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Recent BOoks

Posted by phduffy on 2008-08-13 15:47:54
1 forum posts
Summer Books

Sunshine Robin McKinley
This is a vampire novel. McKinley typically writes YA fiction, but this is for adults. Unlike a lot of the current vampire novels, this doens't take place in 'our world', with vampires having just come out. In this world, when the vampires came out there was a huge war, lots of people died, and now people live and try to avoid vampires. So, our heroine is a college drop out who works at a bakery, who's kidnapped by vampires one day. They chain her up in an old house, in the same room as a chained up vampire. Apparently there's a vampire feud going on. The two end up escaping, and the novel deals with the effects of them meeting, the complete hatred everyone has for vampires, etc. It's not a vampire sex novel though, and it's not really even a love story, although some of that creeps in. Mostly it's about Sunshine trying to figure out how she feels about herself and about everythign else. Also, the book had no chapters. After reading it, I think I prefer books with chapters, I like the added structure, and the help they give in terms of knowing when to put the book down. I suppose that the story alone should determine packing, but it doesn't always work like that.

Raggamuffin - Tobias Buckell
This is the sort of sequel to Crystal Rain, Buckell's debut, and like this, a Carribean-themed science fiction novel. I really liked the start of this novel, which describes a character's escape from a planet on which humanity lives in slavery. Not all humans live in slavery, however, they're all pretty far down the intergalactic totem pole. There is a branch of humanity which has been cut off from the rest - they purposely blew up their wormhole to escape their enemies (although some made it through and set themselves up as Aztec Gods). This novel deals with the two pieces of humanity getting back in touch with each other, and what that's going to mean going forward. I really like Buckell's stories - his settings are interesting, the pace is good, and I believe the character motivations. I don't quite think he's matured as a writer yet, which is good, as it suggests the best is yet to come, and he's already producing good stories. The third, and I think final, book in this universe just came out in hardcover - Sly Mongoose. His writing isn't quite good enough to warrant being purchased in hard cover though.

Devices and Desires
Evil for Evil
The Escapement
- KJ Parker
This is KJ Parker's engineering trilogy. I loved this trilogy. It's marketed as fantasy, but there's nothing 'fantastic' about it. It's just set in a medieval world. The portion of the world which matters to this trilogy has 3 pieces - a powerful city state full of engineers, who have an absolute lock on all advanced production, and two countries. One is led by Orsea, who's sort of a hapless duke, while his best friend Miel basically runs the place. Miel was in love with Orsea's future wife before her marriage to Orsea was arranged. The other country is led by a very competent Duke, Valens, who's also in love with Orsea's wife. So, an engineer, Vaatzes, breaks one of the rules of engineering - he tries to improve upon specification. This is punishable by death. He escapes and runs to Orsea. This happens in the first 100 pages or so, and I won't bore you with anymore plot details. What I loved about this is that it wasn't about the battles, or heroism or anything like that (although some of that occurs) - it was about the politics. Who's doing what to whom? Why did they do it? Will they do it again in the future? Did Vaatzes make the abomination because he loved his wife? What will Valens' love for Orsea's wife make him do? It also treats the world as a machine and the people as parts - once the machine has started moving, you mostly just find out what part you are and how you'll be used. Your very nature might be used against you, as you find out that although a part of you wants to act in a certain way, your nature prevents it (or makes you act when you should stay silent). I thought this was a great great series, with lots of twists and turns, and an interesting, and slightly bittersweet, ending.

The Praxis
Jon Walter Williams
I think I liked the premise of this book - the universe is ruled by not nice aliens, they're dying out, and all the species wonder what happens next, however, one of the alien species decides to take over - more than the actualy book. The book focuses on two young military personnel, one a man from a 'backwater' planet, the other a young woman. I didn't find the characters particularly interesting, and I wasn't a huge fan of the use of flashbacks to show the horrible past of these characters. That can be done effectively, but I don't think it happened here. It also took a long time for the action to get started, which is too bad, since the back of the book tells you what the action is going to be. I'm undecided on whether or not I'll read the sequels.

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
Leonard Mlodinow

A book about randomness, and how most people don't really understand it (or probability) and how this affects our lives. A lot of this was like a flashback to first year math, although this isn't a technical book. There's a lot of discussion of early mathematicians, but a lot of that focuses on how many of the advances in probability came about due to gambling. Examples of modern day issues are then shown. I really liked the treatment and explantion regarding false positives (including an OJ Simpson example). This books discusses a number of classic probability problems, like the Monty Hall problem, and the "Your cousin has two children, at least one of which is a girl, what is the odds that her other child is a girl?". Although I would have liked to see more explanation on the Bayesian version of the question (One of whom is a girl named Florida), as I needed to get further outside explanations for that, and even then I'm not sure I follow it. Anyways, this was a very good book which I would recommend to anyone, whether or not they had a math background.
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