July 6th, 2011

the mark

On a happier note - oh, wait...

I'm giving up on The Gormenghast Trilogy and taking it back to the library tomorrow. There's a whole lot of nothing happening, and although it's exquisitely described, it's about as interesting as my Basic Tax Preparation text, which at least rewards me with useful knowledge. Not recommended unless you don't think Lovecraft was prolix and turgid enough for you.

A Storm of Swords fills the gap between A Clash of Kings and A Feast for Crows. Jesus X. Christ, what a crapsack world. By the time you get to the end of the fourth novel, pretty much everyone likable or honorable is either dead, fleeing for their lives, and/or has broken one or another of their vows. Which isn't to say the bad guys don't get hosed, but there's a strong implication that the merely corrupt and stupid Lannisters are going to be replaced by something much worse.

Moving right along to the real world, P recommended The Dead Hand to me, and I have to say that having lived through the Cold War, it brings back a lot of unpleasant memories, because we didn't KNOW what a primitive bunch of screwheads the Soviets really were. The book is about half diplomatic history of the arms control efforts between the US and the Soviet Union and half --formerly-- secret history of the USSR's strategic weapons programs, many of which were notable mainly for paranoid secrecy and a comically sinister ineptitude grounded in the inefficient nature of the Soviet economy. There's plenty of nightmare fuel in the chapters pertaining to the bioweapons program, but since I'm only two-thirds of the way through the book and the Soviet Union has just collapsed, I'm sure there's worse stuff waiting. Anyway, it's definitely worth reading if you were around at the time and even more so if you weren't. Either way, you're going to learn something.

I stopped reading Harold Coyle's books quite a while ago, probably for the same reason I quit reading Dale Brown; after the USSR stopped being the USSR, there just wasn't another credible high-tech global menace around for the US to whang on. I probably should have stayed away from Dead Hand as well, because it's not at all up to the standard of his debut, Team Yankee, or even the last novel of his that I recall reading, The Ten Thousand. I am especially annoyed at the huge chunk of expository asteroid science stuff that ate five minutes of my life this afternoon without advancing the plot to any measurable degree (and was done much better in Lucifer's Hammer anyway) and given the various reviews on amazon.com, I doubt it's going to get much better.

Well, that was depressing and annoying. I think I'm going to find something cheerful to read as a bedtime book. Some David Drake or something.