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Martin Kopischke

Joined 1 year, 6 months ago

Purveyor of finest boredom since 1969. Lost causes catered for. He / him. English / deutsch / français. (@kopischke on BirdSite)

My ratings can look harsh, because they aim to reflect the overarching, enduring resonance of the books I read – which is not quite the same as how much I enjoyed reading them. I quite like a lot of books I “only” rate three stars, and I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy re-reading everything I rate above that, but the only service I use which helps me express that kind of nuance is Letterboxd. For reference:
★★★★★ Flawless

★★★★☆ Must read

★★★☆☆ Above average

★★☆☆☆ Oh, well

★☆☆☆☆ Blargh

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How to Slay a Dragon (2021, Simon & Schuster) No rating

Grab your magical sword and take the place of your favorite fantasy character with this …

A thousand years and a hemisphere. The medieval world had a thousand years and half the planet’s worth of other people you could have been.

You could have been Margaretha Beutler. After her wealthy husband’s untimely death, Beutler donated all her money to the poor and journeyed around southwest Germany for five years, funded by those who donated money to her instead of to the poor. During her travels, she was probably preaching—in an age when Christian women were not allowed to preach or teach religion in public. Until, that is, she was arrested in Marburg for being “an evil thief” and sentenced to death by drowning. Understandably, Beutler preferred to make some powerful friends who found her a spot in a monastery instead, after which she went on to lead several monasteries of her own.

Or you could have been Pietro Rombulo, the Arab-Italian merchant who moved to Ethiopia, started a family, became the king’s ambassador to Italy (and possibly India), and befriended an Ethiopian-Italian servant and a bishop.

You could at least have been Buzurg Ibn Shahriyar, who was not a real person but was still a celebrity, known for writing a book that included all the incredible stories people told him about pirates and sea monsters and islands beyond the edge of the world.


You’re just… you. You get to live in this village fourteen miles from the nearest market “town” and 1,400 miles from a town that doesn’t need air quotes to merit the name. Everyone in your village gossips in terror-laced excitement about the apocalypse, but you just think bitterly that the apocalypse wouldn’t even acknowledge the existence of your village.

How to Slay a Dragon by 

I am a sucker for a good starting sentence or paragraph (how else would I ever have read the whole of Moby Dick?), so this is right up my alley.

The Kaiju Preservation Society (EBook, 2022, Tom Doherty Associates) 4 stars

Jamie’s dream was to hit the big time at a New York tech start-up. Jamie’s …

Scalzi being Scalzi, in a good way

3 stars

KPS is not, and I say this with absolutely no slight intended, a brooding symphony of a novel. It’s a pop song. It’s meant to be light and catchy, with three minutes of hooks and choruses for you to sing along with, and then you’re done and you go on with your day, hopefully with a smile on your face.

Not much to add to that, really.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (EBook, 2021, Tom Doherty Associates) 5 stars

It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; …

Humane sci-fi. With robots.

4 stars

There isn’t much I can add to’s review; once again, Chambers is simply wonderful. Here, she is running with the wholesome if slightly insipid promise for the future Solarpunk holds to explore human condition and (not entirely incidentally, I suspect) thumb a very long nose to the whole “machine uprising” crowd. I don’t know how someone can be so relentlessly, melancholically upbeat, but I do know I had to finish this before work, and that I had a little happy cry when I did.

Shattered Sword (EBook, Potomac Books) 4 stars

Many consider the Battle of Midway to have turned the tide of the Pacific War. …

How to make history popular without making popular history

4 stars

Calling a serious, revisionist study of a key event in the Pacific war a page-turner may sound odd, but in this case, it is warranted. Its authors manage the singular feat of combining a sober overall assessment of the Battle of Midway, a keen eye for the doctrinal aspects of military operations, a tremendous amount of factual groundwork breaking from received narratives (and catching up with Japanese military historiography) with a breathless style of narration worthy of an action thriller.

Fire & Blood (EBook, 2018, Random House Publishing Group) 2 stars

With all the fire and fury fans have come to expect from internationally bestselling author …

For the GoT diehards only

2 stars

This pseudo history of House Targaryen’s conquest and early reign over Westeros, the fantasy kingdom A Game of Thrones is set in, exhibits all of Martin’s strengths and weaknesses as an author. Unluckily, the chosen format, an erudite fake history, makes the former – Martin’s ability to write engrossing, believable characters and tell a rich yarn through their eyes – mostly shine through their absence while the latter – Martin’s notorious lack of understanding of the histories and societies he draws his inspiration from – are painfully highlighted. Apparently, in the 150 or so years the book covers, the society, economy, technology, even fashion (judging from the illustrations) of Westeros did no evolve one iota; more vexing even, in the light of a radical paradigm change in warfare, dragons (and let’s not go into the naive nerdy Wunderwaffen belief that lies a the core of that; I’ll refer you to …

Semiosis (EBook, 2018, HarperVoyager) 4 stars

In this character driven novel of first contact by debut author Sue Burke, human survival …

Great idea, poor execution

2 stars

A multigenerational story of mankind having to become symbiotic with life forms beyond its understanding to survive, this is marred by pedestrian prose, a narrative structure that leaves no room for characters to feel for, and a take on an alien, vegetable life form that has all the charm of a chemistry lesson. Read Children of Time if you like the idea done well.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (EBook, 2021, Hodder & Stoughton) 5 stars

With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The …

One for the heart

4 stars

Chambers’ Wayfarers cycle, of which this ostensibly is the last instalment, is the rare kind of SF that works its magic though the heart more than through the brain. The story of five aliens marooned, for a little while, on what is, essentially, an intergalactic road stop, will make you cry over a smile, rekindle your belief in humanity (even if nary a human plays a part) and, at times, laugh out loud (apparently, the matter of cheese is the most befuddling issue aliens would have with humankind). Or at least it made me do so.

Symbiosis (EBook, 2021, Harper Voyager) 3 stars

Nearly a thousand years removed from Earth, the remnants of humanity cling to existence inside …

This one is bursting at the seams

3 stars

In her closing notes, Drayden speaks of what an uphill battle finishing this novel was; sadly, that shows. While her universe of human colonies living parasitically inside vast spacefaring beasts is as wildly and immersingly imaginative as ever, this reprise of Escaping Exodus suffers from halting character arcs, choppy pacing and a deus ex machina resolution that lets whole plot threads dangling.

The Unbroken (EBook, Little, Brown Book Group) 3 stars


Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to …

Hold the promises …

3 stars

Clark’s debut is promising: an unconventional settling, a compelling narrative, and the guts to spell out what colonialism does to people – both the ruled and the rulers. It also veers distressingly close to “chosen” fantasy tropes, and its haphazard character arcs and perfunctory resolution make it unable to fulfil that promise. Maybe the next volume of the series will.

Fugitive Telemetry (EBook, 2021, Tom Doherty Associates) 4 stars

No, I didn't kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn't dump the body …

If this is how rampage looks, it’s perfect

3 stars

Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries is the rare gem: the series that gives on giving. This sixth instalment has all the qualities of its predecessors: it’s short, on point, and keeps us up to date with the evolution of her cyborg protagonist’s unplanned feature upgrade (a personality) with all its quirks (people), all in the guise of an entertaining SF whodunnit.