My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
Dune
Jhereg
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Review: Furies of Calderon

Furies of Calderon Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Review Summary: Disappointing

I listened to half the series as an audiobook. Add one star for the audiobook as this was very well done (and you can afford to miss a large portion of narration without really missing much of the story).

Frankly that only reason I continued with the series was that fact that the world building wasn't half bad. You have a lost roman legion who setup a new society on another world/dimension where nature spirits manifest themselves a "furies" which are controlled by a communities of citizen sorcerers with a eugenics style breeding program to maintain and/or improve this power over their environment. Stir in several conflicts with barbarians (mongol style hordes, wolf men and ice men), and you do get an interesting backdrop for a story.

Book 1: The characters themselves seemed to be little more the exaggerated caricatures with very little nuance and emotional control. Sadly, this is a very similar style to how he wrote the Dresden Files, of which I am a fan; however, the style doesn't extend well into the epic fantasy motif. Too many characters and no enough obvious limits on plot development (a common probably with fantasy). After awhile, it felt like the "good" guys were perpetually "preaching" a limited point from a very weak straw-man position. It quickly grew tedious when it became apparent that the author was simply building his story from a collection of tropes and cliches. I truly found very little that was a unique contribution and that is where the bulk of my disappoint lies. All-n-all, it would be an okay youth fantasy story (right in the middle of the pack here).

Series: The main problem that I had with the series was that the storyline kept repeating with little to no character development and very limited world development. After about the 3rd or 4th time hearing that the enemy slammed into the defenders with "ruinous" effect, I had flash-backs to the Princess Bride when Montoya states "You keep using that word; I don't think it means what you think it means."

As a military fantasy ... the series is a complete failure (though perhaps my own military experience and awareness of military history makes me too hard here). I also found the over-arching plot development to be lacking discipline, as the protagonist and his allies frequently gets written into a corner where the author must break nearly all bonds of credulity to save them ... presumably to show of how clever they are. I just didn't see it that way; frankly this style of story telling is why fantasy as a genre has such a bad reputation.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Review: City of Storms

City of Storms City of Storms by Kat Ross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story jumps right into the action … with the MC (Fra Alexei Bryce) responding to the alarm raised by the “Markhounds" of an individual “turning” to madness. It was a solid start; although the rapid fire delivery of new language/terms make it slow reading initially because of the lack of preceding context … it is worth pushing through. Some familiarity with Latin and the Catholic Church would probably help as the world building appears to borrow fairly heavily from each.

“There is no God in the Via Sancta” where everything is beautiful and virtuous. Even so, there are enough clever adaptations to make it interesting … instead of the Inquisition chasing down heretics, you have the “Interfectorum” chasing down people for whom the magic marks has gone bad (inverted/turned). These ideas are woven into a magic system based on psyche, ley lines, marks/tattoos, wards, cartomancy, and nihilism that appears to be well researched and implemented … and interesting.

Even with the fantastic world-building, I would regard this story as character driven. The two main characters include a war weary cleric using the Interfectorum for his own purposes teaming up with an “amoral” character from the other side of the tracks (one of the "unmarked”) to unravel a conspiracy that would be right at home in a Dan Brown novel. The twists and turns were exciting where even the supporting characters were interesting and nuanced. While it was not quite top shelf … I really, really liked it … so I am rounding up :-)

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
 
#CityOfStorms #BookSirens

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Sunday, March 27, 2022

Review: The Trinity: An Introduction to Catholic Doctrine on the Triune God

The Trinity: An Introduction to Catholic Doctrine on the Triune God The Trinity: An Introduction to Catholic Doctrine on the Triune God by Gilles Emery
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Emery’s induction to The Trinity is an attempt to explain the Doctrine of The Trinity and examine the origins and development of the Trinitarian Christian confessions that advance this concept. The basic idea of the Trinity is that there are three distinct “persons,” known as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, within one unified nature or essence we call God. Almost immediately we encounter a problem with the limitations of human language used to describe this apparent contradiction in logic: Unfortunately, Emery only dances around the edges of this without giving any truly concrete definition from which to structure his discussion, making this book a bit of a struggle to fully comprehend.

Here is the root of the problem: In the rational mind, which apportions time and space within our physical world, if the three (3) persons of the Trinity are all God and they are also all distinct persons or individuals, then we have three distinct or individual Gods (which would result in a polytheistic heresy obviously rejected by all monotheist confessions, including the Catholic Church). If we accept that there is but one God, how then are the three (3) persons held to also be God as well? Attempts to reconcile this puzzle have fostered an even greater raft of heresies that either deny the distinct “personhood” of each member of the Trinity, or deny the shared “Godhood” or divinity of one or more members of the Trinity.

Emery briefly covers some of the heresies that prompted the Church to better define the dogma of the Trinity, but he doesn’t always do a good job of highlighting and/or explaining the orthodox response. This may be an artifact of translation or possibly even evolving modes of speech; however, it does become more clear on re-reading significant parts of the book while referencing the glossary in the back of the book.

Emery’s final chapter (6), Returning to the Creative and Saving Action of the Trinity, brings us back to why all of this is important. For the most part, this describes the Trinitarian economy and how it works to communicate to man a share of the divine life of God as revealed by God in the Incarnation of His Son through the Holy Spirit. It is basically a recap of the previous five (5) chapters organized in a clear and concise many that was much easier to understand and quite frankly could stand on its own with the glossary of terms.

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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Review: A Night in the Lonesome October

A Night in the Lonesome October A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Selected as the Theme of the Month for the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club, I really didn't think that I would like this book much and was mentally prepared to put it aside; fortunately, it was short and actually quite fun (that pleasant surprise was worth an extra star here). Although the story brings together many of the Victorian horror villains (similar to "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"), the true protagonists were really their animal companions as they 'traded' clues about this ultimate game within a diary or journal style narration. The fun was in trying to match up who everybody was with where they fit in the game while at the same time trying to figure out the rules of the game itself ... Suspension of Disbelief really is your friend here; you really need to be able to relax and let go a fair amount of rational thinking to truly enjoy it.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Review: Obsidian

Obsidian Obsidian by Sarah J. Daley
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The best part of this story was the world building concept; however, even with a somewhat novel take on an apocalyptic world and magic system, it still falls short.

The basic premise is a dystopian aftermath from a war that destroyed the world in a magic conflict, and where people now live in protected conclaves under magic shields known as veils. The original combatants have presumably disappeared, leaving only the humans struggling to survive, ruled by a corrupt brotherhood of ‘bloodwizards’ (aka the Church) and capomagj (aka the mafia). There are noble families that have some power, but it is not clear how they have it (other than being first) and most importantly, how they keep it. Finally, there is an Imperial overlord who basically just serves as background for one of the main characters (a quasi-disowned imperial son).

Magic is based upon blood from slashing wounds with gem (ruby, safire, et. al.) based knives that apparently determine the strength of the wizard … thus the title obsidian being significant because of the type of knife used by the main character, Shade Nox (Night Night). Also apparently, magic tattoos heal the wounds so they can cut themselves again and again (sort of like a magic perpetual motion machine) … yeah … so maybe the magic system is not quite so well developed as some.

All of that still makes for a mildly entertaining story and would have scored better if I had actually liked any of the characters … who tended to always be dialed up to 11 for everything, which was super annoying. Frankly the interactions between the characters was so full of bravado, arrogance and generally all around I'm offended that it is amazing that every encounter didn’t end up in a deadly brawl ( I think I am offended that it didn't ) … it was so exhausting dealing with so much adolescent angst from what should have been more matured adults.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Obsidian #NetGalley.

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Sunday, March 20, 2022

Review: The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler

The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler The Pope at War: The Secret History of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler by David I Kertzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“ The world suffers a lot. Not because the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of the good people. ” — Napoleon

This was a very difficult book to read, partly because of the considerable outrage at the unbelievable evil conduct of the Nazi and Fascist regimes, but mostly anger and shame at the silence from communities with whom I still have ethnic and religious connections. The book itself is very well written and organized into four (4) parts: Pre War, Early War (Axis favored to win), Mid War (Toss Up) and Late War/End (Allies favored to win). The book is also pretty big, with over 400 pages of content and 200 pages of citations … so it is not a quick read. 

Most of the book covered behind the scenes maneuver and machinations that puts the Pope and the Church in a very unfavorable light; however, unlike Cornwell’s “Hitler’s Pope”, Kertzer seems to recognize that Pius XII (and the Church) was a product of the times and cuts him some slack with regard to current mores. Unfortunately, that still leaves a flawed man who obviously struggled between hubris and fear, and who was willing to throw pretty much anybody under the bus to save his institution and his own skin. Ultimately we see a man who, despite the august nature of his calling, was focused more on being a good politician/diplomat and not so much on being a good moral leader. The jury is still out on the former; I am pretty confident that he failed in the later.

Part One - War Clouds
- 1 Death of a Pope
- 2 The Conclave
- 3 Appealing to the F├╝hrer
- 4 The Peacemaker
- 5 “Please do not talk to me about Jews.”
- 6 The Nazi Prince
- 7 Saving Face
- 8 War Begins
- 9 The Prince Returns
- 10 A Papal Curse
- 11 Man of Steel
- 12 A Problematic Visitor
Part Two - On the Path to Axis Victory
- 13 An Inopportune Time
- 14 An Honorable Death
- 15 A Short War
- 16 Surveillance
- 17 The Feckless Ally
- 18 The Geek Fiasco
- 19 A New World Order
- 20 Hitler to the Rescue
- 21 The Crusade
- 22 A New Prince
- 23 Best to Say Nothing
Part Three - Change Fortunes
- 24 Escaping Blame
- 25 Papal Premiere
- 26 Disaster Foretold
- 27 A Thorny Problem
- 28 An Awkward Request
- 29 The Good Nazi
- 30 Deposing the Duce
- 31 Musical Chairs
- 32 Betrayal
Part Four - The Sky Turned Black
- 33 Fake New
- 34 The Pope’s Jews
- 35 Baseless Rumors
- 36 Treason
- 37 A Gratifying Sight
- 38 Malevolent Reports
- 39 A Gruesome End
Epilogue
Final Thoughts

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#ThePopeatWar #NetGalley

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Thursday, March 17, 2022

Review: Storm Front

Storm Front Storm Front by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this over the weekend expecting a quick, pulp fiction read; surprisingly it was not. I found it to be a very good mystery book with a gritty protagonist who just happens to be a very powerful (if somewhat rebellious) wizard. Of course, there were a few sardonic situations that were darkly humorous, but that really did add to the developing tension in the story. In addition, the system of magic used was very well developed and would be at home in any occult thriller ... In fact, I frequently found myself nodding at some descriptive line of text thinking that it made perfect sense. On the down-side ... I pretty much figured out the who-done-it early on (there were too few characters to choose from really), but there were enough surprises after that to keep it interesting. I am looking forward to the next book in the series ...

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Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Review: Persians: The Age of the Great Kings

Persians: The Age of the Great Kings Persians: The Age of the Great Kings by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Western understanding of Persian/Iranian history has been greatly influenced by what was reported by outsiders (namely the Greeks who largely sought to demonize the empire with whom they fought several wars). This text tries to balance the account … purportedly using Persian sources. It is not a textbook though … the history is told in a narrative style that brings together a number of differing sources to build a “presumed’ context in the absence of specific details … such as describing how an individual might be dressed for the occasion … these rather intimate vignettes are fairly interesting, at least until the author’s bias hits you right between the eyes with pejorative descriptors (such as pedestrian, et al.) applied to the Greeks that serve no academic function and detracts from the expected rational exposition of “a history.” This obvious bias undermines the over all scholarship that actually does present significant details about how the Persian court/government operates that now come across more as an apology that a recounting of facts. The author even justified Darius fleeing for his life in several engagements against Alexander as motivated by his desire to “save” his legacy and not because he was a coward abandoning his armies. Frankly the brutality of the Persian court was appalling to western/modern sensibilities and I had to wonder about the author’s defense against the Greek perception of moral decadence with references imperial power and force of armies as if the two were mutually exclusive. Over all, it seems we get a history almost as equally flawed as what we get from Herodotus … who was the author’s favorite target.

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Persians #NetGalley.

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Sunday, March 13, 2022

Review: Historical Foundations of Worship

Historical Foundations of Worship Historical Foundations of Worship by Melanie C. Ross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is primarily a collection of 18 academic essays/chapters grouped into 5 parts and written by a different expert focusing on a specific element of christian worship (for most traditions, this means an examination of how the liturgy or worship service evolved) with a significant portion of the book (37%) given over to citations. This was an especially timely read for me as I had just finished my Liturgy and the Sacraments class and had just started my Canon Law class … so this fit right into what I was already learning about. The format of each chapter opened with a bit of context before digging into the subject at hand, then ending with a section on “Practical Implications for Worship” (sort of a where are we now review) and suggested Further Reading … which is great because the biggest complaint that I had was that I always wanted to explore the topic more after finishing the chapter. 

Part one of the book looks at what all of the main line christian denominations have in common: baptism, communion/eucharist and celebrations (aka liturgical time). Then in part two, we get a survey of what we think the early church looked like (as well as acknowledging that there is still a lot that we just don’t know). In the next three parts, we get a look at Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholicism and several flavors of Protestant churches. Sadly, the tradition I grew up in (the Stone/Campbell Restoration movement) doesn’t get much press here, but that is okay, because it actually pulls a lot from the traditions that are covered; namely Lutheran, Calvinist/Reform, Anglican/Episcopal, Methodists, Anabaptist, Baptists, Evangelicals and Pentecostals. That last one was perhaps the weakest of the essays (or I just didn’t get it … which is also possible). Still, this book is an easy to read primer on a wide variety of christian societies that would be useful to any academic or lay person interested in ecumenical outreach (which I am).

Introduction
Part 1 - Common Roots of Worship
- 1 Baptism
- 2 Eucharist
- 3 Liturgical Time
Part 2 - Early Christian Worship
- 4 Worship in the Early Church
- 5 Worship in Late Antiquity
Part 3 - Eastern Orthodox Worship
- 6 History of Orthodox Worship
- 7 Icons and Eucharistic Theology
Part 4 - Roman Catholic Worship
- 8 Medieval Catholic Worship
- 9 Reformation in the Catholic Church
- 10 Vatican II and the Liturgical Renewal Movement
Part 5 - Protestant Worship
- 11 Lutheran Practices of Worship
- 12 Calvinist and Reformed Practices of Worship
- 13 Anglican and Episcopal Practices of Worship
- 14 Methodist and Wesleyan Practices of Worship
- 15 Anabaptist and Mennonite Practices of Worship
- 16 Baptist Practices of Worship
- 17 Evangelical Practices of Worship
- 18 Pentecostal and Charismatic Practices of Worship

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#HistoricalFoundationsofWorship #NetGalley

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Thursday, March 10, 2022

Review: The Crown Conspiracy

The Crown Conspiracy The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book comes across as a highly formulaic effort for a basic fantasy story. If you have been around the block once or twice, you will recognized much of it. As one book club reader put it ...

Chris wrote: "When I read it, I thought of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser"

To which I would readily agree. Two altruistic thieves (it is fantasy after all); a big hulk of a fighter/swordsman complimented by a small, wiry side-kick. The former an unstoppable combatant juxtaposed against the talented shadow (and true thief of the pair). The word play between these two protagonists is really what made the book for me … and what initially drew me into the story to begin with (I read the free online excerpts). The rest was fairly predictable … at least I though it was. I was interested enough in the story to buy the sequel for the kindle and stormed through that as well (much better story actually) where I discovered that the author had really used a lot of the predictable storyline to hide a few twists of his own that were also quite fun (like an ancient wizard who is either an infamous evil or great champion (all we really know is that our heroes needed his help) … we find at a bit more about this in Avempartha. This also sets up an imperial church as a potential bad guy (without trying to hide any moral judgment about what is clearly modeled off the roman catholic church … everybody‘s favorite whipping boy these days). There were also a few unique fantasy concepts here that I found very interesting.

The story lost points in two places … for the most part, the author does a good job of not over-explaining things that happen in the story; however, the addition to the party of a monk with a photographic memory with the better part of the history of the world in his head was an obvious device for info-dumps; to which the author was not completely immune. Although the character was somewhat endearing (if fairly sappy), I would have liked to seen a bit more skill weaving that information into the story and perhaps having the other characters discover/reveal smaller pieces. Finally the ending was less then satisfying for me … it seemed to rush through a good portion of climax and did not appear to be as well thought out as the rest of the story (perhaps my inner engineer just could not suspend enough disbelief to buy into the whole tower scene). Still … this was a most excellent debut (I am already waiting to get book 3 of 6 in the series … it doesn’t get much better then that :-)

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Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Review: Sword of the White Horse: An Assassin's Creed Valhalla Novel

Sword of the White Horse: An Assassin's Creed Valhalla Novel Sword of the White Horse: An Assassin's Creed Valhalla Novel by Elsa Sjunneson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Okay … it is not like this is a bad story; just that it is difficult to actually identify anything specific that I like about it outside of the genre itself. It is a fairly short novel, so there is not much room for character development and it shows. The main characters are extremely flat and hard to connect to as they mechanically march through the adventure. Even the world building, which relies heavily on Arthurian tropes, was not very interesting (not to mention apparently so small the travel from Caledonia to Mercia felt like a standard work commute on the beltway … with the main character popping into Avalon (the hidden realm of the Women of the Mist) to report every time she left London to go adventuring. I suppose that I should have anticipated that a story built on top of a game would read like a game? Dialog was stilted and character interaction seems awkward at best.

The setup was interesting … An organization called the Hidden Ones was desperate enough to try and recruit local talent into their fight against the Descendants of the [Round] Table (Mordred’s kin) and the Order of Ancient (an apparent secret society of Christians hell bent on destroying the wholesome pagans of Scotland). We have a few encounters with pagan Picts around Hadrian’s Wall (along with some home sock Romans); however, most of the conflict centers around the struggle of the pagan faithful to freely worship their own deities the way that always have as the Christianity makes headway into the local mindset. This trope has been done before … and generally done better. Here everything was so black and white it just wasn’t interesting (bod guys bad … good guys good … what more is there). I actually enjoy some ambiguity here where I can connect to the motivation of both sides.

The characters … we have Niamh … a witch/warrior sent on a spy mission to see if her people (the Women of the Mist) might find an ally in the struggle to protect the simple people of the Isles from the evil Christians. She infiltrates the Hidden Ones, who send her on a mission that goes poorly … earning the privilege on becoming an initiate of the their order. Unfortunately … she discovers a secret for which force her to choose where her loyalties lie … and apparently being an initiate of the Hidden Ones doesn’t require any promises so I guess the choice should have been obvious … at any rate … Niamh alternates between not being worthy of anything to being so hot headed that she felt the need to take on unbelievable odds like a bull in a china shop (absolutely no finesse here at all … but this is a game right). The story here just felt forced and mechanical ... very little seems normal or natural.

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#AssassinsCreedValhallaSwordoftheWhiteHorse #NetGalley.

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Sunday, March 6, 2022

Review: The Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal: Primer from the Pew-Unpacking Psychological, Sociopolitical & Cultural

The Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal: Primer from the Pew-Unpacking Psychological, Sociopolitical & Cultural The Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal: Primer from the Pew-Unpacking Psychological, Sociopolitical & Cultural by Jerry J Paresa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a difficult book to review; I am sure it was probably a difficult book to write as well. The impact on “The Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal” has been significant for many Catholics, myself included; however, without a good understanding of what went wrong it is also difficult to move forward. This book makes a good attempt to fill in some of the details surrounding the Church’s lack of understanding, as well as its admitted inadequate response. Paresa begins with trying to establish the common terms and vocabulary needed to actually have a productive analysis and discussion. Then he moves into what he sees as the proximate, contextual and aggravating causes/factors … before jumping a little too soon into the break down in communications before returning what he sees as the causal factors that are common to society at large and aggravated by the size of the church bureaucracy. All relevant points that unfortunately give the start something of an apologetic/defensive tone. Added to this are some additional factors that are more unique to the catholic clergy … such as the “clericalism” and the nature of an organization with forgiveness as part the foundation. 

It is important to note here that while the author cites several statistics to support his conclusions, these numbers really just highlight correlations and not causation. This is especially true with his presumption that the higher ration of homosexual clergy and young male victims suggests an obvious solution where reducing one will reduce the other. While that may in fact be true the author doesn’t actually provide the underlying reason for that believe at it comes across a bit homophobic (especially when implying the failure of science to identify a specific genetic cause of homosexual orientation proved that such doesn’t exist … which should have been an obvious fallacy). The other factors seem to be spot on though … such as the shortage of priests (which increase pressure to keep what you have combined with inadequate supervision on junior and/or less mature clergy), the relative independence of the Bishops (and the idea of subsidiarity within the church), the cumbersome jurisprudence within the Church-State more focused on forgiveness and reform instead of justice.

Not satisfied with the Church’s response to date, the author then provides several [reasonable] recommendations on what the Church can and should do differently, most of which focuses on screening and formation along with a more open and cooperative relationship with civil authorities. Also examined is the impact of regulating celibacy on the priest shortage and what changing that could mean theologically (this was by far the most interesting part of the book for me). The author closes with a more in depth look at the due process and legal issues involved with prosecuting abuse within the Church as well as the ontological issues with removing a priest from the clerical state. Over all, this is a solid book that deals with the very human factors that went into making the abuse scandal a “wicked” problem for the faithful to deal with.

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheCatholicSexualAbuseScandal #NetGalley

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Thursday, March 3, 2022

Review: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am a big fan of the House of Mouse, so the title really intrigued me; what's not to like about the Magic Kingdom? In truth , the story centered around 2 attractions (Hall of Presidents and the Haunted Mansion) with a brief mention of a 3rd (Pirates of the Caribbean ... My favorite) as the back drop to a story of power and greed that should have no place in a [post scarcity] society where all of our needs are taken care of and old fashioned money doesn't define power anymore. True wealth (power) is now defined by reputation ... Where public respect for what you are doing gives you "Whuffie" (street creed or political capital) that helps you accomplish things in the future. This is a lot like how bloggers work; readers vote on how much they liked or respected a particular article, which then helps increase its visibility and subsequently a bloggers audience giving the blogger greater power to influence society; not surprisingly, Cory Doctorow got his start as a blogger. Doctorow was not the first person to talk about a reputation economy, but his was the first pure portrayal of such that got me thinking about how it would truly work ... Or not. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The second major theme of the story was more post [or trans] humanism. The new 'Bitchin Society (aka BS) is based upon the surreal assumption that we can effectively eliminate the supply constraint (curve) on our economy and thereby get whatever we need in any quality needed ... Including artificial extensions on life itself. Doctorow does this with a combination of information technology (or personal backups) and cloning technology (to provide a custom platform into which your backup can be restored). This concept is taken to an extreme where clones are destroyed and backups restored to a new clone simply as a common way to avoid the inconvenience of a boredom while traveling long distances or the effects of the common cold. Now comes the question ... What exactly is a human? Can our essential self be so defined that a backup is even possible? What happens if the previous clone is not destroyed and you now have two persons with the same starting consciousness that now have two different experiences? Are they now two different people? Doctorow doesn't really answer these questions well, but you can see his characters struggling with the answers enough to start thinking on your own.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Review: Biomass Rewind

Biomass Rewind Biomass Rewind by Terry Persun
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved the premise of this book: Human Colony ships controlled by an AI that manufactures and programs “human” colonists from the recycled biomass of previous colonists, mixing and matching parts until it gets the behaviors and results that it is looking for (sort of like a sci-fi groundhog day). At the end of each chapter, you get a short vignette from the AI about what it has learned from all of this and maybe a clouded preview of what it is trying to do. All of this raises some interesting philosophical and theological questions to ponder (Are we really just a product of our chemical/electrical/biological programming) … 

There were a few nits to pick … such as how only 6 human mating pairs would be able to actually colonize a world with the obvious issues of genetic diversity … in that respect, the story shares a bit of the surreal impression found in the HBO series Raised by Wolves. There is also a deep mystery to solve as the colonists struggle to succeed and avoid being “recycled” by the mother ship, so it is a slow, methodical and somewhat plodding story arc with a few supposing revelations that make you go Hmmm (adding to the list of questions to ponder). Despite that, I felt fully engaged with the story and enjoyed it all the way to the end.

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#BiomassRewind #NetGalley.

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.