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (Movie)

jw2 (Small)I don’t usually review movies that I watch. I don’t make time to watch many movies and what you put in a movie review is going to be different than a book review. I am just not comfortable.

But City of Mirrors isn’t grabbing my attention and I was by a redbox this afternoon and I really liked John Wick. But much like many books and series, I’ve been burned by buying before watching. So instead of shelling out a good chunk of change, I just paid $2 for a rental. I can deal with that. So this evening has been an exercise in watching violence while doing household chores like laundry and stuff.  Anyway, this won’t be a real review, more like stream of consciousness.

First thing I noticed was that the profanity level dropped by about 50-70%. Those &^%$! Russian mobsters weren’t around to despoil my virgin ears.  I wouldn’t ask my mother to listen to this movie, but I’d watch it with my dad. In comparison, I’d have to have him watch John Wick by himself so he knew what was coming aurally if we watched it in a tender father/son bonding moment. Nothing ruins that moment of father/son’ness like some bloody Russian dropping the f-bomb every 5 words. Even when they were talking Russian!

The violence level definitely escalated. It had to. To stay in place in hollywood people have to act like the Red Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Run as fast as you can just to stay in place. In the case of movie based on violence, each successive chapter has to be more violent just to keep pace. In the extras on the bluray was a short section entitled “Kill Count”. It follows Wick with a counter at the bottom and shows every kill. I stopped paying attention when it passed 75. A lot of head shots with blood spatters.

In John Wick, I was emotionally involved from the puppy scene onward. I was rooting for Wick as he took out the despicable bastards who could club a puppy to death. In Chapter 2, there wasn’t that emotional connection for me. In this movie, instead of being the one to determine his actions, he is being yanked around and simply reacting. He is not in control and it changed how I viewed the movie.

Characters. Wick is Wick. If you liked him in John Wick, you’ll like him here. The villain of the movie, who helped Wick carry out his Impossible Deed, isn’t bad but he came across as kind of greasy and polished instead of the bare handed brutality of the Russians from the first film.

Two changes really stood out to me. In movie 1, Wick had a “friend” in the business played by Willem Dafoe. It worked. This time around there is a man in the business [Cassius] who is his enemy due to Wick’s killing his ward. He is a big muscle bound guy who’s just about as good as Wick. But Wick has plenty of enemies, so one more doesn’t stand out. What he needs is a friend watching his back and we don’t get that here. The second change was in the female assassin. I really liked the idea of a small, mute female killer. She was calm, cool and the whole sign language fit right in with the sub-title idea. But she was simply over powered. She gets tossed around like a doll. I also didn’t even realize she had a name [Ares] until the credits. Compare that to Perkins from the first film.  Perkins was pure kick butt. I almost wish they had combined the characters of Cassius with Ares.  Well, maybe when I do my own movie, “Jan Wihk: Tulip Planter Extraordinaire”.

The best part of the movie? For me it was in the Extras. One of the extra’s was titled “Dog Wick”. John Wick’s Dog’s human [yeah, best of luck with that] is killed and so Daisy goes on the rampage. And the best part? At the end, the police are on the scene and the detective is looking through a stack of papers and says something like “Yeah, no laws against dogs shooting people to death.” I just about died from laughing.

So, overall. I enjoyed this a lot. I will probably hold off on buying Chapter 2 though until I see if there is a John Wick 3 and how that is. John Wick ended on a pretty good note and I’m willing to let it be a standalone if necessary.