I didn’t get a lot of reading done over the past couple of weeks, thanks to houseguests and audiobooks.
Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades
I resisted reading The Emperor’s Blades for the longest time, despite the legions of rave reviews. Why? Because that is a TERRIBLE fantasy title. Blergh. Of course, I read fantasy titles with worse names all the time, so… who knows. Anyhow, I absolutely loved it. It draws much more heavily from Asian history and culture than the usual generic pseudo-European fantasy land, has characters that I actually care about, and is extremely grim without being grimdark. Also, I listened to it on audiobook. That’s the real reason I didn’t get more reading done- I spent about 40 hours over the last couple of weeks listening to The Emperor’s Blades and its sequel, The Providence of Fire. Honestly, that alone puts me at well above average total reading time, especially since most of the rest of the books are Lawrence Watt Evans novels, which don’t take me very long to digest. Anyhow- fantastic book, definitely worth the read. Or listen. Simon Vance does a fantastic job with the performance- one of the best I’ve heard so far, which is admittedly relatively few.
Randall Munroe’s What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
This book is absolutely amazing. Randall Munroe, the creator of XKCD, has really outdone himself here. While some of the questions presented in the book are ones that were already on his blog of the same name, many of them are new ones just for this book. In this book, you can find out: What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity? If my printer could literally print out money, would it have that big an effect on the world? How quickly would the oceans drain if a circular portal 10 meters in radius leading into space were created at the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in the ocean? How would the Earth change as the water was being drained? How high can a human throw something? How much physical space does the Internet take up? What would happen if you were to gather a mole (unit of measurement) of moles (the small furry critter) in one place?