Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Only Harmless Great ThingThe Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, humanity, SHAME ON YOU.

This is a shamefest of shameful shenanigans, from Radium Girls to massive mistreatment of elephants...

But unlike us and our own grasp of history, THEY WILL REMEMBER. :)

I've read a few of Bolander's stories and they all struck me as hardcore. In the sense that they hit hard and make you feel it in your gut and gonads, barely letting up long enough to go for another sucker punch.

Let's face it. We don't look at the crap we do to ourselves very well. Narrative restructuring for our lives has made it almost impossible to see the truth for what it is. So let's write more stories that SHAME us for the immortal monsters that we're becoming, shall we? Break through that immense narrative wall.

Ah... but... and here's the really shameful bit... people don't want to hear how bad they're being. Pointing fingers is what they do best, but those fingers never land on ourselves.

I think this novella works best for those of us willing to take our share of the blame. Or at least get angry enough to start pointing a few extra fingers at some random folk and hope it sticks. :)

Is the story fun, otherwise? Sure! Pretty awesome text that's like poetry and being inside an elephant's head. :) Oh, wait... :)

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Boy's LifeBoy's Life by Robert R. McCammon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do you know the feeling of eating some fresh-fresh-from-the-oven cornbread drizzled with some honey butter?

That's this entire novel.

A 12-year-old boy getting out of school, enjoying summer, then going back to school, in 60's Alabama. Sounds simple, right? But this is charming in not just a nostalgic kind of way a-la Stephen King's IT, but full of love, consideration, adventure, magical realism, murder, mystery, courage, and some of the best Coming-Of-Age writing I've ever come across.

It's more than a horror or a YA or an in-depth real piece of homegrown Southern American Literature.
It's genuine. It deals honestly about racism and jerks and the Normal Rockwell way of life in a way that never comes off preachy or overwritten. But it deals with all of this and much more, including large swamp creatures and mythical stags in the forest, bootleggers and organized crime, and even the KKK and the new neo-nazi movement. But at no point did this diverge very far from the Boy's Life. :)

Trust me. If you love writing like fresh cornbread, this novel will be like coming home.

After all these years, I've just found a new favorite. I wasn't even close to being born when these events happened, but damn, I feel like I was THERE. :) Easily one of the very best novels of its kind.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Two Dark Moons (Sãoni Cycle, #1)Two Dark Moons by Avi Silver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I generally read everything. And that means I sometimes read genres that are out of my comfort zone. What's uncomfortable, tho? Fantasy YA romance-ish stuff. :) I don't mind gender fluidity, and for some readers, this is a very big bonus.

So good news! If you like mysterious cataclysms, a return to a pre-technological cave-dwelling existence, and you want sleestacks... oh, wait, these aren't sleestacks, but they are definitely an interesting reptilian race, then you'll find a lot of interesting things going on here. :)

Sohmeng, living high in the mountain, develops as a character and goes through an adulthood rite, but an accident sends her tumbling down to Earth where she must learn to survive against her own inclinations, prejudices, and even find an unlikely love in what ought to be the wrong place... but isn't.

I particularly like the worldbuilding. The moon phases and their meanings hint at much more to come, but I'm very fond of the primitive setup and the subtle extra meaning to the height. :)

Quite an easy and charming read. Definitely primed for the YA audiences who need that ease into appropriate identification while dealing with the judgment.

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Mass Effect: Annihilation (Mass Effect: Andromeda, #3)Mass Effect: Annihilation by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was worried about this novel. I really was. Despite the fact that I love the Mass Effect games and despite the fact that I love Cat Valente's writing, I still felt anxious, wondering if this could never as good as another novel that is wholly original.

You know, the same complaint some of us always have against franchise SF. Name any of them. Star Wars, Star Trek. Some really are good, of course, but expectations rarely live up to execution.

So why do I love this one, then? Is it because of the author or the series or both together?

Actually... neither. Oddly enough. Oh, I love Valente's quirky characters and dialogue. The Elkor doctor constantly quoting Shakespeare? Hell yeah! The Volus interactions were great, too. So snappily thuggish for little tree hugging bears. :) And I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Quarians so that always gets a pass for me.

As a regular SF, this is a locked-room mystery/medical drama on a generation spaceship (genre, not actual, although being en-route for 600 years makes it feel that way). What really got me going, however, was the intense focus on THE REST OF THE RACES in the ME universe. They have a big point, you know. Why do the Humans or the Solarians or the Asari, et al, get the whole manifest destiny thing going on while all the other aliens get left in the dust? Why throw the leftovers into their own Ark?

The whole ME series addresses this question poorly. And, indeed, so do the rest of us. What about all the leftovers? Aren't they worthy of their own stories?

The answer is definitely yes. :) And it doesn't hurt that the worldbuilding is divine, the aliens delightful, and the story solid. Thriller all the way, baby. :)

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Monday, June 24, 2019

Cousin BetteCousin Bette by Honoré de Balzac
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first Balzac.

I had the impression, somewhere, that I would have to sit through some dreary pompous horrorshow, perhaps pulpy purple prose with a plethora of prodigious penuries.

But to be sure, I did get a horrorshow, but not the kind I expected. Indeed, I had a great time once I fell into a certain kind of groove. You know what I mean. The kind that you get into when reading a good Stephen King novel, revving up with a huge cast of dispicable human beings whom you have a great time rooting for their ultimate demises. Hopefully with some supernatural beastie tormenting them to their dooms. Or devils dragging them to suddenly opening graves. Something like that.

To think that this was considered one of the great REALIST novels! By a realist novelist! In all honesty, it reads like the plot of some 1980's daytime soap opera but placed in post-Napoleonic France.

Enter the mass-philandering Baron and his wife who doesn't care! Enter the disgruntled spinster who, just after finding a taste of love, has her younger cousin come in like a bitch to scoop him up, sending the spinster into a whirlwind of Italian rage and vengeance that will last the rest of their lives.

Is this total preoccupation with Sex and Death funny? Yep. As I said, I'm a fan of Stephen King. I rooted for EVERYONE'S ultimate tragedy. :)

If this is realism, then what does that say about me? Hmmmm... oh my.

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Century RainCentury Rain by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This might become one of my favorite Alastair Reynolds novels. Why? Because he manages to turn one hell of a tale out of a kitchen sink worth of ideas. Great characters, from an ex-jazz musician/gumshoe from an alternate-timeline 1959, to a complex archeologist 300 years in the future sifting through the remains of a nanotech-eaten Earth, to wormholes, body-snatching, one hellofacool mystery, with murder, Casablanca vibes, and a nail-biting space battle that reminded me of Iain M. Banks and Neal Asher in a huge way. Or, if I'm being literal to a fault, it reminded me of Alastair Reynolds at his best. :)

There's so much I could say about this book, but let me boil it down to the basics.

This particular Earth is caught in amber. Caught in a pre-nuclear, pre-computer state. And it is being kept that way. Was kept that way for 300 years until the future factions (heavy nanotech or purist humans) unlocked frozen Earth. Roll with this, Reynolds explains it all a lot better than me. :)

Enter in the conflicting factions to this lesser-tech Earth and follow the Noir gumshoe across Paris, murders, awesome alternate Earth worldbuilding, and fantastic characterizations.

Any one of these elements are noteworthy and a cool read, but Reynolds went all-out ambitious and tied EVERYTHING together in a huge way and I loved it. :) Really perfect for mystery lovers AND hardcore missile/laser beam fanatics. Oh, and horror fans, too. Creepy undead children. :) And didn't I mention body-hopping?

lol, I had too much fun with this.

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Meet Me in the Future: StoriesMeet Me in the Future: Stories by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm generally not that big into short stories and by way of Hurley's introduction, I might have expected her to do a so-so job with these... but Hurley lies. The writer's talents are equal across novels and short fiction. Sorry, Hurley, you're good! lol

Indeed, most of these stories are pretty amazing, delving not only into her Nyx fiction and Legion fiction and even Light Brigade, but this collection has a ton of stories that kicked me hard from a different world altogether. The only other series I haven't read is the Worldbreaker Saga and I'm honestly at a loss as to guess whether the other set of related stories revolving people jumping corpses is related to that or whether this is a taste of a brand new series to come.

If it is, I'm TOTALLY DOWN FOR IT.

Hey! Hey! But what about THIS short story collection? Is it GOOD?

Sorry? Didn't I say?

It's totally engrossing. :) Taken on its own without knowing any of the other novels, it completely works and showcases so much fungal growth, corpse making, body-horror, sexual-orientation-swapping, space-opera, disease-ridden, dog-loving joy as anyone could possibly want. And the worldbuilding is always extremely intense. :)

I will get around to her other novels, but in the meantime, I am on auto-read for anything new that Hurley throws at us. Eagerly.

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