The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein is a classic of science fiction and has been deeply influential for generations. Many of its ideas and concepts were revolutionary for its time, such as intelligent AI and it is one of the first space colonisation novels on the Moon. It was even cited to me as a plausible example of libertarian political ideas put into practice. It starts well, introducing many intriguing ideas such as alternative forms of marriage, a society without laws, how to run a revolution and life on the moon. Unfortunately, Heinlein ruins this potential by cheating to make everything as easy as possible for the heroes. Also with sexism. Continue reading “Heinlein Ruins ‘The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’ By Cheating”
Brandon Sanderson is a titan of the fantasy genre, one of the most innovative and popular writers and one of my favourite authors. I was thinking about his books lately and for fun I started comparing them and trying to rank them. On the one hand, this was easy because most of his books take place in different worlds with settings and plots that you are unlikely to confuse (unlike some authors who write books in one long series and all the books get muddled together in my head). On the other hand, Sanderson doesn’t write bad books, only books that are not as fantastic as his best. Sanderson at his worst is still one of the best fantasy writers. That’s why this list will start with the best, because there isn’t any bad. I gave the top 9 books 5/5 and the last 3 still got 4/5, so it’s all quality.
It should go without saying that this is merely my personal opinion and everyone probably has their own rankings. This is not an objective ranking of quality and there’s going to people who feel the books at the bottom should be at the top and vice versa. There was tough competition, especially at the top of the list and there is very little between some of the books. Continue reading “Ranking Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere Books”
An unusual feature of the The Return of the King, the last book in the Lord of the Rings series, is the amount of time spent on the ending. The ring itself is destroyed around two thirds of the way through the narrative (or halfway if you count the appendices), leaving a huge amount of space for resolutions for characters and wrapping up loose ends. While some people enjoy the closure, others feel it unnecessarily drags on. This is how I felt the first time I read the “Scouring of the Shire”, the penultimate chapter, where the hobbits return to the Shire only to find Saruman and his minions taken it over but they are ejected after a brief battle. It seemed very anti-climactic and petty in comparison to the epic battle for the fate of the world that had just been fought.
However, I did some reading and found that many people enjoy this scene, in fact they argue it is one of the most important of the entire series and were disappointed it didn’t appear in the movies. Pretty much every article and discussion I could find on the chapter tells the same story, that the Scouring of the Shire is based on Tolkien’s experience from World War 1. The chapter is actually about the difficulties soldiers faced when they returned from war and found society had drastically changed while they were gone. It’s a bittersweet ending showing how despite the fact the hobbits fought so hard to protect their homes and preserve the Shire, they return only to find it has irreversibly changed. Some argue Tolkien is actually saying that Frodo failed.
So with this in mind, I realised that I must have missed the nuance during my original reading, so I decided to reread the chapter. Yet I was shocked by what I found, the chapter isn’t about the First World War or the changes society underwent, it is the complete opposite. Continue reading “The Scouring of the Shire is the opposite of what people think it is”
On the surface, George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson and Joe Abercrombie tell very similar stories. They write fantasy novels about harsh worlds full of murder, betrayal and conflict, and their characters are often forced into terrible circumstances. They are also excellent writers who create amazing worlds and fascinating characters. For which they are (rightly) some of the most popular and largest selling fantasy writers.
In this post, I will discuss the common themes and features (as I see them) in GRRM’s five A Song of Ice and Fire books, the six books of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law (seven if you count the short story collection), and the ten books Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, Stormlight Archives, Elantris and Warbreaker (eleven if you count the short story collection). That’s not everything they’ve written, but it is most of it and enough to see common patterns. Continue reading “The Different Themes In GRRM, Sanderson & Abercrombie Novels”
A while ago I was reading about the Ido-schism when I noticed several Wikipedia pages referenced a book named A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell, in which the schism was portrayed. As it’s rare to see reference to Esperanto in English, let alone a book about it, I bought the book straight away. It’s not the only English language novel that has Esperanto in it, for example in the Yiddish Policeman’s Union, the main character lives in Hotel Zamenhof which includes a few Esperanto signs like lifto (lift) and one character exclaims “What’s Esperanto for a pile of shit?” (I would suggest fekaĵaro). However, unlike others in books, Esperanto isn’t just mentioned in a throwaway line, it forms a core part of the story.
The book is essentially about three Jewish men and three cities at the turn of the century. Sigmund Freud, L.L. Zamenhof and Kalonymos Kalmish Szapira, in Vienna, Paris and London from 1894-1940. Following this structure the book is divided into three parts, with the middle one heavily focusing on Esperanto. The main character becomes a passionate Esperantist and there are many conversations in and about Esperanto. So is the book any good? Continue reading “A Novel About Esperanto”
Two books have been in my mind lately. Firstly, this week was the 130th anniversary of the publication of the Unua Libro, the first book in Esperanto, which makes it one of the few languages in the world to have a birthday. On the 26th of July 1887, L.L. Zamenhof created an international language that he hoped would bridge the divide between people and reduce ethnic conflict. The second thing is that I have been reading The Vanquished: Why The First World War Failed To End by Robert Gerwarth. The book details the enormous amount of ethnic conflict that erupted after the end of the First World War and continued simmering until erupting again in the Second World War. Continue reading “Esperanto and Ethnic Conflict Since 1887”
Terry Pratchett is one of the most famous British writers and his Discworld series has been read by millions. He has been praised by many as one of the funniest writers and master of the fantasy genre. His books have been hailed as literary classics and it has even been said that Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Might Be The Highest Form of Literature on the Planet.
So naturally hearing such praise (and being a fan of Douglas Adams and fantasy), I gave it a go. While I found them enjoyable, I wasn’t blown away. They were good but nothing great. So, I thought maybe I was missing something and wasn’t appreciating him fully (Pratchett hardly has critics so the problem must be with me). Or maybe I just haven’t got to the best book yet. So, I kept reading and in total, I’ve read 13 Discworld books, 7 in the City Watch series (up to Thud!), 3 in the Death series (up to Soul Music), the first 2 of the Moist von Lipwig books and Small Gods (also Good Omens which half counts).
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely brilliant elements, clever ideas and hilarious moments. I have a taste for absurd humour and I love political commentary, so there’s a lot I did like about the books. Yet, I began to suspect that Discworld might be overrated. Such a thought is blasphemy, so I kept it to myself until I read enough books to see that while there are some very good books, there are also plenty of mediocre ones. Continue reading “Are The Discworld Books Overrated?”