Sunday, 4 November 2018

Review: The Lord of Stariel

The Lord of Stariel The Lord of Stariel by A.J. Lancaster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aspects of this book (magical connection to the estate; incipient romance between lord and servant) reminded me of Robin McKinlay's Chalice , though this one has a much more down-to-earth, less lyrical and mystical tone. Even in the pre-release version I got from Netgalley for review, it was well-edited, with very few issues.

I do have to say that I spotted the villain very early on; it was pretty obvious who had what to gain from the chain of events. It was also obvious to me who was going to be chosen as Lord of Stariel, more for plot-related reasons than anything else. However, there were a couple of plot twists later on that more or less made up for it.

For a reluctant protagonist, Hetta does very well, taking on what has to be taken on with determination and competence. The secondary characters, their interactions and conflicts, are all well depicted, the magic is fresh, and despite the obviousness of some parts of the plot, I enjoyed the journey and would happily pick up a sequel.

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Review: The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kelly is a techno-optimist, and while I am too, I'm not quite as unflaggingly rose-coloured-glasses as he is (at least in this book). I think he occasionally tips over into naivite, in fact, particularly when he minimises the dangers of bad actors and misinformation. (To be fair, the book was written before Brexit/Trump, and we were all more optimistic in those long-ago days of 2015.)

He is, though, an insightful commentator on technology, particularly internet technology and the various social changes that arise from it, and the book is well worth reading - as long as you apply a bit of a discount to the optimism. He divides the book into sections covering various trends he observes developing and accelerating, like sharing, remixing, filtering, and tracking; illustrates them clearly, in straightforward, engaging prose; and makes some predictions, which, like all predictions, should be taken with salt, but which are mainly intended to be thought-provoking rather than necessarily accurate in every detail.

The overall theme is: the world is changing, and if we understand how it is changing, we'll be better positioned to make the best of it. I think this is a sound thesis, and he illustrates it well and argues it (for the most part) convincingly.

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Review: The Flowers of Vashnoi

The Flowers of Vashnoi The Flowers of Vashnoi by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm nearly at the point of giving up on Bujold's new work. It's mostly in the form of novellas, which lack much development, particularly of the plot. This one, in particular, is quite linear: problem is discovered, problem is... not really solved, or resolved, but moved one step towards resolution with a lot remaining up in the air.

The wit and competence of the characters is no longer enough by itself to keep me engaged.

The voice work in the audiobook is by Grover Gardner, who seems to do all the Bujold audiobooks. Normally he does an excellent job, but in this one, it was occasionally unclear to me whether a character was speaking aloud or reflecting silently, and in one scene, it was hard to tell which character was talking at times. He also misplaced sentence emphasis slightly now and again.

Overall, then, this was mediocre for me, and I'd suggest it as for completists only.

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