Tag Archives: Aldous Mercer

The Prince and the Program

Book Review of The Prince and the Program (The Mordred Saga #1), by Aldous Mercer

The Prince and the Program

I bought a copy of Aldous Mercer‘s The Prince and the Program.

Description from Goodreads:
Mordred Pendragon, the Bastard Prince, has done a Bad Thing—again. Exiled to Canada for seven years, he has to find a job to pay his bills. For reasons he refuses to reveal, Mordred decides “Software Engineer” has a nice ring to it. And though experience with “killing the Once and Future King, my father” and “that time in feudal Japan” makes for a poor resume, he is hired by a small tech startup in Toronto.

In the midst of dealing with a crippling caffeine addiction and learning C++, Mordred thinks he has finally found someone to anchor him to the world of the living: Alan, the company’s offsite lead developer. Except that Alan might not be a “living” entity at all—he may, in fact, be the world’s first strong AI. Or a demon that mistook a Windows install for the highway to Hell. Or, just maybe, the ghost of Alan Turing, currently inhabiting a laptop.

Mordred’s attempts to figure out his love life are hampered by constant interference from the Inquisitors of the Securitates Arcanarum, corporate espionage, real espionage, a sysadmin bent on enslaving the world, and Marketing’s demands that Mordred ship software to the Russian Federation. Then Alan gets himself kidnapped. To save him, Mordred must ally himself with the company’s CEO, who will stop at nothing to rescue her lead developer so he can get back to work. But the Prince doesn’t just want to rescue Alan, he wants a Happily Ever After—and he will travel beyond Death itself to get one.

Too bad Alan is perfectly happy as a computer.

I studied the softer sciences. I’ll admit that. But, among other things, I’ve read Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! and The Quark and the Jaguar. I had classes in the Alan Turing Building at The University of Manchester, which also hosts a yearly Cryptography Competition in the mathematician’s name. I married and share passions with a man who earned a physics degree from Imperial College, London and have a 1200 page copy of MisnerThorne & Wheeler‘s Gravitation on my coffee table RIGHT NOW, as his light summer reading.

Heck, my own father got a physics degree on a NASA fellowship late in life (i.e. when I was old enough to discuss it with him). The man was giddy as a kid at Christmas whenever you got him on the topic of neutron physics at UTSIWe had a salvaged Georgia Tech laser in our basement for Christ’s sake. So, even though I studied Humanities, I’m no stranger to the basics of harder sciences. I’m not about to be running out and solving any formulas, but I’ve always kind of been surrounded by them.

I’ve also read most of the geektastic fairall the LOTRs, all the Douglas Adamses, most the Pratchets, Asimovs, Gibsons and so on. I’ve even spent plenty of time with the Arthurian legends. I consider making it through The Mists of Avalon a crowning achievement. Despite all of this, I WAS NOT GEEKY OR MATHEMATICALLY INCLINED ENOUGH FOR THIS BOOK.

It is really, really funny and I got the humour, 100%. I may not have caught every joke, but I got a lot of them. I laughed a lot. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and the characters. But even as familiar as I was with things like Turing Tests, statistical game play, or open office (both Capitalised and not) torture methods, there was just always a vague hovering sensation that something was going over my head and I did not like that. I mean the book has Easter Eggs for God’s sake.

As much fun as I had with this book, I also spent a lot of it not entirely sure what exactly was happening. I found a fairly repetitive pattern of laugh, get lost, catch up, laugh, get lost, catch up, etc that left me vacillating between almost euphoric happiness and scrunched brow consternation. (Especially toward the end, when space/time I’m fairly sure folded or looped in some fashion.) So, in the end I found it a fairly so-so read. It has been suggested to me that perhaps there were a few symmetries missing in the Reimann tensor. *Shrug* maybe

It was however well written and fairly well edited. I’d still happily recommend it.

BTW, there’s an awesome review of this book over on AnnaLund2011, that’ s worth a read. It’s pretty much the review I wish I could have written.

Book Review of the Royce Ree Omnibus (The Emperor’s New Clothes), by Aldous Mercer

Royce Ree OmnibusI picked up Aldous Mercer‘s Royce Ree Omnibus after I saw it recommended in a Goodreads thread I was watching in a semi-stalkerish way…you know, reading all the posts while only being marginally involved myself. Since picking a book to read from the thousands I own can sometimes take me hours, I decided to just forgo the search, buy this one and read it. Done. Annoying decision-making process completely sidestepped. Score!

Description from Goodreads:
Imperial Agent Royce Ree needs to pull off the biggest heist the Universe has ever seen, or it’s bye-bye cushy government job, hello cleaning toilets in a dive-bar on Baga-V. 

To succeed, he will need help from the last person he’d ever ask: his ex.

I just plain had a blast reading this. I thought that Royce and Les were wonderful characters, their interactions were a pleasure and their poorly concealed feelings for one another marvellous. There was a lot of humor and the whole thing just had a sweet feel to it. The writing was crisp and compelling, the dialogue believable, the world-building just solid enough to give the reader a clear picture without bogging down the story, and the wit often subtle but readily apparent. Plus, there were psychic pets, zombie fashionistas, super spies, naked royalty, secret missions, soul searing love and one spunky rebellious princess. What more could I ask for?

Now, the book wasn’t faultless. There were some minor editing issues, changes in tense and person (3rd to 1st) and occasionally I wasn’t entirely clear what happened in a scene or what a particular technology actually did, but it really wasn’t all that often or noticeable. I’ll also admit that if I had been reading the individual instalments, instead of an omnibus (that read as smoothly as any other book I’ve encountered) I’d probably have been scratching my head about why it’s broken up. But I wasn’t, so I’m pretending it originated as a single text and moving on.

Lastly, I’m not a huge fan of the explain-it-all-in-a-big-historical-reveal-at-the-end technique. Here I thought some of it felt a little too convenient, some of it felt unrealistic (characters who knew each-other all pretended they didn’t without the reader knowing why, for example) and some aspects weren’t clearly explained. An example of the latter was the ‘only if he asks you’ scenario. This was accomplished, ostensibly arranged by Royce, but it was never shown how he managed to manipulate events and people to bring it about. (I realise that only makes sense to people who have read the book, for the rest of you it’s just an example to show that there is an example.)

None of these issues severely detracted from my basic enjoyment of the book though. As a ‘buy on a whim, even though I have tons I should read first’ book I deem it a complete success. I look forward to the continuation of the series and will be looking for more of Mercer’s writing.