Review: Hugh Howey – Sand (2014)

Sand Hugh HoweyJust like, Wool, Hugh Howey‘s novel Sand is set in a post-apocalyptic scenario. And that’s about all, that the settings of these two novels have in common. While in Wool the people live in an enclosed and strictly regulated environment the opposite is true for Sand: The world has turned into a desert, everything is buried in sand, sometimes hundreds of meters deep. (The novel uses the metric system! I only just noticed.) This makes water a rare commodity: deep wells have to be dug and the sand that keeps blowing in from the east has to be constantly removed to keep the water accessible.

A special, rather fantastical element in my opinion, of the novel’s world-building is “sand diving”. “Talented” people wearing dive-suits and air-supply tanks with visors that allow them to see below the sand, are able to dive underground as if they were diving through water. The technology behind this is just some magic wand waving and I have know idea how this is supposed to work or even how this could work, but the idea is pretty cool.

The novel focuses on the siblings of a family: Palmer, the eldest son, Vic, his sister, and his younger brothers Conner, an adolescent, and Rob, a twelve-year-old. When their father left the family to hike east in search for a better life, their mother was left without a means to support the family and they became poor. The novel is set 12 years after the father left the family.

The book starts off with Palmer: He’s taken a dive job with his friend Hap that’s supposed to pay a full month’s wage in just two days, and everyone with half a brain should know, that there’s something going on here. Not so Hap and Palmer. They are led to a secret camp where they are asked to dive down very deep, several hundred meters, further than they ever went, to search for an ancient buried city: Danvar.

The story-telling is exciting and the characters are well-thought out, believable and interesting. Still, Sand isn’t as good as Wool. This doesn’t mean that Sand is not a good novel. It is. It’s just not as amazingly awesome as Wool.

Why do I feel this way about Sand? I believe there are two reasons for this. Firstly, there are a lot of small things that felt illogical to me. Most of them I can’t mention as they would be spoilery, but there’s one example that comes to mind: The novel is set in a desert. It’s very dry there and water has to be rationed. But old bread gets moldy… (That does not make sense. It should have just dried out…) I know, this is a tiny thing, but there were several things that had me think “Huh? How’s that possible/ going to work?” like that one did. Secondly (and more importantly), the ending felt rushed. Some things were resolved in a boom-bang kind of way, but several strands remained loose. I believe a better ending could have been possible for this novel, so I am a somewhat disappointed by the ending. It’s still a good read, and I recommend reading Sand, especially if you like post-apocalyptic settings.

Disclaimer: I got a free digital review copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley.


Review: Terry Pratchett – Snuff (2011)

SnuffSnuff is a Discworld novel featuring Sam Vimes. Sam Vimes is one of my favorite Discworld characters, so I was pretty sure I would like this book, and I did! It’s a very well-written, neatly plotted and angry book. It felt very angry, indeed. I never noticed this before in Pratchett‘s Discworld novels (maybe with Monstrous Regiment being a notable exception), but then I have aged significantly since I started reading Discworld novels and I wouldn’t have noticed such things as a thirteen-year-old.

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Review: Hugh Howey – Wool

Rating: a very engaging read, good characters

Wool-Hugh HoweyWool by Hugh Howey has a post-apocalyptic setting: Something has happened to life on Earth so that the biosphere is gone and life on the surface of the planet is no longer possible. Toxins poison the air, the land is a lifeless desert. At the edge of a former city (identity unknown) a couple of thousand survivors live in a well-planned and well-organized silo. The event (what kind of event is unknown) that made life “outside” on the surface of the planet impossible is long forgotten: the novel shows the life of people possibly removed by centuries from whatever did happen.

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Reading Update: New Books and Reading Progress 10-21-2014

During the past couple of weeks I have read some books (surprise!) and I also got a couple of new books from the library.

New Books.

Three library books:

library books drei fertigMy library does not keep the dust jackets, so there’s not much to look at here. The only book that looks nice without it is Shift.

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: I love Neil Gaiman‘s writing, but strangely I am not addicted to his writing. So every few years I feel this itch of “it’s about time to read a Neil Gaiman book”. And when I have to scratch it, well, then I usually find one that I haven’t read. This half-decade’s pick is The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Also, it’s Halloween season!
  • Snuff by Terry Pratchett: I’ve been a fan of his Discworld series for almost twenty years (nineteen, to be exact). Somehow, I missed this novel. It’s publication must have coincided with the birth of one of my kids. It’s a Nightwatch novel that has Sam Vimes going to the country.
  • Shift (Silo #2) by Hugh Howey: Reading Wool (Silo #1) is so much fun, I need to have part two of the series, so I can continue reading it, if I feel I must. (Although, technically, Shift is the prequel to Wool, reading it will definitely be interesting.)

One digital review copy:

  • Sand Hugh HoweySand by Hugh Howey (from the book’s UK-publisher, Random House UK, Cornerstone via NetGalley): I saw this on NetGalley and thought “My request to review this book will be denied, but I’ll request it anyway.” and the novel’s publisher was so nice as to grant my request. This leaves me with a total of two Hugh Howey novels to read.

Those are all books that I am excited about and I am just a bit worried that I am overloading myself. I will not buy, borrow or request any additional books until I have read at least three books from my TBR-pile.

Reading Progress.

I am still reading Neil Clarke‘s Upgraded Anthology. I am upgradedenjoying it, but my progress is slow. There are 26 stories in that book and I read it one story at the time. I can’t read it all in one stretch: That would result in cyborg story overload. I will eventually finish this anthology and write up a review then. (How does one review an anthology, I wonder?)

Wool-Hugh HoweyIn novel reading, I am not reading anything in parallel at the moment (apart from the anthology): I am reading Wool by Hugh Howey. It’s good. Wool is one of those books that grabs me and makes me want to read and read and read, and not stop. I expect to finish it soon. A review will be up either this week or next week.




Review: Iain M. Banks – The Player of Games (1988)

the player of gamesThis is one of the top books that I have read this year! Really, it’s so good, it shares the top spot for best books read by me in 2014 with Ann Leckie‘s Ancillary Justice.

The Player of Games is one of Bank‘s Culture-novels. The Culture is a very advanced galactic civilization of “humans” and intelligent machines (drones and starships) who form an absolutely free society. It seems, nobody has to do anything (e.g. work), there’s no money or personal property, at least not in the way that we (here on earth have it). Accordingly, citizens of The Culture have a lot of free time which they fill with all kinds of amusements such as parties, hanging out with friends or playing games in competitions. The protagonist is Gurgeh, one of the best and most successful game players of The Culture. As he plays his games, meets his friends and lives his life, he finds himself increasingly bored by it all.

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Review: Catherine Asaro – Undercity (2014)

Obtained: received digital review copy from the publisher. Thank You Baen!

Undercity is a new novel by Catherine Asaro. She is best known for her successful Skolian Empire series where she expertly blends typical elements of romance novels with science fictional space opera. Undercity is the first novel in a new series which is set in the universe of the Skolian Empire. But while the Skolian Empire series almost exclusively features protagonists who are members of the (very large) royal family of the Skolian Empire, Undercity‘s protagonist is an ex-military private investigator who had to work herself up from the streets.

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Reading update: New books and reading progress 10-05-2014

This is the first post of a new, probably irregularly occurring, feature where I tell you about new books I got and how my reading is getting along.

New books

I recently registered an account at NetGalley. NetGalley is a website where – among others – bloggers can receive electronic advanced reading copies (eARCs) from publishers. Until last week, I never requested a title, mostly because I did not think I’d be granted access to an eARC and I felt that my blog was too new and unimportant. I finally gave it a try last week and requested two titles (and my requests were granted):

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Review: Max Gladstone – Two Serpents Rise (2013)

Two Serpents RiseTwo Serpents Rise is the second published novel in Max Gladstone‘s Craft Sequence. Both setting and characters are unconnected to his first novel Three Parts Dead, but they are set in the same universe. My impression is that Two Serpents Rise could be read as a standalone, but having the background from Three Parts Dead as to how the magic system and the world work might improve the reading experience for Two Serpents Rise.

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Review: Shades of Milk and Honey – Mary Robinette Kowal (2010)

One of Mary Robinette Kowal‘s stories – The Lady Astronaut of Mars – was nominated for and won a Hugo Award this year. I liked the story and so I went ahead to check out more of her work. She is mostly known for her Glamourist Histories series which shares its general setting with Jane Austen‘s novels with magic (=glamour) added in.

Shades of Milk and Honey

Jane Austen‘s work is very popular and many writers have written Austen-themed or inspired novels. Some are great, many are “just” mediocre fan fiction. So what would Shades of Milk and Honey be like? The free kindle sample didn’t convince me that I would like the novel, so I put buying it off. (The e-book price is kind of high for this novel.) A positive review on another blog had me looking for a used copy. A couple of days ago I came across a reasonably priced copy and bought it. It arrived on Saturday, I finished it Sunday night. That’s fast (for me, anyway).

So, what’s the book about?

In the world Shades of Milk and Honey, proper ladies show their accomplishment just like in a Jane Austen novel with the difference that they have the additional option of using glamour/magic for decorating their homes and to be accomplished in. All this accomplishment aims at a single goal: Procure a desirable husband for marriage so as to be provided for and to be happy.

Shades of Milk of Honey shares many features of its set up with Pride and Prejudice. It’s just a little chopped down. Jane Ellsworth, the book’s heroine, has only one sister, but her parents very much resemble Mr. and Mrs. Bennett. Their situation is very similar to that of the Bennett girls: Their father’s estate is entailed away from them and they have to marry to provide for themselves. Jane and her sister Melody don’t get along so well. Jane is 28 years old, very plain, but very accomplished and expects herself to end as an old spinster because she is so unattractive. Her sister is ten years her junior, lacks talent and is very handsome. There’s a lot of sister rivalry going on in the novel as each sister envies the other for her looks (Jane envies Melody) or for her talents (Melody envies Jane).

So we have magic, sisterly rivalry, girls looking for The Future Husband and Bennett-like parents. What about eligible suitors? Possibly to get a better effect from the “sisterly rivalry”, both girls favor the same gentleman, Mr. Dunkirk. He’s not the only eligible man, of course. There’s a naval Captain, too, who seems to be molded on Mr. Wickham from Pride and Prejudice and the extremely talented Glamourist Mr. Vincent might also be eligible. So that’s the set up.

Most developments in the plot were to be expected from the setup. There were a few surprises, but generally there’s nothing spectacular happening. Still, the book was a fun and somewhat romantic read and I couldn’t stop reading after I had started it. The characters were fun and I was curious which sister would get Mr. Dunkirk. Would he love Jane despite her plain looks? I even read at night in bed, which is something I usually don’t do anymore. (Too tired.)

Now I don’t know whether to get the next books in the series as real books or as e-books. What will I do?