July 2012

1) At this end of the book, which characters turned out to be your favorites?

Hmm. I rather liked most of them. Stanley and Mr Grout were some of the wackiest. Vetinari is already one of my favorites. Poor hardworking Mr. Pony. I’m a subcontractor, so I know how he feels.

2) We’ve touched on Moist’s character growth throughout the discussion.  How do you feel about him by the end of the story?  Is it significantly different than the beginning, or did anything surprise you?

He turned into a more decent person, just as I expected. It was great that he had to face the consequences of his actions. But he’s still thinking that he’s acting more decent rather than being decent, so I think he still has something to learn. He’s also still an adrenalin junkie although he seems get high from executing complex plans and being the center of attention.

Come to think of it, Guilt seems to be Moist’s mirror image: also a con man but he doesn’t learn.

Both Guilt and Moist are expert at making people believe how and what they say, instead of the truth, even when it’s very obvious what the truth is. This is another commentary about the way today’s big businesses operate.

3) Was there anything you haven’t had the chance to discuss in response to earlier questions?  Call this a “wild card” question. 🙂

The golem subplot was left unresolved but I think that’s intentional.

The situation with the stagecoaches was interesting; the drivers just took over essentially government equipment (the stagecoaches and the horses) and continued the service while making money out of it. It seems that Vetinari either got something out of it or just chose to ignore it for a while.

The epilogue was also interesting and showed the difference between Moist and Guilt.

4) Share your favorite quotes and moments from the final section—or let us know your absolute favorite line.

I really enjoyed the way Vetinari sprang into action. It seems that even though he’s a tyrant (as he says!) even he can’t ignore public opinion.

“Archchancellor Ridcully practiced the First Available Surface method of filing. “ I’m very familiar with it, too.

“This is about words, and how you can twist them, and how you can spin them in people’s heads so that they think the way you want them to. We’ll send a message of our own, and do you know that? The boys in the towers will want to send it, and when people know what it says they’ll want to believe it, because they’ll want to live in a world where it’s true.”

Today the topic of Top 5 Sundays at Larissa’s Bookish Life is Fictional Worlds You’d Love to Live in.

Most of the time it really depends on who I’d got to be. In most fantasy worlds, characters tend to be ok as long as they’re noble and usually male. I also like to have the modern conveniences.

1, Star Trek: The Next Generation
In this world, the average Federation citizen seems to be doing pretty well with holodecks and replicators, and no need to earn money.

2, Amber (by Roger Zelazny)
Provided I get to be one of the few privileged Amberites who can travel into any world and are powerful and immortal.

3, Nexus (by Lois McMaster Bujold)
Like Star Trek, the Nexus world has a lot of planets and cultures to choose from.

4, Discworld
The city of Ankh-Morphok is quite exciting and the innocent bystanders tend to live.

5, Marvel Universe
If I get to have some powers!

A short story collection of Sherlock Holmes pastiches over the years. Many of these have magical or supernatural aspects so Holmes purists will likely not care for them but I liked most of them.

Publication year: 2010
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrators: Simon Vance and Anne Flosnik
Running Time: 21 hrs and 27 minutes

List of the stories:
“A Sherlockiana Primer”, © 2009 by Christopher Roden
“The Horror of the Many Faces”, © 2003 by Tim Lebbon
“The Case of the Bloodless Sock”, © 2001 by Anne Perry
“The Adventure of the Other Detective”, © 2003 by Bradley H. Sinor
“A Scandal in Montreal”, © 2008 by Edward D. Hoch
“The Adventure of the Field Theorems”; © 1995 Vonda N. McIntyre
“The Adventure of the Death-Fetch”, © 1994 by Darrell Schweitzer
“The Shocking Affair of the Dutch Steamship Friesland”, © 2005 by Mary Robinette Kowal
“The Adventure of the Mummy’s Curse”, © 2006 by H. Paul Jeffers
“The Things That Shall Come Upon Them”, © 2008 by Barbara Roden
“Murder to Music”, © 1989 by Anthony Burgess
“The Adventure of the Inertial Adjustor”, © 1997 Stephen Baxter
“Mrs. Hudson’s Case”, © 1997 Laurie R. King
“The Singular Habits of Wasps”, © 1994 by Geoffrey A. Landis
“The Affair of the 46th Birthday”; © 2009 by Amy Myers
“The Specter of Tullyfane Abbey”, © 2001 by Peter Tremayne
“The Vale of the White Horse”; © 2003 by Sharyn McCrumb
“The Adventure of the Dorset Street Lodger”, © 1993 by Michael Moorcock
“The Adventure of the Lost World”, © 2004 by Dominic Green
“The Adventure of the Antiquarian’s Niece”; © 2003 by Barbara Hambly
“Dynamics of a Hanging”, © 2005 by Tony Pi
“Merridew of Abominable Memory” © 2008 by Monkeybrain, Inc.
“Commonplaces” © 2008-2009 by Naomi Novik
“The Adventure of the Pirates of Devil’s Cape”, © 2009 by Rob Rogers
“The Adventure of the Green Skull”, © 2008 by Mark Valentine
“The Human Mystery”, © 1999 by Tanith Lee
“A Study in Emerald”, © 2003 by Neil Gaiman
“You See But You Do Not Observe”, © 1995 by Robert J. Sawyer.

Two of the stories, Gaiman’s and Roden’s are based on the Chtulhu mythos and I enjoyed them a lot. I’ve read Gaiman’s story before and was fascinated by the world building where the nobles are not human but a mix of human and monsters. Queen Victoria is one of the Ancient Ones. In Roden’s story, Watson sees Sherlock Holmes himself committing a murder and finds out that something inhuman is roaming the streets of London

In Anne Perry’s story a child has been kidnapped and then returned without a ransom demand and Dr. Watson is conviced that only Moriarty could do such a thing.

I have an inordinate fondness for alternate universe stories so I was delighted to find that “The Adventure of the Other Detective” is exactly that. Dr. Watson gets lost in a thick fog and returns to 221B Baker Streer where people are somewhat different than whom he remembers them to be. In fact, I wouldn’t mind reading more about the alternate universe characters.

“A Scandal in Montreal” reunites Irene Adler and Holmes, but not as lovers. Irene has been married for decades, to another man, and her adult son is in trouble.

A couple of stories have Conan Doyle as a character and I found that very jarring. Holmes commenting on his author’s habits and gullibility? That’s so wrong.

“The Adventure of the Mummy’s Curse” is fun and deals with Egyptology, as the name implies. I found Holmes’ knowledge about the Egyptology to be a bit out of character, though. A similar thing happened with another story where Holmes is fan of the opera. While Holmes played the violin I don’t remember him being enthusiastic about music in any other way. For example, I don’t remember him admiring famous violinists or opera singers.

Overall, fun stories and mostly enjoyable ones.

1) So far we’ve talked about characters and settings.  What are your thoughts on either the plot or the romance?  Anything surprising, or anything you particularly enjoy?

I’ve enjoyed the plot, but I read mostly for the characters and the setting, anyway. I’m not a romance reader and mostly I read books despite the romance. However, Pratchett romances have often been different from the usual ones (for example, Lords and Ladies has three of them and I rather enjoyed them all). But this time, I haven’t warmed to the romance. It’s been, well, predictable and boring. Our slick hero goes slack jawed in front of the heroine. I’ve seen that before… The bright spot is Dearheart. She’s quite an unusual female character and doesn’t require rescuing or anyone to take care of her.

The journalists are a delight.

The previous section didn’t have as many funny moments as the first one. The funny moments seem to have returned with chapter 11 and Moist visiting Groat in the hospital.

2) Pratchett has used a number of ideas throughout the book as satirical commentary on our society—golem rights, pin collecting, collective responsibility, business corruption…  What have you found the most interesting?

Big business doing what the hell they want. That’s what they do in real life and trampling underfoot all little businesses all the while talking like, well, like Gilt did in the interview. And the way they drove the first owners of the clack network out of the firm – legally!

I’ve enjoyed the pin collecting the most and was a bit disappointed when Stanley found stamps. Although, the way he felt guilty for abandoning pins was very funny. Most of us find new interests in life and sometimes feel a bit guilty for enjoying the new hobby more.

3) And of course, share your favorite quotes and moments from this section of Going Postal!

Moist visiting Grout in the hospital was the return of the funny. Grout’s suspicious attitude towards medicine and his use of folk medicines are funny.

I’m also really enjoying the journalists and the headlines in the newspaper, and the way that the newspaper goads Moist on. Guilt’s little talk with the bankers was quite chilling. I was a bit sorry to see the Post Office burn but Moist’s miracle heist was a stroke of genius. It seems to me that he doesn’t seem to realize the effect he’s having on the people around him. Maybe he hasn’t stayed in one place long enough to see.

Today the topic of Top 5 Sundays at Larissa’s Bookish Life is Fictional Houses You’d Love to Live in.

1, Bag End
I’ve always felt that hobbits’ houses must be very warm and comfortable.

2, Dream’s Castle in the Dreaming
And more specifically the library which contains every book ever written or imagined.

3, The X-Mansion
Goes without saying.

4, The Avengers Mansion
You don’t even have to clean or wash dishes.

5, Enterprise-D
It’s not exactly a house but people live in it. (Enterprise beat Moya and Serenity because of holodecks.)

My newest review: Chicks kick butt, edited by Rachel Caine and Kerrie L. Hughes.

It’s an urban fantasy short story collection. Most of the stories are set in the authors’ respective worlds and presumably with their main POV characters. I’m not familiar with most of the authors.

It was very hard to grade. I really enjoyed a few of the stories and most were ok. However, there was also one story where the plot made no sense but it could be because I’m not familiar with the world.

Booking Through Thursday

Series or Stand-alone?

I read both but most of my favorite books are part of series.

My newest review: Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris’s Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel.

This was a weird book. I throughly enjoyed the first half of it but during the latter fourth, it felt a bit too long and I had serious problems with the ending.

Three stars from five.

1)      Pratchett has done some lavish setting descriptions by now, notably the Post Office but also rooms at Unseen University, and other places around Ankh-Morpork.  What’s your favorite one?

The university had been my favorite until now but the Post Office is now my favorite, with its sea of undelivered mail threating everyone’s health and life.

I also like the witches’ cottages.

2)      In Chapter 7, Moist waxes poetic about the personal nature of letters versus clacks.  This could easily be looked at as email and other on line communication versus paper letters.  Do you agree with Moist, or does he exaggerate?  And just for fun, what’s the best piece of paper mail you ever got?

When we’re talking about print letter/email, mostly I don’t agree. After all, neither have the tone and facial expressions we get when talking face to face (Skype is more personal than an email). Print letter does have personal handwriting which can be either a good or a bad thing (or illegible) so it feels more personal but the sender has to write the email, too.

Yet, on the other hand, if we’re talking about a stock email or email written by a secretary, then of course it’s impersonal. But so are stock print letters. So, the medium doesn’t really make it more or less personal, it’s the content that counts.

I guess I feel that clacks are more like telegrams than email. There you have the clear word count and someone else sending it.

Best piece of paper mail… I love all of the letters and postcards I’ve received from abroad.

3)      Share your favorite quotes and moments from this section of Going Postal.

The moving sea of mail, when Moist is trying to climb up and the glimpse into the past. Those descriptions were just great and lovely.

Since I’m reading the Finnish translation, these are more like paraphrasing back to English:
“Hey buddy, want to see Vetinari’s behind?”

“Mr Hobson, nobody rides out of town faster than I.”

The second book in a duology of dark SF books. The first is Darkland.

Publication year: 2007
Format: print
Page count: 292
Publisher: TOR

Bloodmind has four point-of-view characters who are all written in the first person. They are all women and on different planets. I think Vali is in her thirties but the other two are much older. So, I’d call this book quite a rarity among SF.

Vali Hallsdottir is on her home planet Muspell and her story starts right after Darkland ended. She’s just returned to the headquarters of Skald, the intelligence organization she works for. She’s a assassin for Skald. Someone has just brutally killed Idhunn, Vali’s closest friend and the leader of Skald. Then a Darkland organization called the Morrighanu conquers the Skald’s headquarters. Along with everyone else, Vali is taken prisoner. The Morrighanu probe her mind, essentially mind torturing her. With the help of the selk, Vali escapes. The selk take her to Darkland where the selk want Vali to team up with another Darklander whom we saw in the previous book. The Darklander has his own reasons for helping Vali but doesn’t tell them just yet. Vali agrees, reluctantly.

On Mondhile, an old warrior woman feels that she’s near death and so she leaves her clan for the wilderness. She’s hoping that she will find her long lost sister before she dies and she’s also visiting the Moon Moor. When she was young, she went to the Moon Moor and found a strange, high-tech cave underneath it. The Mondhile clans don’t know much technology and the clans ofter fight each other.

One point-of-view characters simply refers to herself as “I” and the chapter headings don’t give any clue to her identity. She thinks herself as a weapon.

On Nhem, men have genetically engineered their women to not be sentient. However, some women manage to awaken and escape their brutal live. They live away from the male dominated cities, in a small colony called the Edge and from time to time, other women manage to escape and travel there. Sedra is the oldest woman living there and the others treat her as their unofficial leader. She’s starting to feel her age because she can’t do anymore some of the things she used to do.

About four hundred women live in the old city. They don’t know who built it or why the builders left but the city is full of images which might depict tall women, and the current settlers call them the goddesses. They don’t have much technology or medicines and the land isn’t fertile, so living is hard.

The Nhemish women are all short, dark haired and dark eyed. One day, a woman with fair skin and hair comes to them. She has made the same dangerous trek as all the others. Sedra briefly fears that she might be a spy but she is still welcomed to the community.

The conditions that the women used to live in are horrific. Perhaps it’s just good that they can’t remember most of their lives before they became sentient and were able to escape. One woman tells that she remembers that the man of the house (called a House Father) killed his slave woman (you can hardly call her a wife) over a broken cup and the woman’s sons dragged her body out laughing. Some years back it was forbidden by law to give girl children names; now they are named for example Boy-Next-Time and Luck-To-Come. Frankly, if the whole book had been about Nhem I don’t think I could have finished it.

On the other hand, I was fascinated by the concept of people who are sentient only part of the time. With the women in Nhem, some of them can become sentient at some point but were apparently born without it. We get a couple of descriptions of awakening sentience and it doesn’t seem to be something the women themselves do. The women are illiterate and also don’t understand language that the men speak.

On Mondhile, things are somewhat similar. Children are born without sentiense and they are left in the wilderness to fend for themselves at six months old. Around 14, they become sentient by coming near a village and the village’s technological defences somehow trigger it. Also, the Mondhile people have an ability called the bloodmind during which they lose their sentience again for a brief time. This can happen in battle but happens also during a yearly event called the masque. Most of the people don’t have any control over it.

The third example is on planet Muspell. The selk, a sea dwelling people/animals, are sentient only part of the year.

I’m not sure I buy sentience being just an ability that can be turned on and off but it’s a fascinating thought. I’m also not sure that I buy that the women of Nhem can do household chores well without self-awareness. Cooking, for example, would have to be pretty basic and mending clothing would also require knowing what you’re doing. To be fair, what we see women doing is scrubbing floors, serving food, carrying things, and being prostituted.

The atmosphere of the book is somewhat different from the previous book, Darkland, which was a more intimate story of Vali confronting her past and Ruen confronting his present. In Bloodmind, on the other hand, the focus is on the future of several groups of peoples.

The pacing is quick, as is usual with Williams, with chapters alternating between pov characters. But Vali still has time to wonder about the motives of the other characters, not to mention her ancient ancestors who started this genetic experimentation.

The ending is somewhat depressing, for me at least.

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