Book Reviews: A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky

I’ve just finished reading A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky. I’m just about twenty years late to the party here, but the part where I missed just about everything published between 1985 and 2004 is a known bug, patch in works. I’m mentioning my tardy party attendance because I know I’m not the only one to have missed these two particular books, and that’s a shame. They’re excellent.

A Fire Upon the Deep is the book I was 40 pages into when I had the book-lust crisis over my shiny new copy of Name of the Wind. The tie-breaker gave it to the book I hadn’t read before, and I’m pleased. A Fire Upon the Deep is smart and entertaining in the immersive, fleshed-out way of books that aren’t just fun, but rich. There’s a subtlety of world building here that’s missing, say, from Moon’s Vatta’s War series, though I tore through that at a similar pace. Vinge’s real accomplishment, the one it takes reading it for the first time twenty years later to notice, is that his conception of the internet is 1992’s, with text-based message boards, and the world was built so well that I believed a far post-singularity future would have a less mature network. I was convinced enough of the distances between places, of the alienness of the aliens, of the physical limits of his worldd that running across future bandwidth that makes late-stage dial-up look rapid didn’t throw me out of the world. And I’m told my tolerance for that kind of world breaking is absurdly low.

Bored at work means extended non-spoilery ramblings

Harry Potter Movie 7

It was boring, guys.

The animated sequence they used for info-dumpery was gorgeous. Every scene with the bad guys plotting was phenomenally good. The rest of it? Boring. Hermione did her best to add some life to a dead script, but she didn’t get much help and there was no rescuing the movie from somebody deciding that, all of a sudden at the last minute, we had to do a page-by-page faithful adaptation of the books.

Also, I adore Helena Bonham Carter’s Bellatrix. That casting decision was pure genius. The scenes with her were worth the price of admission, as long as you’re going to a matinee.

Doctor Who Episode Guide

Series 5 of the new series for Doctor Who just concluded (unless you don’t cheat and are putting up with the BBC American broadcast delay.) This reminded me that I promised the Historian and episode guide for Doctor Who weeks ago. So here it is.

There are five ratings for an episode used here: Must Watch (Quality), Must watch (Continuity), Indifferent, Skippable and Do not Watch. Must watch episodes that are both good TV and important for Who continuity get the Quality ranking since I’m more interested in getting people hooked on the show than I am in making sure they catch all the great details. You should read an Indifferent ranking as “Fun, but probably forgettable.” And seriously, don’t watch the Do not Watch episodes. They never happened.

Also, final caveat, I despise the Doctor’s companion for the first two series. Not everybody does. You might want to adjust my rankings for those seasons if you do like Rose. Just make sure you feel like a bad person while you’re at it.
Series 1

Leviathan

My darlingest favoritest baby sister got me a copy of Leviathan for Christmas. If you’ve somehow managed to not hear any of the hype about it the premise can be summarized as such: Steampunk WWI where the Germans and allies fight with clanker bots and the British fight with genetically engineered animals including but not limited to a blimp bred out of whale. I called one of the twist-like reveals way early on, but not in a bad way which is always impressive. Aside from that the book was downright fun. The teen protagonists were each made of nifty, the adults did not suffer stupid-grownup syndrome (and were frequently badass), and the world was thoroughly delightful. Best of all, despite being the first of a planned trilogy, the ending was actually satisfying and felt appropriate. There’s lots more story to tell, but I don’t feel like I got an incomplete first third of a much larger book.

In short, go read it.