Thursday, February 4, 2016

This is interesting:

It describes one side of the debate about managing development teams. Let them run free, and they will do great things. Many of the comments on the blog describe the other side. Let them run free, and they will do things that don't make money. Somewhere in the middle, lies the truth. Like most things, finding that balance is the real skill.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

To Green Angel Tower

To Green Angel Tower, Part 2 (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #3; Part 2)To Green Angel Tower, Part 2 by Tad Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This series requires a lot of patience. The most important conflicts are metaphysical, and much of the time is spent with single characters struggling with their situation, with no one around to interact. The first couple books can be forgiven their slow pacing, as the pace gives you a tone and evokes feeling, but eventually, you need interaction or actual action.

I did enjoy the series, it was a throwback to my high school days. There were things that are well done. Binabik and Tiamak are great characters, with unique, creative backgrounds. The book subverts the Sword of Plot Advancement trope, though in the end, the method of victory feels unsatisfying.

Given the changes that epic fantasy has seen in the past 2 decades, this series feels a bit vanilla. It's a pretty good vanilla, but there's nothing truly new happening here.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Remains of the DayThe Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book(first: Never Let Me Go) by Kazuo Ishiguro that I've read. This is a quick read(I read it on vacation in about a day or so). Though the two are quite different in content, I think I have a sense of his style/writing technique.

With intransigent problems, human nature is to avoid deep thinking on the subject. In order to live daily life in relative happiness, our brains ignore things we can't change. But every once in a while, we're forced to confront them.

Ishiguro carefully builds undercurrents. The narrator of the book withholds emotional information, sometimes drowning themselves in minutiae, tangents, or technical details, in order to avoid discussing the main point. Often times, the tangents appear to have real weight, and often entertain in themselves, but they're used as a way to draw your mind away from the central problem. But eventually, you begin to feel the shape of the emotions. In the end, you feel the same sense of lost opportunity as our butler does. One review describes the resolution as devastating. This might be an overstatement, but the tragedy is palpable.

I feel like I need to justify why this literary fiction deserves 5 stars when I gave but 3 to The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Both novels are introspective, atmospheric, and set in important historic times. In character, plotting and tone, Ishiguro has superior skill. His characters are more likable, his plot more satisfying, his tone is more deeply woven into the narrative. Both books are tragedies, but The Remains of the Day attains a catharsis, while McCullers' tragedy never breaks the surface. In other words, Ishiguro is just better at it.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

The Heart is a Lonely HunterThe Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is literature. For people who don't like literature, it's a book where nothing happens, where navel-gazing characters interact without changing anything about one another. No challenges are overcome, no lessons are learned, no problems are solved.

For people who like literature, it's a fascinating dissection of loneliness, the futility of human communication, the divisions caused by poverty, race, disability, and non-conformity.

For me, it's a little bit in between. While I was reading, I found the characters' voices interesting. Their philosophy was so different from my own, that it was like a window into an alien mind. When I wasn't reading, I had no reason to pick up the book. There were no dangling plots to tie up, no intrigues to follow, and no underpinning story arch. The ending is extremely anti-climactic, with characters ending up almost exactly where they started. No one's life is improved. While there is tragedy, there is no catharsis.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Dragonbone Chair

The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #1)The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Starts off with a vibe like the Disney cartoon Sword in the Stone, moves to something a bit more Tolkeinish, but has underpinnings of norse mythology menace. The book never leaves behind that feeling of Arthurian legend.

I first read this book a long time ago, probably back in high school. I'm always curious to see how books I read then will hold up now that I'm so much more mature, wise, and world-traveled. This one stand up well.

I found myself liking the chosen teenage boy protagonist a lot more than I thought I would. This is probably due to a tricksy author, who spent a lot of time with him living his castle drudge life, not hating it, but acting pretty much like a normal teenager. He is witness, not actor throughout most of this section, and witnessing the slow decline of a kingdom after its beloved king dies. Accordingly, there is a slowness to the start of the novel. For some readers, it might be too slow, but for others, it's just a little luxury. Tad Williams varies the pace rather well. There are some breakneck paced sections, but this is not a breakneck paced book.

The Dragonbone Chair was originally published in 1985, so if you get annoyed with classic fantasy story elements, you may find yourself rolling your eyes some, but there are genuinely original elements and feel to the book.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

The MagiciansThe Magicians by Lev Grossman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Narnia, Hogwarts and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, mixed in uneven amounts. Doesn't rise to the level of any one of those books, but provides a little bit of commentary on each of them. The author is consciously drawing on the first two books, with subtle commentaries on the unreality of them, so I don't take points off for that. The protagonist is taken from a real world, put into a fantasy where everything is great, then dumped back out into the real world with fantastical powers, then goes back into a fantastical world with real consequences. In some sense it's pretty cool, but the hero is a little whiney, a little too imperfect. Sure, it's hard to live in a world where you can get by without doing much. There are tons of college graduates struggling with it right now. But in the end, you need to join the community and contribute. I can't really sympathize with someone who reacts by partying and losing his moral compass.

That sounds really negative. I did enjoy this book. It was fun to explore this new world. The characters are original, even in this consciously derivative world.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1)Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In some ways, this book is deeper than a standard military fantasy book. It's politics resemble those of the historical hundred years' war, but in an alternate setting. For the most part though, it is what it probably aims to be, a dark, fun book with a sense of comraderie among likable villains. When I say villains, they really are villains, not rogues with a heart of gold. The book begins with a scene of looting, murder and rape(offscreen) in the aftermath of a battle against poorly armed farmers. You never quite root for them, except in the sense of turning their destruction on more worthy targets. In all, a book for those who enjoy this type of book, not for everyone.

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