Review: Legion by Brandon Sanderson

•September 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment


Brandon Sanderson just won a Hugo for his novella The Emperor’s Soul. Looking for an electronic copy of that I also found this novella, Legion. The version of the cover in the middle above is by Jon Foster, for the Subterranean Press edition. The other 2 are the eBook covers designed by Isaac Stewart. I read the red version, an epub. The blue version is what shows up on amazon for the kindle.

This is a great reading experience because of what Sanderson has done with the abnormal mind of the point of view character. We have here something similar to, but a bit more dramatic than, a functional schizophrenic. Legion is a collection of eccentric (and a bit crazy in their own right) geniuses crammed into the mind of an otherwise seemingly ordinary man. He sees them as hallucinations and lives in a large house with many rooms so that he has space to put them away when he doesn’t need them. I immediately thought back to the schizophrenic character in Blindsight by Peter Watts. Sanderson’s description of Legion’s various hallucinations is sort of how I imagined that character from Blindsight might see the world if we’d gotten her point of view.

The MacGuffin has potential. A fun device which plays with the tropes of time travel while keeping our ensemble of a protagonist firmly rooted in the present. The science vs religion debate is a heavy topic to handle in an otherwise rather light thriller. Ultimately the simplistic plot is overshadowed by the interesting characters in the narrator’s head and the unanswered questions beg for the story to be continued. I’ll be watching for a future volume.

I’ll leave you with 2 related bits (sort of from the “truth is stranger than fiction” department), a Ted talk about Schizophrenia:

and an interview with the author of Zealot:

The Historical Jesus – This…Is Interesting on KCRW.

TagShadow: The 2013 Hugo Winners

•September 2, 2013 • 1 Comment

See Locus for more details and the winners in categories that don’t track well in TagShadow.  I didn’t even attempt to follow the Hugo ceremony this year after my frustration last year, but the winners have been announced and I’ve updated Hugo Winners TagShadow accordingly:

I continue to read

•August 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment

What I’ve been doing while not posting here.

  • I’m 15 books into my 20 book goal for the year. I may just have to raise that goal up a few notches.
  • I’ve started quite a few reviews for this blog, but I seem to have lost all confidence in my ability to collect my thoughts…
  • thus I’ve been reading about literary analysis. We’ll see if that helps me gather my thoughts.
  • I started a tumblr to track the short fiction I read. See my reviews of The Emperor’s Old Bones by Gemma Files and The Best Science Fiction of the Year Three by Ken Macleod
  • I continue development on the next iteration of TagShadow, although data entry has stalled. I really need to bring some other people onto this project…

The Big Idea: Michael Marshall Smith

•May 30, 2013 • Leave a Comment


I love reading “The Big Idea” on Scalzi’s blog and this book has been intriguing me for a while. I once did a reading at an open mic that applied this technique (via machine translation) to a rather personal email. I suspect the results here will be better.

Originally posted on Whatever:

It’s not unusual for authors to play with words in their stories. It’s slightly more unusual for authors to take chances with the meaning of their stories — and to see if the meaning of the stories will change if the words are changed, in a deliberate way. With The Gist, author Michael Marshall Smith is doing both. Here he explains how and why he’s doing it.


I don’t actually remember when or how or why I had the idea for The Gist—which is odd, as it’s ended up taking about ten years of my life. As a writer, I’m normally a pretty direct kind of guy. I don’t do fancy. I distrust artifice. I may wrestle with a Big Idea in a novel once in a while but it generally winds up being subservient to character and plot, and the books themselves are as…

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The Affinity Bridge eBook is now on sale for $2.99

•May 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment


I’ve not read this series, but I have the first 2 on my shelf.

Originally posted on Tor/Forge Blog:

George Mann’s The Executioner’s Heart, the latest in the Newbury & Hobbes Investigation series, is due out on July 9. This month we are making it easy to get started with the series by releasing the first ebook, The Affinity Bridge, for only $2.99.*

About The Affinity Bridge: Welcome to the bizarre and dangerous world of Victorian London, a city teetering on the edge of revolution. Its people are ushering in a new era of technology, dazzled each day by unfamiliar inventions. Airships soar in the skies over the city, while ground trains rumble through the streets and clockwork automatons are programmed to carry out menial tasks in the offices of lawyers, policemen, and journalists.

But beneath this shiny veneer of progress lurks a sinister side.

Queen Victoria is kept alive by a primitive life-support system, while her agents, Sir Maurice Newbury and his delectable assistant…

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Science: Dealing with Data (misplaced draft 3/6/11)

•May 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A data archivist would be a mix of librarian, IT expert, and physicist…

This is a job that sounds awesome to me. The proposal to create such a position on particle physics research teams was made in the first of a series of articles on “dealing with data” in the February 11th issue of Science. Normally I just read through the abstracts and skim the occasional article, but I was pretty excited to spend some time with this topic. I manage a ton of data as part of my day job and I spend some of my free time working on Tag Shadow, which involves collecting and analyzing data on books and stories.

The second article discusses how techniques for visualizing and analyzing data developed for astronomy have been applied to medicine and vice versus. This got me thinking of the work my friend Justin does as well as my misplaced aspirations at becoming an astrophysicist. The third article profiles a company called Kaggle that runs competitions to improve the analysis of data, much like the Netflix prize.

I have WAY too many drafts that I never got around to posting for one reason or another. I figured I’d share.

Review: Black Blade Blues by J. A. Pitts

•May 23, 2013 • Leave a Comment


I worked in the theater department while I was in college. I also worked with University Computing and a coworker there, Skip, had an interesting project with the local blacksmith. Add in all my friends that were obsessed with the SCA and Black Blade Blues by J. A. Pitts had a rather nostalgic pull on me. My wife will like the Northwest setting, but for me all that nostalgia pretty much superimposed this story on the Appalachian mountains of Virginia. My mind does weird things with settings.

It’s hard not to compare this book to Norse Code (review). They came out around the same time and both draw heavily on Norse Mythology. Norse Code was definitely more my type of book, a tangle of sub genres and dense with ideas. Black Blade Blues is literally a tale of a magical sword being used to slay a dragon. You don’t get much more core fantasy than that. Also, not that much of a spoiler if you happen to glance at the cover.

The strength of Black Blade Blues lies in its main character. Sarah Beauhall is many things before she becomes a dragon slayer. First, she’s distinctly working class, holding down 2 jobs to make ends meet. She’s a blacksmith by day and the pro master for a very indie movie theater in the evenings. She’s got a beautiful girlfriend and a ton of baggage from her very conservative upbringing. She’s also surrounded by people that seem to know more about the magical aspects of the world than she does.

As more and more magic enters the story, Sarah resists. Part of that magic is Norse Mythology and part of it is love and in both cases she resists. She drives herself more than a little emotionally ragged and makes plenty of bad choices. The first two thirds or so of the book follows this roller coaster and then the stakes are raised. The big battle at the end is gritty and epic despite it’s relatively small scale.

The world that’s been established for this series is pretty traditional urban fantasy. I like the working class emphasis although there are plenty of side characters with money. I actually appreciate the “magic and technology don’t mix” trope although it was handled rather erratically in this case. I like the structure of the story – tight 1st person on Sarah with the occasional 3rd person chapters to fill us in on other characters – definitely gave the world room to breathe. I like how much damage is done to important characters. I feel like Pitts could pull a GRRM and kill off a point of view character. Probably not Sarah. I think there are at least 3 more books. I actually enjoyed Sarah in the heavily character sections, but I look forward to her spending more time kicking ass and less time destroying relationships in future installments. I’m also curious what the short story version of this was like. May have to track down that anthology.


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