Godblind – Anna Stephens
The Rilporian Gods of Light are waning, and the Red Gods are rising. The Mireces are preparing to invade, returning their Red Gods to the world by spilling the blood of Rilpor.
At first, I wasn’t sure about this. There were some pretty cool scenes and characterisation – the effects of Rillerin’s life after capture by the Mireces were portrayed with thoughtfulness. But also cartoony bad guys, occasional excessive ‘telling’, and really short chapters flitting between characters too much.
But then I got to the scene which informs us that Anna Stephens should never be trusted around a hammer. (Yikes) And it became really good!
The head-swapping was still often unnecessary, the bad guys were still quite ‘ha ha I like blood and death for some reason lol’, and a crucial – otherwise great – scene felt too reliant on rules-lawyering for me: but it was a lot of fun.
Fast-paced and brutal, with constant twists and really well written fight scenes. This is a book where if a sword hits your hand, you’re absolutely losing fingers. But there’s also impactful crisp description, and when Stephens does develop a character, she does it brilliantly. A particular scene/character arc with Crys at one point compares favourably to SPOILER LINK (a highly-regarded story), capturing his complex state of mind in that moment.
The grimness and gore are exciting – though, naturally, not everybody’s cup of tea. The writing approach has real flaws, but also signs of talent.
A Brief History of Neoliberalism – David Harvey
An eye-opening examination of what neoliberalism is, how it came to power, and its effects across the world.
Harvey meticulously outlines the contradictions between neoliberal ideology – free markets with only minimal state interference as the path to prosperity and freedom – and the reality in practice – states bailing out the chaotic financial sector, soaring inequality and social decay, economic imperialism through institutions such as the IMF. Neoliberal ‘freedom’ turns out to be the freedom of market forces and corporations to dominate.
Among Harvey’s investigations of IMF mischief, the inefficiencies of ‘neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics’, the role of the state, etc, runs an underlying class-conscious thread which may strike readers not already way to the left of Thatcher and Reagan as too ‘ideological’ (which is a dumb complaint).
This is rigorous enough to make a very solid case against neoliberalism. Not only from a leftist viewpoint, but by many of its own standards for what it was supposed to achieve and how it is supposed to function. At the same time, it’s not too hard to read.
So, after all this criticism of the last few decade’s political/economic orthodoxy, is there an alternative? Harvey doesn’t give an exact blueprint for one. He prefers to focus on making the idea that there can be an alternative a serious proposition, and promoting an ethic of equality and solidarity rather than individualism.
At first I found this ending dissatisfying. But on reflection, it’s an inspiring conclusion which neatly caps off the issues raised. Harvey setting out his preferred alternative would have to be a whole other book in its own right – and I’ve had enough graphs for now.
Thunderhead – Neal Shusterman
Scythe was pretty dang good – the sequel takes everything up another notch.
The world-building continues – going further into the Thunderhead, the previous book’s extracts from scythe journals replaced with passages of the AI’s thoughts. The separation between the Thunderhead, which rules, and the Scythedom, which gleans, forces it to watch the unfolding chaos without any active intervention.
The continuing cast are still solid, but new characters also shine. Greyson’s storyline takes us through aspects of this world that weren’t shown in much detail in Scythe, and he’s just such a cinnamon roll.
Everything that was great about Scythe, but more!