Book Review – Dying by the Hour, @koryshrum

eBook cover

The sequel to Dying for a Living,  Dying by the Hour returns us to a world where death isn’t the handicap it used to be.

For those of you coming cold to Book 2 in a series, here’s the “Previously on Angel” sum-up.

  • A significant percentage of the population don’t stay dead when they die.
  • You don’t know it’s going to happen to you until it happens.
  • If you’ve got this, it’s called “Necro Regenerative Disorder” and the term “disorder” should tell you everything you need to know about how it’s perceived by Joe Public.
  • If you’ve got NRD, you can replace people at the point of death – literally dying for them.  The officially licensed, US-Government-sanctioned people doing this are Death Replacement Agents.
  • There’s a large, influential, and powerful church out to remove everyone with NRD as it’s against the wishes of God (and perfectly in line with the wishes of the head of the order).
  • Certain individuals with NRD are more special than others…

Got that?  Good.

Right.  Always tricky coming to book 2 of a series when book 1 was so good.  You’ve got to juggle the information you’re giving people who are new to the series with the information people coming straight from book 1 already know.  You run the risk of having large chunks copy-pasted across.  Simon R Green seems to feel the need to explain everything from chapter to chapter just in case you’d forgotten that “this is how things are… in the Nightside” from one page to the next.  Jim Butcher goes a little overboard in explaining how magic works in the Dresdenverse in every new book.  Kory gets the balance just about right.

Much of the “this is how NRD works” stuff is delivered in the form of a mandatory meeting all state employees have to attend.  Yes, this was done in book 1 but it’s not an out-of-place infodump in this book.  The rest is delivered piecemeal as the story needs it.

The whole thing does an excellent “this is book 2, let’s explore the world a little more” thing – more of the rules around death replacement are revealed, we meet the other factions out there vying for control, and we find out more about the Big Bad.  It’s all delivered from the point of view of either Jesse (NRD) or Ally (assistant) and the two storylines weave around each other, moving swiftly to the climax.  Nicely done, just as you’re getting somewhere with 1 character, you’re diverted to the other.

It’s not as self-contained as book 1 was.  With book 1, there wasn’t a need for a sequel built in.  Yes, it’s good to know there’s a sequel out there but it’s not essential reading.  With book 2, it feels much more like a set-up for book 3.  It’s half (or maybe 2/3) of a story that needs book 3 to complete it.  Strings are dangled, questions are unanswered.

There’s elements I didn’t like in this one.  One aspect of the storyline (trying to avoid spoilers here) is very like the TV show “Heroes” and I’m not sure how it will fit in with the wider world in book 3.  Will have to wait and see.

The politics in the world Kory’s created are rather involving.  I could picture articles in The Economist discussing some of the points raised and the laws being proposed in some US states regarding individuals with NRD.

To conclude…

Worth reading?  Yes.  Self-contained?  No – go and read book 1 first, then this.  Arguably, this book is “The Empire Strikes Back.”  Our heroes achieved victory in the previous book because they were under-estimated.  This time, they’re not so lucky.  Yes, they win some, but they lose more.  The game is changed.

Am I looking forward to the next one?  Yes.

My copy was kindly provided by Kory in exchange for a review.

Scotland the …

I’ve spent a third of my life living and working in Scotland.  I’m not going to re-hash the reasons I left here, they’re easy enough to find elsewhere on the blog.  To summarise the summary of the summary, Shetland Islands Council are a cowardly bunch of self-serving arseholes who wouldn’t know a good idea if it bit them on the arse, that’s assuming they could find it with  both hands and a map purchased at great expense (with money from the oil funds) from a close relative or personal friend.

Anyway.

I was not expecting Scotland, as a whole, to vote no.

South projection is always fun! – Image borrowed from http://geographer-at-large.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/motw-3-19-2012will-scotland-go-its-own.html

Taking the good things from this.  It was a high turnout.  That means, for once, people were engaged and interested in the politics governing their nation.  Whether that continues to the next General Election, or the Scottish Parliament elections that follow in 2016, we’ll have to see.  I’m speculating that you’ll see a lot of “Well, I voted Yes last time and look where that got me, don’t think I’ll bother this time.”

It was close – not as close as some predicted – but well within the margin of error predicted by the polls in the closing days.  Most of those “undecided” the polls were excluding must’ve been “no” voters.  The “Silent No” they were discussing at great length on Radio 4.

And now we have to live with the fallout.

What we’ve got to deal with now is Larry, Mo, and Curly in Westmister giving more and more powers to Scotland  while – at the same time – avoiding giving any concessions to England.  The West Lothian issue (Scottish MPs voting for matters that will never affect them as they’re devolved issues), which should’ve been sorted out as part of the initial devolution of powers to Scotland, rumbles on.  Until this is sorted out, there’s an awful lot of people who won’t be happy.  Oh, and then there’s the Barnett formula, which although Barnett himself thinks is broken, everyone else agrees is just fine.  Scotland pays £40-odd billion in, gets £50-odd billion back. That’s fair, isn’t it?

Quite possibly the biggest problem facing England as we go forward is Westminster.  The three main parties are all different shades of the same colour – ocean grey, battleship grey and the kind of grey HP used to make PC cases, really, really bland and uninspiring.  We have no viable alternatives without giving more strength and credence to the weirder parties.  And I’m not including the Monster Raving Loonies here, frankly I don’t see how they could’ve done a worse job.

So, thank you, the Labour government who let this genie out of the bottle without sorting out the full ramifications and seeing this coming.  Or maybe they did, knowing full well it would cause trouble and they could sit back in opposition.  Laughing.  Anyway.

“A person is clever.  People are stupid.” – Tommy Lee Jones, Men in Black

Each and every person who voted, regardless of which option they voted for, falls into that first category. They took a step in influencing the course of their country.  It was always going to be close, and they were right in thinking their vote counted.

The people who believe things just because they’re told it by one person and don’t check their facts or sources?  They fall into that second category.

I shall leave you with this…

Father Jack, of Craggy Island, had a special phrase he used for the poor and the needy.  I believe it applies equally well to the leaders of our main political parties – regardless of which part of the UK you live in.

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