Book Reviews: October 2018Posted: October 31, 2018
Happy Halloween! Fall is a good time for reading, isn’t it? I don’t think there’s anything nicer than curling up with a good book and a cup of tea. And it was a good month of reading for me too, with all the books being quite enjoyable, more or less.
The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu:
This is the second book in the silkpunk epic series Dandelion Dynasty, which I describe as “Romance of the Three Kingdoms meets Game of Thrones“. I’ve read the first book, The Grace of Kings, a while ago, so I don’t remember much of it, but that’s OK, because they can more or less stand on their own, and it only takes a while to get caught up with the story. This one revolves around the next chapter in the reign of Kuni Garu, his children, the power struggle within his court, and the threat of foreign invaders (who are clearly based on Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire). As with the first book, the world-building is great and the science interesting (such as when they discover electricity and use it to fight the invaders’ dragons, resulting in some epic air battles.) However, just like the first book, character development remains Liu’s weakness – the characters are either flat and boring or unsympathetic. And the romantic subplot is a joke (it’s – mild spoiler – between two women, so one gets the impression that the author includes it only for the sake of representation and not because it makes sense for the story.) 3/5
Tell the Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams:
I got this from a Buzzfeed quiz, something like “What Book Should You Read Next Based on Your Favorite TV Show”. I picked Black Mirror, and got this, which is perfect, because it could’ve easily been a Black Mirror episode. It takes place in the near future, revolving around a machine that can tell you how to be happy, with an ensemble cast – a “happy technician” working the machine, her co-workers and clients, her anorexic teenage son and his friends, her pretentious artist ex-husband, his current wife who’s harboring a dark secret, etc., with each chapter focusing on one of their stories.The world is fascinating and the characters, though deeply damaged, are relatable. However, the story never becomes as powerful as Black Mirror, because there is very little conflict, and when things do get resolved, it feels too easy. 3/5
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee:
This memoir consists of a series of unconnected chapters detailing the author’s time growing up in the Cotswold during and after World War I. Actually, they don’t “detail” much; they’re mostly just fragments of memories and impressions from his childhood. I would’ve preferred some more details and descriptions of life in the village, but the writing is lyrical and beautiful to read, and it perfectly captures both the random, innocent memories of childhood and the nostalgia we feel when we look back upon them later in life. 4/5
The Truth by Terry Pratchett:
I’m reaching my Discworld phase in the year – it’s when I suffer what I call “reader’s fatigue” and just want something fun that I know I will enjoy, so I return to Discworld. This particular book, which deals with the arrival of the printing press and subsequently the newspaper in Ankh-Morpork (it belongs in the same category as other “Industrial Revolution” books like Moving Pictures and Going Postal), has a slow start, but once the pace starts picking up, it becomes very enjoyable. The main character, the aptly named William de Worde, may not be quite memorable (though he does come to his own toward the end), but there are some funny side characters – like a reformed vampire photographer and a pair of hitmen straight out of Pulp Fiction (there is even a parody of the “Royale with cheese” scene). And even though it was published 18 years ago, the story is still very relevant. The bit about a Patrician candidate, an unscrupulous businessman who wants “a return to the values and traditions that made the city great”, is eerily prophetic. 4.5/5
What did you guys read this month?