Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Nemesis Games (Expanse, #5)Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one hell of an easy read. I got sucked back into the characters as if I had never left and was delighted to see that they shone brighter than in several of the previous novels. They're back in the Solar System. The main crew got a hell of a lot of face time. If it isn't enough that this qualifies as a wonderful character driven adventure, then rest assured. It's still all about the big ideas, big events, and big space.

The pacing is near perfect on this one. I never once had to force myself to pay closer attention. Indeed, the revelations kept everything pumping. Every character is evolving, growing older or wiser. The novel has struck a perfect balance in this. Hell, I'm just tickled pink that it turned out to be a better novel than Cibola Burn. There weren't any moments where I wondered why we were spending time on one thing or another instead of the big action. The threads in this novel were woven so nicely that I swear I saw a bow. What was inside, you ask? Oh, Bobby is back! And don't forget Fred or our absolute favorite foul-mouthed politician. It was a perfect gift for me, the reader, and I've got to shout out to Daniel and Ty: "Thank you!"

This is fifth novel in the Expanse is so very worthy, I have to say it easily nudges out the third and forth novels in being my favorites, but it does somewhat lack in the sense of grand mystery that those had developed. I mean the grand scope of mystery, the big scary objects, or the ominous death of so many intelligent species. Instead, we've got very human tragedy and a very interesting power grab in the local system, not to mention mysteries closer to home for our main characters which feel more important, somehow, than the mind-blowing ones.

I can easily say this satisfied my deep craving for truly excellent space opera. So many tend to have holes that that suck my attention into the void, requiring me to spend a ton of reaction mass to get back on track. It's a delight to have one that shows me so much love.


View all my reviews

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I read it, I was pleasantly surprised to feel like I was reading the Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, which was a good thing because I really enjoyed that novel. There is more outright and bloody intrigue in this novel, though, and when things starting diverging from consolidating her rule and going to war, the similarities end almost immediately. Not a bad thing at all. There's no pussyfooting around before we get into the action. She knows her mind, even if it is prompted to her by her PD jewel, and she goes after all the things that she believes is right. She's no Sleeping Beauty, and for that, I love it.

There are some pretty major character reveals/reasons that are left out of the first book, but none of them belong to our heroine. She's a book nerd which is going to serve her very well in upcoming volumes because we know, (reasonably absolutely, at least in my head,) that the intelligent and powerful magic jewels and the dark monster living inside the Red Queen comes from before the "Crossing". Backstory is coming. It has to. Which makes me wonder about the "Crossing". It sounds like all these descendants in these four kingdoms came from an alternate earth after a cataclysm in "our" future. Either that, or they copied all the names of the lands from their old history after landfall and an interstellar passage.

Does this sound like fantasy? Ok, sure, it does sound like sci-fi, but one thing anyone ought to notice is that the novel really feels like fantasy right down to its core. The only sci-fi aspects are those that are merely hinted at, like doctors who are so powerful that one can service a large town, or plastic surgery, or deeper hints that life-extension is not only possible, but is being exploited by a powerful few. What did I think about when so many droves of small children got their blood sucked out by a the Red Queen's dark little beasty? That's right. Concentrated life juice to keep her skin all supple. The sex is just a part of the life-force harvesting, I'm sure. So do we have a reason for all the rapey-rapey rapefest? I'm willing to bet anything on it, and I'm still working on the hints I've received from this text alone. I just got the second book, so I really want to see if my suspicions pan out or if I'm going to be blown away by something even better. (I hope it's something better.)

I really loved how there wasn't much in the way of romance. Enough is enough already. I didn't mind the preachy idealism, either, because our main character is 19 years old, after all, and she is coming into a wildly complicated situation armed with nothing but her standards and the fact that the populous is expressing a weird "here is the chosen one" vibe. It's not too oppressive, at least, and the powerful and willful jewels lend it some credence, but at least it explains a bit more of why they let her on the throne besides matrilineal succession with or without the religious angles.

I suppose the only real problem I have with the tale is the overreliance on the jewels. I know that's kind of unfair, because the main character is headstrong, intelligent, and capable. She has a good mix of ruthlessness and mercy. She's a good person who doesn't sit around and let things come to a head. She jumps in and immediately tries to fix whatever she sees as wrong. None of that has anything to do with the jewels. Unfortunately, the jewels do seem to steal the show when they come into play. It's almost as if we don't really 'need' this capable woman, because she already has a god-like plot device to handle her decision making for her.

Other than that, the intrigue and the plot twists were quite delightful and extensive. Almost the entire book was filled with it. I particularly liked how she eventually got so many people to bend the knee to her. The best times were the ones that were earned.

I totally recommend this book if you're looking for a traditional fantasy with a strong female out to destroy another strong female. The villains are a bit adult-cartoonish in this first novel, but I'm almost to the opinion that this was an editorial choice, and not particularly one that the author might have liked. I think I'd have preferred to see a bit more dimensions on the POV twists. That being said, this novel is a pretty damn good start to a series. I'm glad I hadn't read any of the blurbs or PR before picking it up.

A good review is usually enough to convince me to give this a chance, and so it was. I hope the same will be true for you, too!

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Echopraxia (Firefall, #2)Echopraxia by Peter Watts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The novel is surprisingly easy to place in the taxonomy of great science fiction. Of course, to do so, one must first place Blindsight in it's proper place. It was a philosophical discussion on consciousness. Echopraxia, follows it's predecessor's conclusions, necessary story extrapolations, but it takes a sharp right turn when it brings up its primary philosophical mode. We put down consciousness for a moment, and pick up the discussion on free will. It might help to know the definition of the title: The involuntary repetition or imitation of another person's actions.

I loved the old topic. I rather prayed that it would continue, and it did in a lesser capacity. But instead of blowing my conscious mind again, we came along on a Hard-Sci-Fi ride that bumped me about on a God trip.

Wait! Wait, you might say. Is this a lovecraftian mashup with hard sf? Nope. Then is it an unintelligent social-dynamic exploration thing? Nope, not at all. Then what is it?

It's an exploration of how biology wires us to look for god, and how that expression manifests in all the new subspecies of human, and it happens in some of the most surprising of ways. Why do his absolutely friggin' fantastic portrayals of vampires believe in God? They're so smart that we've enslaved them to play the stock market or work out the hoariest of mathematical calculations. They glitch when they see right angles, unless they're put on a drug cycle, but more than anything, they're the most frightening thing from humanity's past, and the reasons are constantly renewed.

Seriously. I'm in awe. Vampires are so damn unpredictable, and it's worse because they can fly ahead with so many strange mental predictors to play everyone out in real life as if we're just pawns in chess. You think you've heard this tale? Try again. These aren't any kind of vampire I've ever seen. Try describing an autistic savant as an ultimate predator and you might have a slight inkling, but believe me, these vamps are better. They're hardly one or two dimensional, and they definitely don't match up with anything remotely social.

If they can see ahead so far as to play with all our destinies, then we've got just a small part of this novel revealed. Unfortunately for us, every species likes to play god, and let's not forget the alien species that still makes me shiver in delight and awe.

For a novel that devotes so much attention to free will, I rarely had a feeling that I had any during the reading of it.

I think I play a game with novels that most of us play to a more or less greater degree. I enjoy trying to parse out the plot well before the official reveals. For this novel, I really tried. Unfortunately, I was consistently left floundering because my brain had short-circuited in much the same ways that the characters did, as well. We are wired this way. We see the tiger in the bush, whether or not the tiger is really there. We draw eyes on the wall and immediately extrapolate a deity that watches over us. I get it. And I love how these quasi-post-singularity humans mess with their own programming along the spectrum, to greater or lesser successes in warding off the tiger.

Even aliens have to deal with the tiger. You know what I mean, you Kipling readers. It's all about eat or be eaten, even when you're discussing God.

The one thing I love the most about the novel is the main character. It was a severe departure from Blindsight, because he isn't one of the many strangenesses that came out of humanity's evolution. He is an honest baseline human surrounded by others who are smarter, faster, and more adaptable than him. I won't get into his story because it's quite fun in the novel, but suffice to say, it's worth it.

Is this a worthy successor to Blindsight?

That's an excellent question. I truly loved Blindsight, and most of that was due in particular to the main topic at hand. Echopraxia, by contrast, is up against a very, very long tradition of writers who have all tried to tackle the same question. I did particularly enjoy how Peter Watts gave credit to Dune, which was an excellent example of the same.

On the balance, Echopraxia is a fantastic standalone novel. As a direct sequel, there are a few solid connection points, but it doesn't need or beg for true resolution from Blindsight.

If I try to balance the two novels together, Blindsight's weight will knock Echopraxia off the scale. It only suffers in direct comparison, but by itself it rocks.

Do I recommend the novel? Hell yes. Great action, great characters, excellent suspense, and (again) fanfuckingtastic aliens.




View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Case of the Toxic Spell DumpThe Case of the Toxic Spell Dump by Harry Turtledove
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was my first Harry Turtledove, and I've been wanting to read his works for a while, but mostly for the alternate histories. I eventually read this one, which wasn't one of those, because I got it from Netgalley as a reprint from the original title that came out in 1993.

It's an early Urban Fantasy. I loved the concept behind this world, where all religions are not only valid, but they have a certifiable presence and weight. Our main character is Jewish, and while I started getting excited at first that he might whip out some mystical Kabbalah to handle the problems of his ho-hum government job of investigating environmental spell abuse and leakages, he never did. Alas. Instead, we were at least treated to a Pratchett-esque humorous naming system that turned a spellchecker into just that: a spellchecker, identifying and reporting on spells in use in the environment. Okay.

Others were groanworthy, like ethernet, the network that runs on the ether, or virtuous reality, that lets people walk around on the Other Side behind a helmet with wires. They were cute, and there were a lot more, besides.

The feel of the story was like an average mystery, even though our hero works for the magical equivalent of the EPA. His love interest is right out of the 1950's sensibilities, strong but slightly looked down upon. Even the ideas surrounding native americans being not quite worthy to develop their own land was almost too distasteful to continue reading, but I chalked it up to the kind of feel that Turtledove was trying to evoke. So many of his novels were set in alternate WWII settings, after all, and nothing I read was out of place for that time period. I try to let it slide, but it did make me halt a few times.

The religions and monster mashups were pretty damn fun, all said. I was constantly reminding myself that American Gods hadn't been written yet, but I kept feeling the shadow of it on my reading.

Then again, I was also reminding myself that this novel came at the early days of Urban Fantasy before it got its own shelves and before it spread its wings. I was kind of left dragging along with the mystery, but at least the final action sequence was pretty fun.

The only other complaint I might have about the novel was the number of off-page action sequences that would have given the tale more depth and roundness. They even seemed a bit more interesting, after the fact, than most of the actual novel. I wanted to slap someone.

And speaking of slapping someone, I wanted to slap the main character for how he proposed to Judy. Or perhaps Judy should have done it for me. Seriously.

It wasn't a bad novel by any stretch. I have my issues with it, but it held together nicely. It can't hold a candle to many of the later Urban Fantasies I've had the pleasure of reading in the years since this was first published, but that's neither here nor there. In it's proper time and place it might have made a big impact on the scene. I don't really know.

As for me, the outdated worldview and the somewhat clunky treatment of the possibilities brought my scoring down.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to agree with Hugh Howey's review of this book, for the same reasons: The whole novel was written entirely for me! Of course, I also felt the same way about Among Others by Jo Walton due to the unabashedly glorious references to other fantastic works. Ernest Cline has brought back all of my favorite childhood cultural references in all their glory, except for one which I certainly wish he had worked in. I wanted Princess Bride! But alas, alak, sigh, and ho hum. No issues, seriously. I was giddy through the entire reading of this novel and thought about what a wonderful world it is to have such writers in it. Thank you!

View all my reviews

Monday, June 22, 2015

Blindsight (Firefall, #1)Blindsight by Peter Watts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those novels that make me feel like it's a wonder to be alive. Of course, that's a subjective statement implying consciousness, and therefore I am an evolutionary throwback who is spinning his wheels. And because I read this book and feel that the logic is unassailable, I still happen to think this novel makes me feel like it's a wonder to be alive.

Notice, of course, that this is the inverse of a depressive reasoning, and this is intentional, because this novel makes me feel like it's a wonder to be alive.

If I were a computer, I might call this a halting state. If I were a man with half a brain, I might never have had this problem to begin with.

I think that's rather the point. I love this novel. It goes way beyond a simple entertainment factor and pushes me hard into the abyss of philosophy, and as I laugh and flail my arms about, thinking about the lovecraftian horror that's building an artifact ten times larger than jupiter in our solar system, I wonder if I'll ever leave this book again.

Indeed, I'm thinking about rereading it right away.

All of the characters are beyond fascinating. Check out anyone's review for this book and you'll see what I mean. Was I skeptical about a vampire captain of a spacecraft? You better believe it. On the other hand, Watts pulled this off with so much panache that the bloodsucker is now living in my brain. How did this happen? I've read way more than my fair share of vampire novels. This is almost the diametrical opposite of all of those. It's not only the evolutionary standpoint. It's the way he's given the vampire truly superhuman mentation a-la quantum computer AI's allowing for massive superposition computations. I laughed for ten minutes when I discovered why intersecting right angles tended to blow vampire minds.

Of course, it's not that cut and dried, either. His character was well rounded and as alien as everyone else. It's kind of the point. Only the most alien among us are the most qualified to parley with the truly alien. It's reasonable in context and execution.

I can't say that the real alien was more fascinating that the narrator or the vampire, and that's actually something because the alien was freaking awesome.

I absolutely love the ongoing discussion about consciousness, as it relates to the characters, and how it relates to the planet-busting sociopathic alien. It's treatment was probably the best I've ever read, in any format. It was certainly a lot more entertaining than any other.

The only other sci-fi novel to come close to the philosophical bent of this one was Anathem by Stephenson, but that's about as close to a comparison as I can get. Neither novel intersects much, whether by tone, action, or subject.

I can't believe I hadn't read this Hugo runner up of 2007 until now. Sometimes I feel as if I've been living under a rock. This novel is and will be an ongoing classic of literature. It should be on your real bookshelf if you say you love science fiction.

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Causal Angel (Jean le Flambeur, #3)The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cannot recommend this trilogy enough. It's smart, has mind-blowing images, really fast pace, and ideas to absolutely kill for, and kill again, and even aim for a true death before causality does a flip and the spooky zoku decide that it's time to revoke my entanglements and I lose a few hundred gaming levels.

This novel really feels N-Complete. I'm satisfied in a way that I rarely get, and I have decided to plop these novels into my most favorite books of all time. Sure, there are flaws, but what is most brilliant about them are very, very brilliant, and I can't overlook the beauty of them. I'll definitely revisit all of these novels in the future. They all belong tightly entangled together, and it's so much more apparent now than it would have been by the end of the second novel, despite my faith in the series.

All I will say is, Prison, Prison, Prison, Freedom, Freedom, Freedom. What a gorgeous ride this has been.

View all my reviews
The Fractal Prince (Jean le Flambeur, #2)The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“On the day the Hunter comes for me, I am killing ghost cats from the Schrödinger Box.”

I luuuuurve this opening line. His craft is exquisite, so far.

Update: The imagery is almost better than anything I've read in either sci-fi or fantasy. If you took out the better and deeper images from all thee matrix movies, threw them up against the wall with jinn and fairies and the greatest heist mysteries, heavily spiced it with near-impossible mathematical concepts and theorems that really need some deep explanations you're not going to even remotely get in this text, (save S. cat, but he gives a quick explanation for this one, although its been done in sci-fiction a lot already), you stir in planetary intelligences, diamond cities that crashed to earth, slow and quicktime peoples, AND warring sisters, then maybe you've got the first gorgeous fifty pages of this book. And don't forget to keep a copy of your mind before you read, or you might just lose a copy of your prime iteration. I want to give this 6 stars. Have I been waiting for something like this all my life since Singularity Sky? Maybe. :)

A quote:

"So. Sightseeing instead. How about watching a transhuman mind have a Hawking orgasm? From afar."
Mieli smiles. A warm rush of relief washes over her.
"I bet you say that to all the girls," she says.


The entire novel is poetry and math and all told with brilliant imagery. I've decided to bone up on my quantum physics, too, just so I can appreciate the story more. I may be relatively unique in this respect, because I don't really believe that general readership of sci-fi novels just "decide" to understand quantum physics in order to more fully appreciate a novel they had just read. Well, to be fair, I've read popular accounts in the past and have enjoyed them immensely, even if I pick up on less than one-tenth of the math. Ok, maybe I'm not that odd after all in wanting a greater understanding. At least, in this case, I feel really justified and encouraged after reading this brilliant work of math/fiction.

So I finished it and I can only say: Wow.

Well, I can say a lot more, because wow doesn't do it a third of justice. Or even an irrational third of justice.
What I will say is that these two books have now jumped to my top ten favorite books list. Together, because I don't want to cause other injustices to stories, and I have a very great feeling about the next book.

While I ought to recommend this book to everyone, I doubt it will be to everyone's taste. But then does everyone like Blake, Shakespeare, Manly P Hall's Secret Teachings of All Ages? Of course they should... But they are all very very different than this piece which might need to be its own genre from now on. I'm tempted to just transcend here and put an end to my misery.
Read em, peeps. Just read em, perhaps three times. You'll see.


Update, second read.

I laughed and I cried. I got more out of the whole story angle than I did the first time, all of the stories within stories, minds within stories, stories coming to life and eating your children, your children coming back from the dead to birth stories that would later eat the Earth and help the dead child become the God King of the Gogols? OH YES. Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times yes. He turned a fundamentally metafiction concept into a hypercube and spun it out with such verve and beauty as to kick my mind in its ass. I cannot say how much I loved this book. Again, much better the second time reading than the first, if possible, but I can't regret a single instant.


View all my reviews
The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur, #1)The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am very surprised and delighted by this novel. I half-expected an idea or a theme from Stephen Baxter's Flux, but was thoroughly captivated by such a deeply thought-out world and a complex plot. I didn't find many issues with plot discontinuity, as such. There were quick scene changes that might have benefited by a more overt transition or two, but that is a minor issue compared to the tapestry of worlds within worlds that this author has written. Very enjoyable characters, and the twists are fully supported by the main premises. I found myself thinking of new twists that could be supported by his frame and was surprised by more that I hadn't thought deeply enough about. I think I'll enjoy reading this novel again, and not too far in the future. First, I shall read his second novel and see how much more craft he's crammed into his writing with such giddy fractal twirls.

I understand that this novel isn't for the general audience, but I'll tell you straight: IT SHOULD BE.

If you like this, then I recommend Charles Stross's Singularity Sky and Saturn's Children and especially Accellerando. Neal Stephenson's Snowcrash and Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon and Anathem. I would be remiss to leave out other cyberpunk masters, but let's face it: the good stuff is in the post-cyberpunk worlds, dealing with all of the complicated ideas and deeper developments.

The deeper exploration is where this novel really shines. From a strictly craft point of view, I loved the poetry in the techno-babble that verges on a simple techno-babel and almost teeters into complete cognizance. :) Actually, I lie. The quantum foam and Q-dots made me giggle. I loved every second of it.

Great book!

Second read was even better than the first, especially after getting to know all of the terms and players. I loved the poetry in the text, the visual imagery, the requirement for every reader to throw themselves and their souls into the story, only to come up, gasping for air, not quite realizing that the water was highly oxygenated and we could have been breathing it all along.

I laughed more times, this second read. I am almost to the opinion that everyone ought to read this book, or better yet, this trilogy, at least two times through before making a serious opinion of it. Only after thoughtful consideration have I finally come to the conclusion that this meta-tale, this monolith of story, this dire-light, this cutting of an epic gordian knot has got to be one of the classics of literature. It is dense. No doubt about it.

But it is ever so much more rewarding than I had ever expected it to be.


View all my reviews
The Exegesis of Philip K. DickThe Exegesis of Philip K. Dick by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This wasn’t an easy book to read. Lacking in structure, consistency, or even payoff, one has to wonder what could be the point in reading it. And yet, I’ve read it twice and now I’ve changed my rating to 5 stars. What gives?

“So,” I asked myself, “How did you like the book?”
I needed to look at myself for several minutes to let the meaning of my statement sink in. A pink beam of light streamed into my skull and gave me visions of post-modern paintings at the rate of three-million per second, only stop in mid-blurp to tell me that the pink light is actually the Godhead, that the Empire Never Ended, that I’m still cribbing Valis, and you haven’t fucking seen anything, yet, motherfucker.
The pink beam then just chuckled to herself for eight years and forced me to write about her the meaning of her to the tune of over one million words.
I said to myself, “Thank God you’ve got a sense of humor, or this would have been completely unbearable.”
I continued back at myself, “Thank God that we’ve got a team of dedicated editors and/or hidden gnostic survivors from the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD who are able and willing to sort THAT mess out. I don’t care that Farris F. Freemont (666) got ousted from office in 1974. The fact that I’m here is proof that the Demiurge is still under the waters, dead but dreaming, and all of my admittedly mad ramblings are a call to arms for all true believers and we need to rise up and perform Anamnesis on ourselves. I mean, now. You know, 70 AD.”
I said, “We’re under the gun, here.”
I asked, “You mean sword? Hmmm.”
So I asked myself one last time, “Am I bat-shit crazy?”
I answered myself, “Hell no. I’m saner than I’ve ever been. Besides, after seeing an infinity of punch cards put before me by God is an example that no amount of words can express the Infinity That I Am (Binary); that I no longer think that I work for God, I’m just a dupe of Satan/Demiurge/Dross Matter of the Universe; and I’ve just woken up for the four-hundredth time to the immense realization that reality is nothing that we see, that Ubik is Jesus, and pot really opens up my mind.”
I said, “But you really love that David Bowie movie, (The Man Who Fell To Earth) enough to see the opening up of all possible realities and that Spinoza is actually right, after all.”
I really had to reply to this jab: “At least I’m enlightened. P.S. don’t tell anyone, and make sure you burn this Exegesis, ok?”

(And now, for the The Really Strange Part: I honestly don’t think PKD is crazy. His working notes are information-rich and dense, philosophically diverse and deep. Like anyone, his views change over time, but he is almost excessively intense about his inner life. He just sounds like a sci-fi author who thinks deeply about all of the things he wants to understand. The only difference is the sheer volume of words he’s devoted to it; and after all, phylogeny recapitulates Philagony. Viva la PKD.)


View all my reviews

Saturday, June 20, 2015

AuroraAurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can say a lot more than wow, and I will, but wow is still coming out.

I had an oh shit moment that reduced me to tears at a certain point, and I'm not going to reveal it for anyone else, but it was powerful and it had everything to do with the fantastic character development for the narrator.

The last book of Robinson's that I read was 2312, which I still think about, but I had some issues with it, namely in the two main characters. I didn't quite care for them as much as I felt I should have. Unfortunately, that dragged down an otherwise wonderful book fantastically populated with so much thought and worldbuilding and science that I still believe it belongs in the Hugo nominations from several years back.

Aurora is better.

So much better. Even with all of the realism couched in so much science exposition that may or may not go over some people's heads, I felt buoyed up by it like the salt water of the mother ocean, cresting the wave, and riding it as if I were a newborn. Read the damn novel if you want to know what I mean.

The beginning was slightly prosaic, but I swear, don't let that turn you off. It's an important scene. Even the end nicely frames it.

As for the most important bit... The narrator... I'm just not sure how I can say how much I love the narrator without giving away a few secrets along the way, so I'm just going to forewarn you. Spoiler.

Do not read this.

I mean it.

Oh, okay, you asked for it.

This has got to be the most heartwarming and deep characterizations of a quantum computer writing a novel that I've ever read. It also happens to be the only one. And my god, it just started out being clever and you can feel its sense of tedium and frustration, then how it begins to get into the flow of wordplay, and then how it expresses love, devotion, duty, purpose, and meaning. It was amazing.

That being said, we've got a fucking wonderful winner of a hard sci-fi classic here. I'm going to nominate this one for next year's Hugo ballot. It easily surpasses any other generation-ship novel I've ever read, and I've read quite a few. I may change my mind before the actual nomination time comes, but this will currently win my vote as of right now.

Read it for the science or the thought-play. Read it for the adventure of colonizing another star and suffer the realizations of an all-too-plausible reality. Read it for the wonderful characters who have gone through a lot of of crap. Read it for the slingshot maneuvers. Hell, read it twice for the slingshot maneuvers. The book is damn worth it.

And if I must say so, I think it might be better than the Mars Trilogy. If that isn't high praise, I don't know what is.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 19, 2015

Grail (Jacob's Ladder, #3)Grail by Elizabeth Bear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's all light.

I liked this one much better than the previous two novels, full of better contrast, deeper ethical considerations, and more interesting intrigue. Mind you, this is all subject to my own subjectivity, but It was much easier to fall into a society of dull board members and sit back confidently as they get pounded ideologically by a godlike feudalist ecology, and back again as they said, "Uh, no thanks, I think we'd best stay on Prozac."

It's funny and delightful, with some real promise of cohabitation except for that one little bit of sophistry that would bring all hope to the brink. You know how people are when they know they're right.

Still, I enjoyed the deeper conversation with the reader about being alien, as with the second book, forward to the uncontemplated reality of colonizing a planet that already housed another intelligence, successfully putting our heroes and heroines on the moral high ground, as opposed to in the moral high ground.

The ending was satisfying and I can honestly say I'm glad I got through the trilogy. The compromise surprised me, somewhat, but it was a logical concession. The trend of the novels supported it, even if it wasn't what anyone really wanted.

In that regard, at least, the novel felt real, and that's a treat when we deal with nanoswarms, a near godhood over a closed system, lots of near resurrections, and unhinged enemies rewriting other's brains.

Fun stuff. I'm glad I read it.


View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Chill (Jacob's Ladder, #2)Chill by Elizabeth Bear
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm afraid that I won't be able to review this book as seriously as I originally intended. I wanted to read it as an adventure and a novel of chase, because that's how it felt, but I got sidetracked by alienish and outright aliens being bred in the bowels of the generation ship. I wanted to get waylaid by Tristan, the toolbox, the necromancer, and the fragment of our big bad angel from Dust, but I'm afraid I was distracted.

It could be because the novel was a departure from the excellent setup from the first in the trilogy, and perhaps it is because the main actors from Dust were forced into more cerebral and sendentary roles. Perhaps I wanted a smarter overmind, incorporating the pizazz of the angels from before.

Unfortunately, the novel felt like it was suffering from the same problem as the ship. It was outrunning a supernova, but it had no idea where it wanted to go. I know, it sounds rather damning, but that's my take, and the characters within go and hunt for a reason, or an engineer, to take them by the hand and just go astrogate.

We do get it, by the end, with the help of leviathan, but it felt more like a whimper than a bang. The first novel was much better.

Fortunately, I'm still riding the supernova of the first novel, so I haven't given up on the trilogy. I'll take on Grail right away and pray it picks up again.


In the spirit of full disclosure, I do have to let everyone know that this novel is going to suffer, in my mind, because I devoured a singularly fantastic book during the reading of this one. The problem is simple. I've suddenly had to rearrange my favorite top 3 books of all time to make room for Raphael Carter's Fortunate Fall. This out of print book was a complete unknown to me, but it STILL has an iron grip on my mind and makes me look at EVERYTHING else in a poorer light. It's not fair to the books that come after or, in this case, during, because it's become almost impossible to be objective.

This is also the best reason I can give for continuing on to the third book in good faith.

View all my reviews
The Fortunate FallThe Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't believe it.

I just realized that I haven't updated my top ten book list in my own mind for almost a decade. I certainly haven't modified my top three in over 25 years.

What I have just read has just supplanted number three. Perhaps even number two.

For the moment, I feel like it might have supplanted number one.

I cried like a baby when I closed the book, and even now I can't believe what I just read. It was lyrical and it unpacked with a density of a rushing locomotive. It was full of heart and soul, and it was smart, smart, smart in its choices.

It is a double tragedy. Raphael Carter, as far as I can tell, never wrote another novel. I will likely be a lifelong devotee to this novel, and I'll be rereading it soon. I'm already missing it and I just finished it.

Maybe it's a triple tragedy, because the book is out of print. I was lucky enough to find it used. As far as I can tell, the novel is the greatest unknown mystery of the world. So few people even know about it. Hell, I need to shout out its praises to the world and not let this beautiful work ever be forgotten. And yet, it is. I only picked it up because Jo Walton praised it from her mountaintop as a work that should not be forgotten, and I can't thank her enough.

What is the novel, you ask? It's the soul of humanity as sung from the soul of the last whale. It's the redemption and utter loss of ghost girls and cyborgs. It's the chains that we bind ourselves with, whether in our heart or our minds or everyone else. It's hope. It's horror.

It's recalling, for me, the most heartbreaking moments of V for Vendetta, a movie I've seen a dozen times so that it brings me to tears. It takes the best traditions of cyberpunk and pushes it through the meat grinder, showing us what despair can lie behind the eyes of telepresence ratings.

It's about same-sex true-love and mind rape.

Too much for a novel of 288 pages? Hell no. The writing carries it all and a lot more, effortlessly. This is what I want to make when I grow up.

And it hurts, almost unbearably, that so few people will ever have the chance to experience this novel. If there is justice in the world, then everyone would have the chance to cry over it.

288 stars out of 5.



View all my reviews

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dust (Jacob's Ladder, #1)Dust by Elizabeth Bear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I keep hearing Elizabeth Bear in all my regular haunts, I knew she had a lot of writing with nanotech, heavy-sf, and mythology, all of which I'm particularly fond. So why haven't I picked up her works before now?

I'm an idiot. I can't think of a more accurate reason.

So here I am, reading Dust and seeing a serving girl rescue a princess who just got her wings torn off and the lady of the household is preparing for war. All good and fine for a fantasy novel, only they're preparing for war within a generational spaceship that broke down, it's all-encompassing AI gone schizo, and everyone wants to put humpty-dumpty back together again by eating each other's minds until "The One" can become the Captain.

Okay! I was wondering where this was going. Now I know, and I really like it! But wait, the schizo AI is really fragmented and spun out conflicting personas that are called Angels and like to stab each other in the backs. And they're also godlike. And they like to mess around in the destinies of mere bio-and-nano enhanced humans living in this experimental breeding ground. Who's good? Who's bad?

Our serving girl gets an upgrade, and our rescued princess tells her that she's her half-sister. (What? Oh wait, that makes sense after you see how inbred everyone is on a generational spaceship.) Politics plays a big role throughout the novel, but only in the sense of gods playing with mere mortals, fathers using their children as bargaining chips, and the sense that we've all just been sent into a final battle royale.) The sibling's love can get rather complicated, but their regard never wavers, even when the two get pitted on either side of a tug of war between gods. Good conflict there, I suppose, but it didn't quite have the outcome the setup might have warranted.

Am I dissatisfied with the outcome? I'm not sure. Something nags at me about the entire direction of the novel, and it's more of a forest question, not the trees. The trees were just fine. I like the ending. I just wonder if we could have had more directed conflict in the middle or even a few more reversals. The confusion of the main characters was fine, I just wonder if there should have been a bit more tugging from the non-godlike characters.

That being said, I'm excited to read the other two books in the trilogy.

Spoiler alert!

Computronium is people. COMPUTRONIUM IS PEOPLE! I like the development where we've all been turned into breeding farms for smart swarms of nanos in order to retroactively fix the starship. There's a hell of a lot of fun in here once you get beyond the angel's machinations. It's a much smarter fix for the Duracell argument.

Do I recommend? Hell yes if you want a good dose of symbolism and nanos, a-la Zelazny's Lord of Light, but not as powerful.


View all my reviews

Friday, June 12, 2015

SevenevesSeveneves by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know what all those complainers are going on about. As far as I can see, I just got two novels for the price of one. The first 2/3rds is all hard science fiction, where science matters and the whole thing is tied together with plausibility. The last third is pure unadulterated speculative fiction with damn fine worldbuilding and extrapolation from the first 2/3rds.

Let me back up. I can honestly say that I loved the gigantic erector set that was the first novel, but I will admit that I wasn't head over heels in love with most of the characters, and the few that I really liked were at least two dimensional. This isn't a condemnation. A lot had to be covered to get us from a happyish world, through a blown-up moon, to a mad scramble to survive before the earth gets fireballed by our ex-moon. That means the International Space Station needs one hell of an upgrade. A lot happens, and it's tragic and heroic and beautiful. I've read a lot worse hard sf, and when I say it, it's not a condemnation, either. Hard sf is a lifestyle choice. It's hard to do and successfully pull off a great story with great characters against, say, any other novel that doesn't care about consistency and scrupulous attention to detail.

Mr. Stephenson pulls it off, and I'm not just touting him because I'm a lifelong fan of his writings. I'm saying the novel is solid.

Now on to the second novel. A lot of people have a problem with this one, going, "What the fuck?" Not me. This is where we stop being grounded and we let our imaginations fly. A lot can and will happen in 5000 years from the last hurrah of the plausible and likely end of humanity.

So I see another tradition being followed, one I like even more than the strict master of hard sf. I immediately got sucked into the imagery, the action, the curiosity, the mystery, and the unfolding of a brand new Earth. I don't need to bring up all the greats who have done hopeful and optimistic futures, although I will if anyone asks, but Mr. Stephenson has served up a beauty.

So much is bright and colorful about it, and I'm including the different human races, the flying, the landscape, and the revelations about what the people find down there. No spoilers, but suffice to say there's always a way to bring conflict in, even though the future is hopeful. It was a sheer pleasure to explore, and if the novel was NOT an extension of the first 2/3, I'm pretty sure that most of the haters out there would have thought it was an interesting tale on par with any of the classics. It's all about survival, rebuilding and restoring, genetic engineering, massive scale engineering, and the supremely toned-down idea that love endures.

It was very touching.

All right. I'll mention Brin. It reminds me of the best of Brin.

So that brings me back to the main question: Should these two novels be considered one? There's obviously ties throughout the second one, but I'll be honest with you, they could have been added long after the fact, just so the second novel could see print. That's a very negative way to view it, in my opinion, because I happened to love it for what it was.

Is it a sign of the times that old-style adventure novels set in the deep future can't get published any longer? I hope not. I'd love to see more, assuming the stories still kick ass.

But to answer my own question... Yes and No. The first novel could easily have turned into an ultimate bummer. The second novel could stand on its own. Left to itself, the first novel would have absolutely needed some sort of machinery of god or perhaps the triumphant return of the assholes who had raced to Mars. It would have needed something, anyway, to satisfy the readers. We aren't reading traditional fiction. It wasn't a character study. If the only way to give the reader what s/he wants is to give us a resolution that doubles as a whole second novel, then I say, "Hell yes!"

Because at least this way, I wouldn't have to wait a long time for a sequel when I wasn't satisfied with the first. Can you imagine, or do you remember when Hyperion came out and you got to the end and went, "Huh?" with no Fall of Hyperion to complete it? It's the same deal, although, I'll be honest, Hyperion is still better than this novel. (If you peeps haven't read it, then do so. It's still very high praise to be compared to it, even in a lesser capacity.)

Of course, Neal Stephenson has a whole catalog of some of my absolute favorite reading list, so I'm amazingly biased here.

Was this novel good? You betcha. Did it surprise? Absolutely. Do I recommend? Yes, for fans of the SFF genre with keen eyes and adjustable expectations.



View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Locke & Key, Vol. 6: Alpha & OmegaLocke & Key, Vol. 6: Alpha & Omega by Joe Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great ending to a great story.

We knew a big ending was coming, and it was very satisfying, dark, tragic, and heroic. Our true underdog had his chance to bear hug Dodge to victory! Who says lowly grunts can't get their day? Truly good stuff. I loved the fishing hook.

I guess I'm hooked, too. I might just have to go out and get the rest of Joe Hill's books right away.

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Locke & Key, Vol. 2: Head GamesLocke & Key, Vol. 2: Head Games by Joe Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, this one was much better. We're finally getting some more rules for the magic. Limitations always make for great stories. It also helps that I now wish I could get my hands on that key and straight dump all the books I've ever read into my noggin. And a lot more, of course. I wonder how the magic would rearrange me? Fascinating.

Back to the story. Dodge is rather interesting. He's building into something Lynch-like, and I like it.

All the over-the-top prejudice stuff feels like a page taken right out of Joe Hill's father's pagebook, though, not that I mind. It IS very distinctive.

Okay, now I'm hooked. I wanna do me some more fishin.

View all my reviews
SpellstormSpellstorm by Ed Greenwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first time reading Ed Greenwood, but I've seen his name in the bookstores for a long time, invariably of Forgotten Realms lore. I like to play D&D, but I never quite got into the habit of reading novels based in it. I'm probably not going to change my mind and start picking up more titles, but I am tempted. I've heard of Elminster from friends for over twenty years now, and from everything I've come to understand, he's quite a ruthless antihero wizard.

My Impressions of this soon-to-come book? Elminster is a pretty happy-go-lucky guy with a few rather interesting friends, and it's either a credit or an admonition to the author that I can fall into Elminster's happy POV without quite registering or caring that he's hosting a cheerful slaughterhouse of peers, enemies, and friends.

Come one, come all, to my abattoir! I've got one hell of a MacGuffin for you! You know you want it! Only the most powerful wizards can apply!

And then he carelessly cooks so many meals with his adventurers while everyone else cheerfully murders themselves.

Should I be shocked or disturbed that this seems so damn normal? Perhaps not. I am used to D&D.

The story was quite fine and the resolution was more than fine. It (Almost) makes up for the sociopathic reality of this long murderous house party. It did end on a fine high note, after all, filled with full bellies and the admiration of the goddess of magic.

It still leaves me with a disturbing note chiming in my brain.

Okay, so the only thing I really had a problem with, now that I've gotten through the novel, is the initial parade of neverending characters with little to differentiate them except their names. That may be an issue only because I haven't read the umpteen million books that came before, of course, but it was enough to make me put the novel down several times to recharge. It was almost like reading the Iliad for the first time.

Everything else was fun. Just one deep message to part on, and it was perfectly reasonable.

Always watch over your kitchen. You never know who might be messing with your next meal.

Right? Right.


View all my reviews

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to LovecraftLocke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How can seeing so much blood and gore translate, to me, as a story without enough action?

So, instead, I decided to read this first volume as a psychological study that included the Locke's keys as wish fulfillment and everything bad coming at them as the regular subconscious horrors. Was I more impressed? Yes.

Is this all I'm getting out of the too-slowly developing tale? Hell no. I want to see where the magic takes me and Bode and all the siblings, or where it doesn't take them. The door was nice and ominous. The keys are just a little too mysterious and under utilized in the first volume, but I'm not giving up yet.

Honestly? If I wanted something stretched out, more full development, I think I might have enjoyed this much, much more as a well-crafted novel and not as a comic. I've always been a fan of horror, and the drawing of suspense before we're fully invested is some of the best features of the genre. This is doing it, too, but I'm off-skilter with this one's pacing. Either draw out the characterizations much more, or give me a in media res that doesn't rely on butchery.

Is it just me, or is anyone else tired of opening up a book to read a murder being committed before I've begun to care for any of the actors?

I am not giving this a three-star, because it doesn't deserve that disservice. The art was great and the story is very good, so far. I love the lady in the well, but I can do without the knock-knock jokes. Everyone besides Bode seems to be walking around like zombies, and the kid's dead half the time. What's up with that? Ah, I'm sure things'll change later. Like I said, I'm invested. I'm also just grumbling. I'll get over it.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hugo Nominated Short Fiction Works of John C. WrightHugo Nominated Short Fiction Works of John C. Wright by John C. Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

John C Wright received some of the most nominations for this year's Hugo ballots, ranging from related, short story, and two novellas. I intended to read all works from the point of view that everything ought to have a chance, no matter the stigma surrounding it. That being said, it was hard to miss that this came out of Vox Day's camp.

I read these, dutifully, and I even found a great deal about them that I liked. For one, the author has an otherworldly grasp of run on sentences detailing great long swaths of out-of-scene plot. A first glance this might seem like a bad thing, but I don't mean it that way.

It's lyrical and forces us to use our imaginations and wonder about all the great doings that were long past or in the personal history of the narrator and his childhood friends. (One Bright Star to Guide Them).

The secret histories of the animals and their relations with man, or lack thereof. (The Parliament of Beasts and Birds).

The twisty labyrinth of time travellers and how they must tell a story when things are so damn convoluted, including many instances of one character, be it John F Kennedy as an Old Letch, a murderous pre-time warden, a prevention of murder younger version, and an outsider JFK called the Innocent, or the many versions of Helen of Troy turned into disposable love-toys and her inability to break out of the cycle, narrated by a private eye. (The Plural of Helen of Troy).

A private eye as a ghost, unstuck in time, wavering between restless spirit and poltergeist, finding his way back to heaven or hell. (Pale Realms of Shade).

All of them had interesting ideas, and stylistically I have to admit I liked his command of myth. All of them pull from artists who had come before, in huge ways. One Bright Star to Guide Them was a huge riff of Narnia in every way that counts. It wasn't bad at all. I enjoyed the adventure and the characters quite a lot.

The Parliament felt like the old story of uplifted dogs that had inherited mankind's cities and reminisced about their old masters with helpful AI by Cordwainer Smith.

The last two took most of their hooks from detective fiction, but twisted into many odd and wonderful shapes by the end.

All good, so far.

Now for the bad, and the reason I had to knock the whole slate down to three stars.

Every Story Had An Agenda.

There's no way around it. Maybe all authors have an agenda to one degree or another, but most of them successfully bury it or have it flow smoothly into their fiction so hardly anyone can feel its bite. Not so with these stories. They don't begin this way, but by the time you get to the 2/3 point, you'll feel as if you're listening to christian rock or a falsely popular and overhyped Billy Budd story that's always an over the top Christian Ideal. All of them have the VERY CLEAR AGENDA emblazoned across every plotline, every character development, every resolution.

That's not to say that the author didn't have a damn fine command of other mythos, because he does. It's just that everything serves the dark master of the Agenda.

Each story was entertaining and well crafted. I just don't like being Pistol-Whipped with an Aaron Burr Handgun while I'm enjoying any tale.

It pulled me right out of the fine illusions, and I groaned so much that my dog thought I was talking to her, barked, and woke up the baby. Bad Story. Bad Story. Nah, I'm sorry story, you weren't that bad. It was me. Not you.

I find myself seriously wondering what wonderful tales might have been wrought out of the author if he hadn't had a hand made of iron under that glove. The complexity of the twisty tales and the worldbuilding in his fantasy were very, very delightful. I can handle a lot of christian imagery without it ruining a tale. I love Brothers Karamazov for christ's sake. Same goes for Paradise Lost. I'm not a hater. I just wish he'd TONE IT DOWN a notch. That's all.



View all my reviews

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Crux (Nexus, #2)Crux by Ramez Naam
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I took this one at a leisurely pace because the children deserved it. All of the children, the post human, the autistic, and the abandoned needed a little bit of love to see them through this dystopian near-future. The call was just as strong for me as it was for Sam.

I haven't lost any of my deep desire to be a part of the emerging consciousness of Nexus, despite the abuses or the moral quandaries. Indeed, I love its promise as much as Kade.

I suppose this means the novel did its job, whether or not I'm going to eventually classify it as a novel of great ideas or as a novel of great writing. Something about it didn't quite match my hopeful expectations. It didn't have the same pace as the first novel, but there was certainly better action and higher stakes, so I suppose things balance out nicely. Holtzman was at first an annoying detractor to the story, but by the end he served the story's needs awesomely, propelling yet more conflict into the future with his death. Thank god.

All things being equal, I really enjoyed it. On to the next in the trilogy!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Flight of the Kikayon: A Sci-fi NoveletteFlight of the Kikayon: A Sci-fi Novelette by Kary English
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a crisp and gloriously clear adventure story of a woman trying to escape her abusive husband with the help of her clone. I was touched. It really had heart.

Of course, the planet where she eventually wound up, swiss family robinson style, had one hell of a fascinating sea monster in it, so that's a huge plus.

The story made me think about love and children, but not exclusively, and not oppressively. It was warming, not frantic, and I really enjoyed the ride. Crisp and gloriously clear sums it up very nicely, from writing, to imagery, to themes. Nothing was out of place and it felt inevitable. Which is very strange, considering that she wound up stranded and losing everything. Who am I to argue about the vagaries of fate or authorship?

I read this in preparation for the Campbell nomination of 2015, and I'm proud to say I read it, regardless. It shines.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Slow BulletsSlow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The ending makes the tale, and this one is no different. I fell the familiar immersive narrative and enjoyed the stolid pacing that was the MO of the narrator, only slightly interested in the idea of slow bullets, but willing to make a full go of the novel anyway. What I wanted was a Revelation Space novel or novella, and I wasn't misled or disappointed. It did take some time to feel invested, but by the time I was seeing a tale of rebuilding civilization in the microcosm of a slowship carrying a penal colony and following a ship breakdown at the end of the voyage, I was good to go. The next reveal made me try to place them in the greater scheme of the future history, with fascination.

All of that was fine, and good, but it was the end reveal that showed the real meaning of the slow bullet, whether personal, interpersonal, or galactic. And it was Good. I'll probably be thinking about that one for a while.

The end reveal made this novel beautiful. The rest of the action and conflict made the rest of the tale feel a little marginal, even if it was full of historical pathos and a serious push for justice (or forgiveness).

Don't get me wrong, I love tales about trying to preserve knowledge, and this one certainly fits the bill, but it was the human factor, including redemption, however spurious and uncertain, that pulled on my mind.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected FictionHannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction by Hannu Rajaniemi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so thrilled to be finally reading this book that I have to put in a disclaimer that I'm a huge fan of Mr. Rajaniemi. My expectations are set very high, and as a result, I'm worried that the readings will fall far below it.

We'll see. I'll review stories as they affect me, and skip the ones that don't.

Deus ex Homine

It's just a freaking short story, and yet I got enough info running through my head to make one hell of a great novel, including a blow-you-out-of-the-water feel-good ending. If this is a sample of things to come, I'm probably going to burst into tears of joy.
Me, biased? Perhaps. But one thing I appreciate the most out of his works is the way he can make my imagination sing with all of the spoken and unspoken possibilities. It just lights my mind up. The babies of god.
Hell, this story is drowning me. It's got my mind fixated on mid-air battles between nano angels and baby gods. My heart is racing for mommy's furlough and daddy's heartbreak. And in the meantime, the gods ravage the Earth. Fantastic.

The Server and the Dragon

From start to finish it felt like a children's tale, and by hell, I know I'll be reading it to my daughter when she gets a little older. It's a fairy tale, plain and simple, about creation and destruction, advancement and freedom, solitude and travel, with the birth of a universe, a holographic dragon, and a transformed solar system housing a singular AI. If you don't believe my word when I say it's a classic, thought-provoking tale, then read it for yourself and wonder where the hell you're sitting and how far away you just traveled from your cozy little life. It sparkled with so much quick imagination that I was lost for a time.

Tyche and the Ants

I didn't get into this one as quickly as the first two stories, but by the end I was fine. It just didn't grab me. Perhaps throwing an emotional imperative at the beginning would have made me enjoy the galavanting across the moon's surface a bit more. Still, once I knew the secret, that this tale was more psychological than anything else, then I could really begin to appreciate it. And I do. After the fact. I found myself wishing for more starfish and dragons during the reading, though.

The Haunting of Apollo A7LB

Short and sweet haunting of an astronaut's spacesuit and how his old flame got to get into space. Pretty mainstream if magical.

His Master's Voice

Fucking brilliant. Obviously set in the same universe as QT/FP/CA, these are some of the most unique characters I've ever come across. Meet dog and cat. Loyal to their master. Fierce musician/gladiators.
Not enough? Try entering the microcosm of fast and slow time, raiding the Necropolis, blowing up dance floors while millions of fans' avatars get hacked, and the simple kindness of a cat finding a dog's lost ball. Like I said, Fucking Brilliant.

Elegy for a Young Elk

I can see how this fits into the histories of the Earth after the singularity. It brings in the god-plague and squarely places a drunk poet living with a drunk bear into the position of being the husband and father of gods. If that isn't elegant, then I don't know what is. And as always, the descriptions and logic gates in the antlers of the elk gave us, finally, not death, but freedom for both gods and god-plagues to find their destinies in the snow. Does this sound like fantasy? Oh no. It's hard sci-fi at its most delicious. This is why I write. This is why I imagine. Great stuff.

The Jugaad Cathedral

This one hits closer to home, combining close approximates of twitter/fashionworld/rpg with minecraft and phantom limb hackers into an indictement on corporate copyright.

Fisher of Men

Thank goodness this wasn't a Christ parable. It was a much more traditional fisherman story about the daughter of the sea and her many husbands, updated slightly to our modern age, but still timeless. I loved the last line and how it twisted the whole meaning of the original tale. The story was all about Finnish mythology and it was well crafted and dark.

Invisible Planets

Tie-in to The Server and the Dragon, from the point of view of a darkship and its sub-mind, almost beginning like an echo of Scheherazade, but quickly forming into an oh-so-rich backdrop of many worldbuildings rife with flaws and glories, cumulating in a sun-drenched embrace of the one thing that makes the filling of a universe eventually worthwhile. This story is truly crammed with great worldbuilding, each one worth a novel's exploration, but crammed into a tiny story instead.

Ghost Dogs

Being a dog lover, this one hit me pretty good, but the story is only a light fantasy. I was getting into the rules right as the story ended, leaving me feel dreamy and sad.

The Viper Blanket - The underworld is calling to its own in this mostly sedate and strange view of an extended family of the dead.

Paris, in Love - Humorous and magical personification of Paris traveling to meet her love in Norway.

Topsight - A sad and realisticish tale of death among friends and how a little overview and oversight connectivity might not, in the end, be right for anyone, especially if the dead girl can continue to change the world. The little connections with others hint at being the very best that life can offer.

The Oldest Game - Gods still roam the Earth, but this time it has a modern fantasy feel revolving around the god of grain, and by extrapolation, alcohol. It's very dark, and everyone in the tale accepts the darkness with open arms. Are Finnish people as pessimistic as the Russians? Good story though. Very fine read.

Shibuya no Love - Japanese teenage subculture meets zoku tech. Talk about romance in a bottle! It was funny and I had no problems laughing at the main character, even if I kinda felt like I oughtn't have.

Satan's Typist - Short and sweet and more of a short short for other writers. What a cool and dark implication it had.

Skywalker of Earth

OMG this was so cool. Think thirties rip-roaring space adventures or buck-rogers with Rajaniemi's screaming modern science toolbox and you'll get true galaxy screaming monsters out of old-time heroes and thoughtful master-villains who retired peacefully on pensions. I cannot, and I repeat, I cannot imagine a world where this short novella wouldn't make a FANTASTIC movie. The pacing is perfect, it's lead-in's are hokey, just like the old stories they emulate, and when the science gets full-blown wacky with q-dots and gravitational lenses taking out the sun, it's based on real theory. It's awesome, squared.

Snow White is Dead

I respect the story for the concept behind it: a choose your own adventure written through reactions in brainwaves, and respect it more that it still felt coherent and dual-layered as well, but it was only a so/so story. I respect the process, but not so much the final product.

Unused Tomorrows and Other Stories - Another one that I can appreciate because it's TwitterFiction. Not exactly my cupa, but I can approve of it. A few of the single pieces, I thought, were better than the longer, continuation of the 140 character stories. I kinda wish this collection hadn't ended on this note.


All said, this is one of my absolute favorite short story collections, and by far and away I was catching a lot of flies. I heartily recommend for every die-hard sci-fi fan and/or modernized fairy-tale consumer. The fanboy has spoken.


View all my reviews