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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #397 - Recent Book Reviews part three


Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #397 - Recent Book Reviews part three

Hi Mom,

This is a wrap up of a bunch of books I have been reading this summer. I read all these books as audio books with the exception of Low, the book about David Bowie's album of that name, Elektrograd: Rusted Blood, and The Ballad of Black Tom, which is more novella than novel, and I read it on my Kindle.

I am directing many good reads reviews here, so here's some ratings, quickly, and then short to medium sized blurb reviews for each book.

The Atrocity Archives = 9.7/10 stars
The Jennifer Morgue = 10/10 stars
The Fuller Memorandum = 9.4/10 stars
Low = 7.8/10 stars
The Agent of the Stars = 10/10 stars
Enchantment = 9.1/10 stars
The Ballad of Black Tom = 8.4/10 stars
Elektrograd: Rusted Blood = 9/10 stars

This list shows pretty high marks for everything. It's been a good summer of reading so far.

Off to the reviews...



The Laundry Files Series by Charles Stross

The Atrocity Archives = 9.7/10 stars
The Jennifer Morgue = 10/10 stars
The Fuller Memorandum = 9.4/10 stars

I had already discovered Charles Stross before I read these books. Warren Ellis raved about the opening passages of Accelerando, which you can download off the web HERE. I liked the first third of the book well enough and then it ventures into very strange and very dense territory. Not to say, it's not a great book. It's won a bunch of awards. including the 2006 Hugo for best novel. But it was not the cuppa tea I wanted at the time I read it, and I found it a bit of a slog. It is worthy of re-reading and re-re-reading.

Anyway, upon the publication of Charlie's latest Laundry Files novel, Warren Ellis once again plugged his work and the series in his newsletter. I liked the description of a mix of British spy fiction and Lovecraftian horror. Also, I was on the lookout for quick reads. After slogging through a Dickens biography and then Bleak House in the winter, I wanted shorter books and ones with satisfying, fast-paced plots. Then, blessed is The Laundry Files. Now, as of August, I have socked away three of the novels, and I have the fourth enroute to my home. All the books are available as audio books, and I love them. They are fun to read, geeky but not too geeky, smartly written, and thought-provoking. There's great humor, action, and good characterization.

Via ODDLY WEIRD FICTION and NancyO: "There's something to be said about a guy who can combine HP Lovecraft, various writers of spy fiction, computer geekness and a little of the management nitwitnedness of Office Space and come up with a series of consistently good novels that incorporate all of the above.  After all, as he notes in the afterwords of his first series novel, there are a lot of similarities between Lovecraftian horror and spy fiction, especially the espionage novels set in the Cold War.  Along  the way he throws pointed barbs at iPhones, cults, Power Point presentations, evangelical Christians, handguns and other sources of irritation -- all of which come off as funny, but only because you realize that some of the things he pokes sarcastic fun at resonate with your own fears, peeves, and annoyances.  This guy is Charles Stross, who is the author of four books that comprise The Laundry Files, one of my favorite series of novels ever written. "

Since I have now read three of the novels, I give them all an enthusiastic five stars. They may not be for everyone. For instance, I hesitate to recommend them to my wife. But they're good and fun and satisfying. I have no regrets,


Here's some links for further reading.

The Laundry Files list - Good Reads

Oddly Weird Fiction on the Laundry Files


Interview with Charles Stross at Lightspeed Magazine

Atoll Comics on the Laundry Files

Geeks are Sexy on the Laundry Files

CRIB SHEET: Charles Stross on The Jennifer Morgue and Bond Movies complete with flow charts

CRIB SHEET: Charles Stross on the Fuller Memorandum

The Fuller Memorandum Fan Wikia



Low = 7.8/10 stars

As you well know, Mom, and as do readers of the blog well know, I am a huge Bowie fan, even though I have not posted a not-so-daily Bowie in a few weeks.

I read another of these 33 1/3 Bloomsbury books prior to reading this one, the book devoted to Eno's Another Green World by Geeta Dayal as described in Hey Mom #313. Given my previous experience with Dayal's book, Wilcken's book on Bowie is somewhat disappointing, especially since much of my not-so-daily Bowie content comes from the most excellent blog PUSHING AHEAD OF THE DAME.

As a book on Bowie, Low is not a bad book, it's just not as strong in prose, organization, or content as Dayal's book on the Eno album.

Maybe it's Dayal's sensibilities I like better. Or maybe I was turned off when in the introduction Wilcken's claims he does "not want put Low into any sort of canon of great works." Well, why the Hell not?

There's great Bowie stuff here, but it seems that Wilcken misses capturing the essence of Low, which is what Dayal did with Another Green World .

Though not strictly a song-by-song or even chronological march through the album or time period, Wilcken spends much more time in that sort of unlocking of the album, which again is one of the strengths of Dayal's book in that she resists that easy impulse. Still, there's great stuff here about Bowie's move to Berlin, his interest in Kraftwerk (as well as Neu and Can), his work with Eno, his work with Iggy Pop, the Château d'Hérouville where much of Low and much of Iggy Pop's The Idiot were recorded. The book also deconstructs Bowie's own recovery from his drug-fueled Los Angeles years, drying out and coming out of a period of obsessiveness and paranoia.

But midway through this book, Wilcken starts up with one song at a time and doesn't deliver nearly enough solid content on any of them, especially "Sound and Vision," which may be Low's signature song, especially for Bowie, who named his retrospective and a tour after it years later.

Still, I liked the book, but I did not love it.

The Agent of the Stars = 10/10 stars

Hilarious. I have been a John Scalzi fan for about ten years since discovering Old Man's War. This was the last of his books left unread. I sent John a Twitter message, which may have been nuked by his filters, when I started it to the effect of "I am starting the last book by you that I have not read; get busy writing more!"

As my last book remaining, this is worthy of being the first. Grouped with others in his arsenal that are aimed at humor, like Red Shirts, Fuzzy Nation, and Android's Dream, this book is funny, a fast read, and smart. It's a good counter to his other books, which often feature humorous parts but that are not by and large humorous as a whole. Granted, this novel and the others are not for humor only. They're not satire. It's not Hitchhiker's Guide, but there's more laughs in these so it's easy to say that the book is a very entertaining read and much of it is side-splitting, OMG-Can't-Breathe funny!

Imagine this. You're an alien race. You know your appearance will frighten humans. Learning all you know of humans from TV broadcasts beamed to space, you fear that humans own fright could cause massive catastrophe for both races. So what do you do? You hire an agent to engineer the best introduction of your species to humanity. Great idea, right? Well, things do not go according to plan, and really there was no plan yet anyway, so... you just have to read it.

I give this book my HIGHEST recommendation.



Enchantment = 9.1/10 stars

This book hit my radar after a friend of mine told me it was his favorite Orson Scott Card book. I do not share this opinion, but I was pleased that in re-telling the Sleeping Beauty fable, Card stretched the tale, gave it a modern flair, added the folklore witch Baba Yaga, and even explored adult themes (love and sex) that he had not previously devoted much attention to in his novels. Granted, I have only read the Ender books and all the off-shoots plus the Pathfinder series. I have only read the first of the Alvin Maker books (Seventh Son), and though Memory of Earth has been on my stack for many years, I have yet to make time for it. Now, with the next prequel to the bugger wars just released and at the top of my stack, I am back to Ender-universe stuff.

Enchantment is very good but hardly mind blowing. There's some gaping holes in the plot and execution, but generally, it's a swift and entertaining read. The audio version is well done with narrators who have performed OSC's books before.

It's well worth a read by most any reader who will appreciate its updated fable-structure and well-written story.



The Ballad of Black Tom = 8.4/10 stars

This novella hit my radar while reading up on Lovecraft. I wrote about the issue of Lovecraft's racism a little bit in Hey Mom #267. I had another post started on the inspiring story for The Ballad of Black Tom (Lovecraft's "The Incident at Red Hook") but had not yet finished it.

Reversing the POV and re-telling "Red Hook" from the black character's perspective was a smart choice. Lavalle does well updating Lovecraft's style and world-building, but as a work of fiction, this strikes me as of greater interest to Lovecraft fans than the general public. In part, given the time that has lapsed since I read it, memory of what it contains has faded, which in part is why I gave it the rating I did. It's good and enjoyable but not mind blowing.






Elektrograd: Rusted Blood = 9/10 stars

And lastly in this round up, a Warren Ellis novella that I had forgotten about until I was reading more Kindle stuff, such as short stories from Patreon authors and The Ballad of Black Tom, in th eprevious review.

I really liked this novella. But then I am biased. I like all Warren Ellis products. I am a devoted fan as you well know Mom and as do all readers of my blog since I mention him, Ellis, all the time.

Kind of difficult not to mention Ellis a ton. I read his newsletter every Sunday, I get his Twitters, and now he's keeping a daily schedule on his Morning Computer blog.

Here's a blurb: "ELEKTROGRAD is the city of the future. Since the early 20th Century, it has been used as a test bed for futuristic modes of living. Each of its seven districts is an experimental site for new forms of architecture. 

It is now the early 21st Century. Elektrograd is showing its age. 

Mekanoplatz is the northernmost district of Elektrograd. And, on the district border, within site of the old construction robots with homeless people sheltering in their rusting carcasses, under the green flingers reaching their tentacles to the edge of space, and in the shadow of the hall where the shape of the future was first revealed in sparks and fire, there is a dead body. 

ELEKTROGRAD: RUSTED BLOOD is a murder mystery in a strange dream of a city, from the NYT-bestselling author of the crime novel GUN MACHINE and the graphic novels TRANSMETROPOLITAN, PLANETARY, and RED."

Red always gets mentioned now because it's been made into two movies and not because it's one of Ellis' most significant works.

The "new forms of architecture" are moving buildings. Literally, buildings that can raise up and move, like a giant, walking robot thing.

"Free of is final pinions, the building flexed its arms and stood all the way up. And, shaking the last of the snow from its shoulders, it began to move, rolling out to the wide road before it.

Behind it, another apartment building shook the snow from its shoulders. The walking district was awakening.

A child watched the building judder and reach its way across the snowy wasteland, sitting on the rusted curve of the edge of his home."

The "body" found in the secret room, the old laboratory, is one of three "robots," or "electrical men," created by Dr. Wilhelm Rosetta in 1939 for the Nazis. The mystery evolves when it's discovered that one of the robots is missing.

Here's a couple of short reviews with descriptions on how to get the book.

http://johnseedhouse.co.uk/uncategorized/elektrograd-rusted-blood/

http://www.scififantasynetwork.com/warren-ellis-elektrograd-rusted-blood-review/

Good stuff.

That's it for this LONG one and just a day late in posting. Not bad.

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Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.

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- Days ago = 355 days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1606.24 - 10:10

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.

atrocity-full by Steve Montiglio - Golden Gryphon Press

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