Category Archives: Books

Tess

Tess of the d’Urbervilles
by Thomas Hardy
(1891)

I read this as it was the subject of the 7 May 2016 episode of Melvyn Bragg’s BBC podcast ‘In Our Time‘.

I started this book with some trepidation, books I have tried of previous centuries often have flowery language and are not very relate-able.  Fortunately this was better.  There is a lot of commentary on the social aspects of the story in the narration, like John Fowles or D. H. Lawrence. The language is very rich and full of archaic and obscure words, not enough to put you off, but it gives the prose a weight that makes you slow down to appreciate it. Not since Melvyn Peake’s  Gormenghast series have I actually enjoyed just the reading (at first).

As for the story, Tess is a young woman who right from the start has more responsibility thrust on her than a woman of nineteen would expect. Her horse dies, her father appears to be related to aristocracy and so she must make her way indignantly  in the world. At just over half way, in part 5 her new husband finds about a previous boyfriend. His reaction is so over the top, the reality of the story ceased and it began to feel like some type of farce.  On reading a synopsis, I found that Tess, way back in part 2 had a baby that died. This was something I completely missed, I don’t recall her having sex !

It now becomes apparent that this is an exercise in style over substance. The ability of the author to clearly convey a plot has been compromised  and I lost all interest in continuing.

As for the podcast……..

It does explain why I missed the part where Tess gets pregnant. It’s not actually mentioned, apparently the act is only implied. And they do pick up on my point about the rich and dense nature of the prose. However for a modern reader, it is a slow read, and I didn’t finish it. So it only gets a rating of 1/5.

 

 

 

 

Library eBook Testing

Christchurch City Council Library eBook Testing Report
Written 2011-04-08

Since this report I have not borrowed any ebooks from a library

Hardware: Kobo (original)
LG Android Smartphone

Previously I got two ebooks at Beckenham library successfully.
1/ Dick Francis – 10-lb Penalty
2/ Fiona Kidman – The Captive Wife

Because they were not checked out on my computer I can’t see a way of ‘returning’ the books.

I wasn’t sure what the point was of ‘returning’ the ebook so borrowed ‘The Fry Chronicles’. This turns out to be a 14 meg file – lots of pictures.

After borrowing the book, I immediately returned it.

The epub file stays on the computer but doesn’t appear in Adobe Digital Editions (ADE). Copied the file to the Kobo to find that the content was locked.

Second try (Crossfire by Dick Francis)
Note – when downloading it’s important to have the Kobo plugged in then get ADE running. ADE will recognize the reader.
Don’t save the file or use a download manager but load it directly
into ADE. Once downloaded, switch to ‘Library View’. Highlight the
book description and drag it onto the ‘KOBOeReader’ icon. This will
copy the eBook to the device.

So I don’t have problems getting books for my Kobo but haven’t bothered to try the Android Smartphone. The Overdrive Android App is not very intuitive and you can only read books within the app. The app is very basic and doesn’t have much in the way
of altering the formatting of an eBook.

The best eBook reading app for Android is ‘Aldiko’. It can override the default fonts, margins, alignment etc in an ebook.

With the Kobo, when buying or borrowing DRM books you are at the mercy of the ebook designer as to margins, line spacing, paragraph indents etc.

Here are a few podcasts that cover the subject of eBooks:

http://ebookninjas.com/
Podcast by the guys from ebookarchitects.com. Can get very
technical about how to make ebooks but also covers general news and events.

http://www.thekindlechronicles.com/
Although mainly for American users with a kindle, this covers
general topics and has an interview.

http://www.dragonpage.com/
Mainly covers SciFi & Fantasy genres. News discussions,interviews
with authors and book reviews. One of the longest running book
related podcast, it has covered eBooks for several years.
Features author Michael Stackpole.

News Sites

News


Moderated site about publishing news from around the world.

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/
News and discusion about current issues.

Nigel Baker 2011-04-18

Going Dark

Going Dark (The Red #3)
Linda Nagata

GoingDark

In the third book in The Red Trilogy, former Army Lt. James Shelley becomes a black ops sniper working for the Red—a suspected rogue artificial intelligence that is ripped from today’s headlines.

James Shelley has left his lover, Delphi, and his companion-in-arms, Jayne Vasquez, with a fortune acquired from a fallen oligarch. They believe him to be dead, and he doesn’t try to set the record straight. His long-running question has been answered: There are other soldiers like him who have served the purposes of the Red—and he has accepted his place among them. As a soldier of the Red he pursues covert missions designed to nudge history away from existential threats—but that doesn’t mean the world is growing more orderly. It’s only in the froth of a “managed chaos” that human potential can grow and thrive. Shelley’s missions eventually take him into orbit—and into conflict with those he loves—Delphi and Jaynie—who are determined to escape the influence of the Red.

The final book loses focus on any science fiction themes and mainly consists of a series of armed conflicts. From the Arctic to the urban jungle, our hero manages to escape narrowly with his life. The problem is that it doesn’t add up to the promise in the first book, not bad, just OK (3/5).

 

Shades of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
V. E. Schwab

Schwab
Read as part of the Sword and Laser March pick.

Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now.

The writing was good with an interesting premise. The problem was it just didn’t get very involving or exciting. It felt like a novella stretched out to novel length. The good were good and the evil did evil things. It takes too long to get to the central conflict, then everything is crammed into the last 20% of the book. Not bad, just average.

 

The Trials

The Trials (The Red #2)
by Linda Nagata

TheTrials

Lieutenant James Shelley and his squad of US Army soldiers were on a quest for justice when they carried out the unauthorized mission known as First Light. They returned home to America to face a court-martial, determined to expose the corruption in the chain of command that compelled their actions. But in a country still reeling from the nuclear terrorism of Coma Day, the courtroom is only one battlefield. A new cycle of violence ignites when rumors of the elusive, rogue AI known as the Red go public—and Shelley is, once again, pulled into the fray.

Challenged by his enemies, driven by ideals, Shelley feels compelled to act—but are the harrowing choices he makes really his own, or are they made for him, by the Red? With millions of lives at stake in a game of nuclear cat-and-mouse, does it even matter?

The second in the series is a bit slower than the first. It starts with a trial and possibly that’s the whole story. Fortunately that’s finished with in a few chapters then it’s on with the plot. The rest of the book in unpredictable, not using military genre tropes. The ending is less of a big action piece then the previous book, but still an interesting end and setup for the third and final book. (4/5)

 

 

First Light

The Red: First Light (The Red #1)
by Linda Nagata

Nagata

Lieutenant James Shelley commands a high-tech squad of soldiers in a rural district within the African Sahel. They hunt insurgents each night on a harrowing patrol, guided by three simple goals: protect civilians, kill the enemy, and stay alive—because in a for-profit war manufactured by the defense industry there can be no cause worth dying for. To keep his soldiers safe, Shelley uses every high-tech asset available to him—but his best weapon is a flawless sense of imminent danger…as if God is with him, whispering warnings in his ear.

This is the third of the sword and laser book picks for June I have read. The first two I didn’t finish. But it’s third time lucky. This is military science fiction about tech-enhanced soldiers in the future. The closest to this I have read is Timothy Zahn’s first Cobra series. Fortunately this is hard-SciFi, the story is heavily dependent on the tech and it drives the story forward. That’s not to say that the characters are badly written, they may be a bit stereotypical, but come across a fully rounded characters. The only disappointment was the ‘villain’ of book. There is little explanation of the villain’s motivations and not much to understand. The story is told in first person and keeps going at a good pace. There isn’t too much internal monologue that can slow the story. This is the first of a trilogy, so next is the sequel, ‘The Trials’. Recommended.
 

Aurora

Kim Stanley Robinson – Aurora (2015)

 

RobinsonKimStanley_Aurora

AURORA tells the incredible story of our first voyage beyond the solar system.

This was read as part of the Sword and Laser Podcast June picks. I

I began this book with some trepidation.  The previous Kim Stanley Robinson book I had read was ‘Forty Signs of Rain’ and I hadn’t finished that.

This starts with a domestic setting on a lake in a spaceship !. The story appears to be about young -adult and her interactions with some rebellious children. Not what I would expect  of a Sci-Fi novel. Fortunately  chapter 2 begins with some hard-Sci-Fi explaining the current situation. We are on a ship that has been traveling for  over 100 years to a planet. Then it’s back to the kid. At this point I wondered if the whole book would be like this. So I checked out a few reviews. One of the best indicators of a book I don’t like is the comments in the 1-star reviews. Usually if there are a good number that use words like ‘dull’ and boring, I will be agreeing with them. Of the 453 reviews, 10% are 1-star.

According to Liz Seber:
I have been reading science fiction for 55 years. I have read all the greats – Asimov, Heinlein, Niven etc – and, sometimes, their efforts haven’t always been good. But this book must be the dullest and most boring sf effort I have ever read. A good concept ruined by pages and pages of philosophizing and an unsatisfying ending. I never fully understood the main character who was never completely filled out and I don’t think the author understood her either. This should have been a lively story (see Brian Aldiss’s Non Stop, which is a similar theme, for a returning space farers story that works) but it failed in all respects.
Doug Minear calls it a ‘slow boat to Aurora” . And Heather; I had to force myself to finish.

This book is 148k words long so instead of persevering through the remaining 87%, I’m moving on the the next Sword & Laser pick for June.

 

 

 

 

Planetfall

 Emma Newman – Planetfall (2015)

Planetfall

From the award-nominated author Emma Newman, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity’s future might be its undoing…

This was read as part of the Sword and Laser Podcast June picks. It is also written by the host of the Tea and Jeopardy podcast.

Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.

The book starts well, an interesting premise and well written. It soon becomes apparent that the main device of the story is that the narrator  has held back vital information. This will be revealed and its impact on the colony. The problem is that at the halfway mark, little has been revealed and the main character has some problems. And the plot slows to much to sustain interest. I gave up.

 

Deadly Blessings

Deadly Blessings
by Julie Hyzy

JulieHyzy

 

It’s not often Alex St. James has a story like this fall into her lap, only to have it snatched away again. As news researcher at Midwest Focus Television in Chicago, she’d been set to interview a young Polish immigrant woman, pregnant by a Catholic priest. When the woman is found murdered, and Alex tries to investigate, her boss abruptly reassigns her to a fluff piece, so he can give the hot murder story to the station owner’s nephew. But anyone who knows Alex also knows that like Fate, she’ll find a way. Acting without authority and without assistance, she continues to investigate, making some very powerful people in the Chicago Archdiocese uneasy. Suddenly Alex finds herself in the middle of a plot so sinister and far reaching that the very next thing she might hear are her own Last Rites. Award-winning mystery author Julie Hyzy has also written several award-winning science-fiction short stories. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago.

It’s not that there is anything badly done, it’s just that
… The pacing is too slow
… I can deal with a first-person female protagonist, but all that happens is centered around hairdressers !
… for a crime novel there isn’t much crime or action and after a quarter of the book has gone it’s looking like there won’t be much coming up.

So once again I’m ending a book because of slow pacing and lack of a plot.

Disappointed