Sci-fi Review: ‘Consider Phlebas’ by Iain M. Banks

Had I not read The Culture out of order and had some idea what I was looking for I am not sure how the first half of Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)Consider Phlebas would have worked for me. Interesting enough as it starts off, if a bit crude in its botched execution by sewage, but it takes a full half of the book before it stops being a collection of cool ideas and turns into a coherent narrative. It was jarring as main character Horza leaves the Idiran/Culture war-front and goes on a macabre Gulliver’s Travel with crazy mercenaries.

But for a fan of The Culture (as in the series) such as my self the book was a fascinating starting point as it looked at The Culture (large space fairing super collective utopian government) from the viewpoint of someone fighting it. Almost everything about The Culture is perfect; lives are extended, pain is optional, material wealth is universal. So Horza’s willingness to side with an alien religious crusade to fight the sentient computer ‘minds’ that are so vital to The Culture is a great counter viewpoint. Continue reading

Mini Review: ‘Raven Stratagem’ by Yoon Ha Lee

As a debut Ninefox Gambit couldn’t have been much better. Dropping the reader right into a complex world without any type of cheat sheet it managed to combine some first class world building with a tight and focused story. Kel Cheris, with the insane undead general Shuos Jedao in her mind, faced off against the heresy threatening the Hexarchate while at the same time being one of the main threats to the Hexarchate. It was my favorite kind of sci-fi, full of big alien ideas and smart enough to pull it off.

Raven Stratagem had a lot to live up to but a major advantage at the start over Ninefox Gambit; all that complex world building has already been laid out. So when Jedao shows up this time we already expect the unexpected. He takes advantage of the Kel Calendar system to take over a small force and then proceeds to threaten the destruction of the entire Hexarchate while seemingly working towards it’s goals. Lee is a master of keeping readers guessing without cheating to make surprises work. By the end of Raven Statagem I was once again in a trance; willing to go wherever the author wanted and completely enthralled with every twist and turn.

This series sits in a place somewhat hard to explain. It feels like hard sci-fi as it explains away magic with incomprehensible science. It is action packed and witty but absolutely not a ‘beach read’ as it takes a keen eye to catch every detail. Follow up books are not always successful as they either try to repeat the success of the first or stray too far from it. Lee weaves the line perfectly, building on the culture created in Ninefox Gambit while taking the story to a whole new place. And while it ends on something of a cliffhanger is its one I suspect most readers will gladly stick around for.

4 Stars

Yes, I am Alive

A quick update and apology.

It has been quite a while.  So hello friends, how are you, I missed you!

Once again I found myself on a mini-hiatus, though as you can see this one will not be a year and a half of inactivity.  The details are the usual suspects; a major shake up at work once again upended everything.  Reading time once again dipped before being pulled back.  Even audiobook time took a toll as my travel got messed around with a bit.  Life is fine, this wasn’t a shake up that messed with quality of life for which I am thankful; it truly is only blogging that is being affected negativity.

But I am back, and a have a few reviews lined up again for next week, and am ready to get back in the saddle.  This is good for me!

The sad part is the sacrifices I am going have to make to keep this going this time.

-I have always prided myself on being one of the more social bloggers around.  Many people over the years have told me that I was one of, if not the, first to leave a comment on their new blogs.  I love doing it.  But it takes time.   LOTS of time.  I would often spend more time visiting blogs that writing my own.  And that is time I currently don’t have.  As such I will not be checking Feedly until things work out again.

This doesn’t mean I wont check out links that interest me.  Just that I will probably be more in the comment-back club than I used to.  I hope people understand.

-I also will not be quite so new release focused.  Now that work has stabilized again a lot of my reading will be audio format.  While some publishers do keep me in the now with audio books it is still easier to grab older books from the library for this purpose.

-Most importantly I am going to try some shorter reviews.  500 words don’t come as easy as they used to.  Sometimes the words flow like water and when the inspiration hits so be it, I will write.  But expect more two/three paragraph reviews with some quick thoughts when it is all I can come up with.

My goal is to not burn out completely and walk away because I know if I do that again it is probably for the last time.  Hopefully these changes will make it happen.

Thank you for reading.