Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Moon and the OtherThe Moon and the Other by John Kessel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Moon!

This is an awesome epic, but let me clarify this. This isn't Ian McDonald novel, but it *IS* as deep and complex in its interpersonal explorations, its social experiments, and more for its thought-experiment.

I'm honestly astonished by this man's writing. It's like reading a mix between John Varley and Ian McDonald, only we focus on how a planned matriarchal city on the Moon might look like from within and from without. Domed cities, flight in the open air, scientific exploration... all of this is here, but all of it is subservient to the real story.

This a novel about men and women. All kinds, all orientations. It's a matriarchal society, but there's nothing simple about it or surface about it. Kessel has managed to go deep into the ramifications in such a way that I'm frankly amazed.

The depth of the characterizations and the complexities of the questions raised make this a truly fantastic novel. It is more than equal with any traditional treatment of the subject, whether historical fiction, modern thoughts on feminism, being gay, or what it means to change the meaning of being a Man. I got lost in these pages.

More than that, I was delighted by the amazing amount of world-building, social exploration, and especially about the vast amounts of love, idealism, protest, regret, greed, and tragedy.

These kinds of thoughtful, complex, socially-focused novels come along only once in a blue moon. There's nothing trite or unambiguous about it. It's real people caught in the web of a future history.

Do NOT expect it to have a ton of action, murders, or intrigue. It's not that kind of thing.

The novel is about trying to change things. For good or ill, it's about how men and women get along with themselves or the Other. For this, I give it all the stars in the world.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Poseidon's Wake (Poseidon's Children, #3)Poseidon's Wake by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reynolds continues to amaze. I remembered Blue Remembered Earth very fondly and this third book, taking place several hundred years after the events taking place there, captures more than just the spirit, but gives us one hell of an adventure among the stars.

Best points?

The Watchmakers, a race of sublime intelligences that went too far and are no longer fully conscious. :)
The uplifted elephants. :)

The sheer scope of the adventure, discovery, horror, and amazing courage. :)

This is Reynolds. Never doubt it. His world building and tech are some of the very, very best in Hard-SF. These characters, in particular, are also some of his most interesting and well developed. From the Savanna to the oceanic human-mods to the Mars takeover of machine intelligences to deep space exploration, the settings prove to be more than good spice for the treat that is his characters.

ELEPHANTS IN SPACE!!!

And let me make one caveat, here. This is not Barsk. Barsk came out 4 years after Blue Remembered Earth and one year after this third book. :) And I Reynolds's tales better. :)

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Monday, December 10, 2018

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I found half of this book as painful as if I were being bullied in school. Sure, this is the lot of a mortal girl in the Fae court, with all the Fair Folk being as nasty and cruel as if they were all Men in a Man's world.

Yes, this is the story of a bullied girl going bad, anti-hero, and carving her way through the bad Seelie Court.

In conception, I liked the idea well enough. I even found the last half of the novel rather gripping. I enjoy spycraft and cold calculations and betrayals, but something about this was either too dark for a YA or not dark enough for a traditional grimdark adult novel.

What lessons shall we learn? Trust no one. All men, ahem, I mean Fae, are evil. If you're a woman you have no choice other than to cozy up to the creeps or be the one to knife them. What is love? Oh, that's a fool's game.

Wait... haven't I read this before? Well, the theme is, unfortunately, nearly universal. At least in modern YA fiction. Or 50's soap opera tragedies.

Did I find anything really fresh about the Seelie court? No, unfortunately. Seanan McGuire and even Laurell K Hamilton gave me more interesting takes, but these are adult. Cat Valente's YA is written by a goddess.

This, however, makes me feel excluded. Or maybe I've read too much in the same vein to properly appreciate how one more emasculation serves anyone's best interest. There IS a lot of injustice in the world, but not all of us are asshats.

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Consuming Fire (The Interdependency, #2)The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two things:

What this novel does right, it does very right. Namely, he's got some very tight prose. His barebones linear plot always manages to explain everything in crystalline fashion, leaving nothing occluded, and it shows in just how much he accomplishes in such a short novel. I'm reminded of some of the best short novels of the Golden and Silver age of SF in both the style and function with one caveat: there's nothing at all racist or homophobic or sexist about it. :)

Second thing: His underlying message about climate change deniers in terms of a collapsing wormhole network works fairly well. Hello, idiots, your house is burning down! :) Ah, alas.

BUT.
The soapbox is a thin veil. I'm trying not to mind but it is the vehicle for the whole novel.

Even so, it doesn't detract that much from my total enjoyment of the novel. Indeed, I almost gave it a 5 star just because I had a lot of fun and it turns out to be a super easy read. :) Between the funny moments, the alternately cool action moments, and a surprisingly sweet romance, I call this a sure bet. :) It's a great space opera by Scalzi! Looking forward to the next!

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The Eyes of the Overworld (The Dying Earth, #2)The Eyes of the Overworld by Jack Vance
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oddly enough, I think I enjoyed this second book of Vance's Dying Earth much better than the first. It's not only smoother but it also tickles most of my funny bones.

Cugel is one hell of a damned rogue! Very flexible of morals, quick of wit, and easily a loveable/hateable anti-hero. In most respects, I felt like I was reading a high-fantasy version of Gulliver's Travels, always skirting the edge of high satire and always roving knee-deep in extremely lucky circumstance, tragic reversals, and yet more inexplicable adventure.

The man is charmed and cursed in a very enjoyable fashion.

Best of all, Vance never dumbs down his text. I was very amused to find some awesome language and a highbrow vocabulary inserted so deftly. I'm not used to ANY modern fantasy being allowed a free hand with words.

Fortunately, this came out in 1966 by a firmly established master of the craft with little interest in catering to the lowest common denominator. :) Go, Vance! :)

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

The AbominableThe Abominable by Dan Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a bit of a completionist at heart.

That means when I really love an author or at least a single one of their works, let alone several of their works, (or 8 novels that I simply adore,) then I just HAVE to work my way around all the OTHER novels that may or may not tickle my immediate fancy.

This is one of those novels.

I don't get thrilled about climbing novels. Yep, even one of those Tibetan hills. Sure, bits are pretty cool but I always had a bit of a hang-up about all the locals being treated like disposable rags. Oops, we lost another porter. Oh, well, good chap, let's sally forth.

Maybe it's just me?

ANYWAY. Despite that Simmons is a very good novelist. He even addresses several of these issues. But above all, he exhibits some pretty intense love of the sport. Okay, so this isn't really a sport. It's more utter survival because your body is dying just by reaching that high and they're on the mountain as a recovery mission of a poor old chap's demise up on the hill. Noble. And it is good. All 30 hours of the quest. Most of which takes place on the mountain.

And let's not forget the somewhat interesting twists, both supernatural (ish) and political (ish). It is ostensibly a historical novel, after all, and back in 1925, there are some interesting cameos.

My personal enjoyment consists of my appreciation of Simmon's craft, his ability to maintain suspense, and his energy. If it wasn't for the author, I probably would never pick a book with this subject. Or rather, again. I've read quite a few and none of them really tickled me.

Final estimate? 3.5 stars. Nothing wrong with it except some rather sensationalist twists I can't determine is accurate or not. Still.

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Friday, December 7, 2018

The Eight ApostatesThe Eight Apostates by Scott Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So. Someone just got eaten by a god.

That's right! It's ME!

Scott Hale has consistently blown me the f*** away with his horror. I'm especially thrilled when he dives into the epic dystopian landscape of our modern world twisted by the Trauma. These novels are some of the most wickedly subversive and massively wicked epic-fantasy twists I've ever read. And that's saying a lot.

It also says a lot that the most heartwarming scene in the novel is a small child running through a hallway draped with freshly flensed skin, dripping various gore, and the caretaker sees absolutely nothing wrong with picking the kid up and cooing at it. What a sweet child. :)

Or when our most heroic heroes regularly dine on fresh human flesh and we learn real heroism from a walking, talking skeleton. (See The Three Heretics). All gods in these books are EEEEVVVVIIIIILLLL. After reading this, you'll think Cthulhu is a sweet cuddly bunny with a tooth problem.

VIVA LA WORM!

Or, as Scott briefly had in his blurb, "DEICIDE"

Sums it up nicely, since this book is going to put some GODS TO BED. :) :) Epic battles, horrific societies, and that are just the normal people. Just wait till you see the horrorshow that's all monsters and blood and warped realities. :)

SO FREAKING AWESOME!

If there's ANY author more deserving of getting a huge bump in popularity, they're going to have to wait in line behind Scott Hale! :) Seriously. This guy is the BOMB.

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