Friday, July 20, 2018

Lords and Ladies (Discworld, #14; Witches #4)Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The great Re-Read of Discworld continues... with the witches. :) This is a pretty direct followup from Mag's romantic adventure with the king-to-be and culminating in the grand wedding between the two.

As weddings go, every grand personage of the Discworld (or so it seems) has been invited to the wedding, but of course, things don't go all that well with all those crop circles and the E***S who must not be named.

Pretty funny, all told, but it's Og and her suiter who steals the show. And Old Weatherwax. Again. Mags... well... I've never cared much for her. I just want my darling Tiff. Where oh where is she? Why can't I care all that much that Mag is NO LONGER A WITCH?

I complain, sure, but it's not a complaint because I think the novel is bad. Far from it. I just think it's slightly uneven in my enjoyment of certain characters. Nothing more. But is it a fine story?

You bet. :) I'll even a throw in a horseshoe for you.

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The Nightmare Stacks (Laundry Files, #7)The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 7/20/18:

I really can't squeal more than I squealed the first time around, but I will add that it's STILL AS GOOD AS THE FIRST TIME. I love Alex! I love Cassie! And of course, the whole setup and denouement was fantastic!

I mean, just the whole horrific action scenes, the stark immediacy of being a victim of genocide, doing everything possible to save your people, including an ignorant invasion of Earth... I GET IT. The possibilities after that end, though... that's what sticks with me. Spoilers, of course, but it's the whole refugee status that kicks my butt. Never mind the outright funny elements, although they are great. At the core, this novel is extremely serious. And for the action, it's a ramp-up on the epic scale brought home to London.


Original Review:

I'm always looking forward to the Laundry Files novels, now, and with good reason.

These tales always breathe fresh life into old story concepts.

Mix a bunch of nightmare bureaucracy into a mass of Cthulhu Spy Fiction and add a memBrain of multiverses, massive geek humor, Pinky and Brains, and a truly clever take on vampirism/magus, but in this one, let's mix in a younger protagonist, the redoubtable 24 year old vampire math geek, Alex, and pretty spearhead of a nearly decimated alien invasion force who happen to be running for their lives from the Elder Gods, all of whom are willing to go to war with innocents for their ultimate survival (with England an the rest of humanity, please read,) and be a woman who just happens to be up in line for the rulership of the entire alien Host of Air and Darkness, full of eldritch magic and might.

Is Alex out of his league?

CASE NIGHTMARE RED, people. CASE NIGHTMARE RED.

I love this. It is sooooo damn fun. Okay, so I miss Bob and Mo a bit, and they're somewhere in the background, but Alex and Cass are soooooo damn cute together! Younger crowd. A little blood, a little war, a little mess-up with the Basilisk network that turns all security cameras into Medusa's Stare, *shiver*, and we've got an all-out conflict that's actually a real nightmare.

Is this fine to read as a standalone? Yes, it is. Is it scary for the crowd that has been reading all the novels and great novellas up to date? Yes, yes it is. Very much so. Every page is full of deliciously savvy tech, math, magic, myth, and wry, dry humor.

Fanboy is still squeeing. :) :)

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Spinning SilverSpinning Silver by Naomi Novik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A lot of these retellings of old myths and fairy tales are hit or miss with me, but I come to you today to tell you that this was not a miss. :) Indeed, nothing was amiss.

The combination of several different old fairy tales and the new-norm for Russian-style fantasy hit all the right buttons for me. There was nothing simple about this tale even though we learn, slowly, that the world is not all about hard poverty and abuse and little towns and harsh Czars. That jews aren't necessarily cracked up to fit their stereotypes.

But one thing is true. The Winter King can be cruel and harsh, the stakes are often hidden but quite vast, and simple, if powerful, magics are never enough when a Great Working is desperately needed.

At least two big stories are interwoven here, between a seamstress who marries the Czar and the moneylender's daughter who gets carried away by the Winter King. No spoilers, but there's a ton of discoveries to be had in each realm and the clash between them is something quite wonderful and amazing, even for someone who has read a ton of fantasy.

I can honestly say that Novik outdid herself here. This is a quality myth, newly-owned and told fresh. Do I like it better than Uprooted?

Yes.

I may have liked the other one better for its subject matter, but this one had a much tighter plot and a more satisfying end. More than this will be getting into deep spoiler territory.

Suffice to say, I loved it. :)



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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Chindi (The Academy, #3)Chindi by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As always, McDevitt writes SOLID space opera without the military bent. I still think the whole archeology and privateer stuff works SO much better than the whole space-battle stuff, but it only works when most of the alien civs have risen and fallen over vast time periods and we just happen to sit smack dab in the middle of a time of silence.

With a few minor exceptions, of course. Ancient fallen descendants or lightspeed lagged spaceships notwithstanding. :)

Or other alien archeologists?

Fun. :) Different. And classy.

And workmanlike. I'll never say that these are the most imaginative books in existence, but what these provide is the best above-average fare for the price. Always quality, always vast and interesting, and often more amusing than not on the character level.

Oh, and you can have a drinking game with each novel for the redshirt-esq quality of death. Of course, every character is more fleshed out than the away teams in THAT series, and it feels more like a horror/mystery/adventure than an SF, sometimes, but that's a good quality to have. It has a good flavor. :)

That being said, enjoy the ARTIFACT, folks. :) What a huge TREASURE to be found! :) :)

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Monday, July 16, 2018

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'll go out on a limb here and be mightily surprised if this novel doesn't get nommed for Hugo out of this year's candidates. It has all the right qualities, from good writing, exciting story, delicious premise, and timely application of hot topics and social issues.

Huh? Well, it's like an alternate reality where a meteorite wipes out DC in the 1950's and forces everyone to get into gear with the space program for the best of all reasons... SURVIVAL OF THE HUMAN SPECIES.

It's quick, fun, and cringeworthy in how women are treated... not to mention the racial element! Think Hidden Figures, add anxiety and mental health issues in a big way, mix with sexism, post-apocalypse, brazen and headlong optimism, and do it all with sheer human ability. Computers are people who compute.

Everything else is '50's mentality and an underdog story that leads to getting women in space against all the odds. :)

This is easily my favorite Kowal tale. I'm gonna tell everyone for next years noms that this is one to push. :) It may not be my ABSOLUTE favorite book of the year, but it is certainly the smartest, quickest, and easiest feel-good SF out of the bunch. It pokes a stick at all the big issues and drives the dagger in.

This OUGHT to be a huge bestseller. If it isn't, then there's some big idiocy going on out there. ;)

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The Cormorant (Miriam Black, #3)The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dark and gritty as ever, I have to admit that I also had a slight bit of an issue with the first half or so of the read. It jumped all over the place between the present and the past and while it all eventually became obvious why it might have been necessary, it was still slightly off-putting. There were slightly less raunchy/funny descriptive elements than before, too, but that's a grab bag of happy oddities and discoveries that not everyone might enjoy. In other words, I loved them but not everyone would.

What really worked was the cat-and-mouse game between these death-birds. :) Psychopomps? Yes. Absolutely. Psychopomps utterly using and using up their hosts? Absolutely. Poor Miriam. She had it bad before and all of that old dark past becomes clear in this novel. It's quite a big reveal her as a character and despite any issues I might have had with the reading, it all gels together by the end.

It's definitely still one of the grimmest and darkest UF/mysteries with supernatural elements I've ever read. It's hard to like the main character, but she does grow on you like a piece of necrotic flesh. :)

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Unseen Academicals (Discworld, #37; Rincewind #8) - An Audible Original DramaUnseen Academicals (Discworld, #37; Rincewind #8) - An Audible Original Drama by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While this story was never exactly anywhere close to one of my favorites in the Discworld books, I'd be remiss in saying it isn't excellent.

I mean, it has everything. Star-crossed romance between orc and kitchen maid, underdog sports story, and a heartwarming tale of raising Ankh-Morpork out of the mud and into civilized behavior once and for all.

A game of Foot the Ball can make all of that happen.

Brilliant? Perhaps! It has all the elements that people love and this particular Audible production has a full cast of actors and actresses to bring a ton of life to it in an extra-special edition. I have a grand fondness for full-cast productions. :)

So why didn't I give this a full five?

Because I felt the excisions in the text. Sad, but true. It's short and abridged. That, and I never really get into sports tales. Alas. But that's just me! But despite all that, it *IS* an excellent production that is nonetheless entertaining as hell TO ME. :) Despite me. ;)

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