Tuesday, November 27, 2018

1.5 + 1.5

1st, "Ball Lightning", by Cixin Liu, 2018, 384 pages. This winds up being a prequel to the "3-Body Problem" trilogy (now in production at NetFlix), blogged here and here. Like the trilogy, the speculative physics in this book is very interesting. We are again reminded that the author lives in communist China. For the majority of the book the principals are engaged in weapons research, and a brief war does break out between China and the US and others. There is also reference to the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, which I definitely don't remember. This is another well-paced read, with understandable, if occasionally somewhat off, characters.

2nd, the latest (9th) Laundry Files novel from Charles Stross, "The Labyrinth Index", 2018, 368 pages. Around installment 5 of this series, I think I said that Charlie seemed to getting tired of this series. Then the next couple seemed to be a lot better. This 1, the 9th, seems tired. The players are mostly 2nd-stringers. It seems like they used to do this in comics sometimes, have team-ups of 2ndary characters. There's still more to come in the series though. I'm counting this as 0.5 sci fi and 0.5 fantasy. The Laundry Files stories actually are a mix of spy and horror - but they read more like sci fi to me, so, whatever.

3rd, "The Monster Baru Cormorant", by Seth Dickinson, 2018, 464 pages. This is the 2nd book of a series which began with "The Traitor Baru Cormorant", blogged here. I went back and read that post to remind myself what this novel was about. I found I had liked the novel's title, but the novel itself not so much. Characters with nothing but bad choices, and the civilization that discovers science, medicine, rational government, etc. happens to be eugenics-practicing fascists.

The 2nd novel is more of the same: intrigue, poisoning, double-crosses, plus we get a new set of actors who seem to worship cancer - ugh. These are well written, but really kind of unpleasant. A suggestion, there are so many characters with non-English names, the next one could really use a "Cast of Characters" preface to help us keep them all straight. I will finish the series - hopefully there's only 1 more coming - but it is really not pleasant reading.

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