Archive for February, 2014

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Last Arguments of Kings

February 26, 2014

Last Argument of Kings (The First Law, #3)It is not easy to maintain the story of a long sequel. Most writers did good in the beginning, only to loose the steam at the end. This is not the case. Abercrombie succeed in maintaining the plot and keeping the flow of the story interesting. This alone makes the whole series worth 5 stars. It is indeed one of the best fantasy that I ever read.

It is a siege battle all over again, and a much greater scale than the Battle of Dagoska in the second book. The main force is still busy with the overseas campaign. The city garrison will have to do their best to buy some time before the army return. And it is going to be bloody.

At the same time, the campaign in the North is still dragging. Bethod, the King of the North, is as sleek as a seal. He really proves himself as a master strategist. It really takes a drastic measure to capture him, and the cost is extremely high.

But finally, what truly eludes me is the ending. It is not like any ending that I expected. To mention it here will be a major spoiler, you will have to read it by yourself. And it is a satisfying ending for a long series. Not expected, but satisfying with a great after taste. Not all writers can deliver this kind of ending!

Mr. Abercrombie, well done! 5 stars for the whole series.

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Babel-17

February 19, 2014

https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1257546421l/1199688.jpgThis is my first Delany novel, and certainly will not be my last. It is not an easy ride, I stalled in some places, but in the end, it is a very good book, and a thought provoking one.

I might be a bit biased, because I tend to love novels which are using linguistics as theme (also read Snow Crash and Un Lun Dun). It is a nice reminder that linguistics is also part of science, and it plays a great deal in defining ourselves as human.

The plot in this novel, merely serves as a tool for conveying the idea. It is just a mission for finding a terrorist behind series of attack. And accompanying it, trying to decipher a mysterious language, Babel-17, found transmitted in the area of attacks. The lead is an poet, Rydra, which has an impossibly knack of language acquisition.

Beside long discussion on linguistics, this novel also introduces other concepts which is truly amazing. It includes discorporation, which is a process of separating body and soul, and keeping the soul intact even without the body; a triune marriage (one male two females or two males one female), which mean you can have threesome every day, and sailing through hyperdimension just like sailing the water. I found the exposition concept really refreshing, even thought they are not the main theme of this novel.

In the end, it is the discussion about language! We are so entrench in our own way of thinking forged by our own language. It is simply inconceivable to think in another way. I speak roughly three languages. Surprisingly, my mother tongue is in the lowest rank compared to other language mastery. But since it is my mother tongue, it is deeply connected with my primal feeling. So when I get scared, I scream in my mother tongue. But as a rational language, the languages which I learned and I used, especially in reading and writing, clearly surpassed my mastery of my mother tongue. So you can say that I THINK not in mother tongue. But I SWEAR and SCREAM in my mother tongue. This novel really makes me think about how our language shape our way of thinking, and therefore our way of being.

This novel is a clearly defined the ideal of a sci-fi novel. Sci-fi is not about space-ship and laser, but about the limit of science, thus the limit of humanity itself.

A clear 4 stars. I held my self from giving 5 stars because of the plot.

PS: anyone here speaks FORTRAN?

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On Basilisk Station

February 12, 2014

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington, #1)This novel is the first in Honor Harrington series. It is a strongly military flavored sci-fi space opera.

The main character is Honor Harrington, a recently made captain of a space ship. Even though she is the best graduate in her academy, her career in the space fleet is not too shiny, because she is a commoner, against all the well connected aristocrats (the government in this novel is a monarchy). And story begin when she get her first assignment in HMS Fearless, a light cruiser with some history in her majesty fleet.

The military aura in this novel is strong, especially the navy culture. This book also covers high politics of the parliament and admiralty down to the actual naval operation. Maybe it is a bit too wide, but Weber did the job pretty well. Most of the story is about the life of the crews of HMS Fearless in their new station at Basilisk.

What I truly love about this novel is the plot. This is actually common is a good space opera, where the science is down played, and the plot is emphasized. This novel really gives you a thrill ride. The characters are plunged into an impossible situation. Her crew and her ship are not of the best kind available.

The setting of politics is also interesting, full with corrupt officers, interest laden politicians, and incompetent leaders. And Honor Harrington, is trapped in the middle of this maelstrom.

One thing that deserved mentioning in this novel I think is the gender role. There are no differences of role between male and female in this novel, whether in politics or military. Even in physical strength, a female character can beat a male character. Maybe it is too good to be true, but certainly it is a future that I am dreaming of.

The one thing that I find lacking is the voice of the enemy. Too little portion of the book is given for the antagonist. Sometimes it is good to know the entire motives of the enemy, even to sympathize with them.

In conclusion, this in a very good beginning of a series. Solid 4 stars.

PS: This novel is a tribute to Captain Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester.

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Ysabel

February 4, 2014

YsabelYsabel, oh Ysabel. One thing, I think this novel is sexy. Despite it is marketed as YA novel, I don’t think that it is a YA novel. It is cute, but intelligent at the same time, fresh but also deep, which are the things usually missed in YA novels.

The story is beautifully opened by the landscape of Provence, France, quite photographically, actually. Anyway, the story is told from the point of view of a son of a photographer. And then slowly but surely, the story and mystery creeps in, in a very subtle way. The mystery is well blend into the story in a non-invasive way, to give it a really realistic feel. Mr. Kay, you are the man…

This novel also avoid the common romance theme, usually found in YA. It has all the problem of adolescence without making me want to puke. The main character is a bit geeky actually, which serves me well. The parent-children relation is also realistic, not full of the teenage angst usually used in YA novel. Everything is just given in proportion, like a perfect recipe, not to sour, not too sweet, just great.

But what I like most, is the relationship between the characters. They are realistic and believable, not over the top. You have real relationship between father-son, among colleague, mother-son, uncle-nephew. Everything is just so natural, even though it is set in an urban fantasy novel. The dialogue is crispy, and funny in places.

Who is Ysabel then? Well, that is the mystery. And I really enjoy the journey in searching this Ysabel. Unfortunately, once I find her, the story is going a bit downhill. All the mystery is already unfold, that makes the story loosing steam a bit. Not going bad, but still, not as exciting as the previous part.

That going down is why I give this novel only 4 stars. It could have been an easy 5 star. Sorry Mr. Kay.