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David Bremner Locked account

bremner@book.dansmonorage.blue

Joined 3 months, 4 weeks ago

computer scientist, mathematician, photographer, human. Debian Developer, Notmuch Maintainer, scuba diver

Much of my "reading" these days is actually audiobooks while walking.

FediMain: bremner@mathstodon.xyz

bremner@bookwyrm.social is also me. Trying a smaller instance to see if the delays are less maddening.

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David Bremner's books

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A Darkling Sea (2014) 4 stars

On the planet Ilmatar, under a roof of ice a kilometer thick, a team of …

decent technological extrapolation, adventure story

4 stars

I found the characters and ethical dimensions of the story not too deep (pun not intended, but I'm keeping it), but it does do a nice job of imagining what a civilization that evolved deep underwater might be like.

The Hidden Palace (Hardcover, 2021, Harper) 4 stars

Chava is a golem, a woman made of clay, able to hear the thoughts and …

sometimes stately paced, but worth it

4 stars

Less tidbits of New York Jewish and New York Syrian culture than the previous, but more character development. Certainly Sophia is a more interesting person in this episode. The door is left open for a sequel, but the main conflicts are more or less resolved.

The Charisma Machine (2019, MIT Press) 5 stars

A fascinating examination of technological utopianism and its complicated consequences.

In The Charisma Machine, Morgan …

Must read for CS people

4 stars

Two prominent subcultures within computer science academe and practice are "Free and Open Source Software" and "Startup Culture". This book made me think (uncomfortably) about the connections and commonalities of the two. Some of the most cringe-worthy moments from tech people come from someone thinking that a certain amount of skill at e.g. computer programming makes them an expert in a completely unrelated topic. This is a kind of anti-intellectualism; maybe it is sometimes needed, but it seems more often harmful than helpful.

reviewed REAPER MAN by Terry Pratchett

REAPER MAN (1992, CORGI ADULT) 3 stars

I don't think pterry was knighted for this one

3 stars

I don't know if it says more about me or the book, but I found myself skim reading parts of this.

I thought I would go back and re-read the discworld Death books, but now I'm not so sure. Death has some snappy one liners, but there is not enough there to really engage with the character.

The other part of the book is the wizards, and although I have fond memories of the parody-of-academe in the Unseen University, it didn't quite do it for me either in this book.

Ninja Betrayed (AudiobookFormat) 4 stars

Lily’s mother has been summoned by her grandfather, Gung-Gung, to attend an emergency board meeting, …

A fun variation on the crime thriller

4 stars

I suspect this book won't change anyone's life, but it may distract you for a few hours. The plucky heroine is a "modern Ninja", which seems to be a hypothetical martial-arts discipline with strong aspects of mindfulness and meditation. Her family is a rich Hong Kong business family while she is born and raised in the USA. The writing about Hong Kong culture and politics feels fairly authentic to me, but I'm an outsider. There is some romance, and the heroine deals with some issues of intimacy and trust. I liked the fact that Lily is a skilled fighter, but also realistic about her chances when outnumbered by larger attackers. Probably the most intellectually interesting part for me was when Lilly talks about the ethics of extracting information from someone who is clearly romantically interested in her.

The Assassins of Thasalon 4 stars

An unholy attack upon his brother-in-law General Arisaydia pitches sorcerer Learned Penric and his Temple …

world building and characters more than suspense

4 stars

The world of the Five Gods, with it's interplay of magic an religion and "alternate Mediterranean" feel is an interesting one. One advantage of the novel format is that the author has the space to develop several interesting characters. On the other hand the protagonist is almost too powerful and lucky (luck here has a religious aspect). The outcome was never very much in doubt.

There have been several intervening novellas that I haven't read yet, but there was only one reference that I didn't get.

The Water Dancer (2019, One World) 5 stars

well written, entertaining, educational

5 stars

This is at least 3 books. It is a rousing adventure story with well developed characters, it is a polemic about the evils of slavery, and it is a fantasy novel. Coates is a skilled writer and I spent the first third of the book admiring his use of language. At some point I became immersed in it, and stopped remarking on the cleverness. I was listening to the audiobook, and there are definitely places where call-response spoken word and snatches of song enriched that immersion. The fantasy element is relatively small, if important as a plot device / metaphor. Probably nobody reading this needs to be convinced of the general notion that slavery was (and is) evil, but at least for me, reading this helped me internalize some of the specifics. The hero is "owned" by his white father, the same father who sold his mother into even more …

La Belle Savage (2017, Alfred A. Knopf) 4 stars

Set before the events in His Dark Materials, La Belle Sauvage tells the tale of …

Begin as you mean to go on

4 stars

A solid beginning to a prequel series. It kept my interest the whole way, even though ultimately I knew what the outcome had to be, since it's a prequel.

The central characters were believable to me as children and teens. Of course that was some time ago for me, so make of that what you will. There were some YA / coming-of-age topics, but I would not say they were central to the story. There is some violence, but it is not too gory / repetitive. I respected the way the author conveys the effects of violence on the characters, both as doers and receivers.

Some of the "side-quests" in the last third of the book could be taken either as homage to traditional fairy stories, or as cliché, depending on how cranky the reader is feeling.

My overall impression was that although the Christian(?) Church was the overarching villain, …

Feedback (2016) 4 stars

"FEEDBACK is a full-length Newsflesh novel which overlaps the events of Feed and covers the …

Did you like the others in the series? Then you will probably like this one.

4 stars

The main characters are if anything more relatable than the Masons. I always found the semi-incest thing a bit creepy in the other books.

There is are central (positive) non-binary and lesbian characters, for people looking for that kind of thing.

McGuire (writing as Grant) revisits some of the issues about freedom, safety, and privacy that she has touched on in previous books in the series. I think these are interesting topics, and she does a good job of talking about them, but there is probably nothing really new to think about here if you're read several other of the series.

There is a rousing story, and a pleasant sort of escapism for those of us that will probably never actually save our friends by clever application of violence.

I think this would be readable without reading the Mason's volumes first, but I didn't read it that way.

The audiobook …

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel (Hardcover, 2013, William Morrow) 4 stars

A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house …

Short and mostly sweet

4 stars

I guess it is long for a novella, but short for a novel. That means there is not a lot of room to build up characters. The protagonist is a bookish but uncomplicated boy but e.g. the parents are mostly ciphers.

It's an engaging story, I finished it in a few sessions, something I don't do very often these days. It feel very English, and very Rural, which isn't what I remember of Gaiman. It doesn't really break any new ground, but it well crafted, and the setting is more completely related than the characters.

It does have some scenes that would probably give sensitive souls (and children) nightmares.

Non-Player Character (2021, Witch Key Fiction) 5 stars

32-year old Tar feels like a Non-Player Character in their own life. They’ve been utterly …

a triumph of empathy

5 stars

At some level this is a standard sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel (mostly sorcery). The device of role-players cast into the game "for reals" has surely been done before. The interesting part is the characters, and how the plot progresses.

The hero (gender neutral) is extremely anxious, and the book presents their struggles in a way that is both relatable and interesting. The reader (at least this reader) sees themselves in these struggles even if they don't normally identify as neurodivergent.

Don't hate me for not giving it five stars, a few of the romantic(?) scenes didn't quite work for me. Maybe that says more about me though.

It grew on me.

4 stars

'I don't know. I have always kept an open mind. There was much to be said on both sides.' Dr Porhoët, supporting character and expert on the occult.

This book achieved something like "suspension of belief", since I was not sure if the lead character was merely charismatic in some weird culty way, or possessed of occult powers until very late in the book.

It took me while to warm to the book. The beautiful young girl engaged to marry her guardian starts things off on a bit of an icky footing, and those are supposed to the the non-creepy characters. It also focuses a lot on youth and beauty in a way that feels quite shallow.

Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1) (2005) 4 stars

Consider Phlebas, first published in 1987, is a space opera novel by Scottish writer Iain …

It's a space opera. What do you want?

4 stars

I definitely enjoyed this more than (Surface Detail)[https://book.dansmonorage.blue/book/18939]. If nothing else, it is notably shorter, which suggests an instance of "established authors need editing too".

Banks does love to shock, and loves to write "cinematically", which occasionally a bit tiresome.

While I think describing the Culture series as "Literary Science Fiction" is a bit of stretch, there are some interesting big picture ideas, and some of the characters have some depth, or at least some interior life. The choice of having a "bad guy" protagonist already elevates it beyond a lot of more pulpy SF.

The Arabian Nights (AudiobookFormat, 2000, Blackstone Audiobooks) 2 stars

Bad outweighs the good.

2 stars

Most of these stories are very old, and even the translation dates from 1909. I can forgive the (in modern terms) lack of character development and somewhat weak plotting in most of them. The glimpses into the early modern Arab world are occasionally fascinating (Sinbad was particularly interesting for me the discussion of trade and ancient Iraqi cities). The lack of interesting women characters is probably no worse than more recent "prince rescues princess" genre fiction.The casual violence and questionable morality is occasionally a bit shocking, but I guess one can make an argument for that as "thought provoking". I don't think I can excuse the occasional antisemitism and pervasive anti-black racism in the same way. Eventually it just dominated my experience of the book, which is kindof ick.