Mark (generalist) wrote in stackofbooks,

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A short stack of books, with mini-reviews


I have read a few books recently, I tried to read several prize-winning books. Some of these are, some are not, I got a bit distracted. Anyway, here is what I think:

Author Title Comments
Bujold, Lois McMaster Paladin of Souls In the same world as (and more-or-less sequel to) The Curse of Chalion. This is the story of Ista, an ex-queen, good-hearted and well-intentioned but a secret accidental murderess. Now an overly-protected dowager. This is the story of her false pilgrimage (an attempt to get out from under too-protective relatives), that lands her in the middle of an unexpected little war. Good writing, fairly descriptive but not overly so. Decent plotting, though the ends tie up too neatly and far too quickly at the end of the book. I do not think it deserved the Hugo award it received in 2004 for best novel. I will definitely go get Chalion, since I have read in various places that it is better, and this one was certainly a good enough read to be worth a few bucks.
Bunch, Chris Firemask This is the second volume of a multi-volume series, though each volume stands on its own. It is science fiction (not sword-and-sorcery) war fiction, the ongoing story of the 'Lost Legion'. Here is the scene: Cumbre, a star system on the edge of human-controlled space has a ramshackle military force, and not-particularly-friendly neighbors, both of the human and non-human (sentient alien) kind. This book is the story of a rather half-hearted attempt by the alien Musth, who are bent on conquering or dominating all, to take Cumbre for their own. It is well thought-out, and really quite an enjoyable romp.
Jones, Edward P. The Known World This is a Pulitzer prize winning novel about the American South, set fairly late during the time of black slavery in the U.S. It is fundamentally not a story at all, though it has both a plot and characters. It is about an imaginary place, a county in Virginia that never was. But the stories of the characters and how they all encountered slavery are believable enough. As well-presented anecdotes about slavery, it rings true, and I am truly glad that I did not live in those times, whatever status I might have had.
Bear, Greg Darwin's Radio This one is well written, well thought out, and quite interesting. To understand it, it helps to have some idea both of the basic principles of science, and also of how science works in the real academic and commercial worlds. A bit of an understanding of politics helps, too. I will give you the big ideas in the book. Yes, these are spoilers, but they really don't matter since what is most interesting about this book, and this is quite rare for hard science fiction, is that the way it is told is more important than what is being told. The big ideas: Bureaucracy sucks. The next version of humanity is nigh. Evolution operates by storing up potential changes, then applying them all at once. Love is mysterious and conquers nearly all. Have I mentioned that political bureaucracy sucks? This book is not perfect, and there were several parts where perhaps I knew a little too much, and so had real trouble suspending my disbelief. I still recommend this book , and think it richly deserved the Nebula award it received in 2000.
Brin, David The Postman A post-apocalyptic classic about a traveler who ends up re-starting a postal service in a Western USA that is broken up into disconnected hamlets and survivalist brigands. He does it more or less by accident, and by so doing more-or-less saves the world. The book received prizes, it deserved them. Everyone else read it years ago, I heard all about how it was great, but somehow never read it. Now I have, I finally got around to it. This novel is still quite good, it still resonates. Recommended. But I know you've already read it, don't kid me.

Paladin of Souls Firemask

The Known World Darwin's Radio

The Postman

Cheers! generalist

Tags: books
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