Duncan’s Reading List & Book Reviews: July 2015

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Just over 2,000 pages read this month, down 20% from June, which was down 20% from May. Summer makes me dumber! I would also add, as you can tell from the photo, that balancing hardbacks on your head is really hard when you have no hair.

The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas, 1844 (788 pages)

I loved the Count of Monte Cristo, so reading his second most-acclaimed book was the obvious decision. As with the Count, these are NOT children’s books. D’Artagnan is the “hero”, but hardly the chivalrous type, the title Musketeers are less charming than you might expect, and there are court intrigues galore. I didn’t enjoy this as much as Monte Cristo, and I suspect it was the translation. This was the 1952 translation, and I think a more recent version would have been more natural and flowed better. Still a ripping good yarn, and a page turner: I have already ordered the other four volumes in the series. 8/10.

Nemesis Games – James S.A. Corey, 2015 (530 pages)

This is the fifth volume in the Expanse series. James S.A. Corey is a nom-de-plume for the writing team of Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham, both of whom have worked with George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire series. If you have slogged through Volume Five of that series, you would approach his protégés later books with considerable trepidation. But unlike George, this fifth book is BETTER than the previous books, which I had given 8/10. One reviewer said that “This is Corey’s Empire Strikes Back and I would agree: it takes the franchise in some new and better directions, showing greater depth for the ancillary characters. 9/10

The Martian – Andy Weir, 2011, 2014 (385 pages)

Love love love. I already wrote about this on Facebook: it is the perfect hard science book for geeks, nerds, and (especially) those who are both. The writing is good but not brilliant, but the sheer detail of the story elevates the book into a hard science classic. The concept isn’t all that new: Jules Verne did some similar things in The Mysterious Island, and that was in 1874. The brilliant Cyrus Smith doesn’t need to produce water from hydrazine (spoilers!), but does make bricks, nitroglycerin and a telegraph from a standing start. 10/10

Armada – Ernest Cline, 2015 (355 pages)

I adored Cline’s previous novel, Ready Player One. I was so excited to read his sophomore attempt that I bought the hardcover! As I was reading Armada, I kept asking myself why I didn’t love it as much? It was just like RPO: the video game setting, the shameless homage to the science fiction movies of 1970-1990, endless pop culture references, similar lead character, similar supporting characters, and the list of similarities just went on and on. And on. Uh oh.  Maybe this is just a hurried book, badly edited, and rushed out to capitalise on the Ready Player One enthusiasm, and Cline will have something DIFFERENT to say in his next book. Or the alternative is that he only had one book in him, and he’s stuck on repeat from now on. I hope not.  5/10

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