Archive for Scott Lynch

another wrong entry

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , on June 27, 2016 by xi'an

Quite a coincidence! I just came across another bug in Lynch’s (2007) book, Introduction to Applied Bayesian Statistics and Estimation for Social Scientists. Already discussed here and on X validated. While working with one participant to the post-ISBA softshop, we were looking for efficient approaches to simulating correlation matrices and came [by Google] across the above R code associated with a 3×3 correlation matrix, which misses the additional constraint that the determinant must be positive. As shown e.g. by the example

> eigen(matrix(c(1,-.8,.7,-.8,1,.6,.7,.6,1),ncol=3))
$values
[1] 1.8169834 1.5861960 -0.4031794

having all correlations between -1 and 1 is not enough. Just. Not. Enough.

The Republic of Thieves [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , on May 4, 2014 by xi'an

At last! The third volume in Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series has appeared!After several years of despairing ever seeing the sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora and of Red Seas under Red Skies, The Republic of Thieves eventually appeared.  The author thus managed to get over his chronic depression to produce a book in par with the previous two volumes… Judging from the many reviews found on the Web, reception ranges from disappointed to ecstatic. I do think this volume is very good, if below the initial The Lies of Locke Lamora in terms of freshness and plot. There is consistency in terms of the series, some explanations are provided wrt earlier obscure points, new obscure points are created in preparation for the next volumes, and the main characters broaden and grow in depth and complexity. Mostly.

The book The Republic of Thieves is much more innovative than its predecessor from a purely literary viewpoint, with story told within story, with on top of this a constant feedback to the origins of the Gentlemen Bastards upper-scale thieves band. The inclusion of a real play which title is the same as the title of the book is a great idea, albeit not exactly new (from Cyrano de Bergerac to The Wheel of Time to The Name of the Wind), as it gives more coherence to the overall plot. The Gentlemen Bastards as depicted along those books are indeed primarily fabulous actors and they manage their heists mostly by clever acting, rather than force and violence. (Covers hence miss the point completely by using weapons and blood.) It thus makes sense that they had had training with an acting troop… Now, the weakest point in the book is the relationship between the two central characters, Locke Lamora and Sabetha Belacoros. This is rather unfortunate as there are a lot of moments and a lot of pages and a lot of dialogues centred on this relationship! Lynch seems unable to strike the right balance and Locke remains an awkward pre-teen whose apologies infuriate Sabetha at every corner… After the third occurence of this repeated duo, it gets quickly annoying. The couple only seems to grow up at the very end of the book. At last! Apart from this weakness, the plot is predictable at one level, which sounds like the primarily level… (spoiler?!) until a much deeper one is revealed, once again in the final pages of the book which, even more than in the previous ones, turn all perspectives upside-down and desperately beg for the next book to appear. Hopefully in less than six years…

Red seas under red skies

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by xi'an

The sequel to the [terrific] Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch has this somehow lame title, Red Seas Under Red Skies… I liked very much the first volume, despite it being a heist, and I was looking forward to the sequel. While it is not a complete disaster, it suffers from the comparison with the first book. (Some reviews disagree. This one with impressively detailed arguments!) The setting is both similar (two thieves busy stealing the most wealthy man in a city and building enemies in the process) and dissimilar (no unity of location as the main characters become pirates under constraint and make a sea trip to a pirate Hispaniola-like island). As in the Lies of Locke Lamora, the central characters are well-drawn and engaging if not always coherent (the dialogues are often completely off-key wrt dramatic situations). Life on a pirate ship is simply too civilised to be credible. More generally, the whole story is just too far from plausible and one could equip a whole pirate ship with the number of rigs required to suspend disbelief! One reason is the unnecessary intricacy of the story which involves at least three plots, each with several subplots. When everything unravels in the final pages, with double-acting agents being revealed and tricksters being tricked, it happens just too suddenly to be completely enjoyable. Nonetheless, a rather pleasant light read. From what I read on the author’s blog, there does not seem to be a chance for further volumes soon, although five more were planned in the Gentlemen Bastards series, since he suffers from severe depression… ’tis too bad, really, as he has the skill to construct (too) elaborate stories and to depict deep enough characters…

Reading list

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2011 by xi'an

Being on a boat for a week means a lot of spare time for reading. Here are the books I read last week.

Kafka on the shore, a long allegorical and fantastic novel by Haruki Marukami. Here is a pretty good review from the New York Times. The book is indeed obscure and confusing, with unexpected forays of the supernatural, but I liked it very much nonetheless. The Oedipus story of the boy in search of his mother is gripping, although I missed some of the Greek (and all of the Japanese) mythology references. Puzzling, at times perturbing, a major novel.

Market forces is the fourth novel of Richard Morgan that I have read. It is much less successful than the three other ones constituting the Takeshi Kovacs cycle, telling the story of a corporate Mad Max like universe where road duels are legal and where mercenary companies are controlling wars all over the World. Some psychological aspects of the story are interesting, like the conflict between the main character and his relatives, however the whole universe is not credible and there are too many deus ex machina occurences. I do not think I would have finished Market forces elsewhere than on a boat! (I am still looking forward the fantasy novel Richard Morgan wrote…)

The winner in the series is certainly The lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch. I loved the book and read it in less than twenty four hours! It is a sort of fantasy Ocean’s Eleven, following my son’s description of the book (he also read the book, right after Best served cold), setting a clever con artist in a Venezia-like city and following his team through increasingly complex schemes until all falls apart. The dialogues are quite funny, the setting is completely convincing, and the background plot unravels superbly. I am clearly looking forward the second volume in the series. Red seas under red skies. (The following volumes are in the coming, apparently due to an on-going depression of the author…) One highly critical review of  The lies of Locke Lamora on Strange Horizons Reviews induced a lot of flak: I however think the reviewer makes the right point when she states that “Lamora [the character] is not very interesting”. It is true that the book somehow lacks an in depth psychological analysis of the characters, incl. Locke Lamora. Nonetheless, it makes for “an enjoyable summer novel—not much depth, but a whole heck of a lot of fun” (to steal from the review out of context!).