Friday, December 14, 2018

Catch-22Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is it tragic, absurd, or funny?

WHO CARES!

This beats out almost every book that purports to be funny, I'm not particularly unfamiliar with funny books.

Catch-22 grabs you by the skinny hairs and shocks you into the most wonderful and horrible bureaucratic nightmare ever devised. It's not even the clarity that strikes you. It's not the convoluted insanity of a huge cast of truly unforgettable and brilliant characters as they stumble from one mismatched contradiction after another or as they game the system to truly amazing proportions. (Milo.) :)

It's the timing, the clever buildups, the sheer insanity of one damnable event after another and the realization that the only clear solution, the only way out of this trap, is...

No. Wait. That IS the realization. There is no way out.

We can put the book down, but the absurdities live on. Not just the absurdities inside the book, but in our own lives as we deal with one more piece of nonsense after another. There is no escape. None.

And yet, I kept laughing throughout this novel. This brilliant, brilliant novel.

I'm going out on a limb here to say it's in the upper 20 books of all time. Maybe higher. There's absolutely nothing about this book I didn't love. I'm gonna have to read this 4-5 times just for the sheer perverse pleasure of it.

Sure, some Italian whore might come at me with a steak knife or other piece of cutlery, but that's the cost of doing business with the military.

Totally amazing.



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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Helen and Troy's Epic Road QuestHelen and Troy's Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Totally enjoyable humor, AGAIN, from A. Lee Martinez. :)

Great tongue-in-cheek premises, such as the local minotaur girl working in a BURGER JOINT getting almost sacrificed by the Hamburger God (Chernobog) by her manager, leads directly to a QUEST. :) Bring along Helen's cute co-worker Troy, get Quest licenses from the local board, tell their parents they'll be going on a roadtrip, and off we go, running. :)

Martinez always rather rocks. :) It's not always the premises that are best, but the way the author always makes characters who are so damn well-rounded. Courageous and insecure, shy and deadly. The meet-cute is so damn cute. The magical artifacts are fun.

But you know what I like best? Nigel the Accountant. He is pretty pissed at how stupid his orc ancestors are. Of course, no one asked HIM if he wanted to get caught up in his own quest to destroy these two poor kids. :)

Love it. :) :) The best part is the journey, but that ending was funny as hell. :)

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Moon and the OtherThe Moon and the Other by John Kessel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Moon!

This is an awesome epic, but let me clarify this. This isn't Ian McDonald novel, but it *IS* as deep and complex in its interpersonal explorations, its social experiments, and more for its thought-experiment.

I'm honestly astonished by this man's writing. It's like reading a mix between John Varley and Ian McDonald, only we focus on how a planned matriarchal city on the Moon might look like from within and from without. Domed cities, flight in the open air, scientific exploration... all of this is here, but all of it is subservient to the real story.

This a novel about men and women. All kinds, all orientations. It's a matriarchal society, but there's nothing simple about it or surface about it. Kessel has managed to go deep into the ramifications in such a way that I'm frankly amazed.

The depth of the characterizations and the complexities of the questions raised make this a truly fantastic novel. It is more than equal with any traditional treatment of the subject, whether historical fiction, modern thoughts on feminism, being gay, or what it means to change the meaning of being a Man. I got lost in these pages.

More than that, I was delighted by the amazing amount of world-building, social exploration, and especially about the vast amounts of love, idealism, protest, regret, greed, and tragedy.

These kinds of thoughtful, complex, socially-focused novels come along only once in a blue moon. There's nothing trite or unambiguous about it. It's real people caught in the web of a future history.

Do NOT expect it to have a ton of action, murders, or intrigue. It's not that kind of thing.

The novel is about trying to change things. For good or ill, it's about how men and women get along with themselves or the Other. For this, I give it all the stars in the world.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Poseidon's Wake (Poseidon's Children, #3)Poseidon's Wake by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reynolds continues to amaze. I remembered Blue Remembered Earth very fondly and this third book, taking place several hundred years after the events taking place there, captures more than just the spirit, but gives us one hell of an adventure among the stars.

Best points?

The Watchmakers, a race of sublime intelligences that went too far and are no longer fully conscious. :)
The uplifted elephants. :)

The sheer scope of the adventure, discovery, horror, and amazing courage. :)

This is Reynolds. Never doubt it. His world building and tech are some of the very, very best in Hard-SF. These characters, in particular, are also some of his most interesting and well developed. From the Savanna to the oceanic human-mods to the Mars takeover of machine intelligences to deep space exploration, the settings prove to be more than good spice for the treat that is his characters.

ELEPHANTS IN SPACE!!!

And let me make one caveat, here. This is not Barsk. Barsk came out 4 years after Blue Remembered Earth and one year after this third book. :) And I Reynolds's tales better. :)

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Monday, December 10, 2018

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I found half of this book as painful as if I were being bullied in school. Sure, this is the lot of a mortal girl in the Fae court, with all the Fair Folk being as nasty and cruel as if they were all Men in a Man's world.

Yes, this is the story of a bullied girl going bad, anti-hero, and carving her way through the bad Seelie Court.

In conception, I liked the idea well enough. I even found the last half of the novel rather gripping. I enjoy spycraft and cold calculations and betrayals, but something about this was either too dark for a YA or not dark enough for a traditional grimdark adult novel.

What lessons shall we learn? Trust no one. All men, ahem, I mean Fae, are evil. If you're a woman you have no choice other than to cozy up to the creeps or be the one to knife them. What is love? Oh, that's a fool's game.

Wait... haven't I read this before? Well, the theme is, unfortunately, nearly universal. At least in modern YA fiction. Or 50's soap opera tragedies.

Did I find anything really fresh about the Seelie court? No, unfortunately. Seanan McGuire and even Laurell K Hamilton gave me more interesting takes, but these are adult. Cat Valente's YA is written by a goddess.

This, however, makes me feel excluded. Or maybe I've read too much in the same vein to properly appreciate how one more emasculation serves anyone's best interest. There IS a lot of injustice in the world, but not all of us are asshats.

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Consuming Fire (The Interdependency, #2)The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two things:

What this novel does right, it does very right. Namely, he's got some very tight prose. His barebones linear plot always manages to explain everything in crystalline fashion, leaving nothing occluded, and it shows in just how much he accomplishes in such a short novel. I'm reminded of some of the best short novels of the Golden and Silver age of SF in both the style and function with one caveat: there's nothing at all racist or homophobic or sexist about it. :)

Second thing: His underlying message about climate change deniers in terms of a collapsing wormhole network works fairly well. Hello, idiots, your house is burning down! :) Ah, alas.

BUT.
The soapbox is a thin veil. I'm trying not to mind but it is the vehicle for the whole novel.

Even so, it doesn't detract that much from my total enjoyment of the novel. Indeed, I almost gave it a 5 star just because I had a lot of fun and it turns out to be a super easy read. :) Between the funny moments, the alternately cool action moments, and a surprisingly sweet romance, I call this a sure bet. :) It's a great space opera by Scalzi! Looking forward to the next!

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The Eyes of the Overworld (The Dying Earth, #2)The Eyes of the Overworld by Jack Vance
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oddly enough, I think I enjoyed this second book of Vance's Dying Earth much better than the first. It's not only smoother but it also tickles most of my funny bones.

Cugel is one hell of a damned rogue! Very flexible of morals, quick of wit, and easily a loveable/hateable anti-hero. In most respects, I felt like I was reading a high-fantasy version of Gulliver's Travels, always skirting the edge of high satire and always roving knee-deep in extremely lucky circumstance, tragic reversals, and yet more inexplicable adventure.

The man is charmed and cursed in a very enjoyable fashion.

Best of all, Vance never dumbs down his text. I was very amused to find some awesome language and a highbrow vocabulary inserted so deftly. I'm not used to ANY modern fantasy being allowed a free hand with words.

Fortunately, this came out in 1966 by a firmly established master of the craft with little interest in catering to the lowest common denominator. :) Go, Vance! :)

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