nicky2910's book reviews

I've always been an avid reader. And I love writing about and discussing the books I read.

SPOILER ALERT!

Unterwerfung von Michel Houellebecq

Unterwerfung: Roman - Michel Houellebecq, Norma Cassau, Bernd Wilczek

Es ist das Jahr 2022. In der Stichwahl der französischen Präsidentschaftswahlen befinden sich ein Kandidat des Front National und einer der Muslimischen Bruderschaft. Während das Land sich in den Grundfesten verändert, durchlebt der Erzähler Francois, ein Literaturprofessor, seine eigene Midlife Crisis.

 

Ganz ehrlich, schlussendlich war ich von der Lektüre dieses Romans enttäuscht. Gerade die interessanten Facetten, nämlich die Übernahme der westlichen Welt durch die Muslimischen Bruderschaft samt der Veränderungen, die dies in der Gesellschaft bringt, Stichwort Stellung der Frau, Bildungspolitik, Expansion, wird mehr in philosophischen Unterhaltungen gebracht als als Hauptaugenmerk. Die Midlife Crisis des Protagonisten samt seiner sexuellen Erfolge und Misserfolge entschädigt da keineswegs. Vor allem da das Ende des Charakters eigentlich vorgegeben ist - entweder er "unterwirft" sich einem System, das ihm an sich alle seine Probleme letztlich (vor allem die Partnerwahl) abnimmt, oder er bricht aus... und letzteres ist von Anfang an unwahrscheinlich.

 

Daher bleibt ein schaler Beigeschmack - aber vielleicht hab ich auch einfach die vielen philosophischen Untertöne und Ergüsse über das Römische Reich, das nun ganz schnell nachgebaut werden soll mit der Expansion der EU Richtung Nordafrika (hm, wie das geschieht, nachdem Frankreich nur ein Staat von vielen in der EU ist, und schließlich alle Mitgliedsstaaten Beitrittsgesprächen zustimmen müssten, bleibt offen), nicht verstanden...

SPOILER ALERT!

Exodus von Leon Uris

Exodus: Das große Epos um die Gründung Israels (Taschenbuch) - Leon Uris

Leon Uris bettet die historischen Ereignisse rund um die Gründung des Staates Israel in einen umfangreichen Roman ein.

 

Kurz nach dem Ende des 2. Weltkrieges warten Tausende Juden in Lagern in Westeuropa und Zypern auf die Einreiseerlaubnis nach Palästina, das zu dem Zeitpunkt von Großbritannien besetzt ist. Da trifft die amerikanische Kinderkrankenschwester Kitty auf Zypern auf den jüdischen Agenten Ari, der plant, die Blockade vor Palästina mit einem Schiff voller jugendlicher Flüchtlinge zu brechen, und Kitty um Hilfe bittet. Damit nimmt die Geschichte ihren Lauf.

 

Das, was diesen Roman von der Durchschnittskriegsromanze abhebt, ist sicherlich die eindrückliche Schilderung der jüdischen Geschichte: von Ghettos und Pogromen bis hin zum Holocaust, Gaskammern und Internierungslagern *nach* der Befreiung. Dazu eine britische Regierung, die sich gar nicht mit Ruhm bekleckert, sondern Versprechen bricht rechts und links... alles nur des Zugangs zum Öl bzw Suezkanal. 70 Jahre später haben sich die politischen und wirtschaftlichen Interessen nicht so geändert, diese Nebenbemerkung sei erlaubt.

 

Dazu kommen die individuellen Schicksale von Aris Vater und Onkel, die aus Osteuropa Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts zu Fuß vor den Pogromen flüchten. Während Aris Vater Barak den Weg der Verhandlungen einschlägt, schließt sich der Onkel Akiba einer terroristischen Freiheitsbewegung an. Anhand ihrer Geschichte erzählt Uris die Entstehung der Kibbuze und schlußendlich die Gründung des Staates. Dann sind noch Dov Landau, ein polnischer Bursche, dessen gesamte Familie ermordet wurde und der nichts anderes als Ghetto und KZ kennt und dementsprechend wütend und desillusioniert im zypriotischen Lager landet und schließlich eines der Kinder von Aris Plan wird - genauso wie Karen, die das Glück hatte, rechtzeitig nach Dänemark geschickt zu werden, und so dem Holocaust entkam, die aber nun auf der Suche nach ihrem überlebenden Vater auch den Weg nach Palästina via Zypern und Aris Schiff sucht.

 

Ari selbst ist der typische Freiheitskämpfer, der Held mit Tiefgang sozusagen. An ihm im Einzelfall, aber sozusagen als Stellvertreter für die gesamte jüdische Gesellschaft, zeigt Uris die Formung des Charakters durch Verlust, Tod und Kampf: Nichts wird geschenkt, alles muss erkämpft werden (sei es durch Urbarmachung von Sümpfen oder Kampfhandlungen), und Schicksalsschläge werden ertragen und machen stärker. Genau diese Charakterisierung als absolut gut und die folgende Schwarz-Weiß-Malerei mit einfach nur abgrundbösen, verräterischen "Arabern", näher definiert wird da nicht, sie morden, rauben und vergewaltigen, haben keine Kultur, Hygiene oder sonstwie Wissen, und die Briten, die mit wenigen Ausnahmen auch einfach nur böse sind, ist mir zu wenig differenziert. Das mag grob geschichtlich stimmen, aber ein Roman lebt an sich von den Schattierungen, ganz besonders, wo's klare Fronten gibt.

 

Blass bleibt Kitty, die nicht-jüdische Kinderkrankenschwester, Mann und tote Tochter betrauernd (kein Zusammenhang mit dem Krieg), denn ganz erschließt sich mir ihre Motivation nicht. Zu Anfang ist sie richtiggehend von Karen besessen, in der sie sozusagen eine Art Tochterersatz sieht und die sie gleich nach Amerika adoptieren will. Dazu kommen ihre Argwohn gegenüber dem Fremden, Jüdischen. Nur wegen Karen und weil sie sich irgendwie zu Ari hingezogen fühlt, nimmt sie an dem Abenteuer der Überfahrt nach Palästina teil. Ihre Gefühle zu Ari aber kann sie nicht wirklich ausleben, weil der "nicht weint" und sie auch nicht zu brauchen scheint. Auch hier wünscht sie also eine Art von Abhängigkeitsverhältnis, das mir nicht wirklich gesund oder wie eine gleichberechtigte Partnerschaft erscheint. Und genau mit dieser Charakterisierung aber fällt die Wirkung der gezeigten Romanze flach.

 

Somit bleibt ein ausgezeichneter Eindruck der jüdischen Geschichte, und ja, aus diesem Teil kann man als Nicht-Jude definitiv viel erfahren, der Rest allerdings sackt doch ins Durchschnittliche ab. Schade.

SPOILER ALERT!

Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship by Una McCormack

Brinkmanship (Star Trek: Typhon Pack, #8) - Una McCormack

While Crusher and Picard attend a conference over the offer by the Venetans to the Tzenkethi to use some of their starbases (those close to Federation, Cardassian and Ferengi space respectively), Dax is joined by SI commander Peter Alden, visiting one of the starbases in question and trying to determine the Tzenkethi motive.

 

I think the red thread holding this book together is distrust - distrust of enemies in a cold war, distrust of old friends who might have changed too far, distrust of new allies etc. And in the end, a part of the solution which returns a threatening outbreak of open warfare to the cold war situation, is to sow distrust into a people who are blunt and not used to subterfuge and lies. The Tzenkethi are a fascinating people and McCormack spends some time introducing their culture and the makeup of their society. And quite frankly, open slavery and subjugation is one thing, but genetic engineering and "(re)conditioning" so that everybody is happy with the small place that they're granted and not willing and/or able to look beyond is quite the devious scheme.

 

This book also introduces Peter Alden, a high-strung intelligence officer on the verge of a breakdown, and Corazame, one of said naive Tzenkethi who gets pulled into a spy-extraction plot. We'll see both of them again in "The Missing" and "Enigma Tales" (only Alden).

 

Overall, an entertaining novel, which unfortunately takes a bit of time to really get going. But once it does, it's hard to put it down... And I said it before: I like Alden, he's an interesting, multi-layered character that I wouldn't mind reading much more of.

SPOILER ALERT!

Dictator by Robert Harris

Dictator (Book Three) - Robert Harris

This is the third part of Harris' Cicero series - and it doesn't make much sense without having read the previous 2 novels, Imperium and Lustrum since it picks up right where Lustrum left off and runs through the final 20 years of Cicero's life: his exile and return, Pompey vs Caesar, Caesar's dictatorship, Caesar's assassination, the 2nd triumvirate and the end of the republic.

 

"Raise, praise, and erase."

 

But as much as especially the second half  of Lustrum captivated me, this book rushed through major events - and unfortunately also showed that Cicero, in all his idealism, didn't really learn from past events. He again put faith in people who betrayed him and/or turned out to have quite different agendas. He again tried to manipulate events, not realizing that it was he that was manipulated. In that way much of what happens with Octavian and Marc Anthony - even the ill-thought through assassination of Caesar (which Cicero had no part in but sympathized with) -, didn't offer more than what history books teach. Frankly, in some parts, there's more introspection about Tiro than about Cicero. Granted, Tiro is the narrator, but the book is about Cicero.

 

So, yes, this is a good book, and it concludes this trilogy in an engaging manner - but the undisputed highlight remains Lustrum where the inner workings of politics are actually put to the stand, including democracy vs the rule of the mob vs the rule of one, and Cicero's personality as a politician and as a human-being is defined.

SPOILER ALERT!

The Class by Erich Segal

The Class - Erich Segal

This novel follows the lives of 5 Harvard graduates, beginning with their enrollment until their 25th graduation anniversary:

 

* Ted, a classicist, Greek, an outsider because he doesn't live on campus - always struggling to make his mark

 

* Jason, a sports star, jewish only on the paper - until the loss of the love of his life leads him to Israel

 

* Danny, a piano prodigy, always looking for public applause and sometimes overreaching

 

* Andy whose family funded one of the houses within campus. He never extinguishes himself professionally but in the end has an impact on all of them

 

* George, a Hungarian refugee, obsessed with politics and making his life worth the sacrifices he made.

 

This is an interesting novel but again for the most part it failed to actually engage me on a more emotional level. All of the protagonists are driven by professional ambition (nurtured by their families and the alma mater), disregarding their private lives, maybe except for Jason who actually follows his heart's desire and leaves the US and Harvard behind. But the others have to learn their lessons after affairs and putting public adulation before love and dedication - and some never learn.

 

Still in the final analysis, again, this novel left open much of the interior workings. Romances don't get infused with emotions, they're told pretty much straight-forward, like reciting facts... and given some characters' attitudes it's pretty difficult to see how anyone could fall for them and/or agree to marry them. So, it's the heart of the story essentially that's missing (for the most part). And adding that heart would have lifted this novel from average to good in no time. But it was not to be.

SPOILER ALERT!

Man, Woman and Child by Erich Segal

Man, Woman, and Child - Erich Segal

Sheila and Bob lead the perfect life, successful in their jobs, 2 daughters, an epitome of a marriage - but Bob has kept a secret for 10 years, a secret that comes back to haunt him when he takes a call from France.

 

Years ago, I read Segal's "Doctors" 3 times, I read Acts of Faith, Love Story, Oliver's Story and Prizes and I remember them all, especially Doctors, very fondly. Maybe that's why this book ultimately disappointed me. First of all, the prose seemed incredibly simple and dispassionate at times.

 

And secondly and more importantly, how can a matter so complex as having a child from an affair a decade ago turn up, be handled properly in just over 200 pages? 50 of which deal with flashbacks to the beginnings of Sheila and Bob's relationship and to his affair? The focus is with the family the boy comes into, but the boy himself who after all just lost practically his whole world, is more a footnote. Where's just one thought about what's best for this child? Instead we read about 2 spoiled girls, Sheila who's tempted to sort of return the affair-favour, and Bob who just feels guilty. But the premise would have deserved much more...

 

That the book still gets an average rating is due to the fact that in the end, I got sucked into the story. But the disappointment remains.

SPOILER ALERT!

Stargate: SG-1: Alliances by Karen Miller

Stargate SG-1: Alliances - Karen Miller

Right after the mission to Euronda O'Neill's threatened by Kinsey with a court-martial because of his actions which led to the death of Alar - and to Earth not procuring new weapons. Meanwhile, the Tok'ra come up with a plan to get new hosts and spies. They plan on infiltrating a human breeding farm, and for that endeavour to succeed they need SG-1... which conveniently would put O'Neill out of Kinsey's sight.

 

I picked up this novel because of the post-Euronda premise where Jack and Daniel clashed in quite an unprecedented way. But somehow, this was the weakest part because, quite frankly, at times it felt as though this novel was set early in the series, not its 4th season. Everyone's unsure of everyone else, Daniel believes himself on the high moral ground which gets tiresome really fast, and the author doesn't waste time emphasizing Jack's past in covert ops including his stint in an Iraqi prison (that's only been mentioned twice within the series, that I can remember). Okay, but why not elaborate on that? Instead, she chooses to have him second-guess himself left and right about killing Alar.

 

When I think about Euronda, *that*'s not the moment I was doubting Jack, that decision to close the iris on Alar, after having warned him not to follow. Indubitably a questionable decision in itself but Jack isn't the person to doubt himself after the fact. But in pondering the aftermath, I'd have Jack question his single-minded quest for new weapons, his being deceived and not asking questions until it's almost too late. There's a reason why people should hear both sides of a conflict before making any kinds of judgement. And that should apply to military personnel as well, tasked with first contact. Standing order to procure weapons aside, this is the line dividing the SGC from the NID and their illegal operation.

 

And Daniel? Back in that episode he was right to question that war. But he should have talked to Jack in private, not in Alar's presence - who after all could use the division within the team for his own purpose. So Jack's right to be angry and lash out at Daniel in this novel. But I definitely could have done without that heart to heart where Daniel practically forgives Jack for killing Alar and everything's fine again. I've read better fanfic.

 

Unfortunately, one of the most promising premises, the threat Kinsey's posing to Jack, is dropped after the first confrontation. It's like once SG-1 is off Earth, Kinsey's vanishing back into the hole he's crawled out of, as well. Granted, we know that nothing comes out of Kinsey's threat of a court-martial, but I'd still have appreciated some mention of what's going to happen after SG-1's return, just one sentence would have been enough...

 

The main plot: Quite honestly, I don't understand why SG-1 claims to free those humans from slavery (even back when they're only targeting select humans, not the whole farm) when all it is they're doing is send them to the Tok'ra - what if they don't decide to become Tok'ra hosts or spies? What happens then? No one mentionned that. And quite frankly, the timeframe's just ridiculous. SG-1 joins such a breeding farm where people are terrorized, and within a day they talk about freedom and question everything the slaves know... that they're not killed or betrayed's not credible at all.

 

And finally, everyone using idioms and military speak got a bit annoying quite fast. At least, I didn't hear Jacob talk like that in the series...

 

So, overall, rather negligible.

SPOILER ALERT!

Lustrum by Robert Harris

Lustrum - Robert Harris

This is the second part of Harris's Cicero-trilogy. The author claims that you should be able to read this book independently, but in my opinion you should have at least some idea about the various alliances and enmities that made up "Imperium".

 

Lustrum spans 5 years, beginning at the eve of Cicero's 1-year consulship when a young slave, owned by Cicero's co-consul Hybrida, is found mutilated. What follows is a row of unholy alliances to thwart the attempt of overthrowing the republic by Catilina and his followers. While Cicero is hailed saviour of the republic, his adherence to the rule of law opens the door for the rise of the mob on the one side and Caesar's rule on the other, disregarding protocol and pushing through legislation via bribery and threats. The senate's power is on the decline, the government now consists of Caesar, Crassus and Pompey with narcissist Clodius ruling the mob. And Cicero has to flee into the night.

 

The last 100 pages or so quite honestly gave me the chills. Cicero might have thwarted the most overt attack on the republic during his consulship... but he couldn't prevent the slow decline, the rise of the mob and Caesar's usurping power. Everytime he thinks he has slain a monster, it grows back 7 more heads. And that's rather disquieting. Of course, Cicero's not without blame, either. He chose to rest on his laurels, he made pacts that later on bit him in the behind, he wasn't careful enough about whom to trust, and that's what leads to his fall from grace.

 

But the chilling sensation doesn't only come from the story itself, the tale of a corrupt republic that tears itself apart. No, rather than talking about the long lost Roman republic this novel feels damningly real in this age and time where we see mob-like movements on the streets and online, where we see demagogues taking control of that mob and pointing fingers (and the mob mindlessly following), where we see established parties stuck in corruption and self-annihilation, where we see so much anger, hatred and negative campaigning instead of enthusiasm and new ideas, where we see divide and conquer instead of unity and common ground. Sounds pretty relevant in the current climate to me.

 

Overall, a satisfying and thought-provoking novel - on to part 3.

SPOILER ALERT!

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: A Stitch in Time by Andrew J. Robinson

A Stitch in Time - Andrew J. Robinson

Stories about Cardassia and Garak have easily become my favourite part of TrekLit nowadays, so it was time to reread this excellent "autobiography".

 

Divided into 3 parts, A Stitch in Time sheds light on Garak's history, the way others always made decisions for him, the way loss and betrayal shaped his life more than loyalty and friendship. And it all starts at school where he meets life-long friends and equally life-long enemies, and the love of his life, Palandine, who indirectly causes his fall from power and exile on DS9.

 

This part is a fascinating glimpse into Garak's history with various characters (such as Dukat, the story behind "The Wire", Tain), Cardassian society as a whole, but also into the microverse of Garak and his family. Tolan Garak, the man he believed to be his father and who turned out to be his uncle, ultimately perhaps influenced his life more than Tain and his mother Mila. Because while Tolan only belonged to the frowned-upon service class he nevertheless was more independent from outside influence than upper-class men, including who Garak comes to be. It takes years for Garak to see that.

 

The second part are diary entries between "In the Pale Moonlight" and his departure for Cardassia which relay Garak's conflict (culminating in the panic attacks) between betraying Cardassia and ultimately saving it from the Dominion together with the Federation. It highlights the growing distance between Julian and him, and the anxiety just what Cardassia he'll be able to return to. What will be left? As a side story, he meets a friend of Ziyal's who turns out to be an agent of the Khon-Ma, assigned to kill him - a woman who survived the destruction of the shuttle back on Bajor that cost her family their lives and for which she holds Garak responsible (again see "The Wire").

 

Finally, the third part is set on post-war Cardassia. Garak has returned home, a world in perpetual twilight after the Dominion tried to exterminate the population, leaving over a billion dead, a world in ruins. He turns Tain's home into a memorial, a place where people can mourn and slowly move on. And for the first time in his life he finds himself able to choose his own path, meeting old friends and enemies and determining Cardassia's future.

 

In the end, Garak comes full circle, open to new ideas because he's learned to adapt due to his ever changing surroundings. And I think Tain would turn in his grave if he saw Tolan's influence prevail over his own, resulting in Garak's interest in the Oralian Way (even if also as a means to find his love Palandine after the war - BTW, curious how the later novels don't mention her but emphasize Garak's friendships with Bashir and Parmak)... but it's gratifying to see that all of Tain's machinations, his power and loyalty plays, his treating people like pawns on a giant chess board ultimately fail.

 

A highly recommendable book - and together with "The Never-Ending Sacrifice" maybe the key to understanding the Cardassian mindset.

SPOILER ALERT!

Star Trek: Section 31: Control by David Mack

Star Trek: Section 31: Control - David Mack

Bashir and Sarina learn of a secret programme that pervades systems throughout the Federation (and beyond) and has been in place for centuries. Nominally it registers threats and brings them to the attention of the authorities - but it has long since developed a mind of its own, acting on its own... and creating Section 31, calling itself Control. Bashir engages Data's help in finally bringing down this machine.

 

First of all, the idea of the machine Uraei reminded me awfully of Person of Interest. A machine that listens to everything and monitors everyone to evaluate threats and prevent them. Here, Uraei develops a mind of its own because it sees that the normal channels are too slow, too bogged down by bureaucracy to work efficiently. And so it creates its own hierarchy, its own agency that operates without oversight, and Section 31 is born (just like Samaritan back in PoI). And of course, shutting it down means infecting all copies and preventing the machine from downloading a saved original copy from a secure place. Again, like PoI. So, this part did not really seem very original, and didn't actually engage me all that much.

 

The only thing here that held my interest are the implications, like the machine allowing the Xindi attack for the higher purpose of trying to strengthen security and eventually form the UFP pretty much earth-dominated etc. So there are canon events orchestrated by Uraei, and that of course, puts Federation history as we know it in a new perspective.

 

So, Bashir, Sarina and Data try to put an end to a machine code that pervades everything, every computer, every system on starships, every local law enforcement - but how to actually expose and remove that all-powerful surveillance and indepently acting force without actually throwing the UFP into chaos? And what if that all-knowing machine that has planned events for centuries now, that has built layers upon layers of security around itself, is actually aware of what's going on... and just uses people for its purpose? Doesn't that put a new, and rather bleak spin on fate, how much is predestined and how much one can control and change his own fate?

 

I think that's where "Control" gets really interesting, not so much in the premise that is, after all, not really new, but in those far-reaching ramifications. It feels as though Bashir, Sarina and Data just play unknowingly in a giant holo-programme, a holo-programme that encompasses the whole universe, and only the machine knows what's really going on. A nightmare-ish scenario... but is it if you're not really aware of it?  If you don't know anything about the machine or Section 31 (unlike Bashir, Sarina, Data and some other select people)?

 

Bashir and Sarina unknowingly fulfill their part in Control's machinations, fight a fight that they can't win, and suffer the consequences when Control pits them against each other. I have to admit that I haven't really cared all that much about Sarina, but her fate, and consequently Bashir's actually put a lump in my throat. Catatonic, Bashir ends up in Garak's care on Cardassia where "Enigma Tales" picks up the tale.

 

Actually, Garak's role is pretty small. He's one of the 3 persons (other than Sarina) who Bashir trusts in this situation, and his feelings towards Bashir become ever more overt. I'm wondering where this is going to lead. Other than that, Mack continues with Data's tale and Lal's development; and most importantly, some of the questionable missions of recent TrekLit years come to the light while fighting Control, such as Zife's removal from office and subsequent execution (and Picard's involvement), Section 31 trying to commit genocide against the Founders etc. It's going to be interesting to see the repercussions here.

 

Overall, a quite disturbing novel that takes a bit to gain steam. But once it does, Mack doesn't pull any punches, makes his usual twists and turns and puts his characters through the wringer. And the outlook on Federation politics may never be the same again - because who's really in charge?

SPOILER ALERT!

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales by Una McCormack

Enigma Tales (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) - Una McCormack

Just as a report about war crimes during the occupation of Bajor is published on Cardassia, Pulaski and Alden come to visit - and are embroiled in internal politics, kidnapping and the attempt at defamation of Natima Lang, the next hopeful for head of the Cardassian Union's university.

 

I love McCormack's Cardassia, it's rich, well-nuanced, and her Garak is to die for, pure and simple. 15 years have passed since the end of the Dominion War and Cardassia is on a good way to becoming a lasting democracy. One important step is facing its own role in past events, like the occupation of Bajor, and its consequences - in this case putting criminals on trial. But the situation is still unstable enough that accusations against a popular figure might put democracy as a whole in danger. And this knife's edge comes through beautifully. However, ultimately, as long as Garak's in power I simply don't quite see any serious threat to Cardassia's fledgling democracy. He's too vigilant and circumspect - but after his term, I guess all hands are off. For we know a young democracy is most in danger of falling back into old authoritarian patterns when people begin to feel safe and stop paying attention.

 

Garak's own position is, of course, rather unique; he was a member of the Order back on Bajor, did his own share of criminal acts, has always frowned upon democracy and the rule of law - but keeps steering Cardassia on the right path. Of course, he has his agenda, of course, he keeps secrets, and I think Garak wouldn't be Garak if he didn't, but he's the one character who has changed most consistently throughout TV and treklit, and having him as the strongest supporter of democracy now feels right and true. One thing I find really extraordinary is how drawn he seems to be to doctors, as in Parmak, as in Bashir who have always acted as some sort of moral compass for him. Just one thing: How long is the castellan's term? And can't Garak be reelected for another term?

 

As for Bashir: Since I haven't yet read "Section 31: Control" I don't know what happened there, but just the few little scenes (the last one with Garak especially moving) have moved that novel up quite a few spots in my to-read list.

 

As much as I love McCormack's portrayal of Cardassia, I really can't relate to her Pulaski who smells conspiracies and shows prejudice whereever she goes. She's annoying as hell, and even if she doesn't care about diplomacy she's old and experienced enough to realize when to speak and what to say (and in what way). So her blunder with Garak and the media is a bit tiresome. But I like Alden - so he should keep popping up in McCormack's novels, but please spare me Pulaski!

 

Overall, another solid entry about Cardassia - nowhere near Never-Ending Sacrifice or Crimson Shadow, but still an entertaining glimpse into Garak's reign as castellan.

 

As a sidenote: Apparently, this novel is meant to be set 3 years into Garak's term as is mentionned multiple times within the narrative (which makes sense, given the various changes and developments Garak's pushed through since), but the historian's note has it set one year after Crimson Shadow... well, since TrekLit doesn't have the license to move beyond 2387 (the Romulan supernova), they've certainly hit a bit of an obstacle here.

SPOILER ALERT!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling & John Tiffany, Jack Thorne

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts I and II (English)(Hardcover) - John Tiffany & J K Rowling Jack Thorne

Albus Severus Potter is sorted into Slytherin, and his only friend turns out to be Scorpius Malfoy, whose paternity is rumored to be Voldemort himself. Add to that the estrangement between Harry and his son, another uprising of dark powers, the emergence of a Time-Turner, Amos Diggory turning up at Harry's doorstep with a desperate request, and Harry's scar burning again which leads to ill-spoken words during a quarrel and hasty decisions - and perhaps the downfall of the wizarding world.

 

First of all, this story is told in script-form which takes away quite a bit regarding the inner motivation of characters. Most of it felt extremely like bad fanfiction, Hermione as Minister of Magic (and apparently only her marriage to Ron enables her to do that), Draco's suddenly the trio's friend, bringing back Cedric as some kind of focal point, the idea of Voldemort's child etc. And this is perhaps the greatest flaw: I didn't quite understand why Albus would attempt to restore Cedric back to life in the first place? Granted, he's unhappy, feels misunderstood and unloved by his father, but change history, probably even erasing himself from history?

 

And let's not mention all the other head-scratch moments: Amos Diggory would come to ask for Cedric's return 22 years after he'd died? Grief can do strange things, I'll grant you that. But why doesn't anyone question his motives, and especially the strange niece no one has seen before? In one of the changed timelines Albus and Scorpius humiliated Cedric during the 2nd task of the Triwizard Tournament which turns Cedric towards the Death Eaters... Really? He had a lot going for him, he was head boy, had tons of friends, and all this wouldn't count for anything because he was humiliated during the TriWi-Tournament? We're not talking about Harry, Albus or Draco here, after all, we're talking about a boy who had everything, loving parents, adoring friends. I don't buy that. (And let's not forget that when the boys try to correct their interference with the past, it's never told that they also correct that mistake, just somehow they find themselves back in the lake.)

 

Essentially, this is the story of parents and children: parents who lost their children, parents who can't connect with their children (and vice versa), and children who lost their parents, all this covered in prophecies and ridiculous time-travel. Had this been a novel I'd have expected more focus on the emotions, the relationships - and maybe then, the story would have worked better and the existence of Delphi would have been better explained: no one knew about the lovechild of Bellatrix and Voldemort?

 

But as is, the most relatable characters are Draco and Scorpius with a little helping of a Snape-cameo. The others are mere copies of their younger selves (especially when in alternate timelines Ron and Hermione restart their will they-won't they-routine). I liked the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, and I thought back then that Harry showed hard-earned maturity in advising Albus essentially to be who he is. Unfortunately he loses that maturity here altogether. Of course, all ends well, harsh words are forgiven and bridges built.

 

But while it was good to have another glimpse into the Potter-verse, I'm also somehow disgusted at such a blatant attempt at milking the cash cow just a bit further. Because let's be honest, The Cursed Child lacks detail, it lacks coherence and characterization. Quite frankly, JKR should have stopped while she was ahead instead of being lured again into the spotlight by the call of fame and money.

SPOILER ALERT!

Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold

Memory (Vorkosigan Saga, #10) - Lois McMaster Bujold

If you choose an action, you choose the consequences of this action.

 ... and this novel is ripe with consequences.

 

First of all, Miles's cryorevival comes with a seizure-condition that rears its ugly head in the most inconvenient moment - moreover, Miles then lies about it in his mission report, and Illyan has little choice but to dismiss him from service.

 

And Miles now has to learn for himself who he is if he doesn't have ImpSec and through them the Dendarii Mercenaries to prop him up. Who is he on Barrayar? Just the little mutant who gained access to the Imperial service through nepotism? Can he be Lord Vorkosigan, and survive without the little admiral?

 

Add to that Gregor falling in love - and Illyan himself falling to pieces. And Miles's focus quickly shifts from personal anguish and depression to that which he does best: problem-solving.

 

I've reread Memory now 5 or 6 times from cover to cover with countless repetitions of the various most memorable scenes, like the confrontation with Illyan over lying, or all the meetings with Gregor... and I'm still as pulled into this story as if it's the first time. The Vor Game was Gregor's story, Mirror Dance Mark's - and this is finally Miles coming fully into his own, accepting and embracing who he is (and not only what he created for himself). He's wrestling with temptation: go down the easy route, or do it right; the realization that despite all insecurities and yearnings there are lines that he won't cross; and the moment calm finally settles his mind, and clarity focuses it - that's still immensely satisfying to read.

 

Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart.

 

It doesn't come as much of a surprise that I especially love the Barrayar-set novels within this series. First of all, Bujold's talent to create characters is fantastic, and it's one thing to see Miles in all his glory among the Dendarii (as head of the chain of command), but it's a wholly different experience to see him in a more socially complex setting. Remember, on Barrayar children like him were killed not so long ago (and boy is it an intense scene when he seeks out Raina and Harra Csurik to ask for forgiveness!), even his own grandfather tried to kill him. He's had to fight his whole life to make a place for himself, and most people still think that nepotism is all that got him into service. And that most of his service was in covert ops doesn't help with his self-esteem issues. So, coming from the top of the food chain, he's suddenly the odd one out, having to find his way against prejudice, suspicion and jealousy.

 

Seeing him interact with Gregor, his foster-brother, friend and ultimate liege-commander is always a joy because of the various, sometimes contradicting layers of their relationship. Love Gregor, pure and simple, and seeing him find love and joy is one of the many highly enjoyable facets of this novel (as is his courtship told from Miles's PoV - the horse, groomed to within an inch of its life!!!). The same goes for Illyan who was a confidant of Miles's father, always the protector... but who couldn't protect Miles from himself. Again, so many layers of loyalty, familial and personal, not to mention the chain of command make for a complex and differentiated relationship. Add to that Ivan and Galeni whose lives are inextricably bound to Miles's through various reasons, and the story unfolds. Loyalty, friendship, trust, all these build the foundation and, paired with Miles's (and Gregor's) inimitable judgement of character and indomitable drive, make for a fascinating study of loss, betrayal and overcoming adversity.

 

Yes, Memory isn't an action-packed, fun romp through the galaxy. It's introspective, it's sometimes painful, but, again, oh so rewarding. Chicken always come home to roost. My favourite of the entire saga.

SPOILER ALERT!

The House of God by Samuel Shem

The House of God - Samuel Shem

Around here the postgraduate system of education in medicine is quite different than the American one, but still I could detect quite a few similarities - because I guess, whereever you are, patients, the medical hierarchy (the ice-cream cone) and what it does to you as intern, is quite the same.

 

So I could relate to the terror of the first rotation, to the thrill of the Emergency Ward, the horror of Gomer City, the internal detachment, the need to hide inside yourself, to witness colleagues being crushed by the system... and also the realization of what's going on and trying to get ahead of it. Unfortunately, I had more Jo's and Leggos than Fats during my internship... because his rules, even though they sound funny and callous at first are hard-learned lessons and much more important than always doing whatever medical science is able to offer.

 

Of course, this novel is also a product of its time, a male-dominated environment where sex is kind of the only relief of stress and pressure - not to say that it's much different nowadays, especially if you work hours that only allow you to go home to sleep but otherwise you pretty much spend your day in the hospital -, but I could have done without the various sexual experiences of the interns. Then again, it's a symptom of this system.

 

Overall, certainly a novel an intern, no matter where he or she works, should read.

SPOILER ALERT!

Star Trek: S. C. E.: #25 Home Fires by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

Star Trek S.C.E. #25 - Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, Ward Dayton

This is the first of the Wildfire-aftermath stories. It features Corsi, who along with Stevens, returns home and learns why her father has always been so biased against her joining Starfleet - because during the Cardassian war, Starfleet asked to install sensor equipment on his ship to spy on the Cardassians... What should have been a run of the mill-trade run turned into a standoff with Cardassians, and his brother, Corsi's uncle, had to pay for it.

 

This story deals with guilt, regret and prejudice (and of course, stupid mistakes which lead to tragedy). In the small-universe-syndrom one of the Starfleet operatives Aldo Corsi had to deal back then, was William Ross.

 

Corsi is doubting herself, because, while she was incapacitated, lots of her staff died on the daVinci, and Duffy had to make the ultimate sacrifice; and of course, Stevens just grieves for his best friend. Frankly, I'd have liked to see the focus more on Stevens instead of on Corsi, because I'd rather have seen a best friend deal with his very personal grief than stuck up, duty-bound Corsi deal with her professional regrets. I'm not saying that Corsi's grief doesn't come across as very real (and the background story about her father and uncle did touch me), but given the often stated relationship between Duffy and Stevens as best friends I think that not exploring that angle a wasted opportunity. There should have been more, even clichéd tears, whatever, but not just Stevens as a sidenote to shed some light on Corsi... especially not in this "aftermath"-situation.

SPOILER ALERT!

Star Trek: S. C. E.: #23 & #24 Wildfire by David Mack

Wildfire Book 2 - David Mack Wildfire Book 1 - David Mack

Why did it take 20 parts until SCE finally picked up speed, to actually get to the heart of it?!? What KRAD began in War Stories, is continued here: the SCE finally gets a living and breathing soul.

 

The daVinci is called for a rescue mission. The USS Orion launched a testrun of a device called "Wildfire" in the atmosphere of a gas giant which could change the fate of star (like the Genesis device did for planets), but something went wrong, and the Orion no longer replies to calls. At least the Wildfire-device should be salvaged since it could be used for more devious purposes. The team find the Orion derelict in the gas giant's atmosphere, and the Wildfire device primed for detonation - but before it can be disarmed, pretty much everything in the salvage operation goes wrong... and the daVinci itself faces destruction, and the crew certain death.

 

This was Mack's first solo work in Star Trek - and possibly, this is what he had envisioned for "Starship Down", the episode he wrote for DS9 and that this story is frequently referring to... and even back as a novice TrekLit-writer he knew how to shake up a series (although he went on to greater dimensions in later works). Interestingly, whereas he concentrates on the action later on, here he focuses on the personal stories, relationships, courage & heroism, and duty & self-reflection, which works astonishingly well. And I have to admit that I got a lump in my throat in part 2, quite a few times actually, yet it's strange that Gomez's reaction didn't move me half as much as Stevens's. But maybe that's going to change once I've read the aftermath-stories to come - and there's no doubt, that I'll continue with this series now. I simply can't stop here, hanging on the edge of grief and despair, without any of the emotional gratification of a good "what happens next". Well done, Mack.

 

I also appreciated the fact that the main character's death in this novel is a final one. We have a body that's been declared dead - so I'll expect consequences in the next stories (that have already been hinted at here).

 

Just a couple of factual nitpicks (which threw me out of the very emotional last chapter just a tiny bit):

 

A victim dying of suffocation due to CO2 intoxication without any outward pressure like strangulation etc. won't show any petechial bleedings on the face/sclera - simply because petechia are caused by the venous flow being interrupted while the arterial flow's still pumping blood into the tissue. And if there's no blockage in the venous system, there won't be any petechia.

 

And modern CPR uses a 30:2 rhythm (compression:breathing) regardless of the cause of the cardiac arrest, not 8:1 like it was described here - though, of course, since this was a case of CPR given pro forma, let's not be too strict about that.

 

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