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Archive for the ‘Violence’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Hiatus.

[READ: July 4, 2022] Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra

This is the third book in the Charlie Thorne series.  And there will clearly be a fourth.

Sarah brought this home and was very excited about it.  I was pretty excited to read it as well.  Our excitement was justified, because Stuart Gibbs has created a great heroine, an intriguing mystery and a thoughtful historical quest.

One of the things I liked best about this book was the historical information about Cleopatra.  We all know all about Cleopatra.  Except  that everything we know is incorrect!  The course of (male) history has been very unkind to Cleopatra–she was an amazing woman and ruler and has been historically described as little more than an exotic temptress.

In the acknowledgements, Gibbs, heaps praise on the book Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff.  I have just checked out the book and the first chapter is fantastic.

The Prologue is set in Alexandria, Egypt in 30 BC.  Cleopatra was being held prisoner by Octavian–Julius Caesar’s nephew.  Cleopatra and her husband Mark Antony were united in a war against Octavian–but they had lost.

Octavian lied about how he would treat Cleopatra after Mark Antony’s death.  She discovered this and was preemptive about her own fate.  She did not kill herself with an asp–rather, she drank poison and burned down her mausoleum.  And her great treasure was destroyed wit her.

Staying in Egypt, the book shifts to the present day.  At the end of the last book Charlie has escaped from the CIA as well as the Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel.

Now she is sneaking into a party in Giza, Egypt, at the penthouse of Ahmet Shah, the oldest son of a wealthy shipping magnate.  Ahmet has a ton of security because he has a ton of expensive things in his house.  But one thing that Charlie wants is not expensive–it is information. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: April 2022] The Truth

This story is set in Ankh-Morpork but it’s not about the Watch.  Or Lord Vetenari.  Well, it sort of is about both of them, but not really.

This story is about The Truth.  And also about a new character called William de Worde.  William is a black sheep of a famous and wealthy Ankh-Morpork family.  He has always been interested in writing and in finding the truth.

His job was to write an occasional message to various important figures around the Disc with information about what’s going on in Ankh-Morpork.  He quickly learned that he could write his message, have the Engraver’s guild print multiple copies and just change a few things for each one.  This made him a lot more money.

Then there was big news in Ankh-Morpork–the arrival of movable type from the dwarfs, particularly Gunilla Goodmountain.

William, through a series of events, inadvertently becomes the spokesperson for the movable type (even though he had nothing to do with it) and starts a newspaper. The paper is supposed to be named Ankh-Morpork Items but they get the type wrong and it became The Ankh-Morpork Times.

He is assisted by the dwarfs and Sacharissa Cripslock–a fiery reporter who proves very useful. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: April 2022] The Fifth Elephant

This is a story of Ankh-Morpork and progress.  Ankh-Morpork has just introduced a series of clacks–semaphore towers–to provide quick communication between distant places.  It’s expensive, but businesses in the know are all getting c-mail addresses.

Incidentally, the movie The Fifth Element came out in 1997 and was clearly an inspiration for the title–although very little about that film falls into place here.  Rather, the fifth elephant of the title is believes to have been one of the elephants who held up the world but who fell to the Disc and caused craters of fat deposits that are found underground in Uberwald (which produces the best fat on the disc).  Fat deposits are a very valuable commodity.

Uberwald factors heavily in this story.  Ankh-Morpork now has the largest dwarf city on the Disc.  And the progressive dwarfs in Ankh-Morpork are able to sway elections back home–where the more traditional dwarfs (deep down dwarfs) don’t think highly of the dwarfs who have left.

An upcoming election for Dwarf king was swayed by the Ankh-Morpork contingent and Rhys Rhysson, a progressive dwarf is set to become King.  But this has made many old school dwarfs very unhappy and rumors of an internal war start brewing. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: March 2022] Carpe Jugulum

It’s so hard to believe that Carpe Jugulum (Discworld book #23 of 41) is the last one to feature the Witches! Especially since it is quite clearly about vampires.  Actually, other books feature Granny Weatherwax (the Tiffany Aching books feature her a lot), but it’s the last one that features the classic trio of witches.

Queen Magrat and King Verence have figured out the whole bedroom thing (Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax weren’t sure they’d every actually figure it out) and are pleased to announce their first child–a girl.

The King has invited everyone to their naming ceremony.  That includes the vampires from Uberwald.

Since the vampires have been invited they are pretty much free to do as they want.  It turns out that they are quite clear about their plans–they are going to move into Lancre Castle and basically turn all of the humans into their cattle (as they have done in Uberwald).  But because of a kind of hypnotism, no one is upset by this–nor do they seem to fully get what the threats represent. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: March 2022] Jingo

With a title like Jingo, you know that Terry Pratchett isn’t holding back.  And indeed, this is a story about two countries fighting each other over disputed territory–and the unenlightened attitudes that people have about “foreigners.”

What is great about Pratchett is how much he is able to get his point across without being preachy.  Some of the unenlightened characters say offensive things, but they are quickly discoruaged from such attitudes–not with bludgeoning and hysteria, but with rational comments.  It’s very well done.

But what causes this trouble?  Well, out of nowhere, an island has surfaced.  The island of Leshp was submerged forever, and suddenly, it floated to the surface amid two fishermen.  Solid Jackson of Ankh-Morpork (and his long-suffering son) and Greasy Arif from Al-Khali, the Klatchian capital.  They often fought over their prey (the Curious Squid), because they sailed the same waters that were between the two countries.

While this is going on, diplomatic business is occurring in Ankh-Morpork.  The prince of Klatch, Khufurah, is in Ankh-Morpork to receive an honorary degree (Doctorum Adamus cum Flabello Dulci) in Sweet Fanny Adams.

Hostilities between A-M and Klatch are high.

Several leaders of the city are there to complain to Lord Vetenari about Klatch.  Watch Captain Sam Vimes is there to add a level head and sarcasm.  When someone complains that Klatch wouldn’t accept ten boatloads of cabbages, Vimes says out loud to himself “everyone knows caterpillars add to the flavor” and later “Meat is at its best when it’s going green.”

And of course, the Patrician knows his way around diplomacy: “it is no longer considered…nice…to send a warship … to show Johnny Foreigner the error of his ways.”

Later, the Prince meets with Vimes and asks him about the word he’s heard shouted at him: “towelhead.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: March 2022] Jailbroke

This was the third of three books by Asman that I received at work.  It was also the least enjoyable of the three.

The story is a simple one.  Set in the future when humans are not the greatest species on the planet (they go by Terrans now), a spaceship that is run primarily by AI is ferrying humans around.  Using Asimov’s first principal, the AI, who are now vastly smarter and more useful than thehumans, cannot harm the humans.  Their existence is predicated on the fact that are have to help the humans.

Until, that is, one of them is accidentally fed biofuel that has a human part in it.  This jailbreaks their programming and allows them to kill humans indiscriminately.

Since this is a spaceship (a bottle episode), there’s not a lot that can happen.

In Nunchuck City, Asman delighted in violence.  In this story, he delights in gore.  Like the way he describes in loving detail how the space drill works on someone’s skull. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE PRETTY BOYS-“Midnight to Six Man,” “Don’t Bring me Down,” “Rosalyn.” (1966, 1964, 1964).

The Pretty Boys are referenced a lot in this novel and I realized I never knew them.

According to Classic Rock History, these are t he band’s top three songs.

I guess as a reference point, I can see what Kent was going for.  The lead singer sounds like a bit of a wild man, with lots of screams.  Each song is a kind of rowdy garage rock. They’ve got a lot of energy, but very mid 60’s energy which really doesn’t appeal to me.

And none of the songs have anything remotely resembling the kind of musical genius that the guitarist in the novel is supposed to have.

So I wasn’t missing anything.

[READ: February 28, 2022] The Unstable Boys

I’m usually a pretty good judge of books when I see them at work.  We get a lot of novels that I would never read, but we occasionally get a gem that I’d never see anywhere else.

I looked at The Unstable Boys and thought I had a gem.  And it started out as one.

The book is about a fictional band from the 60s called The Unstable Boys.

The opening of the book is clippings from various articles about the band.

They were a mix of personalities with two talented members, an array of drummers and a lead singer called The Boy who was a force of nature.  He was, simply, an asshole.  But he was charismatic and unpredictable and people were intrigued by him.  They had a hit, they were poised to do some big stuff and then their second guitarist died.  They were about to go on a major American tour and wanted to postpone.  But the label wouldn’t let them.  The label threw in some new members for the tour and the band imploded.

Guitarist Ral Coombs was a really talented and sensitive musician.  He and The Boy nearly came to blows.  They vowed to never reunite or even speak to each other again.

Then the story begins properly.  We meet Trevor Bourne. He is recently single and, as a freelance writer, not very successful.  He had written a story about The Unstable Boys a while back, but hasn’t had much success lately.

Enter Michael Martindale.  He is a very rich and successful fiction writer.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: March 1, 2022] The Devil Made Me Do It

As South Africa entered the new millennium, things were progressing very slowly (and sometimes regressing).  And Zapiro was watching.

Homophobia was spreading throughout African nations.  There’s a banner that says Queens against Mugabe.  Zapiro ties it together nicely with a picture of Queen Elizabeth with a paper that says “Mugabe lambasts U.K.”

And an anti-rape ad (starring Charlize Theron) was banned because there was public outcry.  Which leads to a later strip in which children learn the rape message: it’s not bad to rape someone in your own family (A lenient sentence was given to a man who raped his daughter); rape is less offensive than an anti-rape ad that offends men; you can get away with rape if you are famous and hire a hotshot legal team.

Apartheid fallout was still happening.

There’s a an amusing picture of Apartheid Hell and the devil is showing all of the people there a video called No person shall be discriminated against on the basis of race, gender ethnic or social origin, culture, sexual orientation….”  Although clearly the powerful men aren’t all getting punished as we see Craig Williamson, a constant figure in these battles, telling the Amnesty Committee to sit, lie down and fetch his amnesty. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 15, 2022] City of Iron and Dust

Like a bird attracted to shiny things, when I see an interesting-looking book come by my desk at work, I decide to read it–no matter how big my tipping over pile of other books to read happens to be.

I dithered about reading this book and I had a slightly hard time getting into it (probably because I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to read it).  But it got very good and very exciting very quickly.

The book is broken up into chapters and each chapter is broken into subsections about a particular character

Jag.  She is the daughter of one of the big goblin families in the City of Iron.  But she longs for a world where goblins don’t dominate and persecute the rest of the fae.  She’s an idealist who goes to fae bars trying to feel something more than the money and power her family has.

Sil.  Sil is half goblin half Fae.  She is Jag’s half sister.  But she was brought up to be an assassin.  And her only purpose in life is to protect Jag.  Later on, we are shown the brutality she suffered to become such a formidable creature.  She has no opinions of her own. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: February 20, 2022] Call Mr. Delivery

This is Zapiro’s fourth book and it’s the first time, I think, that he’s put himself into the cartoons.  And it seems like maybe the world is getting to him.

Although his first appearance is in the meta-joke:

“Only one tiny minority welcomes the formation of Louis Luyt’s new political party” : Cartoonists.

But later by March 1999 he is on a therapist’s couch.  The therapist asks “when did you first experience this feeling of uselessness.  Zapiro says “this week suddenly reality seemed weirder than anything I could come up with.” (And the world hasn’t even gotten to trump yet).

It’s the end of the Mandela era and his successors don’t seem to be shaping up very well.

Although Mandela gets one nice shoutout.  He parts the waters for the Lockerbie Breakthrough and Libya asks if anyone ever get blasé about this sort of thing.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report had to have any negative mentions of F.W. DeKlerk removed.  And Desmond Tutu seems under attack from the left, right and centre (PAC, IFP, FF, ANC, NP, TRC). (more…)

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