The Galaxy, and the Ground Within [Wayfarers #4]

People – a group comprised of every sapient species, organic or otherwise – were chaos, but chaos was good. Chaos was the only sensible conclusion. There was no law that was just in every situation, no blanket rule that could apply to everyone, no explanation that accounted for every component. This did not mean that laws and rules were not helpful, or that explanations should not be sought, but rather that there should be no fear in changing them as needed, for nothing in the universe ever held still.

Oh, I do love these books. Especially on audio. There just such a delightful take on the sci-fi ‘slice of life’ genre. Once again, it’s a new cast and new stories, with loose tiebacks to the previous characters (seeing Pei and hearing her talk about Ashby is a nice change of view). Chambers really shines at taking a bunch of weird and wonderful aliens, sticking them in a tight space (this time what’s essentially a ‘space truck stop’) for a few days, and seeing what happens. Nothing earthshaking1 or deadly2, but a lot of interpersonal drama. It’s great. Worth a read.

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The Outside

Well, it did what Outside usually did in stories. Showed up. Violated all the known laws of physics. Killed some people and drove the rest mad.

Well that’s certainly an interesting book. It’s one part autism as ‘different, but that’s okay and sometimes it’s a superpower and sometimes it sucks’, one part cosmic horror, and one part fascinating worldbuilding with technoreligion writ large.

Overall, it didn’t quite feel finished to me. There’s a lot of setup, but the ending drew somewhere between a true horror ending and something much ‘better’. There’s potential for a sequel there, but without it, it could have been better. Still an enjoyable enough read.

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Before They Are Hanged [The First Law #2]

We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.

Before They Are Hanged takes The Blade Itself and takes everything up a notch. It’s still a dark and twisted world, there are still terrible people on all sides… but now we have even more hints and worldbuilding on darker things coming.

Overall, it’s a worthwhile continuation to the first story and I’m really looking forward to see where it goes next. The narration in particular remains well worth it.

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The Unwritten, Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

Well that’s a start. A world where Tommy Taylor is a modern hidden world fantasy even bigger than Harry Potter… until the author disappears, leaving behind disillusioned son Tom Taylor. There are more than hints of a darker truth behind the story, hidden worlds within hidden worlds. And a section at the end establishing how far back in time the truth goes. So far, a fascinating sort of story. Well written and illustrated.

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The Rage of Dragons

African-inspired Bronze-age fantasy with piles of caste based tensions, crazy sword battles, interesting magic, demons, dragons, and the distinct feeling that the ‘good guys’ might not actually be that good after all.

I’m reminded a lot of Ender’s Game (which I love and need to re-read at some point) in that you have a surprisingly good soldier that manages to train harder and break the rules, breaking down society as he goes. It’s a lot darker though and Tau (said soldier) is motivated almost entirely by vengeance. It’s… a lot to read at times, but it fits. Man he’s stupid at times for it though.

It’s a great book and worth the read.

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Fugitive Telemetry [The Murderbot Diaries #6]

An odd book. It’s supposed to be #6 in the series, but really, it’s a prequel to Network Effect. There’s not much you need to know between the two, so you can read them in either order and if it were up to me, I’d probably swap them (mostly because I want to know what happens next!), but it still works.

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The Mysterious Benedict Society [The Mysterious Benedict Society #1]

Well that took a while to read. I read it outloud, part of a chapter a night many nights, and it still took a few months. Glad I did it though, it’s a great book, especially for kids, but even more so to read aloud with them.

It’s a story about a group of children, each lost and/or alone in different ways, each brilliant (as the first section and a series of tests shows both to them and to us) and thus necessary for a SECRET MISSION. I won’t go much more into that, but once they get out on the mission and have to prove that they are more than up to the task–it’s great.

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The Blade Itself [The First Law #1]

Every man has his excuses, and the more vile the man becomes, the more touching the story has to be. What is my story now, I wonder?

Joe Abercrombie / The Blade Itself have long held a highly recommended spot on my to read lis, so when I caught the audiobook on Libby/the Indiana Digital Library1 I figured it was about time.

Quick version: it’s wonderful, but also very dark. One of the main characters is a barbarian who’s family was recently killed, another is a soldier crippled in war turned torturer. And somehow, Abercrombie actually really makes you feel for the both of them, but man it takes a bit… On top of that, there’s some fascinating hints of magic–plus some more overt examples, no less terrible, when we meet Bayaz–the First of the Magi… or is he?

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Network Effect [The Murderbot Diaries #5]

So that was what had happened before the survey. Now we’re here, ready for the next major disaster. (Spoiler warning.)

It’s a full length Murderbot novel! Yay! And it gets far deeper and weirder into corners of the worldbuilding we’ve only had hints of before. I love seeing the hints of tension with the corporations and how much control they hvaqe, the weirdness that is alien remnants, and the knowledge that there are super weird problems out there that aren’t necessarily directly related to Murderbot.

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Spelunky [Boss Fight Books #11]

The games reminded me of something the author Haruki Murakami says in the intro to the English edition of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: “I find writing novels a challenge, writing short stories a joy. If writing novels is like planting a forest, then writing short stories is more like planting a garden. The two processes complement each other, creating a complete landscape that I treasure.” In video games, we don’t have corresponding terms for novels and short stories—we simply have large games and small games. These Game Maker games were Murakami’s gardens: vibrant, intimate, and full of charm. Having just planted a large forest with Alec, I was eager to find my own little patch of fertile soil.

I absolutely love Spelunky. I remember playing the (now) Classic version when that’s all there was (even going so far as to decompile and mess with the source code, yay GameMaker Studio), spending hours on the HD remake (beat Olmec, made it to Hell, never did beat Yama)–mostly on Steam, and more recently put just as many hours into Spelunky 2. It’s a great game and what little I knew of the story was already inspirational. So when I saw this book, written by Derek Yu himself, of course I had to give it a try.

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