All 2019 reviews - Shastrix Books

2019

All reviews

Tao Zero

Tao Zero

13th January 2019

I’m not usually a big reader of hard science fiction, and so felt slightly nervous about picking this off the shelf. It’s the story of a deep space colony ship - sent out to try to find a new planet and home for a post-nuclear humanity - a ship that will travel so fast it will experience time dilation to the extent that there is no going back.

Anderson (who I had for some reason incorrectly thought was a woman) has put together a rich world for his characters to leave behind - with some fascinating titbits dropped into the backstory before the plot moves out into space. Really, the story is about the collective group of people aboard his spacecraft, and how they interact and cope with the situations that the universe throws at them.

However it very much seems like it’s about the collective and not the individuals - which made the book feel dated. More recent stories seem to focus more on individual characters, their feelings and thoughts, whereas the community feels more important in this now-older novel.

I don’t think I can go as far as to say I enjoyed reading it. It was interesting, and the mechanics and details of the story were well plotted out, but it felt academic and distant.

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The Moscow Sleepers

The Moscow Sleepers

13th January 2019

The tenth Liz Carlyle novel sees the increasingly senior MI5 officer back in contact with a Russian source, who points her in the direction of a complex plot against the UK and its allies. There’s quite a lot going on across multiple countries and it’s interesting to see how the author balances these in a way that doesn’t affect the flow of the narrative.

I enjoyed seeing some more of the relationships between the recurring characters - it’s been quite fun seeing how they’ve grown since the early novels, and unlike some authors they haven’t been left as recurring stereotypes in each episode.

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about this series, which continues here, is the realism - there’s no sense of the overly dramatic - instead the tension is applied through the subtle believability and the authentic way that the author portrays the goings on in the shadows - there’s no sense in reading it that the events couldn’t actually have happened.

Another solid entry in the series, and I look forward to more to come.

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Lies of the Beholder

Lies of the Beholder

13th January 2019

The third and final novella in the Legion series sees our main character beset by problems when one of his aspects - hallucinations that represent part of his own mental faculties - goes missing, and he’s forced to face another absent person from his history.

It’s been quite a while since I read the first two books in the trilogy, so my memory of the story so far was patchy, but I was soon back into the swing of things and gripped to what ends up being quite a complex narrative, which must have required an extensive set of notes to keep track of while writing, despite the short length.

I’m not sure though that it entirely works - I think the first book was the best in the series, and it feels a little bit like the latter pair were follow-ups that exist for closure rather than because there was a story waiting to be told. Regardless, it’s incredibly impressive how dedicated and disciplined Sanderson must be to keep up the levels of output he does, and I’m very grateful for all I get to read - one day I might even catch up!

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Barren

Barren

13th January 2019

The fourth short story from the world of the Demon Cycle - this time focussing on relationships between some of the minor characters from the series, and showing how their world and culture has evolved over time, neatly paralleling changes in the real world.

It was a nice chance to revisit this series after I read the conclusion of the main narrative earlier in 2018. My memory of the characters that appear here was a little sketchy, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment.

I hope that this is a sign that there will be some more trips into this world, but failing that I remain excited to see what Brett’s mind brings us readers next.

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Lethal White

Lethal White

13th January 2019

The fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series returns us to the office of the London private detective and his partner Robin. The plot is so complex that it’s hard to find a sentence to describe it - there are so many interconnected threads of the possible crime that Strike is asked to investigate, and simultaneously we follow the private lives of the two detectives as they also increase in complexity.

I think the mystery is excellent, and frequently I had to pause and review what I’d learnt from the text and revise my mental model of what was going on and who I suspected. The lives of the main characters however seem to suffer from the trope of not talking to one another - and being a bit more open and communicative might have shaved a few chapters of angst off the book.

I really love this series and am glad of this new book - hopefully it won’t be too many years until these characters can return and I can find out what happens next.

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Darius the Great is Not Okay

Darius the Great is Not Okay

13th January 2019

I was lent this book by a friend, sold to me on the interesting premise of a young Trekkie who is visiting Iran for the first time. Naturally it is actually vastly more complex and interesting than that.

Darius is a young Iranian-American kid who has never visited his maternal grandparents, but now the time has come as his family are off on a daunting trip to Iran. The story is a great way to share another culture with the reading audience who can go along with Darius as he learns new things and experiences a culture he has only really heard about in the past.

But the book is far deeper than that - the author has managed to pack in so many different life experiences into one relatively short novel that it’s hard to tell if I even noticed all the overlapping layers that are going on in Darius’ life. I really enjoyed reading it and learning, I feel, quite a lot about a number of possible experiences.

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Top books

  1. The Moscow Sleepers
  2. Lethal White
  3. Lies of the Beholder
  4. Darius the Great is Not Okay
  5. Barren
  6. Tao Zero