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Book Reviews - Qualified Perceptions
Book Reviews
Thud (by Terry Pratchett)
Of the Discworld books, I like the ones centered on Vimes and the Watch best. The mages are a little too random and silly, the witches are a little too powerful; Vimes is "straight as an arrow, even if he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer." Except he usually is the sharpest knife in the drawer; he's just not a vorpal sword. This one is good Vimes, plus a reasonable mystery, plus a Message Hidden In The Painting, just to be timely. Comedy, and drama, and little bits of wisdom like "Coffee is just a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your slightly older self." Don't start here, though - this is book thirty. Four stars.

Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation (by Olivia Judson)
I got to have this conversation this morning!
desireearmfeldt: Spam with subject header: Mr Sykes thought you might need this. My first thought: I'm getting email from a victorian burglar?
Me: "Sykes" as a last name first appeared about 700 years ago. Analysis of the Y chromosome of a bunch of different Sykeses indicates that they are all descended from the same guy, with about a 1.3 percent infidelity per generation.

I picked this up on the recommendation of kirisutogomen (see his review here). It's clever and funny and really does a better job than knees of convincing me that "intelligent design" would actually be "goofy and deliberately perverse design".

The anecdote that amused me most: Female sticklebacks will choose nests and male sticklebacks based on there already being eggs in the nest. Presumably because that indicates the male is a Good Protector of Eggs and such. So, male sticklebacks that aren't guarding any eggs already will go and steal eggs from other nests to lure in the stickleback babes. Oh, and the penis-fencing flatworms. This particular kind of flatworm is a hermaphrodite, but it's a lot less resource-intensive to be the male than the female. So if you can swim up to another flatworm and impregnate them (which you can do by sticking your penis pretty much anywhere) then you totally win. Kids for you, with no work. So you get these flatworm fencing duels, trying to see who can poke the other guy first. Four and a half non-fictional stars.

Gridlinked (by Neal Asher)
This was his first book; the Skinner was the second. I liked Skinner better. There's more humor in amongst the grit and mayhem, and the whole piratical aspect to boot, whereas Gridlinked is more James Bond than pirate. However, Gridlinked isn't bad at all, especially for a first novel. The main character has to go cold turkey from being mentally connected to the Internet, which I could sympathize with. The mental habits of someone who can always look up information at hand seemed exactly right. I hope his other books don't continue to have characters who make the exact same mistake: if you're a mercenary, and you begin to suspect that your boss is totally psychotic, it is TIME TO GET OUT. Don't worry that you haven't been paid yet. You're not going to be. Don't wait until they decide they have to shoot you as dramatic punctuation to one of their crazy rants. TIME TO GET OUT. (Unfortunately, this subplot is a bit bigger than the subplot in Skinner.) Three stars.

The Man Who Tried To Get Away (by Stephen Donaldson)
I was intrigued by the concept of Donaldson writing noir detective novels, though as it turns out, this one is third or fourth in the series. (This doesn't usually matter as much for mysteries as it does for sf/fantasy novels). On the plus side: his technique is good; the atmosphere has a nice oppressive Ten Little Indians feel to it; all the guns hung on the wall in the first act have been used by the third. The characters are well sketched out, though there are maybe a few too many of them. On the minus side, the main character spends too much time feeling sick and sorry for himself (I should not be surprised), and most of the characters are a little too dysfunctional to be plausible. Someday, I will find the next Perfect Mystery Series, but this is not yet it. Three stars.

Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, and At The Villa of Reduced Circumstances (by Alexander McCall Smith)
This is a trio of books by the author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. It took me until about the third book to realize what they are - they're children's books for grownups! The tone is very much like Rat and Mole messing about in boats, or Pooh and Piglet hunting Heffalumps. Charming small adventures, sometimes beset by misunderstandings, but easily put right again in time for a happy ending, dressed in the trappings of German academia instead of talking animals. They're a fluffy, pleasant sort of snack reading; I read the entire three books in an evening plus a bit. Three and a half cheerful popcorn stars.

(Thud is chenoameg's. The others are mine.)

Current Mood: sick sick
Current Music: Mr. Cellophane

4 comments or Leave a comment
navrins From: navrins Date: December 23rd, 2005 09:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm told that even for humans, babies are a chick-magnet.

I choose not to be too disturbed by the fact that it's my brother-in-law telling me this.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: December 24th, 2005 12:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm told that even for humans, babies are a chick-magnet.

Well, yeah. It's the idea of stealing babies to pick up chicks with that takes it to a new level. :)
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: December 24th, 2005 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I was thumbing through a book on African wildlife recently. Apparently, when pairs of ostriches with chicks run into each other, a squabble will ensue -- winning pair takes all the chicks.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: December 24th, 2005 12:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Cool. I wonder what it gets them, though. Maybe enough ostrich chicks get eaten by predators that the spare chicks can be used as cannon fodder?
4 comments or Leave a comment