Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Servant of a Dark God - John Brown

This was one of the first Big Idea posts that sounded cool to me, I think it was mostly the way Brown told the story of being chased by a bull, I figured that if I'd enjoyed the brief piece so much, I would probably enjoy the longer story, also the idea of people being farmed like cows intrigued me. In theory we're smarter than cows, so convincing us that being farmed was ok should be a bit trickier.

The story was easy to fall into, Talen is the protagonist and the first chapter where he is trying to locate his missing pants was fabulous and did a lot to give me an idea of his character and how his family worked. The next few chapters where it became clear to the reader that all was not quite right with the world were a lot of fun. Talen is still pretty young and still believing that the people in charge are good and right and when they say someone is bad and dangerous that person should be turned in to the authorities, but it is clear that the rest of his family isn't nearly as naive and that shortly Talen will figure things out and wind up on the right side. It takes rather a long time for Talen to realize that the authorities are not on his side and that breaking the rules is the right thing to do. On the one hand that is awesome - it really makes the situation believable, that you have this civilization built on a pile of lies, the fact that it takes Talen a long time to overcome the indoctrination is very realistic. On the other hand...you spend more than half the book in a bit of a panic that Talen is going to do something absolutely disastrous, which makes it very difficult to just relax and enjoy the story, and I found it really broke the immersion. Once things did get going it was totally fabulous, and I really liked the way things came together in the end. I think that realizing this was the first book in a trilogy before I started reading it (which was clear from the Big Idea post, but not from the cover of the book) would have helped a bit, although I really did get a sense of closure at the end of the story - but things aren't done yet, they're only just getting going with saving the world! And this world really does need saving.

Definitely looking forward to reading the next two books, probably going to recommend this to a bunch of other people.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance - Lois McMaster Bujold

I practically inhaled Bujold's Vorkosigan saga when I first found out about it a couple years ago, so I was really excited when I found out she was writing a new book, especially when I discovered that it was going to star Ivan Vorpatril. Miles Vorkosigan had really gotten too powerful, and Cryoburn was a bit of a disappointment. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance was exactly what I was hoping for and then some.

To begin with, I love that this story stars Ivan actually being Ivan. I was really worried (especially given the title) that Ivan was going to have to step up and into Miles' shoes, presumably in order to rescue somebody. But instead, it is Ivan, thrust entirely unwilling into a situation he doesn't want to be in, bright enough to see all the implications, but not wanting to get involved unless he can possibly avoid it. Unless of course there's a pretty girl and a chance of getting laid.

The bit which made me incredibly happy, is the love story. I've been reading a lot of Georgette Heyer lately, and my favorite type of love story is the one where the couple gets married first and falls in love later. Ivan is the perfect candidate for this sort of story since he's been avoiding marriage so assiduously, but when he finds himself accidentally (and temporarily) married to Tej, he is totally happy - which shouldn't surprise anyone who has ever been happily married. A happy marriage is a very comfortable place, and Ivan likes being comfortable.

Then there's the bit of the story where Ivan has to step up and be the hero, because we all know that Ivan can and will be the hero when he is in a corner and has no choice in the matter. Simon is involved too, and he's mostly recovered from the loss of the memory chip, so getting to see his relationship with Lady Alys and with Ivan is a lot of fun. Also the Jewels...they're pretty cool. In fact Tej's whole family is pretty fascinating.

I laughed out loud at the end of the book when I read through the timeline plot summaries for each novel and hit the one sentence description for this one: "ImpSec. Headquarters suffers a problem with moles." It perfectly describes the part of the story which is going to impact the people of Barrayar, and yet manages to be entirely misleading. Awesome.

Jo Walton has a post up on Tor.com about this which was fun to read, but I'm glad I held off until after I had read the book. It was so much fun going into this story not having any idea what might happen. I'm definitely hoping for another Ivan book though.