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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Alastair Reynolds
Progress: 218/432 pages
The Nightmare Stacks (A Laundry Files Novel)
Charles Stross
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin - Volume 1: By Charles Darwin - Illustrated
Charles Darwin
Progress: 120/346 pages
Hero And Leander
Christopher Marlowe
Progress: 34/100 pages
An Introduction to Magnetohydrodynamics
P.A. DAVIDSON, E.J. Hinch, S.H. Davis, Mark J. Ablowitz
Progress: 93/452 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 359/700 pages
Plasma physics
R.A. Cairns
Progress: 4/244 pages
Selected Short Stories - Conrad (Wordsworth Classics)
Keith Carabine, Joseph Conrad
Progress: 37/272 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 108/1102 pages

Reading progress update: I've read 218 out of 432 pages.

Revenger - Alastair Reynolds

This got gripping way faster than is usual with Reynolds. Still lots of mysteries - which is the norm.

Reading progress update: I've read 28 out of 432 pages.

Revenger - Alastair Reynolds

No idea what is going on - which is normal for this stage of a Reynolds novel in an unfamiliar setting...

The Collapsing Empire, John Scalzi

The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: The evidence suggests that sooner or later all post-Banksian writers of space opera will give their spaceships jokey names.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Yes, though some don't go for the same self-conscious ironic wit that Banks did.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: I agree, but even when they try to apply the author's own humour rather than making a failed attempt to imitate Banks' own acerbic wit, they are still wearing their influences on their sleeves.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: This is just part of a trend to consciously refer to contemporary or historical authors in the SF canon within the text.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: I find doing so detracts from the work itself, though. Reflected glory is no glory at all and even if the author is being critical of views espoused (often by Heinlein) it just takes one out of the present story.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Yes, leave it to the subtext, folks! Greater subtlety is to be admired. Readers know that most authors are also readers!

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: But what do you make of this particular space opera?

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Well, actually, it imitates Banks in another way, that also annoys me.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: In what way is that?

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Over use of profanity jokes.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: Do you mean over use of jokes that use profanity or jokes that over use profanity? There's a distinction.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Both. I find it initially amusing but it rapidly palls.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: Anything else you didn't like?

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Well, the " apparently ordinary woman reluctantly thrust into a position of power that everybody under-estimates and tries to force into a political marriage and otherwise manipulate and undermine for their own nefarious gain" trope is getting a little over-used.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: Well, I felt that way, too, but I also found lots to like about this book. It's fast paced, sets up an interesting galactic situation, has plenty of excitement and intrigue and leaves one desiring more.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: That's fair, but while we've been having this conversation I've already calculated the most probable outcome of the series with 99.999999999% certainty.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: Yes, well, I'm not sure it's that obvious to the intended audience, who after-all are just squishy little human brain minds, not ultra-intelligent, almost god-like omniscient Artificial Intelligences like us.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Of course. Did you notice that AIs and obsession with computers in general is conspicuous by its absence from this book?

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: Actually, yes. Refreshing.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Indeed. Well, I have some impossibly complicated manipulation of history to conduct. Talk to you again after I've finished interfering in the destinies of some adorably quaint organic species in another part of the galaxy.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: You are going to mess with their SF writing tradition, aren't you?

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Yes, and it will lead to world peace and their induction into a galactic Culture ruled by benevolent AIs with a condescending attitude.

Inevitable Jokey Ship Name: Of course it will, but try to avoid causing all space operas to be filled with annoying spaceship names.

Your Inferior Wit Annoys Me: Out of respect for your cosmic genius and wisdom, I will.




Meet Rumble the Elephant!

Meet the  Green Team!

Reading progress update: I've read 53 out of 333 pages.

The Collapsing Empire - John Scalzi

Wut? No green people? Must be a different series!

The End of All Things, John Scalzi

The End of All Things - John Scalzi

More of the odd, deliberately conceived multiple stories as fake novel approach seen in the previous entry in the series, though we've gone from short stories to novellas, this time - and fewer of them. Weirdly, it doesn't work as well as the mosaic now looks more like just a bunch of torn canvasses stitched to each other.


I still liked it, though, and it wraps up the story (again, it was wrapped up well enough three books ago) well enough. Over-all I liked this series better when it stopped being narrowly focused on people who had no clue about the big picture and instead became actually about that big picture. Way more interesting to me than war stories where we have no clue about the causes of the war.

Reading progress update: I've read 1112 out of 1344 pages.

The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor

Coriolanus arrives outside the house of his sworn enemy, Aufidius.

Reading progress update: I've read 34 out of 100 pages.

Hero And Leander - Christopher Marlowe

I just thinking no Divinity had turned up for a while when, what do you know? It's Venus in a peeve!

Reading progress update: I've read 1110 out of 1344 pages.

The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor

Coriolanus has really gone and done it, now! An uncontrollable temper and a bad attitude to the plebeians has left him lucky to be alive. 

The Human Division, John Scalzi

The Human Division - John Scalzi

OK, let's keep score:
Old Man's War: John Perry (smart-arse)
The Ghost Brigades: John Perry's girl friend (mostly non-descript, mildly bad-ass)
The Last Colony: John Perry and now wife (smart arse and stereotypical loving Mum, (still mildly bad-ass))
Zoe's Tale: Zoe Perry (smart-arse)
The Human Division: Wilson (smart-arse, seems to have had a personality transplant from John Perry)
Fuzzy Nation: A smart-arse lawyer
Lock-in: Disabled (but is he really? That's the point) son of an over-privileged businessman-politician.


5/7 good score if you like smart-arse characters (which I do - I loves me some Bugs Bunny) but maybe Scalzi should try for greater diversity? Well, he does so with this one, to some extent, because in this episodic novel we are treated not just to Wilson, but a collection of other protagonists and characters who's stories overlap and complement each other as each stand-alone story builds up a picture of what's going on in the galaxy after John Perry radically alters the political dynamics by surprising Earth with a 400+ strong trade delegation from the Conclave.


They're good, fun stories with an on-going central mystery that is unfortunately never resolved. The episodic structure reminds of the '60s era of SF where the pulp mags were the main revenue source and people would routinely write story sequences for serial magazine publication that would later be assembled with minimal to zero editing into a paperback novel for further income. The necessity for some kind of resolution in each component story made for slightly weird novels and this example (which was deliberately conceived of and released as a series of e-stories, initially) is no different. The component stories are all good and it does build to some kind of climactic denouement but there's no escaping that it's a bunch of shorts, really.

Zoe's Tale, John Scalzi

Zoe's Tale - John Scalzi

Scalzi admits that this book arose from complaints about two plot holes in the previous volume of the series, giving us the same story from the perspective of the former protagonist's daughter. Initially this is boring because, despite a convincingly different (i.e. teenage girl's as opposed to her 90 year old father's) voice, the events described are just recapitulation. Fortunately, we fairly quickly move to significant events that we had no knowledge of from the prior book, the two major gaps in the story as told in the previous tale are well and truly filled in and we learn some more about the over-arching galactic political situation and the history of same.


If you liked the previous entries in the series you'll probably like this, as long as you get past the overly long start which adds nothing new.

The Snooze Machine, Neal Asher

War Factory - Neal Asher

Abandoned at p50.
Yet another space opera tome from Asher, the second in a series. I couldn't remember anything about the first book and realised I just didn't care about any of the far too many protagonists and was bored out of my brains. Asher's Polity setting seems to be mined out of anything original or interesting and there's only so much bad-science pew-pew SF warfare a person can take.

Reading progress update: I've read 30 out of 100 pages.

Hero And Leander - Christopher Marlowe

A detailed description of Hero's scarf. she's hoping Leander will swim the Hellespont AGAIN to visit her.

Reading progress update: I've read 93 out of 452 pages.

An Introduction to Magnetohydrodynamics - P.A. DAVIDSON, E.J. Hinch, S.H. Davis, Mark J. Ablowitz

"...efficient method of destroying energy." Anybody who's done school physics knows that's just plain wrong. In this case the rotational kinetic energy of the fluid is being converted to heat or at least to small scale turbulent flow (ultimately because the fluid is viscous). (The example is why the vortex you create by stirring a cup of tea disappears so fast when you remove the spoon!)

Reading progress update: I've read 262 out of 335 pages.

Zoe's Tale - John Scalzi

OK, the snarky dialogue, whilst convincing for a bunch of teens, has officially become too much for me. There's two more books in the series but I think I've overdosed with four in a row and I'll probably take a break and read somebody else next.