Book Review: The Directorate

Last year, I reviewed Gambrel’s ING4. I found ING4 from Twitter or Gambrel’s website or some such thing and bought it when it was on a free weekend.

And it was fantastic.

I bought The Directorate when I got the additional boost from Peter Martuneac’s recommendations on Shepherd. If Martuneac says a military fiction is ok, I definitely believe it.

The Book

The Directorate
Author: Berthold Gambrel
2018
Amazon Link

This book, while filled with excitement and plenty of action, should fulfill anyone’s requirements for cleanliness. Part of this is just that the people and characters are real instead of “morally gray” monsters.

I hate giving spoilers in indie book reviews, but for this one must. It’s also now a few years old, so should be fine.

Non-Spoiler Review

WOW. If you’re looking for a quick read with a lot of feeling, this is a really good book to enter. The universe is as deep as space, and the plot(s) are compelling, but what really drives this book is the characterization.

Let me delve into the plot caveat right quick, and then I’ll get back to why the characters were so great.

In this book, there were essentially two plotlines: one in the first half of the book, and the other in the second half of the book. At first I was skeptical of this because it felt like the first half could have been stand alone as a novelette. There were two entirely separate plot structures to the halves, and each had a similar ending in how the main character’s situation had changed. And, after finishing the book, the two halves probably could have been sold separately, but they work better together. I believe the two halves were meant to be compared and contrasted.

Theresa Gannon is the mentee of Captain Hartman. This relationship is much deeper and better than most relationships between officers you see on TV (and way better than what you’d see in, say Star Trek). There’s a very platonic mentor-mentee relationship, and yet you can feel the tight connection and love between them. Hartman and Gannon speak to each other like real people, and yet what can drive them apart is exactly what brought them together in the first place: military order.

After the events of the first half, Captain Hartman goes away physically, but she remains a psychological force for Gannon. Gannon thinks about Captain Hartman often when she interacts with Conley, a lieutenant under her, and with Nathalie, a young student at the Nightingale Station Academy. At this point, holy crap do the foils set in. It’s a fantastic, rich comparison of characters and relationships. Dig back into your high school English knowledge, my friends, because we’re about to get into the spoilers with gusto.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILER Review:

Captain Hartman had been an excellent mentor to Gannon. The Hartman in the first half serves as a great foil for Gannon in the second half, and not just because Gannon tries to emulate her. Hartman’s trust, which Gannon mistreated accidentally in the first half by following the orders of charismatic Colonel Adams, shows up in the second half as Gannon’s trust of her new mentees.

Conley, who was placed as a Lieutenant under the newly promoted Captain Gannon, should be in a position to receive Gannon’s training. Gannon herself sees this similarity between herself and the plucky Conley, and she tries to be a good mentor. She’s patient with Conley as she teaches things she’s learned through experience, and she very carefully tries to not lash out despite being on edge after the battle on Mars. Gannon also finds a mentee in the form of Nathalie, a 15 year old student at the academy who tries to break through Gannon’s security team and measure for what I like to call “funsies.” She tries to nurture Nathalie through a potential spot of trouble and encourage her to use her incredible intelligence for good. They form a relationship somewhere between mentor-mentee and parent-child, which was interesting and good.

Nathalie and Conley, however, are foils to the Gannon of the first half of the book as well as foils to each other. Whereas Gannon herself was split on how to handle Colonel Adams and his false warnings about Hartman’s loyalty, Conley and Nathalie have no inner conflicts. Conley represents the half of Gannon that had followed Adams, and Nathalie represents the half of Gannon that wanted to stay with Hartman. The way Conley becomes cruel and traitorous represents what Gannon hates within herself, the actions that Gannon feels guilty about, and Gannon’s trapping Conley out of the elevator and out of the elevator was (at least somewhat) a sign of her moving on. It was a symbol that Gannon was finally breaking away from the half of herself that followed Adams and selecting who she would be.

Conley’s betrayal also had implications for the way the chain of command was played by Adams to get what he wanted. Just like he’d done with Gannon, Adams had convinced Conley to play her superior officer. Conley brought the story of the first half of the book full circle to the second half. While Gannon saved Mars by her quick thinking in part 1 and Nightingale Station in part 2, her change of position from mentee to mentor and from inferior to superior officer keeps Hartman’s influence alive throughout the whole book.

Nathalie, who was young and impressionable, continued to follow Gannon through to the end of the book. She represented the relationship Gannon wished she’d maintained with Hartman. By choosing this relationship over Conley’s, I believe Gannon successfully repudiates her “betrayal” of Hartman. By choosing to stick with her mentee despite it all, Gannon shows that she took the lessons of Hartman and that Hartman had always seen that spark and goodness within her.

What I’m Reading Next:

I’ve got some things to catch you guys up on! We’re going with The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to get a little further through that good ol’ Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die that I do every year.

Chel, I’m on the wait list for Cat’s Cradle at my library. I’ll read that when it comes in!

Book Review: The Outlands

The author sent this book in via my Review Request form! Which reminds me – you can send in requests again, as 2022 slots are open!

The Book

The Outlands
Author: Tyler Edwards
2021
Amazon Link

Though this book is a gritty post-apocalyptic romp, it is surprisingly clean. The author makes use of the sci-fi trope of using fake swear words to get around using words like “shit”, for better or worse. While there is violence, it’s neither grotesque nor bloody, and I think most people can handle this.

I will not be doing a spoiler review for this because it is too new.

Non-Spoiler Review

This book is what I would call “Pretty Fun” – there was quite a bit of action, fast-paced segments, and a very clear good-guy vs. bad-guy situation. It was easy to root for the protagonist and his pals, which I find important in an action packed book.

One of the things that contributed mightily to the book’s successful plot was the well-defined stratifications of the society. The city of Dios, where the vast majority of the book takes place, is a caste-stratified theocracy. Edwards builds the society to a very detailed precision, and he places his main characters in an underdog situation that feels hopeless until the inciting incident. When Jett, a charismatic guy with a powerful sense of charisma and oration, teams up with Vic to make things better for the Undesirables, you can feel the momentum. When characters like Lilly, who is not an Undesirable, become important, things get more complicated and the harsh differences between the castes can blur. Very applaudable setting.

And holy mackerel. The twists. It’s chock full of them (is this a spoiler?) all the way to the end. It’s got all sorts of duplicity. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t see the last few twists coming, and I’m usually very good at predicting these sorts of things. At the same time, once the twists were revealed, I could look back and see how there had been evidence of the betrayals, the secret alliances, and more. That’s a sign of good construction.

Something to be aware of is, however, the overall feel of the book. While it is a self-contained story with a powerful plot and an identifiable good guy, it does also feel like a “prequel”. Without spoiling too much, by the end I was pretty sure that the next book in the series (which has been released, by the way) would be entirely different from this one. Though this book is definitely worthwhile, it felt like the setup for another story, not the main story in and of itself. It threw me for a little bit of a loop, but the conclusion is satisfying because of aforementioned twists and revelations.

There were a couple items that I would improve. While the basic proofreading type of editing is extremely well done in the front end of the book, it slowly devolves the further you go. It never gets bad enough that you can’t read it – by no means does it do that – but near the end it has a few places where it can draw you out of the narrative. The author says he’s working on getting this fixed in further updates, though, so I wouldn’t be afraid to buy this book, put it at the end of your TBR, and get a fresh, updated copy when you get to it.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

What I’m Reading Next:

This year, I’m not doing reading lists; instead, I’m going to be publishing posts as I read. However, I’m going to cheat a little bit this month because there’s four great indie books (including the one you just read about here) I read last year that are SCREAMING to be posted on the blog. Next in line is military sci-fi novella The Directorate by Berthold Gambrel.

Book Review: Bottled Memories

The author of this book, Ritter, submitted this to my Review Requests page! I agreed to read it, and here you are with a review.

The Book

Bottled Memories
Author: David Ritter
2020
Amazon Link

I didn’t know Ritter before he popped in on the site, but here you go! An honest review.

I will admit that I may have bias due to shared faith. There is a lot of Christian references, imagery, and themes to the writing that you should be aware of if you’re considering this chapbook.

Non-Spoiler Review

Ritter’s book about his journey through addiction and recovery is emotionally intensive. Some of the poems describe quite horrible things that happened to him, around him, and to other people. He paints a story that does not hold back details, even the sordid ones. While I don’t think anything is especially triggering on its own, I do think it’s possible a reader may feel emotionally connected or otherwise drawn in by the book and its characters.

When I think of this poetry collection in its totality, I think of this as a sort of “wilderness poetry.” No, not like Ansel Adams or John Muir type wilderness – I’m talking the Israelites in the wilderness, or Jesus during the 40 days of temptation. In Christian mythos/theology, a wilderness period is a time in one’s life of indeterminate length during which there is suffering or struggle. The wilderness implies a “lostness” or a “search” in addition to deprivations or struggle. While much of Ritter’s poetry reminded me of Kevin Parrish’s What Words May Come, this set of poetry had a stark difference in that it marked one wilderness period and faith journey rather than a gamut of life lessons. Its themes and progression were very well done.

The poetry within the book is well done. I know a lot of people don’t like rhyming poetry, but I do, and Ritter does an excellent job coming up with new rhymes throughout. My biggest complaint about the compilation, however, lies in the steadfastness with which he sticks to the four-line stanzas and rhyming couplets or rhyming on alternating lines. Only six of the 28 total poems did not have this format. I would have liked to see greater variety.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Like I usually do with collections, I will choose 3 poems to talk about more specifically. My favorite, one that sticks out from the rest, and my least favorite.

Favorite: The Kind Man
I think this poem was probably chosen by Ritter as the central piece of the work, given that it is in larger font and tells a story with beginning, middle, twist, and end more readily than some of the others. The twist is easily expected, and yet it’s that payoff of getting the twist that made this poem one of my favorites.

Standout: Alone once Again
This one had that “haunted” flavor that just crept under my nails and hair. It just doesn’t sit well in the soul, and yet you can’t look away for hope that the speaker will change his wayward ways or that the mythical “you” and subject of the poem might show up. After reading “The Flower Never Blossomed,” just a few poems later, “Alone once Again” takes on an even more vicious and important meaning.

Least Favorite: Had My Share
Whether purposeful or not, the first line “I’ve had my share of constant sorrow” got me off on the wrong foot with this poem. It reminded me of the tune “Man of Constant Sorrow”, which while I enjoy the song, it’s too easy and too often referenced for a pop culture item. After that, the poem felt relatively repetitive after such goodies as “Material Things” which had a fairly similar message.

What I’m Reading Next:

This year, I’m not doing reading lists; instead, I’m going to be publishing posts as I read. However, I’m going to cheat a little bit this month because there’s four great indie books (including the one you just read about here) I read last year that are SCREAMING to be posted on the blog. Next in line is the “clean” sci-fi adventure The Outlands by Tyler Edwards.

Book Review: A Ghost and His Gold

A while back, I reviewed Roberta Cheadle’s Through the Nethergate, and I found the research behind it very impressive. As well, the plot moved well, and the goals were sensible. I’d been following Cheadle for a while, and soon after I finished Nethergate, she published a post presenting A Ghost and His Gold as an upcoming book. I kept my eye out and purchased it when I could. Cheadle, who lives in South Africa and already proved herself to be a history buff, has written a historical, supernatural fiction with a South African backdrop. I’m pretty hype.

The Book

A Ghost and His Gold
Author: Roberta Eaton Cheadle
2021
TSL Publications Link – can take you to Lulu page if you want to avoid Amazon
Amazon Link

Before anyone starts this review or the book, I wanted to say here that there are some disturbing and violent scenes. They all are necessary to have on screen for plot and character development, and Cheadle does an excellent job framing them as such. It’s really obvious that the scene(s) in question are coming, so they can be skipped if you need to, but I’ll tell you right now: this is one of those books where all the pieces are thematically essential. There is payoff for reading the hard parts.

Non-Spoiler Review

A Ghost and His Gold is an extremely ambitious work, and it’s quite impressive Cheadle was able to fit all of it into this short space. With multiple viewpoints, time settings, and an intensely researched historical backdrop, and deeply entrenched themes, there’s a lot going on. At the same time, Cheadle pulls it off by making an understandable story with compelling character arcs.

Probably the greatest achievement within the book was how the 1900-1904 timeline meshes so well with the 2019 timeline. While it does have the typical “figure out why the ghost is haunting us” sort of storyline to it, the way the two are connected makes it all the more intriguing. Estelle, who I’d consider the main ghost and at least the primary source of problems in the 2019 narrative, ties traits of modern-day Tom to people of the era in which she lived and died. Because of the necessary historical backdrop to Estelle’s demise, and because of Tom’s secret, the way the two timelines come together really works. I will admit that I was a little skeptical of having the 2019 part in the book, but I think it worked out. If you’ve read Through the Nethergate, you’ll probably get the feeling I did that Cheadle used similar mechanisms to mesh past and present as she did in that book.

Probably the most stunning part of this book, though, is setting. While the setting in Nethergate was well done, it didn’t have anywhere near the same feeling as in this book. There’s clear love and intimate personal knowledge here. I can feel the grit of the landscape of South Africa here. How she nonchalantly feels the seasons, like a frozen July and a hot February, isn’t something I think I could easily pull off. There is something magical about the way the land, not just the time, is treated in this book. It’s a very visceral connection to the veld that many of the characters have, even Michelle and Tom in 2019, and even if they don’t really know it. Land and the place our hearts are within it is a silent theme behind a lot of the book, but it’s a driving force. The British Empire wants it, the farmers want it, and Michelle and Tom’s attachment to their house and land brings together the tapestry.

The negative part of this ambitious scope is that, at times, there can be a lot of information dumps. Most of this comes through in descriptions of the war or the concentration camps. While I thought it was really interesting and, like with Cheadle’s earlier book Through the Nethergate, one of my personal favorite parts about her style, it did often interrupt the more character or plot-focused narrative. Though at times the footnotes regarding Boer or South African history can seem a little too easy, other times they’re essential or add a richness that would go unnoticed without them. As a whole, I think Cheadle weaved her way through the story and the subject matter well, but there are instances where I think it could have been smoothed. The book could have easily been twice the size and gotten away with it.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I don’t normally put spoiler reviews for pretty new indie books, but I think I will do so here, just a little bit.

Something I thought was interesting was how Estelle saw the world and how it treated her. It was very “teen”, even if very abused and dark. Estelle was brutally raped, and the way her (BIG OL SPOILER) stepmother Marta treated her was horrifying. She grew very bitter about it, but she did so in a way that was simultaneously inward and outwardly focused. How this combination of terrible abuse and festering hatred turned her into a haunting spirit felt so different from other ghosts I’ve read about or watched on TV. The sadness in her vengeance for her miseries and untimely death was quite palpable.

That being said, I think Estelle’s story could have been expanded. The period of time where she stays with Oom Willem isn’t very detailed, and yet it seems like it could have lasted a much longer time. Still, explaining Estelle’s relationship with Marta took quite a long time, and I think that made her my favorite character in this book.

Estelle’s story also pounded home the feminist themes of the book, and I greatly appreciate that. Though Estelle’s salvation came through forgiveness, the initial criminal is clear, and the need for kindness, equality, and more concern for human rights is apparent. There’s other themes that are important, but I’ve pointed out the ones I find most important in this review.

Join Me Tomorrow Night!

We’re also having a “Book Signing” party on January 4th from 8 to 11 pm EST for the new release Collective Fantasy! If you’re in the Salt Lake area, the physical party is going to be at Under the Umbrella bookstore, and there’s a virtual Zoom link (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9630443174) for those who (like myself) are in other places. I’ll try to be on during the early parts, but no promises past 9:30 eastern, given my bedtime.

What I’m Reading Next:

This year, I’m not doing reading lists; instead, I’m going to be publishing posts as I read. However, I’m going to cheat a little bit this month because there’s four great indie books (including the one you just read about here) I read last year that are SCREAMING to be posted on the blog. Next in line is the indie chapbook Bottled Memories by David Ritter.

2022

So, it’s 2022, and I guess we’re still here. Mostly.

Here’s a gif with a Pomeranian in it.

And, because of this, it’s time for everyone to start making their plans for the next year and sharing them as if it’s important. Not going to lie, I’ll join in that too because it seems fun.

Collective Fantasy

First off, Collective Fantasy: An Unsavory Anthology releases on January 3rd! I’ve got a story in this upcoming anthology, and it is dope as hell. I say this about every story I write, but I think this one may be the best I’ve ever published to date. “Come and In My Chamber Lye” is a book of witchery and laundry. Snippits incoming soon!

Amazon Link for pre-order – only paperback right now, but the indie publisher usually gets out an audiobook and Kindle version soon after.

We’re also having a “Book Signing” party on January 4th from 8 to 11 pm EST! If you’re in the Salt Lake area, the physical party is going to be at Under the Umbrella bookstore, and there’s a virtual Zoom link (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9630443174) for those who (like myself) are in other places. I’ll try to be on during the early parts, but no promises past 9:30 eastern, given my bedtime!

I’m going to try to be there, but I’m on eastern time so we’ll see how late I can stay awake!

Lastly, there’ll be another story in an anthology coming up in the next few months… I’m super excited to tell you all about that one, too, but it’s still a bit of a secret. Shhh…

Books To Read Lists

Last year (and every year before that), I made a list of books that I’d review every Monday. This list would come out on the first Monday of the month, and I’d coast through on those books for the rest of the month. That gave me 3 or 4 books to read per month.

Though I might not read as much this year as last, this limitation to 3 or 4 books per month meant a couple things. One, and probably the most important, is that not every indie book I read got a slot on the blog. That bothers me because indie books need reviews – including blog reviews – more than the big guys. It also meant a lot of other books didn’t get a spotlight even if they probably should or could have; instead of talking about books I liked, I spent all of August 2021 flogging a series that I hated.

Instead, what I’m going to do is just push out a post when I read a book (assuming I get it written quickly enough). That will both reduce my need to make “to read lists” and also give me more opportunities to post book reviews. It also will mean I don’t have to theme my months.

Life Updates

I want to do more life updates, mostly because blogs with a life update every now and then keep me engaged more. At the same time, I really don’t want to post about other people in my life. We’ll see if I manage to get anything along these lines done.

Obligatory dog picture.

Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die – Update #2

I did this last year and the year before that, but since then I’ve made a concerted effort to read a bunch of these. Weirdly and unfortunately, it turns out Amazon does this pretty much every year, and it keeps changing. However, whatever year this particular list came out is the list I’m sticking to finish, and I’ve had several successes this year! Books read since I did this last year are surrounded by asterisks and linked to their review (some may be to my Goodreads review, since I don’t review everything on the blog). Books I’ve read on my blog earlier are also linked to their reviews.

Title

Read?

Author

To Kill A MockingbirdYesHarper Lee
Pride and PrejudiceYesJane Austen
The Diary of a Young GirlYesAnne Frank
1984YesGeorge Orwell
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s StoneYesJ K Rowling
Lord of the Ring TrilogyYesJ R R Tolkein
The Great GatsbyYesF Scott Fitzgerald
Charlotte’s WebYesE B White
Little WomenYesLouisa May Alcott
The HobbitYesJ R R Tolkein
Fahrenheit 451YesRay Bradbury
Jane EyreYesCharlotte Bronte
Gone with the WindYesMargaret Mitchell
Animal FarmYesGeorge Orwell
The Catcher in the Rye J D Salinger
The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnYesMark Twain
The HelpYesKathryn Stockett
The Grapes of WrathYesJohn Steinbeck
The Lion, The Witch and the WardrobeYesC S Lewis
The Hunger GamesYesSuzanne Collins
The Book Thief *Yes*Markus Zusak
Lord of the Flies William Golding
Kite RunnerYesKhaled Hosseini
NightYesElie Wiesel
HamletYesWilliam Shakespeare
A Tale of Two Cities*Yes*Charles Dickens
A Wrinkle in TimeYesMadeleine L’Engle
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyYesDouglas Adams
A Christmas CarolYes (Was Scrooge in a play, actually)Charles Dickens
Of Mice and MenYesJohn Steinbeck
The Secret GardenYesFrances Hodgson Burnett
Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare
The Handmaid’s TaleYesMargaret Atwood
Brave New WorldYesAldous Huxley
The Little Prince Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Where the Sidewalk EndsYesShel Silverstein
Wuthering HeightsYesEmily Bronte
The GiverYesLois Lowry
Anne of Green GablesYesE M Montgomery
MacbethYes (Def fave Willy Shakes play)William Shakespeare
The Adventures of Tom SawyerYesMark Twain
Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsYesJ K Rowling
FrankensteinYesMary Shelley
The BibleYesVarious
The Girl with the Dragon TattooYesSteig Larsson
The Count of Monte CristoYesAlexandre Dumas
The Fault in Our Stars John Green
The Colour Purple Alice Walker
East of Eden John Steinbeck
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Betty Smith
Catch 22YesJoseph Heller
In Cold Blood Truman Capote
The Stand Stephen King
Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandYesLewis Carroll
Watership DownYes x like 12Richard Adams
Anna Karenina*Yes*Leo Tolstoy
Ender’s GameYesOrson Scottcard
Great ExpectationsYesCharles Dickens
Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier
Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes*Yes*Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanYesJ K Rowling
The Old Man and the SeaYesErnest Hemingway
A Game of ThronesYesGeorge R R Martin
The Princess BrideYesWilliam Goldman
Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryYesRoald Dahl
The Life of Pi Piin Elama
The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follet
Les Miserables*Yes*Victor Hugo
The Scarlet LetterYesNathaniel Hawthorne
DraculaYesBram Stoker
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceYesJ K Rowling
Catching FireYesSuzanne Collins
Water for Elephants Sara Gruen
The RavenYesEdgar Allen Poe
The Secret Life of Bees Sue Monk Kidd
OutlanderFUCKING NEVERDiana Gabaldon
One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
The Good Earth Pearl S Buck
The Time Traveler’s WifeYesAudrey Niffenegger
The OdysseyYes (if reading it in Latin counts)Homer
Celebrating Silence Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving
And Then There Were None Agatha Christie
The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksYesRebecca Skloot
The Thorn Birds Colleen McCullough
The Glass Castle Jeannette Walls
MockingjayYesSuzanne Collins
The Things They CarriedYesTim O’Brien
The Road Cormac McCarthy
Cutting for Stone Abraham Verghese
The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoyevsky
SiddharthaYesHermann Hesse
BelovedYesToni Morrison
The Story of my Life Helen Keller
Phantom TollboothYesNorton Juster
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler E L Konigsburg
Gone Girl Gillian Flynn
Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoyevsky

As of 12/31/2021, I’ve read 68 of the 100 books and screamed angrily at Outlander before giving up. Granted, a lot of them I read in high school, so I don’t remember a ton about them. Look at me, being impressive!

Book Review: Foundation

I decided to plan a little break this year by giving myself a guaranteed-to-love-it book series. Foundation and its original trilogy were a set of books I read several years ago now and loved, and I’m excited to see if they held up. Asimov has long been one of my favorite authors.

The Book

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Foundation
Author: Isaac Asimov
1951 (sort of – short stories were published in the 40’s)
Amazon Link

I know I like this book, so sorry for the spoiler.

Non-Spoiler Review

I love this book. It’s a collection of short stories, sure, but overall it feels like a fantastic generational story about the progress of a single people. It has this “wandering in the desert” feel like the Jews before they reached the promised land, wherein God is represented by Hari Seldon and gives prophetic advice every so often. Each step taken in Foundation leads to a great set of discoveries for humanity, and it’s fun to read through.

The premise is sort of mind-boggling in that I find it unlikely for humans to lose so much technology so quickly, but it’s not as far-out as we might think. Up until the Age of Reason, humanity would go back and forth in terms of how much collective knowledge we had. It’s only been relatively recent that people only look at our knowledge as going monotonically forward. With the plot of Foundation closely tied to the historic fall of the Roman Empire, the overall story makes quite a bit of sense and has an additional layer of richness.

As always, Asimov’s style is exactly what I want in a book. I’ve never, not even once, been tempted to skip paragraphs or parts of an Asimov book because the twists, turns, logical procession, and language are all just what I want. If there’s any writer I wish to emulate, it’s this guy.

Down sides? Diversity is trash. The only “people” in this story, really, are white men who smoke like mofos. My goodness, it’s a wonder anyone got anything done with all that tobacco haze. Even though the presence of non-whites and women is very limited in this book, I find the 40’s environment in the future to be incredibly interesting. I wasn’t terribly bothered by it much because I can forgive Asimov (somewhat) for his time.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Usually in spoilers for short stories, I talk about the favorite story and least favorite story, but this set of shorts go together so well that it makes for a fantastic novel.

Each of the characters followed in the story contribute in their own way toward the success of the Foundation. Hardin, however, does it twice and in what I think are the most dramatic and clever of the “Seldon Crises” foretold before the Foundation was created. He used a political solution – aiming two enemies against each other – in order to save his foundation without war. He then used religion to hold the peoples of the enemy states hostage and demand peace for the Foundation.

The stories following Hardin got into trade and how people had to stop relying on the religion. This was by far the longest story and was interesting in and of itself, but the actual acknowledgement that people worship money made it a little less pleasant for me individually.

Next week:

This is the last book I’ll be reviewing this year, but you can find the other books I’ve read in the Foundation Series on Goodreads! Stay tuned for a few updates on this year of reading, including my progress on getting through Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die and my list of favorites for the year.

Book Review: Forward the Foundation

I decided to plan a little break this year by giving myself a guaranteed-to-love-it book series. Foundation and its original trilogy were a set of books I read several years ago now and loved, and I’m excited to see if they held up. Asimov has long been one of my favorite authors.

The Book

Forward the Foundation read 2021

Forward the Foundation
Author: Isaac Asimov
1988
Amazon Link

As a whole, I’m a bigger fan of Asimov’s classic 40’s and 50’s sci-fi. Prelude to Foundation was published posthumously in 1993, which puts it squarely in the “I don’t give a fuck” era of Asimov’s life. Like with Prelude to Foundation, I’m going in expecting a cash-grab self-fanfic. It’s the last book he ever wrote in the foundation series, and it focuses in on the later life of the series’ central figure: Hari Seldon.

For whatever reason, my husband owns this book and only this book in the series. So I read that copy.

Non-Spoiler Review

I actually liked this far more than I thought I would. The book kind of returned to the Foundation series’s roots, wherein it contained multiple self-contained stories. I actually liked the plot of all of them, despite the weird crossover nonsense in the first section.

*SPOILER FOR FIRST BOOK* The weird crossover nonsense didn’t take up too much space and didn’t form the central crux of the issues except in the first section. Even then, we only got a little of the weird part with Eto Demerzel saying, “Call me Daneel” and then Seldon whispering, “Daneel,” in just the weirdest, creepiest way.  *SPOILER OVER*

The new characters of Wanda, Agis, Manella, and extended view into Yugo Amaryl and Raych were well-done. I liked all of them, and I thought them pretty creative. I still liked Dors, but I had to ignore parts of what happened due to crossover references to the previous book, Prelude to Foundation. I just simply liked this book in most ways.

Asimov continues in this book to try to make up for his prior sexism and racism. Did it work out? I mean, not really, but I’m going to give a little credit to an old man writing in the 80’s and 90’s who is giving a good college attempt at doing better. He’s actually better than a lot of modern books I’ve read.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Ok, so, pretty major spoilers for Prelude to Foundation are in here, too.

What I loved the most about this book was it tied in directly to Foundation. The end of the book, in fact, overlapped with the beginning of Foundation. It explained the Second Foundation in enough detail that, if I’d read these in order in the first place, I would have truly believed it wasn’t some nonsense thing he’d made up in the second book of the series.

By taking a long-term view of Hari Seldon’s life and dividing it into distinct periods with their own crises, Asimov showed the simultaneous strength and weakness of psychohistory – the mechanism with which he could mathematically predict the future. More politics were involved, more law, more interpersonal relationships: and, let me tell you, Asimov excels here far more than he does at fighting (as seen in Prelude).

My favorite section was the last one, the one where it overlapped with Foundation. Left only with his graddaughter, Wanda, as part of his family, Seldon despairs. But, together, they pick up the work of psychohistory – including that left behind by Yugo Amaryl – and complete Amaryl’s and Seldon’s brain child together. They had an interesting relationship.

When Seldon was alone, I could almost feel Johnny Cash’s Hurt playing in the background. Dors, his wife, had died in the previous section – and it really did feel crushing, even though she was revealed to be a robot and it brought back the terrible self-referencing fanfiction elements.

Each villain he faced – from Jo-jo Joranum to Joranum’s post-mortem followers to the military junta – were all well done. I genuinely liked this book far more than I’d expected.

Next week:

I’m starting in on the classic trilogy with the first book in it: Foundation. It’s a classic, I’ve loved it in the past, and I can’t wait to get started!

Book Review: Prelude to Foundation

I decided to plan a little break this year by giving myself a guaranteed-to-love-it book series. Foundation and its original trilogy were a set of books I read several years ago now and loved, and I’m excited to see if they held up. Asimov has long been one of my favorite authors.

The Book

Prelude to Foundation Read 2021

Prelude to Foundation
Author: Isaac Asimov
1988
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As a whole, I’m a bigger fan of Asimov’s classic 40’s and 50’s sci-fi. Prelude to Foundation was written in 1988, which puts it squarely in the “I don’t give a fuck” era of Asimov’s life, where my best bet is that he wrote fanservice books that raked in just gobs of cash. Since I just read the original trilogy last time I went through this series, I decided this time to plow into the 80’s prequel first.

Non-Spoiler Review

This wasn’t bad. Prelude to Foundation was surprisingly action-packed and sensible throughout, though it did have that classic Asimov “I don’t know how to write a novel, so let’s stick together a bunch of short stories and novellas” feel. The various cultures the main characters Seldon and Dors had to encounter were interesting, even if often frustrating.

The book also didn’t quite feel as 40’s-50’s socially retarded as much of his early work is. You can kind of tell in this one that Asimov is trying to make up for some of the things he considers crappy in his other books while, at the same time, explaining them away. They can range from small things, such as having MUCH less smoking in this book, up to talking about issues for a greater range of people types (women, people of different races/creeds/cultures, etc.).

Overall, I had a jolly good time with this book.

But…

But…

That ending. Wtf. The book went from an exciting story about two professors who can wrestle/knife fight like bosses to a crossover fanfic of the worst degree with the Robot series. Nooooooooooooo!!! I won’t tell you how it does the crossover, but I think it’s a fair forewarning that this was a thing.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

There were several distinct “phases” in the book. The first was the one in which Hari Seldon comes to the city planet, Trantor, and figures out that a lot of people want to abuse his specific type of mathematical study. In effort to keep himself safe and hidden from a terrible demise, he decides to develop his study from theoretical to practical – and thus be able to predict the future and save himself.

The second phase is where deus-ex-machina Eto Demerzel introduces him to Dors Venabili, a history professor/love interest/knife fighting badass. She has been ordered to protect Seldon, and she rescues him when he accidentally gets lost during a weather-study expedition.

Then they go to this extremely sexist planet and discover there are robots still living from ancient times, and I thought that was going to be about it for the crossover fanfiction. But it wasn’t, and we still have a good ways of readable stuff left to go.

They go back to Trantor and wander around getting clues about the ancient past, but then suddenly Seldon solves his problem of how to make psychohistory practical.

But wait! Then he gets abducted by Trantor’s Mayor of Wye who wants to make a stab for the throne. Eto Demerzel, the deus-ex-machina of the book, uses sexism to destroy the Mayor of Wye by making her generals distrust her for being a woman. He does this by using his psychic robot powers (yes, this is where it went completely off the rails) and reveals that Dors, who had been super cool earlier, was actually a robot the whole time. Lastly, Eto Demerzel reveals that he has always been R. Daneel Olivaw, main robot character in Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and Robots of Dawn. Wtf.

It actually disappointed me that Dors was a robot. She was about the coolest female character Asimov wrote, aside from Susan Calvin in i, robot, and she still doesn’t even happen to be a human female. It’s very unfortunate that all her skills could be chalked up to “robot” when it could have been much more interesting for her not to be.

Next week:

I’m reading the post-mortem publication Forward the Foundation, which takes place between Prelude to Foundation and Foundation, the first in the original trilogy. Hopefully it won’t be hot garbage!

Reading List – December 2021

This year, many of you noticed something: I read a lot of crap. Just absolute, stinky trash books that I hated. This ranged from the Earthsea series to the Ninefox Gambit series to a few other books scattered here and there, but it also meant I spent a lot of time not reading anything good.

That changes today, my friends.

Isaac Asimov is one of my favorite authors, and it’s been a right long while since I last read his Foundation trilogy. I didn’t read the expanded series with his 1980’s self-fan-fiction writings, but now I think I’m up for it. I have, on this blog, reviewed several of the Robot stories (I, Robot, The Caves of Steel, The Robots of Dawn), as well, so I know I like his style.

So here we are, last month of the year and our last hope!

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series

I read the original trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation) as an undergraduate. The main thing I know won’t translate well to 2021 time is the smoking, so I assume other parts won’t age well, either!

Also, I’m only presenting three of these books – the rest will only be available on my Goodreads page.

See my old reviews here