Tag Archives: Tom Holt

Book Review: “The Management Style of Supreme Beings” by Tom Holt

The Management Style of Supreme Being by Tom Holt

I’m a long time fan of Tom Holt, and this book was what I expect from him.

Freewheeling fantasy, with a very British flavor.  Gods and demons and supernatural powers. A large dose of social commentary, starting with the title. Snappy rom-com dialog.

What more do you want?

The overall plot revolves around a buy out of Earth’s local supernatural being (an English Standard Version to be sure). The new owners are a multi-planetary corporation with a distinctly different management philosophy, little interest in good or evil, and a lot more emphasis on profit.

It’s quite a shock to everyone, to say the least!

The denizens of the nether regions are redundant to the new regime, but kept on as a condition of the sale. However, they will now need to find a path to financial sustainability. “Hand Basket Tours”, anyone?

For good measure, there is a jolly old elf up round the North Pole who wasn’t covered in the purchase. He’s not nearly as nice as the PR would have us believe, though he apparently is watching everyone, knows who is naughty and nice, and does give out prezzies in December.

God’s second son isn’t happy, and chooses to stay on Earth, whatever the terms of the sale said.

Multiple supreme beings, tussling for control of Earth? What coul possibly go wrong?

As always, we identify with the little people are caught up in the affairs of the gods, who are called on to be heroes, whether they want to or not.

As I said, it’s Tom Holt.  Get it.  Read it.


  1. Tom Holt, The Management Style of Supreme Beings, New York, Orbit Books, 2017.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Books Reviewed 2015

Here is  housekeeping post, collecting all the books reviewed here in 2015.

Looking back at this list, I see that this year saw Terry Pratchette’s last book (a wrenching experience), and new novels by old favorites Stross, Perry, Macguire, Holt, Gaiman, among others. I also read older but still good histories by Goodwin and Graeber. I read several books about banking, Papal and otherwise, and overlapping works about Italy, fictional and (supposedly) real.

Over the year, I reviewed a sampling of important books about contemporary digital life, including cryptocurrency, the “sharing economy”, social media, and “mind change”.   These works covered a spectrum from enthusiasm to dark worry, giving us much to think about. There are many more I did not have time or energy for. (I will say more on this topic in another post)

Throughout 2015 I continued my ongoing investigation of the question, “what is coworking?”, including reviews of two recent (self published) books about coworking by practitioners. (More on coworking in another post.)

Shall I name some “Best Books” out of my list? Why not?

Fiction:

There were so many to pick from. I mean, with Neil Gaiman in the list, how can I choose? But let me mention two that are especially memorable

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Very imaginative and well written, and, for once, not so horribly dark. This book lodged in my memory more than others that are probably equally good.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Published a few years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. A wonderful, intricate story. The flight of the parrot is still in my memory.

Nonfiction:

There were many important works about digital life, and I shall try to comment on them in another post. But three books that really hit me are:

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
From several years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. Highly influential on the ‘occupy’ and other left-ish thinking. This is an astonishingly good book, and long form anthropology, to boot. Wow!

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
An exlectic little self-published book about “home coworking”, which I didn’t know was a thing. Kane walked the walk, and made me think in new ways about community and coworking.

Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Unexpected amounts of fun reading this short book. It does an old, graying nerd no end of good to see that at least some of the kids are OK. Really, really, OK.

List of books reviewed in 2015

Fiction

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Candy Apple Red by Nancy Bush
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Corsair by James L. Cambias
Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright
Diaspora by Greg Egan
Distress by Greg Egan
Electric Blue by Nancy Bush
Forty Thieves by Thomas Perry
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Mort(e) by Robert Repino
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey
String of Beads by Thomas Perry
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick
The Future Falls by Tanya Huff
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Ultraviolet by Nancy Bush
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
Witches Be Crazy by Logan J. Hunder
Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Non Fiction

Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner
Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
God’s Bankers by Gerald Posner
LaFayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Live Right and Find Happiness by Dave Barry
Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield
Mindsharing by Lior Zoref
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
No More Sink Full of Mugs by Tony Bacigalupo
Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling
Pax Technica by Phillip N. Howard
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Speculative Everything by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen
The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson
The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan
The Ugly Renaissance by Alexander Lee
Twentyfirst Century Robot by Brian David Johnson
Women of Will:  Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays by Tina Packer

 

Book Reviews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books Reviewed Third Quarter

Books Reviewed Third Quarter

A bit of housekeeping:  here is a list of all the book reviews that appeared in this blog in Q3 2015.  Mostly new or recent releases, with a few old but good thrown in.

Fiction

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman 
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore  
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley 
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu 
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis 

Non fiction

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield 
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin 
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen 

 

Book Review: “The Good, the Bad, and The Smug” by Tom Holt

The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt

 Perennial favorite Tom Holt gives us another episode in the donut multiverse. As usual, the characters are sympathetic despite their cartoonish flaws. Holt exploits the diversity of the multiverse to play around with cultural norms, creating universes with comically inverted and perverted rules and values. Yet throughout  the multiverse, “people” are people, and everywhere comes out just as comical as everywhere else.

It’s difficult to take yourself too seriously, in Holt’s multiverse.

This story includes the usual cast of ordinary Joe’s and Jane’s caught up in inexplicable travel between multiverses, as well as some really bad guys and some flawed good guys, and some guys we can’t make up our minds about. Everyone is basically trying to get through life.

Much of the story follows a “buddy picture” formula, and unlikely collaboration of a goblin and an elf who share at least one value: they both loath humans!

Amongst the jokes and satire, Holt plays around with tricky philosophical issues of cultural heritage and “good” and “evil”, which are all the more difficult in a multiverse. Not only are these values culturally contingent, there are infinitely many multiverses, each with its own rules.

This is a good book (though I liked Barking (2007) better). If you haven’t read him, you have dozens of books to catch up on. Get ‘em.


  1. Tom Holt, The Good, The Bad, and The Smug, New York, Orbit, 2015.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Third Quarter Summary

This quarter June – September) featured commentary on papers and web articles, much of it about cryptocurrencies, “remittance” and other sociotechnical topics.

I published an article in  the July issue of Very Much Wow magazine, “You Shall Not Crucify The Internet On This Cross of Bitcoin“, pp. 34-37.

I reviewed quite a few books this quarter in this blog,

Fiction

Adultery by Paulo Coelho
California by Edan Lepucki
Koko Takes A Holiday by Kieran Shea
Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn
On The Razor’s Edge by Michael Flynn
Palimpsest by Catherynn M. Valente
Sleeping Late On Judgment Day by Tad Williams
Space Opera ed by Rich Horton
Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark
The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn
The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Outsourcerer’s Apprentice by Tom Holt
.
The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross
The Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman
The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

Nonfiction

Operation Shakespeare: The True Story of an Elite International Sting by John Shiffman
The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch by Lewis Dartnell
The Myth of Mirror Neurons by Gregory Hickok
The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe by Dan Falk
You Can Data Boys When You’re Forty by Dave Barry

August Science Fiction

Two recent science fiction novels and a fine collection.

The Outsourcerer’s Apprentice by Tom Holt

Yet another story from the multiverse of Tom Holt, including some characters from earlier works such as The Doughnut and When It’s A Jar. As usual, the alternate realities are rife with characters, themes, and clichés from world mythology.

In this story, we visit a parallel universe that is being exploited by “the sorcerer”, who seems to be in the highly profitable cross-universe trade. His business interests is protected by magical superpowers, though in the fairytale world, society and economics don’t really make sense. But everything is changing and coming apart now, though it isn’t clear why.

If you have read Tom Holt, then you already know that you want to read this book. If you haven’t, then I’ll just say, “try it, you’ll like it.”

Space Opera edited by Rich Horton

A super collection of mind blowing space ships, planets, technologies, aliens, mutants, empire, pirates and rebellions.

These stories are all reprinted here, but are nevertheless a great collection, well worth the trouble.

On The Razor’s Edge by Michel Flynn

The next book in the Spiral Arm series, following “In The Lion’s Mouth” (2012)

Flynn is master story teller, with great plotting, characters, and a strange future world. The star ships and technology take second place to the complex cultures of the human diaspora and tens political situations. Awesome!

As in the earlier books, the story is quite operatic and violent. It is also filed with poetry, fancy dress, and complex societies. It is not easy to keep all the players straight, even if people weren’t switching loyalties right and left.

This story reunites the family, and uncovers the answers to several long standing mysteries. Obviously, you better read the earlier stories first.


 

1. Flynn, Michael, On The Razor’s Edge, New York, Tor, 2013.

2. Holt, Tom, The Outsourcerer’s Apprentice, New York, Orbit, 2014.

3. Horton, Rich, ed. Space Opera. Prime Books: New York, 2014.