Book Review: Ancillary Mercy


Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very fitting conclusion to one of my favorite sci-fi series. I know some readers of this series were expecting something more of a grand space opera, with Breq perhaps flying across Radch space to end the wrongs of Anaander Mianaai.

That isn't going to happen here and scope and scale of something so large is unfeasible. Instead the story backs off, and focuses more on the specifics. It is telling Breq's story after all, not the story of the Radch. Through that story we get to see the growth and development of Breq becoming the person that she her self cannot admit that she is. It is that point that the rest of the story hinges upon, and really what so many good sci fi stories do hinge upon. They take a character's personal instances and struggles and extrapolate them out to the broader society in question. In this case that question is, is an AI a "person"? The culmination of this trilogy leads us to that point and question and ends not with the answer, but the posing of the question. Some may find that unsatisfying and to an extent, it is. But we are left with the satisfaction of Breq and her position in the world and that her crew and everyone she comes across does care about her.

I came away incredibly satisfied with Breq as a character and would put her right up there as one of the best written sci fi captains. She is cold, calculating and often times hard on those around her, but incredibly fair. That doesn't mean she isn't emotional. We see quite a bit of emotion internally and it is seen in her actions and care for the citizens of the Radch. She is undoubtedly exactly the type of captain you would want on a military ship and one to lead you into an impossible situation.

I also am completely enamored with the writing of the crew and the Left Lieutenants. It is remarkable to me how much the crew truly cares for their obviously flawed Left Lieutenants. They want to see them succeed in almost every situation. They stand up when need and care for them when it is required. In turn, we see the Lieutenants also reciprocate in their own way. And as always, the propriety of the Radch has captured me to no end. This is a series I would love to see some costume and art designers take a crack at. The gender neutral pronouns used in the culture lend me to believe that this is a society that itself has a gender neutral outward appearance. The descriptions of Radch citizens wearing gloves and jewelry stirs my imagination. Ann Leckie herself has a Q/A post over on Goodreads.com that I will quote.

"...I don't think I've ever said that Radchaai are gender neutral--just that they really don't care about anyone's gender, and don't mark it socially or linguistically... it's not really a thing they care much about. They care about it, maybe, as much as we care about hair color.

[I] think it's worth considering...how much of what we consider to be "obvious" about someone's gender when we look at them is actually a set of social cues. Hairstyle, kinds of clothes, even certain colors of clothing. Ways of standing or moving. These can change from culture to culture, or even from decade to decade (just a couple hundred years ago, high heels and hose were a guy thing. Less than a hundred years ago, pink was a "boy" color.)... And consider that while quite a lot of people will say that one's genitals are the defining element of one's gender, we very rarely see the genitals of the people we quite automatically assign gender to. We're not actually gendering the people around us based on their genitals. We're making assumptions about their genitals based on a complicated mass of social cues."

With that, I will say that I hope we get more from this series and this world and could you please prepare some tea.

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Book Review: The Monsters Know What They Are Doing

The Monsters Know What They're Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters by Keith Ammann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a really hard book to rate. It isn't a book of stories or any narrative really. It is a collection of blog posts that provide a description/recommendation on how to run each monster in D&D. On that front this book is very successful. The insight and writing is very well put together and I really learned quite a bit on how to approach encounters.

The real complaint I have with this book is the formatting and layout. This is really a reference book. Unfortunately, the layout and formatting doesn't lend it to be used as a reference book. The book is laid out in "chapters" and a narrative style. I think if the book was formatted more in a dictionary format, two columns per page and with an in-depth index, this could be infinitely more useful for Dungeon Masters to utilize.

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Book Review: Finder

Finder by Suzanne Palmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really fun read. A fun, light sci-fi adventure following Fergus Ferguson as he finds himself caught up in adventure too large for the likes of him while at the same time only solvable by him.

There is nothing heavy or overly sciencey about this book. It is almost like a pulp fiction novel, putting the sense of fun ahead of any sort of realism. The cast of characters is just as enjoyable as the main character, with people who inevitably end up loving and hating Fergus at the same time. Think of a Han Solo or Rick O'Donnell and everything around that notion. Humor mixed with dumb luck.

If I had any critique of this book, it would be the almost innumerable amount of Deux Ex Machina situations with Fergus and his endless bank account somehow always pulling out ahead. It could have very easily made the book an "eye roller", but somehow Suzanne Palmer is able to make it work and still have the reader rooting for our self deprecating hero through each misadventure. If you can let that go and let the story take you for a ride, you almost have to enjoy this book.

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One Year with the 1250RT

It has been just over a year since I have now had the 1250RT. Just over 11,000 miles now that I have had this bike and I have to say that I have absolutely loved the bike so far. I used to think that My 1200R was going to be the bike that I kept forever, but as you know from my posts last summer, it was just getting to be a bit too uncomfortable with the riding position. I have come to realize that more and more of my riding is long weekend rides and I unfortunately fo not have much opportunity for community on the bike due to my job. 

The amenities that the touring bike has brought have been a surprising and welcome addition that I didn't think I really needed prior to this point. Cruise control alone is worth is the worth the price of entry. It is one of those added additions that I never really thought I would have needed. I am also really enamored with the quick shifting mechanism on the bike. 

Like I said, I have a 11,000 miles on it since I got it last August, which is probably the most miles I have put on a bike in a single year. The most recent 5500 mile certainly helped, but I would not have been able to complete that trip riding the 1200R unfortunately. 

My only real complaint at this point about the bike is that it actually has too much wind protection and I am absolutely roasting on those hot July and August days in the heat.