November 30th, 2015

smirk by geekilicious

Book 129

Shadows of Self (Mistborn, #5)Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have high expectations of any Sanderson novel and I'm rarely disappointed. I will say that Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4) was my entry into the series. I didn't know there was the trilogy proceeding it until afterward (and if I can figure out where I put my copy I need to reread it now that I have read the first three books which are a few hundred years prior to books 4 & 5). Alloy didn't strike me as needing much knowledge of the first three books (or I wouldn't have liked it as well I'm sure) but this book definitely requires you to know something of the first three books as those characters are now part of the myth and religion of this world and are the absolute heart of this book.

Wax, Wayne and Marasi are back in this volume (and to a lesser degree, Steris). Wax is preparing for his marriage to Steris much to the dismay of Wayne who doesn't seem to like her (I don't remember why and you are not reminded of why in this). In fact in light of that there isn't really enough of Steris in this volume (she is hustled off to keep her safe). Wax still holds Lessie, his first and now deceased love, in his heart however.

Marasi is struggling with working with Wax. He'll soon be her brother in law (even though she is just the bastard daughter of a Lord). She is now a constable working directly with the chief of police but she is hindered, not by her sex so much (they are pretty equal in that regard) or even because she is a bastard but rather because she went from law school right into this high ranked position. Men under her are upset she didn't work up to it and being friends with Wax who is a Lord (and not really a cop but acts like one) makes it worse.

Marsai and Wax (and his shadow, Wayne) are trying to stop someone leaving a string of bodies behind her. Her goal is to basically whip the city into rebellion and topple the gods. Think the beginning of the depression, that's about where we are time wise. Cars and electricity are just starting to get a hold on the town. There's a huge money gap between the lords and the workers who are either out of work of working insane and dangerous hours. Worse the governor is corrupt.

This is very hard to review without spoiling anything so let me say that it is rooted hard in Wax's past and even further back. The Kandra for example are nearly immortal and they had served the lord ruler then and now in theory they serve Harmony (the new god) but after centuries the stories have taken on mythic proportions vs actual historical accounts. For example most people believe that the Kandra didn't even exist.

Wax learns early on that hematullargy is happening and several of the people killed were Metalborns and their powers stolen. Marasi, Wayne and Wax are all Metalborns which is always neat, makes for interesting fight scenes. Speaking of which Sanderson knows how to balance those. Overly long fight scenes bore me but he kept them short and crisp.

I really love Wax and Marsai and very especially, Wayne. Yes he's half mad and a thief but there is something endearing about him. It makes me a little sad that Sanderson has so many series going because it takes him so long to put out a new book. That said, I'm willing to wait for the quality I get. I can't wait to see the next one. But if you haven't read the first three books you seriously want to before tackling this one.

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Black Echo by Michael Connelly

book 157:  The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

This is the first book in the Harry Bosch mystery series.  Bosch is an LA homicide detective with a Vietnam tunnel rat background and a police performance record of doing his own thing and not playing well with others.  Black Echo won Connelly an Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and I agree with the judgment.  I only had two complaints...nobody's going to leave the hospital within a day with an injury like that!  and a criminal would have to be a complete moron to talk to the intended victim that long with other law enforcement personnel in the area!  Besides those two speed bumps, I found the story very engaging and gritty.  Bosch is tough but well rounded and reasoned.  The things he does make sense and feel like they could happen.  The story also balances police procedural and suspenseful intensity well.  I look forward to reading the next one, Black Ice, if I can find a copy.

InuYasha Volumes 20-22 by Rumiko Takahashi

book 158:  InuYasha Volume 20 by Rumiko Takahashi

InuYasha defeats the demon who killed his father, Ryukotsusei, and gains a new power for his sword, The Backlash Wave, which combines an enemy's power with the native power of Tetsusaiga and reflects it back at him.  Naraku gives the black priestess, Tsubaki, a former rival of Kikyo, the Shikon Jewel in exchange for her efforts in controlling and destroying Kagome and having Kagome kill InuYasha before she perishes.  Kagome rises to the challenge, reflecting Tsubaki's curse back onto its sender, just as Kikyo had done fifty years before.

book 159:  InuYasha Volume 21 by Rumiko Takahashi

Shippo develops a crush on a young orphan girl, Satsuki, and tries to protect her from bullies and then a demon pretending to be her deceased brother.  He gets by with a little help from his friends.  Naraku's castle barrier weakens during a time of metamorphosis, allowing both InuYasha's and Koga's groups to close in.  Kagura attacks Koga and steals the jewel shards from his legs, but wondering at Naraku's current weakness, considers running away with the shards.  Kagura approaches InuYasha's half-brother Sesshomaru, offering him the shards in return for him killing Naraku and freeing her.  Sesshomaru refuses, resenting being under obligation to anyone and denying any interest in obtaining the Shikon Jewel.  He advises Kagura to not plan treachery unless she is strong enough to do it herself.  She returns to Naraku, who knew about her attempted betrayal, but before back under his thumb she learns InuYasha's secret about becoming mortal on the night of the new moon, a fact she decides not to share with her master.  Miroku journeys into the mountains to investigate rumors of a beautiful demoness stealing the mountain people's husbands with Sango closely following to keep him out of trouble.  The two grow a little closer, at least until Miroku misplaces his hands on Sango's person again.  Another offspring (or in this case cast-off) of Naraku appears, stealing faces and calling himself Muso.  He rejoices in slaughter.

book 160:  InuYasha Volume 22 by Rumiko Takahashi

Muso seems to be the embodiment of Onigumo's heart, which Naraku has cast off at last.  He also has wicked powers of transformation and regeneration.  Before InuYasha can destroy the heart itself, Naraku returns and reclaims Muso into his body, having realized that he can't completely separate without losing necessary demonic powers, just yet.  InuYasha tries to kill Naraku but is thwarted by his shields once again.  InuYasha is told by Myoga the flea that he can gain the power to cut through shields by killing the hereditary guardian of the hyakkikomori (100 ogre bats) and soaking the sword in its blood.  The current guardian turns out to be a little girl half-demon, forced to serve the bats to save her human mother's life.  InuYasha cannot bring himself to kill a child, but with help of the deceased spirit of the girl's demon father, InuYasha is able to claim the power for his sword anyway.

InuYasha Volume 23 by Rumiko Takahashi

book 161:  InuYasha Volume 23 by Rumiko Takahashi

Naraku has Kagura kidnap Sesshomaru's little human girl companion, Rin, in attempt to force Sesshomaru to kill InuYasha or, failing that, lure Sesshomaru to Naraku's castle.  The latter happens, as Sesshomaru is not apt to follow orders from anyone for any reason.  Naraku anticipated this, planning to bring Sesshomaru within reach so Naraku could absorb him and his power into his own body.  Meanwhile, Rin is left in Kohaku's care, another part of Naraku's plot...Kohaku (Sango's little brother) kills Rin and in turn is killed by Sesshomaru (InuYasha's older half-brother), setting the groups at war with each other...  However, Kagome notices the Shikon jewel shard embedded in Kohaku's back, while InuYasha picks up Naraku's scent which Naraku had purposefully let leak to draw in Sesshomaru.  Naraku is surprised by InuYasha, who can now easily slice through the barrier around his castle.  The two brothers attack Naraku, with Sesshomaru claiming first rights.  Naraku uses Rin one more time telling Sesshomaru that if he wanted her to live, he may want to rush to her side instead of transforming into his demon form and pursuing Naraku.  Sesshomaru goes to Rin, with InuYasha racing him to get there and prevent the death of Sango's little brother.  Kohaku resists killing Rin, whom he has come to like, and rushes at Sesshomaru to goad him into killing him before he can harm anyone else.  InuYasha tries to come between them and Kagome begs for mercy, but Sesshomaru himself realizes the boy and he are being manipulated and rejects the whole plan, releasing Kohaku and heading off with Rin into the sunset.  Sesshomaru is my favorite InuYasha character, and I love watching his arrogant demon self develop compassion.  So, all volumes containing Sesshomaru and Rin together are at the top of my favorites. :)  This volume finishes out with all parties trying to figure out where Naraku disappeared to after his defeat at the castle.  All scent and evil aura have "disappeared from the earth".  There are many false trails, but Kikyo hears of a place that has mystical powers to cleanse all souls, Mt. Hakurei, and starts moving that way.

Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited

book 162:  Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley

This book contains the novel Brave New World and the collection of essays Brave New World Revisited, which was written about 30 years after the former.
Brave New World was originally published in 1932 and is a dystopian novel.  The idea is that the "civilized" world has conquered humanity's problems by engineering humans both physically and psychologically to work together in pre-ordained roles.  All children are "decanted" from bottles rather than born from a human mother, after genetic screening and selection and further modification depending on pre-selected class by chemicals and biological hormones.  Classes are further diversified from one another while developing more unity within by a type of hypnosis or subliminal messaging, generally occuring and regimented times and quantities during sleep throughout their lives.  The genetic and psychological conditioning give a baseline of acceptible behavior which is further encouraged by reward systems of free and ample distractions, like "feelies" (movies enhanced by multiple sensory inputs), interactive games, and encouragement of promiscuity (and subsequent downplay and discouragement of binding and deep relationships).  Finally, if in spite of all of this, someone is feeling out of sorts, there is the daily allotment of soma, a drug that takes away all bad thoughts and feelings without risk of negative side effects.  There are not arguments against this kind of society because the people within the society have been engineered not to want anything but this society.  With no social distress, there is no need for "higher" thought or outlets such as arts and literature and religion.  History is erased or modified to fit the needs of the society.  There are "uncivilized" pockets or islands.  If a member of one of the highest classes, ie. an alpha, cannot adapt to life in society (alphas must be left with a touch of free thought since they are the rulers of society and have to be able to react if something unforseen occurs), they can be banished to live with other misfits like themselves on an island.  The other "savage" places would be the equivalent of Indian reservations, where practices continued to evolve along a more natural path.  Huxley uses the experimental introduction of a "savage" from one of these reservations into "civilization" a la Brave New World to show what could be lost and gained by such a society.  It took me a long time to figure out if Huxley was writing a book about a world as he would want it or about a world he feared was on the horizon.  After reading his essays, the latter is most assuredly true, but I honestly kept thinking that the civilization shown in Brave New World is not that bad.  Not compared to living as I do as a member of the "underclass" of the United States.  I kept thinking that if they could do it perfectly, not ever let me know that I was being controlled, having a life where you were perpetually useful, healthy, content, and entertained wouldn't be so bad at all.

Brave New World Revisited are essays written in the 1960's, looking back at what has come to pass, what missed the mark, and what is yet to come.  The chapters cover subjects such as over-population and depletion of resources as a cause for the rise of freedom restricting government systems, propaganda...positive and means of controlling ideas and manipulating behaviors (including topics such as Hitler, advertisment, and religion), and chemical dependency and use as a mellowing agent for the masses (personally I think soma was an opioid you think people would more readily line up for work if part of their pay was a tab or two of hydrocodone?).  Several of Huxley's ideas hit pretty close to the bullseye, and I agree with him.  If you are going to have a successful long-term repressive regime, doing it through a reward system (drugs, entertainment, and sex) will elicit a greater response and have a longer effect than through bully tactics, like in 1984 or some of the modern dictatorships, which gained controlled but lost it again with the backlash of animosity from the repressed and those who supported them.  Brave New World could end free thought indefinitely.