Tag: James S.A. Corey

Review – Cibola Burn

Posted May 20, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Cibola Burn by James S.A. CoreyCibola Burn, James S.A. Corey

[This review never got posted back when I read the book, and has been waiting in buffer since then! Don’t worry, I didn’t read the later books before this one…]

This one’s complicated. I read this enormously fast, and only once bogged down and got stuck on not quite wanting to pick it up again. Getting bogged down and getting stuck might sound bad, but it mostly happens when I get anxious for the characters, which was happening in spades, and getting unstuck depends on the pace — if it lingers too long, I might never get through it.

But… I found aspects of the ending very similar to the first book (with elements of the third), and it felt like for all the high drama and death and flashing lights, it didn’t get us anywhere. Other people have mentioned that it is important later, but it doesn’t feel like it at the end of the book: it feels like we get right back to the status quo in many ways, especially for the crew of the Rocinante.

A lot of the characters are sucky people, as well. Murtry, for instance, just doesn’t feel real because he is a complete cartoon corporate villain, and I wouldn’t have been terribly surprised for him to do some insane maniacal laughter. It makes no sense that nobody seemed to see him for what he was before Ilus.

Also, not enough of Naomi doing stuff. And Amos didn’t get to shoot enough people.

So yeah, a bit frustrating and not my favourite, despite being a very grippy read.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Babylon’s Ashes

Posted May 11, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Babylon's Ashes by James S.A. CoreyBabylon’s Ashes, James S.A. Corey

I don’t know if it’s in part the way I read it (quite spread out, not all at once), or just the sprawling nature of the series by this point, but this one did not come together well for me. It feels dark and uncompromising: people are awful to each other, and I have to be in the head of characters who do and think violent, dreadful things. Everything is bad, and there’s not much hope. That made this a very difficult read for me.

Part of the problem is the sprawling cast. There are ways it could be made tighter and still have the scope, like dropping some of the more-or-less unnecessary POV characters (whose names I barely remembered between appearances). On the one hand, putting Holden in the centre gives him too much credit and the book pushes against making him the Main Character for all of humanity… but this is a book, and sometimes that kind of thing can tighten things up and make it feel easier to get into.

I also have a question about something weird where I’m not sure if I missed something, or whether something actually weird happened, that I should really look back and find out…

The book brings us to an interesting place, it’s just also a pretty wretched place. Everyone is suffering, and even the Rocinante isn’t a safe home to return to where no harm will touch. And that makes sense, it’s realistic, but for me it was all maybe a little too grim.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Nemesis Games

Posted May 28, 2022 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Nemesis Games by James S.A. CoreyNemesis Games, James S.A. Corey

If I complained that things were a bit like being back to the status quo after Cibola Burn, this book is the answer to that. I wouldn’t spoil things by saying too much about the details: what I will say is that we get some points of view that have been held back until now, from characters whose voices we’re all keen to hear, and perspectives that we needed more about.

The book effectively splits our dream team up: Holden stays with the Rocinante while she gets repairs, Naomi heads off on personal business, Alex tries to go off to reconcile with his ex-wife, and Amos has a visit to Earth to make. It’s surprising to realise how little time they’ve all spent apart, but it becomes apparent how embedded in each other they’ve each become when they try to leave (if temporarily) and find themselves often out of touch with the others.

If you were itching to learn more about the past of the characters before the Canterbury, this book delivers — but it also changes so many things. Even as someone who generally prefers spoilers, I’d recommend going in blind and letting the punches land square on. Ouch.

Rating: 5/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted January 28, 2021 by Nicky in General / 1 Comment

Greetings, folks! It’s still Wednesday until I’ve slept, right?

Cover of Abaddon's Gate by James S. A. CoreyWhat are you currently reading?

Fiction: Abaddon’s Gate, by James S.A. Corey. I’m now nearing the end of my reread of this one, and the next one (Cibola Burn, I think?) will be entirely new to me, so that’s going to be interesting.

Non-fiction: I picked up Genuine Fakes, by Lynda Pynes yesterday; it’s an interesting book; a bit scattershot in its approach (a fake fossil made up of four genuine fossils is not [yet?] a genuine fossil in anything like the same way as a piece of art by the Spanish Forger has become a collectable item in its own right), but engaging. Funny how some of my most random book choices turn out to be the most engaging, while A World Beneath the Sands (Toby Wilkinson) is a bit of a grind, despite being one of my usual interests.

Cover of A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda CollinsWhat have you recently finished reading?

A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem, by Manda Collins. Frothy and light, not too consequential, and relatively predictable… which makes it exactly what I wanted to read right now. Bit like the Veronica Speedwell books in some ways, though the heroine is a reporter rather than a scientist.

Cover of The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane HealeyWhat will you be reading next?

As ever, it’s anyone’s guess. The Mask of Mirrors (Alyc Helms and Marie Brennan writing as M.A. Carrick) has arrived, so that’s a possibility… but The Animals at Lockwood Manor is on my five-book shortlist — which I haven’t touched for weeks and weeks, argh, clearly it needs a refresh — and is actually starting to pique my interest. Also I’m kind of in a non-fiction mood, and there’s a couple of books I got for Christmas that might tempt me there.

What are you reading, folks?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted January 21, 2021 by Nicky in General / 1 Comment

Here goes, only slightly belated (there was a work thing to do!).

Cover of Abaddon's Gate by James S. A. CoreyWhat are you currently reading?

Fiction: Abaddon’s Gate, by James S.A. Corey, since it’s time I got on with rereading this series and got onto the new books. Abaddon’s Gate is the last one I read before, which makes it both easier and harder to read — easier, because I know what’s coming. And… harder, because I know what’s coming. There’s a bit where someone gets framed for something they didn’t do, and it’s agonising!

Non-fiction: A World Beneath the Sands, by Toby Wilkinson — slow going, but I’ve got through Champollion and a couple of gentleman dilettantes, and I’m kinda hoping there’ll be some more obscure stuff next. Also A History of the Paper Pattern Industry by Joy Spanabel Emery, which is pretty interesting. Paper patterns were usually made of acid-free paper and have survived better than textiles as a result, despite their seeming flimsiness! That makes them useful for studying the history of fashion.

Cover of The Books of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Charles VessWhat have you recently finished reading?

The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula Le Guin. I need to get my review posted with all of my thoughts… it’s always been a favourite, because it’s full of really graphic, resonant imagery. Even I can almost see the Empty Throne, the black-clad priestesses, the eerie standing stones in the desert… and I’m completely aphantasic!

What will you be reading next?Cover of Black and British by David Olusoga

Beats me. Nominally, I have a stack of ‘next up’ books that I should be paying attention to, but I think they need a rotation, because none of the current five are grabbing me right now. That said, I should pick up Black and British by David Olusoga, ’cause it’s a book club read this month.

That’s it for me — what’s everyone else reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted November 25, 2020 by Nicky in General / 1 Comment

Greetings, friends! I just caught up on all the unanswered blog comments I could find — and I’ll try to be better here on out!

Cover of MetaZoa by Peter Godfrey-SmithWhat are you currently reading?

Without much enthusiasm, Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Metazoa. I remembered really liking Other Minds, so I am disappointed by this one, which I’m not finding very readable. I don’t expect much popular science stuff that focuses on biology to be new to me except in the finer details — I read it for a) obscure factoids and b) comfort through familiarity and order — but this one isn’t new and it’s slooow.

I’m also partway through Abaddon’s Gate (James S.A. Corey), and a reread of Fire & Hemlock (Diana Wynne Jones). It’s fun to rediscover the latter now I have a more than passing familiarity with the Tam Lin story.

Cover of Network Effect by Martha WellsWhat have you recently finished reading?

Uhhh, good question… I think the last thing was Network Effect (Martha Wells) and The Churn (James S.A. Corey). The former was a lot of fun; it is nice to hang out with Murderbot. The latter was… superfluous, I think, if you’ve read the main series. It doesn’t tell us much more about Amos than we already knew.

What will you be reading next? 

Nooo idea. My brain isn’t cooperating very much, so I think it’ll be a while before I get to reading something else.

What’re you folks reading?

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Review – The Churn

Posted November 22, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Churn by James S.A. CoreyThe Churn, James S.A Corey

The Churn is a short novella which tells the story of one of the major characters from The Expanse series: Amos Burton. I like Amos a lot, but I’m not totally sure I care about having read this; it wasn’t bad in any way, or not enjoyable, but it wasn’t necessary. We know who Amos is, and we get glimpses of where he came from… and I’m not sure I needed to read this novella to fill it in. I almost prefer piecing it together, because in some ways who Amos was isn’t as important as who Amos is… and in other ways, he really hasn’t changed very much in the series: it doesn’t add much development-wise, because the differences are simply in the different contexts.

So, if you’re a hardcore lover of The Expanse and you want to read every scrap of background, then yeah, The Churn is probably of interest. If not, then I don’t think I especially recommend it — the main series are all you need, I suspect.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Caliban’s War

Posted November 22, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Caliban's War by James S.A. CoreyCaliban’s War, James S.A. Corey

Caliban’s War is the second book of the Expanse series, and I can’t help but see it (and Leviathan Wakes) in some ways as an answer to Firefly/Serenity. Serenity ends as a triumph, to some degree, with Mal getting the story out there. That’s the big win. And yet… Leviathan Wakes almost starts with that, but Holden can’t sit back and retire. He figures that getting the message out is enough, and of course it isn’t — as we’ve found in our own timeline with Cambridge Analytica and the Vote Leave campaign and impeachment and… everything. Getting the signal out there isn’t enough, and Caliban’s War shows Holden continuing to reckon with that, and keep trying to find a place for himself and the crew of the Rocinante.

There’s another way in which Holden is like Malcolm Reynolds, and that’s really showcased here as well. It struck me during the middle-ish part of the book, when Holden goes to confront Fred Johnson — who spits back at him:

“I’ve been putting up with your bullshit for over a year now,” Fred said. “This idea you have that the universe owes you answers. This righteous indignation you wield like a club at everyone around you.”

And yeah, Malcolm Reynolds has that as well, for all that he wants to think he’s a hardened criminal. I think Caliban’s War does a good job of digging into that and showing what makes a man like that dangerous, as well as someone to follow.

Anyway, that’s what particularly struck me this time — maybe because the part about “we got the signal out and nobody cared” really cuts deep right now!

It really did bother me again that everyone spends the book running around looking for Mei, without questioning basic things like “why did they want an immuno-compromised kid?” And Prax is a biologist! Okay, not a human biologist, but at other times he clearly has a scientific mind and the ability to think through a problem, including those which aren’t restricted to botany. I’m not sure it changes the story to know why Mei’s key, but it bothers me as someone who knew what was going on from the minute her condition was mentioned.

This book introduces Bobbie and Avasarala, and they are both great and balance out the gender balance, and give us the outside-perspective on Holden and his crew that we need. I know we won’t be seeing a lot of them for a couple of books, which sucks, because Avasarala is the kind of character who really challenges the dudes-with-guns sci-fi stereotypes. (Bobbie is less so, since she’s essentially the female version of them.) She’s a grandmother, a diplomat, an Earther — and that’s a needed sort of perspective.

I’m looking forward to continuing to chew through this series; I called it popcorn before, and I still concur. It’s very more-ish, and it goes down easy.

Rating: 4/5

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WWW Wednesday

Posted November 19, 2020 by Nicky in General / 3 Comments

Quick update, because I am tired!

What are you currently reading?

Actually, pretty much nothing. There are some books on the Shelf of Abandoned Books that I need to pick back up, but I finished a book earlier and that was pretty much all I had on my plate actually in progress at the moment.

Cover of Caliban's War by James S.A. CoreyWhat have you recently finished reading?

My reread of Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey. I remembered it pretty well, in broad strokes, but some stuff I’d forgotten. I’m enjoying getting stuck back into this world: the books are chunky (500-600 pages) but somehow I can easily sit and read 100 pages at a pop.

Cover of Goldilocks by Laura LamWhat will you be reading next?

I will be returning to some books from the Shelf of Abandoned Books, including Network Effect (Martha Wells) for the Mini Battle in the Clear Your Shit Readathon. I’m also planning to start on Laura Lam’s Goldilocks again (which I put down because my anxiety ate my brain right before it came out) and also steam on with rereading The Expanse books, with Abaddon’s Gate up next.

What’re you folks reading?

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WWW Wednesday

Posted November 12, 2020 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

Almost belated, but we’re still calling this Wednesday…

Cover of Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon JamesWhat are you currently reading?

I’m still partway through Black Leopard, Red Wolf (Marlon James). I don’t love it, but I’m appreciating it more now that I’ve got used to the narration. I don’t think it’ll ever be a favourite, and it doesn’t much inspire me to read more Marlon James, I’ll admit. So much violence and death… but mostly the narrative style just doesn’t work for me.

I’m also still reading Murderous Contagion (Mary Dobson). I think I’d have loved it a few years ago, and it’s more meh now because I’ve read so much on various different diseases since. There’s not much new to me here.

Cover of Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. CoreyWhat have you recently finished reading?

Leviathan Wakes (James S.A. Corey), which I just reviewed. It’s really compulsive, though some of the more horror-leaning bits are aaaalmost too much for me.

What will you be reading next?

I happen to know that I’ll be starting on How to Tame a Fox (Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut), for the Clear Your Shit Readathon prompt of “a book with an animal in it”. Had to sneak non-fiction in somehow!

What are you reading?

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