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I saw this recommended online somewhere and the premise was v my sort of thing so I gave it a go.

Bob is a hacker who gets lucky rich, signs up for cryogenic suspension, and at some point in the future is scanned and turned into an AI in a semi-theocratic-dystopian future. This is before that tech becomes reliable or cheap, so it's only used where an AI is needed and the subject doesn't have much choice, specifically running a space probe.

The generally comedic tone allows a lot of interesting premises to be examined which I've rarely seen in other books, like automatically using multiple copies of the most effective uploaded personality, instead of using each once each.

There's a bunch of space exploration which is solid and pleasingly up-to-date, but not otherwise spectacular.

Bob is an example of the sardonic-witty low-self-esteem hacker who shows up in lots of books. An archetype I like, but have got sick of. The sexist comments are fewer than The Martian, but still not zero.

If you like this sort of thing, you will probably enjoy it a lot, but if you don't, it probably won't persuade you.
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This has so much I love.

An interesting space empire, full of detailed calendrical minutae, customs, etc, etc.

A mathematically gifted protagonist struggling to serve loyally as a minor officer in the infantry.

A legendary rogueish maybe-monster.

The empire is built on basically mathematically-based magic, following particular social codes (both on an "infantry formation scale" and a "society as a whole" scale) allows various exotic technologies to work that wouldn't otherwise, including more powerful weapons and other tech that enables the empire to function at all.

I had some reservations too, which may contain spoilers, so will be moved into a follow-up post. Please make any comments which contain spoilers on that post too.
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Ghoti started a book swap. The idea is, like a secret Santa, but you post your favorite book (or one of them) to a randomly chosen recipient. It would be cool if more people signed up.

Extra people who don't already know everyone on the list would be good :) Probably most people well be UK, but people from any country are welcome (I think?)

Deadline us tomorrow-ish (?)
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The Intuitionist

At some point, I realised I had a similar problem reading these two very different books.

The Intuitionist is very interesting. It's set in something like an alt-history New York. There is a powerful guild of elevator inspectors, who have made building skyscrapers possible at all. (I think that's parallel but different to the real history?)

It has a lot to say about integration, about the protagonist is one of the few female inspectors and the second black inspector. In fact, I'm pretty sure it has a lot *more* to say than I was able to follow at the time.

However, I think the important themes were initially obscured to me because they are presented via a front of a factional schism between two schools of elevator inspectorate, the intuitionists and the empiricists. Intuitionists ride an elevator and intuit the state of any problems. Empiricists use instruments for everything. And I think this is probably a metaphor for something important I don't get yet.

But I'm rather hung up on the fact that I know pretty well which works in the real world. There are failure modes of both too much process and too little process. And times when too much process is a big problem, and guiding intuition is much more valuable. But when it comes to safety inspection, methodical measurement is really good, and intuition is really bad.

So I'm really not sure, but I think "intuitionists" are supposed to be "some progressive, successful but controversial faction" but it took me a while to realise that, because what they SAID rang really false to me.

And that split ALSO has a lot to say about racial equality, and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be reading that into the book as well. In moderation, empirical tests are good for equality. If you have a test related to actually doing the job, focusing on that, not gut feeling, can be very effective for levelling the playing field. cf. orchestras which do auditions with the performer behind a screen. Higher levels of supposedly objective tests are often an impediment to equality though -- see every employer who doesn't SAY "we want someone from an upper-middle-class caucasian background, preferable straight male", but DOES say "do you have qualification X which is expensive but not really directly helpful". However, "gut feeling" is generally ATROCIOUS here. Occasionally it's really good, when someone actively wants to hire under-appreciated talent. But normally "gut feeling" means "I can give free reign to all my prejudices and deny it if I'm called out".

Fifty Shades of Grey

If you ignore the bondage aspects, Fifty Shades of Grey follows a fairly traditional romance outline. It has some parts that bother me a lot, like "omg stalking and controlling behaviour are so sexy". But those are actually really common in many romance novels. I think those are a bad model for a relationship, and it's bad that stories tend to DEFAULT to having them. But also, it's something lots of people fantasise about, and I think it's important that "fantasising about romance, even if it isn't a healthy model for reality" is accepted as much as many many many other books which contain ok-for-fiction-but-bad-for-reality things eg. crime, death, etc.

I think some bits are clearly intended as fantasy. Most people want to *imagine* being stalked by a millionaire, but want that to actually *happen* only in careful moderation. Although the less familiar you are with that as a common romance fantasy, the more you're like "but that would actually be horrible".

Other bits are intended as mostly realistic. She drinks coffee. If she drank bleach every morning, all the readers would legitimately say "WTF? Why is that in your book??" And "it's fiction, I can do what I want" isn't really a helpful answer.

But the bondage stuff is somewhere between. I think to some people, it's clearly supposed to be fantasy. No-one would EVER do ANYTHING remotely like that in real life, right? So it doesn't matter if it's a random mix of mostly-safe-for-beginner stuff, and physically-safe-but-a-big-red-flag stuff, and really unwise stuff. It's all just "let's pretend". But to many people, they don't want to be tied up ACTUALLY against their will. But they DO like being tied up, and that's something lots of people actually DO. And it's not UNREALISTIC that the only person the protagonist's met who's openly into bondage is a dangerous control freak bully with unhealthy relationship habits and no idea of the difference between safe and dangerous, but it's UNREPRESENTATIVE, and it's irresponsible to say "this is what bondage is", when some people will read that and say, "that's obviously dangerous, lets ban it" and other people will say, "that seems fun, lets try it".

And the author could have gone in either direction. Grey could have kidnapped the protagonist -- then everyone knows that even if it's hot in fantasy, it's not a good model for real life. Or he could have had a passing familiarity with how to ACTUALLY do bdsm, even if he departed from it. That would make a lot of sense for the story, if he was known as a bdsm top who didn't care much about consent. And sure, for many people, that's the ONLY sort of BDSM-er they've met or can imagine. But it's still a problem to say that that's all there is ANYWHERE.

But the book bypasses all that. It's like, "deep dark secret, check", obviously we don't need to care about the legal or physical safety of any of the REAL WORLD PEOPLE that "dark secret" applies to, because it's just their for my titillation, right? :(

Other books

And I think that might stand out in other books. There's things which the author thought they could gloss over, which really stand out to me. And sometimes, once I learn what to ignore, I see the strengths of the rest of the book. And sometimes, they're unavoidably central to *most* people, but the minority who can ignore them really love the rest of the book.

But I suspect the same probably applies to big themes too. That there's books where the big theme is obscured by something that stood out *to me*. Or vice versa. But I'm not sure what examples would be.
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A Dangerous Energy, by John Whitbourne

Recommended via cjwatson iirc. An alternate history where magic exists, but is subsumed into a practical/academic discipline by the catholic church, from which England never successfully split. I think it's set now, but the politics and technology feel a way before that?

I love stories about the study of thaumaturgy. The main character grows up into quite a sociopathic man, but the journey of his researches, his friends, his sins is very interesting.

Lamentably, stories about the nature of the soul/magic/afterlife are doomed to be disappointing in the end when it is not ultimately revealed; this does better than most.

We are all completely beside ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

See woodpijn's brief review here: http://woodpijn.livejournal.com/104297.html

The protagonist is now at university, but lost touch with her sister and her brother when she was about five, and isn't sure which of her memories of what happened are accurate. But it's not deliberate abuse, nor deliberately false memories, it all arose quite naturally out of what actually happened.

And it doesn't dwell only on the negative, she fills in her life experiences at various points, and it's really interesting to hear how she grew up.

I don't have a lot to add, there's an important twist a quarter of the way through, which didn't feel contrived, but I don't want to talk about in case people want to read it.

Justice League Unlimited

This animated series is a pretty good introduction to many of the DC heroes. Especially the 3rd episode where Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman and Green Lantern are turned into younger versions of themselves.

It kind of annoyed me by being 80% really good messages, but kind of annoying in the remainder. Message of "give peace a chance, don't fight for no reason" is good. Portraying anonymous eastern-european countries as prone to fighting for no reason until american heros help them, maybe problematic. Having multiple prominent female characters treated as equal, good. Having them all have lots of cleavage, maybe problematic. etc.
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Genrenauts (Michael R Underwood)

Short novel about a comedian who joins a covert organisation which travels to secondary worlds themed around fictional genres. The first one is resolving a major plot derailment in Wild West World.

I love the playing with genre. The characters and plot are quite good. I would have liked a lot more, more explanation of the rules, more playing with the possibilities, but it was really fun.

I liked the sound of several of his other series too (popular-culture-mancers, superhero-meets-epic-fantasy etc) but I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy reading them or not. I will maybe look them up now.

I basically love the concept of any book with "-nauts" in, although they don't always live up to it :)

Throne of Glass

About an assassin condemned to slave mines a year ago age seventeen, now plucked from imprisonment to compete in a tournament to find a King's Champion. And also resolve various mystical threats, and form close friendships/romances with the King's heir and his captain of the guard who proposed her for the tournament.

It had a lot of good ideas I liked, but I quailed a bit at the worldbuilding -- if she's been raised by an isolated sect of reclusive assassins, where did she get romantic ideas in order to reject them? How exactly do the assassins support themselves? Does the king want a warrior or a poisoner, possibly he should pick one or the other?

Great Way, Harry Connelly

Harry Connelly wrote the Twenty Palaces series which had a lot of good stuff but somehow never gelled as a whole, and the standalone "Key, Egg, Unfortunate Remark" an urban fantasy about a mostly-pacifist aunt who keeps the peace without seducing or slaying anyone :)

Great Way is epic fantasy series. There are lots of good ideas. The empire at the heart of books, sharing an uncomfortable relationship with partially absorbed hinterland regions, maintains control partly by military might, but really, by a monopoly on magician-provided logistics. Rather than an unbounded number of spells, a ceremony every fifty (?) years connects the capital through a portal to a mysterious elf-like race, who watch a great ceremony in their honor, and in return gift a magic spell. There's about twenty of these total, each with some number of painstakingly researched variants. But being able to -- at all -- conjure stone to build fortresses, or create flying carts, etc makes an unmatchable long-term military advantage.

But -- shock -- this year, instead of semi-creepy but valuable elf ambassadors, the portal opens to an giant army of mutant demons, the centre of the empire falls, and the rest of the characters scramble around trying to ensure their personal survival, figure out what happened magic-wise, and if there's any way of knitting together the splinters of disintegrating empire into a concerted resistance.

I like the way the characters grow into themselves: the king's son is initially a bit of a populist wastrel, but rises to the occasion when heroism and leadership is needed; the grizzled captain of the guard learns to work with the young nobles; noble-children hostages friends of the king's son experience conflicted loyalties.

Something still feels a bit missing but I'm not sure what. I will go on to read the other 2/3 of the series.


Apr. 20th, 2016 03:41 pm
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Borderline, by Mishell Baker

An urban fantasy with a protagonist who had borderline personality disorder and amputated legs. She walks straight from a residential clinic into an agency that deals with contact between our world and a secondary Fae world.

Apparently the author has BPD too, and it reads like a matter-of-fact journal of how she copes, rather than a romanticisation, so I don't know if the borderline personality disorder is accurate but it's not obviously bad and I'd like to hear from someone who would know better than me.

The fantasy worldbuilding is reasonably well done, it establishes some simple ideas about human/fey relations and how that bring creativity to the human and abstract thought to the fey, and develops them. I felt like it all wrapped up a bit quick, but what there was was quite interesting.

Warning that the protagonist had a relationship with a college professor which may have been abusive, and had a suicide attempt, before the book starts, but are brought up often, if that is likely to make it difficult to read for you.

Just City, by Jo Walton

Greek Gods Athena and Apollo pull hundreds of volunteers from all over time to participate in an experiment to create Plato's vision of a perfect society (Utopia) in reality. And several of the characters are historical figures who've written on Plato (who I hadn't heard of, but if you follow this sort of thing you will hopefully be excited about).

It does most of the things you'd hope from that premise, it examines what's right and what's tragically wrong in Plato's ideas, and how people from different cultures cope with the ideas differently, and has people living lives with a blend of civic responsibility and philosophical discourse. Near the end there's an important philosophical debate between one of the philosophers and Athena.

Again, warning, that a major theme is different relationships between men and women, and why some cultures don't really have an understanding why rape is bad, and in a few places it gets quite graphic. It's not endorsing or condoning anything, but it's likely to be difficult to read for many people.

More books

Apr. 13th, 2016 02:22 pm
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Quantum Prophecy (Michael Carroll)

Another interesting YA superhero novel. Superheroes all disappeared or lost their powers mysteriously 13 years ago. Now the next generation are just starting to get their powers, which is a good excuse for why there's infrastructure for superheroes but the young ones are important.

The title refers to a prophecy by a superhero called Quantum, which is a bit of a cheat but probably better than trying to justify why it's quantum :) This bit is quite ominous, one of the powerful, good, but eccentric heroes had visions about some disaster involving one of the new generation, which underlies all the events.

But the main characters aren't very memorable, and it was ok but not great.

Conspiracy of Angels (Michelle Belanger)

Urban Fantasy about different orders of angels living on Earth, and the fallout of events from 1000 years ago. Great premise, but I wasn't interested enough to seek out sequels.

A Prospect of Vengeance (Penultimate Anthony Price)

I can't remember the title, but I think I read my way almost up to date with everything he wrote.

I love his books where minor characters are updated to viewpoint characters, and we get to see previous characters from the outside. But I find it hard to get into the books about completely new characters, like this one.

And it's true, I'd rather he'd kept writing about cold war books, even if that wasn't the real world, than try to cope with transitioning to a post-cold-war spy agency.

Girl Genius #11

Always fun, but this one was especially funny too.

Don't tell my parents I'm a supervillain (Richard Roberts)

Another reasonably good YA superhero novel. It handles people gaining powers in interesting ways, it makes explicit the "mad scientist" thing the hero does builds awesome one-offs which have to be re-purposed to the situation at hand. But it feels a bit pointless that being a supervillain is mostly just a name, there's not really anything "bad" about it.

(Edited to add authors)
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Lock in, John Scalzi

A disease put people in comas, now they communicate partly through a VR system, partly through tele-presence androids. Fairly good world-building, it's never just "ok", there's perennially ongoing battles for "who should pay for this" and "can you afford a decent chassis, or do you have to put up with something suboptimal", etc, etc.

The tech has moments of bullshit but not more than most stories which involve people jacking-in to things.

The plot was reasonably good, but I didn't find it especially memorable.

Given that there's almost NO fiction with a paralysed protagonist, this is a fairly good one to read, but it didn't blow me away other than that.

Johannes Cabal #4

Scientific necromancer anti-hero Johannes Cabal blunders into a new political/necromantic disaster that ties up some of the plot threads from the previous books, and finally, finally finds some progress on his true question for permanent resurrection.

Lockwood #2

Teenage rapier-wielding ghost hunter agency survives another book without going bankrupt.

Locksley Exploit

"The Circle", combined shadowy government agency and reincarnations of the knights of the round table, continue in a second book. Continues the things I like, the ongoing balance between host and ally personalities, the constant story-blindness "oops, how did we not notice AGAIN we were reinacting this story". But it bursts from secrecy into a countrywide insurrection, which is a delicate balancing act to maintain plausibility.

Boy with the porcelain blade

Ambiguous fantasy kingdom with some great worldbuilding, half-a-dozen children of various ages in ambiguous position at court, all sporting some power and/or deformity, forbidden from metal swords and ostracised by court but simultaneously groomed for great things. Feels a bit like a cross between a secondary-world court-politics novel and Gormenghast. But goes off the rails a bit trying to straddle the difference.

Fire and thorns

Promising excepts about a sidelined princess marrying for politics and then turning her book-reading into military and political strategy. But turns into too much "and then fate did it, but isn't it inspiring that fat people can be competent too"?

Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith (aka J K Rowling)

The first of her detective novels. The mystery was reasonably well done, as were the characters. The main character is a PTSD-ridden ex-military-police big beat-up private detective, recently divorced from his beautiful society wife he had a messed up relationship with. And his sidekick is a young woman doing temp work while applying for permanent jobs, but would really love to be a private detective.

Lots of little things ring really true, like her fiance's unfortunate oblivious contempt for her job, and Strike's difficult relationship with his wife. But I felt like I didn't have enough reason to actually read it.
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I sometimes think of things I enjoy doing, just like things I need to be able to do, as skills. Not that the main enjoyment of reading a book is the challenge, but I think *some* of it is. I enjoy reading books where I DO have to work to follow what's going on, even though I enjoy that less often than I enjoy reading books that aren't as hard work.

But that partly means, I'm always slowly getting bored with the sort of books I used to like. Because if you can read the first few pages and say, "right, I bet the tough protagonist talks like an asshole but actually always does the right thing and the female lead flirts with him for some reason and the morally ambiguous manipulators switch sides several times but end up essentially working with the protagonist in the climax even if he doesn't like it", and all that happens, the only bits I'm really experiencing are the bits that *don't* fit into that mold.

And it also means, reading books in a different genre can be *difficult*, I need to consciously practice in order to follow when much more of the book is new to me. But rewarding, because a bit of practice can open up a lot of other books.

And it also means, "how much do you like this book" can vary a lot, "it's good, but only if you're familiar with that sort of thing" or "it's good, but you may have read it all before", can be the norm, not the exception.
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Fourth in the Johannes Cabal series of straight-faced comic fantasy.

Prior to the first book, Johannes Cabal became a necromancer, aimed not at raising armies of the dead, but to scientifically find a method a true resurrection. I love the scientist persona, even as he's a total bastard about caring about the lives of people who he thinks are less clever than him (ie. almost everyone).

In Johannes Cabal, Necromancer he enters into a wager with Satan to run a carnival for a year and entrap 100 souls, in order to regain his previously-sold soul. In the following books, his conscience grows back by inches, just enough to make it bearable to read, but not enough to suggest he was especially empathic before he sold his soul in the first place.

In Johannes Cabal, Detective, he becomes tangled up in the politics of a fictional eastern-european nation, flies in Airships and Entomoptors (insect-winged planes), and reluctantly solves a murder.

In The Fear Institute, he travels to the land of dreams, and closes off some plot threads from the first book.

In Brothers Cabal, he gets tangled up in different Eastern-european politics, a different non-damned Entomopter circus, resolves several plot threads from the previous two books and maybe, maybe, finds a first solid lead about true resurrection.

There are also several short stories where he invariably does something heroic under protest.
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Unsurprisingly, this is really good! It's the whole story of Patricia's life, told in flashback from her nursing home where she is losing her memory. Except that it's actually two lives, in two parallel worlds, which combines badly with losing her memory anyway.

It covers a lot of the social and geopolitical themes of the second half of the 20th century. Nucelar armament. Moonbases. AIDS. Feminism, in several models. Gay and poly relationships.

It's less depressing than I feared: yes, people die, including the protagonist soon, but that's unavoidable for a whole life, to me, the message felt more like "all lives have redeeming features".

The two bits I found most difficult were reading about her marriage in one world to her young love, who, once she's a wife, completely dismisses her as a person, expecting her to do everything, but failing to respect her opinion or competence at anything :(

And when she went into the home and couldn't take her Mac, which she used for keeping notes, and looking up words she'd forgotten, and realised she was going to sever completely the connection a normal life :(

But in both worlds, she has lovely children who become people, and grow up, and it's really touching.
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He-man, recent comic

Randomly from library, yay library. This seems to be a recent reinterpretation which fleshes out the characters and worldbuilding, seeming to be aimed at people who read/watched he-man as children. Adam, a humble woodcutter, is troubled by dreams of being He-Man, and fighting evil overlord Skeletor, and gets drawn into world-wide events.

I like the way it seems consistent with the version I remember, but fleshes it out so the characters seem more like actual characters. I don't like the inclusion of some of the over-sexualised costumes and stereotypical slave-dealing-ness for people living in deserts :(

Death Vigil, comic

This was great fun. Look at the front cover of the collected edition: https://imagecomics.com/comics/series/death-vigil Bernadette is not death, but is, for reasons lost in time, loosely inspired by death, or Valkyries, or something, rescuing people with certain aptitudes from the moment of death to join a semi-corporal organisation devoted to defeating various necromancers and the lovecraftian horrors influencing them.

What I love is, the way she's just slightly awkward about it. She always plays the role of the leader, but her expression is always just a little bit "Who, me?" And some fun other characters, like the raven who turns into a tyranosaurus, and the new woman who quickly learns how to use her portal-creating power offensively, and the digger who's the first viewpoint character and mostly hits stuff, and the little girl who accidentally fused with a lovecraftian horror but is on the side of the good guys, and her dad's feud with Bernie.

I read the first collected edition, and apparently it's cancelled soon after that. But people recommended Sunstone also by Stjepan Sejic (a lesbian BDSM relationship comic iirc) so I should probably try that.

SevenEves, novel

Neal Stephenson. Fairly readable, good ideas about near-future space-colonisation, which is something I've felt the lack of in my life for a while.

Undertones of "Hard science good, social science bad".

Makes a creditable attempt to have characters. I didn't find any of them as memorable as the characters from Snow Crash, Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon or Baroque Cycle (where even if you didn't like the characterisation, I at least found it memorable). But it had a twenty+ characters I could actually describe the difference between, which is a good start. And makes a reasonable-but-not-perfect attempt to have characters who just happen to be female without that being the defining feature of their character.

Shadow Hero, comic

After enjoying severla of Gene Luen Yang's other books, I bought several of his older ones. Shadow Hero is the re-imagined backstory for a golden-age comics hero, the Green Turtle, who did generally super-heroic things, but was by an Asian-American creator, and invariably hid his face in almost every panel. It's speculated the creator had hoped to make him Asian-American, but had been rebuffed, but that he still thought of him that way. Shadow Hero makes up a very touching story showing how a young Chinese-American man blunders into becoming the Green Turtle.
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Poirot, Cards on the Table

ghoti found me an Agatha Christie in a second hand bookstall -- I'd never read any Christie before.

I enjoyed it a lot, it was a good detective story, and hung together well. She recommended this particular one because the murder occurred during a bridge game, and part of it is wondering which person slipped away when playing dummy.

It focusses on which character would have committed a murder, rather than could, and seems constructed to make that point, but is done very well -- the four suspects are consistent in their characters, and their actions do hang together psychologically. Who might do something out of panic? Who would take a bold chance? Etc etc. And the foreward admits up-front that it's a not a trick subverting one of the premises (as in, "this seems impossible -- how" mysteries), but it genuinely is one of the four suspects for the reason established in the first few pages, and the question is which.

However, I also felt that didn't take sufficient account for the possibility that someone might act in a way you don't expect because they knew something that made them more or less desperate, or made the risk seem greater or lesser, than you supposed -- I think that's more common than not.

I'm torn on Poirot himself. He's very vivid, the way he embraces the role of a pompous foreigner, but is really on the ball inside. But didn't seem to have much character himself, no fears or hopes, no loves or hates, (I don't know if there's more in other books).

Probabilistic reasoning

I touched on this above, but when I'm evaluating something, I try to think "how likely is this? how likely is it that my premises are flawed in some way?" Because at some point, the "most" likely explanation is less likely than "you missed something" or "something unlikely happened meaning people were acting at cross purposes somehow".

It's particularly evident in detective books, because it's usually the case you're supposed to take some things on trust, and distrust others, but exactly which is generally established by implication and convention, and if it's not what you expect you can feel cheated. And it's hard to avoid, because setting up a good mystery often involves some unlikely coincidences, which you're not supposed to quibble with too hard, but you're also supposed to evaluate the suspects with an eye to spotting deception.

I find it quite hard to think probabilistically, I can do "but it COULD be this...", but it's hard for me to go to "but probably it isn't", I tend to be too completionist. And sometimes that spots me interesting "out of the box" solutions which turn out to be right. But I can be quite bad at spotting normal "which of these suspects is actually guilty" mysteries, because I find it hard to say "well, it's not certain, but this is the best interpretation available"...

The nature of crime

Sometimes murder is specifically planned -- by someone desperate to silence the victim, by organised crime, etc. And often it's an extension of other violent crime -- a mugging, an argument, etc, where one or both parties kept escalating with no control. And the second is probably more common, but the first might be more common in mysteries.

But this book made me think about it, because the different types of motive for murder the suspects evinced, desperation, or hatred, or whatever. And also wonder -- how much is crime a product of selfishness, and how much a product of short-term thinking? I suspect, a lot of both.
jack: (Default)
I have been trying to record at least a few thoughts about books or films I've consumed, but I've got too much of a backlog to think I'll actually do as much as I'd imagined, so here's a brief list.


Set in Ireland, about a member of a small town who shoots a very nice priest in revenge against the church for allowing another priest to abuse him when he was a boy. Well done, I don't know if the portrayal of Ireland is good or horrible, the subject matter is very uncomfortable.

Firefight, Brandon Sanderson

The sequel to Sanderson's overly-specified novel about anti-superheroes. It continues the same strengths (worldbuilding, consistency of superpowers), and flaws (characters, emotional satisfaction). It fills in backstory from when powers were first discovered and some major heroes and villains were scientists who'd hoped to use them for good. It progresses the plot. Overall, it felt a bit flat, but gave me a lot of good ideas and I'll definitely read the third one.

planetary comics

A collected series of comics about an alternate history where an alternate-version of (roughly) Fantastic Four are villains who control most of the world, and the Planetary organisation which does... various stuff. It's beautiful, glorious, in showing "here's a cool thing, here's ANOTHER cool thing, here's a cool character, here's an even cooler character". Lots of it stuck with me. It doesn't try for much consistency in worldbuilding, which disappoints me, even though it might have been incompatible with what it does well.

Beauty and the Beast

Judith finally showed me another of the Disney films I'd never actually saw. It's really pretty good, both in a good story, and a good overall message: Gaston creeping on Belle is a great portrayal of a socially-powerful person imposing unwanted romantic attention on someone, enough that it's really obviously creepy, without descending into torture-porn.

The Beast is scary without being creepy in the same way, and it's clearly shown that he's doing a bad thing by kidnapping Belle even if it isn't completely her fault, and him saving her life redeems him, not her.

I'm also quite amazed at the Beast's animation, that he's beast-like enough to be menacing, but humanoid enough to be plausibly romantic with Belle.
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Wolf of Wall Street (film)

Read more... )

Bitter seeds (novel by Ian Tregellis)

Read more... )

Hard spell (novel randomly picked up from the library)

Read more... )

Bittersweet summer (YA novel)

Read more... )
jack: (Default)
Will Supervillains be on the Final?

Manga-style comic written by Naomi Novik and draw by Yishan Li, about a girl who goes to superhero school, has more natural power than most people, but has difficulty fitting in, and is affected by the ongoing fallout of ex-superhero and ex-supervillain politics.

I love this genre, and it's a pleasant example of it, I really enjoyed it, though it doesn't add a lot I haven't seen before. It's fairly short, and I was sad to see promised follow-up volumes haven't appeared.

First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

This is exactly the sort of book I like, about someone living their life over several times, getting tangled up in the plots of other people in the similar situation, someone screwing up the timeline and causing future cataclysm, and fight between time travellers.

It touches on themes I find interesting in this sort of thing -- how much you meddle with time, and what happens? do you care about the lives of people you know are going to just come alive again? And it uses its premises on what does and doesn't allow an immortal to return well in crafting the overall plot. I would have liked more "now lets try a do over with more information" a la Groundhog Day/All You Need is Kill, rather than descending into standard-ish thriller territory, but it's still good.

Spoilers )