28 December 2011

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

The Blurb: At long last, Lady Sybil has lured her husband, Sam Vimes, on a well-deserved holiday away from the crime and grime of Ankh-Morpork. But for the commander of the City Watch, a vacation in the country is anything but relaxing. The balls, the teas, the muck—not to mention all that fresh air and birdsong—are more than a bit taxing on a cynical city-born and -bred copper.
Yet a policeman will find a crime anywhere if he decides to look hard enough, and it’s not long before a body is discovered, and Sam—out of his jurisdiction, out of his element, and out of bacon sandwiches (thanks to his well-meaning wife)—must rely on his instincts, guile, and street smarts to see justice done. As he sets off on the chase, though, he must remember to watch where he steps. . . . This is the countryside, after all, and the streets most definitely are not paved with gold.

I must confess that I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan. I have been one for years, and I'll defend his world and works  to any who dares to belittle his works or who is insane enough to try to discuss it with me after a few drinks. Ask my wife, I do not stop, go in circles and basically bash you over the head with my argument until you agree with me, if only to make me stop. That's how big of a fan I am. I'll try to be impartial in my review, but that's probably a lost cause.

This time most of the action happens at Ramkin Hall, Lady Sybil's childhood country home, and now belonging to Sir Samuel Vimes, Duke of Ankh and Commander of the City Watch. The all round hero, policeman and mainly city rat. He is out of his element and he knows it. His first real holiday since for ever.

A lot of people arguethat Sir Pratchett's earlier works are better. That he has lost his edge. I won't say better, but they are more satirical and laugh-a-minute without question. That is understandable, with old age and that bastard Altzheimer's looming over a person, I'm sure that satire seems a bit difficult to achieve. The guy has sold over 70 million books. And his books are the most stolen on earth. True story. The guy is a legend.

Willikins emerges as a bodyguard in this book, and that transformation that started in Thud! is complete. Vimes has someone from his own background that he can trust with his and his family's life, and I feel that it was needed to help keep Sam Vimes sane. Good touch that. And it made him bloody good fun to read.

Sam Vimes Jr is six in this book, talking, running and collecting poop. It will be interesting to follow the development of Vimes II, and I'm sure that all the fans will love him.

Oh yes, and there are Goblins. The theme of introducing new races are continuing, and that helps to keep the stories fresh. The Dwarves, Fey, Trolls and Undead has been done, and done brilliantly. The Orcs and Goblins should shake up The Discworld and shake out some new tales.

All in all, Snuff was an enjoyable read. Not as funny as his earlier works, but I've covered that. A bit darker for Pratchett, but it is done well and the darkness matches the Vimes books. It was an honour as a fan to read. I'm pretty sure anyone will enjoy it.


21 December 2011

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

The Blurb: Welcome to the future. Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.
Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer, Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.
This is the first book of the Expanse by James S.A. Corey, who is the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. It is brilliant. I can stop the review right there. Go and read it.
OK. A few words. It seems that Abraham and Franck wrote the two main characters, Miller and Holden's chapters on their own(ish), then polished the complete work together so that it flows nicely. I thought that it would be difficult to get into the flow of the book, but I was really pleasantly surprised. The brilliant upshot of writing in a team is that the two main characters each have a very distinctive voice, character and thought pattern. Holden is the crusader of righteousness, Miller the semi-alcoholic burnt out detective.  They react differently to the same pressures, and it makes for some fun reading.
The setting of the book is mostly in the Kuiper Belt, with people who work and live there seen as the lower class, scummy part of our universe. It's the industrial district of space. Mars is terraformed (mostly) and being lived on and Earth still exist, which is nice. All three cultures hate each other, which is right up our human nature alley.
Holden starts to flounder the deeper into the plot we go. His black/white world view starts to struggle when morality is more a shade of grey. He sticks by his decisions, come hell or high water. He stands by his crew, and he deserves respect for it.
Miller is my favourite though. Drunk for the first part of the book, hallucinating and half insane for the rest. He sees the world as it is. Broken and cynical. He does what he knows is right, even at major cost to himself. All for the best of humanity.
I was put off from science fiction for quite a few years, but these guys has restored my faith in the genre. Epic scope, brilliant characters, believable physics for a sci fi book and loads of fun! 
Hell, it was good enough the keep me off Skyrim last night.

20 December 2011

Skyrim: The best timesink on earth.

So I received quite a nice bonus from my boss, and I bought myself and Xbox360. I know I'm about five years after the times with my purchase, but I would like anyone out there to try to afford one on an article clerk's salary. Especially a married article clerk.

I've never been too interested in console gaming. I've always had my PC and the thing was quite a monster five years ago. But that means it sucks in today's terms. So no chance of playing any new game on the old dinosaur. When Batman: Arkham City came out, I thought it would be fun to play. But then I saw the screenshots of Skyrim, and I fell in love.

I just knew that I had to have it. I've finished Neverwinter nights 1&2 as well as Oblivion, and this was the game that finally sold me on the Console deal.

And yes, the game is so cool and pretty that it justifies spending R3,500 (about $430) on a Xbox360. I'm loving every second of it so far. That the Kinect should be handy for insane drinking games is also quite a bonus.

So, since I'm working straight through to the end of the year, and spending a lot of my free time on hunting dragons in Skyrim, reading has been slow. But I do not care.

I'm having a blast!

14 December 2011

Current Reading

I felt that I needed a change of scenery reading wise so to speak, and I thought I'll give good old Sci Fi another bash. I've been put off in the past by all the weird sex that the writers hope will happen in the future. Hmmmm.

I've only heard good things about Leviathan Wakes though. It's a collaboration written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under the pseudonym James S.A. Corey. I'm a Abraham fan, and this is the first thing I'm reading that Franck has done. I'm about halfwayish and enjoying it immensely. A review should be up next week sometime.

In other news, my huge bookase is done and up! For a first ever woodworking project, it went surprisingly well. I bled quite a bit, but no stitches was needed. Photographic proof will be added as soon as I can find my damn camera.

09 December 2011

Massive giveaway over at The Qwillery

I have no idea how I have managed to miss this site for so long. Go here to win a load of books and even a Nook for the American people. The reviews and book challenge looks pretty awesome as well.

07 December 2011

Among Thieves

The Blurb: Drothe is a Nose, an informant who finds and takes care of trouble inside the criminal organization he’s a part of. He also smuggles imperial relics on the side. 

When his boss sends him to Ten Ways to track down who’s been leaning on his organization’s people, Drothe discovers hints of a much bigger mystery. Someone is trying to stir up trouble between lower-level criminal organizations, including the one Drothe belongs to. And there’s a book rumored to contain imperial glimmer (or magic) that a lot of very dangerous people seem to be looking for - including two crime bosses known as the Gray Princes.

When Drothe discovers the book, he finds himself holding a bit of swag that can bring down emperors, shatter the criminal underworld, and unlock forbidden magic…that's if he can survive long enough to use it. 

After I finished the frankly lovely Prince of Thorns a while back, I was a bit stuck what to read. Then, as if by miracle, the friendly guys over at fantasy faction had a "best book of 2011" list going. A lot of the guys on the forum suggested it, so I gave it a go.

Drothe is a criminal. Working for an organisation as a nose, collecting rumours and starting them, protecting his boss and his interest by anticipating what is going to happen based on the information he gathers. Drothe hangs out with Bronze Degan, who is a member of a group of mercenaries. They are fast friends. He's the muscle, Drothe the brains. Is it sounding familiar yet? A lot like Lies of Locke Lamora? That is the main reason why I waited before reading this, since Locke Lamora was bloody brilliant, and I wasn't in the mood for a pale imitation thief story.

It starts slowly. Very slowly. The story plods along a bit at first as Drothe does his job, mainly as a mid level criminal. As bigger players are introduced, the pace picks up and the story just sucks you in. Drothe and Degan deals with people who they thought of as legends at the start of the book. The Empire and the history behind he Emperor hints at delicious stories to come. Hulick put in quite a lot of legwork on the imperial history, but since it fits it doesn't detract from the story. The thief slang that he uses throughout the book is a bit confusing for the first twenty or so pages, but when you get used to it it really adds to the book. Hulick even explains at the end where he got his ideas and the words from, which was quite a nice touch.

Drothe thinks he is a good guy, but he is a bastard. Throughout the book he betrays just about everyone, justifying his actions as he moves along. That make for some compelling reading, since in another novel Drothe could easily be the bad guy in stead of the hero. 

Is it the same as Lies of Locke Lamora as so many people say? Well, both deals with thieves and both happen in a city, and that's about it in my opinion. The characters are vastly different, and the cities as well. It's a brilliant book and you won't be disappointed if you buy it.


06 December 2011

This is insane

I ran into this while browsing the web this morning. It's bloody insane that a guy as big as G.R.R. Martin can be saddled by crap like this. Well done Paypal. You are trying to expand into Africa, and then something like this happens? Way to go to get the public to believe in you. Paypal is a brilliant service in principle, but if you are going to be stubborn and idiotic about stuff like this, you won't get many guys in South Africa using you. It's easy enough to make internet banking transfers, and we are used to have to struggle a bit to get our money out of the banks, what with dumb SASWITCH fees killing us and all. You were supposed to make it easier and cheaper to transfer money and pay people. 

I was bloody happy when I heard that Paypal is going to be linking with the Big 4 banks that we have. Now, not so much. I'd rather stick to my bank screwing me. At least I'm used to them. A new player with the same old crap and horrible public service? And doing essentially the same service as a bank? You must be joking if you think the normal person who only does payments locally would use you.


02 December 2011

Come on weekend!

No reading will be happening this weekend. There is a birthday party tonight that cannot be ducked, and tomorrow it's me, my friends and the Nedbank Golf Challenge. It was free tickets, and we are going to be allowed into the very fancy sponsors areas. It helps when a good friend works for South African Breweries. Beer will be consumed. Lots of beer.
Sunday will be a construction day. That bookcase is taking forever.

I'm currently blazing my way through Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick and I'm enjoying it so far.

Onwards and Upwards!