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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Book: The Fuller Memorandum

The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross is the third book of the Laundry Files series. It is better than the the second book of the series, but not quite as good as the first. Pretty much more of the same. Nothing really stands out about this one. Back to more of the eldritch horror stuff and less of the spy thriller stuff. Plenty of secrets and conspiracies without them becoming the main thread of the book.

The author is continuing with the multiple viewpoint characters. The main character is who we follow for most of the book, but there are asides for several other characters. It is handled better then in the previous book, but still a little jarring. I do wish the book would stick with just the main character’s viewpoint with, maybe, one or two asides for important bits that need to be shown that the main character doesn’t know.

There was a cool twist at the end involving magic. The magic system in this series isn’t very well worked out compared to many others. The twist was still logical enough that it was very plausible and gave the main character a great loophole to influence the events during the book’s climax. Not a whole lot more to say about the story. Was good and I would recommend it. Probably not a good place to start reading the series.

The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross

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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Books 2013, Reviews

 

Book: The Jennifer Morgue

The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross is the second book of his Laundry Files series. It was not quite as good as the first story The Atrocity Archive. This book was much more in the mold of a classic spy thriller. To the point of almost being cliche. Which was mostly intentional, there is actually magic going on in the plot to make the characters act more like spy archetypes, but I felt it diminished the uniqueness of the setting and characters a bit.

One of the key points of the plot is that the main character was not allowed to know what was going on. As in, the bad guy had magic defenses that could only be infiltrated by someone who didn’t know anything about them. Which is a interesting concept, but it got very annoying that the main character was constantly confused and struggling to figure things out. This book also had sections that were from other people’s points of view and that was a bit jarring as well. So it felt more diluted then the first book.

Another sign of things sliding down in likability was the short stories in the back. Each of the books has a short story after the main story. Unrelated to each other. In The Atrocity Archives it was about weaponizing CCTV camera with synthetic Medusa gaze attack, and hints at a major alien/dimensional invasion in the near future. It was another really good look into the world and characters. It had tension, world building, how the Laundry interacts with the outside world, and how it keeps secrets in a very draconian fashion using geas magic. In The Jennifer Morgue, the story is about how a intern gets trapped in a computer game. It felt much more rushed and slapped together at the last moment. Showed us nothing about the world, or the characters, and seemed like just an excuse to fill space.

Letting my brain ponder the story for a bit longer, I think my key problem with the book is that the main characters are fighting against another human instead of otherworldly forces. The main villain is a human trying to unearth some alien machine, which only pops up in the very last bit of the book and their only interaction with the machine is to run away from it, then cut to credits basically. I would have liked to have our hero actually disable or disarm or destroy it as the book’s climax instead of just simply killing the human villain and then cutting to epilogue.

It was still better than a lot of books I’ve read and it hasn’t chased me away from the series. I just hope that the later books in the series are closer to the first book than the second is all.

The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Books 2013, Reviews

 

Lovecraftian Horror recommendations

As a follow up to my last post: If you enjoy Lovecraftian horror, I cannot recommend two books more strongly. I read both of them in 2012 so I won’t be putting detailed reviews of them up as part of the 2013 reading list material, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring them up given the last book’s content.

14 by Peter Clines

This was quite possibly my favorite book from last year. I read it late in the year and was blown away. I had just finished a fairly dull and boring collection of Lovecraft inspired short fiction when a friend recommended this book. It blew me away. After the collection proved that so many authors, some quite good, didn’t get the core of Lovecraft’s work, 14 comes and shows how it is done. Basic premise is that a guy moves into a new apartment building and things seem a little odd. Like, the building is creepy and on further exploration there are certain places that the laws of physics seem to be bent in very odd ways. Almost nothing happens for three-quarters of the book and all it does is build up the tension until you are utterly convinced that when something does happen, it will be very, very bad.

There was one point that I actually jumped in my chair. A bit of formatting on my kindle made it so that one of the discoveries by the main character was right at the bottom of the page and in a different font, so just as the main character was relaxing after another chapter of exploring the apartment building…. *pow!* It was very well done.

 

Space Eldritch by various

This book is a collection of short stories all based around Lovecraftian science fiction. Not the same collection I mentioned in the 14 section above. This one is really good. It is all Lovecraft inspired horror set in space. Most of the stories take place on spaceships of one type or another. One story is even from the point of view of aliens. Some set in the future, one that spans from ancient Egypt to the future of FTL space travel, one that involves using secrets man was not meant to know to travel the stars (and the consequences of that). The stories are many, varied, and almost all of them are above average to excellent in quality.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Books 2012

 

Book: The Atrocity Files

The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross was a good read. This is the first book in the same series (called the Laundry Files) as the short story Down On The Farm, which I read a while back. I would classify it as urban fantasy, though it has more in common with Lovecraftian then the standard wizards and werewolves genre then most Urban fantasies.

Basic premise is that the higher levels of math lead to dimensional effects that are not so good for the human race. Computers being great at figuring out complex math, the dangers of people stumbling onto the higher levels of math have gotten much worse in the computer age. Our hero works in the organization in Britain that works to keep humanity safe. The thing I think I like so much is that the stories aren’t action stories as much as other urban fantasy I’ve read. I’m a big fan of the Dresden Files books, and I’ve read both the Anita Blake and Kate Daniels series as well. All three of those series are very, well, I want to say they are very American. The lone hero standing against the darkness of the world alone with only the friends they’ve earned at their sides. The Laundry Files series, of which this book is number one, is a very British take on the subject. The main character starts as a IT network admin in a bureaucratic governmental organization. He spends most of his time worrying about meetings, time sheets, and the nuts and bolts of what is basically a civil service job. With the occasional moment of action and horror when something goes wrong and the gibbering insanity of the outer void tries to break through. Then back to getting scolded by his boss for not getting the billing for his broken phone approved by accounting.

This book was also a tad unusual because of the weird mixture of a very well worked out magical system that the main character never really uses. In many urban fantasies the main character is some wizard or other magic-user who flings around magic. In this story the main character understands the basics and is often called on to use his expertise in identifying how things work, and he is shown to have a fairly good theoretical knowledge of things, but given that this is more Lovecraftian horror then straight fantasy, he very rarely uses any. The magic system is interesting because it uses mathematic and computer science (and possibly physics) vocabulary as the techno-babble for all the effects and rituals. I don’t have enough of a education to know if this would cause experts in those fields to be intrigued at the concepts, or fall over laughing, but it works quite well for atmosphere.

I would recommend this book. If you like urban fantasy or Lovecraftian horror you might like it as well. In fact I’d recommend it just as a much different take on either of those two genres. To be fair it won’t be a favorite re-read of mine. However it’s different enough to be worth reading and I certainly don’t feel like it was wasted time. I plan to read the next story in the series, and probably the one after that.

The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Books 2013, Reviews

 

Book: The Shangri-La Diet

The Shangri-La Diet: The No Hunger Eat Anything Weight-Loss Plan by Seth Roberts is a very simple diet book. Pretty convincing too. I stumbled across this one because of one of the small articles in the back of the Freakonomics book.

Basically, the diet is a few tablespoons of flavorless edible oil each day will cure you of hunger. You’ll eat less and therefor lose weight. In addition to other possible health benefits depending on which oil (refined walnut, canola, olive, etc) you are taking. The science as explained in the non-scientist parts of the book seems pretty convincing. Logical enough that I found it believable. The book was extremely well written and quite short. Which is what I want out of what is basically a how-to book.

Given that it is a diet book, it’ll take a few weeks to see just how successful it is. But regardless of the diet, the book itself is very well written. Time will tell if it is accurate as well.

The Shangri-La Diet: The No Hunger Eat Anything Weight-Loss Plan by Seth Roberts

 

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Books 2013, Reviews