The Core Dump

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

[By Nic Lindh on Saturday, 11 April 2015]

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.

For this installment of the book roundup there’s not as much new reading as usual to talk about as I’ve been binge-re-reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels since his passing and mourning the loss of one of the best humanity can produce.

Rest in peace, Sir Terry.

Non-fiction

No Land’s Man, by Aasif Mandvi ★★★☆☆

Witty, funny, and touching about being born in India, having a childhood in North England, adolescence in Florida, and living his adult life in New York City.

Mandvi is witty and interesting and writes with great warmth about his experiences. It’s a nice, short, pick-me-up book that will put a smile on your face and make you want to see Mandvi perform on a stage.

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, by Charles Pierce ★★★★☆

Veteran journalist Pierce is very, very angry about the state of political discourse in America today. He’s also a great crafter of prose, with scalpel-like observations that keep Idiot America from being just an angry rant on a blog somewhere.

Pierce recounts the great history of cranks and snake-oil salesmen in America and how that history has now morphed into a media landscape based on what he calls the three Great Premises:

Since right-wing populism has at its heart an “anti-elitist” distrust of expertise, talk radio offers the purest example of the Three Great Premises at work. A host is not judged a success by his command of the issues, but purely by whether what he says moves the ratings needle. (First Great Premise: Any theory is valid if it moves units.) If the needle moves enough, then the host is adjudged an expert (Second Great Premise: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough) and, if the host seems to argue passionately enough, then what he is saying is judged to be true simply because of how many people are listening to him say it (Third Great Premise: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it).

Idiot America succeeds in making you smile while you want to beat something into a bloody pulp.

Required reading.

Fiction

Something Coming Through, by Paul McAuley ★★★☆☆

Interesting near-future sci-fi after first contact with aliens who come to Earth and open up wormholes to 15 worlds, worlds the mysterious aliens encourage and help humans colonize.

These same aliens have previously helped many other species, dubbed Elder Cultures, colonize the same 15 worlds and their incomprehensible ruins are scattered across the new planets.

But humanity’s benefactors remain unknowable, revealing themselves only through avatars that scrupulously keep to their main talking point of “only wanting to help.”

Something Coming Through does a great job of marrying the massive shock to humanity brought by the arrival of the mysterious aliens and the human capacity for adapting so that while there’s a huge transformation of life on Earth, most people are still going through their ordinary lives and remain in their ordinary head spaces.

Well written and with a plot that moves well, it was a bit of a slog to get through at times, with too much plot that didn’t carry the story forward. Some judicious and merciless editing would make this novel one of the best of the year.

Nevertheless, Something Coming Through is an interesting and enjoyable exercise.

The Burning Room, by Michael Connelly ★★★☆☆

Harry Bosch is a detective in the Cold Case unit of the LAPD, technically past mandatory retirement age, but doggedly working to bring closure to old cases.

The Burning Room finds author Connelly extremely comfortable with his creation and the novel putters along in the usual Harry Bosch fashion.

It’s not bad, but not special either, mostly following familiar groves. If you’re a fan of the Harry Bosch series you’ll like it, but most of its weight comes from familiarity with the character’s journey. If you’re the kind of lucky person who hasn’t made Bosch’s acquaintance yet, start with The Black Echo and enjoy one of the best American detective series put to page.

Foxglove Summer, by Ben Aaronovitch ★★★★☆

The Rivers of London series follows Peter Grant, a young London policeman who is brought into the supernatural division of the force and is trained to be a magician. The series is fueled by a strong and touching story arc that often overshadows the events in individual novels.

This is the fifth installment in the series and is a good continuation.

Foxglove Summer has our hero visiting the English countryside to help the local police make sense of the disappearance of two young girls.

Turns out, surprise, there are supernatural forces at work.

The novel is fun and fast, the plot moving at a good clip, but it does little to advance the overall story arc of the series and with Grant away from his usual patch it feels more like an interlude than anything else.

But if you’re a fan of the series, definitely pick it up. If you haven’t made Grant’s acquaintance yet, start at the beginning with Midnight Riot and enjoy.

The Dark Defiles, by Richard K Morgan ★★★☆☆

Land Fit for Heroes is a trilogy about a broken, strange world which incorporates and subverts most “regular” fantasy tropes and centers on three protagonists: An openly gay (and despised for it) master warrior, a black alien race half-breed with a drug problem (who is also gay but female so it’s not as much of a problem in the world), and a mongol horde-equivalent steppe warrior.

The Dark Defiles is the grim, feverish finale to the trilogy begun in The Steel Remains and wraps up many but certainly not all the mysteries of the series. Firmly in grimdark territory, Morgan’s characters are scheming, sweaty, soiled, trying to make their way through everything a broken world can throw at them.

I respect the subversion of fantasy tropes Morgan is aiming for here, but spent a lot of the series feeling like he’s gone too far in the unlikeable-hero and stuff-is-strange directions, with large portions feeling like nothing so much as unpleasant fever dreams.

If you enjoy your fantasy grim, Land Fit for Heroes is worth a clenched-jaw visit.

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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.