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  I have no idea who recommended me Singularity, by William Sleator. It was probably a horror channel or something. The idea in it, as well as its metaphorical interpretation, are pretty cool. Unfortunately, the writing style, characterization and plot are so bad I couldn't keep reading.

  So here is the story of a family who had prepared a two week vacation for the parents alone, also taking draconian measures that the two twin boys remaining home would have absolutely no fun. "But we're 16, we shave!" - a valid argument - is ignored. So here come the news of the dying of a forgotten relative which leaves them a mysterious country house. So here's the idea: how about the kids go keep people from vandalizing the house while the parents are on vacation, completely unsupervised, in a different environment than they are used to, on the advice and in the 10 minute care of the local lawyer who they had not met before? Perfect!

  The two boys are as different as black and scared. One of them is a full on psychopath, while the other is a soft scared little shit. They get there and immediately meet a random neighboring girl of the same age. They also discover just as fast a "singularity" of time and dimension with weird (and inconsistent) properties. One boy wants to "experiment", the other just wants to be careful and play with his dog, the girl seems to have no personality whatsoever.

  The cartoonish simplicity of the characters and the writing style makes the whole thing, narrated of course first person from the perspective of the "weak but good" brother, unbearable to read for me. And there are these leaps of logic and robotic reactions of the characters that are simply grating. There is this moment where the dog dies. One brother cries, the other and the girl go to eat and then have a swim. Yes, it's that dumb.

  It's a really short book, but after approximatively a third in, after the dog thing, I've decided I would not continue. There are spoiler synopses of the book online, I've read those, yes, interesting premise, terrible execution.

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  I loved the worldbuilding and the attention to character development in The Praxis. I mean, it was clear from the beginning that it is going to be a military space opera, complete with space empire, feudalistic culture and space navy manual battles, but Walter Jon Williams solved the suspension of disbelief by introducing an alien race that just created the empire, imposed "the Praxis" (with all of the rules above and then some) on all races it enslaved for 10000 years, then tastefully died off. I am sure it's going to be explored in a next book in the series, but these Shaa are some of the most intriguing aliens in a while and I am tempted to continue reading the book just to get to know them.

  But not in this book. Here they just die off, letting the entire empire off the leash. And here we are following two characters, one male, one female, as they attempt to get some recognition in the space military, a bureaucratic and nepotistic organization that has not seen a war in 300 years and only has the responsibility to terribly punish any species that choses to disobey the Praxis. And these characters... they are treated with a lot of care. Even the supporting characters and the many extras get the same treatment. You understand why they are why they are like that. For some that might feel tedious, but the author really makes you feel inside the world and knowing these people.

  And the main characters are the kind I like: they are rogues, they are imperfect, but they have the skills and they put the work to get ahead. I also like the straight face depiction of the ridiculous behavior of the ruling class, the entitlement, stupidity, lack of vision, blatant incompetence. Usually when someone comes with a world based on 1800 Europe, but in space, I groan. Here not only did I feel it made sense, but I felt I've been in many of those situations.

  I liked the book, and I found it very captivating and well written. I don't think I am going to continue with the series, but I am so very tempted.

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  Sandman Slim is angels, demons, humans, kissi, all kinds of other stuff, in a love letter to Los Angeles, draped in a fantasy detective story - all the tropes of the clueless detective in the dark city are there, plus magic.

  A magician is betrayed and thrown into hell, then his girlfriend is killed, so he comes back for revenge. And if you think that's the story in The Crow, you'd be totally right, complete with a main character that makes decisions based on his own lunacy more often than not. Armed with powerful talismans (that he barely uses and then he uses them wrong) that he stole from hell and helped by an army of pixie like girls (that are totally not his girlfriend who was also a tall slim woman) and with the support of random friends who he makes or meets again exactly when he needs them, he starts bungling about, getting people killed and somehow surviving himself. Not that his heroic purpose is not there or that he doesn't feel guilt for collateral damage, but if you think about it at the end of the book, almost nothing he achieves was his merit, other than an incessant drive to kill a particular person and all of the people who died in the crossfire.

  The book was fun, I enjoyed it once I would turned my brain off. It's pulp and, having looked it up in order to write this review, there are eight freaking books in the Sandman Slim series. I felt instantly tired when I found that out. I am pretty sure I am not going to continue reading the series, not because it was not a good experience, but because I am looking for a different kind of experience most of the time. Right now, having a terrible flu, I couldn't handle anything more intellectual, so it did its job.

  Bottom line: if you are looking for some fun fantasy that leans a bit too much on coastal United States humor and is set in Los Angeles, this is the book for you. Richard Kadrey writes well and you can always use this as a palate cleanser. But if you're looking for a story that will make you question the nature of reality and fill you with thoughts well after you've read it, you might choose something else.

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  Lovecraftian horror and Celtic myths, which in my opinion are much scarier than Cthulhu and his bunch, so what could possibly go wrong? Well, you can have characters that will be grating to anyone not from a specific part of the United States. And it's funny, because as it is hard for us to comprehend the disgust and horror some things generated in Lovecraft, I am sure future people will be reading The Twisted Ones and feel the same about Ursula Vernon.

  That isn't to say that the book was not good. I liked the ideas in it, I just couldn't like the people in it, especially the main character. The self deprecating humor, the hysterical laughter when something horrific was happening, the meme references, the many mechanisms she employs to self deceive herself that some things are not real, the fanatical belief in the order of the American system and that bad things couldn't happen to her is she just look the other way, all of these things felt so wrong to me. The writing style, with many repetitions of the same things, felt more compulsive than entertaining. I really want to believe that the way the main character was behaving was meant as a parody of the Lovecraftian gentleman hero, but I am afraid the author was quite serious in writing her.

  If you can get past that, this is quite a terrific story. This woman comes to clean up the house of her dead grandmother, who was also a hoarder, so she spends days after disgusting days putting garbage in bags and getting rid of them, with only her dog as company. She comes upon a mysterious diary of her grandfather's, talking about eldritch things while also being incredibly opaque. Then things start happening.

  Kingfisher likes to reinvent stories. I've read some stuff from her reimagining fairy tales and this one is a sort of an answer to The White People, by Arthur Machen

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  Yes, another Adrian Tchaikovsky book. In truth, Dogs of War is the one that I wanted to read all along, but I was too lazy to get it, so I kept reading other books from the author. Was it worth the wait? I am leaning towards no.

  No, it's not a bad book. However, I expected something completely different. How would you write a book about a "dog soldier" that is modified genetically and cybernetically to be a perfect weapon, but his motivation is to please his master? I feel like Tchaikovsky took the easy way out with this one. I expected something both endearing and funny, because dogs, and then terribly horrible, because war weapon. Some terribly funny dark satire, maybe. A riff on A Boy and His Dog where the dog is an invincible bear-sized beast, perhaps. But the author went with a little war horror at the beginning, nicely filtered through a dog's understanding with terms like "the bigger enemies and the smaller enemies" to describe child murder, blamed it all on the "master" and proceeded to extrapolate a techno-happy ending of the entire thing.

  At this point I feel like Adrian Tchaikovsky is more in love with the ultimate potential of his ideas to truly develop them and the characters in his stories. All his books so far started with some great ideas and world building, then someone presses the fast forward button where everything was solved by "the future". Hey, what happened with the story and the people I was invested in? Never you mind, we're in the future now! Rejoice!

  To summarize: the development hurdles for "bioforms" are never explained, so don't expect any real technological or scientific discussion. The motivation of the dog is actually another implant in his brain, which kind of invalidates the whole premise. Then there are a lot of other animals, which sort of invalidates the title. The master is a run of the mill psycho villain so there is no real human/dog relationship. The horrors of war are filtered and then limited to wounds that are further filtered by implants which can suppress pain. There is no humor in the book, only a depressingly linear progression of the technology described at the beginning, too fast to make you invested in any of its parts, and naively positive in its outcome. There are a lot of repetitions of the "good boy" idea, like if repeating it it becomes more poignant. At this point I wonder if the author ever had a dog.

  So I am going to rate this book average at most. I didn't hate it, but its only truly positive attribute is that it's short. Kind of a let down.

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  Blindsight was an amazing book by Peter Watts that made me think for years after I've read it. And now I can't remember it, so I should read it again. This kind of occurrence is ironically close to the plight of the characters in The Freeze-Frame Revolution, human components to a mission to seed the galaxy with wormholes, controlled and then condemned by a series of algorithms to expand the range of a human race which seems to have disappeared or at least completely forgotten about them. They spend millions and billions of years in hibernation, only woken a handful at a time to assist with the construction of these enormously expensive devices.

  The main character is a guy who has to navigate the desire for the mission to have some sense, his loyalty to his friends - both human and machine, and simple logic telling him neither are there. And interesting story, full of subtle irony, but also something akin to sadism. For the subject of the book will surely resonate with a lot of people, only in vastly different ways.

  To me, it speaks about the seemingly dumb rules, which should be too stupid to contain human ingenuity, passion and consciousness, and yet they do. People spend their lives "sleeping" between the few and far between moments of relevance and "real life". It shouldn't happen and somehow it does. How can someone engineer a revolt that would only be worked for in these rare moments? I am sure, though, that I am trying to explain what Watts wanted to say through my own dumb perspective.

  I am curious what other people thought of it. Anyway, this is a novella, 250 e-book pages long, so it is worth reading in a day to find out.

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  There is this expression: "larger than life", that we liberally use about a lot of people. Never have I felt I misunderstood that expression more than after reading Shy, by and about Mary Rodgers, with Jesse Green doing the writing, after years of conversations with her. She had like five children by the age of 32, had written the music for at least one world renowned musical, had several husbands, some of them gay, was smart, articulate, hard working and artistic. I feel like the life of everyone I know, including my own, is the size and quality of an ant compared to hers.

  And wouldn't you know it, as daughter of Richard Charles Rodgers, who might not be famous now, but he was a giant then, she actually lived in the shadow of her parents all of her life.

  I can't do justice to the book in this review. I absolutely loved it. The conversational, open descriptions of the artistic world, the Jewish world, the personal, the marital, all happening at the same time: children, deaths, marriages, adultery, Hollywood movies, books, Broadway shows, famous musical compositions, parties, celebrities, wonderful things, nasty things and everything in between, all of that was just mind blowing.

  And even more amazing was how fun the entire thing was. I am partial to memoirs, but some of them tend to be bland or feel totally fake. Not this one. It's fun from the beginning to end, covering with raucous abandon her relationship with parents (still calling them Daddy and Mommy when she was 82 years old), her husbands and children, her coworkers and mentors, her life from childhood to her old age, her work and her toils, the deaths of dear people.

  She was born as the daughter of rich Jewish artistic royalty, but she worked her ass off from the beginning. In a world that wasn't particularly kind to her, she never complained, just got on with it. It was funny her remark, at a pretty old age, about how maybe she was a victim of misogyny, but she had no idea at the time and no time to think about it like that.

   Even filled with references and footnotes, 800 pages is both a lot and quite little to cover 80 years of life. The chapters are short, lively and only in a vague chronological order. In the last chapter, written by Jesse Green in his own voice, he describes how she was stuck on writing this memoir because she felt uncomfortable about a few things that she didn't want to talk about. She was so honest and direct.

   I could keep writing, but I would be saying very little. Just read the book. I can't recommend it enough. Wonderful person, wonderful book.

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  I was hoping for a glorious ending for the Final Architecture series and I kind of got it. Everything goes sideways a dozen times and there is always the crew of the Vulture God to save the day. In that regard Adrian Tchaikovsky did not disappoint in Lords of Uncreation, the third and final book in the series.

  However! You knew there was going to be a however, didn't you? Have you ever got into a story where the main characters are kind of underdogs, struggling to achieve anything, but then in just a few jumps they battle Gods and win easily? It's that kind of story. And funnily enough, when it is all over, they all have to return to their mundane lives, regardless of how venerated, because death and taxes. That's always the clinch, the part that either makes you feel something is missing or that turns the main character into a villain, because why should they return to a menial existence?

  So in the end the series was really entertaining, but also a bit childish, with things happening exactly the way they should have so the story doesn't end in tears and characters making "moral choices" that only drag the resolution of conflicts into the future or risk and lose a lot more than decisive action. Whenever I finish stories like these I kind of dream of game like multiple endings based on which road the characters would have taken. The lack of true darkness in the book - or rather its occasionally surprising appearance and quick disappearance - robbed it of a lot of possible agency.

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  I was writing in my review on the previous book, Shards of Earth, that it was basically an adventure caper in an interesting universe and a fun book. I didn't find Eyes of the Void to be fun, though.

  Same characters, but acting completely inconsistently with their first volume personas. The tone of the book is darker and more mundane, with most of the action being people fighting with punches and knives on starships when the most obvious weapon would have been poison or sticky chemicals in almost every situation. And this while the Architects come back. Everybody is squabbling for no good reason and it's certainly not interesting for the reader. The main character, Idris, is now a pitifully small spacer that is being abducted by just about everyone, with Solace the Partheni being completely ineffective as protection and really poorly written as a friend/romantic interest also. And so on.

  It seems to be a pattern of Adrian Tchaikovsky's to start great universes with a lot of fun and interesting characters and then go nowhere with them. I hope the third book will provide more satisfaction, because if this turns out to be like Children in Time, starting great and then fizzling out, I will not be happy.

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  I have recently read Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Time trilogy and, while it was good, it felt a little bit like a TV series: first season OK, the next one with more action and the last low budget before it gets cancelled. It also sharply contrasted with the hugely positive reviews for the series. But I liked the described universe and the writing, so I said let's give the guy a chance. Plus his name starts with A and I am lazy.

  And I was not disappointed. While Shards of Earth is a classic "team of misfits saves the universe" story, complete with space gangsters, larger than life henchmen and god like aliens, it's also very fun! I enjoyed it so much that I will continue reading the series.

  Was it better than Children of Time? Yes and no. I really hope the next books maintain this level of quality and enjoyment. If they do, then the series overall will be better.

  I feel like Tchaikovsky has found the formula for easily attracting the audience to his stories, but will he remain at this stage or evolve into something more? Only time (pun not intended) will tell.

  Not a perfect book, but a good and entertaining one. The addition of a bit of cosmic horror offsets the sometimes naive space and close quarter battles.

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  If Then is a really weird book. It is based on some real people's philosophy on war, carefully collected by Matthew De Abaitua and reimagined in a scifi story. It reminded me most of the Pandora (Destination: Void) series, by Frank Herbert, only not so grotesque. As a big fan of Herbert's, this is high praise, even if Pandora wasn't his best writing.

  The subject is really weird and I don't want to spoil it, so I will keep it brief. After the end of democracy (not with a bang, but with a whimper), the world is in chaos. I particularly liked the reason everything failed: the financial instruments were doing great, it was just the people that had no money. A very cynical view on the end of the world, yet oh so familiar. In this chaos, some places decide to try something, anything, to keep the dark away. And in this part of Sussex, some villages accepted to be fitted with some biological implants that lets them be surveyed and sometimes influenced by something nebulous called The Process, a data driven system that works to maximize fairness in a world that is both extremely poor and having access to technology and manufacturing capabilities that can build anything. The result is a quasi feudal world, like a human zoo.

  Now, I am usually for software systems running things rather than people, however they are made by people, so bummer. Yet here "the process" is so vague and ineffable that people don't know what to think, feel and do. about it. Random people are being "evicted" from the village, whether they want it or not, for reasons unknown but that are supposed to increase fairness and compliance. Even the eviction process is done by a "bailiff", a man with an implant that, when doing away with people, he is not even aware of what he is doing at the time. This bailiff is the main character of the book, BTW.

  By now you are thinking that this is a sort of YA novel in which people revolt against an evil overlord. You couldn't be further from the truth. The pettiness and powerlessness of people is mercilessly dissected by De Abaitua as we read through the book trying to discern what the hell it is going towards. And perhaps that's my biggest criticism for the book: it starts as one thing, morphs into another, then abruptly ends. It examines humanity and technology in a philosophical way, muses about the engines of war and the source of identity then, job done, fucks off. Quite an unsatisfying ending.

  Bottom line: as far as I know this is the second novel from the author and as such, I consider it a great achievement. I really liked the writing and the exactness with which it magnified the intentions and feeling of the characters. I liked that the story was innovative and complex and weird as hell. Yet I can't say in good conscience that I enjoyed it. This is not a feel good book, just a good book.

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  You know when you get a new Brandon Sanderson book and you start reading and at first you're all "Ah! He does comedy again. It's not even serious. I am not going to like this book!" and by the end you're in love with the characters and want to know more, regardless? That's what Justin Woolley pulled in Shakedowners.

  Starting as an obvious satire to Star Trek, with a lot of Lower Decks energy, it turns into a really fun and captivating "brave captain saves the galaxy" story. There were places where I felt the enormity of what was written did not fit at all with the laid back Aussie attitude, but most of the time it was just a lot of fun. I finished it in a day and I am curious enough to want to read the rest of the series.

  Bottom line: the perfect palate cleanser after a darkly satirical view of humankind that made me have misanthropic genocidal thoughts for days, a book that lifts spirits and reminds one that Trekkies are not gone.

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  You might have heard of Chuck Palahniuk after he became famous with the movie adaption of his book, Fight Club. I certainly didn't read anything from him before, but I thought I'd give it a go. How can I describe The Invention of Sound? It's wild, it's fucked up, it is deeply satirical while at the same time being casually descriptive.

  Imagine L.A., a city so formulaic that it lost its name to two letters, a place for obsessed people: a woman who tortures people in order to get the perfect movie scream, a man who lost his daughter and now hunts the dark web for signs of her and catalogues child molesters with dreams of making them suffer, a starlet who waited her entire career to get kidnapped because it always increases visibility, people who care so much about their image that they fail to perceive reality, Hollywood societies with nebulous purposes, dark secrets, that kind of thing.

  There is that unreliable narrator again, because you can't believe a thing these people say or think: even if the writing comes from an internal dialogue, there is no guarantee that it has any connection to reality. Characters often don't understand what is going on around them or have false memories. Consuming large quantities of wine, Ambien and child abuse image doesn't help either. Neither do people constantly trying to manipulate them for their own purposes.

  The writing is very well crafted, there are so many connections being made, you feel that you are being there - just as confused as the characters. I liked ... the sound of the book, pun not intended. However I couldn't really connect to the story. Yeah, Americans are nuts and L.A. people the most, but then there was nothing else to enjoy other than the writing. The story just coils around itself and teaches nothing.

  Bottom line: a good book, but maybe not for my taste. I recommend the experience of it, but not much else.

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  Because of the Netflix adaption of this book, chess has had a resurgence in the last few years and that is because the story is wonderful: Beth Harmon, an orphan with a very analytical brain, but a rather frigid attitude to life, learns to play chess and then becomes the best in the field. The TV series follows pretty much The Queen's Gambit book, with just minor details or changes of perspective differing.

  The structure of the plot is that of a sports story: poor disadvantaged kid gets a break, shows they are great at something, then struggle to prove it. Walter Tevis writes a very compelling character, using an almost serial killer vibe. If you think about it a bit, the tranquilizers that the orphanage gave to the children to "pacify" them are probably the main cause of Beth's choices in life ;)

  Even if I saw the series before reading the book, most characters were just that, some characters. I couldn't remember who played them in the show and I didn't care. But for the character of Beth I can't imagine a better casting choice than Anya Taylor-Joy. While reading I was seeing her in my mind's eye.

  I hear that the show will have a second season. That's both good and bad. Good because I want to see more of Beth. Bad because there is no more original material, the quality of the story might suffer significantly.

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  I loved The Expanse and I hoped for more like that. Age of Ash is not it. Extremely well developed world and characters, but a slow paced introduction into a story that is yet to be unveiled. If I had to compare it with something I would compare it with the animated show Arkane, which was amazingly good, but the book lacks the action and the sympathetic characters.

  I understand that this is Daniel Abraham's style: slow roasting the reader while he introduces enough of the world and people to initiate explosive events and epic action. However, this means this book is very difficult to rate or, indeed, to like by itself.

  The story revolves around two street urchins from the "bad side of town" who get involved into something grandiose that shows what they are truly made of. One of the girls is in full grieving mode after losing her brother, the other is doing everything because of love. Predictably, the positive and negative emotions are influencing the characters in their respective direction.

  What I loved about the book is the writing, the depth of the world and of the examination of the characters. It almost didn't need a story. Almost. But it did.

  I may read the next books in the series, just to see what happens, but I would not recommend this book as a standalone read. And if you like fast pace, read something else.