Monday, April 24, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Review: Ninth City Burning by J Patrick Black

Long Review after the Jump:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

Long Review after the Jump:

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

Long Review: 
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty is in its simplest form a very classic plot setup - the locked room murder mystery.  It's just that in this book, the murdered individuals are the entire clone crew of a generation ship, and the people desperately trying to find the killer are well...the successor clones to those same individuals.  Oh and there's an AI, and DNA Hacking, and.....well you get the point.

Basically, in this setting, there are strict rules about cloning and serious questions about their own rights.  The cast are six clones who have been sent as the sole crew of a generation ship with criminal backgrounds and who have been promised the erasure of those same criminal backgrounds if they complete their mission.  None of the six knows the background or crimes of the others, just that each is in the same position.  Whenever a clone dies, a new clone is to be born with the most recent mindmap (a memory backup) of the last clone implanted in the new clone's head.

Except one day: all six crew members wake up as new clones, with the corpses and blood of their most recent selves spread throughout their ship.  The Ship's AI is dead, and the memory backup they've been born with isn't the most recent one - it's the last one before they boarded the ship.  And the ship is off course.  Now with no memories of what happened before and how they all died, can they figure out what's happened, save their mission, and well...not die to the same causes as their predecessors?  Because the cloning technology is ALSO now broken, and if they die one more time, that's it for good.

The book jumps from the POV of one clone to the next (although one character, Maria, gets the most screentime), and occassionally flashes back to each clone's individual past that led to their being on the ship, as the characters attempt to solve the mystery.  The characters are strong, as is the writing - which never seems to drag and is nicely paced, and the solution in the end doesn't quite take the predictable turn one might expect.  The solution is maybe SLIGHTLY too tidy I guess, but it works pretty well honestly.

As you can tell from the grade, I really liked Six Wakes, and suspect that if you're both a SF and a mystery fan (or even just one or the other), you'll enjoy this too. Highly recommended, and a contender for my hugo ballot for next year.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Year in Review: Books and Video Games and my future Hockey Work in 2017

2016 was not a great year for my productivity in posts on Hockey, but I managed to read an awful lot of books and play two video games (kind of one video game, I guess, but more on that below).  Since others have done a year in review post, I figured I might as well do one.

Books I Read:

The End of 2015 was really where I began to get back into reading Science Fiction and Fantasy again.  2016 continued that trend, and I managed to finish 90 books (as well as at least one short story collection) over the course of the year, some old and some new.  The list of books and some short ratings of them can be found at this link:

I read more books that I liked or even loved than I hated (28 of the books I rated at 9 stars or better while only 9 of the books I read were under 6 stars, and only 4 were truly hated by me at 2 stars).  This is undoubtedly due to selection bias - I purchased books or borrowed them based upon recommendations and authors who I liked, and I didn't finish 5 books which I didn't rate where I just wasn't feeling into the book after ~100 pages.  I know at least one of the books I hated I wouldn't have finished except it was on the Hugo Nominee list so I wanted to give it a full shake.

11 series/book highlights I'd highly recommend in no particular order:
The Inheritance Trilogy by NK Jemisin (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, The Kingdom of Gods)
The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone (Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Full Fathom Five, Last First Snow, Four Roads Cross)
The Novels of the Jaran by Kate Elliott (Jaran, An Earthly Crown, His Conquering Sword, The Law of Becoming)
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (Warning: Gets pretty dark)
Parable of the Sower & Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler (Dark but important in today's political context)
The Dandelion Dynasty Series by Ken Liu (The Grace of Kings, The Wall of Storms)
The Thessaly Trilogy by Jo Walton (The Just City, The Philosopher Kings, Necessity)
Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman

These are not the only books I loved so please check my list if you're interested, but just 11 series/novels I felt could use extra love and highlighting (I also limited myself to one series per author above, but some authors had a LOT of good work).

I figure I should also highlight the books I did NOT like:
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson - 2 stars
Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig - 2 stars
Flesh and Fire by Laura Anne Gilman - 2 stars
The Worldbreaker Trilogy by Kameron Hurley (The Mirror Empire - 6.5 stars, Empire Ascendant - 2 stars)
Informocracy by Malka Older. (4.5 stars)

I liked some of these authors - Gilman is even on my list of books I loved actually.  But these books all didn't work at all for me.

One final note on books:   I read a lot of these books by taking them out of the library.  If you have a local library, PLEASE support it - they provide a lot of great material (and plenty of other non-book related benefits) that can entertain you for hours for basically free (you're paying taxes for living in that location anyhow, so anything you get out of the library is extra benefits added!).  Libraries may also have online books you can borrow, or online audiobooks.

I've also listened to about 7 audiobooks now.  It's a pretty enjoyable way to read books on a commute where your eyes are paying attention to the road.  I strongly recommend them.

Video Games:

My Book reading slowed in November as I downloaded two games:  The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky & The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter.  As the names suggest, these are kind of two parts of the same story, and you'd only buy the second game if you finished the first.  They're both JRPGs, very much in a classic vein (The first game came out in Japan in 2004, actually), so if you don't like the genre, they won't be for you.

But if you like the genre, I can't recommend them enough.  They're fantastic additions to the genre, and the second game gives you greater choices of options to play with to add extra replay value (as you very much may want to see how things play with using different characters).  And for Steam they cost only 19.99 and 29.99 respectively, but I've since seen that they're very often discounted.  Well worth a purchase.

For 2017:

For 2017, I want to get back on the hockey writing train a little bit.  Starting today I will be tracking dump and change plays to really try to see how effective they are league wide - I'm hoping in addition to the Isles to track several other teams for several games each to see really what the expected results of these plays are.  I also want to take the neutral zone tracking project forward in other ways as well - there's a lot of data that has again been untapped, and with Corey again tracking every team, we should have more data to play with.

Alas, I suspect I'll cut down to around 50 new books this year, but who knows?  I may find myself on another reading binge soon.....

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Spoilery Talk: Every Heart a Doorway

I reviewed Every Heart A Doorway tonight on twitter as so (Click on tweet to get the full review):

I mentioned the ending was a problem in this review, quick blurb about that after the break.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Spoilery Talk, Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt

I posted a quick review of Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt, the second in the "What happened after Return of the Jedi" books in the new canon that just came out this month.  See below.

As a former big fan of the original Star Wars Expanded Universe, now known as "Star Wars Legends", and having written about Star Wars for this blog, I can't help but discuss spoilers for the book after the jump.

Friday, July 22, 2016

SF/F Spoilery Review: Last Song Before Night

Tonight's spoilery review is Last Song Before Night by Ilana C Meyer.

My twitter review can by clicking the following tweet:

Spoilery Review below