Neal Asher, Gridlinked (2001)

Gridlinked_cover

Author: Neal Asher

Title: Gridlinked

Format: Paperback

Pages: 522

Having followed advice of the inestimable Bookstooge, I decided to embark on another bloody literary journey, but this time a decidedly hi-tech and futuristic one. Neal Asher’s Polity novels had been described as ‘a more action-packed Culture’, and it’s a description I find at once very apt and quite misleading ;). The world of Polity is indeed similar to Banks’s Culture in that it is an ever-expanding and galaxy-spanning political entity of humans inhabiting planets and space stations, all governed and kept together by extremely sophisticated AIs. The AIs have distinct personalities which are, as expected, highly logical and possessed of a worldview undoubtedly more affected by their computing skills than by any emotions, though they seem to feel them too – especially curiosity. In short, however you would slice it, they are not human. Their ascendance to the position of power in the human Polity has apparently been bloodless and quite benevolent, humans having realized that it’s ultimately for their own betterment – and that the other choice they have is definitely worse. The AIs act more like managers than dictators, quite content to improve the lives of Polity citizens and repel any possible threats. And there are threats aplenty, as on many worlds human populations hadn’t joined the Polity, mostly due to political differences (especially autocratic and religious regimes seemingly disapproving of the entire concept of Polity or even the existence of AIs). The major one is posed by Separatists, a loose coalition of terrorists, interest groups, or even governments happy to use Polity’s technology to bring about Polity’s demise, and they are a constant source of interest to ECS – the Earth Central Security agency, consisting mostly of human agents dealing with out-Polity threats.

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Nostalgia post #4: Star Wars (1977 – 1983)

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

SW Opening_crawl

Ola: That’s the way fairy tales start. Once upon a time, beyond tall mountains and vast rivers, a mysterious hero was born who had changed the fate of his tribe/community/nation/humankind. Led by fate, S/He had many dangerous and tasking adventures, had to overcome many deadly foes, traps and tests in order to come back to Her/His home with a great boon of miraculous nature and redeem Her/His people.

Nothing original, really, especially considering the fact that George Lucas’s creation of his famous saga had been significantly inspired by Joseph’s Campbell The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The theory that most of the world myths conform to one, simple pattern modeled on the rites of initiation is as suggestive as is ultimately misleading – and yet Lucas in his creation of Star Wars universe managed to strike a chord with millions of people worldwide, envisioning a world like – and yet unlike – ours, just exponentially bigger and vivid.

Starships! Knights! Droids! Magic! Princesses! Scoundrels with hearts of gold! Vile emperors! Cuddly little creatures! Breathtaking vistas of planets and space! It’s all there, and more – and everything is suffused by Force, a mana-like, magical power binding every living thing in a net of awareness.

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Piotrek: It is a simple story, of a young man going from zero to a hero, discovering his heritage and coming to his power. A story like countless others, but in space.

Not a very realistic space, there aren’t that many attempts to pretend that, it is not hard science fiction that would try to propose a likely vision of space-travelling humanity of the future. This story takes place long ago, like the stories of Gilgamesh or Theseus, and takes a structure immediately familiar to audience from any cultural background.

Campbell is an obvious inspiration, and that’s something Lucas freely admits.

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Edward Rickford, The Serpent and the Eagle (2019)

The Serpent and the Eagle

Author: Edward Rickford

Title: The Serpent and the Eagle

Format: Kindle

Pages: 314

*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

The Serpent and the Eagle is Edward Rickford’s debut, a first book in a planned trilogy about the  Spanish conquest of the Mexica (Aztec) empire. The topic of Hernán Cortés’ bloody and ambitious subjugation of the biggest New World empire of the time is a very interesting one, and I was eager to read the fictionalized account of his endeavors, especially balanced, as was the case here, by the Mexica perspective.

If I were to describe The Serpent and the Eagle in one word, it would be “earnest”. It is indeed a very earnest book, a work of undeniable effort and knowledge, and a clear passion for the topic.

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Captain Marvel (2019)

It’s been some time since we had a Marvel movie review 🙂 But in preparation for Avengers: Endgame we feel we need to review the most recent MCU production, Captain Marvel.

Marvel

First things first, we’ve decided not to tackle the controversies concerning Brie Larson, the lead of the movie, and the fanbase, a huge part of which chose to get enraged. None of this serves the movie well, and we’d rather focus on the newest entry in MCU itself :).

Captain Marvel is a definitely smaller and less ambitious movie than the entirety of the Avengers franchise; in fact it’s one of quite a few origin stories Marvel has put on the screen through the years – from Iron Man (2008), Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) through Ant-Man (2015) and Doctor Strange (2016). We should probably also include Hulk (2003), at least from the chroniclers’ duty point of view, even if the majority of fans would prefer to forget it 😉 Captain Marvel also the first Marvel female-centered movie, despite fans’ ongoing pleas for a Black Widow flick. It is symptomatic, then, the the female superhero Marvel decided to depict in their response to the popularity of the Wonder Woman movie (2017) was a similarly beefed up, overpowered character of an ex-fighter pilot, who at the beginning of the movie remains an outside force not connected to Earth’s troubles or humanity, and whose main story arc revolves around the issue of getting involved and starting to care.

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Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus (2011)

Only third post this month and a re-post again. The first one had been planned for some time, to start the series and encourage our new readers to reach deeper into Re-E’s archives 😉 Today I’m commenting on a book that Ola reviewed over four years ago, and I’ve only just read. Next week – we will, hopefully, finish our post on Captain Marvel, just before the Avengers: Endgame premieres.

The Night Circus was quite popular a few years ago, with awards and positive reviews and a beautiful cover. Reviews vary in tone (but it still has a great 4.04 Goodreads average with 564K ratings and 62K reviews!), cover still looks great.

Why not a counter-review? Because in many ways I agree with Ola. I just like it a great deal more 😉

I agree that the book is in many ways an exercise in style. Imagination, attention to detail, well thought-through structure, poetry and elegance – all there. Slow pacing, not much happening, romance too easy, ending perhaps a bit too happy (there were victims along the way, I don’t think that’s too spoilery…) – yes, I agree.

It’s just that I like to occasionally read a book like that. I was in the mood and Morgenstern delivered what I needed – a diamond polished perhaps too much, but shining. The book reminded me a bit of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but it lacked the humour of Clarke’s masterpiece. My score for The Night Circus? 7.5, actually only a point more than it got from Ola 😉

And I’ll add one long quote, nothing too original, and definitely naive, but I liked it, and it will also serve as a sample of Morgentern’s style:

Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, (…) and there is no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with his prey.”

(…) “But wouldn’t that mean there were never any simple tales at all?”

Re-enchantment Of The World

the-night-circusOoops, I’m late again! 😉 To make up for it, this time I will write a shorter review than usual ;). The Night Circus is a debut novel of Erin Morgenstern – and her only book to date. This novel won Locus Award in 2012 and acclaim of many critics and readers alike. And left me with a feeling of pointlessness of it all.

The book starts with a description of a circus. Or, rather, of THE circus, the ultimate circus there could ever been. Le Cirque des Rêves opens only at night. It is black and white, it consists of multiple tents and booths arrayed in a series of circles connected by winding alleys. It is circular, looping and continuous, and feeding on itself. A place of innumerable wonders, constant surprises, awe-inspiring performances – and a few mysteries. It shows up unheralded, it disappears unannounced – but when it’s…

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T.H. White, The Once and Future King (1938-58)

Ok, so here goes the very first re-post, as we decided to occasionally make our new readers see some of our early posts. This one is from 2015, one of the first after we decided to fully switch to English. It’s one of my favourite reviews of one of my favourite books. Nothing too add, I stand by what I wrote back then 🙂

Re-enchantment Of The World

Have you seen „The Sword in the Stone”? Nice Disney classic, „not much plot but great for little kids.” as an imdb reviewer noticed. I concur. It’s a nice watch, it’s deeper than most Disney movies even. But it’s just 10% of shiny stuff taken from the top of the novel that inspired it – the first part of “The Once and Future King” tetralogy by Terence Hanbury White.

le-roi-et-futur-fois

A tetralogy consist of “The Sword in the Stone”, “The Queen of Air and Darkness”, “The Ill-Made Kinght” and “The Candle in the Wind”. There is also “The Book of Merlyn”, published posthumously, book that I prefer to pretend do not exist. They tell the story of king Arthur, from childhood to (spoiler alert) hist death in battle with Mordred.

The book is not for kids. There is humour and songs, just as in animated version, but it’s…

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Tea Party and other news

Tea Party

Seems like we hit a run of non-review posts recently… Don’t worry, the reviews will come back soon, but before – another non-review, maintenance post. This one will probably end up as hectic as my lifs recently, so bear with me here 😉

First, I wanted to explain my recent reticence, owed to the fact that I involuntarily caused a Tea Party for my laptop, and it ended up being a mashup of the craziness of the above Mad Hatter and March Hare party with the ferociousness of the below Boston party:

Boston_Tea_Party

Sadly, my laptop did not emerge unscathed; while his critical components were saved through the valiant efforts of my wonderful husband, it still required a new keyboard and a new screen… Seems like the act of acquiring a new laptop in the near future is becoming inevitable – however, I don’t anticipate it with anything but dread, as, firstly, the amount of data I gathered on my current laptop is staggering and I don’t look forward to going through the task of cataloguing it and copying it; and secondly, my faithful Samsung served me exceptionally well over the years: through another Tea Party, a fall from a table, a bug in the hard drive (a real one, quite dried up by the time we found it) and the still unsolved mystery of three Wolverine-like scratches. Admittedly, it had to be a really tiny Wolverine:

Samsung

Yes; as you can see, I’m quite fond of my laptop and everything it contains (well, except that bug). Anyway, it took some time to get up and blogging again, and I’ll be trying to make up for my absence in the coming weeks (though don’t count too much on it, as we’re having a house move in a couple of weeks ;)).

On a more happy note, however, as a part of the celebration of the four year anniversary of our blog, we’ve decided to follow the example of Erik on the Past Due blog and dig up some of our old posts, posted long before the time we knew any of ya’ll 🙂 You can expect some of our older reviews popping up from time to time, followed (or not) by a few words of contemporary commentary of the author and some acid remarks of the other blogger 😀

We expect it to run every couple of weeks/month, and since we already have over 330 posts, we’ll have quite a lot to choose from… I actually wonder how those older posts will hold up to our current scrutiny; how much our tastes changed over that period of time and whether will uphold our old ratings – guess we’ll see soon enough! 😀 Hopefully it will be less like this:

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and more like this:

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😀