The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Thursday, 24 November 2011]

Book roundup, part two

Includes Sandman Slim, Snuff, The Cold Commands, Reamde, Goodbye Darkness, Steve Jobs and The Psychopath Test.
Cold Commands cover

Fiction

Sandman Slim, by Richard Kadrey: There are currently three Sandman Slim novels: Sandman Slim, Kill the Dead and Aloha From Hell (not available on Kindle, booh hiss). The trilogy is very even and covers the entire arc of the story so I’ll treat them as one in this review.

Sandman Slim shares more than a little with Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: The world is full of ghosts and goblins, including angels, vampires and demons and there are some people who can see them and interact with them.

But if we were to put this in SAT terms, the Dresden Files are to Sandman Slim as Nightranger is to Slayer.

Same idea, but Sandman Slim is infinitely more profane, violent, boot-down-on-the-pedal and plain nutty.

The concept is that Sandman Slim, a.k.a. Stark, a.k.a. Wild Bill is a minor-league sorcerer and major-league wise-ass who is betrayed by his friends and sent to Hell. Yes, capital-H Hell. Where he survives for 11 years until he manages to escape. And now he’s back in (where else?) Los Angeles and hell-bent on getting revenge on the people who betrayed him.

Which is not easy when your enemies are much more powerful than you, you have no money and the Devil himself takes a personal interest.

Sandman Slim is far from perfect fiction, but the plot moves like a rock shot from a rail gun and it’s deliciously bent and perverted.

My advice: Buy the novels but don’t read them until the next time you’re on an airplane. Time will fly like a lost soul.

Snuff, by Terry Pratchett: Pratchett’s Discworld novels started out very funny and very silly indeed, but as he gets older, the novels are imparted more and more with the gravitas of a man who has given the state of the world a lot of thought. They are still couched in comedy able to make you laugh out loud all by yourself in an empty room—there really can’t be a higher compliment for a comedy writer, can there?—but with an ever-widening humanitarian streak.

Go read them all, including this one. We’d have to make up Terry Pratchett if he didn’t exist.

The Cold Commands, by Richard K. Morgan: The follow-up to the highly successful The Steel Remains (my review here), The Cold Commands continues the tale of Ringil Eskiath, greatest warrior the world has ever known, ostrasized and shunned for refusing to hide his homosexuality.

The novel is very much a direct continuation of The Steel Remains and Morgan rightfully makes little attempt to bring new readers up to speed, so start with The Steel Remains. If you like that, you will love The Cold Commands. More of the same, but with the world building done, so it’s all fast-moving plot with more black humor, cynicism, ultraviolence, drugs, strange perhaps-gods, and gay sex.

The Cold Commands is best-of-breed noir fantasy.

Reamde, by Neal Stephenson: Stephenson is, of course, a master of 1,000-page head-exploding fiction. In Reamde he diverts into writing what is essentially a straight-forward techno-thriller. Think a nerdier Bourne Supremacy with a World of Warcraft-like game as a central plot point.

And oh, the plot. Stephenson’s work usually consists of just enough plot to hang a series of interesting observations and sidebars, but Reamde is almost purely plot-driven, actually plot-driven to a fault. There is much—too much—derring-do, narrow escapes and harrowing violence, but at least for me it started to bog down in middle (remember, we’re talking 1,000 page brick, here) with a lot of things happening but very little happening.

After the brilliant Anathem (my review here), Reamde is a pretty big let-down, but I can see why Stephenson wanted to branch out and try his hand at a different kind of writing.

That being said, this is definitely one to bring on your next long flight. Just don’t expect to have your mind blown. Guess we’ll have to wait for Stephenson’s next outing for that to happen.

Non-fiction

Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War, by William Manchester: Now mostly known as a great biographer, Manchester served as a Marine in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Thirty years later he finds himself haunted by nightmares and decides to go back and revisit the places where he fought and was wounded.

It’s a haunting journey as an older man confronts his younger self and his memories of war. Manchester is a great writer and observer and the battle scenes—or perhaps battle impressions is a better phrase—are vivid and disturbing, conveying the sheer horror of the conditions the soldiers endured.

I’m glad Manchester wrote this book.

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson: The brilliant John Siracusa has already said everything that needs to be said about this biography. Listen to the master take this book apart on the Hypercritical podcast.

The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson: This is a wonderful book, charming and quirky, about what the author terms the “madness industry.” The book focuses on psychopaths and their detection, using that particular disturbance as an entryway into the history of modern psychiatry.

The book includes the man who conceived and designed the psychopath test, a death squad leader, scientologists and the man they’re trying to get released from a mental hospital and a strange hoax perpetrated on an international group of neurologists.

If you’re at all interested in the ways your brain can malfunction and the industry that exists to help (and profit), definitely read The Psychopath Test.

(DISCLOSURE: All links go to the Amazon Kindle store and are affiliate links. If you buy one of the books through a link here I get a tiny kickback from Amazon.)

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You like books? So do I!

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Includes Hollywood Dead, Tales from the Loop, Things from the Flood, The Court of Broken Knives, and Port of Shadows.

Book roundup, part 26

Includes The Storm Before the Storm, White Trash, Calypso, Tell the Machine Goodnight, Prince of Fools, and Provenance.

Book roundup, part 25

Mostly excellent non-fiction in this installment. Includes Fantasyland, The Miracle of Dunkirk, Das Reich, The Undoing Project, Waiting for the Punch, Vacationland and Points of Impact.

Book roundup, part 24

Lots of sci-fi in this installment. Includes Retribution, Boomerang, The Collapsing Empire, All Systems Red, and Ninefox Gambit.

Review: Novels of the Malazan Empire

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Book roundup, part 23

Includes a mea culpa, Hillbilly Elegy, Gulp, The Stars are Legion, and The Kill Society.

Book roundup, part 22

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Malazan Book of the Fallen

Hey kids, you like epic fantasy? ’Cause I've got some epic fantasy for you.

Book roundup, part 21

This installment features grimdark fantasy, peppy astronauts and the Roman Empire. Includes SPQR, And On That Bombshell, The Code Book, Schiit Happened, Beyond Redemption, The Severed Streets, The Martian and Veiled.

Book roundup, part 20

Includes The Antidote, One Nation, Under Gods, Losing the Signal, The Todd Glass Situation, The Last Policeman, The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, Beacon 23, Killing Pretty and Queen of Fire.

Book roundup, part 19

Lots of fantasy and sci-fi in this installment plus a book about sports! Includes Boy on Ice, Difficult Men, Restaurant Man, The Red Line, Cunning Plans, Seveneves, Nemesis Games, Bitter Seeds, The Mechanical, Angles of Attack, and City of Stairs.

Book roundup, part 18

Nic is sad about Terry Pratchett's passing. Includes No Land’s Man, Idiot America, Something Coming Through, The Burning Room, Foxglove Summer, and The Dark Defiles.

Book roundup, part 17

Things go dark and magical in this installment. Includes So, Anyway…, Yes Please, The Mirror Empire, London Falling, Broken Homes, Perfidia, The Peripheral, Burning Chrome, and the Bel Dame Apocrypha Omnibus.

Book roundup, part 16

Lots of good reads in this installment. Includes All Hell Let Loose, Metallica: This Monster Lives, 10% Happier, Onward, Echopraxia, Cibola Burn, The Getaway God, Lock In, The Red: First Light, Terms of Enlistment, and Lines of Departure.

Book roundup, part 15

Solid reads abound in this installment of the roundup. Includes Console Wars, Your Inner Fish, Flash Boys, Digital Wars, The Perfect Storm, Tower Lord, By Blood We Live, I am Pilgrim and Lexicon.

Book roundup, part 14

Some great reads and a huge disappointment in this installment. Includes The Loudest Voice in the Room, Hatching Twitter, Dogfight, Ancillary Justice, KOP Killer, The Circle, Working God’s Mischief and Where Eagles Dare.

Book roundup, part 13

Some solid reading awaits you in this installment. Includes The Outpost, Masters of Doom, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, The Everything Store, Bomber Command, Gods of Guilt, and Low Town.

Book roundup, part twelve

A slimmer-than-usual book roundup is heavy on the non-fiction, including several must-read titles.

Book roundup, part eleven

Another book roundup, including some stellar athletes and soldiers, what might be the most jaded, soul-weary protagonist ever, and some grimdark fantasy.

Book roundup, part ten

The Core Dump is back! Books were read during the hiatus. Includes The Coldest Winter, Oh, Myyy!, Tough Sh*t, The Revolution Was Televised, The Rook, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Gun Machine, Fortress Frontier, Standing in Another Man’s Grave, and The Memory of Light.

Book roundup, part nine

From a true patriot to a world-weary detective, a dead god, and a civilization about to sublime from the galaxy, this book roundup spans the gamut. Includes Where Men Win Glory, Wild, Inside the Box, The Black Box, Three Parts Dead, Red Country, and The Hydrogen Sonata.

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From the heights of athletic excellence to the depths of depravity, this roundup includes The First 20 Minutes, Double Cross, The Heroin Diaries, Tattoos and Tequila, Dodger, Farthing, and Devil Said Bang.

Book roundup, part seven

Includes Wabi-Sabi, Making Things Happen, D-Day, Tallula Rising, Blood Song, The Americans and Amped. All in all, a happy romp through the meadows of literature.

Book roundup, part six

Includes Search Inside Yourself, The Information Diet, Redshirts, The Gone-Away World, Wool, Leviathan Wakes, and Prince of Thorns. One of these may very well change your life.

Book roundup, part five

Includes Shadow Ops: Control Point, The Night Circus, The Hunger Games, Quiet, The Science of Yoga, and Kitchen Confidential. Lots of good stuff in this one.

Book roundup, part four

Includes Angelmaker, The Magicians, Magician King, Iron Council, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Distrust That Particular Flavor, and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran. One of these is the most important book of 2011.

Book roundup, part three

Includes The Drop, Ready Player One, Moon Called, Among Others, Excession, Inferno, The Paleo Solution and I am Ozzy.

Book roundup, part two

Includes Sandman Slim, Snuff, The Cold Commands, Reamde, Goodbye Darkness, Steve Jobs and The Psychopath Test.

Book roundup, part one

Some books you might enjoy reading.