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The Skill of Our Hands

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The Incrementalists are a secret society of two hundred people; an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, a little bit at a time. Now Phil, the The Incrementalists are a secret society of two hundred people; an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, a little bit at a time. Now Phil, the Incrementalist whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has been shot dead. They’ll bring him back—but first they need to know what happened. Their investigation will lead down unexpected paths in contemporary Arizona, and bring them up against corruption in high and low places alike. But the key may lay in one of Phil’s previous lives, in Kansas in 1859, and the fate of a man named John Brown.


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The Incrementalists are a secret society of two hundred people; an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, a little bit at a time. Now Phil, the The Incrementalists are a secret society of two hundred people; an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, a little bit at a time. Now Phil, the Incrementalist whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has been shot dead. They’ll bring him back—but first they need to know what happened. Their investigation will lead down unexpected paths in contemporary Arizona, and bring them up against corruption in high and low places alike. But the key may lay in one of Phil’s previous lives, in Kansas in 1859, and the fate of a man named John Brown.

30 review for The Skill of Our Hands

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    Back in 2014, I thought that The Incrementalists, Steven Brust and Skyler White's first published collaboration, was amazing. The Skill of Our Hands was... quite a bit less amazing, though at least it doesn't try to hide the fact that it's a sequel. Which isn't to say this is a bad book—this installment is really fast-paced and fun to read, and I did enjoy coming back to the world (and the worldview) that Brust and White have built. However, this second volume doesn't seem to contain much new Back in 2014, I thought that The Incrementalists, Steven Brust and Skyler White's first published collaboration, was amazing. The Skill of Our Hands was... quite a bit less amazing, though at least it doesn't try to hide the fact that it's a sequel. Which isn't to say this is a bad book—this installment is really fast-paced and fun to read, and I did enjoy coming back to the world (and the worldview) that Brust and White have built. However, this second volume doesn't seem to contain much new worldbuilding. It's focused on resolving a single crisis, and as a result comes across as more of an interstitial work—a chapter, rather than a full-fledged addition to the series. Despite the five years that passed in between my reading these two, though, I never felt lost or unsure about what was going on. As in The Incrementalists, Brust and White remain very good at "incluing." Their reminders kept me informed without ever feeling clunky. If you have a little patience—if you let the novel unfold incrementally, as it were—all will become clear. "Minds are the only thing worth changing," Ren said. —p.171Viktor Frankl's enormously influential book Man's Search for Meaning figures prominently in The Skill of Our Hands. This is not an accident... while The Incrementalists did make me suspect that the authors had a didactic purpose, it was still (as I said then) "very, very sweetly coated by a damn good story." The Skill of Our Hands is, in contrast, much more obviously didactic—here, Brust and White are attempting to meddle with you, the reader. They're trying to change your mind, and they're not at all shy about it. Even though I agreed with 'em on just about every point, I still found that offputting. For example, this paragraph gets dropped into a conversation, late enough in the book that I guess Brust and White figured you were already hooked, but it still jarred me: "Yup," Kate said. "That's the high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS's poisonous, totally unregulated, and more addictive than cocaine. Our entire food supply is adulterated, but of course it's the most vulnerable—the poor and young—that get sick first. That's always the case, but here it's particularly pronounced since they put HFCS in almost all cheap food. You have to pay to avoid it." —p.259Now, Kate's not wrong—especially about the difficulty of avoiding high-fructose corn syrup even if you're motivated to do so—but her rant still seemed intrusive, not so much necessary character development as auctorial fiat. Even with the occasional preaching to the converted, though, I have to admit that The Skill of Our Hands was, ultimately, well worth reading—so maybe their meddling worked after all...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steven R. McEvoy

    I have been a fan of Brust's writing since I first started buying my own books. One of the things I love most about reading Steven Brust is you never know where he might take a story. And this one began in a way I really did not expect. Having love the first book The Incrementalists and both of the short stories set in this world, I can state I did not expect such a shakeup, or change in format. For The Incrementalists was told in alternating first person chapters. One thing that remains I have been a fan of Brust's writing since I first started buying my own books. One of the things I love most about reading Steven Brust is you never know where he might take a story. And this one began in a way I really did not expect. Having love the first book The Incrementalists and both of the short stories set in this world, I can state I did not expect such a shakeup, or change in format. For The Incrementalists was told in alternating first person chapters. One thing that remains consistent through the majority of Brust's works is that he moves fast, throw curves at the readers, and is always willing to upturn the table. And he does all of that in the first few paragraphs of this book. The Incrementalists, a secret society of around 200 people worldwide, have found a way to cheat death. They have found a way to transfer their memories into a recipient, and to remember their pervious lives. And they hope and try to use that skill and that experience to try and make things better. Now better is a nebulous word, and sometimes the group does not always have the same ideas of which way they should try and shape or influence things. This story begins with Phil being shot, actually being shot three times in the back. As his body is dying he is trying to save some memories in the garden for the other Incrementalists to use and to save his last memories. And soon the core leadership team of the Incrementalists are gathering in Arizona to find a replacement for Phil and get a handle on what he was working on. For they have realized that he was working on something to do with immigration, vigilante's and a militarized police force. (Sound familiar?) This book was a race from the first page until I had finished it. It was a little hard getting comfortable with the new format. I really like the alternating chapters told in Phil and Ren's voice from book one. It also made it harder to know who wrote which parts of the book Brust of White. There is a saying that the sins of the father will visit the sons, in this book we must determine if Phil's sins of the past are being repeated now. And it comes down to a question of is it ok to kill? This book deals with a number of very serious issues the world faces today. But it does do in a fictional story that helps you to look at some of the issues from different angles. Yet with that being said it is a still a great piece of fiction. And really leaves the readers wondering where White and Brust will go next if there is a book three. If you are into speculative fiction this book and series will be great reads so give them a try. Read the review on my blog Book Reviews and More and reviews of other books by Steven Brust.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tim Hicks

    Let's get one thing straight up front: Steven Brust is one of my favourite authors. I'm even one of the apparently-few people who really enjoyed the Phoenix Guards books. But golly, I couldn't finish this one, and looking back I am not sure I finished the previous one either. See, we got Phil, who's dead, and Ren who replaced Celeste, and "shut up Oskar" and "%#$ off Irina" and Jimmy, who's apparently wonderful but is on his way for more than 100 pages, and Jane and Sam and Frio and Matsu and Let's get one thing straight up front: Steven Brust is one of my favourite authors. I'm even one of the apparently-few people who really enjoyed the Phoenix Guards books. But golly, I couldn't finish this one, and looking back I am not sure I finished the previous one either. See, we got Phil, who's dead, and Ren who replaced Celeste, and "shut up Oskar" and "%#$ off Irina" and Jimmy, who's apparently wonderful but is on his way for more than 100 pages, and Jane and Sam and Frio and Matsu and Kate and Daniel and Ramon and Carter and John Brown and Menzie and Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all, and they are all jerks. Most of them are Ubermenschen body-stealers who can all, like, mentally link into this, like, Garden where it's all, like, a cross between Dropbox and a memory palace. Oh, and they all log into a worldwide forum for Ubermenschen so they can keep up. But hey, it's OK that they steal bodies, because they are Trying To Do Good, and also because they recruit people by telling them "we want to take your body because we Try To Do Good," and the victims, er, recruits are all, "oh yeh, OK then, go ahead I guess." But it's really important to replace Phil with the right person, so of course they recruit several people to do it, and argue about it ad nauseam. No, *I* want to be in charge! Shut up, goof, I already decided. %#$ off, Irina. Shut up, Oskar. No, YOU shut up. I said it first! Well oh yeah, I'm going into my Garden and while I'm there you can just read about abolitionists. By sheer chance, I just finished Wesley Chu's "The Lives of Tao," in which - you're probably going to guess this - several really swell guys take over the bodies of others. OK. in this case they are two groups of aliens who Just Want To Go Home, but gosh, what's this about taking over bodies? Is Steve Bannon infiltrating the world of SF/F? Anyway, I don't buy the premise of the book (it's all magic-realist stoner stuff), I didn't care about any of the characters, I couldn't stand the constant deferral of "We have to replace Phil with just the right person because Everything Depends On It." Oh yeah? Convince me. "Well, I saw it in my Garden, man, but it got like all fuzzy, y'know?" And I don't really want to read about a bunch of dorks who might be on MY block next week and decide they need MY body so they can Try To Do Good Things so they will mojo me into baaing quietly and welcoming our new alien overlords. I acknowledge the effort to address the ethical issues of being what these folks are. But gosh, if they gave a flying fig about that they would never have done it in the first place. Let's look at the history of taking over bodies. Voldemort. Pod People. Demons. The Thing. Invaders From Mars. The Hidden. The Fly. Candy Stripers. Hasn't gone well, has it? Maybe I should award points for trying to do one where the bodysnatchers are the good guys. Also +1 for addressing modern political issues, especially in Arizona. I am looking forward eagerly to the return of Vlad Taltos. I respectfully suggest that the authors of this steamer should focus their talents elsewhere for their next books. I enjoyed writing this review far more than I enjoyed reading 2/3 of the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shyam

    Hmm, the world is still very interesting. However, I found this book really didn't hold my attention, and the way the plot wrapped up made me wonder why I was reading this book in the first place.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chip

    Not sure what to say here. It's an original concept, and the authors are certainly trying to do something interesting and different .... but frankly I was frequently bored. They certainly tried to add a little "who dun it" suspense, but I struggled to get through this. Others may really like this, but it just doesn't work for me. (Did, however, remind me that I really do need to take Man's Search for Meaning off the shelf and actually read it.)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shane Jardine

    Originally posted at www.archeddoorway.com I’m going to say right off the bat that The Skill of Our Hands by Steven Brust and Skyler White was probably one of the weirdest books I’ve read in a long time. It was also one of those books that while I enjoyed it, I still struggled to finish reading it. Normally when I open a new book I’m unable to put it down until I’ve finished it or I’m too tired to read, but with The Skill of Our Hands, I had to take breaks to digest what I had read and to take a Originally posted at www.archeddoorway.com I’m going to say right off the bat that The Skill of Our Hands by Steven Brust and Skyler White was probably one of the weirdest books I’ve read in a long time. It was also one of those books that while I enjoyed it, I still struggled to finish reading it. Normally when I open a new book I’m unable to put it down until I’ve finished it or I’m too tired to read, but with The Skill of Our Hands, I had to take breaks to digest what I had read and to take a brief break from the story. Though I have to admit I’m already considering a reread of the book and it’s only been a few days since I finished it. I think The Skill of Our Hands has a lot going for it and that there is a lot about it that makes me want to recommend it to people. I thought the story was well-written with just enough twists and turns to keep you interesting and guessing what was going to happen next without beeing too confusing. The characters Phil and Ren were really fun to read about and I thought Brust and White did a fantastic job of fleshing them out and turning them into believable characters. It was easy to empathize with them and to root for them no matter what they were doing. This was a fascinating world and characters to read about so I’m hoping this wasn’t the end of the series. Despite enjoying it as I did, I really did struggle to finish it at times and I think I’ve mostly narrowed down what those were to a couple of things. I liked the Incrementalists but I didn’t like how little information we got on their abilities and how they work. I’m the kind of person who needs to know how a magic system works to really appreciate and enjoy it. I also found myself bothered by the narration format that was used in the book. The way it jumped back and forth between characters and between time periods was a bit too hard for me to follow at times. I found myself momentarily confused a time or two and can’t help but feel like the viewpoints could have been handled a bit better. Despite my struggles with it, I really did enjoy the Skill of Our Hands and I’m going to be suggesting it quite a bit to anyone looking for something new or interesting to read. I’ll also be reading the first book in the series as I didn’t realize this one was a sequel until I had finished it and I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if any new books release in the future. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kes

    This is a book that felt defined by the issues faced by modern day America. I liked this less than the preceding book. It's still a mystery - basically, Phil gets killed. The Incrementalists assemble (again) and try to unravel 1) why Phil was killed, and 2) find Phil a new body. The reasoning given (view spoiler)[for their urgency in resurrecting Phil felt weak - it's caused by Renee walking a spiral? That Matsu gives up his own body in the end also feels a little like a cop out - why did he do This is a book that felt defined by the issues faced by modern day America. I liked this less than the preceding book. It's still a mystery - basically, Phil gets killed. The Incrementalists assemble (again) and try to unravel 1) why Phil was killed, and 2) find Phil a new body. The reasoning given (view spoiler)[for their urgency in resurrecting Phil felt weak - it's caused by Renee walking a spiral? That Matsu gives up his own body in the end also feels a little like a cop out - why did he do it? Why did he feel that his existence was worth less than Phil? (hide spoiler)] It felt like this whole process was just as side-track or an excuse for the larger message of the book, which was about police militarisation and the part an ordinary person can play. (view spoiler)[Clear parallels are also drawn between the abolitionist movement, of which Phil took part, and police militarisation. It's also notably more racially mixed than the previous book - I felt that this book took pains to emphasise that e.g. Irina was not white. (hide spoiler)] Furthermore, (view spoiler)[Sam felt like another way of hammering in the point of what the ordinary human can do. (hide spoiler)] It was also a book full of relationships - between Phil and Renee, Sam and Jane, etc. I loved Kate's relationships - (view spoiler)[here is a woman who is polyamorous, and has her priorities together. It took me a while to realise that "Legal One" and "Wrecker" were nicknames for her husband and boyfriend respectively. I also loved the scene at the end, where Wrecker's mother died - and Kate says basically: "no, I'm going to look after Wrecker." (hide spoiler)] I have a feeling that the ties that bind people together - i.e. communities of people - was part of the point of this book (which ties in to the larger theme of collective action that the book advocates). Ultimately, it was a fast-paced book (even though characters take their time to talk things through, things still felt like they were moving unnecessarily fast). A bit more preachy than the first book - I doubt this will stand up to the test of time. But not a bad book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Soo

    Mini-Review: 4.5 Stars for Narration & Production 3 Stars for Story The story format changed a bit and they altered the audio production. Mary Robinette Kowal performed all the female voices and Ray Porter did the voices for all the males. The changes made the audio much better than the first book. I'm not sure how this collaboration was planned out and pieced together. I come away from the series with a keen interest on the premise but disappointed by the execution. There are parts that are Mini-Review: 4.5 Stars for Narration & Production 3 Stars for Story The story format changed a bit and they altered the audio production. Mary Robinette Kowal performed all the female voices and Ray Porter did the voices for all the males. The changes made the audio much better than the first book. I'm not sure how this collaboration was planned out and pieced together. I come away from the series with a keen interest on the premise but disappointed by the execution. There are parts that are eloquent and compelling. Yet, those bits are lost in the confusing mass of disjointed sequences and somewhat awkwardly placed external dialogue from the present. There are several places where sexual tension was forced into the story and I'm left wondering why it had to be there. I love romance stories and read a ton of erotica. It would not have bothered me if it fit into the story and 9/10 times it did not. It seemed like a lot of inconsequential events happened to lead to an answer that was already established in the first book. A very convoluted mix of characters, history & actions that did not add new information. Meh. The writing is okay but it didn't do anything to really further the story.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    There's a lot about this premise that I like, which makes me want to like this story, but I don't. The underlying message -- "Get involved. Make things better." -- is one that I fully support. Yet using this novel, in all the weird ways it is structured, to spread that message is less effective, mostly because it was such a CHORE to get through the story. What this ends up being is a book that's more about telling you about this group of people and what they do, through endless repetitive There's a lot about this premise that I like, which makes me want to like this story, but I don't. The underlying message -- "Get involved. Make things better." -- is one that I fully support. Yet using this novel, in all the weird ways it is structured, to spread that message is less effective, mostly because it was such a CHORE to get through the story. What this ends up being is a book that's more about telling you about this group of people and what they do, through endless repetitive conversations among characters that aren't really relatable, rather than showing you the story as it unfolds. Essentially, there were two repeating thoughts running through my head as I read this book: "Shut up, Oskar!" and "Why are you telling me this?" It takes until page 250 or so for all the little threads to come together to make any amount of sense, and getting to that point requires a lot of commitment from the reader, since we move between a couple of different time periods, multiple character viewpoints (and those characters have multiple names), and lots of "explanations" from one of the characters. Like I said, a lot of work for very little payoff.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Serena

    The first 2/3 to 3/4 of this book is fantastic. It is the ending that I have an issue with. I really don't like the blatant call to service tone in which this book ended. It doesn't matter that the world always needs more people in this world actively trying to make it better, the lack of subtlety in the ending implies that the reader isn't being given much, if any, credit for understanding that message as it was presented in this novel or its predecessor. In this book, we learn more about The first 2/3 to 3/4 of this book is fantastic. It is the ending that I have an issue with. I really don't like the blatant call to service tone in which this book ended. It doesn't matter that the world always needs more people in this world actively trying to make it better, the lack of subtlety in the ending implies that the reader isn't being given much, if any, credit for understanding that message as it was presented in this novel or its predecessor. In this book, we learn more about stubbing, see that it doesn't always go as planned, and the possible results when that happens. Some of the original characters have new Seconds, and I wish there had been more character development of these instead of just brief descriptions of their new bodies. Oskar basically serves as the narrator of the story, and I like how the authors present his personal asides throughout the text. The personal histories of some of the original characters are also shared. I do not regret staying very late over the past 3 nights to read and finish this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Steve Tetreault

    I'm trying to figure out which bookshelf this goes on, and I'm having a real hard time. It's not quite science fiction, it's not quite fantasy, it's not quite realistic fiction, though it has elements of all of those. I might have to create a shelf called "Just a well-written story". The second book in the Incrementalist series was, I dare say, even better than the first book, in that it didn't even attempt to explain how the Incrementalists are able to do what they do, and what it all means. I'm trying to figure out which bookshelf this goes on, and I'm having a real hard time. It's not quite science fiction, it's not quite fantasy, it's not quite realistic fiction, though it has elements of all of those. I might have to create a shelf called "Just a well-written story". The second book in the Incrementalist series was, I dare say, even better than the first book, in that it didn't even attempt to explain how the Incrementalists are able to do what they do, and what it all means. Instead, it presents a series of mysteries-inside-mysteries that the characters are trying to figure out, all while they are feeling an unreasoning but incredibly strong sense that they need to rush to get one of their members back. Throughout the main story, chapters are interlaced with a secondary mini-story that is just as interesting and compelling as the main plot. I had never realized how big a role the state of Kansas played in the abolition of slavery in the United States, which figures prominently as part of this secondary storyline. The main story spins out of an attempt to ease tensions in Arizona during the 2014 build-up over the role of law enforcement and vigilantes in stemming the flow of immigrants to the U.S. I know this book has been in development for a while, but it's pretty amazing how prescient this choice of topic turned out to be in our current (early 2017) political climate. There's something about how these characters are written that makes them incredibly interesting to me - I found myself drawn into their world from the first few pages. I am hoping there are more books to come in this series!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Tollefson

    I love these Incrementalist books. Of course, Brust is amazing, always has been, and what he's done with White in this series is not only good reading but thought provoking as well. This one is written more or less from Oscar's eyes. There are frequent notes from him, which makes it feel more intimate, more real in some ways. I don't think this one was quite as well crafted as the first, but it is a much denser story. There's so much going on and so many characters to write that it could easily I love these Incrementalist books. Of course, Brust is amazing, always has been, and what he's done with White in this series is not only good reading but thought provoking as well. This one is written more or less from Oscar's eyes. There are frequent notes from him, which makes it feel more intimate, more real in some ways. I don't think this one was quite as well crafted as the first, but it is a much denser story. There's so much going on and so many characters to write that it could easily have been as big as a Gabaldon novel. I would have given it 5 stars, but I found myself lost a few times and had to backtrack, and there were some areas where my eyes sort of glazed over. But I will probably reread it in several months and may feel differently about it then.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I REALLY enjoyed this one -- it took the stage set in the Incrementalists and built hugely on that theme, diving into today's problems unflinchingly (as an Arizonan, I felt some parts of this very keenly... and this time I could find nothing to complain about). I don't guess these stories are for everyone. But I really enjoyed the story, the way it was told from inside the minds of each of our main characters and from without by Oskar, the stalwart cynic of the Incrementalists -- I like these I REALLY enjoyed this one -- it took the stage set in the Incrementalists and built hugely on that theme, diving into today's problems unflinchingly (as an Arizonan, I felt some parts of this very keenly... and this time I could find nothing to complain about). I don't guess these stories are for everyone. But I really enjoyed the story, the way it was told from inside the minds of each of our main characters and from without by Oskar, the stalwart cynic of the Incrementalists -- I like these people. I know there are some problems with the structure of the book, but I forgive a great deal when it comes to characters I like. I wanted to see where things were going and what was going to happen and how the pieces would fall. For me, that's what I ask for in a book. This one delivered.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    Call it 4.5 stars. I was excited about returning to the world of The Incrementatlists, and Steven Brust and Skyler White did not disappoint. In many respects, this novel is richer than its predecessor, and deftly avoids several common sequel traps. The reader learns early on, heck--in the jacket copy--that Phil, the focus of The Incrementalists, has been murdered. Damn. Now what? What we get is a murder mystery of sorts, and a deep dive into Phil's history as his friends explore his history Call it 4.5 stars. I was excited about returning to the world of The Incrementatlists, and Steven Brust and Skyler White did not disappoint. In many respects, this novel is richer than its predecessor, and deftly avoids several common sequel traps. The reader learns early on, heck--in the jacket copy--that Phil, the focus of The Incrementalists, has been murdered. Damn. Now what? What we get is a murder mystery of sorts, and a deep dive into Phil's history as his friends explore his history (especially his involvement with abolitionist John Brown). For anyone who felt challenged by the multiple POVs in the previous novel, better strap in. Some of the most emotionally intense scenes are worthy of an Ibsen scene, but you have to pay attention to follow the shifting alliances. This book is also more openly political, which gives it depth that might have been lacking in Vol 1. On the whole, I found this very satisfying, and certainly some of that comes from the lovely amalgam of Brust's and White's styles.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robert Hudder

    Second in a series. Love the premise and the message is good. The idea that there is a secret society of people who can upload their consciousness into other bodies provides for some interesting scenarios. The main thrust of this book is around slavery in the 1800's and modern immigration policy. There are some interesting parallels in terms of physical resistance and what is necessary. There is a big statement on what it takes for change to happen. Are small changes enough? When is the tipping Second in a series. Love the premise and the message is good. The idea that there is a secret society of people who can upload their consciousness into other bodies provides for some interesting scenarios. The main thrust of this book is around slavery in the 1800's and modern immigration policy. There are some interesting parallels in terms of physical resistance and what is necessary. There is a big statement on what it takes for change to happen. Are small changes enough? When is the tipping point? Do things have to get worse in order to get better? Some great questions are left at the end. This murder mystery and thriller is definitely worth the read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    The Incrementalists are still at the business of trying to make the world better, a little bit at a time. But when one of them dies, the process of moving their memories into a new body takes on a sudden urgency, and the group struggles to agree on how to move forward. With murderous threats from without, now is a terrible time to be divided. This is the kind of book that often leaves you guessing, thoughtful and hopeful, at turns sweet and sad. Even with all their efforts to choose good people The Incrementalists are still at the business of trying to make the world better, a little bit at a time. But when one of them dies, the process of moving their memories into a new body takes on a sudden urgency, and the group struggles to agree on how to move forward. With murderous threats from without, now is a terrible time to be divided. This is the kind of book that often leaves you guessing, thoughtful and hopeful, at turns sweet and sad. Even with all their efforts to choose good people to do their work, they are still capable of mistakes with far-reaching consequences. But you wish they were out there, anyway, trying to save the world.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sterph1

    I had said that I had given The Incrementalists 4 stars because 3 and half was not an option but was hopeful The Skill of Our Hands would fill in some blanks and just be better than the first in the series. Nope. If you are a Brust fan (and I am -really) and you've read the Vlad Taltos series you may think as I do. The characters he developed are rich and engaging and the storylines motivated you to keep reading the series. Toward the end though the stories started to feel like they took a back I had said that I had given The Incrementalists 4 stars because 3 and half was not an option but was hopeful The Skill of Our Hands would fill in some blanks and just be better than the first in the series. Nope. If you are a Brust fan (and I am -really) and you've read the Vlad Taltos series you may think as I do. The characters he developed are rich and engaging and the storylines motivated you to keep reading the series. Toward the end though the stories started to feel like they took a back seat to politics and proselytizing. I continue to wish Vlad well, but stopped. It only took The Incrementalists to #2 to get there. I wish Phil, Ren, Oskar, Jimmy and the rest well.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Janice

    The two novels in this series are kind of morality plays. The characters "work to make things better incrementally" by influencing people to do what they want. Which, it can be argued, is kind of what we all do every day. Only they have some... metaphysical for want of a better word, abilities that make them better at it. The issues arise over exactly who decides what "better" is, and how to achieve that. People, being the fickle beings that we are, are difficult to predict. So planned courses The two novels in this series are kind of morality plays. The characters "work to make things better incrementally" by influencing people to do what they want. Which, it can be argued, is kind of what we all do every day. Only they have some... metaphysical for want of a better word, abilities that make them better at it. The issues arise over exactly who decides what "better" is, and how to achieve that. People, being the fickle beings that we are, are difficult to predict. So planned courses of action often go awry. Really need the half star for this.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Abby Pullis

    What could have been a really cool concept fell flat. Very heavy handed with its over all message and overly complicated metaphors that are distracting and unclear. And to top it of nothing really happens! For a characters who have inhabited many different human forms they seem pretty obsessed with how attractive they find each others vessels. They are supposed to be doing good for the world but they spend most of their time focusing on sexual tension and emotional breakdowns.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Not as strong as the first book. Still interesting, but the mystery of the world building has already been told, so that thread isn't present to pull you along. This read more like a call to action in modern political times—we don't have access to lived memories like the Incrementalists do, but we do all have access to history. I also like the acknowledgement that no one knows what's going to happen based on any given action, and the straightforward telling of how the various characters are Not as strong as the first book. Still interesting, but the mystery of the world building has already been told, so that thread isn't present to pull you along. This read more like a call to action in modern political times—we don't have access to lived memories like the Incrementalists do, but we do all have access to history. I also like the acknowledgement that no one knows what's going to happen based on any given action, and the straightforward telling of how the various characters are wrong in their perceptions and assumptions, without necessarily realizing it themselves. If you liked the first book, this one was definitely a worthwhile sequel.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Lupa

    This is a pretty subtle novel, and will disappoint Brust's fans looking for Elves or whatnot. I found it a pretty interesting ethical discourse, though was challenged by some plot elements (which may just come from the fact that I hadn't read The Incrementalists in years). Quick recommendation: Recommend but don't go looking for action/adventure.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    More likeable characters I was more and more finding these characters unloveable, and reading about them anyway because their world was so intricate. This book makes it easier to like them, even if at times they’re still awful people who make hard choices in bad situations. Worth my time :)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brian Palmer

    Apparently I loved the first novel in this series (although since then, it has faded, so not a book I ever felt like revisiting); but this book just felt tedious. I didn't end up finishing, so I'm giving up on it for now. Some day I may try again, to try to kindle that spark I had when reading the first book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christian Miller

    Not as good as the first book of the series, Both this and the Incrementalists are books full on intrigue and layers, however the first book was nicely laid out and ordered, this one seemed one puzzle to much and got lost in itself at times. Still worth a read, but Could have used more time to polish up the details.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lync Lync

    In this, the second book, we see how immortality works in more detail and how it can go wrong. I’ve never read anything by Skyler White before, but this is classic philosophical Brust (as opposed to classic fantasy Brust). It leaves you wanting more, but also understanding that ‘more’ is now in your hands, and it is you who have to pick up the mantle.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Deron

    I made it through the first book, but couldn't finish this one. The concept was interesting but I found I didn't care about the characters. I've liked everything else that Brust has written so I don't know what happened with these books. Maybe he works better alone.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chuk

    I think this one may have even been a bit better than the first one. We get a few more interesting characters and see more of how the whole Incrementalist thing works, and there's a bit of action. I hope we get more of these.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dane Bell

    Super readable, with excellent dialog. I read this in just a couple of sittings. Very interesting frenemy dynamic, as in the first Incrementalist novel. The world-building continues to be of great interest, though it is secondary to good plot and ever-widening characterization.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Liked this one more than the first. Not a lot happens but still very good read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bo

    Very little plot, lots of romance, intrusive OOC Oskar thoughts. Still, for some reason, riveting reading.

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