Day by Day Daily Cartoon by Chris Muir

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Author Review Intro - Lois McMaster Bujold

Okay, so this little disclaimer first. I'm not important enough to get sponsored or paid or opinions and stuff, so everything here is my take on the matter. The authors I put up here are those I personally like and have read - so you'll never get anything from J.K.Rowling here. I mostly read F&SF, Christian stuff, but back in the day I've read mysteries, children's books (so yes, you'll get Enid Blyton here maybe), detective-stuff, some mediaeval stuff, and even romance (although not much of that). I encourage people to purchase stuff they like; I do, although not as much as I should, maybe.

Well, I guess I should start with a short background. My family got into technology early - relatively speaking - as my father was an electrical engineer back in the 60s, and hence he was knee-deep in telecommunications and network gear. And computers that drove the electrical switches they had back then, of course.

Of course, our exposure to computers in the house started with the IBM PC. My cousin managed to persuade his parents to get him one. It was an incredible machine at the time; it had two 360K floppy disk drives, which meant you could boot DOS off one and play Karateka or Budokan off the other. You haven't lived until you played one of those games in monochrome, let me tell you.

In my primary (elementary) school days we had Apple IIs in school for the computer club and experimental lessons. Fun to play with Apple Basic back in those days, too.

My brother then managed to persuade my father to get us a 386DX-33. It was quite powerful back in the day; 8MB of RAM, 120MB hard drive, and we also had a second drive weighing in at 250MB. It came with DOS 5 and Windows 3.1 - and two floppy drives, one 1.2MB floppy and one 1.44MB microfloppy each. And a VGA screen, but no sound. it cost 5 bucks back then to copy a disk, and we had such classic games as X-Wing, Lemmings 2, and Wing Commander Privateer.

So, you know, when my father got a Toshiba Pentium-powered laptop, it was fully kitted with a 13' TFT and wow! It had a modem as well. Now, this was way back in 1995, so it was one of the very first ones with Chicago preloaded. Very expensive, and it had Internet connectivity through what was then known as the TM Intranet. Very cool, and so I made my first website at Geocities shortly after that.

Now, I had a bunch of book reviews on that site, and since Yahoo! decided to terminate Geocities, I figured, what the heck? I'm bringing it back now. And my first author to be reviewed here is Lois McMaster Bujold.

I'll keep this short. The MS keyboards are nice, but not conducive to very long posts, really. Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favourite authors, and for some reason I cannot fathom. Somehow, she writes like a man, and her heroes are men, true men - even the women. Their characterisations resonate with me somehow, and they seem real to life.

So, what does she write? Well, everything, really. Science fiction was where I got my introduction to her. She started with a heroine called Cordelia Naismith, following up with her offspring, Miles Naismith Vorkosigan. Miles is short, and a cripple besides, but man! I really, really get into his character. Bujold then went on to write fantasy, with what I call the Chalion series. This one switches protagonists in each book (although in the same universe), but Cazaril (the first book's protagonist) really captures how a man in his position would feel (and how I would like to think I would react, really). HEr next big series is the Sharing Knife series, which is published by HarperCollins and a whole lot more romance-ish in feel. Still, very good.

Enough of my blathering, I guess. Some information:

  1. She is a Baen author. Which means, she's on (a) the Baen Free Library and (b) Webscriptions
  2. If paper is more your thing, here are some sample publications to get you started. (Links go to Amazon; for a full biblipgraphy click on her name further above in the post)
  • A Civil Campaign. This is one of the later books in the Vorkosigan saga, and details Miles (now 30) trying to woo the woman of his dreams, Ekaterin Niles Vorsoisson. Only problem is, as the title suggest, this is a civil campign, and Miles is far more familiar with military campaigns, Sun Tzu and The Art Of War-stuff. It can work, but if the girl is question finds out, which of course she does, watch out for the fireworks...
  • The Curse Of Chalion. What starts out as a search for employment for the strangely humble but very capable Cazaril turns into the three most harrowing moments of his life as he seeks to tutor a headstrong princess and navigate her way through perils, political intrigue and Prophecy (not to mention my alliteration). No, he doesn't get the princess, but he does get a Goddess living with him for a while, that should count for something.
  • Beguilement. Lakewalkers and farmers are not supposed to love each other. Die for each other, sure. Friends, partners, business associates, no problems. But love and marriage and especially the baby in the golden carriage? Absolutely not! So what happens when Dag, a morose and seeming epitome of the Lakewalker ideal falls head over heel for a half-pint, pregnant bundle of energy who's also, by the way, a barely legal farmer girl? Find out...
  • Legacy. Well, Dag got off easy with the woman's side, and now he's off home to show off his new bride to his family. You know this isn't going to turn out a bed of roses for them - or does it? After all, roses are thorny...
  • Passage. Walking the earth with your bride by your side is a tempting idea, but when your brother-in-law is tagging along...? And now your bride wants to go down the river in a boat, and her brother has fallen for the engaged boatmaster - or should that be boatmistress - and you have somehow or other acquired two hitchhikers on the run from their village elders. Well, Dag, you know no one said life would be easy...
  • Horizon. From my previous descriptions, you'd think this was just a standard romance story. But the romance has a serious backdrop; Lakewalkers have access to abilities which they call 'groundwork' but which everyone else calls magic. And they need it to fight off Very Bad Things called malices. Dag's had a good run at 26-odd malices so far, but he's ever met them one at a time. What happens when you get two?
--Preview of my next Author Review post--
Now, there's no doubt I prefer electronic formats in many cases, but not all. Isaac Asimov came up with an essay on why we should prefer paper-based books; he's got a point. They last much longer in terms of physical medium (properly treated, manuscripts can last thousands of years; try that with even optical discs), super-portable, required minimal energy to use (sunlight works quite well), etc and so forth blah blah blah. But you can't beat free.

Baen gets this right. There is even a site out there that serves up almost everything Baen has ever published for free, courtesy of Baen.
--End preview--

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