Archive for January, 2009


The Last Colony returns to the tale of John Perry and Jane Sagan, both now retired from the military and living on a colony world with their adopted daughter.

Asked to lead a new and experimental colony, and ready for a change of scene, John and Jane accept.  However, as soon as the colonists arrive at their new home, it becomes clear that the entire colony is a political pawn.  Angry at being manipulated, and with the colony under constant threat of destruction, John and Jane have to unravel and thwart the plans of both the Colonial Union and a galaxy wide organisation of aliens.

Scalzi’s characterisation and dialogue are brilliant: Jane’s heritage (she was bred to be a perfect solider) is evident in almost every exchange she has, while John’s sarcastic humour enlivens what could be dull political manoeuvring.  Their evident love and support for each other and their daughter is refreshing (I’m more used to finding books with dys- rather than functional families) and I thought the ending was beautifully apt.

I highly recommend this book, particularly to people who don’t normally like science fiction or have never tried scifi before.

Other books I have reviewed by John Scalzi: Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, Sagan’s Diary

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xkcd – A Webcomic

xkdc – A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language.

Funny, smart and somehow able to come up with cartoons that are completely relevant to my life!

Every Damn Morning, Startled, Nerd Sniping

Sign Language

Sign Language – a collection of photos taken by readers of the Telegraph on their travels.

week 27

Okay, so these two brothers decided to not write to each other for a year, instead communicating by posting a video on YouTube each day.  This one is about Shakespearean insults (and a bonus of I-finished-cataloguing-my-library-with-LibraryThing! – that will one day be me.)

This is not a review, it’s just a link to an unusually structured novel.  At the time I read this I was living in London and travelling the underground every day to work, so I could picture the novel in detail.

253 is about the people aboard seven London Underground carriages.  It is told in a non-linear way.  There is a diagram of each carriage and you click on each seat to find out about the person sitting there.  I think finding out what each person is thinking and worrying about is interesting; I’ve often amused myself by trying to imagine other peoples stories, and here, someone has done it for me!  At first, all the people seem disconnected but slowly the connections build up until the suprising conclusion.

Not the sort of novel to read all at once, but a great way to pass some time each day.

Cry Wolf really begins with the short story Alpha and Omega in the anthology On the Prowl, as the novel begins mere hours after the short story finishes I decided it was easier to review both together.  Cry Wolf is set in the same universe as Brigg’s Mercy Thompson books, and occurs at the same time as the events in the latter half of Moon Called.

Anna was forcibly changed to a werewolf and abused by her dysfunctional pack.  Charles is an Alpha (dominant) werewolf and sent by his father, the head of all the North American Werewolves to find out what is happening with the pack.  When they met they form an almost immediate bond and Charles recognises that Anna is an Omega wolf, a rare type who can calm others, and allow them to control their violent impulses.

Their relationship develops in unusual ways, their wolf selves have bonded, but the human selves still have to get to know each other, Charles is unused to trust as he keeps his distance from other wolves because he is his fathers assassin and enforcer; Anna is damaged by the abuse and does not know how a healthy pack behaves.  I enjoyed seeing how Anna slowly becomes open to trust and learns she can express herself without repercussions.  Anna’s progress is a case of two steps forward, one step back at times, and the anger she feels when she can’t control her fear is realistic.

In the short story Alpha and Omega, Anna and Charles met and solve the mystery of why her pack has become so dysfunctional.

In the novel Cry Wolf, Anna travels with Charles back to his home town and pack.  They are slowly adjusting to their new relationship and Anna is realising how a healthy pack works when a rogue werewolf kills a human nearby.  Despite Charles’ wounded state (from the showdown in the short story) and that Anna is still adjusting, they head out into the mountains (in winter).  Charles is one of the strongest Alphas which means he has the best chance of subduing the rogue and not being caught by it and Anna’s ability to give peace and aid the werewolf to gain control means Charles will have an increased chance to subdue the rogue and not kill it.

The danger they face turns out to be more complicated than a rogue and they face a black magic bound creature that threatens the safety and sanity of all the North American werewolves.

Cry Wolf explored the internal structure of werewolf packs, particularly the pack bond and the mate bond.  I really liked that this book was written in third person and incorporated the view point of Bran, Charles’ father, and other wolves.  This was a contrast to the Mercy Thompson series (which are in first person) and I felt I gained more understanding of how the pack works and personal motivation, particularly of Bran and his dysfunctional relationship with his mate.  I can just see Anna trying to fix it in subsequent books, causing conflict between them!

I loved this book and highly recommend it, as I do with all of Patricia Briggs work.

Other books by Patricia Briggs that I have reviewed: Masques, Moon Called, Bone Crossed

Beguilement is a fantasy that was deliberately structured as a romance novel.  The main characters are both from different cultures: Fawn is a Farmer, Dag is a Lakewalker (nomadic magic users), also he is 55, she is 18.  Beguilement is a believable forbidden romance, this first book of The Sharing Knife series deals with their meeting and gaining the acceptance of her family to marry. 

Despite the romance structure (if you read romance you will probably recognise many romantic tropes), the fantasy part is not neglected or just there for an exotic flavour.  The world menace (malices or blights) has affected the development and separation of the two cultures, leading to why Fawn and Dags relationship is considered by both Farmers and Lakewalkers to be wrong.

While the Farmer disapproval is mostly based on misunderstanding and ignorance, the Lakewalker disappoval is stronger and based on the very real continued need for survival. (The Lakewalker culture is explored further in The Sharing Knife: Legacy.)

Beguilement is available on-line for free until January 27; I started reading it on-line and had difficulty stopping to sleep!  The library near me had both Beguilement and the next book Legacy available, I had to get them both out the next day.

Other books I have reviewed by Lois McMaster Bujold: Cordelia’s Honor

Bookcases

I need bookcases to store all the many books that I own.  I’ve gone for the traditional boring style of bookcase, but I do wish that I had the money (and my own house) to have some of these:

20 Brilliant Bookcase and Bookshelf Designs

30 of the Most Creative Bookcase Designs

The Kartell bookworm is my favourite, and is actually something I can afford!  (I’m not rushing out to buy one, but it’s on the list of when-I-have-my-own-house)

                             

Imaginary Writing Process

An awesomely funny video about how the writing process really should be.

I figured since I am a scientist I should post something slightly science related!

Michael Swanwick’s Periodic Table of Science Fiction is one of the coolest ideas for a series of short stories that I have come across.  He has written 118 very short stories for every element in the periodic table, and some that haven’t been discovered yet.  SciFiction has presented them using the Periodic Table, with links from each element to the story.

Go! Click! Read! Enjoy!