Saturday, January 16, 2021

Powersat (The Grand Tour, #1)Powersat by Ben Bova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this is a very solid, average, old-school SF novel.

It's focused on current events (circa 2005) surrounding energy dependence issues, political realities, and a nice, if almost cartoonish, technothriller cherry on top.

When I say it's average, I need to clarify it some. It's not an average *our* modern SF novel. It actually relies very heavily on real science, real political necessities, and the grand possibilities of building a solar satellite that beams diffuse energy down to the earth for collection in great capacitors. I very much appreciate the problems associated with the privatization of space travel, a-la Musk, and think it is very worth reading.

The subject matter is appealing, timely, and certainly not wildly fantastical. Bova is pretty great for real science.

A potential problem lies in its fairly accurate portrayal of a less egregious '70s male-centric scientist-entrepreneur saves the world plot. I say less egregious because the male lead, while being prototypically male, isn't exactly doing anything WRONG, but it certainly portrays women in the old light. Not that any of them were complaining, mind you. Please follow my line of thought: the novel harms no-one from a social point of view, but it is NOT the current, common, point of view that everyone seems to be judging else by, today.

Just because he's a male lead, he's suspect by today's standards. If he treats women sometimes as many women used to like to be treated, and often still do, IE., admiring them, being oblivious to signs, being victims of self-centeredness, or being, well... MALE... a lot of people seem to have a PROBLEM with that these days.

Me? Reading this, having grown up with MANY books that more or less have this same feel in the SF shelves, I would have just shrugged and focused on the ideas and the plot. But modern SF and Fantasy have swung to the far OTHER end of this spectrum these days. All the modern books I read now have female-centric leads or LGBTQ focuses. So much so that I now find myself wondering where all these old male-centric novels went. Are they all dead? Have they been nixed, as a whole? Are there no longer any male-led stories? I mean, honestly, I'd prefer a healthy mix of BOTH primary sexes and a truly representative mix of everything else. You know. To represent reality.

But in this case, reading Bova now? I feel like I just read a delightful, if slightly average, panacea. Nothing revolutionary. Just a breath of fresh scientific air without a modern Mary Sue.

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Those Across the RiverThose Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere.

The very best horror books evoke dread by setting, in my opinion, and Buehlman excels at it. Like all the best horrors, as well, we're put in a cold pot of water set to boil, and it's up to us to figure out just HOW the world is about to end.

In this case, it happens to be one of the delightfully descriptive werewolf stories I've ever read, firmly placed in Georgia during the Great Depression. The evocation of time and space is particularly good. I loved the poverty and the moonshine and the mute and sometimes not so mute acceptance of the vagrants, the wild, and the desperate. Best of all was the history that preceded this, slowly revealed and explosively executed.

Any fan of horror should love this if you love excellent craft. :)

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Friday, January 15, 2021

Myth-ion Improbable (Myth Adventures, #11)Myth-ion Improbable by Robert Lynn Asprin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sometimes these books are hit or myth.

This was OKAY. I mean, sure, it's following the success of the Mission Impossible reboots but it's really a super-lite cow-quest. Golden cow. With an okay twist.

Strangely enough, I originally wanted more of his mentor joining in the quest when he was no longer in it, but now I've reversed my position. The apprentice is fine without him. Or maybe this one was just weak. Not horrible. Just weak.


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QuestlandQuestland by Carrie Vaughn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Carrie Vaughns trek into LitRPG territory is a solid run even if it feels like a half-attempt to legitimize the sub-genre by giving it fairly extensive SF roots, a real-world base, and economic "reasons".

Of course, most of the LitRPGs I've read don't bother with any of that. They just go straight into the adventure and let us have all the *ding* level-ups we want, letting us revel in the adventure and learn the basic gaming rules as we go with easy-to-follow diagrams. :)

Vaughn's is more along the lines of Ready Player One, but with a more devoted eye to direct LoTR mythology and normal myths that aren't limited to '80s schwag. I LIKED that. I even liked the idea that a PHD in Literature got the leading role.

So what didn't I like? The plot. Maybe the first half was okay because it's standard journey stuff, but once we got into the evil corporation arrogance and the rats trying to steal all the company cheese, I either wanted it to go out with a big bang or defy my expectations. It did neither.

It wasn't bad, but it didn't wow me, either.

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

StormlandStormland by John Shirley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Without spoiling it for anyone, I'll just go ahead and confirm that the blurb on this book is right on target for what you should expect.

Storms, storms, storms.

What you should also expect is chaos. Lots of floating bodies. A technothriller with cyberpunk aspects perfectly in line with John Shirley's earlier novels, but rather than taking a revolutionary tack, this feels more like a survival/mystery/thriller. The chaos is much more than the storms, although they also feature very prominently.

I will say, right off the bat, that if you like the complicated and deeply detailed styles of Sean Stewart's Galveston or the feel of some of Tim Power's darker, modern-placed novels, then I can promise you that you'll probably enjoy this very much.

As for the story's conclusion, leaving aside spoilers, I'm not entirely sure I believe the kind of partnership, but there are plenty of internal reasons why it ought to work, so I'm not complaining that much. I prefer good cyberpunk chaos anyway. Nothing says that unlikely friendships CAN'T happen.

It certainly happens here.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Red Country (First Law World, #6)Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As long as no one is expecting the huge, triumphant return of Ninefingers, this is a very cool novel of grimdark fantasy very much in line with the entire series. Lots of revenge, desperate striving, stolen pleasures, gold, politics, and blood, blood, blood.

In other words, it's pretty damn fun.

But what about Ninefingers!?

Oh, he's here, but he's not the main character. Shy is. Shy is wonderful, complicated, and bruised by life. Her FRIENDSHIP with him is on full display.

But you know what I liked most about this novel?

Temple. Temple the con-man, the notary, the weak, begging, SMART idiot who gets himself into trouble as often as he talks his way out of it. I LOVED him. Or, I loved to hate him. Or loved being disappointed in him. But mostly I loved seeing him worm his way out of the worst of circumstances.

He and Shy are a pretty fine team. Too bad it's all grimdark.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Across the Green Grass Fields (Wayward Children, #6)Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While this isn't my favorite book in the Wayward Children series, built upon misfits who escape into the worlds that are *just right* for them, I definitely have no issues with either the characters or the realm.

I mean, who doesn't want to slap a unicorn that tries to eat my mattress? Plus, they're great EATIN'.

The great opening to the book sits us firmly in the middle path where we deal with everyday bullying that really comes from those who should have been our best friends. Being socially awkward and just a little different is a subject that appeals to most people, too. There's a nod to intersex, but it is NOT the main core of the story. Growing up is, and learning to love is, more. Of course, loving doesn't have to be a who. It can also be your life.

Nice, but not that hard-hitting. Like I said, I was much more impressed with the prior ones.

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