Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Luminous DeadThe Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very surprising read. Half horror and half SF with high-tech suits on an alien world, this novel is rife with obsession, spelunking, and a ton of the little inconsistencies that would drive any normal cave diver insane.

And then there's all the dead down below.

Nearly thirty, all spelunkers like Gyre, sent down to be eaten by this horrid, horrid cave. And it's a rigged game. The lies, the obsession of the woman underwriting each one of these expeditions is the half the novel. The other half is the horror adventure.

I don't know what I expected. Perhaps a bunch of undead at the bottom of the pit? But no, this is entirely a survival novel with tons of scares, mistrust, insane amounts of bravery, accidents, and misgivings. Interestingly, it's also a kind of a f***ed-up love story. Abusive, sure, but also rich and honest and desperate.

Put it all together and the novel is highly entertaining and sometimes quite scary. I'm happy. :)

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Monday, October 21, 2019

Notes from a Small IslandNotes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want to say this is the ultimate travelogue of a fascinating and exotic foreign country, but in point of fact, it's ENGLAND, and while it is fascinating and exotic even to people who are familiar with the English language, it is still ENGLAND.

I don't know about anyone else, but I liked the disconnect. I especially liked all bits that made fun of the oddball naming conventions not limited to food or towns. But for other countries somewhat familiar with the English language, we all know that England is the REALLY ODD practitioner of the language. Messed up. Bangers and Mash. Truly, this book is NOT x-rated.

But, all told, this book is mild, humorous, personal, and it shows the love for the country. Not only that, but Scotland gets a little love, too! :) Truly, I feel like I did a lot of traveling across the English countryside. Most of it on foot! But at least I got a lot of beer. :)

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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Hidden in Sight (Web Shifters, # 3)Hidden in Sight by Julie E. Czerneda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More and new aliens, interesting rock-tumblers and aquatic races, populate this particular book. It's almost like these books are more a vehicle for exploring new biologies and ways of thinking driven by biologies than anything else, but no, Esen and Paul are on the run again.

What? Again? Yeah, well, there is a not so subtle vibe of Farscape going on, including old enemies turning into uneasy allies.

A bit more interesting for me, however, is the reintroduction of a long-lost sister, the difficult dynamics there, and the full resolution.

All told, the third in this series was solid, entertaining, and definitely worth the read if you're interested in a mild exploration of possible aliens mixed with adventure.

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Friday, October 18, 2019

The Night SisterThe Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one has some rather interesting plotting, almost like it's a call-out to a family saga, an 80's horror by way of the sixties, and above all, a homage to Hitchcock.

In other words, it's a firm suspense with mostly off-scene nods to carnage. It's all about the build-up, the plethora of details that might lead us in all kinds of interesting directions, and the character-building.

We have three different times to explore. A mystery that develops during the 50's, where the homage to Hitchcock blooms nicely in a once-cool motel turned dilapidated tourist trap well off the main highway. The two teenage girls have their thing. It gets dark. And then there's the whole thing about one running off, never to be heard from again.

And then there's the late 80's, where the children in the family find something rather scary.

And then there's 2013 when a gruesome murder of one of these adult children starts a friend of the family upon her own little investigation.

The plot is actually rather awesome. I felt the suspense, enjoyed the focus, loved the way so many details got their new reveals on the page.

No spoilers, but I definitely had a good time with this. It's not a gross-out book. It doesn't try to outdo anyone on the market. It does, however, focus on the things that matter. It's a great yarn. :)

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Changing Vision (Web Shifters, #2)Changing Vision by Julie E. Czerneda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this books was a bit better than the first. Being the last of a species, cultivating long-term friendships, and following your heart and curiosity is a pretty awesome way to start a book, IMHO. :)

Of course, things get hairy and complicated, and I won't spoil any of that, but I do want to mention something.

I'm reminded -- a lot -- of Farscape's Moby Dick and Odo from Deep Space Nine. In a lot of deep ways. You know, for you SF tv fans who know these stories inside and out. If you like either, you'll like this series. The combination is comfortable, enjoyable, and very familiar.

So while I may never call this groundbreaking, I can call it a solid, character-based SF with a cool biological basis featuring many kinds of aliens.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Lesser DeadThe Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of a 3.5 on the stars, I first have to say that I really enjoyed both the narration and the voice of the character in the telling. He's very strong, very persuasive, and interesting all on his own.

Sure, being a vamp in 1978 New York City sounds kinda familiar and such, and so much of what happens is the usual kind of vampire tale, getting down to the nitty gritty of survival, an origin tale, and a potential big bad. I won't say the content here is all that amazing. If you've read a lot of vampire tales, this will feel like any time-period's penny dreadful.


The coda at the end successfully skids my noggin in such a way that I am able to enjoy the full tale in an entirely new way. Without it, I may have rated this as a regular 3 star. There's nothing all that new... except when the entire tale becomes something altogether different. I liked that a lot.

Was I scared at all? Hmm... not really. But I did have a fairly good time. :)

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The Devil in SilverThe Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For any of you fans of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, here's an updated and fully horrorized version, complete with updated (and unfortunately real) conditions in mental health facilities, updated standard practices for lazy law enforcement, and even a supremely depressing commentary on a modern Dead Souls.

I honestly think this works out just fine as a very nasty horror without adding the special patient that the inmates call the Devil. We don't even need him running around with a bull's head, although the literary part of me LOVES how he's the Minotaur in the middle of the Labyrinth.

The true horror is the conditions of these silver mines. The institution kills its inmates. Be it neglect, poverty of the body and spirit, the way no one cares once you get in. Or the way it's so freaking easy to get committed. It's not about mental health treatment, especially with bare-bones budgets, minimal training, and substandard conditions. The people on the outside with any power are lining their pockets and don't care because their lives never intersect with those on the inside. The people on the inside, even the caretakers and doctors, are nearly as powerless under the grind of the machine as the people being drugged to the gills.

For they're just being warehoused. Drugged into stupefaction. And while this book doesn't go into the overflow problem and how many sufferers are just shunted into prison, the picture here is clear.

Kesey said it clear and LaValle reiterates: we're all stuck in the machine and can't see a way out of it.

This is good horror, but it's better commentary on us. Definitely a must-read for Kesey fans who want a big upgrade for our modern world.

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