book review: master and commander

I have friends who really enjoy Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin books. After reading the first one, Master and Commander, I’m sorry to say I don’t understand the devotion. Maybe it’s like how Star Trek is for me, where what happens on screen/page is understood as only a shorthand for the coolness we don’t actually see but understand somehow.

Jack Aubrey is the Master and Commander of a little ship. He gets a doctor, Stephen Maturin, onboard and they go off having adventures attacking French and Spanish ships. I think part of what I dislike stems from the first impressions of them both being petty assholes, one stamping along badly to music and the other elbowing him for making the concert less enjoyable for everyone around him, and then suddenly they’re best friends. It’s like introducing your hero as being the jerk who’s talking on his cell phone through the movie. Sure he might be enjoying it, but he’s also a jerk.

I also have issues with the naviness of everything. All of that military hierarchy and Aubrey’s desire to climb within it don’t make him an appealing character to me. I feel similarly when I read some of the Miles Vorkosigan books, but those, to me, are far more fun.

And there’s all the sailing terminology which never gets explained. I’m all over that in science fiction because no one knows exactly what you’re talking about, since the writer is making a lot of it up. O’Brian isn’t making up tacking and rigging, just talking about it like of course we understand how sailing works because only idiot landsmen wouldn’t.

So yeah, I guess this series just isn’t for me. I’ll stick with spaceships and characters I don’t want to punch in the face.

book review: april 2011 bulk edition

I have been neglecting my reviewing duties. But don’t worry, I’ve still been reading. I haven’t given up on the printed word (and image). Just been slow in typing about them. So here is a list of the books I read before coming to Australia.
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book review: the mountains of mourning

The Mountains of Mourning is a long short story in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. Miles is sent out to the countryside to dispense justice in the murder of a deformed infant. Dispense justice with restraint. It was a thoughtful story about soft power and knowing your audience. The big problem Miles faces is that the villagers he’s investigating have no reason to trust in his ability to do the right thing and not just trample them. It’s very reminiscent of the stuff we’re talking about in my Community-Led Libraries course, to bring things from sf nerdery to library school nerdery.

book review: the warrior’s apprentice

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga is a space opera classic. There are wormholes and space battles and currency discrepancies between worlds. This book, The Warrior’s Apprentice, is about Miles Vorkosigan who doesn’t get into the Imperial academy and then sets off to accidentally create a mercenary company.

It’s exciting and fun and there’s actually a bit more darkness in terms of war crimes and consequences than I’d expected. I was a little surprised at the shying away from depicting the climactic mercenary battle, but it followed that up with some interestingly manipulated politics to get Miles out of a treason charge, so that was pretty neat.

I think I own a couple of Vorkosigan books but have never read them. I only started them now because Baen made nearly the entire series available as free ebooks so I could bring the entire collection on my winter travels. Which is pretty enjoyable.