Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Running from the Deity (Pip & Flinx #11)Running from the Deity by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I expected something light for Flinx's ongoing adventure and kinda expected the big galaxy consuming monstrosity to feature big because of the title, so what I did actually get is rather funny.

Running from the Deity? LOL Who is it? FLINX.

Oh, Flinx, what have you done?

Really, what could have been kinda corny or a flashback to C3PO among the Ewoks was actually rather cool in a Flinx-specific kind of way. He's not a bad kid, after all. He's just kinda stupid sometimes and he never watched Star Trek. Or maybe he did and he took all the wrong lessons from Janeway or something.

What could be the harm? Just heal some locals while I wait for my ship to fix itself. NO BIG DEAL.

Right. Well, the aliens are cool which is kinda a standard thing for ADF and the implications and runaway events are suitably wild and Flinx just can't keep up with the crazy.

Light fun, indeed. I'm quite happy with this series. :)

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Monday, November 20, 2017

SpoonbendersSpoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This should be right up the alley of all you folks who like epic family stories. You know, the whole generational thing with patriarchs (who happen to be expert con-men), children with special (albeit mild) psychical abilities, (read NOT X-MEN), and the difficulties of living in Chicago between the sixties and mid-nineties.

Mind you, we're dealing with mostly realistic stuff here. Tons of it is illusion tricks but this family is special, anyway, between truth-sensing, clairvoyance, and a minor trick of telekinesis. All in all, it's a story of failed romance in a normal family for the truth-sensor. Or being overburdened with foreknowledge when most of this life just sucks. In another case, it's being able to cheat the hell out of a pinball machine. Sometimes it even carries over to roulette. :)

This poor family has issues. Debunked publicly by a skeptic, forced to live normal lives, getting into crap MLM schemes, getting in trouble with the mob... there's a bit of everything going on here.

In reality, though, the focus is on the characters and the family and it plays out very satisfactorily by the end. I love a good heist novel even more than a familial epic, but fortunately, we've got both here. It was fun and requires a bit of patience and natural fascination for the minor psychical stuff as well as family epics, but if you've got that, this is well worth the read.

This happens to be the first novel of Gregory I've read. It's not bad. I'm curious how the others pan out now. :)

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

The End of All Things (Old Man's War, #6)The End of All Things by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The End.

The Old Man's War series was one hell of a ride, from decanting brains out of old people into nice young military types to decanting brains into spaceships against one's will, from never-ending expansion to civil war between Earth and the Colonies to the possible collapse of all human space against the rest of the aliens we didn't try to get along with.

It's pretty epic.

But you know what I like most about this whole thing?

Scalzi's light-hearted humor.

Sure, there's a lot of great competence porn and even better SF ideas and deeper philosophical statements studded throughout a wild space opera adventure full of down-to-earth characters and politics and great funny moments, but it's the voices of the characters that made it shine. They're light and easy reads that always manages to say something important.

This novel is actually four novellas and they all do a bang up job wrapping up the whole shebang. Will humanity survive its follies? We've managed to piss off practically everyone and ourselves, so is there really a hope for us?

No. I guess not. :) But then there's Wilson so I guess we're not that bad. :)

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The Squirrel on the TrainThe Squirrel on the Train by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, gravy.

With a side of meatballs and women with medication. For any of you who've been reading the great Iron Druid UF series, you already know that one of the most delightful characters in the books is Oberon. He's a dog. He's been granted some immortali-TEA and he's always telepathically talking with Atticus and begging for meat.

And this is the second novella that makes him the main star, written from his PoV.

So, wait, this immortal dog solves side-story mysteries set in this universe where gods from all the pantheons are pissed at Atticus for one thing or another?

Yup. And it's delightful, light, goofy fun. With a really sketchy squirrel that defies all physics. Screw the murder mystery that his human is working on with an old pal detective. No one cares that the murdered guy looks like Atticus. The SQUIRREL is so much more important!

:) Fun, fun.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Lies and Legends (The Last City, #3)Lies and Legends by Logan Keys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Third book, people!

And werewolf! lol Yeah, yeah, we have tons of zombies and now a vampire army. But who are the good guys, here? Machines are turning people into body-modded murder machines and/or vampires and the bad guys are on both sides of that normal fence.

This world is in total chaos and the idea of what's normal has been tossed on the garbage heap of history. What I love most about this are the powers. You know what happened to Tommy in the last book.

Well, his powers weren't the only ones being developed. More of these peeps are getting beast and it's really starting to get wild. Dreams! Dreamwalking! Too cool, right?

We've gone from a very bloody apocalyptic YA with beastly kids all the way to REALLY beastly kids learning a ton of nasty details about their condition and the condition of the condition. :) There's a bit of hopping from one medical "problem" to another, but it's the nature of the reveals that makes this book a page-turner. Not to mention the blood. Can't forget the blood. It's the fate of "humanity" that's at stake here.

I think I love the dark turns best. Oh, it's getting dark. And there's a rather interesting surprise at the end. :)

Bon appetite!

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Shards of Honour  (Vorkosigan Saga, #1)Shards of Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 11/18/17:
Actually, it's my third read. It was only a few years ago when I read it last and since then I've plowed through all the other novels in a row. It's so good that I have to do it all over again.

That being said, I think this novel is growing more and more on me. I loved it before and I love it even more now. Yes, yes, it's a romance on the battlefield and we have tons of action on a wild planet and in space with outright space battles, but it's the interactions between all these fantastic characters that makes this shine. Cordelia. Aral. Bathari.

Bujold doesn't hold back on anything. Do you want a loss of honor and the hope of regaining it? A political mess? How about respect at the deepest levels? How about disillusionment with our homes and putting all our cards down on a gamble for the rest of your life and happiness?

Truly, there's a lot more depth to this book than most people might credit it. And here's the best part: if you're already invested in the series and know all the locations and references dropped, it still makes a perfectly coherent whole in the world building. :) Everything was worked out to perfection. :) Even the characters we meet fleetingly here get much bigger roles later, and revisiting them, in the beginning, is so gratifying.

Some books only get better with time. This is one of them.


Original review:

I thought the careful and considered match between Aral and Cordelia was charming. It was deeper, emotionally, than a lot of romances, sci-fi or otherwise. Much has been said about how strong a female lead Cordelia is, in both the stories and by the fans, and I have to admit they're correct. She's got a solid grip on reality, and despite the situation, she steadfastly judges her situation based on what is done and not what is said. That's always a great sign of sanity.

The adventure part had me going, but the disillusionment about her home and the open-eyed acceptance of the madhouse of Aral's home said more about Beta Colony than it said about Barrayar. All in all, delicious more for its accumulated weight of surrounding stories than for it, in itself, but it was definitely a charming space-operatic love story.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

The Clockwork DynastyThe Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes I find a book that I *want* to love more than I do when I actually read it. It's a shame this has to be one of those since I've really enjoyed the other three novels I've read by D. H. Wilson. I mean, what's not to love? Ancient clockwork robots hanging out and consuming each other for the anima to keep them going a bit longer, all of whom are hidden from sight from the rest of us fleshbags. Sounds a bit like Highlander, others have said. Robot Highlander. And sure, it shares that as a core, but there's a lot more going on here.

For one, there's the core worldbuilding with the words that bring these golems to life. These guys follow the idea of the word and it defines their whole long lives. There are hints that they might be 5 thousand years old. There are even more interesting hints that they may be much, much older. Ancient. As in pottery robots. The line dropped early on mentioning that there's nothing preventing history from moving in cycles, indeed the truth is there, that higher technology very well could have been discovered and lost many times over the millennia, and this novel is a cool exploration of just that idea.

Another great idea is the focus on the Tao for these machines. Each of the robots has its opposite (read non-western), often complimentary idea/word. It works like soulmates, like the Taoist symbol, like The Way. Attraction and strife, loss and waywardness follow when the other number dies or is consumed. Of course, this idea is rather subtle despite the obvious symbolism of the artifacts, but it fits with the characterizations and the themes of the novel. Cool stuff!

I even appreciated all the wide sweep of history from 300 years to present, all Highlander-like.

I suppose the only real issue I had with the novel was the characters. I didn't really get invested in any of them. The surrounding ideas and situations, even some of the emotional bits of the characters were rather good, but that isn't as consistent as I might have liked. A lot happens, but the characters felt stiff. Even the 12-year-old doll who suffers a life as an immortal child has been done tons already and I was just looking at it with somewhat jaundiced eyes. Hell, the previous book I just read had the same kind of character, and of course, I remember at least four other similar immortal girls from different series, including Rice. It's been done. Yes, she's angry. She changes over time and has a complicated relationship, sure, but her reasons for spurring Peter aren't really... good. You know? Maybe it's just me.

And then there's the overall story. Simple, but relies on fancy staggered reveals and hops from the present to the past over and over. It can be done well and Wilson does it pretty well, but I suppose it really requires a deep investment in the characters to function perfectly. It kinda fell flat for me, in other words.

I've liked his other novels much more, but I can appreciate the ideas in this one. I just wish I liked it more, overall.

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