26 June 2012

The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

The Blurb: Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s calorie representative in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, he combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs long thought to be extinct. There he meets the windup girl – the beautiful and enigmatic Emiko – now abandoned to the slums. She is one of the New People, bred to suit the whims of the rich. Engineered as slaves, soldiers and toys, they are the new underclass in a chilling near future where oil has run out, calorie companies dominate nations and bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe. And as Lake becomes increasingly obsessed with Emiko, conspiracies breed in the heat and political tensions threaten to spiral out of control. Businessmen and ministry officials, wealthy foreigners and landless refugees all have their own agendas. But no one anticipates the devastating influence of the Windup Girl.

Now I know that I said I'll be reviewing Sophia McDougall's Romanitas, but it's still being read. You see, my Kindle decided to go flat the day we left for a weekend away, so I had to grab something off my TBR shelf. Yes, I still buy books, even though I own a Kindle. Nothing wrong with that. And The Windup Girl is well known, so I thougt it a good choice.

Bacigalupi's future sucks. The world's oil is finished, meaning the Global Village is dead. International travel is all but gone and electricity does not really exist any more. People are landlocked for the most part and stuck in their immediate surroundings. 

Then the smart nutrition companies thought it a good idea to start ecological warfare. They designed viruses that attacked plants, and then produced the only virus-resistant grains to be sold to the highest bidder. This makes them more powerful than any government. Too bad they also suck at their jobs and things got out of hand. New plagues sweep the world and life is mostly miserable. Any resistant food is worth more than gold.

Thailand is one of the last "free" lands on earth. They are keeping their heads above water is some interesting ways, and it was really fun to read about a different culture for a change.

None of the main characters are real heroic. They are mostly bastards, but at least they are bastards for a reason and the reasons are there. The book isn't a nice easy read, but it is damn riveting. I have heard that people complain that all the plot threads does not get resolved, but if you activate your brain and think about the repercussions of the choices made in the book, it all makes sense. It's masterfully done, and a great read if you are looking for something a bit dirty and not straight forward,

There's murder, rape and even a little pillaging, and it all fits into the bleak world that we read about. 

I demolished this book in two days, and when I was done I wished there was more to read.


22 June 2012


No, I'm not dead or gone. Just busy as all hell with the damn job and other commitments. That includes Skyrim. "But it's and old game, how can you still be busy with it?!?" you ask. "'Cause I take my time and enjoy the flower-picking and potion crafting" is my answer.  Unfortunately it happens sometimes, and this leads to a drastic decrease in my reading speed. I'm winging my way through Sophia Mcdougall's Romanitas and enjoying it immensely thus far. Give me another week(?) and I'll have a review ready and rearing to go. For now, here's the cover art:

I like the simplicity of it.

13 June 2012

Saladin Ahmed free short story

Mr. Ahmed posted a free short story over on his website here. All he asks are some help in these difficult times. Everyone is suffering through life, bus sometimes someone just needs a hand up. All help will be appreciated.

Here's the first part of the story:

Zok Ironeyes stared at the tilecard table before him and cursed softly as Hai Hai clacked down the Dragoness tile with a gloating grunt.

Hai Hai looked up from the table and locked her shiny black eyes on the innkeeper, her nose and whiskers twitching. The scraggle-haired, red faced fool avoided Hai Hai’s gaze with the shame of a man who’d been caught staring. Zok couldn’t fault the innkeeper’s curiosity. The man had probably seen only a handful of rabbitmen in his life, for few of Hai Hai’s people ever made it this far south. But if the proprietor of the preposterously-named King’s Crest Inn didn’t watch himself, he was like to get his nose broken at least. Hai Hai wasn’t one to indulge untraveled bumpkins’ gawking.

Go read the rest at his blog, and help out if you can!

05 June 2012

Game of Thrones rap intro

I laughed quite a bit at this. It's pretty well done.

The Alchemist of Souls - Anne Lyle

The blurbWhen Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods – and a skrayling ambassador – to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital?
Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally – and Mal Catlyn his soul.

This is the first book of the Night's Masque trilogy by Anne Lyle, which falls under historical fantasy. I do not really care about subdivisions in the fantasy genre, but historical fantasy is big enough to warrant it. One of my resolutions was to broaden my horizons reading wise, and this fits in nicely, seeing as I've read very little historical fantasy up to this point.
The idea behind the novel is quite good. Set in Elizabethan England, the new world has been discovered. There are more than only Native Americans in the New World, Skraylings exist and they can use magic in a mostly seemingly unmagical world. They aren't easily dealt with and most of the common people fear them quite a bit. The Church is a major influence in peoples daily lives and brands them demons. So the potential for chaos is everywhere.
The story centres around Mal Catlyn a gentleman who has fallen on hard times and is thus expendable but useful to the crown. He carries a lot of personal baggage and he most certainly do have his flaws, but all in all he's a solidly developed main character.
There's quite a big focus on actors and plays, seeing as the acting-groups in the city are to perform in a competition in honour of the Skrayling ambassador. Most of the secondary English characters sprout from here. There is a woman disguised as a man, but it is done well enough, with good enough reason that is does not spoil the story. The other guys stand up well on their own, and it was a nice change of pace from the usual wizards, mercenaries and princes.
Historical accuracy really can go take a flying jump in terms of importance in historical fantasy in my opinion, but it does seem that the accuracy is present in the novel. I would have liked a bit more of yo olde London though, since it seemed as if the story could have been based anywhere. It's might be a pet peeve, but it didn't feel dirty enough to me for some reason.
The first half of the book is used to set up the story and a bit of a slog to read, but as soon as the story gets going, it goes off with a hell of a bang and a hell of a pace. It's quite nice, looking back on the book, that there wasn't loads of action with info dumps every second chapter. The info came in at the start, and the action later. The characters were well established by then, with their motivations laid bare. 
The book is well written, the second half is paced well, there are enough hints into what could happen in the next two books that I'm more than interested in the rest of the series. This has the potential to be the introduction to an amazing world and truly wonderful series.