Summer of ’69, by Elin Hilderbrand
Book Review / June 3, 2020

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is the story of a family, holidaying in Nantucket over the summer each year. We’re getting an insight into their life during the eponymous “Summer of ‘69”. Exalta, the grandparent generation, is the matriarch of the family. Her husband, Penn, passed away years ago and is idolised by Exalta who herself has been a prisoner of the (sometimes questionable) morals of the time but is on her way to make the best of the tumultuous times. Exalta’s daughter, Kate, is part of the parent generation. Her first husband, Wilder, who served in the Korean War, died shortly after coming home while cleaning his gun. Wilder is the father of Kate’s daughters Blair and Kirby and her son Tiger whereas her third daughter, Jessie, is her second husband’s child.David, Jessie’s father, is a lawyer and made sure Kate got the life insurance payout after Wilder’s death.David is such a great guy, that instead of talking to his binge-drinking wife, he passive-aggressively avoids her completely – to which she responds by buying something huge… Tiger has quit college to go to war in Vietnam and finds out that’s what…

Homo Faber, von Max Frisch
Book Review / June 1, 2020

Homo Faber by Max Frisch My rating: 5 of 5 stars “Ich nannte sie eine Schwärmerin und Kunstfee. Dafür nannte sie mich: Homo Faber” Es muß in den frühen 90’er Jahren gewesen sein, als ich im Bücherschrank meiner Mutter ein Buch im recht nüchtern und sachlich gestalteten weißen Schutzumschlag sah – “Max Frisch”, “Homo faber” und “Bibliothek Suhrkamp” stand dort. Suhrkamp kannte ich – sonst nichts.(Heute weiß ich, daß es sich um die Hardcover-Ausgabe aus dem Jahre 1962 handelte.) Ich war damals 16, ein seltsamer Vogel, der immens viel Zeit am Computer verbrachte und ansonsten viel las. So traf ich zum ersten Mal auf Faber… Walter Faber, ein durch und durch unsentimentaler, nüchterner Techniker, der an nichts glaubt, sondern ein Mann der Wissenschaft ist, trifft nach diversen kurzlebigen Frauenbekanntschaften eine junge Frau – Elisabeth, von ihm jedoch Sabeth genannt- die ihn nicht mehr loslassen wird. Eine ganz besondere Liebesgeschichte. Doch letztlich ist dies eine auf vielfältige Weise tragische Geschichte.Wie hätte ich dem mit 16 widerstehen können? Ich verschlang das Buch. Ich wollte Faber sein; natürlich der unantastbare, technophile Faber, der Ingenieur, der die Welt sieht, wie sie ist und sie verändert… Die weniger schönen Seiten des “Homo Faber” blendete ich…

Criss Cross (Alex Cross #27), by James Patterson
Book Review / May 28, 2020

Criss Cross by James Patterson My rating: 2 of 5 stars “The past will hunt you down” it says right there on the cover and I wish it was sarcasm by Patterson to put it there. Because the past hunts only him down. Let’s start at the beginning, though: In typical Patterson redneck manner, he lets Cross witness the state-sponsored murder of a killer he put away – right after Cross framed the guy… Cross himself about the framing part: “You might ask if I believed the ends justified the means, and I’d answer that in this case, yes.” Wow, just wow. But, hey, we’re not yet done with such crap because next to believing in state-sponsored murder, god and similar sources of evil, e. g. patriotism, Cross is just plain unbelievably dumb (how that reflects on his creator is left as an exercise to the reader…). An example: Right before heading deep down into an underground bunker (!) of one of those “preppers”, he asks his friend Sampson: “I’m not back in an hour, use the Find My Friends app and come get me.” Yes, riiiiiight… Since our author obviously thinks he needs to be up-to-date with blackmail practices,…

Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries #5), by Martha Wells
Book Review / May 25, 2020

“(Confession time: that moment, when the humans or augmented humans realize you’re really here to help them. I don’t hate that moment.)” It doesn’t happen often but I’m running out of words. So, go and read my previous reviews first, I’ll be waiting here for you. Everything I stated before still holds true for this book. This first full-length Murderbot Diaries novel proves that Wells can obviously write at any length without ever being overly verbose or even boring. “Network Effect” starts (mostly) peacefully and pretty similarly to the previous novellas. It’s all there – Dr. Mensah, her family, friends, colleagues and, most importantly, Murderbot who (yes, “which” just wouldn’t do!) is still socially “challenged” with many but not with all… “It was just me-the-SecUnit they didn’t like. (That didn’t apply to the seven kids. I was illicitly trading downloads via the feed with three of them.)” … as is, as shown, the friendly humour. First and foremost, though, Murderbot keeps developing in several significant ways (none of which I’m going to spoil for you!) but keeps up with his “strong convictions”… “Just clients. And if anyone or anything tried to hurt them, I would rip its intestines out.” We…

Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory (The Murderbot Diaries #4.5), by Martha Wells
Book Review / May 20, 2020

Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory (The Murderbot Diaries #4.5), by Martha Wells My rating: 4 of 5 stars This short story primarily focuses on Mensah (irritatingly called by her first name Ayda here) is nice enough but doesn’t live up to the standards of the rest of the series. Most disappointingly, Murderbot itself is hardly ever present and just at the moment when it got interesting, the story was at its end.

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4), by Martha Wells
Book Review / May 19, 2020

Exit Strategy by Martha Wells My rating: 5 of 5 stars “I had options, and I didn’t have to decide right away. Which was good, because I still didn’t know what I wanted. But maybe I had a place to be while I figured it out.” So, four novellas and I’ve devoured them. One short story and one novel (so far) to go. I haven’t had this much fun with a book series since… Hitchhiker’s Guide, I guess. Whereas the latter is (almost) purely humorous, though, “The Murderbot Diaries” deliver on several levels: – They most certainly are funny. Usually not the over-the-top thigh-slapper kind of funny but there’s always a bit of melancholy around the corner. Or the humour is laced with mild regret. – While I have no clue who “NPR” is, I agree with him that “We are all a little bit Murderbot.“. At least we would like to be. Or maybe even strive to.Because Murderbot, in its ethics and morals, actually surpasses quite a few of us. (Unfortunately, if this applies to you, you won’t notice…)(Or because it can just download from entertainment feeds without worrying and binge-watch stuff that sounds truly cool. 😉 ) –…

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3), by Martha Wells
Book Review / May 18, 2020

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells My rating: 5 of 5 stars Well, here’s yet another great instalment in the “Murderbot Diaries” series. It starts exactly where the previous novella left off and this leads us to yet another exciting adventure. While it’s, again, more of the same in a good way, this time we get to know even more about Murderbot’s ethics and morality because he has to deal with a human-form or pet robot. Miki, the “pet”, in both its simple-minded innocence which borders naïveté (and sometimes crosses that fine line) drives Murderbot up the proverbial wall and, sometimes, almost derails him. “I signaled Miki I would be withdrawing for one minute. I needed to have an emotion in private.” Nevertheless, even in this case, Murderbot acts as we would expect him to… In the end, what still keeps this series engaging for me is what Murderbot expresses at some point: “Who knew being a heartless killing machine would present so many moral dilemmas. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)” Onwards, to the next novella! View all my reviews

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2), by Martha Wells
Book Review / May 17, 2020

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells My rating: 5 of 5 stars The Murderbot Diaries strangely appeal to me. As I’m still on my way to the full length novel, recently published, I’m wondering at the simple elegance and straightforwardness of the novellas. This second instalment in the series is, thankfully, pretty much more of the same in a very good way. We still get a good view of a “construct” that’s basically a robot with human parts – and it shows: Murderbot feels slightly like it’s a person on the autism scale. “I skimmed it but most of my attention was on getting through the crowd while pretending to be an ordinary augmented human, and not a terrifying murderbot. This involved not panicking when anybody accidentally made eye contact with me.” This time, Murderbot is literally and metaphorically on a journey: Having recently run away from its benefactor of the first novella, Dr. Mensah, it’s now literally on the way to dig into its own – murderous? – past. Metaphorically speaking, Murderbot is on a journey to find itself, to find out what it actually wants – if having a guardian is actually the same as having an owner and…

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1), by Martha Wells
Book Review / May 14, 2020

All Systems Red by Martha Wells My rating: 5 of 5 stars “And in their corner all they had was Murderbot, who just wanted everyone to shut up and leave it alone so it could watch the entertainment feed all day.” I’m not a Science Fiction fan. I’m not especially fond of novellas. This one, though… I can’t even really explain what appealed to me about this novella: Murderbot neither really feels like a robot nor like a person but still strangely… plausible.Murderbot’s actions feel logical, yet simple. It does what it has to do. It’s ambiguity as an artificial lifeform makes it feel both familiar in, e. g. its shyness and some other emotions – not to speak of its entertainment addiction.Plus: An artificial lifeform that (sometimes) acts more humanely than its human counterparts? Fascinating! Murderbot is literally strange enough to go through a contrasting melange of emotions as well. This contrast, the SecUnits conflicting feelings and survival strategies is probably what made this story so wondrously attractive for me. All in all, the novella is based on an interesting premise with a good mixture of characters and a lot of suspense. Spice that up with Murderbot itself and…

Beach Read, by Emily Henry
Book Review / May 12, 2020

Beach Read, by Emily Henry My rating: 3 of 5 stars When I decided to read this book, I was expecting a light, funny romance before going back to more “serious” books. I basically wanted what the title promised – an early “Beach Read”. Unfortunately, this was obviously not to be. First of all, January, our heroine, is annoyingly insecure. Her mother got cheated on by her late father and both the cheating and the dying entirely shattered a 28-year-old’s world. Right. Gus, our brooding, “evil sexy” (repeated ad nauseam throughout the book!) hero is not only an embodiment of male clichés but pretty much behaves like an arse: he keeps pushing January away for no discernable reason, keeps alternating between giving obvious signals and pretty much kicking her out. At times I thought we’d get to the funny, light beach parts but then they interview former cultists, visit the scene of mass suicide/murder (where they quickly proceed to entirely different kinds of “investigations”) and do their best to lengthen a mediocre story and book. Over long periods, this book was simply boring. In fact, despite just having finished reading it, “Beach Read” is already fading from my otherwise perfectly…