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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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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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.

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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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Silva rerum (5) feat. discarded books and awesome presents

I got this for my recent birthday (still young, but each year a little less so 😉 ):

Isn’t that wonderful? I’ll never be able to do anything similar, but I sure appreciate it a lot. I have to confess that an elfish warrior is my favourite RPG character. Not very original, I know, but I’m stable in my preferences. Never had such a great miniature though!

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Guy Gavriel Kay, A Song for Arbonne (1992)

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Guy Gavriel Kay… a guy who helped Christopher Tolkien prepare Silmarillon for publication, and then started his own career as fantasy writer. He has his distinct style, he has his fans. I’m one of them, Ola isn’t. Just compare these two quotes from our reviews of Tigana:

A successful lawyer, a philosophy student who helped Christopher Tolkien in The Silmarillion edits, a reasonably well-known author of award-winning fantasy novels, Kay is a veritable jack of all trades. He prefers to set his novels in historical periods, but in imaginary settings, which allows him to create interesting parallels without the burden of fact-checking

vs.

Guy Gavriel Kay got his genre credentials early, when as a 20-year-old student he was chosen to help Christopher Tolkien edit Silmarillion. From my point of view – and I love Silmarillion – it’s like a rookie demi-god was asked to edit Bible. How to start your own religion after that? Kay paid homage to his tolkienian roots with excellent Fionavar Tapestry (1984-1986) and moved on to create his own blend of semi-historical fantasy epics. Starting with Tigana (1990). And since I started with religious vocabulary, let me say that I consider this blog’s May 3 review of Tigana a blasphemy

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Ed McDonald, Blackwing (2017)

Blackwing

Author: Ed McDonald

Title: Blackwing

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 378

First, an admission. I read a lot of books when my mental plate’s full, as they provide a bit of comfort and take off some strain from my overworked brain – when they’re good, of course, because bad books don’t help at all 🙂 However, by the same logic, I write no reviews when I’m stressed out, because writing demands a lot more from my already  overworked brain 😛 No surprise, then, that lately there are less reviews on our blog, even though the amount of books I’ve recently read has noticeably grown.

I’ve spent the last couple of months checking out some of the books our fellow bloggers recommended, and Ed MacDonald’s Blackwing had been favorably reviewed by many. A special shout out to Aaron at Swords & Spectres for persuading me to finally try it out, because it was definitely worth it :).

Blackwing follows the story of Ryhalt Galharrow (it’s a mouthful, I know – try to say it out loud a few times!), a former pampered noble and an ex-Army officer who now serves as a Captain of Blackwing: a private military unit in employ of a Nameless sorcerer called Crowfoot. Galharrow as we meet him is a down-on-his-luck cutthroat – a glorified spy/bounty hunter/enforcer to a ruthless, ancient being, who had not been seen in the world for a long, long time. Yet, as the war between the Nameless sorcerers of the republic with powerful Deep Kings of the Eastern Empire still brews on, centuries in the making, Galharrow soon finds himself in the thick of the bloody action.

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