Review: The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief
The Quantum Thief

The Quantum Thief
Hannu Rajaniemi
Tor, 2011 (orig. Gollancz, 2010)

The Quantum Thief opens with the thief Jean le Flambeur trapped inside a prison, his personality fractured into its component parts and forced to endlessly take part in a game of Prisoner’s Dilemma. It isn’t long before he released by a beautiful woman. Of course that freedom comes at a price. He has a job to do but in order to do it he needs to recover the memories he stashed on Mars. What follows is a twisting tale that offers a strong foundation of classic thriller/mystery fare wrapped in the guise of a society full of technological wonders that we can barely imagine. It is on the one hand a personal journey (for multiple character) but one that hints at depths far deeper than our hapless thief can comprehend. For all that the one thing I wish that The Quantum Thief really had is a glossary. Now, I read an advanced copy of the US edition so I have no idea if the final edition will have one but debut author Hannu Rajaniemi throws a lot of new words out there with only contextual information present in order to grasp meaning. It is a level that perhaps eclipses even Gene Wolfe whose Book of the New Sun had similar tendencies to introduce words with little external context for understanding. The helpful wikipedia entry Glossary of Terms in the Quantum Thief is useful, though a part of me wants to recommend a “pure” reading experience.

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Review: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

The Lost Hero
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

The Lost Hero (Book One of the Heroes of Olympus)
Rick Riordan
Hyperion, 2010

So some time ago I listened to the audio version of the opening novel in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan: The Lost Hero. I had previously listened to all of Riordan’s earlier series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and while I enjoyed the series well enough I did occasionally find it frustrating.  However, Riordan’s ability to creatively weave ancient Greek mythological beings into modern day culture was more than enough to offset my frustration with characters that were more than a decade younger than me. In a clever bit of work the title of the novel could be referring to the main character of Riordan’s previous series, Percy Jackson, who is currently missing in action.  However, at the same time the titular lost hero could also refer to the amnesiac Jason who is also, in a sense lost.
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Review: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man's Fear
The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man’s Fear
Patrick Rothfuss
DAW, 2011

After several years of waiting (not as long as certain other series **cough**dancewithdragons**cough) Patrick Rothfuss The Wise Man’s Fear, book two of the Kingkiller Chornicles, has been published. It should be noted that I more or less devoured this book over the course of several days and had I not been distracted by PAX East would have finished it much sooner. The problem is that while on the one hand The Wise Man’s Fear is everything I had hoped it would be it was also extraordinarily disappointing; and not just the usual “it ended” disappointing.

For those that don’t remember in The Name of the Wind the traveling scribe Chronicler had managed to track down the Kvothe, epic hero or villain depending on the story, running a small Inn in the middle of nowhere. Chronicler then convinces Kvothe to tell his story so that the truth can finally be heard. The tale will be told over the course of three days the first of which occupies the first book and the second day being chronicled in The Wise Man’s Fear.

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Review: The Black God’s Kiss by C. L. Moore

Black God's Kiss by C. L. Moore
Black God's Kiss by C. L. Moore

Black God’s Kiss
C. L. Moore
Paizo, 2007 (orig. Weird Tales, 1934)
Jirel of Joiry first introduced by C. L. Moore in 1934 in the pages of Weird Tales is noted as being one of the first post-Conan Howard influenced sword and sorcery protagonists as well as the first heroine of the sword and sorcery genre (ed note: I won’t lie that first bit about Conan comes via wikipedia, the reference was cited as being from Lin Carter so anyone who wants to take umbrage may rightly do so). Paizo, once again continuing their brilliant use of the Planet Stories name, republished all five of the Jirel stories as single volume in 2007 as Black God’s Kiss. Moore’s fiction is notable for its use of exotic landscapes and in each of Jirel tales the location plays a key role in informing the tone of the story. Of course, while Jirel is well versed in use of arms, her real key trait though is her temper, her indomitable will, and her independence.

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East Peace 2011 Thoughts

You know that feeling you get going to sleep the night before Christmas?  That excitement?  You know the feeling you get on Christmas morning tearing open your gifts?  Well, that those sensations are exactly the same one gets during PAX.  Except instead of one night and one morning it’s three straight days of that mixture of anticipation, excitement, and joy.  It’s kind of like riding a three day high.  Of course come Sunday evening you’ve crested and are plunging headlong back into “real life” and it’s really like the worst come down ever.

One day your standing amidst 70,000 of your best friends and the next your sitting at your desk.  It is a bizarre, wonderful and unique.

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Review: The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones

The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones
The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones

The Desert of Souls
Howard Andrew Jones
Thomas Dunne, 2011

In 8th Century Baghdad the Captain of the Jaffar’s Royal Guard, Asim and the scholar Dabir are dispatched to uncover the mystery of a rune inscribed relic.  The Desert of Souls by Black Gate editor Howard Andrew Jones is a fresh look at the sword and sorcery genre in a Arabic setting full of vibrant characters, dastardly villains, and strange landscapes.  As Minsc said best:  “Adventure, excitement, and steel on steel.”  This is also Jones’ first novel and is perhaps one of the best debuts, likely the best debut, I’ve read since Ian Treglis’ Bitter Seeds last year.  The Desert of Souls is, in a word, awesome.  I don’t mean awesome in the colloquial sense that awesome has come to embody in recent years (though to be fair that applies as well).  No, rather I mean that literally.  The Desert of Souls does what the sword and sorcery (hell, any fantasy) story should: it inspires awe.

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Crysis 2 MP Demo and an avalanche of games

This past weekend I had a chance to download an install the demo for Crysis 2.  The multiplayer demo.  To be fair I really could give two shits about the multiplayer aspect of the game.  I rather enjoyed the single player parts of Crysis, even the latter half of the game with aliens had it’s moments, and the finale is one of more epic final levels in a game (and nearly brought my PC to its knees).  I’ve also been enjoying Crysis: Warhead (the “expandalone”) which is actually a bit tighter in terms of gameplay.

Playing the demo for Crysis 2 marks first time, in a really long time, where I’ve been exposed to a server browser.  Say what you want about the outcry generated by Modern Warfare 2’s “console like” matching for multiplayer it can’t really be any worse than having to navigate a damn server list.   The multiplayer experience in Crysis 2 is as a far cry from the single player experience in the first two games.  Thanks in particular to the fact that you don’t have the time or luxury to really stop and think about how you’re going to approach combat.  There is a far greater reliance on reflex and a steeper learning curve when it comes to the Nanosuit 2.0.  The multiplayer in Crysis 2 makes some significiant changes to the suit mechanics that I’m guessing will translate into the single player as well.  Perhaps the best, or at least the most useful, is that the Strength mod is more or less context sensitive and activates automatically when I jump.  In previous games Strength was used to steady aiming as well (particularly when sniping) but it looks like the new Armor mod takes care of that here.   Like every modern shooter Crysis 2 has implemented an experience system and each of your suit mods gains experience based on usage as you play.

Of course the aspect of Crysis 2 I’m looking forward to the most is the single player; mostly since the story was written by Richard Morgan (Altered Carbon) and Peter Watts (Starfish).   I honestly don’t think the multiplayer conveys how the gameplay feels in single player.  The game looks good on my now aging PC and runs as well as the previous games, if not slightly better.  I’m thinking that CryEngine 3 is a bit more versatile and far better at scaling than CryEngine 2.  I can’t say I noticed any destructibility in the environments during multiplayer but I am a bit spoiled by Bad Company 2.

The next few months are brutal; absolutely packed full of games from Dragon Age 2 (along with Crysis 2)  in March, Portal 2 in April, and Duke Nukem Forever in May.  Not to mention titles like The Witcher 2 (May), Brink (May), L. A. Noire (May), FEAR 3 (May), Dungeon Seige 3 (May), and InFamous 2 (June).  2011 is really looking like a brutal year for gaming…and I’m damned excited about that (also terrified).

Review: The Ginger Star by Leigh Brackett

The Ginger Star by Leigh Brackett
The Ginger Star by Leigh Brackett

The Ginger Star
Leigh Brackett
Paizo Publishing, 2008 (orig. 1974)
The Ginger Star is my first exposure to Eric John Stark, Brackett’s hero from Mercury (where he was raised by a primitive race after his parents were killed) and apparently takes place after the earlier adventures The Secret of Sinharat and Talisman of the People (I believe both are in this volume).  The Ginger Star begins an arc of stories taking placing on the world Skaith, a distant planet orbiting a dying sun and ruled by a cruel cabal of wizards known as Wandsmen.  The Ginger Star opens with Stark arriving on Skaith looking for Simon Ashton the man who essentially taught him to be human.  Along the way he gets wrapped up in the planet’s internal struggles and is caught between a faction that wants to leave the planet and the Wandsmen who wish to maintain their iron control over the populace.

 

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February ’11 Summary

I’m still having a struggle finding time and energy to blog.  Maybe as we get closer to spring the tantalizing thought of sunny days and soothing sight of blue skies will increase my energy.  Here is what I reviewed this past month:

Among Others by Jo Walton

Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

Clementine by Cherie Priest (audio)

Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

Fearless by Jack Campbell (audio)

Courageous by Jack Campbell (audio)

Black Gate 14

I’ve been delving into some older swords and sorcery titles over the last month but haven’t had a real chance to sit down and write any reviews. I’m just about done with the Planet Stories edition of Black God’s Kiss by C. L. Moore and read through The Ginger Star by Leigh Brackett (more swords, planets and sorcery). I also ready Howard Andrew Jones The Desert of Souls, which was every bit as awesome as I thought it would be so expect a review soon. March has a number of sequels coming out namely Erikson’s The Crippled God and Rothfus’ Wise Man’s Fear (which I actually forgot about).  I also have a number of arcs to take a look at (most with April release dates) and I sort of want to re-read Game of Thrones before April 17.  I also want to get back to my Erikson re-read.  I do plan on continuing to read more swords and sorcery titles as opportunity arises.  I’m also going to be away for PAX East 2011 next week so things will be quiet(er) here during that time as well.