Friday, November 15, 2013

Imager's Battalion, by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Imager's Battalion, by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

I am thoroughly enjoying the Imager Portfolio series. This direct sequel to Princeps is more plot based than previous volumes which delved a bit more into politics and religion; this feels more like a position paper setting up the plan to create the full-fledged imager school seen in the original volume of the series which is set centuries later. The story is solid, seeing our hero continue to expand his skills while staying a step ahead of both the opposing army and his more local enemies. The campaign of war occupies the entire novel which gives a repetitive feel to the narrative as there isn't a lot of variety between battles.

Speaking of repetition, one thing I've noticed is the similarity between Modesitt's universe of the Imager Portfolio his universe of the Saga of Recluce. Both have idealistic people that have trouble lying, similar techniques for using magic such as concealment and shields, semi-mystical writings that guide and inspire the protagonist, and one-in-a-generation heroes who accomplish world-changing feats at a huge personal cost. It hasn't hurt my enjoyment of either series, but the high degree of resemblance between the two is surprising—especially with a subtle theme here that says a god "gave us the freedom to be the best we could be, not to strive to be a copy of something."

One quibble I have with my edition of Imager's Battalion was the map provided in the front of the book lacks virtually every city and town where the action occurs. Why bother to show the map at all if it doesn't provide any context? Regardless, a fun read and I look forward to the next one.

First Sentence:
In the early summer afternoon, Quaeryt paced back and forth across the narrow stone stoop outside the main entrance to the hold house at Nordruil, occasionally blotting the sweat off his forehead.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bitter Java, by Bruce Tate

Bitter Java: The lessons taught by server-side Java antipatterns, by Bruce Tate

It has been a while since I've read a Java book, and this one subtitled "The lessons taught by server-side Java antipatterns" seemed pretty interesting. It is amazingly dated, showing just how fast technology has changed in the last decade: CORBA, Microsoft FrontPage, and dial-up modems all feature in various examples. Most surprising was the authors insistence in using Vectors and Hashtables rather than Collections; Collections were already well-established in 2002 and wouldn't have made the code samples any more complicated. In a book largely concerned with efficiency and scalability I find this fairly surprising and bordering on irresponsible. That said, the writing is readable and engaging, and despite being behind the times the patterns presented are still applicable in today's world. I'd recommend this to a neophyte designer, but a more seasoned architect I suspect will find it pedestrian.

First Sentence:
On a cold day in Eastern Tennessee, my kayak is perched precariously atop a waterfall known as State Line Falls.

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