The Core Dump

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

[By Nic Lindh on Tuesday, 14 May 2019]

Book roundup, part 29

A sci-fi and fantasy heavy installment that includes The Valedictorian of Being Dead, The Mastermind, Broadsword Calling Danny Boy, Tiamat’s Wrath, The Raven Tower, The Liberation, The Light Brigade and Cryptonomicon.

Another sci-fi and fantasy-heavy book roundup. Almost like the state of the world is really bad and somebody is attempting to take his attention away from it with fantastic tales.

Non-fiction

The Valedictorian of Being Dead, by Heather B. Armstrong ★★★★☆

Brutally honest and raw, The Valedictorian of Being Dead chronicles Heather B. Armstrong’s life with treatment-resistant depression and the experimental brain flatline treatment that finally gave her relief from the disease.

Yes, brain flatline, as in, the brain has no activity. Scary stuff.

It’s a gripping read.

Armstrong is of course more well-known as Dooce, the original queen of the mommy bloggers, who I used to read even though mommy blogging in and of itself is not interesting to me. Armstrong’s voice, writing skills, and uncomfortable honesty made her blog a must-read.

And so it is with The Valedictorian of Being Dead.

The Mastermind, by Evan Ratliff ★★★☆☆

The Mastermind reads like a techno-thriller but is instead a well-documented report of a talented and ruthless programmer who built a globe-spanning crime syndicate, a high tech Mafia.

There’s everything you want in a techno-thriller—drugs, murder, yachts, and strong encryption certificates.

The story is indeed hard to believe, that a programmer from the south of Africa managed to create a massive crime syndicate through sheer dint of programming skills and aggressive sociopathy, but it is fascinating.

The Mastermind is a solid page turner.

Broadsword Calling Danny Boy, by Geoff Dyer ★★★★☆

If you’re of a certain age you were lucky enough to watch Where Eagles Dare at an impressionable time of your life.

If that is you, Broadsword Calling Danny Boy will make you very happy indeed.

The book is what it says on the tin: An obsessive scene-by-scene rehash of the 1968 Manly Men WWII movie featuring a bleary-eyed Richard Burton and a stoic Clint Eastwood, written by a talented critic who knows—of course he knows—this is not a good movie, but who loves it anyway.

I had such a good time reading this. Broadsword calling Danny Boy, indeed.

Fiction

Tiamat’s Wrath, by James S. A. Corey★★★★☆

The penultimate novel in the brilliant Expanse series, Tiamath’s Wrath does a great job of turning up the stakes for the last installment in the series.

Decades have passed since the previous novel, and the intrepid crew of the Rocinante are feeling their years, but still do their best to fight the fascist empire that has taken over human space, and which is not only being all kinds of unpleasantly fascist, but also upsetting whatever creatures or forces or whatever it is that exterminated the creators of the protomolecule. Yes, these particular fascists are on purpose poking their fingers in the metaphoricalleye of those beings.

Which sets us up for an intense final novel in the series.

Good, good stuff.

The Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie ★★★★☆

A who-dun-what in a fantasy setting narrated by a God. And it works! The Raven Tower is a page turner loaded with emotional weight and written in Leckie’s typical smooth, buttery prose.

The Raven Tower is immersive and ambitious and will keep you turning the pages way too late in the evening.

The Liberation, by Ian Tregillis ★★★☆☆

The third and final installment in The Alchemy Wars trilogy brings it to a satisfying and bloody conclusion. If you like the series, it’s a given read.

The Alchemy Wars is alternate history which posits a world where Christiaan Huygens (real-life historical figure and all-around one of the smartest people who ever lived) invented Clakkers, a kind of mechanical humans. Clakkers are strong and tireless and have a built-in compulsion to serve their human masters.

With Clakkers at their command, the Dutch then proceed to take over the world.

The Clakkers, however, are sentient, and their compulsions to serve work through hurting them. Give a Clakker an order and it is in increasing pain until it has obeyed.

A lot of the emotional weight of the series comes from the fact that the Clakkers are sentient, suffering slaves at the hands of human masters who choose to not recognize the sentience of their slaves since it would be an inconvenience for them.

You know, Dutch people.

The Alchemy Wars is interesting, thought-provoking alternate history with heaping helpings of emotional poignancy as well as horrific violence.

The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley ★★★☆☆

The Light Brigade is near-future dystopia where corporations rule the world and are also grasping for a colonized Mars, a Mars that has broken off from Earth.

In order to bring independent Mars to heel, the corporation research departments have come up with a way to literally turn soldiers into light so they can be transported those distances and back to fight.

But some soldiers take poorly to the conversion and end up having … issues.

The novel follows one of the soldiers with issues and her struggle to understand her own glitches and learning how the world she thought she understood and believed in actually works.

If you’ve read any of Hurley’s previous works, you have already correctly guessed The Light Brigade is dark, cynical and violent—par for the course for Hurley. It’s also anchored by an interesting thought experiment I’m not going to spoil here.

But in the end it just doesn’t congeal. Some interesting characters, some interesting world building, but it feels a bit like a re-tread, like I’ve seen permutations of this story before.

The light Brigade is a solid read, but not up to Hurley’s usual standard.

Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson ★★★★☆

Almost 20 years later, Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon is still fantastic: As a WWII yarn, a late-90s zeitgeist, an elaborately plotted page turner, a crypto primer, and a nerd-positive statement.

It is also a brick, so take your time. Holy smokes, Stephenson can churn out a lot of words.

Note: The links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny, tiny kickback, which motivates me to keep writing these reviews. It’s appreciated.

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You like books? So do I!

Book roundup, part 29

A sci-fi and fantasy heavy installment that includes The Valedictorian of Being Dead, The Mastermind, Broadsword Calling Danny Boy, Tiamat’s Wrath, The Raven Tower, The Liberation, The Light Brigade and Cryptonomicon.

Book roundup, part 28

Includes The Incomplete Book of Running, Aching God, The Murderbot Diaries, Lies Sleeping, The Consuming Fire, and Rendezvous with Rama.

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.