Current Fiction Reading

A Practical Guide to Conquering the World — K. J. Parker

The third instalment in The Siege.   This first two thirds of the trilogy were excellent, this book has a lot to live up to.

K. J. Parker’s Page Tom Holt’s Page

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The Power of Chowa — Akemi Tanaka

A quite enjoyable Japanese wisdom book with a rather different perspective, that of a Japanese woman who at times comes across as the outsider, shunned in some ways by conservative Japanese society for standing up — and standing out — as an independent woman, while at the same time Akemi is very clearly a traditionalist in all the ways that truly matter.   At least that’s the view i get on Akemi from these pages.

And why shouldn’t strong-minded, independent women take the very best of tradition and leave the worse of it behind?   Surely that’s the point of evolution, to take what is the best, that which benefits the most and to leave behind and slough off those very things that hinder, bind and stifle all of us ultimately; and in doing so build stronger and more resilient societies for the future.   Of course, there will always be tension between which side of this coin things fall on, the ultra conservative who blindly want to maintain everything, regardless of worth and value, while on the other side those who want to cast of everything they see as old and done.   Or maybe there’s a middle way, a way of Chowa?

It’s from these two different perspectives that Akemi takes us on this journey to discover Chowa, that balance and harmony within and without that we could all use a good dose of in our crazy modern lives.

Definitely another one of those books that i feel everyone who reads it with an open mind can find some small nugget to take away to help improve themselves, their lives and their environments.   I certainly feel it was worth the read and feel others will do so as well.

Akemi’s Page

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Briarpatch — Ross Thomas

I got this book because i totally loved the TV show.   I don’t normally watch TV shows before i read the book but i got totally hooked on it because it was just so frigging awesome:

But having had a brief start at reading this book, it just isn’t as good as the TV show.   Pick is a guy in the book whereas in the TV show it’s Rosario Dawson and i just can’t get my head around Pick being a man.

So i’ve decided to put this away for quite a few years when i hopefully may have forgotten all about the TV show and then i’ll come back and give it a read.   Probably not though.   Me thinks it’s just one of those books that will get relegated to “The Boneyard” forever.

Ross’ Page

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The Things My Mother Left Me — P. Djèlí Clark

The Things My Mother Left Me, written by P. Djèlí Clark.More great fantasy story telling from Djèlí.   And i’m definitely looking to return to this issue of Fantasy magazine once i’ve got done reading the rest of Djèlí’s books.

This is available in the periodical, Fantasy Magazine — Issue 60.

Next up in my P. Djèlí Clark reading festival will be The Angel of Khan el-Khalili, which i seem to remember reading is just an excerpt from A Dead Djinn in Cairo.   Which i’ll be perfectly happy reading again anyway, so who cares anyway?

P. Djèlí Clark’s Page

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Merlin’s Gun — Alastair Reynolds

Merlin's Gun, written by Alastair Reynolds.

The fourth book in Alastair’s Merlin Series, and should be read immediately after The Iron Tactician.

Leaving his previous hitch-hiker behind, Merlin then finds another to join him on his quest to find the ultimate weapon against the Huskers.   Will they find it?   Will Merlin finally get to use it?   Will there be some ultimate act of betrayal?

You’ll have to read it yourself to find out.

Great ending though.

Sadly, for now at least, this is the fourth and final book in this short but very enjoyable tetralogy.

You’ll find this in the collection, Zima Blue and Other Stories.

Alastair’s Page

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The Iron Tactician — Alastair Reynolds

The third book in Alastair’s Merlin Series, and should be read immediately after Minla’s Flowers.

More shenanigans as Merlin finds another system to play fixer in, this time it’s because he needs a new syrinx and this system happens to have one the cohort sold them.   Merlin knows this because he picks up a hitch-hiker along the way, who is the only surviving member of the Cohort ship who sold the syrinx.

So it’s all big war things and all that sort of stuff.

Next book — and final book — in this enjoyable little tetralogy will be Merlin’s Gun.   I wonder if the title gives away the fact that he finally found it? We shall soon find out: at least, i shall.

Alastair’s Page

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Minla’s Flowers — Alastair Reynolds

Minla's Flowers, written by Alastair Reynolds.

This is the second book in Alastair’s Merlin Series, and should be read immediately after Hideaway.

We left off with Merlin leaving the cohort to find a fabled super weapon that he’ll then use to defeat the cyborgs known as Huskers.   During one transit Merlin’s ship, Tyrant, is thrown rather violently out of the Waynet.   It transpires that this is due to a kink in the Waynet as it passes a star named Calliope, and he urgently needs to stop at one of its planets, Lecythus, for repairs and refuelling.   While on the planet Merlin meets Minla and her people.

Unfortunately, Merlin realises that the kink in the Waynet that caused his problems is being caused by the Waynet being pulled towards Calliope, and once the Waynet line reaches the Calliope’s core then it’s pretty much all over for the whole system and everyone in it.   This then leads to all kinds of problems when he tells his new found friends on Lecythus that they’ve only got 70 years left . . .

. . . but it also leads to a rather good story as well.

Definitely some food-for-thought for those who enjoy all those wonderful philosophical debates about “Star Fleet’s First Directive” to consider.

All told, i’m really enjoying this series and am diving straight into The Iron Tactician for Merlin’s next adventure.

It’s available in the collections, Beyond the Aquila Rift and Zima Blue and Other Stories.

Alastair’s Page

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Hideaway — Alastair Reynolds

Hideaway, written by Alastair Reynolds.

This is the first book in a tetralogy, the Merlin Series.

Just a few humans left with a galaxy full of nasty cyborgs hunting them down to extinction, it’s time to find a place to hideaway.   But one person, Merlin, doesn’t want to hideaway, instead he wants to go and find a weapon to fight back with.

All the usual best from Alastair.   It’s great to have a break from the shorts as i’m working through his whole back catalogue and get into something a bit bigger: this is looking to be a really good series.

Next up is Minla’s Flowers.

You’ll find Hideaway in the collection, Zima Blue and Other Stories, or in Interzone.

Alastair’s Page

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The Shepherd’s Tale — Joss Whedon and Zack Whedon

This is a comic that is purely aimed at those of us who loved Firefly and Serenity and always wanted to know what Shepherd Book’s back story was.   It used to be available on Kindle, which i managed to get, but for some reason only the expensive hard back is now available.

While this comic goes through Book’s earlier life, it does so in such a way that is just totally messy and disjointed.   I can’t understand how anyone could sit down and think that this was a good way to tell Book’s story.   It starts at the end, where Book gets killed on Haven, and then keeps jumping back in time a few years at a time, but each jump is so harsh and disjointed it just leaves you having to go back over things several times to try and make some sense out of it.

To be fair, i would normally put a book this bad on “The Bookshelf of Infamy”, but as a total Firefly and Serenity fan looking at the only thing that tells of Shepherd Book’s past, albeit in a really badly presented way, i’m willing to spare it that utter shame and give it a hairline pass with 2 stars — but that’s an only just scraped into the bottom of 2 stars.

The annoying thing is that the Whedon’s obviously know how popular Shepherd Book was and how much everyone wanted to know more about his past.   Shepherd Book fully deserved a full length novel.   Even if the Whedon’s couldn’t be bothered to write it themselves, they could at least have just dumped all their notes onto a really good writer and let them have at it.

shepherd book deserved better!!!

Joss’ Page Zack’s Page

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With a Golden Risha — P. Djèlí Clark

With a Golden Risha, written by P Djèlí Clark.Available in the periodical, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly — Issue 23.

To begin, a risha is to an Arabian oud as a plectrum is to a guitar.   If you want to know more you can read all about ouds and rishas by clicking here.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get to a review.

Great book.   This is early Djèlí introducing steampunk elements into his fantasy.   Our story begins with our oud player, Saleh, getting rescued by a philosopher pirate (captain who’s not a captain), Usman, and the rest of the crew of the airship The Beggar.   Then we’re off on a 537-kindle-loc-point adventure to find treasure, amongst which is a magical golden risha with which Saleh gets to play his oud.

I really enjoyed this book and hopefully, one fine day in the future, Djèlí might even sit down and write some more stories with Saleh and Usman.   There’s got to be some great stories to be told about a philosopher pirate captain and his side-kick minstrel oud player.

And so, next up in my Djèlí reading list will be The Things My Mother Left Me

P. Djèlí Clark’s Page

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Angels of Ashes — Alastair Reynolds

Angels of Ashes, written by Alastair Reynolds.You’ll find this in the collection, Zima Blue and Other Stories.

It’s one of those sci-fi stories that goes on about quantum babble and how there’s a universe for every possible outcome of every possible situation.   To be honest, i think this theory is no different than the theory of god, both total nonsense made up by people who really don’t understand Nature and how it works.

Then Alastair has our protagonists in this book starting a war over whether god is right or quantum babble is right — which is just silly when all intelligent people already know that they’re both utter nonsense, which i hope is the point that Alastair is making in this story?   Although, thinking about it, he has wrote some other really bizarre stuff that makes no sense in other books, like the sheep in Inhibitor Phase; so maybe Alastair really is a die-hard quantum babble-ist and thinks that quantum babble-ists everywhere should rise up and start a war against the god grovellers?   Who knows the true thoughts of fiction writers?

But, whatever, have a read, it’s a fairly good story.

Coming next in the Alastair Reynolds reading list, from the year 2000, will be Merlin’s Gun.

Alastair’s Page

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