Being a CFO and other topics

Not just finance, hobbies too ….

Category: Book review

The Uploaded, by Ferrett Steinmetz – a book review

I know Ferrett (in that we have met a few times and corresponded via the internet for quite a while) and I was very happy when I read his first trilogy. I enjoyed it and my daughter Rachel enjoyed it. Great world building and the main character even was close to my profession as an accountant.

When I started reading The Uploaded I was worried because sometimes a writer gets a world or set of characters just right but when they do something new they just don’t have it.

At least that is not a concern now after I finished The Uploaded. Good world building, good story and writing that moves the plot along on a breakneck pace through the whole book. Some of the plot movement is moved forward via hand-waving (a magic “Icebreaker”) but it is OK. Heroes very often are superhuman and it works in the context of the story.

The two parts of the story that I think just do not work well enough (and why it is a 4 star book for me) was the love stories. Rachel had exactly the same issue here and she is a teenage girl. There is absolutely no connection that I can find in the love story and any character development or plot advancement. I am not a huge fan of love triangles, but the one in this book did not seem to matter at all to Amichai.

The second was the treatment of religion. The two groups of characters in the book seen to be atheists or Neo-Christians. There are no middle ground characters, anyone with faith that still believes that uploading after death is fine. There are lots of random descriptions (like “jewfro”) that just does not make sense considering the context. The family background of Amichai is meaningless and seems tacked on. All of the religious in the book are extremists and they are all Christian. Even in the USA, there are enough other religions that could be characters and I cannot see in the world created why the religious groups in it all have to be extremists living on the fringes of the world.

I can live with the religion, but the romantic triangle was just too much for me. Too stereotypical in one Young Adult way (and it seems that the society is much less prudish than current world, so even a little off) and not satisfying in terms of plot or character development.

I liked the book. Rachel read the whole book in a day, including sneaking a reading under the covers late into the night, It has a really interesting idea behind it and world and characters are fun. So give it a try.

The Uploaded on Amazon.com

Book Review – The Greatest Knight

This is one of my infrequent book reviews where I make a recommendation on a book you could enjoy on a trip you are about to take. I try and recommend lighter and easier to enjoy books and I provide a link to the book on Amazon.com in kindle format in my reviews so you can download it right away if you are reading this in an airport and are interested. I actually use Audible.com a fair bit and listen too books when driving or traveling (link is also below), but I find reading more efficient and I still read 4-5 books a month.

For those that access my blog via a computer or other device that has a full browser that shows the full site, you will notice that I have a statue of a knight as my banner image across the top. That knight is William Marshal and I recently finished a book called “The Greatest Knight:The Remarkable Life of William Marshal” that tells his story. The book is written by Thomas Asbridge, a noted historian who has written several other books on the Crusades.

William Marshal was a younger son of a minor noble in England. Born in 1146, he lived in the era of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and he served both of them and their sons, Henry, Richard the Lionhearted and John (the king who was so terrible that no other British King has been named John since), and finally as Regent for John’s son Henry who became Henry III of England. He died around the age of 72 in 1219. He was almost killed at the age of by King Steven when his father had given him up as a hostage to the King and then promptly broke his word. When King Steven threatened to kill him, William’s father told him to go ahead, saying ‘I still have the hammer and anvil with witch to forge still more and better sons.” King Steven decided to spare him and he went on to have a remarkable career.

Asbridge bases his book on a book dating from just after William’s death called “The History of William Marshal” which was commissioned by his family and disappeared from history only to be recovered in the very late 1800’s. The advantage of this source material compared to other histories of the time is that it was not written by the clergy and it represents the point of view of the nobles and knightly class who had very different goals than the Church.

Hostage, youngest son, poor knight, servant of kings and the realm, tournament champion, the story of William Marshal and his time is very interesting. The book moves along at a good pace and paints pictures with enough detail that the important facts are clear but not so detailed that it gets bogged down.

William Marshal was so deeply involved in British history from the 1160’s to 1219, and so much happened then that the writer easily could have fallen deeply into various rabbit holes and bogged the story down. Fortunately this does not happen. Instead, a vivid and engaging story of the greatest knight is told and by the end the reader is left with no doubt as to why the title applies to William Marshal. He not only was a great warrior, he was a key person behind the Magna Carta which is considered to be a significant constitutional document for England and thus for much of the Western world.

If I had to sum up the lesson that William Marshal can teach us today, it is that being true to your word and duties, even when difficult, is the right course of action. Several times during his life he had to choose between duty to his King or an easier path that would lead to more immediate, material reward. In every case, William chose duty and loyalty. That is not to say he liked his King in all cases (he did not appear to like John at all) but he still knew what his duty was and made the difficulty but right choice every day.

The author fills in the historical details of people and places when needed, but he does not get in the way of this rags to riches story. William started off almost penniless and ended as one of the most powerful and richest men in England. He was a sports star of his day, a noted and respected tournament champion and he also was a feared and renowned warrior. He inspired great personal loyalty in his friends and allies and they were steadfast in their support of him.

I recommend the book. The story is interesting and well written. The history of those times is fascinating. And the main focus, William, is deserving of his fame. What would William Marshal do?

The Greatest Knight (Kindle)

Book review – Dragonflight by Anne McCaffery

As always for my Sunday book reviews, I am reviewing a book meant to help base time while traveling. The idea is that you are at the airport and want something to entertain you on the flight. I provide a link at the bottom to purchase a kindle version of the book so you can download it and read if you want (or sign up for Audible.com and download a spoken version of the book to enjoy it that way).

This week I will review the book Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffery. It is book one of the Dragonriders of Pern series. In the many years since this book first came out, she has written many sequels and some prequels as well, but Dragonflight is the book that started the series. It is now called number 16, but it really is the first book.

Despite having dragons in the stories, the book is a SF story, not a fantasy story. It is set on a planet called Pern. The inhabitants are colonists that settled into a pretty hospitable place to live, but one that has a planet or moon that passes close enough every several hundred years for a type of spore called Thread to pass from that moon to Pern. Thread multiplies quickly into something that devours the land where it grows and which is inimitable to life. The only space that is safe is bare rock with nothing organic for the spores to feed on. Every time the other planet gets close enough for the spores to travel from planet to planet is called a “Pass” and the story begins after the last regular pass did not happen and Pern has almost forgotten why the dragon riders are needed.

The dragons telepathically bond with their riders. The only viable dragons that can lay eggs are the female, golden dragons and the last one is dying with only one queen egg left. Lessa is a scullery maid and drudge at a holding and is noticed by a group of dragon riders out searching for women that have the telepathic potential to bond with a dragon.

The story is both a straight forward romance between a strong dragon rider named F’lar who is bonded to a bronze dragon and Lessa. The spores missed a Pass and the Holds and the people have forgotten the dangers of the thread and why they need to support and help the small group of dragon riders that help them. The dragons can, after digesting the right rocks, breath fire and kill most of the thread before it reaches the ground. There always are some thread that make it to the ground and teams on the ground use flamethrowers to burn out the infestation.

The story is also one of political struggle between the Holders who no longer want to support the dragon riders via tithes and men and women to bond with the dragons and the leader of the dragon riders F’lar . Lessa bonds with the last golden dragon and whatever bronze rider’s dragon can catch her dragon on a mating flight forms the ruling pair with her.

Finally, the story is one of discovery as the people of Pern have lost hold of their history and do not know that they are colonists and not originally from Pern, even though they have legends and oral history that says they are. You discover more about the planet and the dragons and their powers and origin as you read through the books in the series.
I recommend the series as a fun, escapist way to pass time. The writing is good, the characters interesting the the villains and the heroes are not one dimensional. The love story between Lessa and F’lar is a classic boy meets girl, girl does not like him, but boy wins her over story. Simple, but still works well when written well with a good story behind it with good characters. Anne McCaffrey certainly delivers that.

I recommend the series and have read all of the books in it. Some are better than others, I find the first three to be some of the best and the prequels not as good as the original timeline books, but still ok. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did when I first read them.

Dragonflight (Pern Book 16)

Book review – H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos

As always, my Sunday books reviews are meant to be suggestions of something to buy right before you are on a flight. I give links to Kindle editions so you can buy and download them right away. I try and error on the side of entertaining or easier to read and for books that will help pass time.

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.” – opening lines of Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft

The Cthulhu Mythos is a collaborative universe featuring the idea that there are Great Old Ones that greatly predate mankind that have been waiting to return and take power over the universe. Of course, for purposes of stories within that universe, that time is either now, or deranged cultists are doing something to hasten that time. The typical story is one set where the main characters face cosmic indifference, humankind really does not matter and is insignificant compared to the vast and mind twisting reality of our true place there. To even glance at a small portion of this truth twists your mind and drive you insane.

The author that originated this universe was Howard Philip Lovecraft, and e wrote and published horror stories in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He was a contemporary of and corespondent with Robert E. Howard who wrote the Conan the Barbarian stories. He also wrote many letters to Robert Bloch (Psycho) and Clark Ashton Smith and they influenced each other and wrote stories that while self contained were loosely connected to the overall Cthulhu stories.

Lovecraft wrote for publication in the pulp magazines of his time, so his work is short stories and novellas. You can get through a story or two on even a short plane flight, but they are horror stories so maybe they are not the best to read if you plan on sleeping right away. They certainly are period pieces and not modern at all, but he does enjoy “things that go bump in the night” as a plot convenience and maybe they are not the best in strange hotel room with sounds that you are no familiar with.

“That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.” – Abdul Alhazred “Necronomicon”

It is pretty hard to avoid references to Cthulhu if you like and follow SF or Fantasy. The origins were in horror but it leapt into fantasy a long time ago. As an example, if you like the Evil Dead film series, the book that caused all the problems and the rise of the undead zombies is called the Necronomicon. That is directly from the Lovecraft story “The Hound” and appears in several more of his stories. There have been movies made directly from his stories and his works have influenced other movies, books, music and TV programs. I think part of the enduring popularity of his stories was that he was an early fan who wrote lots of letters to magazines and friends and others that wrote him. He freely encouraged other people to use his inventions and framework and during his life and afterwards people took him up on it.

I suggest starting with “Call of Cthulhu” and then reading the rest of the stories in the order they were published in. I included links below to two sources of his stories. One is free (Lovecraft’s works are old enough to be past copyright) and one is an inexpensive compilation of all of his writings. I will warn you that the stories themselves just have passing references to race that show some prejudice, but Lovecraft was more racist (and sexist) than even the norm for his time and that does come out in his letters much more than his stories. I can enjoy his works and the influence he has on modern writing without being caught up on his personal beliefs, but they are a matter of record. Funny enough, he had a fair number of personal relationships, at least in writing and fan circles, that were contrary to his written views.

Chronology of Cthulhu Mythos stories written while Lovecraft was alive

I do not think that Lovecraft would ever have won awards for his complete mastery of the English language and his ability to write, but his plotting and ideas are good and the stories are short enough that any issues with the prose itself do not intrude too much by the time you reach they end of the story.  I enjoy the details he has in his stories and he wrote during a time when people were transitioning from horses to cars.  Some of the problems in his stories would just be solved with a cell phone call today, but modern writers still can use his ideas and make them work in modern stories.

When using the free link you need to be familiar with how to “open with” a program for a phone or tablet or how to transfer files yourself onto a Kindle. Kindle uses MOBI as the format while Nook and Apple’s iReader uses ePUB format. The free source is actually slightly better edited and has a few less spelling mistakes in it.  I don’t think the link works outside the USA and it certainly will have issues inside China.  If you want to read the stories on your web browser, you can try www.dagonbytes.com.

I have enjoyed these stories for years and years and like catching the pop culture references to them that appear with what seems to be increasing frequency. I hope you like them too.

Free Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft for Nook and Kindle

Complete Collection Of H. P. Lovecraft – 150 eBooks With 100+ Audiobooks (Complete Collection Of Lovecraft’s Fiction, Juvenilia, Poems, Essays And Collaborations)

Book review – The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher

As always for my Sunday reviews, I am picking a book or books that I think are very enjoyable and entertaining. The idea is that you are in the airport about to fly off somewhere and you want something to read on the plane and at the hotel for your trip.

This week I am going to review and recommend The Dresden Files series written by Jim Butcher. These books are modern urban fantasy set in present day Chicago and featuring Harry Dresden a private investigator that also happens to be a wizard. The series started about 2000, so when I say present day, I mean reasonably present day.

The books are a good mix of detective noir books with a tough PI with a heart of gold and a magical world where all the creatures and monsters from fairy tales exist. Wizards like Harry are policed and regulated quite carefully by a wizards castle and using certain spells considered to be black magic carries a death sentence. Harry escaped from an abusive mentor before the setting in the first novel (Storm Front) and he carries around a suspended sentence of death with no chances of error left to him.

The existence of the wizards in the stories are important because many of the monsters, especially the vampires, are on,y held in check because of fear and respect for the power of the wizards. The series starts with a long term but uneasy truce in place and the situation quickLu spirals out from there and some of the books are outright wars between different factions while others use the detective story framework where a new client for Harry draws him into some sort of mystery centered around a magical threat.

The stories have good and bad cops, good guy knights fighting ancient evil centered around silver coins, vampires in red and white courts, the Faerie realm, werewolves and evil wizards, and that is not even all that happens. Harry is not completely alone, he has friends and at least allies and many are recurring characters that come back in many of the books. He does have some romantic interests in the books, but he is not all that skilled in that area so most do not work out so well for him.

Harry also has issues with authority figures. He is an official consultant to the Chicago police for strange and potentially supernatural crimes, but his natural instinct is to buck the system and push back against authority figures. This includes the police, the FBI and the Wizards council. It results in him having to overcome self made obstacles all the time, but his friends tend to be few but very close. He also has issues with using nay technology as magic disrupts computers and cell phones and even causes problems with cars, especially more modern ones.

I found that the series gets better as you get more and more books into it. The first book (Storm Front) is good, certainly good enough to make you want to buy the next book, but there is a bigger payback the more you read as the writing gets better. There is no mystery as to why. Storm Front was either the first or one of the first novels that Butcher sold (he wrote others but did not sell them until later). So the writer is learning his craft as he goes. As a reader, you get the benefit of interesting characters and a good story upfront and then later you get the same and ever better writing.

As a note, the Audible.com version of the book is read by James Marsters (Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer series). He does a very good job his voice and ability to voice many different characters with their own quirks and sounds suits the stories well. Even when I am reading books, I still here his voice in my head for Harry. The main link below is for the Kindle version (so you can easily find the book and download and read it before jumping on the plane) but in the center of the page at the bottom there is a link for Audible.com. Listening to instead of reading a book can be more relaxing and easier to do if you need to drive around. Audible has a free book as part of their initial subscription and they’re owned by Amazon as well.

Storm Front is an archetypical Harry Dresden story in many ways. He s broke. He needs work and the Chicago police brings him in to investigate a death that looks linked to the supernatural. Eventually we ends up pitted against an evil wizard with pretty major stakes at risk. The book introduces us to many of the characters that we will see in the series and we also get an overview of Harry’s basic power set. He is self proclaimed to be a strong wizard, but in the earlier books he leans on preparation and set spells rather than pure magic use. In later books you’ll get to see that he actually is quite powerful, but he tends to depend on brain power rather than magical brawn to win the day and even in his more full power, he often is against being far more powerful than him.

You can comment below, so feel free to comment here on the blog or on the social media site you found my link if you want. I am always curious what other people think of the books I recommend.

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1)

Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, Book 2)

Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, Book 3)

Book review – Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers

As always, my Sunday book review is presented as a suggestion just before you are going on a trip with a link at the bottom to the kindle version so you can download it right before leaving on your trip. I am picking interesting and easier reads to help distract and entertain, not meatier tomes.

image

This week’s book is a SF classic and Hugo award winning**, Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein. The book is a very straightforward story about the creation of first a soldier and then an officer. We meet the soldier, Juan “Johnnie” Rico, in the midst of a raid on an enemy called “Skinnies” who are allies of the Arachnids of Klendathu who are at war with the the Terran Federation. The. First part of the book is a simple and action filled account of Johnnie conducting his raid as part of a unit of Mobile Infantry that use suits of futuristic body armor to augment their abilities to fight. The raid is meant to smash and terrorize the Skinnies in the hopes that they would abandon their alliance with the Bugs (as the Arachnids of Kendathu are called in the book).

The next two sections of the book are of Johnnie in high school, and in particular with his History and Moral Philosophy course, taught by retired Lt. Colonel Dubois and boot camp. That particular course in HS is important in the book and there is a theme of taking responsibility throughout the book. The discussions with Lt. Colonel Dubois are the main way that the philosophy of the Terran Federation is explained, not only in the chapter when he is in high school, but in flashbacks during the rest of the book. When I read this book as a teenager, the discussions had a big impact on me. As an adult, I can tell that many of the things discussed were somewhat set up as a straw man with the hero knocking down the straw man, but even today it makes me think. The high school section ends with Johnnie joining up for Federal Service and falling out with his father.

I do not want to spoil the whole book in this short review, but the pattern is similar to many other military fiction books with book camp preparing Johnnie for war and then his war experiences showing just how unprepared he was. He eventually becomes an officer and there is a good combat scene at the end of his training with several returning characters.

The book was first published as a serial and then as a novel in late 1959, and many of the foundation technologies that as discussed in the book are extrapolated from that time. For a book of that time, there are a lot of social advancements that happen without any real comment. Johnnie’s real name is Juan and he is a Filipino, but there is no mention or reaction to him not being white in the book. Although there are no women in the book’s Mobile Infantry (the film adaptation does have this), women also sign up and serve in active combat on the ships that transport the Mobile Infantry and ships do get blown up pretty often, so women in the story are dying in combat as well. Again, there is nothing special about this in the book.

The society Johhnie lives in is certainly militaristic. You cannot vote or hold public office unless you serve your Federal Service which is military service. There is a strong theme of appreciation for the common foot soldier, and Lt. Colonel Dubuis knocks down several anti-war straw men during his lectures. However, I do not feel the book glorifies war. Johnnie suffers person loss from it and the Federation has at least one major defeat. The role of the common soldier is held up, but more because they are putting their lives in harms way to protect others than anything else.

Heinlein is an excellent writer. He is quite skilled in writing dialog. Even the real technology bloopers he extrapolates are written well. The action scenes move along well and the fighting technology of the Mobile Infantry suits is well thought out and even amusing every once and a while.

There are few books I have enjoyed more than Starship Troopers and my youngest daughter recently read it and was fascinated by it as well.

** Hugo award is an annual award chosen by paid members of a large SF convention called Worldcon. I have never read a novel that won the award that was poor, but they certainly have picked books that compare unfavorably against other books with the passage of time and more critical thought.

Starship Troopers

The movie

There was a movie version of the book made. They do not have the powered fighting suits, but otherwise I have always thought that they did a good job with capturing a lot of the story and the society in which Johnnie Rico lived.

Starship Troopers (+ BD Live) [Blu-ray]

 

Book review – Brandon Sanderson’s the Reckoners

As always on my Sunday review, these are books I recommend if you are about to go on a trip and are at the airport want to download something to read. I have tried to pick books that are entertaining and will help to pass the time, and all are books I have read myself.

This week, I am doing a mini-review of the Reckoners trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. These books are actually targeted at the young adult (YA) market, but the story and characters are interesting enough that I think that the YA target doesn’t detract from their appeal. Just be prepared for no swearing and where the lead character kissing one of the woman characters is a very big deal. At least if you like these books you can pass them onto your kids and not be concerned about what is in the books.

I actually prefer his Mistborn/Well of Ascension series more, but the Reckoners is less involved and very entertaining to read. The series is set in an alternate version of our world where an unexplained explosion in the sky which came to be called Calamity gave some people super powers. These people are called Epics. Unfortunately, using the superpowers causes emotional changes and a form of madness where they become amoral tyrants.

David Charleston, the main character, sees his dad shot down in front of him in a bank by a very powerful epic called Steelheart. The explosion in space that created the Epics happened when he was 6 years old and his father was killed when he was 8. Steelheart is one of the most powerful Epics (a High Epic) and rules Chicago. He is able to transmute other materials to steel and he is invulnerable. Most of the top Epics are immune to any regular way to kill them. All Epics have a vulnerability that shuts down their powers. The story really starts with David as a teenager burning with the desire to get his revenge on Steelheart. A shadowy group called The Reckonors hunts and kills Epics and David forces them to let them join them because he knows a secret about Steelheart. When his father was killed, David saw Steelheart bleed.

That is the basic set-up. The world is a dystopia with the calamity explosion causing a permanent twilight and with the super powered Epics being tyrants all over the world with the basic governments all shut down and the USA now being the Fractured States. David wants to kill Steelheart in revenge and the Reckoners want Steelheart dead too. The action ramps up quickly and the small band of heroes goes toe to toe with powerful Epics. There is teenage romance, drama, misunderstandings and heroism. Secrets of the world slowly get revealed. Cliffhangers and heartbreak follow.

The books are comic book action in written form. There is some character development, but I would call it more plot development that changes the characters. The story is fun and lots of twists and turns happen throughout the books that keep you locked in and interested. The books are very enjoyable and I stayed up too late finishing them. I actually listened to them via Audible.com instead of reading them, but I ended up buying them in book form because my youngest daughter (13 years old) loved them and wanted to read them faster than just listening to them.

If you want a fun read and like a good mystery that is revealed, I highly recommend trying the Reckoners series.

(And for people who have been reading SF for a long time, yes, the notional origin and then people gaining powers is similar to the Wildcards series.)

Steelheart (Reckoners Book 1)

Firefight (Reckoners Book 2)

Calamity (The Reckoners)

Book Reviews – Larry Correia’s Grimnoir series

As a reminder, my Sunday book reviews are with the idea that you are in the airport and about to leave on a trip and need something to keep you entertained or informed while travelling.  I link to Kindle versions (could just as easily be Nook or whatever is popular in your home country) so you can just buy and download them if you decided to give them a try.  I prefer not to travel with paper copies of books if I can avoid it for weight and clutter reasons.

Larry Correia is famous for his Monster Hunter International series (and political cause reasons that have nothing to do with enjoying his books).  I enjoy the Monster Hunter series, but I actually prefer the Grimnoir series instead.

These books are set in a fictional period after WWI.  The world is essentially a derivative of our world, except that an event in the past triggered the ability for some humans to use magic.  Exactly what the source of magic is for the world is a mystery at the start of the series and it is slowly revealed through the trilogy.

The series pits a secret society called Grimnoir that tries to stop and fight against improper use of magic.  The main foe in the series is the Prime Minister of Imperial Japan and his agents.  The Japanese have a more advanced understanding of how to use runes to augment the innate magic of their agents and they are more technologically and magically advanced in their weapons of war.

WWI was ended through the use of ‘Tesla” beam weapons which for all intents and purposes can be thought of as being a nuclear death ray.  So there is somewhat of a standoff between imperial Japan and the rest of the world powers because of fear that the Tesla weapons will be used again.  They were used to end WWI and the devastation is still scarring Europe.

Although the point of view switches between several more characters, then two main characters are “Heavy” Jake Sullivan and Faye Vierra.  Jake is a hard boiled P.I. in full noir tradition.  Jake is a very interesting character in that he is a physically large character, and his magical ability (localized gravity control to make things heavier or lighter) typically goes with slower thinking people but not true for him as he is as smart as he is large.  Although the cliché of the hard boiled detective with an unbreakable code of honor is the foundation for his role in the books, he becomes more complex as the books continue.

Faye is a little bit of a Mary Sue character as her abilities grow and evolve as the series goes on as needed by the plot.  Overall the magic system in the series is reasonably consistent, but the heroes are able to break previously established rules and their powers scale higher as the series progresses.

Mr. Correia is also a gun enthusiast and occasionally the narration gets slightly derailed as he details out the latest hardware one of the characters is using.  This is nowhere near as constant as happens in his Monster Hunter International series, but it is a little distracting when it does happen.

With the above caveats in mind, this series is just about epitomizes what is needed to meet “entertain you on a flight”.  The action is pretty much non-stop, well written and fun.  The characters are not exactly multidimensional, but they are fun and easy to identify and they certainly do move the story along.  The villains are interesting and have their own motivations that are not “be pure evil”.  The source of the magic is the world is slowly revealed and opens up the final quest in the book.  The ending is satisfying and I stayed up late a few times to finish the book that I had started.

I give the series a very good rating for pure entertainment value and I think pretty anyone looking for a fun read will enjoy it.

I originally “read” the books by listening via Audible.com and I found the narration good and entertaining.

 

Hard Magic – Book 1

Hard Magic – Kindle version

Spellbound – Book 2

Spellbound – Kindle version

Warbound – Book 3

Warbound – Kindle version

 

Book reviews – Flex and the Flux

People that know me know my travel schedule is very demanding.  I fly back and forth to Asia far too often.  One thing my schedule give me is time to read and I thought I would use my site to occasionally post reviews of what I have read recently.  For my blog, I will only post about things I liked.  I want to give recommendations of things to try with the idea that the person reading it might buy the book right before jumping on a plane for a trip.  So I will provide links to the books, but Kindle versions only as I am imagining you buying the booking online in the airport right before you board.

I decided to start with two books by Ferrett Steinmetz, the first two books in his ‘Mancer series.  I chose them for a few reasons.  They are good and they are entertaining and certainly will help a flight go faster.  My daughter Rachel  loved them so much that she wrote her first ever fan letter to Ferrett.  Finally, I actually know Ferrett personally.  Not really as close friends or anything, but someone I have met a couple of times in real life and who I have followed his online writing via Magic the Gathering editing and articles, web comic and blog for years.  He was someone that I always thought would end up being a good fiction writer and he certainly deserves a boost.

Ferrett has created a very interesting world where people who are obsessed with something can, in the right circumstances, harness their obsession to break the laws of reality and use magic.  People can be obsessed with many things, and usually the obsession makes the characters loners in some ways.  They certainly need to hide their magic as it is illegal.  Magic is dangerous for two reasons – the first is that there always is a negative consequence to using magic call The Flux.  The second is that powerful enough magic, especially when more than one person is doing it, can tear reality and open a hole to a malevolent dimension.  Europe was destroyed because of reality being torn there.  The government actively hunts and stops people who use magic.

The main character is Paul Tsabo, an insurance adjuster that can harness the power of bureaucracy to perform his magic (I am sure you can see why an accountant like me would like that).  A personal tragedy caused by an improper use of a powerful drug called Flex (distilled magic that can be used by anyone but you cannot escape the consequences) forces him to be  much more aggressive in using his magic.

The two books so far have an interesting cast of characters and they come in all shapes, sizes, colors and sexual preferences.  Certainly no stereotypical backgrounds here.

Flex  5/5 (book 1)

I’m not so into video games as one of the sub-themes in the work requires and I really did not feel the gel between the main male and female character, the reasons for friendship really were too flimsy for me, but the story and the characters were well done. The writing also was quite developed and it had a good and enjoyable rhythm. It was hard to put down once it got going.

The magic system fits somewhat together but does not quite click for me. It needs a little more fleshing out and the “flux” doesn’t seem really proportionate to the magic being used at times. I also wonder that considering the flex that the main character is able to make – magic with no consequences – why he was not able to get better help. That is the problem with any magic system, though. It is magic and logic just breaks down at a certain point.

The book was very entertaining and I am comfortable with a “five star” rating as I think that it really does deserve to be read by more people.  I rarely give books a 5 star rating, but this one was fresh and interesting and a good read.

Flex – Kindle version

The Flux 4/5  (book 2)

I enjoyed the book, but did not think it was quite as good as Flex. I really thought the scenes in the Institute dragged on too long and then were wrapped up too abruptly in the end. The ending almost felt like it was written differently than the middle section of the book, felt like the book maybe was a little too short or something and was padded or edited differently in the middle.

The story itself did move along OK, with several set piece fights and confrontations. We learn more about the world the stories are set in and some more information on what happened to Europe and why it happened. Really not much change in the main characters compared to what was happening at the end of Flex. I did not note any real growth or change in them which was a little disappointing.  Even so, I liked the ending and I am looking forward to book three which should be out soon.

The Flux – Kindle version

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén