In which I’m an asshole but I’m trying to stop

91f2oZK0TILI used to discover new books by going to physical bookstores and spending a pleasurable hour searching through the shelves.  That method is effectively obsolete now, as damn near everything I read is something I discovered online (on Twitter, more often than not) and added to my Amazon wish list.  Sometimes I end up at Barnes and Noble anyway, though, and for whatever reason every time I set foot in that place nowadays it leads to a blog post.

I came across Christopher Ruocchio’s Empire of Silence at some point in the past few days; I don’t remember exactly when, but comparing something to Dune is guaranteed to get my attention and I added it to my wishlist.  We ended up celebrating my birthday tonight with steak and book-shopping, and I happened to find a copy of the book on the shelf somewhere.  I wasn’t familiar with Ruocchio– I think this is his debut novel, but I’m not 100% sure, and he’s definitely a young guy– and my first thought upon seeing his author picture was … well, judgmental.  I’m not gonna bother saying how, but he’d done nothing to deserve said judgmentalness.

And then I noticed that his author bio mentioned his Twitter feed, and so I pulled my phone out and went to look at his Twitter, specifically to see if he was posting anything on Twitter that would give me an excuse to not buy his books.  And I came across this Tweet:

Here’s the thing: my opinions on politics are very very apparent from my Twitter feed, and still pretty goddamn apparent from my blog posts.  I am absolutely certain that there are some people out there who might enjoy my books but won’t/wouldn’t have given me the chance because of my politics, and that’s okay.  Anyone who doesn’t want to read my work for any reason whatsoever is absolutely free to not do so, as none of you owe me anything.

My personal rule on the politics of authors and various and sundry other artists who I support is You Don’t Want None There Won’t Be None.  I’ve never deliberately gone looking for someone’s political ideas before deciding to check out their work before, but there have definitely been some authors– Orson Scott Card and Dan Simmons come to mind immediately, and I threw away a John C. Wright book unread once I found out what a piece of shit he was, and I’m sure there are others– whose work I no longer read or never started because I find them to be such odious people.  But if you either keep your shit to yourself or if you put it out there you do it in such a way that you don’t immediately convince me that you’re a boil on the asshole of humanity, I’ve never been one to go looking for bullshit.  But if you put it out there, well, there might be consequences.

But that’s exactly what the hell I was doing– trying to comb this dude’s Twitter feed for a reason not to buy his book, because something about the way he looks set me off.

I don’t like the fact that I’ve turned into that person.

Long story short, I bought the goddamn book, which I was gonna do anyway, but as soon as I realized I was trying to find a reason to write this dude off and not buy his book I decided I had to buy it.  And I’m gonna try harder to rein in my own dickishness in the future, because this shit is ridiculous, and I don’t want to do it again.

Now I just gotta hope to hell I like the thing.  🙂

 

#REVIEW: THE LIVES OF TAO, by Wesley Chu

51zuwjF8-lL._SX301_BO1,204,203,200_The Lives of Tao is the second of Wesley Chu’s books that I have read.  It is, I’m pretty certain, his debut novel, and has two sequels, The Deaths of Tao and The Rebirths of Tao.  I like Chu’s work quite a bit from what I’ve read of it, but this one has a few problems that didn’t show up in Time Salvager, which was the first Chu book I read.  He has some major strengths as an author, chief among which is writing fast-paced books that are difficult to put down and writing solid action.  The book has some weak parts, too, but we’ll get to those later.

The premise is thus: millions of years ago (think during the dinosaur age) a rather large group of aliens crashed on Earth.  The aliens found Earth’s atmosphere uninhabitable for them and quickly discovered that the only way they would be able to survive on our planet was to effectively act as symbiotic organisms and inhabit the bodies of creatures that were already surviving on Earth.  They were isolated from each other for millions of years (the aliens, the Quasing, aren’t precisely immortal– they can be killed– but they don’t die of old age) but eventually Earth managed to evolve intelligent life and ever since then the Quasing have been guiding our evolution as a species and trying to get humanity to a point where they can go back to space– which is apparently way more complicated than it sounds.   The book picks up when Tao, a Quasing whose host has just been killed is forced to inhabit the body of an overweight, unambitious computer programmer named Roen Tan, and basically has to change him from a video-game-obsessed chubby schlub into an international man of mystery and combat operative in a not-especially long period of time.  Oh and there are two different factions of the Quasing now and they don’t like each other all that much.

If that premise interests you, you should read this book; you’ll like it.  If you’re already scratching your head and going “Well, wait, what about…” then you might want to skip it, as not quite fully thinking the premise through is why this is a perfect four-star book (out of five) for me.  Over the course of the book you find out that most of the Quasing characters you encounter have inhabited major historical figures over the course of their, remember, theoretically infinite, millions-of-years-old lives.  Tao himself was, among others, Genghis Khan and Zhang Sanfeng, who you may not have heard of but was the inventor of tai chi.  At various points in the book Shakespeare, Galileo, the apostle Peter and any number of other important historical figures are all revealed to have been hosts for Quasing.

The problem is, “humans have never controlled their own destinies and have been inhabited by aliens manipulating them in a shadow war for literally all of history” isn’t the premise for an action-adventure with some comedy elements like this book.  It’s the premise of a horror story.  And the Quasing are not remotely alien enough to be actual aliens, much less aliens that are all millions of years old.  It’s not quite clear how they’ve not managed to return themselves to space yet either; they’ve retained all of their scientific knowledge, but Chu’s need to keep to the actual human span of history means that there need to be ridiculous bits like Galileo having been told by a Quasing that Earth wasn’t the center of the universe.  Did this just … never come up before?   I mean, once humans had opposable thumbs and enough of an intellect to use their tools, what was keeping the Quasing from just jumpstarting us to at least something close to the level of technology they had?  There are nods here and there to one of the factions not really wanting to alter human history that much, but there are apparently hundreds if not thousands of these things and they’ve been here for, again, the literal entirety of human history.  There’s no human history to alter.  There’s only Quasing history.

But again: I read this book in about three days in big gulps.  If you can ignore the previous paragraph, if that sort of thing isn’t going to get under your skin and gnaw at you, you’re probably going to like this book, and even though I am one of those people I’m going to end up picking up the sequels.  Don’t get me wrong: four stars, I enjoyed reading this.  But the premise needed some work before this went to print.  We’ll see if there are any corrections applied in the later books.  For now?  I’m still in.

Quick question

I’ve completely lost patience with The Walking Dead, and haven’t watched an episode since the show came back from its midseason hiatus.  We’re, I dunno, four or five episodes into the new season of Jessica Jones and I can barely pay attention.  I did notice that Season 2 of Into the Badlands was on Netflix, and I’ll watch that, and I binged The End of the Fucking World on Hulu a week or two ago but that’s kinda a one-off.

What’s good in TV right now?  Y’all should have a decent idea of what my tastes are like after all this time, right?

Two brief book #reviews

annihilationReviewlets, anyway.  I’ve had Jeff Vandermeer’s ANNIHILATION on my Kindle for what seems like forever– several months, at least, and I either got it at a scandalously low cost or actually for free.  One way or another, I don’t remember when I downloaded it, but I finally decided to start reading it the other day– mostly prompted by hearing some good things about the movie.

I don’t know what the hell I just read, guys.  On one hand, I blew through the thing in like two days, finishing the last 40% or so of it this morning while my son celebrated Spring Break by watching iPad videos and playing Mario Odyssey.  That’s actually a hell of a thing– reading, for me, is a very solitary activity, and the idea that I can get sucked into reading a book while there’s someone else in the room who is doing something that makes noise is pretty damned impressive.  And the weird thing is that most of the time while I was reading it I was vaguely annoyed by it.  I’m usually pretty quick to put down a book that annoys me, especially if I’m reading it on my Kindle and I don’t have to look at it staring at me from a shelf and mocking me with its unfinishedness.  There’s something just very offputting about the way this book is written that reminds me of a college lecture about Bertolt Brecht.  I know that sounds wankerish, and it probably is, but the prof (whose name I don’t remember) talking about how Brecht deliberately wrote his play (I don’t even remember the name of the play) to annoy and push away the audience really stuck with me for some reason.  I think Vandermeer wants you to feel a bit alienated by this book, which is both good and bad.  I mean, none of the characters have names, and they refer to each other only by their jobs, like “the biologist” and “the psychologist,” and if The Surveyor is talking to The Biologist, she’s going to call her that.

Also, and I feel like this is going to come off really weird, and I can’t explain it other than to hope that you’ve read the book and you understand, but all of the characters in the book are women, including the narrator, and there is nothing remotely feminine about any of them.  Which sounds like I think that Women Should Be Like This and Men Should Be Like That and isn’t the case.  It’s just … hell, the whole book is inexplicable.

Also: I watched the trailer for the movie after finishing the book and the two appear to have not a whole lot in common.  Part of me wonders if the movie is pulling in bits from the other two books in the series.  Which, despite having written this and not having much good to say about the book, I might buy anyway.

… someone, please tell me you’ve read this damn thing and know what I’m talking about.


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On the other end of things, I’ve been really excited to read Tomi Adeyemi’s CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE since I first heard about it, and I actually timed finishing the book before it to be able to start it as soon as possible once it got into my house.  I spent most of the book thinking it was supposed to be a one-shot (it’s not, it’s the first of a trilogy) and feeling simultaneously like it needed to be a bigger story and it needed to be pruned down a bit.  I like Adeyemi’s writing quite a lot and the broader story of BLOOD AND BONE, about a persecuted minority who used to have access to magic and for most of a generation has lost it, and the group of young people who are working to bring their magic back– is compelling as hell.  My problem with the book, and what made it a three-and-a-half-stars-rounded-up-to-four instead of the five-star I wanted, is that the book is just a touch too YA for my tastes. Which, y’know, it’s a YA novel, so that’s my reaction and not a flaw with the book, but the book employs four different POV narrators and has short chapters (five pages or fewer, most of the time) and so there’s an awful lot of recapping and restating and reminding the audience of the specific angst of this character as opposed to that character.  One character in particular discovers he has magical abilities he was unaware of and hates himself for it, which is great except that he has to hate himself anew for it in every one of his chapters, and it gets to be a bit much for me.

That said, the book’s unexpected ending and approach to the inevitable romantic entanglement of the characters wins it an extra star, Adeyemi’s wordcraft is solid throughout, and I want to know more about where this world is headed, so despite some reservations I’m definitely in for the second book.

tl;dr: I want you to have already read ANNIHILATION and tell me what you thought, and I want you to go read CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE despite the fact that it isn’t quite a home run for me.  The end.

Some short #reviews

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SHORT REVIEW THE FIRST:  Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee. Funny story about this book: it’s the second in a series that is going to run at least three books– I think the third one was just formally announced– but it was the first one I bought because occasionally I’m an idiot.  One of the disadvantages of ordering damn near everything I read from Amazon is that once in a very long while I order a sequel to a book I haven’t read without realizing it.

So, anyway: the first book?  I three-starred it, once I ordered and read it, mostly because I couldn’t wrap my head around the technology in the book to save my damn life (all of the tech in the book depends on a common understanding of the calendar, except fifty times more complicated and weird and unique than that sounds) and as a result I didn’t get the book all that well.  It was one of those things where I didn’t blame the book– it’s not the book’s fault that it’s smarter than me– but I wasn’t looking forward to the sequel.

Well, despite still not really being able to wrap my head around the technology, I’m either used to it or it’s backgrounded a bit more in this book, because I’ve blazed through it and I’m enjoying the hell out of it.  I’m not quite done, so I suppose things could still go to hell– but I’m liking Book Two enough that I’ll probably revisit the whole series once Book Three comes out, and I think you should start with Ninefox Gambit and go from there.


SHORT REVIEW THE SECOND: The-WitnessI’ve talked about The Witness a bit here already, but now I’ve beaten it, or at least played it to the point where it does something that is so bullshit that I decided I wasn’t playing it any longer.  It ends poorly, but the hundreds of puzzles that lead up to that poor ending are of generally entertaining and challenging caliber, with most of them proving a level of difficulty and feeling of achievement that keep me moving and playing.  There were definitely a few that I cheated on (I don’t have ego about this shit any longer) but for the most part it’s one of the most solid puzzle games I’ve played in quite a while.  The ending is bullshit, but the game saves itself right before it pulls the bullshit on you, so if you’re of the type to be able to wait once you know the game is beaten, do that and go solve all the other puzzles that aren’t in the main, objective-based walkthrough.  Not a 10/10, but you should still try it out.


Horizon Zero Dawn.jpgSHORT REVIEW THE THIRD:  Now this one is a 10/10.  Despite the stupid name, Horizon: Zero Dawn is one of the best games of this generation.  I got it at a stupid-deep discount for only $20, but I’d gladly have paid full price.  The premise is laid out pretty clearly on the cover there: you’re fighting robot dinosaurs with a bow and arrow.  If you don’t reply “I’m in!” after reading that, you and I really can’t be friends.  The combat took a little getting used to but gets really interesting and deep after a while (any game that can have me regularly using five or six different weapons at different points of a big fight is a game with a good combat system) and literally my only complaint about it is that some of the animations are a little janky.  I never did get used to watching Aloy walk anywhere; they probably should have cleaned up that basic animation a bit.  The plot itself is dense and multilayered and fun, post-apocalyptic pre-apocalyptic done right, and they managed to remember that people of color will survive along with the white folk.  Extra points for Aloy herself, who is as compelling a character as I’ve played in a video game in quite some time– probably since Joel in The Last of Us.  This game is worth getting a PS4 for if you don’t have one, guys.  That good.