Discuss and rate the last thing you read

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Permafrost - Alastair Reynolds

First up, this is a novella, clocking in at about 160 pages. It's a time travel novel about a bunch of scientists and their guinea pigs in a post-apocalyptic world were some rampant biological process (perhaps a rogue bioweapon) in the mid-21st century has ripped through the earth's ecosystem, leaving humanity with nothing to eat. However, scientists have formed a way of transporting matter back in time, and are sending back the consciousnesses of a small team to "nudge" a tiny change that will allow humanity to save themselves.

It's pretty hard SF, there's at least some proper sounding-physics to explain time travel (the author had a distinguished career in the field prior to becoming an authot), and it also details the concept of paradoxes and how they resolve. Obviously given the length, it's not high on character development, and the plot rolls along nicely enough. Reynolds well amongst the top SF authors writing today, and he's high accomplished at shorter stories as well as full novels, so this is a pretty good blast.

City of Lies - Sam Hawke

Apparently Sam Hawke's debut novel - enthusiastically hyped as Robin Hobb mixed with Agatha Christie. I'm not convinced the former is a recommendation, and the latter is just misleadingly flattering as the mystery throughout the core of this novel is really just your bog-standard finding out what's going on "mystery" route a thousand fantasy novels have already trodden.

So two early adults, whose names I've already forgotten (they are that memorable) have been trained as poisoners, and when the capital of of their nation is unexpectedly besieged and its leaders murdered, they have to both save the city and their friend the heir to the "throne", and find out what machinations have brought about this state of affairs. Cue several hundred pages of mediocrity. And I know the protagonists are young, but dear god, surely nobles brought up in the palace with the job of protecting the national leader and the world of subterfuge, who should be intimate with politics, can't be quite so naive.

Plot holes abound. This book is frankly annoying in the way that the plot seems to resolve on all manner of chance encounters and occurrences. Nor are aspects of it remotely convincing: at some point we're expected to believe that the leaders of this rather small state are somehow entirely unaware of the practices of their (culturally and religiously different) peasant majority. Really? Some case is attempted to explain a disconnected ruling elite, but it's wholly unconvincing. Put it this way, if your peasants can turn up some people who are basically mages... how the hell do you miss that over the last 300 years?

Anyway, this is apparently the start of a series. Odds of me reading the second are not high.

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