Review: Man in the High Castle

Man in the High Castle Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I've read several collections of PKD's work, and I consider myself a fan. Even so, this one was a miss for me. High Castle weaves together the stories of several characters living within an America that is divided between the Japanese occupying the West, the Reich occupying the east, and a slim are of independence in the Rockies. We presume that the Allies have lost the war. Much as Germany was divided between the Soviets and the West, the US is now divided between the primary Axis powers. There are some interesting character studies, such as how some subvert themselves to their new masters while others attempt to fight from within. There is an overriding theme of loss of identity. From that standpoint, it is a fantastic book, and eye opening.

The events of World War II are at a great distance from me. I didn't leave through the war, nor the after effects. I came into the world as Carter was winning an election, but I don't really have any memories of politics or even presidents until Reagan's era. Given that, I can still identify with PKD's stories of fear of nuclear annihilation. The cold war is something I saw the end to, and I understand the awful implications of how close and how capable we were of destroying ourselves and each other. Germany and the evil of the Nazis is something I cannot identify with, however. I think this is what puts much of High Tower off from me. As a mental exercise it is interesting, but otherwise did not move me.

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Review: Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm frustrated by this book. I like the core concept. Alien artifacts buried throughout the world for us to find once we reach a certain level of technical maturity. No indication of the intent of the machine. Is it a tool of peace, construction, wonder, science? What frustrates me is how the story is told. Each chapter is an interview between a nameless mystery agent and one of the characters directly involved in work on the giant. For me, it drains a lot of the potential color from the story. In many cases, the conversations feel forced or contrived instead of genuinely interactive. Interviewees go into long expositions on their experience in response to fairly mild prompts.

We're left with a major tease in the epilogue, and I enjoyed it enough that I'll pick up the next episode. Even so, I'll be bringing some reservations with me as I talk it up with fellow readers.

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Review: Battle Royale

Battle Royale Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Battle Royale is often referred to as the inspiration for The Hunger Games, and it is easy to see the similarities. A class of 42 high school freshman (apparently in Japan 9th graders are still considered Jr. High) are heading for a class trip when they are diverted to participate in the years Program. The Program is a contest held among many 9th grade classes each year where the class is deposited in a remote location and provided all of the materials and motivation they will need to kill one another. Last one standing gets to retire in comfort. Sound familiar?

The book is filled with non-stop action and a variety of characters. Some stick with us throughout while others are killed off in the same chapter they are introduced. This book is a translation, and in some cases that means the dialogue is a bit stilted. I had the most trouble with keeping the names straight of all 42 students and remembering which events went with each name. Even so, this is a story worth reading.

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Review: Sh*t My Dad Says

Sh*t My Dad Says Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you wasted time on the internet at all over the last decade, it's likely that you ran into a few of Justin Halpern's tweets, repeating his father's coarse, yet sage wisdom. I had my doubts about how this would translate into a long-form book. I'm happy to say that, while it does contain 140 character or less bursts of brassyness, it also delivers vignettes of Justin's life as he grew up with "the world's least passive-aggressive father." I listened to the audiobook version of this in my car during my commute, and I think that was the perfect way to enjoy it. The narrator does a great job of lending different voices to each of the Halpern family. By the end we learn that Justin's dad loves his family fiercely and shows it in his own, unique way.

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Review: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Few of us have truly confronted our mortality. For my friends and I that are reaching middle age the stretch of days, months, and years we expect to have in our future seems almost limitless. I'll be turning 40 this year, and that probably isn't even the midway point of my life if I happen to be blessed with the same longevity of much of my family. Those days are finite, however, and we all need to regularly review what measures we would take to extend our life and what we would consider a life worth living. What's more, many in my shoes will be taking care of their own parents, if not now then soon. We need to be able to discuss what makes for a meaningful life and our wishes. This book provides an excellent window into how modern medicine often substitutes quantity of life for quality of life, and how to approach the hard decisions we must face as we approach our end.

If you read nothing else, stop in a library or bookstore and browse the epilogue. There you will find the condensed version of the book. Doctors want to fix, heal, and provide hope. We all die, however, and there is no beating death. Given that, at what point should extreme measures be taken that provide little hope of improvement. In many cases a patient will choose to undergo painful, debilitating chemotherapy in the hope of one day fully springing back to their youthful selves. The reality is that the procedure will most likely not work, and even if it does, will leave the patient at a plateau within their disease.

In addition to the discussion of medical choices, there are also fantastic chapters on attitudes towards the elderly. As we grow old, we lose our independence. That can be frustrating and frightening. Hospitals and traditional nursing homes further remove that independence by demanding that patients live on the schedule most effective for the staff, not what is most comfortable for the patient. Patients begin to feel that they are simply being stored off until death takes them rather than continuing to live fruitful and worthwhile lives. Contrast this to the independent and assisted living centers which allow such simple but meaningful forms of autonomy as choosing the thermostat settings for your room, choosing when to eat, and when to bathe. What seem like trivial freedoms are huge for those who have already suffered diminished autonomy.

Being Mortal is an important book, and an important subject for everyone to confront and have frank conversations about. This book is a great way to start that process.

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Review: The Chrysalids

The Chrysalids The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Chrysalids drew me in the more I read. It's set in a time many centuries after nuclear war has reshaped humanity. There are pockets of civilization, small towns and not much more, that vigorously keep to the 'true image' of all things. They strictly judge not just their livestock and crops, but their offspring as well and cast out anything that is deviant. Beyond these pockets lie fringes areas where the genetically inferior are left to live among mutinous flora and fauna. Beyond that are the bad lands, where only mutations grow, and worse beyond, where anything that touches the land dies.

David is a young many growing to adulthood in these circumstances. His father is one of the community's most strict adherents to the rule of the true image. It is a difficult childhood for him.

There are a lot of themes that can be taken from this story. It would make for an excellent book club reading or classroom discussion. I can heartily recommend it to almost any reader.

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Review: The Water Knife

The Water Knife The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bacigalupi writes modern dystopias. By that I mean, he writes of potential dystopias based on modern issues. Twenty years ago and further back our dystopias were all based on the premise of some all out war between superpowers. Whether it was nukes or an EMP, it was definitely a war that brought about our end. Bacigalupi writes how our greed will be our end. The blind eye we turn to our environment so that we can make that sweet, sweet short term dollar. The Water Knife is the story of greed for water. Californians are already feeling the pinch of too little water. The end of days scenario Bacigalupi presents doesn't seem that far off.

More than a story of death by our hands, this is also a story of the lies we tell ourselves. We tell ourselves it is going to get better. We tell ourselves this little lie, when we know it won't. That lie prevents us from making the changes that would actually impact our lives in positive ways. Lucy, Angel, Toomie....they all believe the lie they tell themselves. Just get by today, and maybe tomorrow it will get better. Maria sees the lie for what it is, and is the rare creature who ignores the lie.

It's a fascinating, gripping, and depressing story of what our future could be like.

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Review: Annihilation

Annihilation Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A very good emulation of H.P. Lovecraft, but without any sort of resolution. I never grew to like any of the characters. I never felt any real sort of fear. Worse, it quickly became clear we wouldn't learn anything meaningful about Area X, so I didn't even feel a sense of curiosity.

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Review: Cibola Burn

Cibola Burn Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'd had plenty of warning in advance that this book represents a low point in the series. Now that I'm finished, I can agree that it doesn't live up to the rest, but I still enjoyed visiting the world of the expanse. As other reviewers have said at length, this episode does very little to build on the previous books. It also lacks a lot of what made the first books so good: political intrigue, interesting side characters, and gripping action. I thought we might be in for some interesting debate about who has rights to undiscovered country, how true new frontiers are explored, examined, and colonized. Perhaps we might learn something substantial about the protomolecule, or at the very least get some interesting speculative science regarding this foreign world. Instead, we get a lot of empty posturing and an 'everything and the kitchen sync' apocalypse that conveniently dissipates as our heroes save the day. I'll keep reading the series, but I get the sense that this book could be skipped without missing anything of consequence.

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Review: Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Mary Roach, for giving me so much interesting material to relay to my unfortunate family and friends! I'm a big fan of Roach's other works, so I had a pretty good idea what I was in for here. Mary is inquisitive, funny, ornery, and seeks out areas of study that most folks find taboo, or at the very least unmentionable in polite company. Gulp is an exploration of how we ingest, digest, and excrete. I think this provides for one of her most relatable books as these are all acts that we are intimately familiar with on a daily basis. If you haven't read any of Mary's books before, this is definitely where to start.

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Review: Avogadro Corp

Avogadro Corp Avogadro Corp by William Hertling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Avogadro Corp is a cautionary tale of sorts. The corp, which is a not even thinly veiled pseudonym for Google, is the world's chief search engine and email provider. A group within the company has developed an add-on for gmail that can optimize the content for greatest success. When an engineer modifies the code to allow it to fully generate messages and gives it the goal of promoting the add-on's survival, it becomes incredibly successful to everyone's horror and fascination.

This story is on a seesaw between potential plausibility and utter ridiculousness. On the one hand, I can totally foresee a time when language analysis and processing leads to an engine that can analyze our messages and both effectively emulate our voice as well as assess the recipient and give guidance for best message reception. On the other hand, expecting any business arrangement, let alone government contacts, to be signed and completed in a week's time is completely unbelievable. Further, I can suspend belief that a language analysis engine might learn general topics that either improve or degrade the content of a message to a given recipient, but can't accept that the next logical step is that it would lead to that same engine understanding how to direct engineers to create an API to bridge security gaps and then utilize that bridge. I found the technical discussions of the concept for ELOPe to be mildly interesting, but much of the rest left me wanting.

The characters are bare sketches badly in need of color and texture. I'm not sure if this was the author's intent, but I get the sense that the central figures lacked a real sense of urgency when confronted with the rogue AI and it's actions. For instance, we find the team at a coffee house, espousing the quality of the bean just as they have gotten together to discuss how ELOPe has directed for it's own improvement. Perhaps this was intended to reinforce Mike's quirk of being a coffee fanatic, but it feels out of place. Gene is a Luddite in the most literal sense, and it grated on me that his interactions with others always used terms like 'boy' or 'kid' to help emphasize how out of touch and old he was. Worse was that in response he would get 'dude' from the coders, which was out of character from their other conversations.

In short, there's an interesting core to the story, but it is veiled in weak storytelling.

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Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had an amazing grandma, and this book reminds me of her. My Grandma Jones always had a refrigerator with chocolate syrup and cold milk, and I was welcome to as much as I wanted. She never made fancy meals, but the simple dishes she prepared were amazing, like beef and noodles with mashed potatoes. She made me feel loved and protected.

The Hempstead women exude those same characteristics. They are strong, confident, independent women who take in a wayward boy without any hesitation and immediately make him feel safe and cared for. I'm grateful to this book for sending me back in my mind to being at grandma's.

Outside of that nostalgia, there is also a wonderful short story of a man dealing with his grief by visiting a childhood place of wonder. He recounts his adventure with a marvelous neighbor girl that led him to fantastical experiences. Gaiman has an incredible talent for filling your mind with the wonder and magic of an experience through word alone.

This is an quick weekend or even evening read that can be easily recommended, especially to those who may not have read Gaiman before.

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Review: Abaddon's Gate

Abaddon's Gate Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've really enjoyed the Expanse series so far. I like the pacing, the action, the characters. Even so, this third book feels like a well trod path. We're seeing a lot of the same sites on this third trip around; there's a Mao behind nefarious dealings, the protomolecule is enigmatic and deadly, there's a lovable new side character....yes, I've walked this path before. Of course, I like these things, so I'm not terribly put off, but I'm also finding I'm not as eager to pick up the book. I certainly get a lot of pages for my story dollar, but even with all of those pages the story arch is only advanced a tiny bit. More damning to me is that the new characters are starting to lose texture. Maybe I just chose not to see it earlier, but here Ashford is clearly a bad. Anna is clearly a good. Clarissa/Melba is clearly bad. I couldn't invest myself in these characters. Anna was terribly bland, especially appearing on the heels of Avisarala, who was so interesting.

All of that said, I'm definitely going to continue reading the series. It may be a well trod path, but I'm willing to continue walking it because I enjoy what I see along the way.

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Review: Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm of two minds with this book. I completely understand why this book is winning so many awards, but I think it is a really difficult book to appreciate. The story is told from the perspective of an artificial intelligence that managed a ship and the automated crew aboard that ship, referred to as ancillaries. The author does a superb job of creating the voice of that creature. It is precisely due to this voice, though, that I think many will be put off. One Esk is dispassionate, calculating, and struggles to socialize in a natural way. One Esk's observations of those around are often clinical, measuring the seconds between a verbal prompt and response, or observing facial ticks.

One Esk serves the empire of Radchaai or Radch for short. The Radch is a severe and uncompromising civilization that sees the purity of humanity as an ultimate goal. The Radch has spent millennia performing "annexations" where foreign worlds are either made to submit to the will of the Radch, or annihilated. The people of the Radch observe a system of heirarchy where prominent families maintain influence and power. Those aspiring to improve their station in life look for a more prominent family to offer them clientage.

It is very difficult to empathize or sympathize with any element of this story. It all feels very foreign and unlikable. The concepts presented, however, are incredibly interesting. I believe that if you pick up this book with the understanding that it isn't a typical action packed space opera you will have the right expectations. I do strongly recommend it, but with the reservation that you may appreciate it without enjoying it.

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Review: Morning Star

Morning Star Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Quick summary: if you enjoyed the first two books you should definitely read the conclusion. It is everything you enjoyed in the first two. If you had reservations with either of the first books however, the third book will probably provide you with those same reservations.

In my review of Red Rising I had some specific gripes, and many of them carry through here:

1) Knights of the round table....IIIiiin SPAAAAAAAaaaace! The institute taught the golds to fight as medieval knights do; with lances, swords, maces, and other hand to hand combat weapons. We even had bow and arrow thrown in. Honest to God, in the era of space exploration, bow and arrow fights. Cue Indiana Jones with his pistol against the baddie with scimitars. Golden Son addressed that a bit by giving the kids pulse fists, grav boots, and other techie toys, but height of battle is still waged with razors in close quarters combat. Morning Star doesn't really add anything new here. We see some larger fleet battles, but it all strikes me as very Flash Gordon. I mean, we even get freaking Valkyries on gryphons!

Kavax au Telemanus!!!

2) It's hard to feel any sort of real suspense when it comes to Darrow. He is the protagonist. He is telling the story, first person. Any time he finds himself in peril the sense of suspense is dispelled by the knowledge that there are pages after the current one, and I'm pretty sure we're not going to see a switch from the Darrow first person point of view. Darrow has the answer for every situation, either through cunning or might. If he falters, his friends help him, or his enemies fail. When the situation seems most hopeless, DEUS EX MACHINA! He actually planned for that six months ago and through a very chancy set of assumptions, guessed exactly what his opponents would do so that he could perfectly counter them.

3) Red Rising had a clear separation of the good guys and the bad. I'm thrilled to say that this is one area that has seen tremendous improvement. The characters morph through Golden Sun and into Morning Star to be varied creatures. Sure, we still have a few villains that are just plain bad, and we have some noble heroes, but Darrow, Sevro, Mustang, and the rest are no longer simply good or bad. They are forced to make decisions that they know have consequences.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this book. I really did! It put a nice tidy bow on the series. I think what rubs me wrong, and ultimately left me feeling like this was the least of the three book series, is how much this felt the same. The characters became very muddled for me. I felt myself caring less and less. Add to that my growing sense that this entire series was a monstrous bro-fest. I can't take another minute of Darrow looking longingly into Cassius, fist bumping sevro, or war crying with Ragnar. In many cases even the women are bro's. At points I started to mentally substitute Hulk Hogan into the narrative.

"What are you gonna do, brother, when Hulkamania comes for you?!?!?"

Sevro is something of a Macho Man Randy Savage and the Telemanus' are a clan of Hacksaw Jim Duggan's. Many conversations are just particularly wordy versions of:


Perhaps I'm being overly harsh. After all, I did enjoy the book. Maybe I just had bad expectations. I was entertained, and I would still recommend the series. I just can't be as enthusiastic about that recommendation as I hoped I could.

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Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Monster Calls is a monster story. No, wait...that's not right. It's a fairy tale. Wait, that isn't quite it either. It wears the costume of those types of stories, but under that facade it is grief. You'll find this book in the YA section of the store / library, and the copy you pick up may even be filled with illustrations. Don't let that fool you. While it may be targeted at teens, the content will resonate with anyone who has loved someone with a chronic illness like cancer. Set aside a couple of hours in a quiet, comforting place and settle in with this book, that's all the time you'll need to finish it. Be prepared to have all of the ugly feelings associated with your grief bared before you.

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Review: Caliban's War

Caliban's War Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Caliban's war leaps ahead some period of time since the events of Leviathan Wakes. The protomolecule has been mysteriously active on Venus. Regardless of the number of eyes on the change, no one can determine exactly what is going on or the true intent of the alien entity. Of course, without a direct enemy to the whole of humankind humans are happy to continue fighting each other. Where Wakes was concerned with the mystery of July Mao, Caliban's War is concerned with the mystery of Mei Peng, a toddler with an immune deficiency who is kidnapped from a Ganymede nursery moments before combat erupts. Her father, Prax, is single-minded in his determination to find her. Holden and his crew meet with Prax by chance and decide to take up his cause.

If you are like me and have been watching the television episodes as well, you'll meet Avasarala here, who was introduced early as the assistant undersecretary in the show. It's nice to have that actresses distinctive voice in my head as I read that character.

Personally I really enjoyed this second volume in the series, and I'm sure I'll be reading more. There are lots of parallels between the first and second book. We have a missing girl, an unknown party inciting violence, and massive powers on the brink of all out war. There are subtle differences, though, that keep it fresh. Rather than dealing with organized crime the major factions of Mars and the UN are now directly involved. We're still not seeing much of the inner workings of Mars, but we do get another Martian main character in Bobbie. We get to see a different kind of battle with Avasarala and her work within the UN.

With regard to the characters, much of the book deals with the trauma that has damaged them, and how they deal with those wounds. It's refreshing to read characters that endure extreme events and come away changed. Holden, Prax, and Bobbie all take foolish actions driven by their personal traumas. Each finds a way to reach closure in their own way.

I'm eager to continue with the series, and I'm sure if you enjoyed the first book you will enjoy this one.

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Review: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Never Let Me Go is way outside my normal reading. I tend to read sci-fi that is action packed. Give me a heady future world any day. Even so, I'm usually open to trying something unfamiliar, and this is definitely new territory for me.

Without giving too much away, Never Let Me Go is a conversational memoir by Kathy as she reminisces on her childhood at Hailsham, a private boarding school. She describes her memories of developing friendships with Tommy and Ruth, and how their lives intertwined through their teens and into adulthood.

I read this book at a time when it probably had the best chance of impacting me, which it did. I have three children in elementary school, ranging from 1st through 6th grade, and from time to time I see some of the magic of the world disappear in their eyes. Ishiguro captures that sentiment exquisitely here. It's incredibly sad, yet something that I can't protect them from, nor should I. Their naivety slowly gives way to unforgiving experience. In the same way, Kathy and her friends transition from children growing in a protected, yet nurturing environment, to dealing with the hurts that only friends can inflict on each other, and finally to the realization of opportunities lost that can never be recaptured. Ishiguro masterfully describes the subtle ways that those closest to us can use that intimacy to both bring us great joy and great pain. He also captures those frustrating situations where questions are left unasked, apologies unsaid, due to the history and emotion that each of our relationships carries.

I'm not sure I would read this again, nor will I likely seek out more of Ishiguro's work, but I'm glad for having read it. Never Let Me Go explored emotional territory that I don't often visit, and similar to Pixar's Inside Out showed that it can be a healthy endeavor.

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Review: Mr. Mercedes

Mr. Mercedes Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I hear the name Stephen King I think of supernatural horror stories. Mr. Mercedes breaks that mold and delivers instead a suspense filled detective story. Newly retired Detective Bill Hodges receives a note from the Mercedes Killer, one of the few cases he failed to solve, and it gives him purpose.

Some stories are interesting for the richness of their characters. Others are interesting for the unique environments. This story invests in the actions of the characters. King tantalizes us by interleaving chapters of alternating perspective between Hodges and the Mercedes Killer. We are allowed to peek into the life of the killer and see exactly how he intends to harm Hodges and those around him, then fret over whether the plan will work or fail.

I didn't find the characters themselves particularly interesting. The killer is sufficiently loathsome, the detective acceptably noble. The supporting cast...well they support the progression of the plot. You won't find a Detta Walker or Randall Flag in these pages.

King is tops when it comes to suspense, and I have to admit I broke out into a sweat as read through the final pages of confrontation. Even so, the story is ultimately forgettable, and I'm not sure I've been given enough reason to get excited about a sequel.

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Review: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoy sci-fi, and on the spectrum of sword to laser I definitely fall strongly on the laser side. Even so, I've enjoyed fantasy in the past. I grew up on Dragonlance books, and I love a good Elder Scrolls RPG. I've been tempted to jump into the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series based on the recommendations of several of my friends with similar reading tastes, but I've always been put off by the investment. I hate to not finish a book, so if I'm not enjoying it I tend to drag out the time to finish it rather than do the honest thing and put it away. So when I received "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" from my father-in-law, it was a bit of a boon. Here was a collection of three short stories set in Martin's world, a fine sampler to see if I would enjoy reading more or not.

The short answer is, I did enjoy it. These three stories of Dunk and Egg were fun and exciting. I believe existing fans of the series will likely get more from them as I was lost among the various sigils and names, but that didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of Dunk's journey. The artwork throughout the story is fantastic. A three star rating may not seem to reflect my words, but I think it is a fair rating based on my subjective enjoyment. I'm unlikely to pick this book up again, nor am I likely to highly recommend it, but it did further encourage me to read more of Martin's series.

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Review: Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Sometime in December I started seeing ads for new shows coming to SyFy, including Childhood's End and The Expanse. I'm not much of a TV watcher, but they seemed interesting, so I watched the Childhood's End mini series and the first two episodes of the Expanse. Both were entertaining, and while I was intrigued by the world The Expanse was establishing, I wasn't sure it was enough to get me out of my habit of spending my evenings gaming or reading. Then Christmas rolls around and some generous soul gifted me a book that had been on my to-read list for a while: Leviathan Wakes. To my surprise the cover tells me it is now a SyFy series called The Expanse!

This book really grabbed me. Many sci-fi books set in space focus largely on a particularly interesting scientific concept, or perhaps wonder at some as yet unknowable facet of our larger universe. While these books entertain by providing a sense of awe and wonder, they typically lack fully flushed out characters with interesting lives. Not so with Leviathan Wakes. We're introduced to a wide cast of distinct characters, and the science takes a back seat to the politics of the factions governing their lives. Our solar system is composed of three primary factions: Earth, Mars, and The Belt. Earth is still the cradle of civilization, but our own negligence in being shepherds of our planet has left it in poor shape. While they don't come right out and say it, Mars appears to be some sort of idealized communist society. All of Mars is united in their goal of terraforming the planet. That process is incomplete, so the denizens of Mars live under domes. Finally, The Belt is the loosely organized set of stations and ships necessary for mining the asteroid belt for raw materials needed by Earth and Mars. They do not have the political or financial muscle of the inner planets, and are largely seen as a pawn to be used rather than having a voice in solar system. A thin veneer of diplomacy hides an underlying distrust and animosity among all three factions.

I loved the characters. Holden is XO of an ice mining ship, the Canterbury. He is naively optimistic, a bit of a goof, but he is also has a fierce and unwavering sense of what is right and wrong that drives all of his decisions. Miller is a jaded cop on the belt station Ceres. He walks a fine line of being a native son of the belt while still trying to uphold the laws as an employee of an earth based security team. Their lives quickly become intertwined.

The format of this book switches perspective between Holden and Miller with each chapter, and each chapter tantalizes you with some form of teaser that entices you to keep reading. I found myself setting aside more of my evening time just to get a few more pages read. Now that I'm finished, I'm excited to catch back up on my recorded episodes of the show. From what I've seen so far (I'm 4 episodes in) there are some minor differences in the details, but otherwise the story is being very closely followed. I'm eager to watch more and to pickup on the next book in the series.

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Jade Mason