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Not so much a blog; just lots of books

Currently reading

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
Barbara W. Tuchman, Nadia May
Progress: 47/1718minutes
Conservation of Shadows
Yoon Ha Lee
Progress: 22%
Le premier jour
Marc Levy
Progress: 180/496pages
Moby-Dick: or, The Whale (Penguin Classics)
Herman Melville
Manifold: Time
Stephen Baxter, Chris Schluep
Progress: 99/480pages
The Long War
Stephen Baxter, Terry Pratchett
Progress: 68/501pages

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach (it gets a bit ranty)

Fortune's Pawn - Rachel Bach

Series: Paradox #1


I really wasn’t sure what to rate this (I still haven’t decided as I write these words). The author started off as a fantasy writer and it shows. I think the book might be geared more towards fantasy fans that don’t mind reading stories in space. I wasn’t expecting too much from this book, but it was mostly meh, or at least it was meh by the end. It started off more or less on the right foot, with Devi trying to land herself a job that would lead to becoming a Devastator (an elite armoured guard), but I guess I just wasn’t feeling it. Devi ends up a mercenary in her mech armour on Caldswell’s ship the Glorious Fool and hijinks ensue.


Maybe part of the problem is that I never really found any of the characters interesting. I mean, Devi’s shallow, Rupert’s shallow, and the other characters aren’t all that well fleshed out. Honestly, Devi’s not that special. I guess my favourite character would probably be the doctor (Hyrek)? Caldswell is somewhat interesting only because he’s a mystery. He’s not even a very intriguing mystery. Anyway, there just doesn’t seem to be much of a basis for a romance here and our couple act like teenagers. Part of Rupert’s problem might have been the fact that he was called Rupert.


There was a very long confrontation scene near the end with an awful lot of talking. It was a bit melodramatic. The actual ending, at least the way it was presented, read as a cop out. I know it’ll get taken up in the subsequent books, but my reaction was basically just, “Really? You couldn’t come up with anything better?” Sigh.


It wasn’t just that Rupert gets Ren to wipe her memory (and thus save her from being killed as per Caldswell’s orders for knowing too much) which seemed cheap. It was also her feeling physically ill whenever she saw Rupert and being unable to remember his name.

(show spoiler)


The actual armoured fighting wasn’t terribly interesting and the armoured suits seemed invincible until they needed not to be.

The xith’cal swarm attacking the ship seemed terribly ineffective as a boarding party. But then later another party of xith’cal does a lot more damage. Yes, the second set of xith’cal are sick and a bit crazy, but still.

(show spoiler)


Now why do I say that it shows that the author is a fantasy author? There are several reasons, some of which might lead you to accuse me of being nitpicky. I’ll live.


Warning: teensy rant ahead.


It’s not that she makes things up. Making things up is ok, but there needs to either be some underlying logic or common sense. There isn’t much here. There is a food dish that is described as having shredded mushrooms. I’m not sure how this was accomplished. This is where common sense should come in. Based on the reasoning that shredded cheese is actually grated, I did try to grate a mushroom. I was successful, as you can see in the picture below. I’m still not sure why you would do this, or why you would describe a dish like this though, and I don’t plan on doing it again. So I'm not accepting it as a valid way to prepare mushrooms.




There’s a terribly-named mystical energy thing called plasmex. Why would you name a mystical energy plasmex? It sounds like a futuristic construction material or something. Grumbles. Then there’s a planet where earthquakes are said to be planet-wide. Are they not following fault lines? Why is no one panicking?


An asteroid belt is described as “almost two light years from end to end”. Show me a gravitationally bound stellar system that’s two light years across. Oh, you say, asteroid belts aren’t just floating around? No, not really. It’s like saying that your pet goldfish is as big as the Eiffel Tower and expecting to be taken seriously. You need to develop a sense of scale for space. Just a little bit.


The author does apologize in her note about possibly getting physics wrong, but why would you imagine plasma being used as a patching material? Is this some material called Plasma™? And if not, why are they spraying it around like some kind of aerosol? (That’s how I pictured it coming out of the contraption they had – I could be mistaken). This is what plasmex could have been used for. The mystical energy could have been called quintessence or another made-up word that sounded like something people would actually call a mystical energy. It could have been called plasm, even.


The big, bad monster (spoiler):

The symbiont was just too fantastical for me. I couldn’t hand wave the transformation away (the whole generation of scales that rips clothing and so on but the skin stays intact underneath and the scales are worn like a mech suit). It requires magic, although I guess in this series magic is called plasmex.

(show spoiler)


Anyway, I wish I didn’t sound so nitpicky, but there were a lot of descriptions in this book that made me do a double take. I haven’t decided whether to read the next one yet. I did check that the library has it though. I think I’ll give it 2.5 stars, so if I do read the next ones, they’ll have room to move downward (I can’t see this series getting any better).


I’m also sorry for making up half an imaginary conversation and addressing the other person as “you”. This is why my reviews are usually shorter. I hope it’s not too ranty.



ETA (2016-08-10):

I stand corrected. It has come to my attention that some people do, in fact, "shred" mushrooms for use in certain dishes (see Lillelara's and Murder by Death's comments below), so I'll retract my criticism of the shredded mushroom dish in the book. I'm leaving my original comments in the review, though, because it's funnier that way. I think my other comments still stand.