Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire #1) by Yoon Ha Lee

The first book I read from this year’s Hugo nominees.
The book is science fiction, which happens, apparently, in the far future. The book really throws you to the deep end at the beginning. There are many very strange and unfamiliar words and concepts which aren’t explained at all, and the book is very hard to read and to get into, especially at first. It does get a little easier, but not much, and there were many different characters, who were very hard to keep track of, especially for someone with the bad memory I have for names.

A major part of the book is figuring out what actually is going on, and a detailed explanation might be considered to be a spoiler.

The main protagonist makes an unorthodox decision during the battle. She gets ordered to the headquarters and isn’t sure if she is going to be rewarded or punished. In a way she is both; she gets an important mission but is implanted with a war criminal, who killed his own troops hundreds of years ago. His mind has been recorded and it can be implanted on another person. He is a brilliant strategist and has never lost a battle, even with very bad odds. But he is apparently crazy, and there is a chance that his lunacy will infect the person who is carrying him. It is unknown why he attacked his own troops.

The protagonists are battling against heretics with a different calendar and way of calculating time. It seems that has a profound effect on what sort of technologies work and can be used. I had some trouble with that, as I identified with that side where the protagonists are the bad guys. If someone is called a heretic, that implies that there is some sort of dogmatic belief system which persecutes people that believe something else, so someone who is accused of being a heretic always gets some sympathy from me. So I had a feeling right from the start that we are looking things from the viewpoint of the “bad guys”. I am not saying the feeling was right, but there were shades of gray...

One aspect of the book was very strange and imaginative; technology with intelligent, self-aware helper “bots” and weapons with extremely unpleasant but imaginative effects. All in all, pretty good, but a complex book which was not an easy read.
384 pp.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Goblin War (Jig the Goblin #3) by Jim C. Hines

The book continues the story of a hapless goblin, Jig. The goblins are once again threatened by humans as human adventurers invade their lair and steal a valuable, powerful magical artifact. Jig finds out that that a huge army of monsters is being assembled. The human army and the army of goblins, orcs, and kobolds are heading into a huge battle. Jig isn’t a big fan of battles of any kind, as they usually are dangerous.

As he has been about the only follower (and the only prophet) of a forgotten god, he is able to heal some wounds, but war? Battles? You could get seriously hurt. Unfortunately, the god he is following has some goals of his own, some of them involve battling other gods. That is pretty scary until the god does something extremely cruel: he removes all of Jig’s fear.

It had been many years since I read the second part of this series, and it took some time to get into this one. I had fairly hazy memories of Jig’s earlier exploits and especially about “his” god. Probably the best parts of the book were the segments that told the backstory of the god and how he wound up with one puny and cowardly goblin as his sole follower. Otherwise, the book was pretty entertaining and witty, but slightly less so than the second part, which is the best of the series – at least if I am remembering the details accurately. But it was entertaining to follow a hero with a healthy dose of cowardice and a very strong will of self-preservation – at any cost.

352 pp.