Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Like the title says, anything and everything else goes here. As long as it follows the forum rules.

Moderator: Raccoon

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Sat Jun 30, 2012 3:57 pm

I just finished reading Charles Stross's The Atrocity Archives, and enjoyed it a lot. It's a mash-up of the spy thriller, HP Lovecraft horror, and a parody of bureaucracies out of control.

The narrator is Bob Howard (not sure if it's an intended homage to Robert E. Howard, author/creator of Conan the Barbarian), who works for the British agency known as the Laundry. This is the keeper of secrets of all things bad, specifically that there are infinite universes out there, some of which contain very powerful and very bad entities who can, with the right mathematics (i.e., magic), enter our world. Bob gets assigned to check out a British researcher working in Santa Cruz, California, discovers that the researcher is a gorgeous woman who's unwittingly about to come up with some way of unleashing some bad magic, and then has to rescue her from a very bad place after she's snatched by the baddies.

There are actually two distinct stories in this book; I've given a brief teaser of the first one, which I thought was better than the second one. However, they're both pretty good. This is the first in a series, which is now up to four, so be warned that if you try it and like it, you may be itching to get more.

[I'm now on to George Martin's A Clash of Kings, but we've already talked a lot about the Game of Thrones series.]
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Fri Jul 20, 2012 1:21 pm

Just finished an advanced review copy of Blake Crouch's "Pines." A Secret Service Agent wakes up injured in a small town in Idaho, during a mission to find two missing colleagues. He's missing his ID, wallet, and gun, and people in the nearby town act kind of weird toward him. He can't get a hold of his wife or his boss on the phone. WTF is going on???

This is a common set-up for stories, and the downfall of many has been the "reveal." Until then, during the mysterious phase, they tend to be reasonably successful. "Pines" is quite good on that front. There's a constant feeling of unease, if not low-level dread, throughout the first 3/4.

The reveal itself works reasonably well, at least at the macro-level. The details work less well if you think about them, but I wouldn't call them crippling or anything.
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:00 pm

Wow, I haven't updated this in a while. Not for lack of reading; just that it's been either technical law stuff, or sequels of stuff I've already reviewed.

However, I did just finish Lincoln Child's The Third Gate. Child is one half of the duo that writes the Agent Pendergast novels that I've recommended (start with the grisly but satisfying The Relic), but he's also written his own novels, as has his writing partner. In general, I'd say that Child's own novels are better than those of Douglas Preston, but The Third Gate was kind of disappointing and lays bare a problem with Child's plotting.

The story in this case is about a treasure hunting team tasked with finding the burial tomb of an ancient Egyptian ruler. Because the tomb warns of a curse, an "enigmatologist" is brought to the site to help decipher clues. Naturally, there are unexplained accidents, injuries, and the like that lead one to think that the curse is real. As a potboiler, this is a competent thriller . . .

. . . but in looking back at Child's books, the last few have all been the same -- in the genre that I call "what could possibly go wrong?" Part of the fun of this kind of novel is seeing mayhem visited upon a seemingly well-equipped team armed with modern technology. Yet, apart from the subject of investigation (Egyptian tomb here; a frozen creature in an arctic dig in Terminal Freeze; an underwater dig in Deep Storm), you could swap characters, etc. and end up with the same formula-istic story. There are a few twists here, and sometimes some character archetypes die while sometimes they survive, but there's a sameness to it.

Now, I borrowed the e-book from my public library, so it was an okay time for me. I think I'd be kind of disappointed if I'd paid for this.

Grade: C (I'm going to start giving grades for books.)
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

User avatar
slaphappy snark
Widdle Fudge Bunny
Posts: 2689
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 1:27 pm
Location: SF Bay Area

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by slaphappy snark » Fri Oct 26, 2012 10:40 pm

Raccoon wrote:Now, I borrowed the e-book from my public library, so it was an okay time for me. I think I'd be kind of disappointed if I'd paid for this.
I'm a pretty quick reader (and younger than you with probably more free time because no kids etc), and I am still usually more pissed or disappointed about the time I spent on something bad than I am about the money. Especially books, where the time to money ratio ends up being really high.

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Sat Oct 27, 2012 12:28 am

slaphappy snark wrote:I'm a pretty quick reader (and younger than you with probably more free time because no kids etc), and I am still usually more pissed or disappointed about the time I spent on something bad than I am about the money. Especially books, where the time to money ratio ends up being really high.
I do a lot of my reading of e-books while running on a treadmill, so the time cost is lower than it otherwise would be. I mean, I could have read something else, but the uncertainty of the value of that means it has to be discounted.
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Tue Nov 20, 2012 6:00 pm

Quick reviews of recent books:

Kurt Eichenwald, 500 Days (2012) - grade: A

This is a non-fiction account of the Bush Administration's actions in the first six months of so after 9/11, written almost like a political thriller. Eichenwald got access to some interesting documents and off-the-record interviews with various key players, so while this is a well-trodden area (I read this stuff as part of my day job, so I've come across a lot of these), Eichenwald has all kinds of interesting new tidbits that I didn't know about. One thing I especially liked about it is that it's not judgmental, whereas some other books on this subject, like Jane Mayer's The Dark Side, are fairly obviously politically biased, with the result of some clearly incorrect legal assertions being made (by non-lawyer authors).

Lee Child, A Wanted Man (2012) - grade: B

Child's vigilante protagonist, Jack Reacher, is going to appear on the big screen soon. Keep in mind that the primary description of Reacher is that he is a huge guy: 6'5", 240 pounds. You know who's going to play him? Tom Cruise. Um, yeah. Anyway, Reacher is an ex-MP, retired from the Army, who basically hitchhikes his way across the country to wherever he feels like visiting, and invariably gets caught up in some kind of mystery. He kills a lot of bad guys. Here's a flavor of what he's like -- in narrating that he's just an adequate driver, not a good one (because he didn't need to be in the Army), he reflects that at least he's never killed anyone while driving. Well, not by accident. Heh heh. This one is a decent entry in the series, but if this is your cup of tea, start with Killing Floor (1996).

I'm currently reading Pat Conroy's The Lords of Discipline. Will have more to say about that, but I'm liking it so far (~20% done).
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

User avatar
lotsofphil
Leader of rum ham
Posts: 4075
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 3:56 pm

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by lotsofphil » Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:24 am

Raccoon wrote: Kurt Eichenwald, 500 Days (2012) - grade: A

This is a non-fiction account of the Bush Administration's actions in the first six months of so after 9/11
Maybe try one written by a mathematician next time :-P
http://www.theonion.com/audio/raccoon-l ... n-l,30462/

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Thu Nov 22, 2012 11:52 pm

lotsofphil wrote:
Raccoon wrote: Kurt Eichenwald, 500 Days (2012) - grade: A

This is a non-fiction account of the Bush Administration's actions in the first six months of so after 9/11
Maybe try one written by a mathematician next time :-P
http://www.theonion.com/audio/raccoon-l ... n-l,30462/
Touche! That should be, the first 18 months. . . .
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Mon Jan 07, 2013 5:15 pm

I just finished reading High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed by Michael Kodas, and if you liked Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, you'll want to read this book!

It tells two stories, on on the Nepal side, and one of the Tibet side, where unscrupulous guides exemplified the problems with Everest climbing almost a decade after the disaster recounted in Krakauer's book. The coincidence is that the two stories were taking place at about the same time, even though there were different parties involved. The more chilling story is the one on the Nepal side, where a 69-year-old retired doctor hired a more or less fraudulent guide to take him to the top, only to be abandoned to die of exposure. The Tibet side expedition, which included the author (a professional journalist), didn't actually result in any deaths but did fall apart from internal bickering and worse.

I told Mrs. Raccoon that if I ever went crazy and caught the Everest bug, to make me re-read this book.

EDIT: Grade: B+ (would be higher but the book is written unnecessarily in a non-linear style that constantly forced me to stop and re-orient myself, etc.)
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:07 am

I just finished Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for Neal Stephenson fans! It's kind of a mash-up of Stephenson, Michael Chabon, The Da Vinci Code, and a tourbook of the Google campus.

Clay, the main character, finds himself out of work when he comes across a 24-hour bookstore in San Francisco that's looking for a night clerk. He gets the job and soon finds that there are very few customers, but there are patrons who come in and request a book from the back stacks for borrowing. He and his friends get interested in what's going on. . . . It's kind of hard to describe more without giving it away, so I'll say that it's a quirky book, one that really loves its characters for all of their skills and foibles. It's also reasonably short (288 pages).

Grade: A
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:23 am

For you real life action junkies, here are some new recommendations:

Antonio Mendez, Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA -- this is the guy who engineered the "Argo" mission to smuggle the six Americans who escaped from the US Embassy in Iran in 1979 out of the country. The Ben Affleck movie is based largely on the chapter from this book. Although it doesn't have all of the thrills in the movie (those were made up), it's still a pretty incredible read.

Mark Bowden, The Finish -- this might be thought of as the political side of "Zero Dark Thirty." It details how the CIA came to discover the identity and location of Osama bin Laden's courier, and through him, to find bin Laden hiding in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. And then the political deliberations about whether to attack and if so, how. 20000 pounds of bombs? One-shot missile from a drone? Or ground assault? The actual Operation Neptune Spear mission is covered in only a few pages, though, because none of the SEALs would talk to Bowden.

For that side of the story, you need to read Mark Owen, No Easy Day. Half of this book is devoted to Neptune Spear from the perspective of one of the SEAL commanders. It's not bad, but for some reason, not as riveting as you might expect it to be.

(If you want riveting, read the sections in Bowden's Guests of the Ayatollah devoted to Operation Eagle Claw (the failed Iran hostage rescue mission). After seeing "Argo," I'm convinced that someone like Kathryn Bigelow could make a kick-ass movie out of Eagle Claw. Sure, it was a debacle, but not for lack of imagination. If they had managed to try, instead of having to abort due to equipment failure, geez . . . it could have been the most amazing special forces operation ever. Yes, the movie would have to overcome the fact that we know the outcome, and it's a bad outcome, but "Black Hawk Down" and "Flight 93" were successful movies despite laboring under those obstacles too. I bet at the end of an Eagle Claw movie, with the flaming wreckage of the crashed helicopter and transport plane and the eight dead American soldiers, there wouldn't be any dry eyes in the theater.)
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:07 am

A lot of books read since my last post:

Richard Sander & Stuart Taylor Jr., Mismatch (non-fiction)

This is a controversial, stunning book that builds on Sander's published academic research to the effect that affirmative action actually hurts its intended beneficiaries by placing them in positions where they are underprepared and hence perform poorly relative to peers. Others have made this point, but where Sander goes further is in presenting empirical evidence that affirmative action beneficiaries fail the Bar at a higher rate than minorities with comparable grades and test scores who go to schools where they didn't need affirmative action to get into, and hence do better. In other words, Sander argues that doing poorly at an elite school is much worse than doing well at a good school. For anyone who is interested in the affirmative action debate (which may be shortcircuited any day now by the Supreme Court), this is a must read even if you don't agree with its conclusions.

Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation (non-fiction)

This is an old book, published back in 2001, but still relevant. It's an inside look at everything about fast food, from the development of McDonalds and other giants, to the potato farming companies, to labor practices, to the globalization of fast food. It's a critical look, but after finishing it, I still went out and chowed down on a burger. Maybe I'm sociopathic or something.
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:49 pm

Hmm, about five months since I've updated this. Here are some more recommendations:

Dan Ariely, The Hidden Upside of Irrationality -- really fun book about behavioral economics.

Annalee Newitz, Scatter, Adapt, and Remember -- science journalism about how mankind is likely to survive even cataclysmic disasters.

Ingrid Thoft, Loyalty -- there aren't too many hard-boiled mysteries with female detectives, but this is one. Pretty riveting.

Alex Bellos, Here's Looking at Euclid -- funny math pun, and a terrific math journalism book; reminds me a lot of Paul Hoffman's Archimedes' Revenge, which is one of my favorite books about math stories.

Trevor Aaronson, The Terror Factory -- a pointed criticism of the FBI's counterterrorism sting operations. I don't agree with all of it, but it's well worth reading if you're into this kind of stuff.

I've also read a number of other books by the usual authors that I frequent (Lee Child, David Baldacci, Jim Butcher, Jack Campbell).
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

User avatar
lotsofphil
Leader of rum ham
Posts: 4075
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 3:56 pm

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by lotsofphil » Fri Nov 08, 2013 6:50 am

Raccoon wrote: Dan Ariely, The Hidden Upside of Irrationality -- really fun book about behavioral economics.
Have you read Predictably Irrational? I liked that book.

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Fri Nov 08, 2013 11:45 pm

lotsofphil wrote:Have you read Predictably Irrational? I liked that book.
Yes, I read that one first. This is more of the same kind of stuff, so I'm sure you'd like it too.
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

User avatar
slaphappy snark
Widdle Fudge Bunny
Posts: 2689
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 1:27 pm
Location: SF Bay Area

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by slaphappy snark » Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:11 am

I think I slightly preferred Predictably Irrational, but Upside (there is no "Hidden" in the title, Rac!) does a nice job of turning the subject around. I really appreciate the way that Dan Ariely includes examples of his own irrational behavior in both books, including using it to his own benefit.

Also, I have recently discovered Connie Willis, an author who somehow excaped my notice while winning a bunch of Hugos and Nebulas, and I wanted to mention her in case you guys have done the same--some fun looks at time travel and other sci-fi-type technologies, often with some apropos choices about writing style which just add to the fun.

User avatar
Ceirdwyn
Hug Duchess
Posts: 887
Joined: Sat Apr 12, 2008 11:04 am

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Ceirdwyn » Mon Nov 11, 2013 2:46 pm

slaphappy snark wrote:Also, I have recently discovered Connie Willis, an author who somehow excaped my notice while winning a bunch of Hugos and Nebulas, and I wanted to mention her in case you guys have done the same--some fun looks at time travel and other sci-fi-type technologies, often with some apropos choices about writing style which just add to the fun.
And there I told you to read Connie Willis! http://www.alliancefromhell.com/viewtop ... 483#p79483

I have recently discovered the Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss - book 1 "The name of the wind" was awesome, the writing is really catching. Currently reading part 2 "The wise mans fear" - the last part still needs to be written though :(

User avatar
top1214
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1959
Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2010 1:10 am
Location: St Louis, MO, USA

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by top1214 » Mon Nov 11, 2013 4:37 pm

Ceirdwyn wrote:book 1 "The name of the wind" was awesome, the writing is really catching. Currently reading part 2 "The wise mans fear" - the last part still needs to be written though :(
This. This so hard.

User avatar
slaphappy snark
Widdle Fudge Bunny
Posts: 2689
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 1:27 pm
Location: SF Bay Area

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by slaphappy snark » Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:07 pm

Ceirdwyn wrote:And there I told you to read Connie Willis! http://www.alliancefromhell.com/viewtop ... 483#p79483
I guess that teaches me! I actually think I added The Doomsday Book to my "to read" list after that recommendation but then somehow read To Say Nothing of the Dog first. Both awesome, so thank you! :)
I have recently discovered the Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss - book 1 "The name of the wind" was awesome, the writing is really catching. Currently reading part 2 "The wise mans fear" - the last part still needs to be written though :(
I'm with you and WM, definitely want that last part finished! At this point I'll need to read the first two again (oh noes), but I'm quite eager!

User avatar
ungawa
AFH
Posts: 377
Joined: Sat Aug 25, 2012 3:16 pm

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by ungawa » Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:10 pm

I discovered Connie Willis on a billboard on a layover in the Denver airport. I don't think I've ever laughed out loud reading as much as I did while reading "The Soul Selects Her Own Society: Invasion and Repulsion: A Chronological Reinterpretation of Two of Emily Dickinson's Poems: A Wellsian Perspective".
Some of the other short stories in her Best Of collection weren't so compelling, but maybe I'll take your recommendation and give "Doomsday Book" a try.

littlelolligagged
Leader of Heck
Posts: 677
Joined: Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:42 am

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by littlelolligagged » Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:17 pm

Connie Willis is really quite entertaining.

I liked the Blackout/All Clear combo.

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Wed Nov 13, 2013 5:35 pm

I've been listening to the audiobook version of Cryptonomicon for the past month or so while running. It's 42+ HOURS long, so it's taking a while, and I'm just about 3/4 of the way done now. I've read the print version twice, so I know the story, but it's such a long, dense book that there are whole parts of it that I only dimly recall or don't remember at all.

Listening to an audiobook is a pretty weird experience, all in all. I'm a little used to it because we have a bunch of kids' stories (Magic Treehouse, Nate the Great, etc.) in that format for our little boys -- great for long drives. The narrator can really make a big difference in the quality of the production.

Well, the narrator for Cryptonomicon is REALLY good. The variety of voices and accents that he brings is amazing; Randy Waterhouse, Avi, Amy Shaftoe, Douglas MacArthur Shaftoe, Bobby Shaftoe, Lawrence Waterhouse, Alan Turing, Rudy von Hacklhaber, Gunter Bischoff, Enoch Root, Goto Dengo all sound distinct without devolving into caricatures.

The weird thing is, and I didn't notice this until I looked the narrator (William Dufris) up, that he was the voice of Bob the Builder! Now, when he's in regular narration mode, I find myself thinking, "Bob the Builder, can we build it? Yes we can!"
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

blisterguy
Master of the Coin
Posts: 347
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 5:30 pm

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by blisterguy » Wed Nov 13, 2013 5:53 pm

That's my favourite book ever, I should look that up!

User avatar
slaphappy snark
Widdle Fudge Bunny
Posts: 2689
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 1:27 pm
Location: SF Bay Area

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by slaphappy snark » Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:15 pm

I love listening to audiobooks on long drives for work or while I'm doing mindless chores or similar. I've even converted Stu for some of our driving trips! I also started out with children's books (but more on the YA end of the spectrum than magic treehouse).
The narrator definitely makes a huge difference! I've listened to some books just because a certain narrator did them (John Lee is the main one I have done that with) and have found some fun books outside of my usual genres that way. :)
littlelolligagged wrote:Connie Willis is really quite entertaining.

I liked the Blackout/All Clear combo.
I'm "saving" these but will probably just cave and read them soon, especially now that I stopped being silly and started getting kindle books from the library.

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:16 am

I just raced through Alan Glynn's The Dark Fields, which was filmed as the movie "Limitless" with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro. It's kind of like a mash-up of the old short story "Flowers for Algernon" with a drug pusher storyline. As in, what if you could take a pill that unlocked your brain's full potential, making you supersmart? Glynn does a really nice job of capturing the feel of the drug, MDT, both when the narrator is under its influence and when he's not.
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

User avatar
lotsofphil
Leader of rum ham
Posts: 4075
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 3:56 pm

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by lotsofphil » Tue Jun 03, 2014 12:30 pm

Not a book, but you might like this magazine: http://liartownusa.tumblr.com/post/6160 ... s-presents

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:46 am

lotsofphil wrote:Not a book, but you might like this magazine: http://liartownusa.tumblr.com/post/6160 ... s-presents
LOL!
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:40 am

Do you like smart-ass female private investigators? If so, you should check out Ingrid Thoft's "Fina Ludlow" series: Loyalty and now Identity. Fina is tough, trash-talks, and is kind of like a female version of Phillip Marlowe.
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Fri Jun 19, 2015 4:52 pm

Almost a year since I last updated my thread ... I've read lots of stuff, of course, but it's a new Neal Stephenson novel that brings me back here.

"Seveneves" starts off with the moon exploding in the first sentence(!). This will lead to very bad things for humanity, and the first two parts (of three) of the novel deal with the consequences of that catastrophe. It's vintage Stephenson, with a collection of nerds and techies (including stand-ins for Neil deGrassie Tyson and Jeff Bezos/Elon Musk) to deal with the cascading problems of trying to survive in space. The 566 pages comprising those two parts are nailbiting, even when Stephenson goes off into his digressions on orbital mechanics, LaGrange points, space agriculture, and the like. (There aren't, however, any as long as the stockings story in "Cryptonomicon.") It's another revenge of the nerds scenario where incredibly smart and resourceful people deal with incredibly dire circumstances.

Part three could have been its own novel. Unfortunately, the first 200 pages of part three are fairly static and dull, an amalgamation of a travelogue and history lesson. The last 100+ pages breaks into a Cold War-type of thriller. As with most Stephenson novels, the ending is a bit rushed, although it is complete. There's room for a sequel if he chooses, but it stands by itself.

Notwithstanding the dull 200 pages in the middle, I really liked this book. It's the mark of a great novel that when you finish, you don't immediately start another book, because you are emotionally/intellectually exhausted. In my personal ordering of the Stephenson novels, I rate this one as being a close contender to matching "Cryptonomicon" at the top of the list.
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

User avatar
Manendra
My Pie Blown Sky High
Posts: 663
Joined: Tue Apr 22, 2008 4:04 pm

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Manendra » Thu Jun 25, 2015 4:50 pm

I literally just finished Cryptonomicon today, and my friend has been saying good things about Seveneves, too. I'll have to check it out! And yeah, really enjoyed Cryptonomicon.
Image

LeafyGreens
Inscrutable Pi
Posts: 274
Joined: Mon Aug 20, 2012 1:14 am

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by LeafyGreens » Wed Jul 01, 2015 10:57 pm

Stephensons books always take me forever to read. I really liked Cryptonomicon, and I followed that up with Reamde which was very strong until like halfway to two thirds of the way through it. At that point it started to come undone a bit.

blisterguy
Master of the Coin
Posts: 347
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 5:30 pm

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by blisterguy » Mon Jul 06, 2015 1:14 am

I put Seveneves down a couple of days ago because:
I reached the page where it began with "Five thousand years later" and I needed time to process everything that had happened to that point.
But that's not a negative, loving what I've read so far.

User avatar
reverkiller
Promoter of Heck
Posts: 261
Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2010 10:45 am

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by reverkiller » Mon Jul 06, 2015 12:00 pm

I just read Seveneves, and I think that it could have stood to be two different books. The dust jacket summary says things about after the
time skip
, which comes something like 2/3 into the book.

User avatar
BC_Goldman
My Pie Blown Sky High
Posts: 499
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2008 9:44 pm
Location: New Jersey

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by BC_Goldman » Mon Jul 06, 2015 8:22 pm

That one sounds interesting. My library has the ebook so I've added it to my reading list.

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:59 pm

For anyone who loved the TV show "Justified," be warned - the Elmore Leonard novel "Raylan" is really mediocre. Feeling like I was missing the company of my good friend Raylan Givens, I checked "Raylan" out from the library. It's kind of like a parallel universe version of the show, drawing from several episodes but changing characters a bit in some instances. Unfortunately, while Leonard once wrote crackling good dialogue, this one was just flat. There was truly only one line in the entire book that had the wit and sparkle of the TV show.

AVOID!
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

User avatar
Manendra
My Pie Blown Sky High
Posts: 663
Joined: Tue Apr 22, 2008 4:04 pm

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Manendra » Tue Jul 21, 2015 4:46 pm

Have I plugged Max Gladstone in here yet? His 4th Craft Series novel was just released, and I'm most of the way through it. But really, all 4 books have been fantastic. You can read them in any order, though I think they just get better with each release. Seriously, go check him out. Snappy writing, innovative magic system, and overarching metaphors and issues that you can ignore or revel in as you like.
Image

snarkypants
Contest Master of Heck
Posts: 370
Joined: Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:15 pm

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by snarkypants » Fri Sep 18, 2015 10:34 pm

That's a great series, Manny. I haven't read the new one yet ("First Last Snow", is it?), but I've really enjoyed the others, particularly "Full Fathom Five" and "Three Parts Dead".

If you're enjoying those, you might like Robert Jackson Bennett's "City of Stairs", which is more fantasy-novel-y but had a very similar vibe, I felt.

(And Raccoon, have you read other Elmore Leonard stuff? His peak from the mid-70s to the early '90s is really, really high: Freaky Deaky, La Brava; Killshot, etc.)

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Mon Sep 21, 2015 4:26 pm

snarkypants wrote:(And Raccoon, have you read other Elmore Leonard stuff? His peak from the mid-70s to the early '90s is really, really high: Freaky Deaky, La Brava; Killshot, etc.)
I've read lots of Elmore Leonard books and agree that he was a master from the late 70s to mid 80s. "Freaky Deaky" is terrific! I think it was "Unknown Man No. 89" that got me hooked on Leonard's works. I even liked the short story "Fire in the Hole," but to be fair, I didn't read that until after I'd seen the first season of "Justified." That's why "Raylan" was such a disappointment.

I do go back and reread "Pronto" and "Riding the Rap" - I'm pretty sure I've read them before but can't remember anything about them. They were considerably better than "Raylan," but not as good as the TV show. I suppose that's a tribute to Timothy Olyphant, that he portrayed Raylan better than Leonard could write him!
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

Raccoon
Oh my! Guy with Pie!
Posts: 1975
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2007 10:33 am
Location: somewhere on the West Coast

Re: Raccoon's thread of (mostly fiction) book reviews

Post by Raccoon » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:42 pm

For those of you who liked the technical survival prep aspect of "Seveneves," you might enjoy William Brinkley's "The Last Ship," which I just finished. Yes, this novel is the basis of the TNT thriller series of the same name, but from what I've seen (only the pilot episode), there are not a lot of similarities. The TV show seems like more of a pandemic/conspiracy thriller. The novel, on the other hand, has very little direct violence (although the impetus for the plot is complete thermonuclear war, so the death toll is approximately 6 billion or so, the novel taking place in the late 20th century). It's similar to "Seveneves" in the sense of a meticulous attention to the question, in a post-apocalyptic world, how would a small band of humans with modern technology eke out enough survival to try to begin repopulating Earth?

Whereas Neal Stephenson's discursions are science/technical oriented, Brinkley - being a former sailor - is grounded more in food, fuel, living conditions, and command discipline. His writing style is also slower to get through, even compared to Stephenson. Still, I thought there was a lot in common, including how both authors even included the importance of storing paper(!).
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u218/mad_hamish/raccoonsig.jpg[/img]

Post Reply