Review of Lord of All Things, by Andreas Eschbach

Lord of All Things - Andreas Eschbach, Samuel Willcox

Overall Satisfaction:

Intellectual Satisfaction:

Emotional Satisfaction:

Bechdel Test: Pass

Johnson Test: Pass

Will I read more by this author? Maybe. Definitely not with this translator.


I loved Andreas Eschbach’s previous novel, The Carpet Makers, currently his only other novel translated into English. It was very much an idea-driven science fiction novel, old-fashioned in a very good way, fitting nicely in the tradition of Arthur C. Clarke and Larry Niven and Isaac Asimov. And the translation by Doryl Jensen was superb, the prose clear and spare and elegant in a way that made the eventual mystery reveal more powerful.


Unfortunately, I could not even finish Lord of All Things.


It is a much more modern novel. The Carpet Makers was episodic, each chapter essentially a short story of its own where the connection between them was simply that each story brought the narrative a little closer to the big reveal of the ending. Lord of All Things, on the other hand, is a continuous narrative, following Hiroshi Kato’s life from his childhood in Japan to his college years at MIT to what I assume will be his adult life as one of the world’s leading robotics experts.


The Carpet Makers’ strength was Eschbach’s (and Jensen’s) skill with building atmosphere, and with dispensing clues to the central mystery one by one at exactly the right pace to keep the dramatic tension rising. The strengths required by the story Lord of All Things seems to be telling are very different – this novel needs Hiroshi, at the very least, to be a compelling character, a character with charisma (for the reader, if not necessarily for the other characters around him). And with the number of words devoted to setting each scene it also really needs a writer with the gift of capturing a sense of place, the specific details that make it the French Ambassador’s compound in Tokyo or an MIT frat house instead of just a generic place where rich people live or place where college students get drunk. And for me, Eschbach failed at both of these elements, failed so miserably that I could not stand to read more than 160 pages of the 647 page novel.


(Read the rest of my review on my book review blog!)

Book Review: Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance - Lois McMaster Bujold

Overall Satisfaction: ★★★★
  Intellectual Satisfaction: ★★★★
  Emotional Satisfaction: ★★★★
Read this for: The characters
Don't read this for: The world-building? The prose? I don't know, nothing stands out as exceptional but nothing stands out as awful either.
Bechdel Test: Pass
Johnson Test: Fail
Books I was reminded of: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Will I read more by this author? I will be buying Bujold's books until she dies.


The Vorkosigan Saga is one of my favorite series of books of all time. I've read them more times than I can count, and I frequently am reminded of lines or moments from them in both my own writing and in my day-to-day life. But recent Vorkosigan novels have been kind of. . . lightweight, and I got the impression that this one was going to continue that trend, which is why I am only reading it now, over a year after its release.

And it is lightweight. It's the "Ivan has some adventures not caused by Miles and finally settles down" book. Science fiction romances don't have to be lightweight --Komarr wasn't, just to give another Vorkosigan Saga example -- but this one definitely is, because while there's plenty of plot happening there are very few consequences to the plot for Ivan, very little risk. (This was my major issue with Cryoburn as well.) There are consequences for Tej, the other major viewpoint character and Ivan's love interest, but they're never really sold as urgent and potentially catastrophic, and because she's new to the series we aren't grounded in her POV by previous books.

The whole book just feels. . . loose. . .


Read the rest of the review on my book review blog!

Book Review: The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two - Catherynne M. Valente, Ana Juan

Overall Satisfaction: ★★★★★

   Intellectual Satisfaction: ★★★★★

   Emotional Satisfaction: ★★★★★

Read this for: The themes.

Don't read this for: The plot.

Bechdel Test: Pass

Johnson Test: Fail

Books I was reminded of: Just the rest of Valente's work.

Will I read more by this author? Of course!


I really, really liked The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. But much though I liked it, I could tell it was never going to be my favorite of Catherynne Valente's works, and after rereading it and then reading The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There I remained firm in that belief. Much though I adored Valente's world-building, much though I relished Valente's ever-muscular prose, much though I delighted in Valente's unexpected bits of poignancy, there was still a simplicity of outlook at the core of both books that kept me slightly at a distance. In both books, no matter how sympathetic Valente made the villains, September was still able to draw a very clear line: this is right and this wrong, and this is a thing I could never do, no matter how hurt I might be.


It is an outlook I understand in books aimed at children and teenagers but which, as an adult, I find. . . somehow inaccessible. It is not relaxing to me, as I assume it is for other people; instead I find it very slightly invalidating.


So while I expected to enjoy The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, I did not expect to be greatly moved by it. . .


Read the rest of my review on my book review blog!

Currently reading

Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction
Annalee Newitz
A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes
'Joseph R.G. DeMarco', 'J.R. Campbell', 'Elka Cloke', 'William P. Coleman', 'Michael G. Cornelius', 'Lyn C.A. Gardner', 'Rajan Khanna', 'Vincent Kovar', 'Stephen Osborne', 'Katie Raynes'
Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)
James S.A. Corey