Book reviews: Year 2015

Gateway (Heechee Saga, #1) by Frederik Pohl

I was going to give this book only 4 stars because I didn't always like the main character and others, but then I realised: I never stopped believing in them or their personality, it is all consistently well-written all along and many very human personality aspects are explored in fascinating ways, like fear and cowardice and courage.

The premises are as follow: humanity found an asteroid with spaceships that they don't really understand nor control, and brave pioneers embark on them hoping to be brought to places with interesting new technology or knowledge (or just as likely die along the way).

The book reads very well (sometimes a concern with older sci-fi books) and tells a story at multiple levels, with the main character grudgingly undergoing therapy in the current day while recalling his time on Gateway. There are also tidbits of lectures, fake ads and other things from space interspersed that all come together to create a world and a story that I couldn't help finding compelling.

Updated to add: Reading a few other reviews, folks have a point though: if it's the same main character through the series, no matter how much more I'd like to learn about this world and universe it makes reading the other books a much less appealing prospect.

The White Road (Nightrunner, #5) by Lynn Flewelling

Overall a much more pleasant read than the previous book. Having Micum back and learning more about this world, in particular the Hazadrielfaie, was a treat. The ending left me somewhat ambivalent though the possibilities for more nightrunning in the following book are promising.

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster

Eerie short story, with many unexpected echoes to the present (despite being published in... 1909?!) and possible futures, where we rely too much on technology and tend to devalue -if not downright despise- our fellow humans.

L'Enchanteur by René Barjavel

Un conte doux et chaleureux, plein de joies simples, qui explore les légendes arthuriennes de façon merveilleuse et donne envie de recommencer à croire en la magie.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, #1) by Robin Sloan

Probably a good book, but it didn't connect with me at all. The majority of the characters felt flat, fitting one stereotype and never stepping outside of these boundaries to become a three-dimensional, well-rounded person-like character. You have The Artist, The Rich Young Entrepreneur, The Cute Nerd Woman, The Archaeology Enthusiast, and so on... But no one who comes out of the page. I wasn't a big fan of the Silicon Valley tech mindset permeating the story either, the unrelenting worship of Google and glorification of the start-up culture. Maybe it'd have been more fun to read in 10 years as a snapshot of how things used to be. For me, there wasn't much escapism in here, and only a small amount of curiosity regarding the main mystery.

Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch, #2) by Ann Leckie

It took me a while to remember all the subtleties of the world, but once I did I found the story and new characters very engaging. It was nice to see concepts, history, etc that were only briefly touched on in the previous book detailed a bit more, and even if the story happens at a somewhat smaller scale than in the previous book the politics of it are interesting.

Also, spaceships.

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Another book that is probably very good but I just couldn't get into, quite probably due to the depression and hopelessness infusing every page. Particularly depressing when the world described in the story isn't such a big step from where we're at and going toward today. What happens when machines are deemed more important and valuable than people?

Casket of Souls (Nightrunner, #6) by Lynn Flewelling

Finally, a return to the series' nightrunning roots: intrigues, conspiracies, war, plots, cabals, nobles, parties, spying, and did I mention the nightrunning? The style remains as pleasantly unpretentious as before, the humour is still present and it is a pleasure to spend time again with these fully fleshed out, multi-dimensional characters.

Shards of Time (Nightrunner, #7) by Lynn Flewelling

Sad that this is the last book in the series but it certainly does justice to it! This time with an additional zest of mysterious possibly-ghosts messing with things, in addition to the usual rich characters, relationships, politics and wonderful worldbuilding.

The Martian by Andy Weir

I was concerned before starting this book that because it was so heavy on the science it would be about as entertaining as reading a textbook. My concerns turned out to be woefully unfounded. Right from the start, Mark's situation and (clever) fight for survival pulls you right in, and once other perspectives get added in the story gets even more gripping.

No.6, Volume 1 by Atsuko Asano


Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You by Jay Rubin

A great little collection of funny, useful essays about various Japanese grammar points. I think this book deserves a space on most Japanese learners' bookshelf because it is easy to read, unlike many grammar books out there (not that these aren't necessary as well). It's a different way to approach some of the troublesome aspects of the language and may help one reach the hah-ah moment they were waiting for.

Losing one star only due to the examples being in romaji and therefore quite hard to read for the longer ones (maybe it's easier if your vocabulary base is more solid?). Even without examples though, this remains an incredibly helpful book.

妖怪アパートの幽雅な日常 1 by Hinowa Kouzuki



13歳のシーズン (BOOK WITH YOU) (Japanese Edition) by Atsuko Asano


No.6, Volume 2 by Atsuko Asano

I really enjoyed it.

No.6, Volume 3 by Atsuko Asano

I really enjoyed it.

赤い指 [Akai yubi] (加賀恭一郎, #7) by Keigo Higashino



No.6, Volume 4 by Atsuko Asano

I really enjoyed it.

Je suis un zèbre by Tiana

Un témoignage émouvant.

No.6, Volume 5 by Atsuko Asano



Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch, #3) by Ann Leckie

Another enjoyable journey through the Radchaai universe. The story centres again strongly on politics, while also taking a closer look at the Artificial Intelligences hanging around. I found the Presger Translator fascinating, constantly being one thought away from understanding her logic... but then not.

No.6, Volume 6 by Atsuko Asano


L'Adulte surdoué:Apprendre à faire simple quand on est compliqué (Psychologie) (French Edition) by Monique de Kermadec

Une perspective intéressante sur des gens qui pensent et perçoivent le monde un peu différemment. Les exhortations constantes à consulter un thérapeute spécialisé donnent parfois une impression "infopub" un peu agaçante.