A Guide For Working Breeds
by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (2020)
This review is for A Guide For Working Breeds by Vina Jie-Min Prasad.
Every year I read all the finalists of the most prestigious science fiction awards (at least in the English speaking world): the Hugo awards. This story is a finalist in the Short Story category.
100 years after Karel Capek coined the word, "robots" are an everyday idea, and the inspiration for countless stories in books, film, TV and games. They are often among the least privileged, most unfairly used of us, and the more robots are like humans, the more interesting they become. This collection of stories is where robots stand in for us, where both we and they are disadvantaged, and where hope and optimism shines through.
I loved this story, it is deeply funny yet it has some depth and some sweetness in it. I strongly recommend it. It's definitely one of my favorites in this category.
Started: May 01 2021 Finished: May 02 2021
Star Wars: Pirate's Price (Flight of the Falcon, #2)
by Lou Anders (2019)
I am fond of the Star Wars fictional universe: I have a nostalgic attachment to it, and despite some drops in quality along the way (e.g. The Phantom Menace), recent installments like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi were even better than the original series. Because of this fondness, I started reading some of Star Wars books during my commute. The quality is not always great, but they are usually at least enjoyable.
I confess I had little expectations for this particular story: I assumed it was aimed at very young riders and I was not expecting something too complex and enjoyable.
I was wrong.
This was one of the funniest star wars book ever. The story is centered around Hondo Ohnaka that is now became my favorite Star War character ever. Yes, the book won't provide any new insight or depth to the story we know already but... it will make you laugh quite hard.
I hope to see more by this author in the future!
Started: Oct 19 2020 Finished: Oct 31 2020
by H.P. Lovecraft (2014)
Years ago I decided to read the complete work of this author, a choice that I came to regret: while Lovecraft's contribution to the field is indisputable, and while a small number of his stories are good, the vast majority of his work is mediocre at best, and often marred by horrifying xenophobia. I thought I was done reading his work, when I came across this short story that I had previously missed. The story is very short and completely unlike any other story by this author I had ever read: it is a funny and ironic take to the romance novel of the time. It turns out to be one of Lovecraft's most enjoyable stories I have ever read!
It will not change your life, it's not something unusually funny or interesting, so while I do not recommend it, it is still good to read to relax and boost someone's mood.
Started: Sep 10 2020 Finished: Sep 10 2020
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
by Trevor Noah (2016)
I read this book for a book club, and I was looking forward reading it after my (amazing) colleague Nishkala strongly recommended it. I was expecting a book full of humor that also offered insight on the horrors of apartheid, but the book is more an autobiography of sort, shining light on horrors of xenophobia, apartheid, domestic abuse, and violence. The horrors are mitigated by the cheerful disposition of the author and, at times, by some humor.
Born a Crime is a memoir of one man's coming of age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed. Trevor Noah's unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa's tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries long struggle. Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man's relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother... his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
Also interesting are the parallels between South Africa and the United States, of the challenges of an oppressed minority to rise up and get a sit at the table.
This is a great book, I am glad I got to read it. I am looking forward discussing it at the book club.
Started: Aug 29 2020 Finished: Sep 07 2020
The Princess Bride
by William Goldman (2007)
I remember watching the movie adaptation when I was a kid, but I did not remember anything at all about the plot. I did not even remember it was a comedy, I confess I was expecting to read a fantasy book when I picked it up. The book is definitely enjoyable, and the different level of narrations are interesting and clever. This said it miserably fails the Bechdel test: the only female character is a lightheaded and shallow beauty. Hopefully it is intended as a critique to the genre?
As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchmen, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she'll meet Vizzini, the criminal philosopher who'll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik, the gentle giant; Inigo, the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen, the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup's one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.
Oh and the 30 year edition comes with a little short sequel, that is even more enjoyable than the original.
Started: Oct 23 2018 Finished: Nov 08 2018
Regarding Your Application Status
by John Scalzi (2018)
A short-story set in a near future when human has discovered that there is a galaxy-spanning federation of planets out there, and we humans of Earth are super excited about it, and we want to join in! But when we ask "Can we join?", they say "Well, you can apply".... The story is the alien answer to our request. You can probably guess how it goes. It's a cute and fun to read short-story, but it did not strike me as the most original. Yet, it is free, so I cannot complain!
Started: May 10 2018 Finished: May 10 2018
Lightspeed Magazine, March 2016
by John Joseph Adams
An hilarious "chose your own adventure" story, making fun of a future health care system that unfortunately is very similar, from many points of view, to our existing one.
Started: Mar 10 2017 Finished: Mar 10 2017
La beauté sans vertu
by Genevieve Valentine (2016)
La beauté sans vertu is a harsh swipe at the fashion industry as certain disturbing trends are amplified in this fictional near future and a famous fashion House prepares for an important show. This is an interesting satirical piece, denouncing some of the ills of modern society and its obsession for unnatural and unattainable bodies.
Started: Oct 21 2016 Finished: Oct 21 2016
If You Were an Award, My Love
by Juan Tabo
I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This title was placed on the finalist by slate voting by a group of gammergaters, and it is, so far, the worst Hugo finalist I read. It is a short blog post written as a reaction to / a parody of If You Were a Dinosaur My Love, that is well-known to be hated by the gammergate crowd. It is intended to be funny (but it is not), and I believe it was slate-voted into the finalist as a form of protest, not for its worth.
Started: Jun 05 2016 Finished: Jun 05 2016
Space Raptor Butt Invasion
by Chuck Tingle (2015)
I read this as part of my 2016 Hugo Awards nominees reading marathon. This title was placed on the finalist by slate voting by a group of gammergaters as an attempt to vilify the Hugo award reputation. Chuck Tingle, the author of a series of "geeky" gay erotica short stories, responded to his nomination getting Zoe Quinn (the gammergaters arch-nemesis) to receive his award in case of a victory... I decided to set the controversy aside, and read the story and decide in its own merit.
SRBI turns out to be a very unique, often humorous, gay erotic short story with a sci-fi spin. It's the story of Lance, left alone on a mission on a distant planet, having a (very) close encounter with a (possibly) alien species.
Started: Jun 04 2016 Finished: Jun 04 2016
by Joe Abercrombie (2016)
I usually avoid reading short stories set in the world of a book saga without reading the saga before, but I did not realize that Two's Company was not a stand-alone story, but part of the First law series. Well, I am l glad I read it, because I immensely enjoyed it.
The plot is relatively simple and unremarkable: lost in the wide and barren North, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp, runs into Cracknut Whirrun on a bridge far too narrow for the expansive egos of either. With the King of the Northmen and the High Priestess of Thond in pursuit, can Shevedieh, the greatest thief in Styria, persuade either one of these proud heroes to step aside?
What makes this story shine, is the remarkable humor. I found myself laughing out loud while reading this. Reading this story made me want to read more from this author.
Started: Apr 04 2016 Finished: Apr 04 2016
The Light Fantastic (Discworld, #2)
by Terry Pratchett (2004)
This is the second book of the Discworld series, that now includes 40+ books, and it is considered one of the most famous and important work in the genre.
The books takes of where The Colour of Magic
left off, and completes the storyline bringing it to a satisfying end. The two books are often considered a duology, or two halves of the same book.
IN The light fantastic
the very fabric of time and space are about to be put through the wringer, in this instance by the imminent arrival of a very large and determinedly oncoming celestial body. The circumstances require a very particular type of hero. Sadly what the situation does not need is a singularly inept wizard, still recovering from the trauma of falling off the edge of the world. Equally it does not need one well-meaning tourist and his luggage which has a mind of its own. Which is a shame because that's all there is.
: Feb 26 2016 Finished:
Mar 03 2016
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
by Washington Irving (1991)
A humorous take on Gothic fiction. Sleepy Hollow is a strange little place, some say bewitched. Some talk of its haunted valleys and streams, the ghostly woman in white, eerie midnight shrieks and howls, but most of all they talk of the Headless Horseman, a huge, shadowy soldier who rides headless through the night, terrifying unlucky travelers. Schoolteacher Ichabod Crane is fascinated by these stories, and by the richness of a local heiress he decides to conquer. Unfortunately for Ichabod, Brom Bones, a broad-shouldered, double-jointed good-looking fellow, and master of mischief, has set his eye on the same heiress.
Started: Feb 16 2016 Finished: Feb 18 2016
The Colour of Magic (Discworld, #1)
by Terry Pratchett (2005)
This is the book that started it all: it is the first book of the Discworld series, that now includes 40+ books, and it is considered one of the most famous and important work in the genre.
On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (of unknown gender), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There's an inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course the edge of the planet.
The structure of the story is episodic: it is split into 4 segments, that could be enjoyed as stand alone stories, featuring the same characters. It is impossible to not fall in love with the main characters, not to smile reading about their misadventures, often respectfully and lovingly making fun to some other important fantasy masterpieces.
The book finishes with a big cliff-hunger ([spoilers removed]), and the adventure continues (and it is concluded) in The Light Fantastic
. The two books should be considered a duology, or two halves of the same book.
: Jan 23 2016 Finished:
Feb 06 2016
Agent to the Stars
by John Scalzi (2005)
This is the first book ever written by one of my favorite (and my most read) author, John Scalzi. I was curious to see if it was as good as later books, and if the writing style changed. Answers: yes to both.
This is a very hilarious sci-fi book. It is quite different from the military sci-fi of Old Man War: this reads more like the script of a comedy than of a usual sci-fi novel.
This is the story of the space-faring Yherajk coming to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity's first interstellar friendship. There's just one problem: They are hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish. So getting humanity's trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal. Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He's one of Hollywood's hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it's quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he's going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.
Started: Aug 02 2015 Finished: Aug 07 2015
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
by Terry Pratchett (2006)
Remarkably funny, adroitly written, very entertaining. Two (at the time) almost unknown authors destined to became two of the well-known UK (and world) writers came together to write one of the most read book of the century. I do not want to spoil the fun, but this is the story of the end of the world, long ago foretold by Agnes Nutter, a witch. It's the story of Angels and Demons, of Agnes' descendants and witch-hunters, of the Antichrist and scam occultist...
Started: Mar 28 2015 Finished: Apr 12 2015
Raising Steam (Discworld, #40, Moist von Lipwig #3)
by Terry Pratchett (2013)
My word of advice: if you have not read any diskworld novel before, do not start with this one. I made that mistake, and I regretted it. While this can theoretically be read as a stand-alone novel, there are continuous hints of stories from previous books. Even if I could smile at some of the jokes, I was left with the impression that they would be a way more funny if I knew more about the characters. The plot is quite thin, and I have the impression that the most appealing part of the book is to get to read again your beloved characters. Unfortunately, these beloved characters were total strangers for me.
It was not an unpleasant book to read, but I am left with the strong impression that I would have enjoyed it much more if I had read some of the previous books.
Started: Dec 25 2014 Finished: Dec 31 2014
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
by David Sedaris (2013)
This is by far the best book by David Sedaris. I have read many of Sedaris' books before, and while I enjoyed reading them, I often found them jarring. Even if they always made me laugh, I was always left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Let's explore diabetes with owls was quite different in that respect: I laughed and laughed, and there was no bitter aftertaste when I was done. The book touches many of Sedaris' signatures themes like family and life abroad, and some new ones, including politics. Not all the stories in the book are great, but some (including "Obama!!!!", "#2 to go", and "The happy place") are incredibly funny, definitely not PC, masterpieces.
Started: Sep 01 2013 Finished: Sep 08 2013
How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You
by Matthew Inman (2012)
I have always been a big fan of Matthew Inman (a.k.a. the oatmeal). This book collects old and new stories surrounding one of Matthew arc-enemies: the cats.
Started: Nov 24 2012 Finished: Nov 25 2012
by David Sedaris (1997)
This book is a mixed bag of short typical Sedaris' stories. While some of them are hilarious, some are quite dull and boring (I was quite surprised by that, I previously enjoyed his other books). One of the stories is quite different from anything I ever read from the author. It narrates the last days of the author mother, soon to die of cancer. It is one of his best, touching and powerful. It may be not as funny as many of his others one, but it will bring tears to your eyes. That single little story alone, makes the book worth reading.
Started: Jul 06 2012 Finished: Jul 19 2012
Me Talk Pretty One Day
by David Sedaris (2001)
Another painfully and shamelessly hilarious book by Sedaris, this time focusing on his life as an American in France, and on his linguistic problems.
Started: Feb 01 2012 Finished: Feb 11 2012
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
by David Sedaris (2004)
A collection of witty, sarcastic, and funny short stories about the author and his family. Sedaris cynicism will not fail to bring a smile on the reader face.
Started: Dec 30 2010 Finished: Jan 07 2011
When You Are Engulfed in Flames
by David Sedaris (2008)
Sedaris has a very peculiar sense of humor, and sometimes his funny stories turn out to be not as silly as he pretend they are. Great book, it made me laugh out loud more than once.
Started: Aug 01 2009 Finished: Aug 05 2009
Holidays on Ice
by David Sedaris
Well, this was not exactly a Christmas reading, but you won't regret reading it. Some of the short stories are little jewels of sarcasm and irony. My favorite one is "Season's greetings to Our friends and Family!". That's really something!
Started: Dec 19 2003 Finished: Dec 19 2003
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)
by Douglas Adams (2005)
Publisher review: A beautifully illustrated edition of the New York Times bestselling classic, timed to celebrate the pivotal 42nd anniversary of the original publication--with never-before-seen illustrations by award winner Chris Riddell Seconds before Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Together, this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by a galaxyful of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox--the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian (formerly Tricia McMillan), Zaphod's girlfriend, whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; and Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he's bought over the years. Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? For all the answers, stick your thumb to the stars!