December 15, 2018

Book: Pharoah by Wilbur Smith

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:21 pm

imageI have a quibble about the dust jacket. It claims that Stephen King said that Wilber Smith is the best historical novelist. Period.


Really? Don’t get me wrong, I like Wilbur Smith books, and have reviewed many here, including Assegai, Elephant Song, or the earlier Taita stories starting from the first one, River God. But the best historical novelist? Come on! He can be perhaps the best living historical novelist with the initials WS. Because if you include dead ones, even there William Shakespeare will beat him hollow with Henry VIII or King Lear. He has some history but mostly it is fluff, with no depth in it.


Interesting to see the book dedicated to his wife. He has dedicated all his books to his wife, but the name changes from time to time. I think this is the third name I have seen?


The Taita stories, though interesting, are insufferable in the all excelling God-like qualities of that man and in the first person, it looks like Wilbur is fondly imagining himself as a demi-God through Taita. If you consider the insufferable Seventh Scroll where Wilbur Smith, instead of the surrogate Taita, is the all knowing, and famous historian of the Egyptian history, you understand Wilbur’s urge to continue self praise through Taita. The pity is that the story stands by itself and is interesting in its own right without the self praise running through all Taita books. I will now get off my soap box and look at the book itself.


This is the next instalment in the widely popular Taita series. Two things about the story immediately stand out. One : It has a greater tie in to the original story than all the sequels so far. This brings us back to the Hyskos defeat and Pharoah Tamose, and the subsequent revenge of the Hyskos. Second: The story takes off almost from the first sentence.


Egypt is staring at annihilation and Tamose is old. Hyskos are kicking their butt repeatedly (my phrasing) in battles. Tamose is dying and his eldest son, Utteric Toro is to inherit the throne, such as it was. He is jealous of Taita and after sending him to defeat Hyksos, he then arrests Taita as a traitor.  The brother of the kind releases him and escapes with him to the sea. He meets up with his erstwhile friends.


He meets Bekhata and Tehuti from his earlier book and Tehuti’s brilliantly beautiful daughter falls in love with the younger brother who came with Taita. When a surprise attack is waged by a weasel-like  representative of Utter, Taita tries to put him to death but Serena saves him.


When they go hunting for a boar, King Hurotas, whose horse was gored by the beast loses consciousness, Queen Tehuti suffers a broken wrist and it is Serena who kills the mighty beast, cementing her reputation among everyone.


When she is kidnapped with Bekhata’s son being the victim, the story takes off again. When Taita and Rameses go to rescue her, the story takes off again, Wilbur style. The way they rescue Serena and how they free the prisoners in the dungeon are good.


Then Serena tries to create a rebellion right from inside Egypt. They collect an army and have Hurotas also come with an army.  There is a great reunion. They thwart an enemy attack as well as take charge of Utteric’s horses in a night raid. However a fish tile intrigues him and Taita finds part of the answer in one of the four islands at the mouth of the river.


When she faces a demon enemy called Terramesh who comes in a chariot drawn by unicorns (yes, don’t laugh) and with its axle adorned by sharp blades that tears through enemy army (which in this case is Taita’s) and seemingly impervious to arrows, Taita is confused. His pet goddess Inana tells him of a way to kill Terramesh. That involves stories like you would find in Brothers Grimm tales, where they travel to a concealed cave where there is one specific weapon to kill. They find it through magic and Inana’s guidance and then find another hidden and secret cave, protected by magic as well (I said, stop laughing) to lure and destroy Terramesh with some lude and raunchy display by Serena involved in the honey trap.


Then Taita explores the hidden passway below and finds a way to overcome Utteric, who is hidden behind three formidable walls. Also one of the people captured is a ‘good’ one and can even tell between Utteric and his myriad doubles.


You get the feeling that this is too easy for Taita. The last few Taita books have been totally one sided and the feeling that these are hastily crafted books to cash in on the fame of Taita deepens.


“One of the best historical novelists”, says Stephen King. In my opinion, Wilbur writes very well, that is undeniable, and bases it on history of both Africa and, now, Egypt specifically. But they are simply very thin backdrops to adventure stories. The research is not deep, the history is not even slightly emphasized but serves as a backdrop for gory killing and womanizing.


Engrossing? Yes. Historical? Even for his prior books, no. For this particular book, “Hell, no.”


Anyway, Taita solves the mystery of the tunnels. They go right inside the camp of Utteric, bypassing the walls. Easy, peasy, when you have the help of Goddesses like Inana to help out.


Typical but less complex fare from Wilbur. Entertaining but lacks his usual complexity.


5 /10
– – Krishna


Book: Brightness Reef by David Brin

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:15 pm

imageWeird in parts, interesting in parts. But overall, average or even slightly below.

This is part of a trilogy and deals with the Uplift world invented by David. There is Book Two and Three but I am unlikely to read it.  Apologies to David Brin fans, but this is not my cup of tea.

A man, half singed, escapes a fire. As he moves in the swamp, he sees a group of strangers. This is the prolog. The story itself starts next.


There are four friends from different species, only one of which is humanoid. They are crazy about books left by humankind eons ago. A girl with eyestalks (yup, like a snail) suggests that they go to the forbidden area to read the inscriptions on the rocks. There are even friends with wheels instead of feet and some with no feet at all.


Then the story goes to a race that went to Jijo, a distant planet, seemingly disjointed from the original story. There are a few folks who argue about the old ways and the new. Chimps with human intelligence (but inability to talk) and other weird stuff intervene to provide the fantasy atmosphere to the story.


Nelo (Don’t ask who it is. People come and go) visits his daughter Sara’s house where she has saved a stranger from death.


Then the story branches off into a narrative about another man who discovers that a girl was stealing his bow. Then rolls all the way back to a new ship coming to the place and they finally figure out that convicts are being dropped off a la Australia. But then it turns out that they may be scientists, interested only in exchange of knowledge.


Dwer takes the girl for justice for stealing his bow.  Then the story alternates between the aliens arriving and killing a spider with acid in its body for blood (yup a la Aliens movie), as well as the girl who stole the bow trying to get at a wounded mechanical bird regardless of the danger to her person and how Dwer saved her.


In the meanwhile human criminals who came up create divisions from the Unified Six because others (k’ger, etc) now suspect the humans among them of disloyalty. And it seems certain that the evil humans will destroy the entire planet to conceal evidence of their theft but the Six in Jijo decide to fight back an enemy with much superior technology, whatever be the odds.


They inform the Jijoans that they intend to take them all back and even the revered Egg was their plan to educate the Six and also that this whole thing was an experiment. Disappointment and despair arise when the Jijoans learn of this.


But in reality they realize that the aliens have been sowing seeds of dissention and their plot is exposed. In addition, the rebels have also destroyed the base they came in.


There are some vignettes worth reading but the story is too pat and too distracted to come together. All those stories do not come together at all and go their separate ways. This ends in miraculous escapes and reversals of the bad boys suddenly through deux ex machina techniques.






– – Krishna

December 9, 2018

Book: Undeadly by Michele Vail

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:17 pm

imageIt is aimed at teenage girls and it shows.


First I thought it was total crap but found that there is a little bit of redemption as you read on. Not much, but it is there if you look for it.


There are four types of necromancers which is all crap and our girl studies in school while animating zombies and bringing them to life or doing all kinds of weird shit. The essay she writes for her necromancer school is total garbage and the language is very suited for the vacuous type of young things that seem to exist in a parallel universe utterly detached from any kind of curiosity or responsibility – especially to learn.


She knows how to raise the zombies but when a pet zombie, Mr Mortimer, tries to eat her, she seems helpless until rescued by an older man who is teaching her zombie-making. Sick. She has a crush on a boy who plays football and seems very shallow. (And says she knows she is shallow but could not care less).


Her uncle is zombified by her mother and used as a servant because ‘he wanted to be useful even after he was dead’. He is a ‘good zombie’ but you know what? She wishes she had known her uncle when he was really her uncle and not a zombie. Are you barfing yet?


Anubis, the God of necromancers, blesses her as the one who has “the gift” and horror or horrors, also talks like a teenage vapehead. She has been, like, chosen and it is, like, so awesome and so cool and so cute and…. You get the picture.


Rick gets to her party and she is insulted by an ex girlfriend of Rick by having punchbowl thrown in her face. But there is a non human there who kills Rick and Molly, the heroine, seems to be able to catch the pieces of soul when they are about to depart and shove them back into Rick (well, two pieces escape).


She meets her grandparents; she learns she could be an undead reaper and also realizes that Anubis had indeed chosen her. She finally gets to know that her dad is not her biological dad.


She goes to a fancy shmancy school to hone up her reaper skills. Whatevs. (The crazy style, like above, grates).  She learns that she is now a reaper and can capture souls to tie them to a SEER machine (which keeps them as slaves against her wishes). Why? Because Irina, her teacher asks her to, and their principal(?) also wants it. Irina cuts a side deal to get diamonds and let the ghost of Aunt Myra go.


When Rick turns up with fetid breath and faints on her room carpet, Molly is thunderstruck. Gets her friends to help.


She discovers that Irina is probably evil and is threatened at gunpoint. She also discovers that Rick is indeed the soul killer who is disposing of students at her school.


The book ends abruptly, Kill Bill style. It sucks. It is one thing to want to write a series but another to finish at a cliffhanger in the hopes that you would buy her second book. I simply imagined that the story ended at a logical point, about 3 pages earlier and am not going to buy the second one.


Not too bad once you get past the crazy style – goes into the ‘barely tolerable’ category.

But by no means a good read.



–   –   Krishna

Book: A Triumph of Genius by Ronald K Fierstein

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:05 pm

imageThis is a fascinating book about a bit of business history that shook the world but after a few years became pointless. Well told, fascinating, and familiarizes us all with the people, the facts, the emotions and gives a great background on the whole thing. You will love it, if you like nonfiction business history.


Prolog is interesting. When Land’s daughter asks (in 1968) why she cannot see the picture he has taken right away, he vows to make it happen in the future. They walk of the Land family and the young Edwin Land’s obsession with light and polarization of light, so much so that he cannot focus on the rest of the subjects in the university and decides to leave.


Edwin Land, descendent of an immigrant Jews who fled to America to escape persecution in Russia and made good, was fascinated by light and images and stereoscope of the older years. He gives up university and succeeds in continuously improving the machine that makes polarized light. He finally manages to get a process that can be scaled up. This creates the company Polaroid, which enters into contract with Eastman Kodak and also with Ford for headlights.


During the Second World War, Polaroid comes up with very many inventions that helped the Americans as well as made the company rich. Land seems to have been totally inventive, a genius and driven to greater heights. He with his employees  invented the double coloured 3 D glasses, artificial quinine, heat seeking missile technology… there seems to have been no end to his ingenuity.


His discovery of the instant photography and the furore it caused, as well as his attempts to convert from Sepia to black and white are well told. His empathy for a fellow worker who died of cancer is also beautifully described.


It is interesting that he served in the highest scientific committee with many Presidents but resigned when he found himself in the ‘enemies of the government’ list by Nixon! (Only to come back when Ford took over)


When Polaroid completely masks the contribution of Kodak scientists in the joint venture of a colour one-stop photography, Kodak is annoyed. It is also alarmed that Polaroid, the minnow, may grow up to challenge the Goliath Kodak itself, if this takes off in a big way with consumers. So it first tries to develop its own one stop process (that does not use the method of Polaroid and thus does not infringe its patents) and fails.


Kodak starts playing hardball with Polaroid for the chance to get into one click photography. But they are unable to develop anything close to Polaroid’s products even with billions of dollars invested in research. This reminds one of Steve Jobs much later with Apple and it is interesting that Steve was a fan of Land and perhaps copied the showmanship of Land in his company announcements!


Kodak meanwhile goes through a series of CEO changes and realizes that the patents raised by Polaroid block almost all known avenues to instant photography. So it tries to undermine it by challenging the patents in foreign land. Polaroid beefs up its legal armory to defend, knowing that a huge battle is looming.  Great descriptions of what should be boring technical details by Ronald that brings to life their feelings, thoughts, and strategy. This keeps the interest going in what should have been an arcane business event being described, though that event was life and death for Polaroid and future bread and butter for Kodak.


The court case is told in great detail. The author seems to have been part of the Polaroid team, which explains why this story seems so one sided, giving only Polaroid’s version of the story. But the author is skilled because, consider this : The whole story is about a courtroom battle between Kodak and Polaroid. On top of that, the author describes the court case in great detail. Even such arcane and dry subject is turned into a fairly fascinating tale of intellectual sparring between the counsels of both companies and that is no mean task. Kudos to the author for that.


There are some great moments where a company like Kodak who stood synonymous for photography (the same way Xerox did for copiers and Kleenex for tissues – remember ‘the Kodak moment’?) pigheadedly pursued a totally disastrous course with little consideration of the risk it was taking. Even more ironic is that when Polaroid offered the option of a license for a fee, it simply brushed it aside, only to face financial disaster later due to its stubbornness.


Even more ironic is that, just a few years after Polaroid won its victory, the entire instant photography market disappeared completely, thanks to Sony’s introduction of digital photography! Both Polariod and Kodak ignored the disruptive technology until too late and both went bankrupt! This was after someone offered to licence the digital technology to Polaroid, and that company, in a remarkable myopia like the one Kodak exhibited with it, refused the offer!


Talk about ironies. This story abounds in them. The case itself is interesting but the Epilog, that outlines some of the above and what happened to both companies, is totally fascinating. Do not miss it.


The parallels between Land, who joined business acumen, ability to create products that are hugely popular but which the eventual customers did not even realize they needed, and Steve Jobs in a later era is astonishing, perhaps a bit less so when you learn that Steve Jobs was an admirer of Land.


Also, even though the author is clearly biased towards Polaroid and Land, his lament that ‘the poor recognition of Land as a prime inventor and businessman in the mold of Edison is deplorable’ rings true.


It is funny how the author strives to say that it is not a purely eulogistic description of Dr Land’s life, gives a couple of token deficiencies “for the sake of balance” and goes over gooey eyed in admiration of everything that Land did again.


Not that Land is not admirable but you cannot deny that it is a kind of one sided narrative. Very pro Polaroid.


The quote that the author questions is the one that seems to stay in my mind at least : The epic battle for market share in a photographic area that was becoming obsolete even when it was fought was described by someone as ‘Kodak and Polaroid jousting on the deck of the Titanic’. Nice!


But for all that, this book is extremely well written, brings out the drama, even makes arcane legal stuff extremely interesting and gives an excellent summary without going into mind numbing details. The balance is very hard to get but the author manages it perfectly.


An enjoyable read and I will definitely award it a 8/10

–  – Krishna

November 26, 2018

Book: Bag of Bones by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:38 pm

imageStephen King is one of the few authors whose books we have frequently reviewed. See 12/13/63 or Revival to name but just two.


In my opinion he is at the top of his game and delivers in book after book an amazingly entertaining experience. But the man can slip up too, and has his not so great moments. I am sorry to say that this book is one of those. It is not bad, even good in parts, but does not reach up to the high bar that he has set himself and that we have come to expect from him.


So, what is the story?


The narrator’s wife Johanna Arlen is killed in a freak accident. She was young. The narrator is a writer. She fell down when she went to help with an accident between a truck and a car. The old women in the car were hurt but not badly. Johanna, while she sprinted towards the accident, coincidentally suffered a brain aneurysm that instantly killed her.


He gets a serious case of the writer’s block. He keeps dreaming of his cottage called Sara Laughs, and in one particularly hairy dream, a dead Jo comes malevolently at him. He decides to go see the lake and live there for a while.


After an initial shock of hearing a child scream he settles down and saves a child Kira, who was running alone on the road and meets the mother who lives in a trailer. Her mother Mattie married a rich but diffident Lance Devore who dies and the grandpa wants her child and tries to prove that she is an unfit mother.


While he goes to the aid of the mother and child against a rich man, he realizes a presence. It tries first to talk in thumps (one for yes and two for no) but later switches to magnetic letters on the fridge.


There is some weirdness where he goes into a mesmeric world full of dead people, indiscriminate sex etc which does not happen except in his mind. Then he is dragged to court by the vindictive but rich grandfather of Kyra. He conducts himself well but knows that the danger has not passed.


When the vindictive Devore and his assistant almost kill him, Jo in spirit form seems to save him from drowning by pulling him onto a raft. When suddenly Devore dies and Mattie expresses her love for Mike, the author, things take a different turn in the story.  When he knows Jo has been afraid of something and was investigating the house, the story gets hotter and when he realizes that there are multiple presences in the house, one of them definitely Jo trying to help him and at least one more malevolent spirit that has also sent messages on the fridge like it (they?) does for him, the story gets downright hot.


So why am I saying that it is not up to par? Read on.


When he and Mattie hear that Devore had died through self-asphyxiation, they are relieved and Matte expresses her love to Mike. However, Mike and Kyra share a dream about a long ago fair where they meet the original occupant and singer of the house he owns and Devore and some dead folks with him almost get them .


The story moves on where his lawyer, their friends and Mike go to Mattie for a celebration party and suddenly are attacked by the townspeople. Mattie dies in the attack and the lawyer is wounded but Mike takes Kyra back to Sara Laughs. When he is in the zone he almost kills Kyra by drowning but Jo’s hints bring him back to sanity.


He understands how Sara and her son Kit were murdered by racist youths who could not stand her to be in the same neighbourhood as them. He digs her out to give her peace.


The ending is classic King. The story as a whole is a bit weird but there are many parts that grip you with its intensity and shake you up. Not his best, though.


The last 50 pages are so are spectacular, where he battles Sara, and another evil spirit with the help of Jo, and then realizes that Kyra is not where he left her. Awesome but to get this thrill, there is  too long a wait reading through slow moving story..


Let us say 6/10


–  – Krishna


Book: The Name of the World by Denis Johnson

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:18 pm

imageThis is a small book indeed. After reading it, you are really glad that it is small.


The story is about a univ professor, who works in the university after  a stint in politics with a senator. His wife died four years ago, but in parties they always keep trying to pair him with someone his age who is single. He never is interested. Ho hum so far. You hope it will get better but your hopes are trashed.


The book wanders around his acquaintances and the colleagues and how he goes to find a lady called Flower Cannon  to ask a question and finds her, half naked,  shaving her pubic hair in front of the whole class with an instructor watching, ostensibly a part of an “art lesson”.


The plot is nonexistent and the story, if there is one, wanders. He meets a fellow professor who talks about his divorce because his wife has run off. He meets Flower Cannon again  who seems to enjoy doing nude shows and gets prizes. He finds that his teaching contract is not being renewed.


Does all this look like a coherent story to you? It sounds totally disjointed to me. He falls in love with Flower and chases her to her house, which is an abandoned school.  (What?)  Learns that her mother was a prostitute. Where is all this going? Weird.


Then she says her name and he gets weird and runs away, but not before breaking the window of an expensive car and getting into a brawl with a bunch of kids. Think it is disjointed enough? Wait. Where does he run to? To war torn middle east as a part of an army unit.


What the hell?


‘And then?’ you ask if at this point you are still awake.  Nothing. That is the end of the story.


Nothing makes sense. 1/ 10


–  – Krishna




November 25, 2018

Book: Warriors of the Storm by Bernard Cornwell

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:50 am

imageContinues the Saxon Series that we have been following : The earlier books in the series are  –   The Last KingdomThe Pale Horseman , The Lords of The NorthThe Sword Song. The Burning LandThe Death of Kings,   The Pagan Lord  and  The Empty Throne


The story continues from where it left off.


When Uhtred sees that the newly built castle by Aethelflad is burning, he takes his army to go and investigate and finds that the castle is intact. He guesses that perhaps the ships are put to fire.


He learns that Haasten whom he had defeated earlier has joined forces with Ragnar Ivarson and the latter has quit Ireland to come and make his kingdom by conquering Britain.


There is a priest who comes with a ragged bunch and claims asylum in Uhtred’s fort in Caester. Uhtred thinks that Ragnall wants Babbenburg. They go meet Ragnall for a parley. Ragnall leaves and Haesten professes conversion to Chrstianity. Uhtred sees through the ruse where Ragnall will return and Haesten delivers Caester to him. While Aethelflad and the priests get taken in, Uhtred proves the treachery and in a fascinating duel with the prince, gets him killed.


Then he completely fools Ragnall by a midnight attack, and grievously reduces his army. He then hears that his daughter Stiorra, who married Ragnall’s younger brother Stygtyrr, is herself under siege and using a captured Danish ship sails boldly into Ireland and captures one of the two enemy ships laying siege to the fortress.


He joins with his daughter and in an explosive scene, takes her as a ‘captive’ to the witch who wants her for Ragnall, and manages to kill her. Amazing story.


When he taunts Ragnall with his victories, he gets himself cornered in a fort with an overwhelming force of Ragnall around. These scenes remind you why Bernard is a great writer who ups the tension to the maximum before delivering a surprise verdict.


This time though there is no surprise rescue by an ally (Aethelflad for instance) because that would have been too repetitive, there is enough tension, drama and pizzaz to make it a thoroughly satisfying ending. Kudos again to Bernard for delivering a rollicking good read, though this has more fiction in it than usual and in fact almost the entire story is fictional, by his own admission in the epilog.


8 / 10


– – Krishna

Book: Honour Among Thieves by Jeffrey Archer

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:40 am

imageJeffrey Archer is one of those authors whose books you can buy (almost blindly, without even reading the blurb) knowing two things – a) it will entertain  and b) it would be an easy read without taxing your brain too much – ideal for those plane rides where you want to be entertained but without too much education!


This one will reward you for those beliefs. It falls neatly into that pattern. Let us look at the story.


Antonio Cavalli meets Hamid Al Obaydi, a deputy ambassador from the Middle East. The latter promises to pay 10 million by next day for a 100 million job. Scott Bradley is a lecturer. He gets a special mission. Hannah, a model like beauty joins Mossad because her whole family was killed by Scud missiles.


Al Obaydi delivers the advance in a secret meeting.


A small girl who is the daughter of a famed plastic surgeon is kidnapped and used as a pawn for him to perform a surgery on someone to look exactly like someone else. However, after the surgery, the daughter is killed.


Bill, known as Dollar Bill, is a master forger and is commissioned to make a fake of something mysterious, and is given everything he is asked for.


The President’s duplicate successfully passes muster in a public show and in the meanwhile Hannah is asked to go undercover as an Arab secretary in Paris.


Meanwhile Saddam reveals the plan to steal the Declaration of Independence, and burn it publicly on a July 4. The movie shot plan to hoodwink the duplicate into the museum is proceeding, not without some glitches. (A drunk counterfeiter, traffic jams etc). At this point you know who Al Obaydi is working for and who the plastic surgeon is blackmailed to work on.


They manage to extract the document after feigning the fake President’s heart attack.


Al Obaydi in the meanwhile traps Cavelli with pictures, insuring against a betrayal or failure since he has already paid a million dollars out of the hundred million. Meanwhile Hannah falls in love with Simon Rosenthal as the professor calls himself. Then she poisons him suspecting him to be a spy for Iraq and is devastated to learn the truth just before he collapses. She now has only one purpose: to assassinate Saddam by herself, as a revenge for her lover being killed.


The White House discovers the theft by the late vigilance of the Archivist who was duped by the duplicate President. Meanwhile, Al Obaydi realizes that for all the work he did, all the credit went to Saddam’s brother and he has been totally ignored. In addition, the CIA has got hold of the safe and takes it to Iraq as if they are the installers, Scott among them.


Hannah finally gets to meet Al Obaydi, the first step towards meeting and killing Saddam. The forger is now recruited by the American government to create yet another perfect replica of the Declaration of Independence.


Cavelli and his father grow suspicious when Dollar Bill disappears before they can get to him to fix him for good. Al Obaydi is arrested upon his triumphant return and charged with treason. When the Americans reach Baghdad, their treachery has already been discovered and they seem to walk straight into a trap, totally unsuspicious.


The cat and mouse games of ‘real’ and ‘fake’ declarations going in and out is a nice sequence of twists. Of course, if you put the reality filter the whole thing is quite absurd but you do not view books like this from that perspective. You go along for the ride. Remember our first discussion above?


They manage to get out with the death of everyone but Scott and Hannah and finally figure out that the ‘original ‘ declaration that they saved is also a fake!


The ending is cute with snippets of what happens. Nice book. Unbelievable story as all the stories from Jeffrey Archer are, but enjoyable.




J   – – Krishna

November 17, 2018

Book: God’s War by Kameron Hurley

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:12 pm

imageWhat the hell is this? This lives up to all my beef about science fiction which runs amok. Essentially, the start is weird, the characters weird, the storyline weird. All the way through.


Nyx has sold her womb and seems to be on the run from “her sisters”. She hitches a ride with a cart pulled by cats which are as big as horses. Heard enough? Me too, almost, but I decided to plough on.


The story goes in the same vein where Nyx loses her womb. She sells its contents because she is in the smuggling business. Her blood sisters are after her and everywhere there are worms and insects. There are huge mutant bugs as big as dogs, hissing at people. Light is always given by glow worms which can be controlled to dim and brighten if you know magic. All people have bugs trailing them (spiders on hems or other bugs from everywhere). There are tons of lesbian relationships though the setting is Islamic and Arabic mostly. There is discussion of dark skinned and light skinned races.


In all totally stupid and meaningless. Wait, I forgot to tell you that all instruments are organic. Made of living tissue. What is the central theme that runs through all this? Nothing at all. It is a lot of verbal flood put down on paper while it occurs to the author I think, with no thought of sequencing of explaining the background. Perhaps during a feverish delirium because otherwise there will be some order in the thoughts.


God is mentioned as an afterthought and there is no sign of war. So why the title?


Nyx and a black boy called Rhys wander around everywhere doing practically nothing of import. Rhys is abused because of his skin colour and is unemployable and only Nyx will keep him. Now, the Queen calls Nyx for an errand and they go to the capital Mushtallah. Meet the Queen who has taken over from the old queen, who had abdicated for reasons unknown.


They smuggle themselves into Chenja as corpses. Then survive a standoff with the army. Then she gets kidnapped and her fingers cut off. Apparently she can get them all back in that world. It is brutal, violent, gritty but it is all done in a crazy bad way. You don’t get into the minds of the characters at all.


As if this is not enough, Nyx gets kidnapped and they cut off her fingers and try to kill her brutally. Apparently in their world of trained bugs, you can re-grow any organ within limits. Nyx lost an ear earlier and ‘got it back’ ; go figure. She is rescued by Anneke and Rhys with Khos, all part of her team


Taite is held by her enemies but her sister Inaya, a shape changes like Khos, turns into a bird and flies to Chenja. Khos sends message about the plans of his enemies and Rhys gets a transcript but gets immediately captured. The last few pages where they go to confront the evil magicians and bel dames are very good. But too little too late and the book leaves you feeling underwhelmed.




– – Krishna

Book: Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands by Nancy Ortberg

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:06 pm

imageThe cover design and the title are the two things that attracts you to the book. Unfortunately, those are the only two things nice about this book. It purports to be a leadership book – nonfiction, and helps you understand the qualities of developing leadership and the traits that make up a leader – at least from the excellent cover and the blurb but does nothing of that sort. Nancy Ortberg is on a different track altogether.


She thinks “leadership” is great and anyone can go grab it. She also thinks that platitudes and many “mother and apple pie” type of homilies make up a leadership book. There is religion mixed in heavily. I have nothing against religious beliefs per se but mixing in God at every second sentence in a book about teaching leadership grates heavily.


Consider this advice for a sample. Have enthusiasm even at 93 years of age – is that leadership? Have a mission statement and breathe it in every step of the way – leadership? Do things well – leadership? Take God’s help – leadership? Don’t know where this one is going.


The next chapter talks about making the team enthused about the vision through concrete experiences which is relevant and makes you think that finally the author is on track to deliver what was promised.


Alas the description is over the top with gushing wonder at how great a group of maintenance workers ‘got’ the vision. And still “leaders” seem to know what to do, as if that is a separate species, away from the worker bees that fill the factory. Very condescending tone all around.


She talks of stone ships – improper methods of leadership which do not work and how to avoid them. She also talks of slowing down to help others develop leadership skills and quotes a scene from Seabiscuit, the movie, as an example.


She talks about recognizing ‘what needs to be managed vs what needs to be solved’. A very good point, proving that this book is not without merit completely. But much of it is mom and pop psychology with weak examples raved about and little common thoughts held up as example of leadership. The leaders seem to be breed apart from the simply led, and ‘have it in them to lead’. Hmmm.


A very boring book on leadership filled with obvious facts, with a few nuggets of new information. You can skip this safely and not lose a whole lot of perspective or learning.


2/ 10

– – Krishna

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