Book Review — Willful Child by Steven Erikson

Willful ChildWillful Child by Steven Erikson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the craziest thing I’ve ever read.

It’s a wild and zany ride that you should enjoy even if you didn’t come here for the Erikson. (Because hands up, how many of us are already Malazan fans?)

Willful Child is super bizarre and you just have to laugh and keep going. It’s like running downhill too quickly: you can’t stop. You can’t think. You’re having the time of your life, but you just have to keep running and not even think about the possibility of crashing.

There really shouldn’t be much doubt anymore, but I’ll say it again: Steven Erikson can write. This is easily some of the funniest fiction I’ve read in years, and it’s easy to see that he had a fun time writing this book.

The main character is a mix of Tehol from the Malazan Book of the Fallen and the captain from Futurama. (And perhaps Captain Kirk, but I’ve never watched Star Trek: TOS.)

OK, let’s be honest here: it’s basically Tehol in space, so if you liked that humour, pick this book up. Though don’t worry, it’s not so similar that it feels like tired territory.

Much of the book is dedicated to the protagonist’s voice and his lengthy expounding, which is an extremely good thing. He’s the best part about this book, and all the adventures and characters are designed to give him more room to shine.

As we’ve come to expect from Erikson, lying beneath the humour and light tone lies a biting indictment of humanity and society on a variety of topics.

It’s so subtle you’ll almost miss it, and well, I have to admit that I might have done just that.

I have to include a strong caveat about this book here, because I’m sure this will be a big point of contention for Willful Child.

The majority (or if not, at least too much) of the humour is unfortunately sexist. The protagonist is undoubtedly a sexist pig and you really can’t miss this since we are beat over the head with the degradation and objectification of women time and time again.

There might be a line where this could have been passed off as clever satire intended for introspection, but it strays too far down the path of juvenile humour.

Perhaps I’m missing the forest for the trees here and the satire went right over my head…but I can’t deny that the sexism put me off and ultimately kept this from being a 5-star read.

So. Read this if you love Erikson. Read this even if you’re unfamiliar with him. Read this if you love witticism and clever dialogue. Read this if you want to laugh. But fair warning: expect sexism.

Willful Child will be published on November 4, 2015 from Tor Books and can be found at your favourite bookstore.

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Book Review — The Martian by Andy Weir

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Had I read this novel in high school, I certainly would have wanted to work for NASA and study physics in university.

What more can you say about a book that urges you to hit the textbooks harder to be as awesome as the people in The Martian?

This one took a while to win me over, though. It starts off as a slow and incredibly detailed man vs. nature story set on Mars. I had to warm up to it because I wasn’t sure what to think at first, and a one-person story is quite different from my preferred genres of huge casts of characters, intricate and complicated plots, and conflicting relationships.

But then it started picking up. New (and many) problems arise, and the character finds more and more ingenious ways of solving them. More POVs are introduced (which saved the book. It was right when I almost stopped listening). The deeper we get into the book, the more attached we become and it wasn’t too long after that I was completely hooked. I loved the character. I loved the snark. I loved the science. I loved how it felt like I was actually there: on Mars, in mission control, on a spaceship.

The Martian feels like you are reading a thriller, but you get the same satisfaction and learning as you do from a documentary.

I have learned more about chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering, botany, and astronomy from The Martian than I have from all the science I studied in high school,

The end has an extremely uplifting note about humanity and our innate goodness and willingness to come together for a common goal (especially when that goal is science). I’m a grimdark fan, but this gave me butterflies in the final paragraphs. It’s a departure from a bleak worldview that doesn’t hit you over the head with morals or annoyingly good characters.

Overall, I loved this book. If you’re looking for an impressive and accurate take on astronauts and their space-faring adventures and mishaps, I encourage you to read The Martian and to pass it along to a friend who needs to be reinvigorated by the awesomeness that is science.

Does anyone know anything similar set in the wilderness? I’d love to read/learn about woodland survival skills through a book similar to this.

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Book Review — Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga #1) by Lois McMaster Bujold

Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga, #1)Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the longest short book I have ever read.

Shards of Honor is a fun, easy military sci-fi with well-crafted scenes, though severely lacking on the “awesome” factor. I’m surprised how slowly the book moves for how short it is.

The story plods around with no real sense of urgency, which didn’t bother me as much as it should have. Luckily it was only an eight hour audiobook though, because any longer and I think I would have given up.

In many ways, this novel is a giant character set up for the rest of the Vorkosigan Saga. Much of the book is spent in conversation between the two leads and developing their relationship. It’s quite good in this respect, and it’s clear that Lois McMaster Bujold has more than a passing talent for writing.

Speaking of that relationship…I enjoyed the romance sub-plot, but it progressed weirdly quick. The characters meet and start to flirt and then BAM they’re married. Wait, what? Perhaps I have 21st century dating expectations, but while I appreciated the relationship between Vorkosigan and Cordelia, it never felt entirely organic because of how easily they hooked up.

Also, I know this is a small quip to have…but so many characters and places in the book start with the same letter. The two important planets start with a B and three or four main characters have names all starting with V. What the hell? Maybe it’s because I did it in audiobook, but there was confusion aplenty, let me tell you.

Overall, this is a comfortable(ish) read. I might continue with the Vorkosigan Saga since I’ve heard such good things and further, I’ve heard that this novel in particular is weak in comparison to the rest—but I’m not going crazy over it.

Think of a 3-star read and what that means to you. That’s exactly what Shards of Honor is.

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