Monday, 2014-10-06

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

This book has justifiably swept the SF awards lately. It’s an intricately designed space opera set in a human future that’s unsettlingly plausible. I’m usually tired of literal “space empires” but Leckie makes enough assumptions to make it work.

Of course there are downsides. The Radch expand by war, “annexing” rival systems and integrating their people and religions into their own. The titular “ancillaries” are prisoners of war, stripped of personality and memory and turned into elements of giant ship’s AI.

Underneath the genteel veneer of tea ceremonies, ritual gloves, and gender-neutral pronouns (everyone is “she” in this novel, a great touch) lies a dark heart of absolute power, state-sponsored euthanasia and utter lack of privacy, if you live on a ship or a Station monitored by an AI. Leckie avoids the trap of simply transplanting today’s society into the far future and gives us a glimpse of something that’s rather different - if instantly recognizable as human.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 2014-09-30

September

Solbryggan

Skogskyrkogården

Hammarby sjö

Viking & Jan

Skeppsbrokajen

Sep 2013 | Sep 2012 | Sep 2011

Tuesday, 2014-09-09

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

It’s apparently not a fantasy book series unless it’s at least a trilogy, and while I felt the abrupt ending of The Magician King was fitting for what I felt was the end of a Bildungsroman, I wasn’t too surprised to see The Magician’s Land in print.

That’s not to say I wasn’t happy. Grossman’s three books do a brilliant job of deconstructing the tropes of the magician’s school. It’s Harry Potter meets The Rules of Attraction, and Narnia at least gets a varnish of Lovecraft. The multiverse of the novels is brilliantly constructed and internally consistent.

Tying up all the loose strands of a story is hard work though, and while Grossman does a great job of setting the scene and telling the first half of the book, the last falls rather flat. However, only in the context of what’s gone before. It’s still one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read, ever.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, 2014-08-31

August

Viking

Four years ago:

Viking

Luma

Sickla udde

GE7_4847.jpg

Olof

Viking

Kungsträdgården

Aug 2013 | Aug 2012 | Aug 2011 | Aug 2010 | Aug 2009

Thursday, 2014-08-14

Four States of Mind

(All pics from our trip are in this Flickr set.)

5th Avenue

New York is a woman — she’ll make you cry
But to her you’re just another guy

Suzanne Vega

Lake Meade

Well it used to be everything was fine
Everything, this all was mine
But one fine day, you might say
That I, I threw it all away
‘Cause I made up my mind
I traded holy water for cheap wine
I ran out of time
Or something that I can’t define
I traded my whiskey for your wine
Leaving my river running dry
And a waterline

Lloyd Cole

South Rim

We went to Grand Canyon
And we stood at the expanse
And we watched the rocks change color
And we watched the shadows dance

Drive-By Truckers

Venice

And if California slides into the ocean
As the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this hotel will be standing
Until I pay my bill

Warren Zevon

Thursday, 2014-07-31

July

Sjöstaden

Hanny & Toke

Henriksdalshamnen

Hammarby Allé

Jul 2013 | Jul 2012 | Jul 2011 | Jul 2010 | Jul 2009

Tuesday, 2014-07-15

The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross

The latest Laundry novel takes on vampires! Stross does a good job integrating the known lore about his universe - magic as a side-effect of applied mathematics - and his explanation about the origins of his vampiric cell makes internal sense.

However, if there’s one criticism that can be levelled at Stross is that his plotting could be better. This novel deal with double-cross upon double-cross and it gets confusing about who’s crossing who. To deal with this, jarring interludes of exposition are introduced that try to explain what’s happening.

Monday, 2014-06-30

June

Michel

Tour Eiffel

Sjöstaden

Valhallavägen

Djurgården

Hanny & Patrik

Solbryggan

Jun 2013 | Jun 2012 | Jun 2011 | Jun 2010 | Jun 2009 |

Saturday, 2014-05-31

May

A certain theme this month…

Kungsgatan

Djurgårdskanalen

Sicklasjön

Hammarby kaj

Hammarby kaj

Île Saint-Louis

May 2013 | May 2012 | May 2011 | May 2010 | May 2009 | May 2008

Saturday, 2014-05-10

Two novels by Paul McAuley

  • 400 Hundred Billion Stars
  • Eternal Light

These are McAuley’s debut novels, and while they’re set in the same universe, they’re very different. 400 Hundred Billion Stars is basically an alien-contact novel. Functionally it’s a space opera, although thankfully not of the Galactic Imperium style. The main character is also a telepath, and although that’s handwaved as a form of quantum tunneling it’s still a rather 70s detail.

The second crams too much into one novel - Gibsonesque McGuffin chasing, virtual reality, intra-galactic wormholes, civil war IN SPACE, religious fanatic, alien macrostructures. The sensawunda is relegated to background noise.

However I’m a big fan of McAuley and I’m glad I’ve read these. They’re not bad books, just that he’s written better since.