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Dust: A Review

This is the third book in the Silo series by Hugh Howey and finishes the series.

DustThis was shorter than the other two books in the series and tied up at least some of the loose ends the previous book had created, but still wasn’t quite as good as the first, I don’t think.

It was better than the second in that it finally moved forward the timeline from the end of the first combining characters pov’s from both the first and second books in the series, but it still didn’t explain what has happened to silo 40, or if it did then it was only a passing remark that they might have been bombed.

It was pretty typical in style for Hugh Howey and had a similar pacing and build up towards the end of the book, but once again the ending felt a little too anti-climactic. I liked most of how the ending was portrayed but felt there were a few people who really didn’t need to die to make it happen, and I also don’t like how quickly the peole in silo 18 unraveled when they found themselves somewhere else. It felt too much like it happened without masses of warning.

With that said, I think the main characters were great. Donald’s regrets and decisions were great. Also loved Solo and his character progression.

Still five starring this book because it’s a great read, just not quite good enough to be one of my all time favourites.

Fifth Estate: A Review

I blogged on Tuesday about the current situation with Assange and while I was researching some of that it brought back to my memory the film hollywood decided to make on wikileaks and Assange last year. I happened to find it on Netflix and figured I’d finally watch it now that it wouldn’t directly result in more money for the makers.

fifth estate I won’t deny there was a small part of me that hoped Hollywood had done a good job of making this film and capturing the Australian behind Wikileaks in some kind of fair way, while rising above all the swirling propaganda and hate the US politicians were spouting because it was their secret crimes Wikileaks exposed, but I was quite quickly disappointed. Hollywood has bowed to the pressure and created a story so far gone I almost despaired and gave up watching.

The film’s plot is a bit like a bromance gone wrong. Daniel Domscheit-Berg quite quickly meets Assange, sticks him up on some Messiah-like pedestal and then gets pissed off when he falls off it, like any human probably would (because believe it or not we’re not gods and perfect) and betrays him.

Fifth Estate duoThe film is pretty much from the point of view of Daniel, and rarely focuses on the actual work of Wikileaks, which Assange has dedicated a large number of years to. The few times it does mention the leaks it shows the possible negatives of the information getting out into other people’s hands, including the US government scrambling to save sources in middle-eastern countries because their cover had been blown and not entirely succeeding (despite the fact that the pentagon declared that no lives had been put at risk by those cables in the real world). Very occasionally it showed some of the positive results of the leaks, but it mostly glossed over them and always had them on the back of the negatives as if it was a sort of after thought.

fifth estate Cumberbatch AssangeAbout half way through watching I found I had to grab my laptop and take a look at why Benedict Cumberbatch took this role. He’s an actor I have a lot of respect for, I love his Sherlock and many other characters, but this isn’t a performance I can respect him for. I soon found that he’d said this.

“I wanted to create a three-dimensional portrait of a man far more maligned in the tabloid press than he is in our film to remind people that he is not just the weird, white haired Australian dude wanted in Sweden, hiding in an embassy behind Harrods.”

The trouble is the film’s scenes didn’t allow Cumberbatch anything but making Assange look like the weird white haired Australian dude wanted in Sweden. About the only thing they got right was his looks. But the also obsessed over some really really stupid details.

Julian Assange August 2014Several times during the film, Assange’s character stopped ranting about something releveant to mention why his hair went white. This was done several times to Daniel with a different explanation each time. It reminded me of the joker played by Heath Ledger and how he explains the scars on his face several different ways. Right at the end of the film Daniel happens to tell a British reporter, who is also pissed off at Assange, that Assange dies his hair white, like this is some all important massive revelation on his character and life goals.

Who gives a rat’s ass why Assange has white hair? Why would you spend so much of a film’s time fixating on the colour of someone’s hair? Also, really? You want to tell me that the man is so completely fixated on his personal image of having white hair that in the photo to the right and up he’s dyed his hair and beard but not his moustache? I don’t know about any of you but the photo makes it look very much like the guy has just gone white (and in a very graceful and suave way, I might add) and his facial hair is still catching up a bit. You also only need to do a google images search on Assange to quickly notice that all the photos of him looking younger have a brown/sandy coloured hair and only the more recent ones have his stylish white, so it’s definitely not something he’s been doing since he was a teenager.

fifth estate assangeThis brings me to the very end of the film. I actually thought the film might redeem itself a little at the end. It had Cumberbatch facing the camera as if he was being interviewed and talking about all sorts of different things. After making a few odd comments about films about him and generally being a bit strange he started to make a speech that was actually quite good.

“If you want the truth, no one is going to tell you the truth, they’re going to tell you their version. So if you want the truth, you have to seek it out for yourself. In fact that’s where power lies, in your willingness to look beyond this story, any story. And as long as you keep searching, you are dangerous to them. That’s what they’re afraid of: you. It’s all about you.”

The bit above is awesome, it’s true and it’s wonderful, but then it’s ruined by seven little words they tag right after.

“And a little bit about me too.” Honestly! There are so many things wrong with this. Firstly, from a sotrytelling point of view, it’s unrealistic. No matter if someone might think this, they’ve never say it in a serious interview if they had a brain, and I think it’s clear Assange does. Secondly, it smacks of agenda, as a writer there’s no way I’d ruin the speech above with these words unless I really didn’t want you to believe them but actually hate the guy who said it. and thirdly, even if someone was this egotistical in actions, in real life people just don’t tend to think like that. For Assange to be doing what he’s doing with Wikileaks I’m sure he must have a strong conviction that he’s right about needing to get these secrets out there and protect people from the lies their governments are telling them. Someone like that doesn’t think these things, let alone say them. Even in the off chance that they act that arrogantly, it’s never a conscious thought.

So to sum up. The film sucks and I’m glad I never paid for it. but the one good thing I’ll quote again for emphasis.

“If you want the truth, no one is going to tell you the truth, they’re going to tell you their version. So if you want the truth, you have to seek it out for yourself. In fact that’s where power lies, in your willingness to look beyond this story, any story. And as long as you keep searching, you are dangerous to them. That’s what they’re afraid of: you. It’s all about you.”

Shift: A Review

This is the second book in the Silo series by Hugh howey, and I’ve reviewed the first one, Wool, here.

ShiftThis book starts off in the past and from the perspective of a fresh set of characters at first and I found it was a little difficult to keep reading everything as I really wanted to get back to the characters in the first book rather than past characters, although I did really like the look into how everything began.

It felt like it had a slower pace and seemed to build up to an ending that never really quite happened. Almost slightly anti-climactic really. I can only assume it was setting up for book 3, Dust, but I felt it was weaker than book 1 and I can only hope the final book restores the series.

Some of the information dotted among the story was useful to know, especially that there was ten metres of concrete between each level of the silo, as I found myself wondering when reading book 1 why it took so long to climb up and down the entire thing. Having that between each level is a detail that makes it all so much more sensible.

All in all, not as good as the first but probably because it’s setting up the next book. Still a reasonable read.

Eye of Dominion: A Review

This is the second book in the Labyrinth of Labyrinths series by David Staniforth and was gifted to me in exchange for a review. Alloria was the first and I reviewed that book here.

Eye of DominionFirstly, this cover is just epic. Got to be one of my favourites and just adds to the awesomeness of this book.

I really enjoyed Alloria so was fully expecting to like this book as well and I wasn’t disappointed. David Staniforth keeps getting better and better and this is my favourite book by him so far.

The characters were brilliantly consistent with the first book and I was very pleased to see Fluffy was back. I like how a small side plot in book one was taken to fill the mainplot in this one, although I missed all the explorative nature of the first one. This one focused more on relationships and learning over the discovery of new planets, almsot glossing over that but I still enjoyed what I was given.

Plotwise it was very nicely paced, nothing too fast but also nothing too bogged down by description. There were also some great character points of view that added to the story. The previous books lore was also built on really nicely giving the feeling of learning along with Alloria about her powers and the possible things that can happen in her world.

Occasionally the book was a little predictable, although this isn’t always a problem with a book, but at other points it was also brilliantly surprising and there were a few twists and solutions to problems I didn’t see coming.

All in all a really good read and I’ll definitely be wanting to read any more the author writes.

The Game: A Review

This was one of those bookclub books that one of us stumbled upon and recommended to the rest of the group.

The GameThe premise is very interesting. A virtual reality that kids use to learn about life before they become adults and live their own life. It feeds everything wrong with celebrity culture as it exists today while at the same time still helping some of the kids.

The book was as good as I’d hoped it would be. It’s not perfect but close enough it’s a great read. The book follows a couple of players, one who has always been doing really well and another who had luck throw her a curveball she’s still trying to recover from.

With such an interesting idea the book handles informing the reader without info dumping incredibly well. I love that every chapter starts with a quote from some fictional interview or book about the game and it gives back story while making it really interesting and building the world around this virtual reality.

A great book I could barely put down. Definitely reading onwards with the series.

Wool: A Review

I’ve been intending to read this book for a while. Not only is the author, Hugh Howey, a genuinely nice guy, but the book has been very popular among my peer group and quite a few people have suggested I read it. Thankfully bookclub decided it would be great to read the trilogy, so I’ll be reviewing Shift and Dust as well over the next few months.

WoolI didn’t entirely know what to expect of this story when I started. I knew it was dystopian and silo based (whatever that meant exactly), but I was hooked within the first few pages. I loved the sample I read and quickly devoured the rest of the book. It’s not short, over 500 pages but it feels short because I didn’t want to put it down.

About a third of the way in, I got a little worried with the number of deaths that this would be another George R. R. Martin style book but it wasn’t, just realistic. The middle felt a little on the slow side plot wise, but character and situation wise was still interesting and the action sequences occasionally had me confused.

The premise isn’t really something new. People in a small society being controlled and kept in their insular place while the world outside tries to recover, but there was something very fresh in this telling of it. The societies rules were a new take.

I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel and loved this book. Not perfect but close enough and a relief to read a popular book that definitely deserves it.

White Fang: A Review

This was the next book on my classic challenge. I’ve always wanted to read this one.

White FangWhite Fang is one of the shorter classics books and didn’t take me too long to read. Right from the beginning I was captivated by the way the author explained the minds of wolves and of the peril of the two men in the wilderness and being hunted by a whole pack of the animals.

Just like most classics it seemed like the story took a while to get to its point, although having now finished I’m still not completely sure what all of the story was actually there for. With that said I enjoyed every bit of story. I really think the author’s voice was what did it. I could have had a year’s worth of weather reports in the same voice and enjoyed it.

The last quarter of the book was the best bit. White Fang came into his own and the author gave him a sort of justice to finish things off.

Brilliant short classic by a brilliant writer.

The Name of the Wind: A Review

It made sense that as a fantasy writer I would read one of the most raved about fantasy books ever, so I borrowed a copy of the first book from a friend.

The Name of the WindThe book started astoundingly well. There’s something very cool about the way Patrick Rothfuss writes. The way he constructs a sentence and describes things, sometimes even everyday ordinary things, that just works. He didn’t seem to waste a single word.

I loved the first half of the story immensly and didn’t want to put the book down. The characters were all brilliant and the storytelling feel of it was also really comfortable. But I found the second half didn’t appeal to me quite so much. I felt once Kvothe was at the University that the plot slowed more than I’d hoped it would and I grew a little bored.

I was also disappointed with the ending. It feels very much like one story that’s being chopped into three because it’s so long not because it naturally breaks up into smaller chunks. As much as I really enjoyed the writing and the book as a whole I can’t recommend anyone starts reading it while the third book remains unpublished. It would be like starting Lord of the Rings with only The Fellowship of the Ring published and no ending.

That said, I will be reading onwards and I still really like this author’s style, I just might not bother with the second until right before the third one is due out. I hate getting to the end of the book and not feeling like even a part of the plot is finished.

The Last Changeling: A Review

We picked out this book for bookclub a few months back based partially on the cover and partially on the description. It sounded like a very interesting blend of Sherlock esque stuff and mythological fairy-like creatures.

The Last ChangelingThe book started off a little on the slow side, I was intrigued but it felt a little wandering in plot and ideas. There was plenty of talk of metahominids (the books version of fairies) and how evil they are. by a third of the way in it pulled together and had plenty of action, some great bad guys and abilities and some very interesting cool characters.

I struggled to put the book down until I got to about three-quarters in and then it felt like the book went downhill a little. There were some chunks of text from what seemed like completely pointless points of viw, like an underground train driver, and after setting up lots of different metahominids with different strengths they onle really shot bows and arrows at people.

Also there were a few bits where I got completely confused as to whose point of view it was from. Something was really hinky with the formatting which made it difficult to tell when it switched, but that was only a problem a couple of times.

Finally the ending felt a bit like a wash out. There was some Deus Ex Machina with a plane that our main hero could suddenly just go get and someone’s fairy uncle who suddenly united the fairies, but then they turned out to not understand humans at all. The ending felt rather rushed and like the author had put all these cool fairie powers together and then couldn’t actually think of a way for the good guys to win against those odds, so conveniently made the metahominids weaker all of a sudden.

All in all there was a lot of great potential in the book and I’d definitely read a sequel, just wish it could have ended a little better.

Imperfect Strangers: A Review

This is another ebook I was gifted by the author, David Staniforth, in return for my review. It’s also another book that’s a departure from the usual genre of the author (honestly something I think authors should risk more often).

Imperfect StrangersI was a little worried about taking this book on as it’s not normally a genre I like reading. I find life can be scary enough without reading stuff that scares me even more, but I’m glad I did. I immediately connected with the main character Keith and what he’d been through.

Although I knew where the book was leading it didn’t make it any less boring to read for the most part, although I felt it dragged a little in the middle and found some of the relationships Sally had with other people to be not quite real. To me she didn’t seem to get along very well with her friends and it made me wonder what had made her like them in the first place, but explaining it might have bogged the story down so… tough to say how that could have been made better.

I must admit there was a part of me that felt very sorry for Keith and kept hoping the book would have a twist at the end and make him the hero, but it was more realistic for it not to so I’m not complaining and I think it’s a credit to the author for making me so attached to his character for me to hope he could redeem himself.

Very interesting thriller with some very realistic messed up characters. Not a perfect story but still well written.