Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

Why I read this book?

This was the October from the Sword and Laser Book Club. It was picked since it was the winner of the Hugo Awards in 1953

What's the book about?

On the 24th century murder is no longer an option. Police have telepathic powers and can pretty much know everything that is happening in your head. Ben Reich however, things he can get away with it. Can he hide his thoughts from detective Lincoln Powell?

What about the main characters?

Ben Reich is a egocentric S.O.B that is obsessed on having it all, the biggest company and ll the power it would entitle. He is smart, but he can easily be blinded by his own obsession. Lincoln Powell, a level 1 telepath is very full of himself but with a reason. He is good at what he does and he knows it. He is very given to be overconfident, but he catches up quickly when he "looses" his step.

Final thoughts

First thing I thought about the premise for this book was "isn't this Minority Report?. But as you advance in the book you realize that, although it probably inspired a bit of the movie, is far from being the same story.

I was pleasantly surprised with this book. Not only the story developed in lots of ways I was not expecting, but the characters kept me at the edge of my chair. On a very important note for me, the fact that this book was written in the 50s yet the female characters were not lost damsels in distress (at least not all of them) was very agreeable.

The parts written from all telepath point of view was a bit of challenge at first, in a way that you have to certainly pay attention to the page jumps, but once you get used to it is ok. 

The end was very nice. I liked it a lot, and I was not excepting that resolution. I will say, avoiding any spoilers, that as Reich I was also blinded at the fact that changed the whole outcome (let me know in the comments if this happened to you too)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Why I read this book?

Ever since the book came out I wanted to read it even though it got so many bad reviews from a lot of people. Having it available as an audio book gave me the option to give it a try, without getting the physical book. 

What's the book about?

This book tells us how the lives of several inhabitants of Pagford after Barry Fairbrother, a member of the parish council dies. 

What about the main characters?

This book has several main characters in my opinion; this "main lines" will tell the story of all at the same time. I found both Crystal and Suckhvinder as different as they are, they were very well written, and I could feel for them more than empathy. I had a bit more of a problem sympathising with any of the adults in the book, since they all seemed whiny and funny enough, behave as teenagers as much as the teens themselves. I found Samantha very entertaining, but even then, it didn't fully click.

Final thoughts

I believe that most of the people who were "disappointed" at this book it was because they were expecting something like Harry Potter...and this is so not that type of book.
Now that we have established this, I will tell you that I actually quite enjoyed the book. For a book with so many characters it was easy to follow what was happening to whom. There is a lot of social critic without being a "soap box" book.

Funny enough this book reminded me of Under the Dome, simply because of how a single event modifies so drastically everyone else in a tiny town. In a way the people of Pagford are also under a bubble, except that in this case is of their own construction. 

There were some very crude moments but this brought deeper "humanity" to the characters and by the end the felt quite tangible for me. The end was unexcpeted enough to surprise me, but not out of the blue in a way that would've ruined the whole dynamic of the book for me.

I really enjoyed Tom Hollander as a narrator, his tone is very pleasant and although, as non native speaker, I'm more used to an American accent I had no trouble whatsoever following him.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Curse of Chalion by Louis McMaster Bujold

Why I read this book?

This was the September pick for The Sword and Laser Book Club.

 What's the book about?

The Curse of Chalion is part of the Chalion series and in this book we are introduced to Cazaril, a "knight" that has been stripped of rank, sold to the merchants and that feels like he has lost everything he once was. Coming back to the reign, he enters the service of the House of Chalion and is in charge of Royesse Iselle. Soon enough Cazaril will learn that this task demands more of his body and soul that he ever could've imagine

What about the main character?

Considering Cazaril is the main character, I will say he is a noble man, devoted to his cause. Very smart and yet sometimes naïve. 

However, let me tell you that Iselle was my favorite character by far. I love a good female character, and Bujold did not disappoint me in this case. She is not only strong phisically, but she is smart and proud to be. Take this quote for example:

          Ignorance is not stupidity, but it might as well be. And I do not like feeling stupid

In a world highly dominated by men as Chalion felt, it was very nice to see this young woman prevail and take care of herself.

Final thoughts

This is the first book that I've ever read from Louis McMaster Bujold, but I doubt it will be the last. The world construction was amazing, adding bits of magic without it being overwhelming. I particularly enjoyed the female characters, Beatriz, the Provincara and as I mentioned before, Iselle. I liked how the intrigue built slowly, enticing, while showing was the world of Chalion. 

I particularly liked the religion construction, with all the set of beliefs it involved, very well structured, without being unnecessarily complicated as some books feel to me when they go to polytheism. I am very glad the book club showed me this book.