Archive for Tor Books

a journal of the plague and pestilence [and war] year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2022 by xi'an

Received my first biking ticket ever, not for [cautiously!] Xing one of the 60⁺ red-lights on my bike route but for driving [most respectfully!] on the sidewalk in order to reach Dauphine as roads are currently under construction in the area, traffic is a mess, and bike lanes are closed. Had I realised this was at all possible (considering the absence of sanctions on reckless car and truck drivers!), I would have stopped before reaching the Paris traffic police which was already ticketing another cyclist.Read Upright Women Wanted [on Kindle, a courtesy gift from Tor] for just a few dozen pages and then almost gave up out of boredom! I found of limited literary or scenarist interest, despite its nominations to both Hugo and Locus Awards 2021, but finished it in the train to Roissy airport… I am still stuck (and much disappointed!) on the first pages of Susan Clarke’s Piranesi, as the story (?) takes place in an endless complex of empty rooms and the descriptions are endless. By comparison, the growing madness perspiring through the Gormenghast series is at least providing a leading line that makes it worth reading! Although it won the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, and was praised everywhere and nominated for many prizes, imho, Piranesi stands as far as possible from Clarke’s earlier masterpiece Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell… I do not think I will manage to ever finish this book!

Cooked a batch of kouign amann but failed to include enough butter! Still eatable. And made a rather successful attempt at tortillas, following a NYT recipe.

Watched Witch at Court (마녀의 법정), which proposes a [of course] highly unrealistic story of an evil policeman turned politician and eventually being faced with his crimes by the daughter of one of his early victims. As often in K drama, everyone is connected to the case, with prosecutors being relatives of victims or culprits (but not bothered by conflicts of interest), red herrings abounding, and trial outcomes being decided on the flimsiest proofs. Nonetheless, this is the one series I (fast-forward) watched that addressed the most frontally women exploitation and sexual crimes.

book bans

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , on March 28, 2022 by xi'an

As a coincidence, Le Monde [weekend edition of 18 March] had an article about the rapidly growing number of book bans in US [school] libraries and highlighted a tribune by a US school librarian detailing a concerted move by conservative forces to ban books going against their (bigoted) views… And giving advice for resisting the move (like, don’t donate banned books to the libraries).

a journal of the plague year² [not there yet]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2021 by xi'an

Returned to Warwick once more, with “traffic-as-usual” at Charles de Gaulle airport, including a single border officer for the entire terminal, a short-timed fright that I actually needed a PCR test on top of my vaccine certificate to embark, due to wrong signage, a one-hour delay at departure due to foggy conditions in B’ham, and another ½ hour delay at arrival due to a shortage of staff and hence no exit stairs available! And got a tense return to B’ham as the taxi line in Warwick had vanished!

Read the first novel of P. Djèlí-Clark A Master of Djinn after reading a series of short stories and novellas of his, taking place in the same fantastic Cairo of the early 1900’s. This was enjoyable, mostly, again thanks to well-constructed characters (apart from the arch-villain) and the appeal of the magical Cairo imagined by the author. I did not feel the appearances of Raymond Poincaré or von Birsmark were really needed, though. Also kindled A history of what comes next, by Sylvain Neuvel, which I got as a free (Tor) book. Which is an interesting take on the space race, with a pair of (super-)women behind the entire thing. And a lot of connections to the actual history. I somehow got tired in the middle, even though I finished the book during my commuting to and from Warwick.

Watched within a week My Name, a dark Korean TV drama,  as I found it very good and rather original (albeit with some similarities with the excellent Jeju-based Night in Paradise). The storyline is one of a young woman, Ji Woo, seeking revenge on her father’s killer, by joining the criminal gang her father was part of and infiltrating the police (not really  a spoiler!). At the beginning, this sounded like gang glorification, hence rather unappealing, but soon things proved to be quite different from how they appeared first. The scenario is of course most unrealistic, especially the (brutal and gory) fights where the heroine takes down endless rows of gang members and where the participants almost always recover from knife injuries that should have been fatal or at least permanently damaging. And the ineffectiveness of the police in stopping the drug dealers. However, when watched as a theatrical performance, the main characters in My Name, most especially Ji Woo, are well-constructed and ambiguous enough to make this descent into darkness worth watching. (Given the conclusion of the series, I cannot imagine a second season being made.) Also had a short go at Night Teeth, which proved a complete waste of time!

2021 World Fantasy Awards

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on November 16, 2021 by xi'an

Here are winners for some categories of the 2021 World Fantasy Awards:

Somewhat surprisingly, not only I have not read these books, although Riot Baby is sitting in my Kindle, courtesy of Tor Books, but this is also the case for most winners of the past years. The first author I could recognise is K.J. Parker, in 2013, and the first book I had read is Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore in 2006…

the traitor Baru Cormorant [book review]

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on August 25, 2021 by xi'an

“I deal in costs, not faiths.”

I read The Traitor Baru Cormoran by Seth Dickinson over my Corsican vacations, as it was saved on a Kindle conveniently available… I had this book courtesy of Tor, as one free book of the month, and I did not know what to expect. In the end, I read the book over two days as I could not let go!, and I found it a great story, despite its shaky moral stand, which makes the title sound like an understatement. And leaves me with a feeling of being swindled by the author when finishing the book!

“Without any outward sign or motion, in the wreckage of herself, she donned her armor, made it firm around her heart. Raise her mask: a cold discipline, a steel beneath her skin. Grow comfortable, she told herself. It will never come off.”

The story is a Venetian variation, in that a Republic uses trade to conquer nearby duchies and turn the local inhabitants into its own citizens. While imposing its restrictive moral rules and repressing dissent. I have read it in half a dozen books, at least, but this particular variation is nonetheless fresh, due to the novelty in the depiction of the alternative cultures and the strength and depth of most of its characters. They really come to life under the pen of Seth Dickinson and it hurts to see them go when they die, mostly unexpectedly.There is furthermore a mathematical flavour to the story in that the main character Badu Cormoran is (spoiler alert!), an accountant, elected to high functions by a common entrance exam! A less palatable connection with our field is the enforcement of experimental eugenic policies throughout the empire. The final section is a page-turner as the description of a major battle and of its consequence. Again I have read dozens of such descriptions, including the volume long battle of A Memory of Light that brought the Wheel of Time to its close, but this one is quite gripping and not the end of the story. As written above, the main reservation I have about the plot is that Badu is too nicely rendered for her deeds. She has become the mask she was planning to use to bring the Empire down. I was unaware while reading it that this book was the first in a trilogy: the author could and maybe should have stopped at the final scene, which is both the most devastating and the most brilliant part, but also from which it seems impossible to recover…

%d bloggers like this: