Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist, #1)The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brandon Sanderson is a master ninja wizard sensei whose writing ability is both a gift and a natural wonder. After Mistborn and the Reckoners, two very distinct settings and magic settings, I guess a third setting and magic system should be a surprise. Each one is different, and yet carry his mark. Natural ties into religion. The real-world complexity of the magic system that makes it believable, even though there is nothing like it in the real world.

My only criticism of this book (and it is still a 5 star read) is the concept of chalklings. They are made to sound so terrible and dangerous, but they are 2-d images. There should be a myriad of ways to fight them and beat them, as exemplified by the buckets of water/acid. Why not just go to Nebrask with fire hoses and soak the place and take the chalk away from whoever is stuck there creating the problem? But the rest of the book was good enough, and the characters great enough (somehow I haven't mentioned them??), that I will trust Sanderson to close that gap in the subsequent books. So go read it, then join me in the activity I hate above all others: waiting for the series to be finished...

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North KoreaNothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As far as non-fiction goes, this was an eye-opening page turner for me. Well, mostly it was. I have traveled through South Korea for business several times, and like to get out of the airport and explore a bit on my frequently long layovers. That little bit of exposure to South Korea culture really added some depth to the story for me. It is amazing that a dictatorship built on lies and exploitation lasted past one dictator, let alone out of the the 20th century. Overall this book was biased towards western culture, as to be expected by an American author, but that shouldn't overshadow the facts that create an appalling scene on their own in North Korea. The bias I noticed was subtle, and more based on word choice than anything else, but I found it annoying because the reality of North Korea is condemning on its own, and adding emphasis to it makes it seem that the reader needs to be convinced. It is like when a child who you believe to be innocent, proclaims innocence so vehemently that you start to suspect something.

While I thought that the subject matter was covered well, I was annoyed by the jumping around from story to story, often on tenuous connections. I can imagine Demick gathering all of these stories and wanting to get as many narratives into the book as possible, but at this point I feel that dropping into backstory over and over created a mess that I would have sacrificed the overall chronology for. The stories themselves would have carried the interest more than the wrap up of defector profiles did (the where-are-they-now style.)

Having noted my issues with the book, this is a solid 4 stars. If you are looking for a non-fiction book that makes you think about the world we live in today, and the power of governments, then I'd recommend this one. It is worth your time.