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 Monday, 20 January 2020]

Book roundup, part 30

Back once again with the sci-fi and general calamity. Includes The End is Always Near, Eat the Apple, A Memory Called Empire,Gideon the Ninth, Infinite Detail, Permafrost, Fallen, and The October Man.

Sci-fi and calamity to soothe the troubled soul.


The End is Always Near, by Dan Carlin ★★★★☆

Dan Carlin is best known as the host of the immensely popular Hardcore History podcast. If you have somehow managed to miss Hardcore History, I highly recommend catching up.

One of the recurring themes in the Hardcore History podcast is musing about how us modern people would cope with some of the horrific events of the past and trying to get into the heads of the people living through the events, like a Mongol invasion, or the fall of the Roman Empire, or a plague, or one of the other many, many awful things that have befallen people throughout recorded history.

The End is Always Near picks up on the same theme and focuses in on it.

Carlin is a radio person, and you can tell he’s more used to talking his texts than having them read, but it’s still very interesting.

If you’re a fan of the podcast you’ve probably already read The End is Always Near and if you’re not, the book does serve as an introduction to the podcast.

I personally think Carlin is stronger in podcast form than text form, but The End is Always Near is well worth reading.

Eat the Apple, by Matt Young ★★★★☆

Wow. Eat the Apple is the memoir of a marine who served three tours in Iraq, but it is also and more significantly a document of the frailty of toxic masculinity, mental health issues and the bravery to confront these issues.

Young really goes out on a limb from a technical standpoint, working with different and sometimes very pyrotechnical narrative techniques in a prose style that is extremely self-aware.

Self-conscious narrative techniques that scream “workshop” can ruin a book so hard, but in this case, they actually work.

Eat the Apple is not by any stretch of the imagination a fun read, but it’s important and real and very raw.

It feels like an honest attempt at explaining a soldier’s mindset.


A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine ★★★★☆

A Memory Called Empire gave me really weird dreams. Not sure why, but the entire time I was reading it I had strange dreams. It might be because of the haunting prose style or the intricate society-building Martine performs.

The novel takes place in the far future after humanity has spread out across space. The Teixcalaan empire is old, powerful, and decadent. An ambassador from a weaker society arrives to replace her predecessor who has passed away in mysterious circumstances.

There is far future tech aplenty in A Memory Called Empire but the most fascinating to me is something called an Imago. Which is creepy as hell, but also makes sense within the society that invented it.

With great prose, a fast-paced plot, interesting characters, and decadence aplenty, A Memory Called Empire is well worth reading.

And now we wait for the second installment in the trilogy. Tick tock.

Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir ★★★★☆

Charlie Stross blurbed Gideon the Ninth: “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!”

This is a surprisingly accurate summary. Yes, really. Though it doesn’t fully convey the sheer weirdness of this novel.

If the blurb made you perk up, get it.

Infinite Detail, by Tim Maughan ★★★★☆

Infinite Detail has a lot to recommend it: An interesting thought experiment and a good story, delivered in precise prose about a near future where the Internet has been destroyed. This of course is the Y2K bug on steroids.

It’s also mainly set in England with a throbbing soundtrack of jungle music. Yes, I’ve listened to a lot of jungle music since reading Infinite Detail. Life is weird.

If you like cyberpunk, put this on your reading list.

Thin Air, by Richard K. Morgan ★★★☆☆

Hakan Veil used to be an overrider, a Black Hatch man, sent along in cryosleep on cargo hauls between Earth and Mars and further into the solar system to provide security in case of mutiny.

Now he’s a hired thug in a Martian slum.

Thin Air takes place in the same universe as Thirteen, but a century or two later. It’s solid and fast-moving, but it feels like Morgan tried to bolt on too much—there’s too much plot, too much violence, too much sex for what the story really needs.

Nevertheless, Morgan knows how to take you away into his gritty, noir world of genetically modified people.

Some restraint would have been nice, though.

Permafrost, by Alistair Reynolds ★★★☆☆

As you’d expect from Alistair Reynolds, Permafrost is very smart.

This is a short novel (or perhaps a novella) with a very interesting take on time travel I’ve never seen before. One I can’t really describe without spoilers, and one with several very interesting twists.

If you like time travel or Alistair Reynolds, this is well worth reading. And you should like Alastair Reynolds.

Fallen, by Benedict Jacka ★★★☆☆

This is the 10th novel in the Alex Verus series and it ably continues the story. Not much else to say, really. If you like the series you’ll like this.

The October Man, by Ben Aaronovitch ★★★☆☆

The October Man is a novella set in the Rivers of London universe, but changes things up by taking place in Germany with the German magic police.

You obviously need to be up to speed with the universe for this novella to make any sense. It’s a nice little amuse-bouche while we wait for the next novel.

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

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