Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Stockholm SexyStockholm Sexy by Logan Keys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Death never stepped so lightly or with such fervor.

Like noir? Like dark comedy noir with a bit of sexy time and a lot of violent death? Yup. Me too.

The thing is, I love it when it's light and fun and quick, and this fits the bill. It has all the modern quick dying and moving on, each death a punchline, a question-mark.

But of course, it always goes south, as each death digs her deeper and deeper in trouble, despite an already established career of doing the hit-thing already!

It just goes to show. Don't go freelance!

Totally worth getting into. Pain fun!

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The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm checking it out, yo. I mean, it was supposed to be this big thing and I was kinda meh on the whole concept of dystopias about when this was all over the feeds, so I just didn't do it.

Then.

But now is a brand new day.

And today is all about the mass deaths. Let's do it in waves, each one so much more impressive and deadly than the last. Now let's add aliens and make them the perps behind it all.

Now make it a survival novel with a smart and logical and ruthless girl who's set to do whatever is necessary to survive.

Honestly, I thought this was pretty much a 5 star novel well past the mid-point. The style and pacing and the character and the dire feels were pretty awesome. I liked her family and I loved the effect that her brother going away had on her.

So where did I lose interest?

With the boy. Sorry. Also with the possibility that her little bro might be alive and the subsequent plot.

After all, what struck me as fantastic in the first more-than-half novel was the sheer "alien-ness" of the aliens, the disregard for us, their total commitment toward getting rid of us at all costs. I didn't want to ascribe a human-ish motive to anything that could go that far out of its way to destroy us, from flooding to making us bleed out almost universally. Even just letting us take ourselves out was fine. Doppelgangers, too. They wanted our world as a resource, but not us upon it. Got it.

I probably would have been great with The Road ending. I just didn't want to see a real romance situation. Not here. Not like this. There just seemed to be so much potential for learning and discovery, even trusting others again. There was some of that, but it still felt like a waste with the big action scene we did get.

Am I getting picky and personal about this? Possibly. It's just that so many great premises these days just have to go the way of dinosaur plots. And for what? A cheap sex thrill? At the end of the world? Meh. Even Saving Private Sam was pretty predictable. Maybe I just didn't want a happy-ish ending with such much perfect dark setup.

Whatever happened to tragedies, yo? I expected tragedy. Horrors get this right. This could have been a great horror/sf.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Punch EscrowThe Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

And a very special thanks to the author for writing Hard-SF in a really fun and engaging way. This is often much harder than it might seem at a casual glance.

Fortunately, the light tone and the clear explanations of the science prevailed and served only to propel the story forward. And what kind of story is it? It's a fast-paced thriller! And no, before you ask, this isn't a clone of Dark Matter. Far from it. We're dealing with a better version of Star Trek's transporter problem from a quantum entanglement viewpoint, and far from getting bogged down in an introductory reading of such a story, (which has been done a lot), we jump right ahead into the social and technological implications of a society that has come to accept it and the actuarial realities of checksumming your torrented self across great distances. How boring, right? But boring gets people moving, and moving, and moving... aaaand ... I really shouldn't spoil this, but all the cool stuff happens after the poop hits the fan from after this point.

Copy, paste, delete. We know the concept. No problem. Now skip the last step. Hello, me! :)

The author carries two PoV's wonderfully and keeps it light even when really bad things are happening. I loved it, from the marital problems to the chase, the ambulance, the AI, the conspiracy, the nutjobs AND the nutjobs, and of course, arguing with yourself. :) I like to think that I wouldn't have any such problems with myself, but let's be realistic here. A perfect teleportation clone is going to be competing with your resources right off the bat. There's a lot of real conflicts right there.

So, bravo! for keeping it real.

This was a very nice surprise. I asked for this one just on a whim and I am very pleased I did. I totally recommend this for all kinds of clone-fans who love thrillers. This one happens to be a lot better than most and I can say it feels rather more original than most. PLUS! It has the benefit of sticking close to real science to the best of our current understanding!

The same goes for all the multitudes of the great little idea-gems we visit in this future world. The carbon-sucking mosquitos are a delight. So are the self-driving cars that alert each other on emergency channels whenever some monkey is taking the wheel. :) Scary. :)





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The Dream ArchipelagoThe Dream Archipelago by Christopher Priest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This superb collection of short stories by Christopher Priest lives up to its title, being both subtle and subtly off.

Off not as in bad... but off as in we're being carried away by deep waters that are subtly carrying away our sense of the universe.

You see, these stories feel awfully familiar and normal, or if they're evidently and obviously on an alternate Earth, at least everything seems ultimately recognizable... until it isn't. And this, let me tell you, is damn awesome. There's practically no way we can't fall into his trap. He lulls us along and then stops the stories at places that confound and make us ask really deep questions.

At first blush, we keep seeing big themes of incompletion, usually surrounding unsatisfying sexual encounters, synesthesia, all kinds of off-art, and the sense that the war is just WRONG.

But expect no resolutions. These aren't those kinds of stories. They're deeply personal, intimate, and often disturbing, focused almost entirely on the inner or nearby worlds of the main characters, usually involved in what might be characterized as a travelogue of the Dream Archipelagos.

And like the other Dream Islands, the islands are a character in themselves, they're both disturbing and fascinating, and they're set right in-between two warring nations that have been going at it for up to a few thousand years. They're not going to defeat each other. They have too much invested in just keeping the conflict going.

There's undercurrents under the undercurrents, references back to real and fictional novels, themes that are both profound and familiar, and it's always heavily sexual.

These are almost impossible to truly describe. They're just that good. Expertly crafted, confounding, intimate, and interrupted. A few of them are truly wonderful, especially the last novella, but after reading them, it really is as if I've been living a dream... Not wild. Just carried away with the currents.

If you can't tell, I'm kinda at a loss for words. I feel like I'm one of the characters in these stories, all fish out of water and simultaneously horrified and caught in the beauty. :)

Anyway. They're absolutely worth the read. Really amazing, actually. :)

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Monday, May 22, 2017

The Stars Are LegionThe Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Memory, bio-punk, world-building extravaganza, betrayal, adventure, horror.

There's so much to love in this book. It's full to the brim with fantastic living "world/ships" and the special parasites that are living aboard them. (Us, or some kind of alien that's near enough us that makes no odds.)

I originally thought that it was going to be a lot like Starscape with the living ship, but in reality, this is much, much larger. At least the ship is. In fact, aside from a few quick space battles, most of the events take place across vast distances inside the ships. Worlds. :)

Here's another great bit: The women. It's all women. The ships manipulate and bring them back as clones (although it's never really described as such) and their memories come back slowly. This gives us a lot of really awesome plot devices that lead to so many horrible discoveries, but more-so, it gives us a really tangled web of social and interpersonal nightmares. And it's all women.

This is a fairly unique world-building exercise, and while it's not completely original, I've rarely seen it done this well while also being completely immersed in truly strange alien-tech, or being fully realized for huge story and biological reveals later. Suffice to say, I'm loving the hell out of the world-building.

The story is pretty cool, too, full of distrust and dire situations and nearly hopeless striving, neither side ever truly being able to come to grips with one another... or do they? It's truly a nightmare of social tangles when you include memories being lost or the fact that you might have been doing this same quest, futilely, over and over. The despair is palpable.

This is the fourth book I've read of hers and this is the one I probably like the most, all told. She always has fantastic world-building, full of wonderful ideas, explorations, and implications.

What can I say? I wish there was a lot more of this out there. I love this stuff. True playground of the mind. :)



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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And this was exactly what I've been looking for.

Gods, dreams, epic fantasy, a richly detailed world, and more importantly, characters I can wholeheartedly love.

But what about originality? Oh, there's plenty here. I'm gonna name drop some titles to let you folk know a tiny bit of what's in store, but don't assume that because this book shares some elements of each, that it is a knock-off, because it isn't.

Think about a love child of City of Stairs and The Dragonbone Chair with a very healthy dose of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and a smidge of all the best modern epic fantasies, and you've got what does NOT feel like a tired YA romance... rather, it feels like a wonderful modern fantasy that tugs at you in all the right places and even lets you feel a bit of Gaiman's Dream magic. :)

But the best part of this is the writing, from the characters to the overarching arc of the story. It's good. Plain and simple. Very, very, good.

I love being blown away by hints and tragedies and enormous somethings in the background and the build-up to make it truly delicious when it all comes home to roost.

But if you're thinking that this is a standalone novel, then think again. Nothing can stand as it is now. Buckle up tight, because it's going to be a really big ride.

And yes, this is officially billed as YA but I don't think it should be limited to that sobriquet. It's perfectly adult. :) Perfectly dark and dire, in other words, and simple? This is not. :)

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, #2)Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Must love jazz.

Well, not really, but I could almost taste the love for jazz throughout this novel. Peter's dad was once a jazz legend, after all, and so it's not so hard to have his son pick up a bit of the love, if not the talent. This aspect of the novel was pretty nigh awesome. :) Flitting around the London Jazz scene, hunting down Jazz vampires... you know, those pesky varmints that nest in the musician's ear and suck out their brains and make them do really stupid things...

Or something like that. Maybe Jazz people are naturally messed up. But that doesn't mean that there aren't Jazz Vampires!

This second book in the series is spot on and very cool in the character department. There's less of the tropes and more of being a damn fine human being. The opening of the novel highlights this. I think I'd give it ten stars all by itself. Less guilt and more being a good friend. Hell yeah. :)

The rest of the novel runs like a jazz song... smooth, reoccurring riffs, and a baseline that, while not always steady, always came back into fine form.

That, and it's a great police procedural.. um... JAZZ POLICE... and magician-in-training novel. :) I continue to be very impressed. This is some of the very best detail-oriented and depth-of-character Urban Fantasies I've ever read, and I admit to having read a TON.

Totally recommend.

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