Archive for fantasy

Sandremonde [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , on January 15, 2022 by xi'an

A somewhat original fantasy book (in French), by Jean-Luc Deparis, found by chance on a shelf of La Case à Bulles bookstore in Cayenne, with a nice if traditional cover, a first half I enormously enjoyed and read within a day!. and a second one less appealing to my tastes and which took me longer to complete, despite eventually skipping some passages… Presumably because this second part involved more magic, [dreaded!] endless subterranean domains, and the unsurprising revelation of a predestination for the central heroine, which was till then doing well by herself, thank you very much. Although with early and heavy hints of a unique destiny. The beginning has flavours reminding me of The Lies of Locke LamoraHobbs’ Assassin series, and the more recent Red/Gray/Holy Sister trilogy. Despite its flaws, the non-magical universe of Sandremonde is fascinating, with an overwhelming Church of monk-soldiers that has the monopoly of (magical) protections and as such promotes or demotes local lordlings… The end is both predictable and of little interest. More editing and advice from the publisher would have considerably improved the outcome. May a prospective second novel by the author keep the imagination and avoids the clichés!

the wisdom of crowds [book review]

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2022 by xi'an

As I had read rather negative reviews of the conclusion to Joe Abercrombie’s trilogy, The Age of Madness, which mixes the fantastic medieval universe of the earlier books with an industrial revolution leading to riots and the eventual overthrow of the aristocratic regime, I started reading the final volume with some worry that I would not enjoy it as much as the earliest masterpieces! However, the worry was not needed as I essentially read the book over two days, being stuck between two invasive neighbours in an eight hour flight being of course a further incentive..! Obviously, the series of trilogies has been going on for way too long and I have lost both track and interest in the genealogies of characters reappearing through them. Still, this conclusion (??) is rather neat, if somewhat less cynical and less brutal than for the others. Except of course that one very central character dies. And that another returns to her earlier self-enrichment tendencies by pretending to turn to charity work… The least cynical character ends up being Vic, the exécuteur des basses oeuvres (similar to Fouché who would end up being Napoleon’s chief policeman). The setting is very close to the French Revolution unraveling, with an out-of-touch aristocracy cannot handle riots fed by terrible working conditions (and fed by competing kingdoms and scheming mages). A first round in a search for a new (parliamentary) Constitution, à la Danton, followed by Terreur, a radical elimination of the State “enemies”, using a Tarpeian Rock rather than a guillotine, and then a successful counter-revolution supported by other states… The cover of the book actually uses a painting from the French revolution. This is however well-rendered, with great characters, little magic if any, and a parallel plot in the North following Rikke’s precarious hold through hilarious never-ending swearing dialogues. And a few unexpected turns. I thus really enjoyed the book. Except for the return of Bayaz which I would have done without as he appears rarely in the story and with no clear purpose.

where the wild ladies are [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , on December 8, 2021 by xi'an

Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda is a winner of  the 2021 World Fantasy Awards (which I bought for that reason!) and a collection of Japanese short stories that bring a new view on some traditional Japanese tales, representing a form of empowerment to the women involved in these. (Not that I knew any of them, which makes reading the new versions missing part of the subtext. Maybe the original version should have been included as well for non-local readers unfamiliar with yōkai stories. The book nonetheless contains detailed pointers to all original tales..) The title is inspired from Maurice Sendak’s Where the wild things are (#16 in Children’s Classics). And there is a short story about it, where the narrator is reminiscing his childhood reading this book while his mother’s lover (and presumably his father) is visiting. The whole collection is very good, with ghosts being almost indistinguishable from the living, sharing most of their concerns and woes, if less constrained by customs and duties. And the living accepting their intermission with no reservation or fright. This permeability of the two worlds reminded me of some Murakami short stories. (While several of the stories are connected, under the hat of a sort of ghost job agency, they can be read independently.) And wish the book would not be labelled as fantasy, given its universal message and its infinite distance from heroic fantasy or horror books.

congrats, Dr. Clarté!

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2021 by xi'an

Grégoire Clarté, whom I co-supervised with Robin Ryder, successfully defended his PhD thesis last Wednesday! On sign language classification, ABC-Gibbs and collective non-linear MCMC. Congrats to the now Dr.Clarté for this achievement and all the best for his coming Nordic adventure, as he is starting a postdoc at the University of Helsinki, with Aki Vehtari and others. It was quite fun to work with Grégoire along these years. And discussing on an unlimited number of unrelated topics, incl. fantasy books, teas, cooking and the role of conferences and travel in academic life! The defence itself proved a challenge as four members of the jury, incl. myself, were “present remotely” and frequently interrupted him for gaps in the Teams transmission, which nonetheless broadcasted perfectly the honks of the permanent traffic jam in Porte Dauphine… (And alas could not share a celebratory cup with him!)

a journal of the plague year² [no end near]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2021 by xi'an

Read the beginning of The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu, who also translated Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem, and Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide. But I just could not find enough interest in the one-dimensional and cardboardesque characters or the shallow plot to finish his book. In a sense, it reminded me of Jin Yong’s Legends of the Condor Heroes, which I also could not finish.

Kept harvesting large amounts of raspberries, with a second round coming sound. And monitored the tomato patch rise, thanks to a very wet month. But compared with earlier years, the tomatoes are still far from being ready to eat. Hopefully they will resist our vacation break (if COVID permits!). We also harvested the first rhubarb stems in three years (that made for a marmalade) and our very first gherkins/cornichons.

Watched Possessed a fairly dark Korean TV series that seems to merge most of the tropes in the series I have watched so far, from the grumpy cop to the joker role, from evil spirits to slow-paced action, from numerous scenes in cars with tachometers reving up to hint at high speeds to even more scenes in a police station, &tc. Plus the characters giving in to horrible blackmail to “save” loved ones In short, in a sort of cheap trolley dilemna… Not a series I would recommend! And had a second look at The Witcher series, after painfully completing the books: it did not sound so great upon reflection, especially the threadbare battle scenes, even though some parts and characters made more sense after reading the whole series. But Dandelion (not connection with Ken Liu’s trilogy) is even more unbearable on a second run!

%d bloggers like this: