Tuesday, July 16, 2019

War of the Twins (Dragonlance: Legends, #2)War of the Twins by Margaret Weis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know, for a novel with an evil time-traveling master magician so full of himself that he wants to kill a god to become a god, a twin brother who alternately wants to kill him and protect him, and being dumped in a strange time to just "happen" to lead a huge army to defeat a bunch of dwarves...

This book's best feature is its LOVE STORY.

Huh!!?

Look. It's true. I'm totally on board with the whole evil machinations of Raistlin, how he manipulates everyone and takes on the title of another evil magician in the past and is forced to relive a seemingly unbreakable time-loop. The war stuff is certainly a lot more fun than the previous book's gladiator schtick. Even the brotherly love and the nasty betrayal is pretty awesome.

But what really makes the book is the epic romance. A magician of absolute evil and a cleric of absolute good, an undeniable romance for the ages. Hell, even his most bald-face lies have a germ of truth to them and while he's trying to turn her away from him, she just wants to trust him more. And more. It's a weird thing, this honesty. She KNOWS what he is, and yet she still wants to help him. It doesn't hurt that he wants to kill the Goddess of Darkness and that's kind of her calling. But still. He's DOING it to REPLACE the grand evil. :)

LoL, I'm all getting into a fanboy mode here. These two are a trip. I totally get why these books are classics.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Time of the Twins (Dragonlance: Legends, #1)Time of the Twins by Margaret Weis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel kinda bad that it has taken me thirty years to finally get around to reading this second main Dragonlance trilogy. I mean, sure, it took me fifteen years to read the first Dragonlance trilogy and that was AFTER I had been playing D&D for years. Oops? Ah, but never mind that.

I discovered something awesome. This reads BETTER than the first trilogy. A lot more fun, more interesting, better characters (and not just Tolkien ripoffs), and a much more twisted story.

No, this isn't a classic fantasy in most cases... but then... maybe it IS. Raistlin has that VIBE. Originally a dark hero master magician, like Elric from Moorcock's series, Raistlin is, in some ways, a lot more interesting, evil, and sympathetic than Elric. Awesomely powerful by the end of the original Trilogy, he's insufferably cocky and sure he could take over the world in a single day in this one. So he gets more ambitious. As in taking out the Dark Goddess to become a God, himself.

In the meantime, his twin brother, a brawny, broken oaf of a warrior and pretty much Raistlin's opposite, has his own redemption arc going on because he let himself go to seed. Big time. And then we get a full corruption of a good cleric, time travel, Kinder mischief, and a big return to the awesomely big cataclysm from the Dragonlance's ancient past. And we get to see it from the ringside seats.

Awesome? I think so.

Let me be clear, however. I have only a little patience for money-grubbing franchises and the D&D series as a whole definitely qualifies. I had some issues with the original trilogy, but somehow this book kinda pushes all my reservations aside.

I had FUN. A lot of fun. And the writing is not bad at all. :) I can't wait to see the big, big events I've already been spoiled on by old friends back years ago. :)

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

The John Varley ReaderThe John Varley Reader by John Varley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When it comes to the social side of world-building in Science Fiction, slathered with good science, beautifully messed-up situations, and a really vast setting of our Solar-System nestled neatly in Varley's collective imagination, Varley is a master.

I've read and raved about some authors for their sheer imagination, intense focus on the fringes of technology, and sometimes about the nitty-gritty of what it means to be human, or more specifically, gendered, but Varley takes gender to new heights. Specifically, he follows the same direction as his Eight Worlds novels and makes gender extremely fluid. Anyone can change it whenever they want. Death is also a taboo word because brain recordings are great backups for a force-clone of yourself. Old ideas, right? Well, Varley runs with them in wildly progressive and interesting ways, building vast societies that mess around the niches and the twists. Most of these short stories deal with one version of that or another. And I love it. :)

If I was to recommend any Varley, if only to get a taste as to what he's about and get a great feel for his easygoing and personable writing, it would be this collection.

I've loved most of his novels, too, and I came to this late, but I kinda wish I had started here. It works great as a primer to all the interesting and doubly-interesting stuff to come. :)

Worth it.

Oh! I should mention, Varley's very much a child of the sixties. Expect ruminations on hippies, Woodstock, sexual liberation, and a lot of the great ideals. And he never LOST them. I really appreciate the idealism. :) Love power!

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The Color PurpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Few books express just how damaging and painful a life of ignorance and poverty can be, but this one comes close to taking the cake.

This is the purple of bruises.

So many people have read this and have their own opinions. I'm sure no one needs a rundown on the topic. It's about women, plain and simple. Black women, certainly, but women primarily. It's a topic close to my heart.

Reading this book induces a great depression in me. It made me physically ill and gave me a squirming headache and it made me sadder than almost any book has been able to do.

Do you know what's really bad? The way I reacted about the ending.

It had a happy ending. It had all these people's transformations come off without TOO much damage. People changed for the better. People were forgiven. People learned to live and love and respect one another.

My reaction, while happy with all this, was also one of complete disbelief.

A Hollywood Ending after ALL THAT CRAP? Where's the Hamlet ending? Where's the capstone to the utter injustice? Are you REALLY SAYING that the fellowship between women is all that really matters? That just because you stood up for yourself -- at last -- a magical happiness can be achieved?

Five stars for how this book gives me such a violent reaction. One star for making me so depressed. But I won't change my rating based on that. Readers need a bone of hope after going through a whole life of near misery.

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Saturday, July 13, 2019

FaustFaust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yep, it's actually epic fantasy. Don't let the stage actors or the music and the poetry fool you. There's demons, vast battlefields, an epic battle for one's soul with TWO WHOLE HOSTS fighting, and, of course, there's that thing about the toothpick and getting Helen of Troy pregnant.

The original is in German. There MIGHT be something in that. An interesting story. Or perhaps Goethe was one hell of a weird artist.

Actually, scratch that, he was. Like an opium dream.

Breakdown: I loved the poetry and most of the translation. It was pretty neat. What there was of the original story was slightly convoluted and drawn out. The battle was pretty cool, too.

It's Faust. A classic tale. But you know what?

I LIKE MARLOWE'S BETTER.

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DefendersDefenders by Will McIntosh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really fascinating and really ambitious. I'm giving this a 4.5 stars for a few weird moments but the rest was like War of the Worlds. Times three.

I mean, it starts out pretty awesome as a beleaguered humanity is dying from a starfish invasion. They have excellent telepathy and they use it against us perfectly. The action and multiple viewpoints work very well. It's not an easy situation. They are herding us into the cities and several billion have died by the time we MAKE our defenders. Giant, genetically modified humans without serotonin, three robot legs, and they're all sociopaths, much smarter than us, and they were made to destroy.

OF COURSE, NO ONE ASKS IF THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA.

At least the cheering and the parades were nice. The Defenders couldn't be read by the starfish, but now that humanity won? Oh, they didn't want to be integrated into our society. lol But since several billion people died, why not give them Australia?

Yes, the key idea is clear and it should come to no surprise that the Defenders, knowing nothing but war and broken on the inside, unable to procreate, but definitely able to build up a huge arsenal and adapt the alien starfish technology, brutal enough to take all the treaty-survivor aliens to turn them all into slaves, it was only a matter of time before they asked for something the rest of the weakened humanity couldn't give. Large tracts of land, integration on the Defenders' terms, and the labs that made them.

Uh, oh.

No spoilers, but THREE more wars later, or four total over 20 years, and we've got one hell of a MilSF epic on our hands.

And strangely enough, it actually has a really well-done theme. :) Is it EVEN POSSIBLE to communicate with the Other? I mean, the telepathic aliens KNEW we wouldn't take them in as refugees. The Defenders are slightly more alien than the aliens, and we MADE them.

Very cool book. Will McIntosh continues to amaze me with the style and variety and hardcore stories. :)

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Code Revelation (The Emporion Chronicles, #1)Code Revelation by Boris Sanders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Decent, fast-paced high-tech dystopian, featuring a corporate America Clone, super hi-rises, and cool alien interference.

Starting out with a retiring IT guy and breaking him out of his shell is the name of the game, getting the help of a rather smart other-intelligence. Some of the funniest scenes are how the two of them interact, or rather, how our poor hero is thrown into situation after situation, learning to sink or swim.

It's fun, quick-paced, and bright. I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy this shiny technological dystopia. I personally really loved the later reveals and the situation of the Earth. :)

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