205 Books: Afghanistan

So, you may have noticed my review of The Scar. Which means I am officially starting my Around the World in 205 Books challenge (henceforth shortened to 205 Books for reason of I don’t want to keep typing all that). In case you have forgotten, that is where I start at the start of the alphabet and work through every country in the world (205 of them according to the list I found on the net), picking books by authors from that country or about that country or, preferably, both. This is obviously to try to get out of my reading comfort zone.

I went to the library yesterday so borrow a copy of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini which, yes, is a fairly mild choice for Afghanistan (seeing Hosseini is American) but I couldn’t find a lot of options. But then, I was told that my local library is the only library in the entire Moreton Bay Shire Council area that doesn’t have a copy in stock. They did have A Thousand Splendid Suns, however. So, one book in and the plan already changed. Sorry to those of you who decided to get ahead with your homework. You will just have to start again.

After rigorous research, I discovered that exactly 51% of the internet thinks that A Thousand Splendid Suns is the better book anyway so it all worked out nicely…

I have already started reading and so far so good… I will post my thoughts in a new blog post when I finish but if anyone wants to discuss the book in the comments (avoiding spoilers would be good) then that’s ok. The next country is Albania, so I will also be taking suggestions for the next book in line. Surely someone in Albania must have written a book…

China Mieville: The Scar

scar

I know China Mieville doesn’t need me to do a review of his book, The Scar, but I’m going to do it anyway.

The short review… Wow.

The slightly longer review, that really tells you nothing of substance… I read Perdido Street Station years ago and loved it. But I can’t remember it being anywhere near the same level as The Scar. There is the same sort of invention with the world and the characters, but the plot just seems to start as this little thing and it keeps expanding like some type of fantastical, steam-driven schematic of a fantastical, steam-driven machine. (Don’t ask me about steam driven schematics. I have no idea how they work.) It just keeps unfolding and you keep seeing more and more of the crazy, epically-detailed device. And not only is the device itself amazing, but the paper has an amazing texture and the drawing is beautiful and the ink smells of magic and…

So, yeah, I didn’t mind it.

Book Review: Pale Boundaries

Well, here’s something different. Though this review may end up being shorter than some of my poems…

Pale Boundaries by Scott Cleveland is a good book. (Is that enough? No? Okay then…)

Pale Boundaries is a sci-fi thriller that has the requsite fights and chases and all the rest, but also comes with its own set of 3 dimensional characters.

Terson Reilly has had his fair share of trouble with the law but he travells to Nivea to try to go straight. This obviously doesn’t work when trouble comes looking for him in the form of a criminal organisation in the midst of its own internal dispute. We get to know some of the criminals (on both sides of the law) and a parole officer to keep us in the story from all side.

The character are good, but they get a lot of help from the setting– both the natural world and the political/social construct that has grown on it.  A lot of thought has gone into the details and it all works together nicely.

Typos and like are fairly minor and Cleveland isn’t Shakespeare but he does know how to put a sentence together.

The end doesn’t even pretend to be a stand alone book, so there is that, but I have already bought the follow up, Embustero.

So, Pale Boundaries by Scott Cleveland is a good book. Go buy it here.

Review: The Company by KJ Parker

The Company is about 5 legendary war veterans (the survivors of A Company) moving to an island to live as simple farmers. The war did things to all of them (and they did things to the war) that has left them scarred both physically and emotionally. They have secrets and old wounds eating away at them. And that’s not to mention the wives and ‘servants’ they organise to go with them.

The story has a bit of a slow build up and moves between the past (the war) and the present, offering snippets that build layer upon layer.

What can I say. There is the fabulous writing; the deep, conflicted, morally ambiguous characters; the interesting setting; fabulous dialog; and all round attention to detail. The tension on the island builds palpably as we find out more about the characters and the things they have done in the past. Nothing is simple and nothing is as it seems.

I think I may have described the last KJ Parker book I read, The Folding Knife, as a bit of a disappointment, but only in comparison  to her (I’m going to say her though nobody knows for sure– well, obviously someone does, but it isn’t the world at large) other stuff.

The Company was definitely a step up, putting it along side The Hammer, though still not nearly as good as The Engineer Trilogy or the Fencer Trilogy. It is still a great book for those looking for something a bit different to the usual fantasy fare.

4 Stars (on the KJ Parker scale)

5 Stars on any other scale

A really short review– The Folding Knife by KJ Parker

I believe I may have noted previously that I’m a big fan of KJ Parker. I will blindly buy anything s/he has written. The Folding Knife hasn’t changed that but…

A lot of the things I’ve come to expect can be found in this novel. The wit and stylish writing and the interesting characters in interesting situations. But this one lacked a bit in the way of plot. I mean, stuff happens, but it isn’t until 2/3 of the way through (or something like that) that we actually get to the point of what’s happening. Not even that, it’s 2/3 of the way before there is a point. Up until then it’s a story about The First Citizen of a city state and his efforts to stay in power and become even more rich. The trouble is there’s no driving force. There’s just this stuff happening.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, for the reasons stated above. But I certainly don’t think it is one of Parker’s better works.

Review- Scat by Jim Graham

It’s been a while since I read Scat, so I thought it was about time I did the review. So here it is.

c27b522ba7031bbbd0bd45be720982b0dde793c3-thumbScat is Sebastian Scatkiewicz. At the start of the book he is a Marine, on Earth fighting for resources. This sets up his character as a basically honest, no-nonsense, take no shit type of guy. It’s exactly these characteristics that threaten to get him into trouble so he quits, gains some new qualifications and moves out into space to find his fortune.

And of course, he just finds more trouble even though he does all he can to stay clear.

The universe of Scat is very well thought out with the idea that corporations are the ones who led the way to the stars. And once they got there the governments on Earth couldn’t do a whole heap to control them. So the corporations got bigger, supplying the resources that had all but disappeared from Earth. And of course, all that money and control of the resources gave them more power on Earth.

The story is essentially about a revolution with a wide range of characters coming t it from different angles– military and political. The characters and settings are well developed. History, politics, money and resources have all been taken into account though none of it comes across as forced.

The bad things? I did enter a bit of a lull at one point in the book, but I’m not sure if that was actually the story or my life at the time. Sorry, I can’t really clear that up. I also felt that the part o the plot revolving around an alien artifact seemed an unnecessary addition. The story moves away from the rebellion in the last quarter or so to concentrate on developments in that area but I felt as if that was really part of the sequel.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and will be reading the others in the series. Birdie Down is already available (I think it covers part of the revolution that is skimmed over in Scat– which supports my case that artifact part of the first story really belongs in another book and Birdie Down should have been in there instead, but anyway.)  The links above lead to Smashwords where both books can be downloaded for free. Well worth the price.

4 stars.

Review- Voidhawk

Here’s another quick review.

Voidhawk

Voidhawk, by Jason Halstead.

Well, this book certainly isn’t Shakespeare.

Dexter finds a derelict spaceship (like, really a ship, with timber decks and sails and all that kind of thing) and, with the help of his dwarf friend, makes it space-worthy. They then set off on a series of adventures.

There isn’t any real point to the story, they just move from one situation to another. And a lot of these situations seem to bring another member into the crew of strange characters.

There are a few inconsistencies with dialog. Situations are sometimes a bit convenient. And, though it’s a fantasy as much as science fiction, it still bother’s me that asteroids have moons.

There are also a few typos and grammatical errors.

But luckily enough, it isn’t supposed to be Shakespeare. It’s a good, fun read that doesn’t tax the brain too much. There’s action and romance and some fun characters. It’s also free as the author is trying to suck you into the rest of the series. So definitely worth the money :). I’ll probably get the next one at some point.

I give Voidhawk 4 stars.