This review was promised in our summary post for 2019, so I actually twisted my right arm with my left to sit down and write it in the middle of sunny summer ;).
Having reviewed both the first installment, Gridlinked, and the third installment, Brass Man, I’m in a bit of a pickle when it comes to choosing the content for this entry. Probably, it would be sufficient to say that The Line of Polity was the book that thoroughly and inevitably sold me on Asher’s Polity universe, and even if I don’t agree with all the political and ideological views of the author, I plan to remain a devoted fan.
Polity is not as pleasant and safe place as Banks’ Culture, nor is it as boring ;). The immense and mind-bogglingly diverse universe (..and I’m sure I could find another -verse fitting here :P) containing Polity, the human society ruled by nearly omniscient AIs, is a wonderful treat for all SF fans. But Asher goes further than just worldbuilding, however impeccable: he creates a world alive – rife with conflict, ambitions, and emotions, not only human, but also AI. And for a series featuring amazing battle sequences, both in the space and on the ground, Asher spends a lot of time considering the sentience. True, his AIs are very human, but reading Polity books I have a feeling they are this way by design, and not simple lack of thought or convenience. After all, they have been created by humans, influenced by the constant contact with humans, and, in a world where alien sentient races are considered more of a myth or a cautionary tale from the past than reality, AIs remain in a direct relation to humans. This relation can morph into a myriad different constellations: a mirror image, a role model, a dependent, spoiled child, a doted-upon prodigy, a master, an apprentice, a pest, a threat, a hobby… Asher deftly shows the variety of responses possible between sentient beings, each of which has something the other doesn’t possess, and subtly incorporates them into his tightly woven narrative.
I had a discussion recently about the “book was better” trope. It usually is, I believe. But, as a contrarian, I like to find exceptions to every rule, even one I believe in.
Long before Netflix ordered the American version of “House of Cards”, I believed HoC to be such an example, contradicting this particular rule. British HoC is listed among my favourite shows of all time, while I just couldn’t bring myself to love the novels, even if the first one predates its tv adaptation.
So – I decided to re-post my thoughts on the topic. I still haven’t seen the last season of the Netflix show, and I don’t think I ever will. Regardless of the crimes of Kevin Spacey, it was too long and nowhere near as god as the original version. I want to remember how good it began and not spoil my impressions by seeing its progressing deterioration. I’d rather re-watch Sir Ian Richardson’s Shakespearean prime minister.
In a time of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Urquhart is perhaps an unattainable dream 😉
No, not that:Although I’m very happy that I could binge-watch it now, in Poland, on the day of release, on Netflix, like a normal human being, not one episode a week on… what was it called, television?
Although I believe it’s a superior product. Kevin Spacey is excellent, but Ian Richardson is great. Shakespearean villain, veteran of political system even more ruthless than the one we know from the American version, Francis Urquhart would outmanoeuvre Frank Underwood before breakfast. And then Underwood would remind him that UK is a pygmy next to the world’s biggest superpower. Realpolitik is a tough business.
Actually I’d love to see a series where Urquhart/Underwood had to cooperate, sort of evil version of Roosevelt/Churchill duo. Magnificent bastards both of them…
In preparation for the upcoming conclusion to McDonald’s trilogy, Crowfall, I decided it was high time to share my thoughts about Ravencry, which I read back in February, right after I finished Blackwing. Talk about procrastination 😉
While Blackwing was a powerful new entry into gritty military fantasy, well-written, riveting and – what’s quite astounding – a debut, Ravencry was even better. With the world and main characters already established, McDonald focused more on character development and intrigue, introducing a much better fleshed-out – and truly creepy – villain, believable motivations, and delightfully raised stakes. All in all he succeeded in smoothing the rough edges of his original creation while keeping all the grimness, bravado and rakish charm I appreciated in Blackwing.
Piotrek: The fifth one, huh? Well, this time we have a real treasure. We debated for a while, if it can be counted as one of the Nostalgia Posts, and decided that yes, why not? After all, we’ve been reading Pratchett most of our lives, and we feel pretty nostalgic about both the author and his works. Well, one difference between that and all the others – there isn’t a large gap between our first childhood encounters with Sir Terry and recent re-reads. Me, at least, I would read a Discworld novel or two at least every once in a few years.
What a year it has been! Both the Re-Enchantment blog and my reading habits have evolved. On the blog – a year of two-shots, discussions with old & new friends, at home (and in commute 😉 ) one of re-reads, non-fiction and a bit of classics. I was so busy working on my project to read more of these that I feel I should actually read more fantasy next year! Maybe it is time to finally get to Erikson? But I will also continue with this-wordly stuff 😉
My favourite Christmas present – fourth book in this wonderful Polish edition of Le Guin, this time – almost 1200 pages with Gifts, Voices, Powers, Always Coming Home and Changing Planes. They are really going for the whole set, I think 🙂
Starting with blog – it was a solid year for us. I only have WordPress stats, and Ola says it’s around the same numbers again on LinkedIn, but we’re at 5,780 views today, with 53 published posts. It’s not much more than 2016, our second best year, but then we had 103 posts – weren’t we diligent 😉 Even in 2017 we managed to write 72 posts, so there is a worrying trend, but I think an average of one post per week is sustainable, even with our other current commitments. All the posts – since Re-E’s start – have a total of 288,910 words together, that would be quite a long novel!
Piotrek: Ambitious title for a 500 pages book, ain’t it? This young (born 1976) and charismatic Israeli historian – and his is a professional historian, with his DPhil thesis titled History and I : war and the relations between history and personal identity in Renaissance military memoirs, c.1450-1600. written in Oxford – aims to catch the essence of our history, as a species, in one tome. The result is certainly very successful, since 2011 published in multiple languages and its author became a public intellectual with TED Talks and countless interviews available on Youtube and elsewhere. We are here to judge if the world is right 😉
Ola: Oh well, there’s nothing like a catchy beginning, is there? 😛 But on a more serious note, Harari’s ambitions were huge, and a bit of hubris was, I guess, unavoidable – especially if you want to market a de facto historical book to a wide, mostly lay, public. Harari’s book, however, deserves its hype, for it’s written in a flowing, precise style, and delivers an abundance of catchy, well devised examples to better explain the more abstract concepts.
There is now a Polish movie being played in cinemas, in my country and throughout Europe. There are over 200 screenings planned in the UK alone (beginning today!), and that’s a lot for a Polish movie, our pictures rarely go beyond niche festivals. Tickets are mostly bought out by my compatriots living abroad, but they are not its whole audience.
Well, the title is Kler (our word for ‘the clergy’). Specifically, in the Polish context, the catholic clergy. Catholicism is the default option here. Not just as a religion. To a large extent, especially outside large cities, it’s the foundation of social life and a powerful political and economic force.
In the days when diocese after diocese goes bankrupt trying to pay off the victims of their functionaries’ abuse and, in Chile, the entire bishopryepiscopate submits resignations, there are not enough movies about the issue. Spotlight was very good, and certainly educational, Calvary show how a catholic country might look after the problem is largely processed. Clergy is about Church militant, unapologetic and intertwined with the state as close, as the Irish one during the heights of its power.