The Core Dump

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

[By Nic Lindh on Thursday, 19 January 2012]

Book roundup, part three

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

Fiction

The Drop, by Michael Connolly ★★★★☆

Your favorite workaholic detective Harry Bosch is back! And he’s in great form, running two murder investigations simultaneously—one in the present and one from the archives of the Open Unsolved Unit.

Connolly’s writing and plotting is a smooth-running machine, as usual, and The Drop conjures a greater sense of darkness, evil and dread than previous Bosch novels. Not that those were laugh riots, to be sure.

If you’re a Bosch fan, The Drop is a given. If you’re new to the series, this is not the place to start. The Bosch novels reward reading in order, so start at the beginning with this omnibus of the first three.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline ☆☆☆☆☆

Released to a tidal wave of buzz and glowing reviews, a novel shock full of nerd lore and ’80s trivia seemed like a given to become one of my favorite novels of the year.

I don’t know what happened. Perhaps everybody else got a different book. I had to stop reading halfway through.

I was willing to overlook the silly plot and paper thin characterizations, but what broke me was the sheer amount of telling and the dearth of showing. Basically, Ready Player One reads like a really long book report instead of a novel.

Hugely disappointing. I clearly need to get a hold of whatever everybody who gave this novel a glowing review are smoking.

Moon Called, by Patricia Briggs ★★★★☆

It is becoming a bit cliché to have a world where magic, vampires and werewolves are real and in hiding among regular humans, but Briggs brings a fully realized alternate reality to the table. Coupled with a tight, fast plot, hints at much more to be revealed and some decent characterizations, Moon Called is great candy.

Among Others, by Mary Jo Walton ★★★★☆

An odd, charming mixture of coming of age novel and perhaps magical realism or perhaps fantasy.

It’s 1979 and 15-year-old Morwenna has lost her twin sister in an accident which left her crippled. Morwenna can perform magic and talk to fairies and spends every moment she can reading sci-fi and fantasy novels—Zelazny, Heinlein, Tolkien, on it goes.

There was more to her sister’s accident than we know at first, and much, much more to Morwenna’s past and her affinity with magic.

Written in journal form, Among Others is both a touching and very intimate coming of age story and also strange and disturbing. The prose will suck you in and keep you hooked.

Among Others is a haunting work.

Excession, by Iain M. Banks ★★★★☆

(Link goes to paperback, since the publisher apparently doesn’t believe one of the most interesting sci-fi authors currently working should be available on the Kindle.)

Excession is a novel in the Culture series—a far-future universe where technology has advanced to an inconceivable level where people can do anything, become anything.

Needless to say, things get very trippy and weird when literally anything is possible.

An excession is an outside force or event that can not be anticipated, understood, or controlled. Just such a thing appears in Culture space. Banks’s plotting is so byzantine it’s hard to attempt any kind of plot summary without spoiling the ride, so let’s just say it focuses on the Minds that run the Culture—super-powerful artificial intelligences with their own agendas—and an alien species called the Affronters who are basically squid-like galactic Hells Angels.

Excession marries gleeful space opera with dense plotting that makes you work to keep up. Well worth reading.

As a side note, one of the most delightful aspects of the Culture series is that space ships are run by Minds and pick their own names, leading to vast monsters flying around with names like Fate Amenable to Change, Quietly Confident, I Blame Your Mother and Shoot Them Later. If that doesn’t amuse you, the Culture series is not for you.

Wikipedia naturally has a full list of Culture ship names.

Non-fiction

Inferno, by Max Hastings ★★★★★

Breathtaking and powerful, this is the World War II history to end World War II histories. The genius of Hastings’s work is that it accomplishes two things: 1) While covering the main events of the war, Inferno provides the perspective of the people on the ground—soldiers and civilians who found themselves in the middle of events both great and small; and 2) Providing the perspective of the people at the time. A current reader obviously knows what happened, so it’s important to show just how much (usually meaning little) both leaders and foot soldiers really knew about what was happening and the state of their enemies.

Inferno is a World War II book you can feel good about giving as a gift to anybody with some interest in history. Note, though, that it is a heartbreaking work. The sheer magnitude of suffering that went on is so unspeakably grim.

That suffering is the most important thing we should remember from World War II.

The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf ★★★★★

Make no mistake: The Paleo Solution is a life-changing book and one that’s hard to talk about without getting revved up like a late-night TV huckster. It could be subtitled, “Everything you’ve been told about nutrition is wrong.”

It turns out that carbs and grains are in fact bad for you and fat and protein are good for you. Wolf goes through considerable effort to explain exactly why this is and how we ended up in our obese, disease-ridden reality as well as, of course, how to get healthy.

Seriously, if you purchase no other book I recommend, buy this one. Read it. It will change your life. Go! And while you’re at Amazon, also pick up The Primal Blueprint.

Basically, Paleo and Primal are sister philosophies, with Primal the laid-back California version. It’s good to read both books and make up your own mind.

Go! Go!

I am Ozzy, by Ozzy Osbourne and Chris Ayres ★★★☆☆

Surprisingly funny and touching autobiography from an extremely damaged but somehow lovable human being. It’s laugh-out-loud funny in places and above all does a great job of bringing Ozzy’s voice to the page—you can almost hear him slur the words as you read.

A sample quote from when Black Sabbath first gained popularity:

I couldn’t believe it when I learned that people actually ‘practised the occult’. These freaks with white make-up and black robes would come up to us after our gigs and invite us to black masses at Highgate Cemetery in London. I’d say to them, ‘Look, mate, the only evil spirits I’m interested in are called whisky, vodka and gin.’

(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!

Book roundup, part 27

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

A worthy inclusion to the Malazan canon and great high fantasy to disappear into in troubled times.

Book roundup, part 23

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

Book roundup, part 22

Lots of fiction series in this one. Includes Grunt, 1177 B.C., Louder Than Hell, Smarter Faster Better, The Hanging Tree, Death’s End, Chains of Command, and Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?.

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.

Book roundup, part eight

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.