Principles of Angels by Jaine Fenn
Good debut SF novel. Set on a quasi-anarchic city where enhanced assassins called Angels are a part of the workings of government. Vivid setting and clear characters, fast paced action.
Ending gets a bit silly in terms of the video-game-like maze with walls of fire popping up for no reason, but other than that the plot is worked out well.
Definitely worth keeping an eye on this author.
What I'm Reading 2
King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild. Highly acclaimed non-fiction, an account of the atrocities committed in the Belgian Congo under the personal rule of King Leopold II between 1885 and 1908.
The book starts with shipping clerk Edmund Morel wondering why great quantities of valuable ivory and rubber are returning from the Congo, but nothing is being sent but ammunition, chains and military supplies. The answer is that massive amounts of slave labour were being used to plunder the region. Principally, armed troops would enter a village, take the women hostage, and force the men to supply these valuables. Fail to meet the quotas, and the hostages would be killed, and the men massacred. To ensure the troops killed enough people, their pay was made conditional on returning severed hands from the bodies. Despite the hostages, resistance and massacres were frequent, since if the men were gathering rubber they couldn't farm and the people would starve anyway. Hochschild estimates that about ten million people died as a result of Leopold's rule.
The book is pretty soberly written, but it's compelling reading after the first few chapters. Hochschild devotes roughly equal attention to what was happening in the Congo, and the campaign to expose and stop it in the West. While it's now largely forgotten, it was a big issue at the time.
Leopold was strikingly modern and effective in his use of lobbying and the media to resist the campaign. He hired well-connected professional lobbyists to help his cause in America and Britain. His agents bribed journalists, bought into newspapers, and sought out useful idiots to go on stage-managed "fact-finding" tours after which they'd report back that everything was fine. It reminds me a bit of the climate change denial movement: using the corrupt and the gullible to turn facts into a controversy.
Overall, an interesting book on an important topic, well worth reading.
What I'm Reading 3
The Book of Genesis illustrated by Robert Crumb. Fascinating and curious book: apparently he was originally thinking of a satirical version, but decided that the stories were worth doing a straight version instead. While he seems pretty faithful, Crumb's distinctive style makes the characters look a bit like hapless victims of the capricious God. That in turn makes them seem more sympathetic, even when they're acting in ways it's hard to sympathize with.
Crumb seems to have done a lot of research: the notes at the end of the book are well worth reading along with. Some of the panels seem inspired by the Assyrian bas-reliefs: the crowded battle scenes in particular. The headgear and costumes look familiar from there too.
While it's a fairly straight rendition, the explicit sex scenes and skeptical notes mean it wouldn't be a great gift for a believer.
Certainly worth reading if you're interested in comics, myths or religion.
It's kind of an SF thriller, with a female protagonist on the run from strange and semi-apocalyptic events. Turns out to be a similar gimmick to the "Raw Shark Texts" with an information-monster loose in the noosphere: takes Baudrillard a bit literally. It's very effectively done at first, with a great sense of paranoia as you're not sure what's going on. Inevitably it sinks a bit as things are explained.
Overall, pretty good. I'll be looking out for her other books.
Went to stay with the parents as usual for the holidays. A few pics.
Dad did pretty well over Xmas. He has Parkinson's and early Lewy Bodies Dementia but it comes and goes: he was practically his old self for a few days over Xmas itself.
Managed to put on 5 pounds over the holidays, which will have to be lost. Hopefully shouldn't be too hard as everyone else is trying the same thing and won't be constantly shoving food and booze at me.
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