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The unthinkable happened and I couldn't finish a Brandon Sanderson book. True, I had no idea The Bands of Mourning was the sixth in a series, but when I found out I thought it was a good idea to read it and see if it was worth it reading the whole Mistborn series, for which Sanderson is mostly known. Well, if the other books in the series are like this one, it's kind of boring.

I didn't feel like the book was bad, don't get me wrong, it was just... painfully average. Apparently in the Mistborn universe there are people that have abilities, like super powers, and other that have even stronger powers, but use metal as fuel. Different metals give different powers. That was intriguing, I bought the premise, I wanted to see it used in an interesting way. Instead I get a main character that is also a lord and a policeman, who is solving crime with the help of a funny sidekick at the request of the gods, who are only people who have ascended into godhood, rather than the creators of the entire universe. The crime fighting lord kind of soured the whole deal for me, but I was ready to see more and get into the mood of things. I couldn't. Apparently, the only way people have thought to fight people who can affect metal is aluminium bullets, which is terribly expensive, or complex devices that nullify their power. Apparently bows and arrows or wooden bullets are beyond their imagination.

But the worst sin of the book, other than kind of recycling old ideas and having people behave stupidly is having completely unsympathetic characters. I probably would have been invested more if I would have read the first five books of the series first, but as it is, I thought all of the main characters were artificially weird, annoying and uninteresting.

Bottom line: around halfway into the book, which is short by Sanderson standards anyway, I gave up. There are so many books in the world, I certainly don't need to read this one. The Wikipedia article for the book says: Sanderson wrote the first third of Shadows of Self between revisions of A Memory of Light. However, after returning to the book in 2014 Sanderson found it difficult to get back into writing it again. To refresh himself on the world and characters, Sanderson decided to write its sequel Bands of Mourning first and at the end of 2014 he turned both novels in to his publisher. So the author was probably distracted when he wrote this book, perhaps the others are better, but as such I find it difficult to motivate myself to try reading them.

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Tad Williams probably fancies himself as another Tolkien: he writes long decriptions of lands and people and languages, shows us poetry and songs, tells us about the rich history of the land. And all of this while we follow yet another common, but good boy, with a mysterious ancestry, while he and his merry band of helpers fight THE DARK ONE. It's the same old story, with the hapless youth that is guided by wise but not forthcoming people who tend to die, leave or otherwise shut up before the hero gets the whole story and can do anything about it. Regardless, he is young and lucky, so it's OK.

If The Dragonbone Chair would have been fun or interesting or at least show us a character that we could care about, this book would have been readable. As such it's a trope filled, boring and sleep inducing thing. You have to wait until half of the book to see the things that you predicted would happen from the first few chapters. I couldn't even finish it. More than two thirds in the book and there is no significant part of the story that involves either dragons or chairs.

Bottom line: it sucks!

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I have to say that most of the books I start reading, I am also finishing, no matter how bad they are. I will not be finishing Guns, Germs and Steel, but not because it is a bad book, but because it is too thorough.

I know, it sounds bad for me, but this book, as with the next one I am going to review, are true science books, going through all the arguments, all the proof, anecdotes and theories before making a point. It is not an overly large book, but each passage has meaning and there is a ton of data that must be assimilated in order to be able to say I read the book. Alas, I don't feel like assimilating this much and reading it to the end, just in order to pretend I've read it would be pointless.

The book, written by Jared Diamond, is trying to explain why some regions of the world are more developed than others, why some people are oppressed, while other are the oppressors, why some people get along fine having farms and cities and a thriving economy while others are fighting to stay fed or secure. The author immediately dismisses the idea of racial superiority. Given the biological incentives to stay alive and the selection process that still goes on in less developed areas of the globe, it would be silly to consider those people genetically inferior to well fed Westerners from countries where the leading cases of death are random diseases or accidents. So the reason must be something else.

Having done a lot of living and studying in Papua New Guinea and Polynesia, he has direct knowledge of the way people live there and extensive knowledge of their history. Especially Polynesia he considers a rich bed of "natural experiments" as the many islands have spawned numerous social, political, military and food systems that eventually had to interact. He doesn't stop here, though, giving examples from all parts of the world, the native Americans, Africa, Eurasia, etc.

As far as I could ascertain reading only half of the book, the reason the world looks like it does today is because of a lucky assortment of domesticable animals and crop plants that appeared in the Fertile Crescent. The advantage of such a food surplus allowing for all kind of social and administrative developments was too great to compete with. The culture that spawned from that area quickly overwhelmed the world. In the few areas where resistance appeared, technological advances, immunity to disease that they would still spread and the general historical knowledge gained from the written word made the dominance of said culture a certainty.

For a sociologist, a historian or a palaeontologist, this book should be a must read. It explains a lot, using a lot of arguments on very well documented facts. The style is sometimes too formal, eventually repeating some questions and answering them with overwhelming detail, but none of it is superfluous. As such, it was an interesting read, but a very difficult one. Something that would have ended up eating a lot of time and yielding little lasting knowledge.

So, having faith that I got the gist of it and hoping that maybe I will watch the PBS documentary based on the book to get to the end of it, I will end by recommending it to anyone in the field, but not so much for a casual reader.