Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Servant of the Empire (The Empire Trilogy, #2)Servant of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I honestly think this second book in the trilogy is better than the first. Maybe it's due to getting used to the characters and the initial worldbuilding over on the other side of the pond... or I should say, the other side of the universe through the Rift from the previous Rifwar books... but I honestly don't think so.

This is a lot more solid than the last, focusing more on Kevin from the other side, the whole slavery issue, and plenty of war footing to round out the politics and the solidification of the House.

And then, there's the whole thing about SMITING ONE'S ENEMIES in every way possible, even saving enough energy for mercy which is NOT accepted, letting her DESTROY with impunity. :)

Very fun. I'm fully on board to rip through the third book in this trilogy. :)

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Feet of Clay (Discworld, #19; City Watch, #3)Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy the City Watch novels because every character is a hoot. Vimes is off the hooch, Nobby is about to be crowned king, and there are truly mysterious murders going on. And attempted murders. Of Vetinari, no less.

This is one of those super-solid Discworld novels. Pratchett has his thing going on, full tilt. Discrimination is explored on a much broader basis than ever before and just imagine... GOLEMS! So everywhere that NO ONE NOTICES them. Solution?

Revolution. Of a sort. If you're going to demand your freedom, make damn sure you ask for a receipt. :)

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Daughter of the Empire (The Empire Trilogy, #1)Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having re-read the first four books in the Riftwar series, I'm FINALLY going to continue on with the full series in the order recommended.

I'll admit I was a bit skeptical about the collaboration because I was already a fan of Feist and simply wanted all the cool craziness and awesome ideas breaching time and space and two universes in his epic fantasy setup. :)

Moving on... this isn't that. It IS set on the world where Pug learned his mastery of magic, but beyond that and the focus on Korean-ish politics and The Game between houses, there's not any magic to speak of.

Mara is our focus, inheriting and learning to defend her house and its lands after her father dies. From start to finish, it's all about playing The Game. Survival by way of alliances, treachery, honor, and politics.

For what it is, namely a fantasy showcasing the rise of a single woman in an alien empire, letting us grow with her in the process, how she gains alliances, gains and loses a husband, and survives debts, and the matter of a blood feud. Pretty cool, all told, but I should mention one thing...

Even tho this came out many years ago, there have been MANY authors to follow in this particular footstep, and I'm pretty sure that this duo was not the first. If I had to rate some scenes between, say, Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight books and this, I would have to point to Sanderson... BUT, some awesome scenes first showed up in Daughter of the Empire. Just saying.

I may not love this nearly as much as I enjoyed the first four books, but I definitely enjoyed myself reading this. Mara is a strong female character dominating a tale back when it was still a rarity. :)

I'll be devouring two more of these in the trilogy in a few days. :)

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Sirens of TitanThe Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm one of those people who like to pick on the super popular works of SF especially when the literary intelligencia has deemed so-and-so SF writers better than the common hoi polloi. I have to see what is up with them, find a reason to bring them back to the SF fold rather than the claustrophobic Literary BS.

So what happens when I pick up Vonnegut and read him?

I like him. Again. Damn it. In fact, The Sirens of Titan may be my favorite. It's a toss-up between The Breakfast of Champions and this. Slaughterhouse Five is third. I was bored the first time I read Cat's Cradle, so I'll leave that off this list. :)

This is a funny book. It tackles so much. Predestination, luck, a god with a nasty sense of humor, more luck as a cosmic joke, and lots of rented tents. Rent a tent! Rent a tent! :)

Ostensibly, this SF pulp novel feels like an SF pulp novel with spaceships, a war with Mars, little music loving aliens on Mercury, and a mad ancient sculptor on Titan. Add a little shock to the system with all time and space open to ya and your cosmic dog, and all the good and bad luck of the universe will befall our MC. :)

Again, pretty wild.

So what is this? A pulpy-SF from '58? It's certainly light, funny, and entertaining.

But I suppose it's gotten the attention it has gotten for one big reason. It has depth, too. A lot to say about God. Insanity. Memory. And almost nothing good to say about modern society. It is, in every respect, a light satire.

More importantly, it's great writing. :) I totally recommend this to everyone.

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

The High CrusadeThe High Crusade by Poul Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had a certain idea about what this book was to be about before I read it. I'm a fan of Poul Anderson and some of the previous novels were so rich with history and research that I just had to finally read THIS:

1345 English knights under Edward III encounter first contact with aliens.

Awesome, right?

Well, imagine my discomfort and disappointment when it was pretty much a gloss-over for the actual history bits and we're left with the standard romantic Chivalry crap. And the aliens are peaceful. Ish.

I readjusted my expectations, let the text speak for itself, and lo-and-behold... I still had fun. Especially when these English knights are LOST IN SPACE and defeating alien strongholds and saving alien princesses. :) :)

It still has all the Chivalry crap, but now it's a tongue-in-cheek 'Doc' E E Smith space opera that feels a lot like Farscape.

As I read these later parts, I kept giggling at the thought of a full tv series like this. Modernized, of course. The novel did come out in 1960. So just think, a fully culturally accurate update of post-Crusades Europe co-opting spaceships... spoiling for a new Crusade, only focused on a much more dangerous alien foe...

Isn't that AWESOME? Let's get our historians out for this one. Do it RIGHT. :)

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The Draco TavernThe Draco Tavern by Larry Niven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very light and easy reading, this collection of short SF stories is framed chronologically and all told from the PoV of the bartender/owner of the Draco Tavern, a waystation for aliens in the 2030's Siberia right here on Earth.

I have nothing bad to say about any of the stories except that they're lightweight. :) That's NOT actually a bad thing. Imminently readable, quirky, observational, they tackle interesting subjects that might not be hard-hitting but are still entertaining.

Niven wrote these in a thirty-year stretch and they all work very well together as a single cohesive whole. His main strengths, as always, are his aliens. :) This is something I had a GREAT time with. Mos Eisley Cantina, Niven style. :)

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Black WineBlack Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a strange and difficult novel. Not difficult to read the way that words are read, but difficult to process, emotionally.

It's very strong on feminism by way of how much crap women go through in these pages. It's ostensibly a fantasy with lots of adventure and traveling, but through different characterizations, we're subject to tons of slavery, abuse, acceptance in the midst of horror, and sex.

I can see where people might call this a literary novel as much as they might call it a fantasy. The question of sexuality takes the forefront with LGBT featured. On top of that, the difficult narrative drive of abuse shows up in all shapes and sizes. I've read a lot of mightily difficult novels in this vein.

One particular novel that was written long after Black Wine, in particular, comes to mind. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is just as emotional to read and while one is fantasy and the other is dystopian SF, they both have a LOT in common.

The strangeness of this novel has nothing to do with sex or abuse, however. It mostly has to do with questioning the nature of the characters in relation to the narrator. Confusing? Not quite spelled out except perhaps it is at the end? Yes to both. We're meant to re-evaluate all of the text, and it pretty much worked. Except where it didn't, quite, for me. A little too arty perhaps. I'm worried it cheapened rather than deepened the full experience.

It IS, however, well worth reading for all of us interested in the nastiness of the human condition and what steps we take to survive and find happiness despite it.

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