Tag Archives: Books

Book Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

(spoiler free review focusing more on the general flavor of things and my own overall experience, like all my other reviews)

I was excited to start reading ‘Red Seas under Red Skies (book two of ’The Gentlemen Bastards’ series) for two reasons. The first being that it was a sequel to one of my favorite novels of all time, ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’. The second one had to do with the fact that I was having reading blues which I have talked about in my previous post. I was about fifty pages into the book and loving it and was confident I would finally finish a book effortlessly. I did end up finishing it, but it required a lot of effort.

The novel starts off superbly. Locke and Jean are in a gambling tower, where advancing to every floor above requires you to prove your proficiency against opponents in gambling games. The difficulty of the games gets harder as you proceed upwards, for you face more experienced players but so do the rewards of winning; the whole concept being akin to a video game. Their aim? To pretend to advance to the top and gain the trust of the people within the establishment, while what they are looking for is not just winning money through advancing in the gambling games but rob the whole place itself. How interesting! But the initial excitement tends to die out after a while. Multiple sub plots are being introduced and the story begins to advance extremely slowly. The book enters new waters, quite literally. For Locke and Jean somehow find themselves doing a crash course in how to be a pirate (or appropriately how to pretend like one).

There are a few problems I found with the book. For one despite a great start, it starts to become too long winded. You are clueless as to what direction the story is taking. In the first book, we were introduced to our beloved characters and their backgrounds, we knew what the stakes were, who the villains were and what Locke and Jean ended up eventually aiming for, i.e., revenge. It is hard to say what this one is about. It did not even feel like it was setting up the stage for future books. We see a lot of characters being introduced and I think it is unlikely we will see any of them again. I felt unsure who to root for. This book felt more like a standalone story, albeit one that loses pace with time.

There are too many interludes which are essentially reminiscences, all in the beginning of the book. It broke the rhythm of the story for me. Maybe they could have being spread more throughout the book. Perhaps Scott was aware enough that the interludes were getting to be too many, that he appropriately titles the final one as ‘The last reminiscence’. Almost sounding like, hang in there reader I know I am testing your patience but bear with me.

I found a lot of ship and ocean jargon (Locke and Jean are pirates in this one like I mentioned before) being hurled at me constantly, not something I liked. It would require me to use a dictionary to understand in depth what was being referred to (ex: parts of a ship, ways of managing it etc.). I mostly skimmed those parts, but there are too many of those. It generally surprises me when authors take a very specific topic (in this case ships and navigation) and use terminologies the reader is unlikely to have encountered before. I for one don’t mind a small word list at the end of the book, along with their meanings to help with this. It may seem odd, but I have seen it done before and it works (ex: in the book ‘Eragon’, if I recall correctly).

The last hundred pages of the book is where things start to get really heated up. This reminded me of the first book which had a great ending and the pace being fantastic towards the end. This is classic Scott Lynch fashion. There is a major twist towards the end, one that will tug at your heart strings. But enough with teasing spoilers.

While this book is not great it is still a decent read. The first one remains my top fiction books of all time. I have also invested time and energy, so I will still definitely pick up the third novel of the series. The plan is that he will write seven novels for the series and I am a sucker for epic fantasy series spanning multiple novels. Generally, with long series we tend to figure out what the overall plot is about. Ex: Hogwarts life and adventures aside, Harry Potter is in the end a fight against a Dark Lord. Even after finishing book two, I don’t see a broader plot (only hints). All that said, this remains a brilliant series with tremendous potential. Last, I checked Scott had done a George RR Martin by making everybody wait a millennium for the fourth novel of the series, which at this point is not out yet. But I still have the third one to read so I am not too worried about that. I hope this one delivers.

 

Overall Book Rating: 3.5/5

Tech Overkill and the Ensuing Paradox

 

   It’s been a while!

   Some one once said a lot of the modern technology kills the romance out of many things. He could not be more right. Stargazers once fished their telescopes to the skies and skimmed constantly to spot rare events like the death of a star. It was a time-consuming process but an enjoyable one. But now this can also been done automatically by computers! Our generation is an interesting one, we have witnessed many technologies from their inception to a point now where they have invaded every sphere of our life.

   It must have been in fifth grade when I got a computer to play games. In my seventh I was introduced to the marvelous world called the internet via a 56Kb* Modem…56Kb! What it mean was that my maximum download speed was a lowly 2Kb/sec. Never mind the long 2 minutes it took to actually get started. Never mind the droning siren like noise the modem made while it was getting connected. Never mind the frequent disconnection issues. Still back then it was all magic. I remember that at night the internet speed would be faster. My brother and I tried to make the most of this. We would leave an anime episode for download at night and then hopefully by morning it would be done. This was an 8Mb episode, mind you. But alas it was not so simple. The internet disconnected frequently. So to get past this we would get up every 2-3 hours at night and go check if the episode was still downloading. And we would be excited when it was done. The size of the video was a mere thumbnail and the quality was not altogether great but you know what? We had a blast! That 8Mb episode is a far more fond memory than even the 1 Gb blu-ray rip of today. Nowadays the video quality is blu-ray/HD and you can download a GB of data in under 5 minutes. Nowadays you can also find almost any movie you ever wanted. But being spoilt for choice is not necessarily a good thing.

   The apple analogy comes to mind. If you had just one apple you would eat it, savor it, relish each bite. But if you are given a basket full of apples and told to finish them suddenly each apple seems far less tasty and it becomes like a chore now. That is the way I feel when I see the choices for Movies/TV Shows/Songs/Clothes/Books and almost everything we have today. That is the way so much of tech is today. Automated, uber fast and far too reaching. Clothes are increasingly being bought online. Whatever happened to the actual shopping experience? Even groceries are now being delivered home…it’s downright crazy! (And ironic that a lazy guy who would not do much of these things anyway has to point it out). Try out and return clothes. Basically don’t step out of the house! I think this one beat everything – The Flying Barber – the barber comes home to cut your hair.

   Travel is set to go to digital through augmented reality in the next decade. That day ain’t far where you wear 3D headgear and you can be teleported to Paris (not literally). That’s right…just remove all the romance. This then is the paradox of the world now. Tech is helping all of us, I am not questioning that. However the technology overkill is actually making many experiences less exciting; this in-spite of the fact that it is providing us with so many many many more experiences than earlier. Abundance of options within seconds is not really making (some of) us feel overjoyed. It is making us indolent, further from reality, confused and less satisfied.

 

*To the uninformed 1 Kb stands for 1 Kilo-Byte. 1 Mb a Megabyte i.e., 1000 KB. One Gb is a Giga-byte i.e., 1000 Mb.