Reap the East Wind (Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire #1) ★★★☆½

reaptheeaastwind (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Reap the East Wind
Series: Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire #1
Author: Glen Cook
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 259
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Mocker and Nepanthe’s son was held against Mocker’s attempt in killing Bragi Ragnarson. When Mocker failed, Ethrian was thrown into a torture cell. He escaped and came to a desert. There he meets a sleeping god and it’s servant Sahmanan. The god wants a conduit and Ethrian wants revenge against the Dread Empire. They form an alliance and using undead, begin to attack the Empire.

Lady Mist has used her time in Ragnarson’s court to play political games back home in Shinsan. With Ragnarson’s help, she sets in motion a coup to regain the throne of the Dread Empire. She plans on double crossing Ragnarson and destroying the upstarts who stopped the Empire before but Ragnarson wasn’t born yesterday and realizes this. His plan is to get Mist to be queen but with enough instability to keep the Empire from his door for a generation.

Nepanthe, now married to the sorcerer Varthlokkur, is pregnant with their child but can’t let go of the idea that Ethrian is still alive. Varthlokkur won’t try to find his grandson (Mocker was Varthlokkur’s son) and when the issue is forced, it causes a split between Varthlokkur and both Nepanthe AND Ragnarson.

Ethrian is taken over by the god due to his hatred and despair but is destroyed through the combined efforts of both Varthlokkur and the Empire’s magicians. He dies in Nepanthe’s arms.

The book ends with Mist and Ragnarson in control of their respective kingdoms but both are weakened and more fighting is on the horizon. This trilogy is truly the Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire.

 

My Thoughts:

I was introduced to Ethrian in All Darkness Met back in July ’17 but then I completely forgot who he was due to the prequel duology that I read next. So it took me some time to work out just who this boy was that was so important.

This book felt a LOT darker than the previous Dread Empire books. Part of it was Nepanthe’s giving in to despair and Varthlokkur’s refusal to look for Ethrian. Throw in Lady Mist’s complete acknowledgment that she will destroy the kingdom that Ragnarson rules even though he gave her sanctuary from her enemies and you just end up with a lot of nobodies that you can root for. Ethrian’s slide to the darkside was depressing as all get-out too.

The whole zombie/undead thing was pretty nifty but Ethrian just didn’t have the military experience to make full use of it. The Empire’s general was simply able to outmaneuver him. Shows why the Dread Empire has lasted as long as it has.

Once again there were what I term “skips” where a lot happens in the background but I the reader am apprised of it through a one sentence mention of the fact even while it has big implications for what is going on. That type of thing has to catch me in the right mood for it to work. This time it did. But next time? I might end up savaging Cook for being a complete jackass for using such a plot device. Even being aware that he uses it doesn’t help.

I found the writing to be better than the previous duology. That helped keep my interest, as well as not having those wretched characters, El Murid & Haroun, involved. I’m just waiting for them to stick their nose in in the next book and ruin it for me. I just don’t like those guys.

★★★☆½

bookstooge

 

 

Ghosts of Tomorrow ★★★☆½

ghostsoftomorrow (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Ghosts of Tomorrow
Series: ———-
Author: Michael Fletcher
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 396
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Mark Lokner has scanned himself and gone online while the world thinks he is dead. Just to be safe, Lokner1.0 has copied the scan and put Lokner2.0 into a secure digital space.

88, the scan of a young girl, gains her freedom and begins manipulating the real world so she will never be in danger again. This brings her into direct confict with Lokner1.0 AND Lokner2.0.

Agent Griffin Dickinson, with the military scan of Abdul Giordano, a 17 year old marine who died, is on the track of a group who illegally scan children. Scanning is a one way ticket and the head and brain are pureed after the fact. When 2 operations in a row go disastrously wrong for Dickinson, he’s about to quit. Then he gets a tip from 88 that sets him on the trail of the Lokners as the source behind all the illegal scans and children farms.

With the help of Abdul and an assassin scan loyal to 88, Dickinson must confront Lokner while the world around him is falling apart. It doesn’t help that 88 has her own plans for humanity and 88 has no mercy.

The book ends 1000 years in the future with scans as the de facto life form.

 

My Thoughts:

From a purely entertainment factor, this book was pure awesomesauce. Child assassins in suped up killer robot bodies, digital minds going insane, epic battles where scans take over electronics, massive and humongous acts of devastation, this had it all in spades.

Fletcher doesn’t shy away from brutality. Whether in thought or action, I as the reader was not spared. From the horror of how children are kept as livestock to be harvested for their brains and sold into slavery to the idea of corporations “selling” the idea of scans as a way to cheat death, for a mere 20year term of servitude, with all the attending small print we as citizens of the 21st century know to fear.

There was no hope. Griffin, the human who wants to be a hero and save the world, ends up being broken and then the woman he loved, who is now a scan, plots to have him killed so he can be scan’ed and join her. How soul destroying is that? Then the end where 88 turns all Skynet was so telegraphed that it didn’t really come as a surprise.

I thought Fletcher did an excellent job of portraying just how something like “scans” would work out in our world. How it might be used, abused, misused, etc. It was very eye opening. However, it was all predicated on the fact that a human brain could be digitized. If you think something like that could actually happen, then this was a very scary dystopean prophecy. If you don’t, then it’s just another prediction about a future by someone who has lost hope themselves.

While I enjoyed my time spent on this, I have to admit, I didn’t have any desire to seek out other books by this guy. I don’t enjoy wallowing in hopelessness and despair. It also didn’t help that I’m convinced that to you have to have a mind, body and will to be alive and to be human. Remove one and the other two are just ingredients, not something viably alive.

I did have one confusing issue. Most of this takes place in 2046 but right near the end things jump to 3052 but it feels like it should be 2152. It didn’t come across as a jump of 1000 years but just a generation. I might have mis-read though, as I don’t pay attention to dates real well in books.

If I see another Fletcher book really praised AND it has super cool over like this one, then I might seek it out. But if not, I’m good with having read just this one. Fletcher’s worldview is just too depressing for me.

★★★☆½

bookstooge

 

 

Consider Phlebas (The Culture #1) ★★★★☆

considerphlebas (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Consider Phlebas
Series: The Culture #1
Author: Iain Banks
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 545
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

There is War between the Idirans, a culture of 3 legged beings with religious mono-mania and The Culture, a decadent collection of self-serving beings who live for pleasure and are ruled by AI and their machines.

We follow the story of Horza, a humanoid with the ability to change his face and body, a Changer, who is allied with the Idirans, as he attempts to capture a Culture Mind that has done the impossible and * insert super science term * jumped onto a planet, against all known rules of everything.

The Iridians want to capture the Mind to learn it’s tricks or at least to prevent The Culture from learning how it did what it did and The Culture wants it to learn how it did what it did. Unfortunately, it chose to jump onto a Dead World, a world that is supervised by a vast, intellectual non-corporeal being. One that brooks no interference or even cares about the differences that the Iridians and The Culture have.

Horza goes from one bad situation to another right up unto the end where he is betrayed by the Iridians, who view the Changers as no more than vermin even while using them. In the process he loses his lover and newly conceived baby and most of his Changer compatriots.

The book ends with everyone involved dying in one way or another and a history of the war and it’s conclusion. Bleak stuff.

 

My Thoughts:

Whereas the Player of Games really struck me as a dishonest take on the idea of Utopia, this book felt more honest and how humans would actually react. This was a novel about The Culture from it’s enemies perspective. That allowed us the reader to see things that we couldn’t in Player of Games. I would definitely recommend reading this one first just so Banks can’t sell you on the idea that The Culture is a true Utopia.

I ended up feeling bad for Horza for most of the book. He’s rescued from a death sentence only to be tossed out of an Iridian spaceship that’s about to go into battle. He’s then captured by pirates and has to kill a crew member to join. He then participates in several failed piratical ventures and in the final one is stranded on a Orbital that is going to be destroyed by The Culture in 3 days. He does escape and make it back to the pirate ship and takes it over as it’s captain. But a Culture agent is on board. The same agent who got him the death sentence at the beginning of the book. He then makes his way to the Dead World and gets permission by the Overmind to land. Only to have Iridian Covert Ops teams try to take him out even though he’s on their side. And while all the Iridians die, they also manage to kill everyone except Horza and The Culture agent. And it gets better. Horza dies just as he’s taken to a ship with the medical facilities to heal him. The Culture Agent can’t handle the guilt and so she goes to sleep for 300 years only to commit suicide when she wakes.

Now normally that much bad stuff would depress me. But this time around? It simply re-affirmed my faith in human nature, ie, that we’re a bunch of no good sinners who can’t pull ourselves up by our bookstraps. I love it when Utopia minded people get a good dose of fallen nature. Wake up and smell the coffee you idiots.

So far, all threats to The Culture have been external. I’m wondering when Banks will write about some local, internal threat that wants power. While the AI’s might be in charge, it’s definitely not as pronounced as it is in Neal Asher’s Polity series. I’m also still not convinced of The Culture as something real or viable. No central authority, no defining characteristics. It just doesn’t jive with my understanding of humanity.

What makes this a 4star book is the fact that the author is aware of everything that I’ve mentioned and takes it into account. I might think he’s wrong, but he’s not oblivious and it takes some good writing to promote something even while mainly showing its flaws.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

Grey Seer (Warhammer: Thanquol & Boneripper #1) ★★★☆☆

greyseer (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Grey Seer
Series: Warhammer: Thanquol & Boneripper #1
Author: C.L. Werner
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 296
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Thanquol is a skaven magician, one of the Grey Seers. After having several of his plots foiled by Gotrek and Felix, Thanquol is sent on a dangerous mission to Altdorf, capital of the Empire, to recover the Wormstone, a huge piece of warpstone that will give its user tremendous power.

Of course, being skaven, Thanquol plots how to seize the stone for himself or at least how to use it to climb up the rungs of power. But since his “allies” are skaven too, they all are also planning on how to take it for themselves.

Upon finding out that the Stone is actually weapon more effective against skaven than humans, Thanquol plots on how to wipe out the city of Altdorf AND the skaven city of Under-Altdorf, thus gaining prestige and favor with the Council of 13. A human wizard of Altdorf has been keeping an eye of the skavens and with his cronies does his best to stop said plan. The other skavens of Altdorf also do their best to stop Thanquol, since dying isn’t really what they want to do.

The book ends with Thanquol’s plan going awry yet again, most of the skavens fighting him dying and most of the humans fighting the skavens dying.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, Boneripper is just a name that Thanquol gives to his current giant rat bodyguard. It’s almost more of a title than a name, as he seems to go through them at a pretty rapid pace. Now that I know that, I won’t be expecting a real duo as main characters.

I’ve not read any of the Gotrek and Felix books, which I gather is where Thanquol is originally introduced. From the little bit that is referenced, I’m not sure I WANT to read those books. They sound like a right pair of brutal thugs. Given, I’m getting that from Thanquol’s viewpoint, but even still.

So, I finally read a book about the skavens. Giant magical rat people with all the characteristics of rats. Cowardly, self-serving, backstabbing and generally bad guys. You’d think that would depress me but for some reason it really didn’t. What DID get me down was how the humans opposing the skavens were just as much scumbags, even the wizard guy. With characters like that fighting against Chaos, I’m kind of glad Chaos ends up taking this world.

I keep going into these Warhammer books thinking they’re alternates to the Forgotten Realms books. Ha, not even close. Warhammer is bleak, bleak, bleak. It is a good thing I have a month or two between them. Any sooner and I’d be overwhelmed and have to defenestrate myself, which just wouldn’t be cool.

I’ll definitely be finishing this trilogy. I’ve also got 2 more Age of Legends trilogies to work through but after that, I don’t know that I’ll be staying in this world anymore. It’s just too bleak and depressing for me.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge

 

Memories of Ice (Malazan Book of the Fallen #3) ★★★★☆

memoriesofice

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Memories of Ice
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #3
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 945
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Pannion Domin is a threat both martial and magical and it will take the combined forces of the outlawed army of Dujek Onearm, former High Fist of the Malazan Empire, and their former enemies in the guise of the combined might of Caladan Brood’s army and the sorcerous might of Anomander Rake and his floating city of Moonspawn.

At the same time, Silverfox [the fully grown woman encompassing the souls of 3 other mages] has called the T’lan Imass together again for the first time in over 300,000 years. She is the physical embodiment of an Imass magician and has the power to reverse the oath the Imass took in their war against the Jhagut. She refuses and this has fallout for her personally and for the forces of Dujek and Brood who were counting on the Imass to counter the undead forces of a race thought to be extinct, the K’chain Ch’maile.

All through this, the gods continue their own war. The fallen/broken god has declared war on the pantheon and he wants to destroy them all for bringing him to this world. Fenner, the god of war, has fallen and a new risen god, Treach the Tiger, has ascended. Old lost gods are finding their thrones and each god is choosing for or against the broken god. And amid the total destruction and war on the souls of the men themselves, it is revealed that this part of the story is but a small part of the overall narrative.

Now THAT is depressing.

 

My Thoughts:

First thing I noticed was that with this 3rd read, I was able to not focus on all the shiny little bits and put the story together as a whole. In previous reads I found a huge disconnect from the leadup to the battle of Capustan to the final showdown at Corel. This time around there was no disconnect and the story naturally flowed without any jarring. It was really nice to UNDERSTAND the slightly bigger picture.

Erikson shows once again that he is a freaking master of writing. The battle scenes were incredible. Vivid, intense and brutal. You can feel the slippery blood, the complete exhaustion, the fear and the adrenaline rush. The interactions between characters was excellently done as well. There was NO cardboard, only flesh and blood come to life on paper. What’s more, everyone was “distinct”. They weren’t archtypes, or ideas, or variations on a theme. They Were People.

And that leads into the start of my issues. With the characters being so real, the hearbreak and despair and utter desolation that they one and all suffer is wrong. In previous reads, I was taken up with the story, trying to figure out how everything fit together. In being focused on that, the emotional side of things were glossed over. Not this time. The death of main characters hit hard. They weren’t alone but had made connections, so when those threads were cut, it was like a spiderweb quivering all over. No on person was ever alone in their anguish or loss. It hurt to read as it was so real to me.

The second, and far bigger issue for me, was the wholesale injection of existential philosophy in a huge way. Existentialism is one of the most depressing philosophies, in my opinion. In small doses, it provides a way for men to show their true grit against completely overwhelming odds. However, in larger doses, it can overwhelm the reader with utter despair and destroy your psyche.

It is probably apparent which happened to me.

By the end of the book I was dreading every instance where I saw italicized walls of text. That meant that some character was thinking and every thought of every character was nothing but despair and hopeless angst. It wore me down.

On my first read through of the whole series, it took me until Book 8 to feel this way. Since then, I’ve had some “experience” with the hard side of life and reading about despair and suffering isn’t theoretical anymore. Reading about suffering isn’t so fun once you’ve had a taste of it yourself. I think I’m going to be taking an extra cycle before dipping my toes into this series again.

More specifics about the story itself can be found in my Memories of Ice Readalong Updates.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

  1. Memories of Ice (2008 & 2010 Reviews)
  2. Gardens of the Moon (Book 1)
  3. Deadhouse Gates (Book 2)

Blood of Aenarion (Warhammer: Tyrion & Teclis #1) ★★★☆☆

aenarion (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Blood of Aenarion
Series: Tyrion & Teclis #1
Author: William King
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 416
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

6000 years ago, the world was besieged by the forces of Chaos and on the edge of destruction. An elven Mage worked a great magic that drove the chaos forces away but one of the demons was caught and trapped within the spell. The mage was only able to finish the spell because Aenarion, mightiest elf warrior, threw everything he had against the forces of chaos.

Now the spell is unraveling and the demon is out for vengeance against the descendants of Aenarion. Two of those descendants, Tyrion and Teclis, are just reaching the age of being presented to the King to see if they carry the curse of Aenarion and to have their possible futures foretold. Both of the twins are possibly the mightiest of elves in their respective arts, Tyrion has the potential to be a warrior without peer and Teclis may plumb the depths of the magical arts not seen in Millenia.

Now the twins must work together to survive Elven political infighting and a demon who is out to kill them. Not much of a life.

 

My Thoughts:

My first impression: Bleak.

While it is very similar to Forgotten Realms in style, in tone it is so different that it is hard to even lump them together. There is no hope, there is no lasting victory and Chaos WILL destroy the world at some point.

We follow the twins as they reach the age of majority and begin to have responsibilities that their father has run away from. Having lived in the backwoods of nowhere, neither twin is prepared for what it means to live in an Elven city. The elves of Warhammer are most definitely not in the mold of Tolkien’s elves. They are just prettier humans that live longer and things are just as nasty as in any political system.

With the twins exhibiting major traits of Aenarion [peerless warrior and mage extraordinaire] just as the super spell is unraveling, it is pretty easy to spot what is going to happen. But that didn’t detract from the story at all. William King appears to be a decent author and his skill level brings this up a notch. The climactic battle at the end with the twins channeling the power of some other Force [are there forces of Law to counter Chaos in Warhammer?] is pretty good. Of course, the demon isn’t destroyed so you know he/it will be back again to cause problems in the next 2 books.

I don’t know enough about the Warhammer universe so I have questions. I suspect though that I’ll have to just keep on reading to get those answers. As long as the writing quality stays at this level and not at the Blood on the Reik, I should be ok with the darker overtones.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge