The Core Dump

The Core Dump is the personal blog of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American pixel-pusher living in Phoenix, Arizona.

[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.


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.


[Something Coming Through, by Paul McAuley][through] ★★★☆☆

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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