Saturday, January 23, 2016

Book Review- Lord of All Things by Andreas Eschbach

Ten-year-old Hiroshi Kato has had the idea of a lifetime. He's figured out that the secret to making everyone rich. But he can't even tell his only friend, Charlotte, the French Ambassador's daughter, or else his vision will be warped or misused. He has to wait until he can make it happen.
Through an education at MIT and into his adult years, Hiroshi works tirelessly towards his vision, coming in and out of contact with Charlotte and powerful people who don't understand his goal. The concept of rich and poor is too ingrained for many to get what he's working towards. Even Charlotte has her doubts, and she follows her own interests, namely a project to locate the very first human race.
Their dreams and lives intertwine as Hiroshi creeps closer and closer to creating a new world where everyone is rich. But is that dream really reachable, or will human nature always be in the way?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from
They are just children when they first meet: Charlotte, daughter of the French ambassador in Japan, and Hiroshi, a laundress's son. One day in the playground, Hiroshi declares that he has an idea that will change the world. An idea that will sweep away all differences between rich and poor.

When Hiroshi runs into Charlotte several years later, he is trying to build a brighter future through robotics. Determined to win Charlotte's love, he ressurects his childhood dream, convinced that he can eradicate world poverty by pushing the limits of technology beyound imagination. But as Hiroshi circles ever closer to realizing his vision, he discovers that his utopian dream may contain the seeds of a nightmare–one that could obliterate life as we know it.

Crisscrossing the globe, from Tokyo to the hallowed halls of MIT to desolate Arctic islands and Buenos Aires and beyond–far beyond–
Lord of All Things explores not only technology's dizzying potential, but also it's formidable dangers.

Technology is simply terrifying, when you think about it. Hiroshi has nothing but faith in it, and that faith permeates his journey in this book. A deep interest in robotics will serve as his foundation for the vision of a perfect world where everyone is rich. Robots will one day be able to provide people with all they need, so everyone can do whatever he wishes. His vendetta against the gap between rich and poor serves as his drive, but it's never a violent dream. Hiroshi is driven, level-headed, and focused-- all traits that set him apart from many of the people around him. His selflessness contrasts wonderfully with many of the people he finds himself near.

This may be the trickiest part of this review. Eschbach originally wrote this novel in German, so the version I had through Audible is translated. That said, this book was beautifully crafted, rich and interesting from the very beginning. With all that Hiroshi studies, it would be easy to get bogged down in the technical advances and thought processes that hold up his vision, but that never happened. I was never lost, even as the subject matter grew further and further from my own comfort zone. There was even a moment that was so beautifully written and heartfelt that I was nearly in tears.

My Thoughts
From the beginning, I was deeply interested in this book. Eschbach did a wonderful job teasing Hiroshi's plan to the reader and then withholding the logistics until the right moment. In fact, that sort of tantalization was well exercised across the whole book. But I loved the time I had to go through Hiroshi's youth before ever learning what his plan was. It actually gave me time to go along with him and eventually come up with a guess as to what his plan really was.
I wasn't far off, and I think many readers would come to similar or close guesses themselves. It was an exciting reveal for me, and even better, I got to continue the book and see how Hiroshi worked to make things happen.
Eschbach appeared to have really though of everything with his novel. Different ramifications of the technological advances Hiroshi makes are explored. People wants to use things their own way. He even explores alien involvement and prehisotric history. There's so much in this book that I almost can't fathom it all. It was, in short, a work of art, and one I plan to reread for the rest of my life.

Would I Recommend This Book? Highly. This book was intelligent without being arrogant, intriguing without being snide or gloating about withheld secrets, and just plain beautiful to read (or have read to me in audio). I give Lord of All Things (Herr Aller Dinge) a sticky-fingered 5 of 5 stars.

For more on the author, visit (You may have to translate the webpage).

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Book Review- SPQR 1- The King's Gambit by John Maddox Roberts

Decius Caecilius Metellus The Younger, young government lawkeeper in Rome, has just had a murder occur in his district. Life in Rome is dangerous, even in the glorius days of the Forum, but this is out of the norm. Decius uncovers corruption in the government-- aside from the usual bribery common to Romans-- and investigates, only to have two more murders occur right under his nose. That's not even counting the intrusion in his home, which resulted in his being attacked and robbed. Is Rome falling apart around him, and if so, is the government actually behind it?
That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from
In this Edgar Award nominated mystery, John Maddox Roberts takes readers back to a Rome filled with violence and evil. Vicious gangs ruled the streets of Crassus and Pompey-- routinely preying on plebeian and patrician alike. So the garroting of a lowly ex-slave and the disembowelment of a foreign merchant in the dangerous Subura district seemed of little consequence to the Roman hierarchy. But Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger--high-born commander of the local vigiles -- was determined to investigate. Despite official apathy, brazen bribes and sinister threats, Decius uncovers a world of corruption at the highest levels of his government that threatens to destroy him and the government he serves.

This was unlike any murder mystery I've read before, largely due to the period it's set in. I haven't come across much fiction set in ancient Rome, and I was highly intrigued by how unusual it was for me. I love the period, and it shattered my usual ideas of what a murder mystery is. The culture is different and interesting, giving lots of little details to the crime that would not make it possible in another setting. It was brilliantly done.

Roberts's style didn't grab me, really. It didn't get in the way of the narrative, but I wasn't able to sink into it like I can with some other authors. It wasn't particularly good, bad, strong, weak, or anything, really. The prose didn't get in the way of the story by any means, but I don't feel like it was a great compliment, either. Roberts writes well, but it's not a style I would remark on to others.

My Thoughts
I liked this book, though it didn't grab me the way I thought it would. I was interested, and I liked the characters well enough (particularly Decius) but I never felt like I was fully drawn in. I always felt like an outsider looking in, which wasn't bad, really. But it wasn't the best way to consume a book. I never really got into the whole mystery reader deal, where I start trying to guess the murderer, either. The book led me along, and I followed, not dragging but not rushing forward, either. It was highly interesting, but not a driving force. I'm in no rush to read the next book, but I think sometime in the future, I may pick it up out of curiosity. It's a comfortable sort of book, one to settle in with when you're looking for a mental stimulation but you have the time to relax.

Would I Recommend This Book? Sure! If you like a good mystery but want something out of the norm, this is definitely a book for you. If you're interested in the Roman Empire, this is great fiction for you. It was a far cry from what I normally read, but I enjoyed it. I give SPQR 1: The King's Gambit a patrician 4 of 5 stars.

For more on the author, visit

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Triple Book Review- The Titanic Trilogy by Gordon Korman

The Titanic Trilogy: Unsinkable, Collision Course, and S.O.S. by Gordon Korman

An Irish runaway down on his luck. The daughter of an Earl. A stoker's son. The daughter of a suffragette. These people, for various reasons, have found themselves aboard the R.M.S. Titanic, on the maiden voyage none of them know will be historic. This journey to America is going to change all their lives. Some look promising, some devastating.
And some don't look like they'll survive. Someone else is on the ship with them: Jack the Ripper himself.

That's my summary. Here's the ones I pulled from
Unsinkable- The Titanic is meant to be unsinkable, but as it begins its maiden voyage, there's plenty of danger waiting for four of its young passengers. Paddy is a stowaway, escaping a deadly past. Sophie's mother is delivered to the ship by police - after she and Sophie have been arrested. Juliana's father is an eccentric whose riches can barely hide his madness. And Alfie is hiding a secret that could get him kicked off the ship immediately.
The lives of these four passengers will be forever linked with the fate of Titanic. And the farther they get from shore, the more the danger looms. . . .
Collision Course- The Titanic has hit the high seas--and moves steadily toward its doom. Within the luxury of the cabins and the dark underbelly of the ship, mysteries unfold--a secret killer who may be on board, a legacy that may be jeopardized, and a vital truth that will soon be revealed. For Paddy, Sophie, Juliana, and Alfie, life on the Titanic brings both hiding and seeking, as their lives become irrevocably intertwined.

And then, of course, an iceberg appears, and the stage is set for the final scene.

S.O.S.- The Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable - the largest passenger steamship in the world, one of the biggest and most luxurious ships ever to operate.

For Paddy, Sophie, Juliana, and Alfie, the Titanic is full of mysteries - whether they're to be found in the opulent first-class cabins and promenade decks or the shadows in the underbelly of the ship. Secrets and plans are about to be revealed - only now disaster looms, and time is running out. The four of them need to find the truth, unmask the killer...and try not to go down with the ship.

If you don't know about the Titanic, something's wrong. Go look up your history. For the rest of you, what more context do you need?

Korman's style is simple and plain, very clean and direct. He doesn't mince words or overdescribe. But he doesn't oversimplify, either. He's precise, which can come across as clipped, but mostly, it just makes for quick storytelling. He doesn't get flowery or distracted, which I, as a writer, can struggle with, so I respect that. He tells the story without wandering. That makes these books very short, which is why I'm reviewing them all together.

My Thoughts
I listened to these books through, and the narrator was brilliant. The plot is tight and well-woven. The pacing is quick, so each of these books is about 3-3.5 hours each. Easy listening. Had I been reading, easy reading. These grab the reader and don't let go. I did have a tiny bit of issue telling the two girls, Sophie and Julie, apart at the beginning, but that went away fast. They defined themselves and kept to their definitions. And despite the short length of the books and the fairly large cast, everyone had attention paid to them. I could see the character development. I didn't feel like anyone in particular got shafted or left out. And even though Paddy is clearly the driving force behind the whole trilogy, he doesn't get that much special attention. He's at the center of the wheel, but he's still part of the tapestry. Everything would have fallen apart without any one of the characters.
I loved the addition of the Jack the Ripper mystery to the Titanic story. I thought it was brilliant, or else this could easily have been just another "THE SHIP IS SINKING WHAT DO WE DO?!" story. Korman nailed this journey with that subplot addition. It turned a disaster book into a pursuit book, and I think it was brilliant. It certainly grabbed my attention.
That said, I don't think it should have been three books. Korman could easily have combined them into one book and been done with it.

Would I Recommend This Book? Sure, with reservations. Personally, I felt that releasing this as three books rather than one was an attention/cash grab, though I suppose the prices would all add up to the same amount. I guess it's just the consumer in me, but having this trilogy be three books feels like a waste. However, ignoring that, this is a fun, suspensful, engaging story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I give The Titanic Trilogy a sinking (yeah, I went there) 5 of 5 stars.

For more information on the author, visit

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Review: Lock In by John Scalzi

Twenty-five years ago, a disease that came to be known as Haden’s Syndrome left a large chunk of the world’s population trapped in their heads in bodies that didn’t work. Now, advances that allow Hadens sufferers to inhabit and control mechanical bodies have become so commonplace that it’s not a novelty anymore. The poster child for early Haden’s research, Chris Shane, has grown up and become an FBI agent. Shane, moving about in a personal transport vehicle, or “Threep”, is on the case of a murder. To add to the drama, a new bill has passed defunding all government assistance to Hadens sufferers. With all the protests, walk-outs, and societal issues coming to light, will Chris be able to get to the bottom of this unexplained murder? Maybe it is just the suicide it looks like. Or is it connected to Hadens somehow? 

That's my summary. Here's the ones I pulled from
Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four per cent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.
New technologies emerge to help those who suffer from the condition—a virtual reality network and a system of “riding” in the bodies of other individuals—which are quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse…

As mentioned in the “real” synopsis of the book, the onset of Hadens is fifteen years from now, or in the case of when the book was published, fifteen years from 2014. Set the action of the book 25 years after that, and we’re only in the year 2054. So this is set in the future, but a future we can expect to see. I’ll only be 70 in 2054. It’s kind of weird for me to think of, actually. But the semi-close time frame, only decades from now, makes Lock In seem all the more plausible. It’s presented as a police procedural, which is brilliant. I didn’t even notice that, honestly. I’m not going to say I hate police procedurals, because I don’t. I just don’t have a lot of experience with them, so I took it as a genre I’m familiar with: science fiction. As that, it’s a great novel. I would’ve just called it a science fiction mystery… until I was looking for a proper summary and saw the PP genre attached to it. Oh, that makes sense.

You can find my style commentary of Scalzi in my review of Redshirts here.

I do, though, want to expound on that a little. In that review, I harp on what I call the “Said Problem.” In short, it’s when an author only uses the “said” dialogue tag, or occasionally uses “asked.” In Redshirts, it grated on my mind and, I think, on Wil Wheaton’s patience and voice. Well, I listened to Lock In through, and like Redshirts, it was narrated by Wil Wheaton.

I didn’t notice the Said Problem in Lock In, thank God. I think in one short conversation, I noticed a few “saids”, which reminded me of the pain it was to listen to Redshirts, but then the issue passed. It wasn’t a glaring problem here, and I’m glad for that.

My Thoughts
I loved this book. I don’t really do police procedurals, mostly because I don’t run across many that sound intriguing. I think I may have to look into them a little more, just out of curiosity. My only reservation is that they won’t be as cool as Lock In was. I’ll admit, despite the introduction to Haden’s in the form of a short history lesson in the prologue, I didn’t really get what was going on. I picked it up more and more as the novel progressed, and that was wonderful. By the time the book really got going, I was fully sunk into the future Scalzi created. It was masterfully done, his throwing the reader into the time and then reaffirming it bit by bit in the narrative. I was drawn along with Chris, I was intrigued and concerned about the other characters, the situation, the issues, and the divides in society between the Hadens and non-Hadens. It’s not an overly glaring issue in every day life, or between people, really. It’s an idealistic thing, mostly brought about by the passing of the policy at the onset of the story. But even that is a background issue to the main activity, and that’s Chris’s job. It didn’t make things more pressing, per se, but it did make things more inconvenient for Chris on more than one occasion. The climax and wrap-up of the plot were satisfying and surprisingly quick. I actually didn’t mind that the story ended as fast as it did once the big bad was caught. Okay, that’s a spoiler. They catch the bad guy. Are you really surprised?
As great as the story itself was, the real gem was the novella at the end, an oral history of Haden’s Syndrome. In the audio version, it’s done with multiple voice actors, and I thought it was a great addition to the story, showcasing the real thought Scalzi put into this novel. I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked at its existence, considering the three codas at the end of Redshirts, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was there. In form from the audio, it reminded me of World War Z, just how the history is told through recollections, reports, memoirs, and interviews with different people involved in different stages of the history. This oral history brought forth scientists, developers, victims, sufferers, early test subjects, everything to give real perspective to this fictional disease and the research involved in human development in coping with it. Basically, don’t stop when the story is over. Read this novella (or listen to it). It made me feel like this was really a possible future I was hearing the history of.

Would I Recommend This Book? Highly! Lock In was engaging, enthralling, and it carried me right along every step of the way. Questions I had were addressed, as if Scalzi really thought of everything. Oh, I’m sure there is a hole or two, but I didn’t notice anything, and even if I had, I’d still be happy with this book. It’s one I do think I’ll read/listen to again now and then. What’s interesting is there are actually two versions on audible. There’s the Wil Wheaton narration, and then there’s the version narrated by Amber Benson. If I hadn’t known this going into it, I doubt I would have noticed that Chris’s gender is never revealed. I want to listen to the Amber Benson version sometime, out of curiosity, to see if it changes my perception of the story itself. I’ve heard her version is good. I’m just a Wheaton fan, so I picked his to listen to. I’m rambling a little, so I’m going to close it now. I give Lock In a bedridden 5 of 5 stars.

For more information on the author, visit