The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Off The Shelf

Posted on | July 24, 2015 | 11 Comments

— compiled by Wombat-socho

Could have sworn I did a book post last week, but apparently I was wrong. This fortnight’s haul from the library includes a couple of regrettable graphic novels, one of the Laundry novels by Charles Stross, a nice debut novel by Finnish author Hannu Rajaniemi, and the definitive Churchill bio by his son Randolph and the late Martin Gilbert.

The best of the lot is clearly Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief, the first book in a trilogy about the post-human thief Jean le Flambeur. When we first meet him, le Flambeur is an inmate in the Dilemma Prison, where the Archon pursues a form of re-education where his prisoners are required to kill each other every day or (less frequently) cooperate to avoid being killed. Our hero gets sprung from the prison and taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, to complete his last theft. The Oubliette is a fascinating society where time is the only currency and those who run out of time become the voiceless Quiets, who maintain the city and defend it from the feral phoboi. In the meantime, they exchange memories (or bits of memory) while maintaining fierce independence and anonymity through use of the gevulot, high-grade cryptography that can literally make people faceless or unrecognizable. It compares very well to Stross’ disastrous Glasshouse, which deals with a similar post-human prison, and Stross admits as much in a rather gracious cover blurb. This was a very good read, and I’m looking forward to reading the next two.

Speaking of Stross, I finally found The Rhesus Chart at the library, and while I enjoyed MOST of the novel, I am furious at Stross for reintroducing Bob’s sociopathic ex-girlfriend Mhari, who is now a [SPOILER], breaking up [SPOILER], and worst of all, HE KILLED OFF [SPOILER]! I can’t remember being this pissed off at an author since Poul Anderson killed Dominic Flandry’s fiance in A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. I am assured by a fellow fan of the series that it’s really all for the best, but I am Not Pleased.

The man who could have been Duke of London was not always the beloved bulldog hero of his people, as one rather quickly discovers when reading Winston S. Churchill: Youth, 1874-1900, the first in the eight-volume series begun by his son Randolph and completed by the late Martin Gilbert. The first two volumes could have been a stultifying trudge through letter after letter from and to Winston and his contemporaries (including his parents) but is a rather easy read instead, as well as being an excellent history of England during Churchill’s time. A short but very necessary overview of Winston’s father Randolph’s meteoric rise and tragic fall in included, and properly so, since it is impossible to really understand Winston’s career without it. I was fortunate enough to get all eight volumes for free on the Last Lion’s birthday this year when Hillsdale College released them in Kindle format, but they are well worth the current price and then some.

I was very disappointed in Serenity: Those Left Behind and Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale, even if Joss Whedon wasn’t. I found the first confusing and the second one suffering from a major continuity error, and was damned glad I hadn’t bought either one myself. YMMV.

This weekend I’m going to fill out my Hugo ballot, and I’ll post that next week in case anyone is interested. There’s still time to sign up for a supporting membership, get the packet, and vote, by the way.


11 Responses to “Off The Shelf”

  1. JeffWeimer
    July 24th, 2015 @ 9:12 pm

    I just finished my Hugo ballot today. The Graphic Novels were uniformly terrible. I no-awarded the entire category.

    Makes sense; SP/RP nominated only one work in that category, so it was filled with SJW garbage (heavy handed muslim-girl superhero, lesbian elves, impenetrable space-fantasy with obligatory gay couple, and people who have sex to stop time and rob banks – really). Reading them was like reading a particularly bad issue of Heavy Metal.

    For those interested, they use the “Australian” style instant-runoff voting scheme, so if you no-award in a category, make sure you leave the spots below it blank – otherwise you could be promoting works you despise when you really didn’t want to.

  2. Wombat_socho
    July 25th, 2015 @ 2:49 am

    I’m voting no award in that category as well, mainly because I haven’t read any of them. Glad to hear I didn’t miss anything.

  3. JeffWeimer
    July 25th, 2015 @ 3:17 am

    I mean WTF, none of this comes close to Girl Genius or XKCD.

    I’d really like Schlock Mercenary to win, but his best stuff (so far) has been in the past.

  4. M. Thompson
    July 25th, 2015 @ 6:38 am

    On a bit of a Naval kick myself now with “Mr. Midshipman Hornblower” and picked up one of Larry Bonds “Jerry Mitchell” novels last night.

  5. Wombat_socho
    July 25th, 2015 @ 3:29 pm

    Didn’t know Larry was still writing. I need to keep an eye out for his stuff.

  6. Wombat_socho
    July 25th, 2015 @ 3:30 pm

    IIRC he made it known last year that he was going to decline the nomination, but I could be wrong.

  7. M. Thompson
    July 25th, 2015 @ 3:40 pm

    Yeah, these were all written over the past few years though. Good page turners though.

  8. JeffWeimer
    July 25th, 2015 @ 7:02 pm

    He didn’t bring any attention to it this year like he did in 2014. It seems he wants to stay out of the brouhaha this year, but seems to be aligned with the Scalzi faction.

  9. SDN
    July 25th, 2015 @ 8:42 pm

    If you’re interested in O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels moved to outer space similarly to David Weber’s with Hornblower in his Honor Harrington series, I recommend H. Paul Honsinger’ Man of War series. 3 volumes and a novella so far.

  10. Wombat_socho
    July 25th, 2015 @ 9:17 pm

    Unfortunately this is true.

  11. Nicholasadkins
    July 26th, 2015 @ 5:41 am

    …………1=39Now Get this theothermccain