Monday, January 30, 2017

The ListThe List by Patricia Forde
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

This is a middle-grade book about the dangers of limiting your vocabulary! So get your dictionary and... oh, wait, it's not about that at all!

It's *actually* about a SF dystopian world after all the ice melted and the dangers of wrong thinking made the scared Noa build an ark, stuff all his people aboard, and be very, very careful about striking certain words out of the common lexicon of regular words.

Our young protagonist, Letta, is a journeywoman who's job is to collect the proscribed words, and later, she becomes the master.

I thought it was good based on these basic ideas and the premise, but if you think you've seen this before in 1984 or the Giver, then you're right. In fact, you've probably seen it in numberless short stories and even quite a few tv shows.

Is it worth reading? Does the plot boldly go where none other of its kind goes? Sadly, no, if you're a reader of YA. It's pretty potboiler with standard situations, but the ending does go bold.

Is it solidly written and keep my interest? It's solidly written, but I did have a few issues keeping my interest going, but that may be because it's middle-grade literature.

I do think it's better than The Giver, however, so that might be something to consider when looking for small-town ethics and a rigidly stratified society that meets unrestricted ideas for the first time.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

City of Miracles (The Divine Cities, #3)City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

It's getting really hard for me to have content-less gushing in certain books. Like this one. I mean, sure, I can say that Shara has been killed and Sigurd is out to avenge/solve her murder, but beyond that, I really can't be as specific as I want to be.

The fact is: SO MUCH AWESOME happens in this book! And I mean crazy awesome. Or absolutely Divine Awesome. :)

Lordy, some of these reveals came right on top of each other's heels and rather than having you expect a simple mystery, I should warn you all that REALLY BIG THINGS HAPPEN. :)

Oh, and for all you lovers of Sigurd: this novel is ALL HIM! YAY! He was always my favorite and he was really subdued in the previous book -(um, sort of, at least until the end) - but this is the book where he really, really shines. Where he lets down his hair and we get all of his checkered past and... oh goodness, no more spoilers. :)

Divine action is everywhere and the epic battles are very epic. One might say, time-consuming. :)

Okay, maybe I'm being a bit TOO cryptic. But still, this hasn't been released! I'm all fanboy over it, however, and that's not going to change.

What a great series! Complicated, dense world-building, truly fantastic characters, and a really twisty awesome plot that always surprises. :)

And we get tons of explosions. :) What more could you want?

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sandworms of Dune (Dune Chronicles #8)Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I look back on everything I've read and learned, wrapping up this series is a truly enormous task. I mean, this has got to be one of the most ambitious works to ever try to clean up and jam down our throats, like, ever.

I'm not saying it succeeds, mind you, but I've got to give these guys props for the sheer weight of their balls.

It's really hard to describe a lot of the action, setting, or even the big characters without giving away the grand majority of what makes this book great. Yes. Great. Most of it is great. The grand majority of it really IS great! The ideas are superb, the grand wrap up has the *potential* to be really, really great!

I mean, this is Frank Herbert's notes and outline we're talking about. He's a master at layering and layering, or as he even writes within Dune, "One peels a problem like an onion."

He writes like an onion. :)

Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson don't like onions all that much.

Straightforward writing is great when trying to appeal to the masses and have quick pacing, and it's perfectly great for all kinds of tales and it worked great when we got Paul Atreides and Leto II and Jessica and Duncan Idaho and even Yueh as gholas in the deep deep future trying to save themselves from the fate of an almost completely annihilated humanity, a race to awaken several Kwisatz Haderachs in order to defeat a 15 thousand year old foe, fully realized in the chronological universe's first trilogy, for you fans of the Butlerian Jihad.

The death count is unimaginable. A whole universe is in turmoil and there really isn't that much hope. Hell, even when I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was skeptical because the Kwizatz Haderach in both it's old incarnations still relied on a huge support structure of PEOPLE, and by this point, most people are up shit creek.

So that leads me to the end of the tale, and this is where things are both... "Hey, that's cool!" and "WTF, where was the layering and gradual reveals to make this seem like an organic outcome, not just as Deus Ex Machina?"

I love how the machine crusade and the original oracle of time was tied back into the end all the way from the first trilogy. Don't get me wrong. It's pretty epic to think about. I also have no problems with Duncan Idaho being a supreme badass because I FELT that in Heretics of Dune when he remembered ALL of his lifetimes of being brought back, of all the different fields and specialties he learned, of being a mentat, of becoming a different kind of Kwizatz Haderach without needing the spice. It was awesome and that isn't my issue.

My issue is Erasmus. After 15 thousand years, he either needs an upgrade in complexity or he needed to be a much different part of the tale or SOMETHING. His little twist at the end felt very machiavellian and therefore unconvincing.

I'd almost have rather seen all our heroes jump universe and start afresh somewhere new. The oracle of time and Duncan probably could have managed it.

Happy ending? Yeah, I'm actually disappointed in the happy ending, and I LIKE happy endings.

On the other hand, I think with the right application of Onion, this might actually have worked out just fine. Deeper reveals, layered inclusion of Erasmus in a much different way than we actually got, more cryptic ideas and hinted-at worlds and experiences... more MYSTERY... and the reader could have done most of the work and could have filled in all these wonderful possible gaps by the end and then this Deus Ex Machina, or Machina Ex Deus, might have resulted in a supremely EXCELLENT end using the very same ingredients!

*sigh*

Sorry. This is a fanboy trying to reconcile the grand tapestry of his favorite SF series with the vaguely disappointing end, EVEN THOUGH I really enjoyed the ride up to that point!

I hope I'm not dissuading anyone from reading this!

It's worth it just to revel in the Big Picture, let alone all the awesome ideas and especially traveling around with all the favorite characters from the original masterpiece!

Peace! :)

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Swordspoint (Riverside, #1)Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, I should point out that the audiobook of this novel is a fantastic treat, including multiple voices including the author, herself, but also ambient sounds such as background conversations and even a cat! Music, too! But don't let that dissuade you, either, because it's all low-key enough to let us focus mainly on the tale at hand.

So what is this? Is it really fantasy?

Honestly, I don't think there's much fantasy at all, but if you like swords and high 18th century culture on a slight steroid high and full of homosexual men murdering each other for profit in high society, then by all means, come on over and read this book! :)

I was in the mood for lots of fast conversation and a bit of wit and this book has that in spades. Intrigue is really what it's all about. I got through the book in an enjoyable flash, but to be frank, I kinda stumbled a bit with the big court scene. It was interesting once I got over the fact it broke my pace, but it wasn't what I was quite expecting.

I was expecting a tragedy. But, No! This remains an old-style comedy, where bad things happen but the upturn is always around the corner. But what about the old adage that those who live by the sword, die by the sword?

Read it for yourself! :) There's no escaping your fate.

This novel is now considered a "new classic", btw. I think it's classic and timeless fun. I suppose that's the definition. :)

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

From Ice to AshesFrom Ice to Ashes by Rhett C. Bruno
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Update 1/26/17 Re-read:

I still very much enjoyed the book the second time!

In some ways this is a superior book to Titanborn in that the rising action culminates in something much bigger than personal tragedy. Those of the Titanborn revolutionaries finally get their day in this book.

Both are set in the same frame, but don't go expecting much in the way of overlapping characters. The settings, however, are very much characters in themselves. Sickness and exploitation is rampant, as is the sense of deep disparity between the classes (and locations).

The world-building is something very cool to behold, working ever so steadily on our consciousness until it gets firmly rooted and we begin feeling the deep ambiguities inherent in living in a real world. Thievery and desperation and constantly having to wear personal protection sits right up against a deep desire for doing the right thing, finding love and finding purpose.

This is a novel of a rising star. We go from nothing to the top of the food chain and the path is not simple or easy or really that expected. Kale isn't an alpha dog and all he really has going for him is his ancestry and the faith of a bunch of desperate idealists, and yet he finds his way to a really grand resolution. What more can we ask? Explosions? Ah, well, we get those, too. :) A lot of them. :)

This is truly some great Space-Opera, folks. It focuses much more on good storytelling than on technogadgetry, and that's great because it allows us to really get inside the characters. :) Bravo! :)


Original review of a pre-pre-release:

I promised not to reveal anything after getting a sneak peek, but there *is* something that I can say.

It's AWESOME.

And for all ya'll praying and hoping to get into the grit, please be patient. Once you get your hands on this, you'll be very satisfied. Or you might Gaaaahahhhhhaa like me and demand that the author keep writing, double-time, and give us more or else.

That being said, It's So Cool.

This is real SF, focusing on truly entertaining us and giving us great characters and great solar system adventure with complicated situations. The real treat is in how it's written. :)

Keep your eye out!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic FrontierThe Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier by Bruce Sterling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nonfiction! Woo! Computer CRIME!

This is a classic non-fiction about late eighties and very early nineties hacking from both sides of the law, but what is most most interesting is not that it's written by a classic cyberpunk author, but that it's written in such a way as to awe and amaze us readers even this late in the internet game... before there was truly a real Internet. BBS's and phreaking was is its own kind of world, as was trashing and other kinds of social engineering.

Not that we don't have our modern equivalents with our threads and skype.... and trashing and social engineering. :) Ah well, some things never change. :) But these days, the kinds of overreactions have really changed into all new kinds of overreactions. :)

Still, it was kinda amazing to see just how crazy the computer world was back then. SOMEONE COPIED AN ELECTRONIC FILE! And each copy was worth 80K! (To who? No idea. It was about how the emergency 911 calls got routed through the telecom system. No one intended to do crap with it, but of course it became a big hoo-haw. With time in jail.) Seriously. It's like dark age stuff, and we're talking 1990.

And then there was the phone outages that were AT&T's own fault, and yet they tried to blame everything on hackers who had absolutely nothing to do with it, and let's not forget the scares and the craze about just how evil these people are! You know, that 14 year old who is bragging to all his mates because he got into someone's system and he's treating it as a game without consequences? Yeah! That EVIL PERSON.

Of course, there are real criminals out there but they're all identity theft people and credit swindlers, but most of them are just individuals who's gotten very specialized with very specific features of a computer. These aren't coders or creative types or explorers. These are just people trying to steal your wallet, and those people are a menace.

It's really interesting to read about both sides of the coin and to see what horrible and stupid mistakes both sides made. Steve Jackson Games being the most prominent example, of course. Paladium Books! Obviously they're in deep. And the Secret Service never gave them their computers back. How embarrassing.

This is equal parts a blast from the past and it's an exploration about how idiotic people are in real life. It's kinda freaky. :) I wouldn't be surprised if this book remains popular twenty years from now as a classic frontier novel. :)

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Hunters of Dune (Dune Chronicles #7)Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is part one of a two part conclusion to the main Dune series based on notes and an outline by Frank Herbert. I've heard and experienced much trepidation regarding this, but thankfully, as long as I'm mostly focused on the ideas rather than the writing, I got through it without any wounds. :)

This is the continuation of the epic struggle between the Honored Matres and the Face Dancers and the Bene Gesserit and an even greater foe that implacably hunts all of them down. And when I mean "They", I mean all of humanity.

I have to admit that the reveal of the great foe of us all is a rather cool surprise and brings the whole series full circle in chronology in a very nice way. For those of you in the know, I know I just gave it away, and for the rest of you, you'll probably never know what I mean, but tough. :) It's a really exciting time for Dune Fans and perhaps a little info will get you guys back in the groove and taste this melange-laden treat.

There's also another tidbit that takes up a huge portion of the text that is pretty much awesome, especially for some fanboy who has, at the time of this writing, read the original Dune 14 times.

Oh, crap. Did I just do it again? It's so hard to say what I love about this novel and what I'm already going to love about the one that completes it because the "big secret" is also an ENORMOUS part of everything in the books. Think Gholas. Think a lot of Gholas. Think about awakening a lot of Gholas from a secret cache of genetic materials stashed away by a Master. And think about using these peeps as the last ditch effort to save the faltering and fractured humanity.

Woah. Serious Woah.

Good conflict, great characters, delicious ideas that tie together the entire franchise in a really big way. That's where this book is.

Now, I do miss Frank's way of writing. It's much denser, much more clever, full of unique insights and wisdoms, and thousands of wonderful idea-laden easter eggs that sometimes never get explored but still make us pause and wonder.

On the other hand, Brian and Kevin do have the whole clarity and pacing thing down pretty good. I can appreciate what they do well even when I miss the old master who did NOT do the whole pacing thing well at all. :) He sacrificed pacing for ideas and I was pretty good with that. :) Alas.

However, this book isn't that much of a stinker if you're focused heavily on getting to the idea reveals and you like good characters and love to see old classic characters interact in fantastic new ways. :)

I do recommend this for all old fans. It's also closure. :)

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Home (Binti #2)Home by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

This is my third Nnedi Okarafor and I think it's a definite improvement on the previous installment of Binti which read as pretty decent as a coming-of-age novel but was even better as a world-building novel.

This sequel, or perhaps it should be considered an ongoing line of novellas following Binti, has her returning back to the home she had left so unceremoniously in the first novella, a full year later, only to encounter some interesting and sometimes painful realizations.

There's a lot of cool culture going on and even more interesting personal reveals about Binti that goes a long way to answer some of the questions that had annoyed me in the first one.

This is very welcome news, indeed! I like continuing coming-of-age novels when they're done well and I think this fits the bill. :) I especially like how Binti grows in this one. :)

No spoilers! But it's quite cool :)

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Chapterhouse: Dune (Dune Chronicles #6)Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As with much of Frank Herbert's other writing, Dune excluded, this one is a novel notable and worthy on the realm of ideas. He never stints on ideas. He might get slighly sloggish and lose the thread of the plot while we plod around in the ideas, but there's always great scenes and always great blow-out reveals. The original classic of Dune has none of these faults. It is a classic and imminently readable from page one and is still my favorite book of all time.

So what about this one? Is it worth reading for everyone else? It's book 6 in the very impressive and automatically Epic series that encapsulates over five thousand years from the events of Dune, ending with the centric viewpoint of the Bene Gesserit after the tyranny of Paul's son and the great diaspora that scattered all the peoples of the galaxy after his death.

The planet Dune is effectively destroyed at the end of Heretics of Dune and only a single sandworm and some sandtrout was lifted from the planet to be the seed of a new place where the Spice can be produced. This is especially important after the Bene Tleilaxu were also destroyed or partially submerged under the auspices of the Gesserit after the Honored Matres rampaged through the known universe.

This book takes up the new clones of Teg and Duncan, but mostly revolves around the conflicts between the Bene Gesserit and the Honored Matres. Each side has taken prisoners and tries to subvert the captives. The Bene Gesserit are more than slightly more successful at the task than the "knock-off Bene Gesserit" Honored Matres, despite the others being wildly more dominant and deadly in combat.

What we have is a novel that reminds me a great deal of the later Wheel of Time books with Egwaine in the White Tower, only, I have to point out that Chapterhouse Dune came out first. :) We know that Jordan was a big fan of Dune and stole a tone of great ideas from Herbert, so this shouldn't be too surprising, but rather than a 5-6 enormous spread of books, Herbert accomplishes a success-from-below story in a single novel. :)

The teaching and the subversion is the real main story in Chapterhouse. Don't let the cool space battles and space-opera fool you. This is a story of fantastic women doing fantastic things, the undisputed masters of the galaxy, and a massive conflict between the returning diaspora offshoot of the Bene Gesserit and the main line that stayed behind.

On that level, it's still a great tale despite my other issues with it.

Anything this complex and full of great observations about human nature, politics, and even love should not be discounted lightly. It's super dense with fantastic ideas on every page and even though it will never be considered a standalone classic, it's a very, very worthy novel to read. Especially in conjunction with Heretics of Dune.

And, I assume, Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune carry on the tradition well since I'm going to plow through them and continue the storyline set up here. :) The cliffhanger at the end of Chapterhouse was a doozy. :)

Let's see if Herbert's son and Anderson make the ideas into something more traditional, eh? I can hope. They've had a lot of practice in the universe before attempting the big one. Herbert's death put a stop to the story and most of us fans were extremely upset. Hell, I remember reading this book the first time in '89 and wishing I could have written the sequel to it. I can't be alone in this. :) I can only hope that expectations live up, etc., etc.

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Heretics of Dune (Dune Chronicles #5)Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit that I put this one on the backburner for years and years and years, even though I attempted to re-read the series several times over the decades, I always got stuck right at the end of God Emperor of Dune and something in me just didn't want to pick up the two novels afterward.

This is strange to me! I thought the fifth and sixth books were rather awesome, frankly!

And that's why I'm skipping books 2, 3, and 4 altogether and jumping right back in to the books that I have only read once. And then I'll be picking up the series carried on by Anderson and Frank's son following the events of Chapterhouse.

So how did I think this book held up after all these years?

Pretty good! There were a few slow parts, but the one thing that Heretics does very well is the worldbuilding. The Great God Leto II has been dead for 1.5k years after taking a dip in the aquaduct, turning into sandtrout that have now become full sandworms. That means that poor Paul's son has a trapped consciousness inside these gigantic monstrosities after having lived for 5k years. (Since birth+as a sandworm+trapped consciousness.) Freaky cool. And of course religion has a bit part to play in these books as they always have.

What's most interesting is Miles Teg and the new Duncan Idaho. The similarities between Teg and the original Leto is pretty suggestive and the spice trance doubly so. His little transformation blew me away both times I read it. But Duncan Idaho? The obsessively resurrected clone of the original that has come back nearly countless times over 5k years? It staggers the imagination. Leto II really put him through the ringer, but even after the old god had died, the Bene Gesserit and the Bene Tlailax have turned him into the stage of their own conflict.

And it's these two that really own the stage in this side of the universe.... until the great spreading of humanity came back. :) Enter conflict. :) So good.

This is one of those series that take a lot of dedication and understanding to really enjoy. You really have to get deep into them, but they're very, very enjoyable, and this one is very complex and deep in a very similar way to the original classic.

Tons of politics and machinations, and if you love that, you'll love this. :)

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The Great ForgettingThe Great Forgetting by James Renner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What starts out as an intriguing mystery novel eventually turns into a devilishly wild ride of conspiracy theory SF, and this simple statement does nothing to explain just how CRAZY it'll get. :)

I'm a very big fan of cross-genre fiction and this one really fits the bill in a big, big way. The mystery is clever and engaging and fascinatingly strange, but what really struck my fancy was just how good the characters are. So much has happened in their lives and just getting to the point of the next reveal kept me glued to the page. These aren't even big reveals, just character reveals, and yet because Jack kept digging, this whole book took on a fantastic dimension that just got deeper and deeper as we find out more about Tony and Cole and the way the human mind can be a real nutter.

The whole book is a gradient. It starts you out with the small stuff and as you get acclimated, it gets steeper and steeper into nutter land. I'm just glad I already boil all my water. Of course, that may be because I drink little more than coffee and tea, but you know how it is. I avoid my Flouride in my water. :)

From there, however, I can't and won't spoil you, but if you're a conspiracy theory nut, yourself, do yourself a favor and read this little gem of a novel. Take a bag of your favorite theories, shake them around, take three handfuls of them, and now toss them in the air. Make connections. Build a story around them where they all fit together. Now read this book. How closely do they match?

Not close enough? Fine. Add another handful of theories and build another story. Closer? YES! lol

I can't believe the author got away with everything he did. The mystery connections were set up with some real brilliance. :) And this, my friends, became one hell of a great SF. :)

With one caveat: I debated knocking off a star for the slightly unsatisfying ending, but the whole ride of the rest of the novel was so strong and fascinating that I simply couldn't do that. I had a really great time. For those who've already read it, I liked the Prologue fine. It was the big action scene at the end and the immediate results of it, but not related to he-who-must-not-be-named. Maybe I just wanted something different to happen.

But everything else? I went fanboy all over it. :)

Thanks goes to the author for a physical copy of this book! It was a real blast!

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

The OtherThe Other by Thomas Tyron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm very impressed by this classic horror! I know I've been told it is one of those novels that spawned a bunch of lookalikes during the seventies, but rather than being a simple bestseller that everyone and their little fat dog emulated, I personally think that it has a ton of depth and staying power.

I think it's a toss up whether the best feature is the narrator's voice or whether it's in the plot twists. Both are superb and fascinating and lulling and it's extremely easy to fall into the idea that the author wanted us to believe.

Truly, despite a few disturbing images at the beginning of the telling, I was truly entertained by a relatively pastoral childhood that gradually became darker with all of those accidental mishaps. You can guess that things go downhill, of course, and with every new revelation, it becomes increasingly more interesting until it pretty much blew me away. I'm not saying that it wasn't predictable at a certain point, of course, but what really surprised me was how subtle and well that realization was handled. The resolution was completely top-notch.

You know the story about the evil twin? Yeah. This is the biggest granddaddy of them all and easily the best one of its kind. :) Totally recommended for all you fans of horror. :)

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Hinkler Books
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know, it's really odd. I stayed away from Verne all my freaking life because I was sure, and I mean ABSOLUTELY SURE, that it couldn't be a good novel because its science must be so out of date.

This is yet another case where I am a fool.

Not only does the novel explore the wonderful aspects of electricity and submarines and the wide wonderful ocean itself back in the 1870's as if it was perfectly modern, save for the minor fact that Captain Nemo is, what, 70 or 80 years ahead of schedule and the rest of the world is a sitting duck for his revenge, there's absolutely nothing that jumps out at me, saying, "Hey, no, science doesn't work that way!"

If that isn't enough to freak me out, Verne's wonderful descriptions of the natural world under the ocean, his gripping adventure tale with multiple layers of whale hunting motifs that just screamed out (a more enjoyable) Moby Dick, the fact that the novel revolves mainly around the glorious centerpiece of learning and exploration and most importantly, the feeling of AWE... well, all of this is enough to completely blow me away.

The grandfather of SF, eh? The Granddaddy? He focuses on ideas so heavily and his knowledge of the world of science is exemplary, and yet he still manages to crank out a truly fantastic story that is gripping. And then there's the real jewel of a man, the conflicted, rage-filled, scientific genius Captain Nemo, who also happens to be sensitive and reflective at the same time. The man is likely to lodge himself in my brain for years to come. He's the definition of mysterious and the modern natural Super Man, put upon and tragic and savage and only desiring the peace of the ocean away from the rest of mankind.

Truly amazing. I've read a lot of books and many have affected me strongly, but there's something that gets pulled off here in this novel that's really special. What a fantastic adventure!



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Monday, January 16, 2017

1414 by Peter Clines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Break out your 1d6 investigators, it's time to do some dangerous explorations! Scooby-Gang style.

Seriously though, it's hard to describe what you love in a novel when it ought to come out as a great reveal and a near pitch-perfect blend of mystery, cthuhlu tales, science fiction, fantasy, and of course the mainstay of Horror. Because that's what this is. Pure Horror with all the greatest tidbits you could want from all the other genres. It reminds me an awful lot of his other novel, The Fold, in that it starts out pure mystery, takes a turn for the SF, and then blows us away with over the top investigator-eating goodness. :)

I was on the same page with the peeps the entire way, from crappy old apartments to crappy temp jobs to barely figuring out what we wanted to do with our lives. It was plain fun from start to finish and I'm so glad I finally got around to reading it.

Do you like genre mashing? I know I do. :) This one's for you.

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Good Morning, MidnightGood Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There were a few things to this novel that I quite enjoyed, such as the level of description of the mundane life aboard the spacecraft that had seen Jupiter. That whole part of the story was like a slightly better written Clarke in 2001, but without the drama or conflict.

And that's where my problems really stem from, too. The main conflict is silence. Literally. The Earth has gone silent after an unmentioned apocalypse and what we're really got going on in the novel is two character studies between a broken, self-isolating man named Augustine and his entire life and death in an arctic wasteland (avoiding the rest of the Earth's catastrophe), and the few returning people within the spacecraft with the PoV focus coming from Sully.

It's a novel of isolation and loneliness. Plain and simple. I assume the end for Augustine was a fever dream revolving around the realization that it's not good to be alone, while Sully's decision stemmed from the same stark, bare hope.

It almost feels like a traditional mainstream novel that has been souped-up a bit to slide into the SF category. There's no breathtaking ideas, just the reliance on Emily Dickenson to carry the core concept of a whole novel. It's decent as far as that goes, but that's all it does. A long character study of self-isolation and realization with two characters who are mildly interesting and wind up in mildly interesting situations, both of which are the results of their decisions.

But me? I wanted to know more of the core mystery. There's never a resolution and that was intentional. I ask why, and alas, this is my issue, my burden, and the reason I didn't care so much for this novel. I could find picture of a lone mountain climber looking over a precipice to get the same emotions and it wouldn't take me a whole novel's length to get there.

Others might get more out of this, and I wish you all the luck in the world!

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Last Machine in the Solar SystemThe Last Machine in the Solar System by Matthew Isaac Sobin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novella hearkens back to the good old days of Asimov or the general Campbellian SF universe where we focus on the nuts and bolts of the universe, or in this case, the solar system, as our robot observer watches our old red sun engulf the planets.

Of course, humanity is long dead. We're talking billions of years and I have doubts about the next ten.

That being said, this novella is very contemplative and enjoyable, adding little fun reflections on creativity and Jonathan's birth as well, but mostly we've got some great jewels like terraforming mars and igniting Jupiter as either long-dead history or possibilities, and this is where the author shows his chops as someone who knows the SF field and is writing a love-letter to it.

The only complaint I have is one that the author already addressed at the end: It needs to be longer and he is writing more. :) I'm quite good with that. Thanks!

This is for anyone who loves the whole concept of our Solar System's death. Or maybe you're just in a mood. :)

Thanks goes to Netgalley for this ARC!

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DhalgrenDhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm sure this has been said before, but this is a very difficult book to review. So much is happening and very little of it has a straight-line plot unless you tackle this in seven sections and treat it as a mystery rite each time in the full awareness that Delaney is messing with us heavily.

In what way, you ask?

Ignore the fact that this reads more like a heavily-invested tome of mythic allusions in the style of the greats of traditional fiction and focus instead on the topics that Delaney holds closest to his heart: Sex and Literary Criticism. :)

Huh?

Well, this is a porn book. No doubt about it. Every other page has Kid getting it on with women, men, women and men, and the variety of perversions never made any single act the same as before. Kid loves his sex. Polyamory? You betcha. This novel is considered to be one of the quintessential classics of the sixties, but don't let that fool you. Delaney doesn't just go for the raunch, he's also bypassing class issues by the magical realism setting and tackling race issues instead. This takes up a lot of the novel and he has a lot to say.

The second big part of this novel, in my opinion, has everything to do with Art and Criticism. Kid is a poet, but beyond that, he lives a magical life like Peter Pan, always looking young and acting young and not giving a crap about anything other than his pleasure for the most part... however, this is tempered by his craft in his poetry and the way he appears to grow up when he sets aside his words.

This is kinda scary, actually, since Delaney himself gave up writing even though he is so well-beloved in the field. He, as Kid, grew up and didn't care when "his poetry was burned", no matter how many people wanted to be outraged and demanded that he produce more. Ignore the long "reasons" for writing and the heavy lit-crit terms that Delaney has his main character use to meta his way through the creation process within this novel. Even Kid says that it'll dissolve in your stomach after you eat it. :)

These are serious themes throughout, but let's not forget that this is SF and Fantasy in the biggest sense of the word. What's fantasy about it? Patchwork society, for one. There's always enough food, there's no law and order, big population pressure is out of the picture, and then there's a few unexplained weirdnesses usual with magical realism, too. The SF if mind-blowingly weird and it, too, is never explained. The sun is expanding and going red? What of the second moon? The unexplained time-effects? The disappearance of the biggest part of the population when they observed the initial event, leaving only those who missed it behind? Pretty fun stuff. We've even got ourselves an astronaut. :)

And then, of course, it's a dystopia, but it's more an anarchic state that lets everyone toss the rules and do whatever they want rather than a focus on violence, which is kinda refreshing on that level for any kind of dystopia, however unrealistic.

But is this novel unrealistic? No. Never in the writing. It's always down-to-earth and full of detail. It's easy to ignore the glaring plot holes or universe-holes or whatever is going on because someone is always getting off or trying to make sense of social issues. No one ever talks about what's happening in the big picture, or if they do, it's always, always incomplete.

I think this novel is meant to be an experience rather than something to parse out. There's no grand design or plot to latch on to. It's all about the journey, and not always about the character journey, either, but rather an exploration of social mores when morals are thrown out the door, discovering what is left.

It's very ambitious. So why don't I give it a 5 star? Because it also annoys me. I appreciate everything he's done in the novel, and yet it feels a bit too alien, a bit too disjointed. I couldn't get over the inconsistencies of the world or of human nature.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

The Collapsing EmpireThe Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A big thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

This novel marks a very strong return to Space Opera for Scalzi and I'll admit that I felt slightly trepidatious about it, after all, these tomes usually require a fairly substantial investment of time and energy, especially when contemplating an extensive book deal for him running to 2027! (Congrats, by the way!)

However, I should just go ahead and trust that my favorite authors, Scalzi included, can pull off these kinds of really ambitious undertakings. He's done it before and he has serious writing chops. Where's your faith, man?

It's here! It's here! Sorry I required proof! It won't happen again! I swear! (Pre-orders the next in this series.)

So what is so special about this new Space Opera? Is it the basic concept behind "the Flow" which bypasses natural physics and allows a river-like network to be maintained between all the human settlements? Is it the social setup that requires each human settlement to maintain and support each of the others?

Partially, but these great ideas, however deeply realized and explored by the author, of course, has their own little conflicts. And when I say little, I mean absolutely huge. Brilliant drill-down. :)

But of course no tale can be complete without great characters, too, and we mainly get in deep with the new leader of the empire, Cardenia, who actually charms my pants off with her constant need to pee and the constantly bribing or bribable Kiva who merchants or fails to merchant her way across the galaxy, and of course there's Ghreni. Trust me. He's quite interesting, too. :)

We get all kinds of cross sections of the populace, and even if I may have felt like some of the sections were kinda slow, all of the characters eventually grew on me and kept me glued to the page until the next great reveal or action or twist. Like I said, Scalzi is a man with serious writing chops. This is a very ambitious beginning of a series and two whole planets, in particular, are now firmly rooted in my consciousness. This is not the End. Or rather, the End is going to be really, really big. (For those in the know, End is a backwater planet that no one really cares about. Reversals!) :)

I'm hooked and seriously looking forward to every new installment. :)

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Chronicle of Heloise & GrimpleThe Chronicle of Heloise & Grimple by Sean Gibson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I was reading this, I was overwhelmed with the realization that this author should get PAID for writing! He's just that good!

So since he didn't actually gift me a copy of this because I'm just not good enough for his special buddies and pals, I actually paid for it! Never mind the actual order of things. It's not important. I wouldn't want to be caught out in a big fat lie like some demilich or anything.

OH MY GOD this book should be made into a movie! I'd so watch the SHIT out of it unlike a certain *few* other Dungeons and Dragons movies that I can't quite seem to forget unlike my last anniversary.

And truly, if THIS GUY ever made his tabletop sessions available to lowly gamers like me, I'd be ALL OVER his chips. I mean, I'd DRINK all his soda. And even though I'd be scared to death by the possibility he'd try to teach me his made up card games as a break in-between story sessions, I'd put up with it just because he's so awesomely funny. :)



Truly, this has got to be one of the best gaming sessions/choose your own adventure book/rpg-spawn novel that I've had the pleasure to read. Most authors just don't get dialogue. Sean does. Hats off to the singing queen Heloise and the trumpster of all ensorcelled hill giants! Such cute, tiny hands. :)

Seriously, I loved all of the easter eggs. I think they and the dialogue nailed the fucking shit out of the novel. :) Kudos! :)

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Fate of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #3)The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe it's just me or maybe the author has just gotten better and better with each installment. I had some slight issues with each one but as they came along, all my questions and concerns got resolved. Was I slightly annoyed at just how strong the young queen became, so quickly?

Maybe. But practically everything else that happened in the tale supported the conceit and all the other characters drew me in, and in the second book all those concerns went away as I was drawn into the visions of the past within the second novel so I just didn't care about anything else. :)

But what about the third book? Did it expand on all this great Fantasy awesomeness? Yes! Did I get even more of the past and the world-hopping and even more present war and great sword action? You betcha I did, and I got the best sequences of the Red Queen in all three of the novels, too! She actually grew on me. It helps that her circumstances had changed so damn much. :)

But then I come to the last great reveal/action. All to this point, I was really rocking to Johansen's writing and I was having a great time, and then we were thrown a WTF moment at the end.

Huh?

Trust me, you'll know it when you see it.

But on reflection, and I had to keep recalling all the events leading up to this last event, I have to admit that while it's strange and I recall much worse examples of this kind of event, Johansen actually pulls it off with aplomb. All the events lead up to it nicely. There are tons of pointers that make this kind of end perfectly natural, and so, in my mind, I got carried along with it.

That's not to say that it wasn't slightly jarring, of course, but after all that page-space away from either kingdom? It makes good solid sense. :)

Final verdict?

Solid except for some really seemingly rocky shoals which actually turned out to only be close calls. :) In the end, I really liked it. :)

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Space TrippingSpace Tripping by Patrick Edwards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodbye dirty old Earth, Hello dirty old Galaxy!

I really enjoyed the opening in this novel. It felt quite humorous and quite a corporate nightmare with aliens in portraits and getting stuck with the short end of the wage-stick no matter where you're from or what you plan on doing. Truckers always get it worse than anyone else, and these poor dudes never get a break.

The rest of the novel quickly turns into a straight adventure with a bit of slight drunkenness as they get thrown into a bit of mystery, a bit of fighting, and a bit of hijinx in the greater galactic dirty old town.

The author grew up in Chicago. Just apply that whole idea into a much stranger "business as usual" galactic environment full of sad chuckles and surprising twists and you've got yourself Space Tripping. This is a pretty accomplished adventure that reminds me an awful lot of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet as well as a hint of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with plenty of our geek culture nods because, after all, one of the main characters was just one of us. Just how would you fare when you get stung with a slightly different version of a babel fish? (Thank god he didn't have to swallow that one!) :)

I think this was just plain fun! Plain folks for the win! :)

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

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Monday, January 9, 2017

A Climbing StockA Climbing Stock by Andrew Hiller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a pleasant surprise! I expected a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk but I didn't expect it to drill down this deep or have quite this much traditional Fantasy adventure including so many dragons and cows and amazingly powerful Corporate Giants getting involved in the whole sordid mess of losing an economic empire.

What?

Yeah! Economic empire and boardroom situations and fire-breathing battles!

Not to mention great wordplay and situational humor. I'll never forget the whole sequence of the Prince and the great artist Buck that depicted the great Kingdom's White House and the portrait of his father George Washington. :)

Seriously. There's a whole lot of Bull in this book. Literally. Or should I say that the golden calf and the religion it has spawned is a true delight? Or how much I love the fact that a Dragon can become a Cow. :)

Don't be a Jack! The corporate world is a real killer!

I was caught on the first page and even though the build-up in the novel was slightly slow for me, the situational humor in the Fantasy and the juxtaposition of the whole corporate world ideas kept me fully invested until the action took off and blew me away. :)

I chuckled quite consistently and the ending was extremely satisfying. :)

Even though I consider the author a friend, I need to reiterate that this is a truly unbiased review.

Thank you for the great read, Andrew!

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Defender (Foreigner, #5)Defender by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Still loving the series! It's like a warm glass of SF milk by a fire on a stormy winter night, so comfortable and steady. I mean, seriously, what's more steady than the slow retrofitting of a space station and the refueling of an interstellar spacecraft while juggling aliens, lies, and family problems back home?

I mean, besides a cool drink of poison?

Is this the beginning of another coup attempt? Poor Bren has been left out of the loop again, but at least he thinks quickly on his toes!

And yes, time has passed, and yet that's all for the good because the Phoenix has been refueled and now we've got to deal with the Captain's lies. Time to go off to uncharted realms? Oh yes, I like where the series is headed. And of course, the Atevi will find a way to be in the center of it. :)

Bren feeling inadequate. Again. (Not that this is such a bad thing. I really like him and it's always a pleasure to see him get richly rewarded for being himself.)

I love this series. It's like a competence-porn soap-opera of diplomatic relations and translation errors in the middle of assassination attempts. What's not to love? :)


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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Seven Surrenders (Terra Ignota, #2)Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to the publisher for the ARC of this novel!

This is one of those situations where extremely high expectation meets flawless delivery, and I can't be happier for it.

Too Like The Lightning was a futuristic political thriller with very heavy under and overtones about the meaning of God and what it means, with great variety and depth of exploration, to a people who are both jaded and very reliant on old Enlightenment ideas and ideals even though they're firmly set in the 25th Century.

By way of great reveals and thriller moments, we're invested in the machinations of seven enormous political entities defined by the ideals they hold since nations' borders are pretty much a dead issue with near-instantaneous travel.

We're introduced to so many great elements in that novel and even more that I'm not even touching upon here, such as gender questions, practical and general philosophy, and especially the whole realm of politics and its basic nature.

However, while all of these issues are also important in the sequel, the one that really strikes me as most important is the whole issue of God and/or Gods.

Things get really hairy when an actual incarnation of a deity in the shape of a growing little boy who is now a young man who really can perform miracles, potentially unlimited miracles, finally has the attention of the rulers of this strange, nearly utopian Earth on the brink of war and total dissolution.

On the other side of the coin and firmly in the political arena is another deity who has been locked away from his ineffableness and who has been seated firmly in the body of a regular human. His is knowledge without power as the other is power without knowledge. This spinning coin is truly hypnotic even as the enormous world-building and the political maneuvers reach a screaming intensity, and let's not lose sight of the truly wonderful characters of Mycroft and Sniper and Carlyle that carry this tale all the way through to a fascinating conclusion.

Not that this is the end of the tale, of course.

Ada Palmer has done something truly brilliant with these tales and the sheer density of ideas and the drives of such a strong underlying tales are more than enough to make me a lifelong fan and rabid reader of much, much more. I suspect that we're far from done with this. I was satisfied with the end of Too Like The Lighting and I was very satisfied with the end of Seven Surrenders, too, which is a very neat trick for any tale so complicated as these. Even so, I was heavily motivated to re-read the first in preparation for this one and I was very happy to do so.

These are extremely re-readable tales with a lot of easter eggs and multiple layers even while the text is quite easy to follow. It's a mark of something quite amazing, I believe. Just the really late realization of what the Masons really meant even though all of it had been staring in my face all along made me grin like an idiot for a good fifteen minutes. I love being surprised and being shown that I'm rather dim-witted. :)

This is a very smart read and well-worth a lot of close attention. I know that both of these novels have rocketed up to my top-favorite tales. :)

Keep a close eye out for these! The quality is quite amazing. :)



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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota, #1)Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Update 1/5/17:
Re-read complete! And one thing I can definitely say without hesitation? : Definitely better the second time around.

It's still mightily dense with ideas and worldbuilding and truly fascinating characters that always manage to surprise, surprise again, tease me to death with hints and portents, and then managing to slam me up against the wall in a very civilized fashion before disemboweling me. It's just that kind of novel.

I'm loving the Marquis De Sade commentary as much this time as before, the extra commentaries on how to rule effectively, right down to the philosophical underpinnings of morals and Apollo's aphorisms, and yet this novel still manages to be both firmly 18th century and 25th century to the hilt. :)

What was slow in the beginning becomes absolutely necessary for the later blowout special effects of Ada Palmer's writing later in the novel. I firmly believe that now. It was just a glimmer before, but now on the second read, I'm a firm believer that this novel is just about perfect as it is.

I'm going to be recommending it for this year's Hugo nominations. It's wilding entertaining and strange and very intelligent, and beyond that, it shakes me nearly to the core.

I will also admit that it isn't an easy novel to read or enjoy superficially. It requires plenty of effort at all times and it's even more rewarding if you get all the classical and rather specialized Enlightenment references, but if you're on the same page, it's well beyond most novels out there. I'm talking about intellectual scope and the sheer depth and breadth of worldbuilding and ideas.

But I would be extremely remiss not to mention that Mycroft has got to be one of the most fascinating characters that I've ever read. And most surprising.

This mild-mannered squib did WHAT???? Oh my lordy... :) And the reasons for it? Oh my god... :)

I'm quickly wanting to ramp this one up to one of my all time favorite novels. Fantastic!

And now that I've got the sequel in my hands, I'm gonna enjoy the living hell out of a crumbling social system. :) Seven Surrenders, indeed. :) Seven-Ten list, anyone? lol And just who are they surrendering to? :)



Update 1/4/17:
This deserves a nice long re-read in preparation for the SEQUEL. :) Of which I just got and will be reviewing soon after. :) :) :)

Original Review:

Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful.

First impressions are very deceiving, with this one, and assumptions can get you into a huge mess of problems, but fortunately for us, this writer has some serious chops, can lead us into a world that never quite changes, from the first page to the last, but instead invites and sometimes pushes us over the edge and CHANGES US.

What is this world, where are we headed? Is this truly a futuristic high-tech utopia that stylizes itself off the Enlightenment period including Voltaire, Sade, and Rousseau? Ha! You'd like to think so as you begin your read.

Is the tale revolving around a handful of seemingly mild mysteries, that while interesting in themselves, seem more like a vehicle for unfolding one of the most gorgeous societal world-building tableaus I've ever had the privilege to read? Ha! ... Again, I was fooled, lulled into complacency even as I was overwhelmed with sheer walls of world-data, only to be saved, regularly, by the sure hand of a truly wonderful and insightful narrator who would steer us through the dense currents and land us safely upon solid ground. Could I have wished for a more perfect or more gentlemanly Victorian Guide in a strange land? Nope!

And then there were the conversations. This novel has a lot to say about gender roles, and it is tackled delightfully, maybe even better than Ancillary Justice for sheer oddity. Social and societal quirks surrounding religion, was a big part of the novel, too, but it was the Conversation that made this novel become something Really Special.

And I really mean the Conversation; the ongoing discussion within whole fields of study and art and literature, or in this case, philosophy and science fiction. Ada Palmer deserves to be right up there with some of the best I've read, having so much to say about the Enlightenment period, made into a deep part of the story, aspects of the world-building, discussions both light and powerful between characters and even within our narrator's mind.

Some of the most awesome aspects of this novel are direct-line continuations of philosophy made into Art.

But do not let that dissuade you from this Oh So Excellent and Fascinating read, for even as I was fooled in the beginning, and as new and otherwise unforgivable glossed facts are slowly revealed to us, we are caught in a web much more complicated, dangerous, harrowing, bloody, and frankly more awe-inducing than I would have guessed in the first 150 pages.

It's a book worth reading several times over if only to pick up on all the clues that I had registered in passing, but not understood until much later.

And I will, because here's the real beauty... it's only part one of a two book cycle that belongs to one another. You know the symptoms. This is a fantastic larger tale that, by requirements out of the author's control, needed to be split unnaturally into two. It's only something truly miraculous and fantastic that the author still managed to make this single book feel complete and satisfying, even as it points to the second half of it's soul.

I feel truly blessed to be reading this. Ada Palmer has just earned herself a lifelong fanboy after a single wonderful read. This is what true Idea SF is all about, and it deserves to be up there with the very best. Remember Anathem? Sit yourself down for some real brilliance and some truly great set-sets.

I'm sure I won't be the only one who thinks the premise of the political setup is one I'd love to have now, even with its mature problems. I think this novel is going to be prompting an absolute TON of discussion among its soon-to-be legion fans. :) If there's any justice in the world, mind you. :)

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The Enormous CrocodileThe Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My four year old loved it! Especially the bits where the croc is going to eat and munch all those sweet juicy children. :) NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM.

I think this is just one of those things natural to all children who already feel like prey with all these nasty adults hanging around. All of them want to eat you in a child's eyes. It's only natural because they see the adults getting eaten by jobs and spouses and the death of their dreams, so why not just imagine getting eaten by crocodiles, too? It's NATURAL!

That being said, this croc plays lots of nasty and cruel tricks in order to fill his belly, but fortunately, he happens to piss off most of the jungle creatures on his way to his playground meal ticket.

Alas! Poor stupid croc! And because this is A dahl tale, it gets really weird. :) Let's alter reality and turn it into an urban fantasy that winds up as a space opera, shall we? Right-On!

I love BBQ.

So does my daughter, it seems!

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Night of the JabberwockNight of the Jabberwock by Fredric Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

When I think of Fredric Brown I think of fantastical SF with quirky characters and wild happenings, so I didn't hesitate any when I saw this one up for grabs in Netgalley. Imagine my surprise when I actually acquired a mystery/thriller instead!

Though, to be honest, I didn't quite realize it at first because I was just reading it solely because I like the author and the way it began, with a heavy-drinking newspaperman who's absolutely in love with Lewis Carroll's better fiction and the theory that Caroll (the real man behind the pseudonym, the mathematician) hadn't written his works so much as he had proved and visited those realms in reality and he was just reporting the facts.

Our favorite drunkard begins his quest to find the Jabberwocky. :)

It starts out like a great adventure tale where the hero is super blitzed and yet tries so hard to succeed in this damnably difficult quest, driving around (mind you, this is 1950,) breaking into places, picking up weird Carroll friends, and generally freaking himself out with all the strange coincidences cropping up all over the place.

I admit that it took me a bit to get into the book, but by the midpoint, I was totally hooked and kinda freaked about the social weirdness of THIS MUCH HARD LIQUOR. :)

The second half of the novel keeps him quite as blitzed as the first, but this time he's embroiled in murders and he's apparently the prime perp. Again, I'm amazed he's survived this long even when he was just roaming the countryside looking for an imaginary beasty, and yet it gets better.

Because Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was, after all, a great mathematician, and was able to do some pretty wild stuff with his wild maths, it turns out that his number-one-fan is able to intuitively grasp the weird-ass plot against him and solve the case. (Also while drunk.) :)

What can I say? I'm pretty stoked. This novel snuck up on me and I lost my head snickity-snack. :) Vorpal blade! :)



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Glossary for my writing

By popular demand here's the glossary for you current readers!

Glossary
Ábhar-cliste – Smart matter. Self-replicating nanotechnology that exploded across the Earth during the First Cryptocollapse. Wide-spectrum Electromagnetic computers good at data storage, data manipulation and observation. They’re everywhere from the deep underground to the upper stratosphere. They collect eV from the transmitted eV from space and secondarily from heat and kinetic energies.
Ábhar-mear – Quick matter. Self-replicating nanotechnology that exploded across the Earth during the First Cryptocollapse. Programmable matter relying on Electromagnetic bonding and dependent on eV to maintain.
Alal - “destroyer”
Am-Tapa - Fast time. It allows a user to speed up their perceptions. Useless without an external observational network or the Noosphere. It is a secondary effect of the Ruach-Ketarim.
Āyatana - A wide mind-perception alteration that allows a user to link to very large portions of ábhar-cliste. It can be referred to as a sphere of perceptuality that smoothly alters the user’s perceptions from a single viewpoint to massively distributed viewpoints.
Baltu – the name of the People (live, splendor) Baltutu (living ones)
Etemmu - “outsider, the bringer of mortality”
E'zalag – “shining house”
EV - The plank-scale notation for energy.
Kadingir - “gateway of the gods”
Leighis – Medical nanotechnology closely tied to the Ruach-Ketarim. It mainly enhances the body’s natural healing abilities, but it can also help the user adapt to outside stressors and call on ábhar-mear to triage all kinds of damage.
Maskim xul - “evil fiend, ambusher, lier in wait”
Melim, Melammu – “awe inspiring luminosity, frightening splendor”
Noosphere - Worldwide information repository that is housed within a virtual network that anyone can access. The information and the processors are physically located within the ábhar-cliste.
Ruach-Ketarim - Heavily reprogrammed ábhar-cliste tied to the user’s EM field and specifically the user’s brain. Allows direct linking to the Noosphere, fabricated and real virtual representations and augmented time-perceptions.
Shi'Lathe – A specialized processor of higher-dimensional maths tied to perception and will. Primarily used to create Snoet by altering the starting conditions of our universe upon a very tiny and localized scale. After the initial cost of eV, it taps into deeper dimensional forces with creative universal bookkeeping.
Snoet – Carbon molecules that are altered fundamentally within extremely localized extra-dimensional effects maintained by a Shi’Lathe. A single molecule is “stretched” to variable dimensions and can be “fixed” in normal space, retaining the fundamental strength of its natural Strong Force even when turned into a macro-shape.
Vacares – Perfect-vacuum Snoet spheres. Uses atmospheric pressure to pull attached vehicles or cargo into the sky. Sometimes referred to as bubbles.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Miranda and CalibanMiranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

There's a lot going for this tale as long as you're a certain type of reader. You must love Shakespeare's Tempest, but even if you don't, you might still get a kick out of this retelling from the points of view of Miranda and Caliban switching back and forth from early childhood through the events of the play.

I would definitely recommend this for general fans of YA fiction, for one, because most of the novel if not the action revolves around childhood friends and the stresses of growing up under one hell of an absolute tyrant who never lets his wards even guess that he controls every aspect of their lives. Oh, Prospero.

It's fine for what it is, but if you're aware of the play, you know that this budding tale of thwarted romance between the dark boy and the rightful Duke of Milan's daughter, you also know that it is a tragedy.

The play is only a romance if you identify with certain characters.

This novel invites us to love Caliban, and his is definitely not a happy tale.

We're grown-up readers, right? We can handle a bit of disappointment at the end of a book, right? This isn't an Alternate retelling of the play. This is a straight-up retelling of the play with many added dimensions and depth, but the results are still the same.

For me? I appreciate what the book was trying to accomplish and I got a lot of out it on that level, but by the time I was invested in the tale, I was just cringing because of what I knew was going to happen.

I'm hedging on this one. I can appreciate the writing and the premise as far as that goes, but my own enjoyment was curtailed by the rest.

However, since this was the first book by the author that I've read and I've heard a lot of good things about her other works, it behooves me to pick them up and see if it was just the subject matter that was painful and not the writing. :)



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Monday, January 2, 2017

The Complete Robot (Robot #0.3)The Complete Robot by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This happens to be a re-read because I happened to have forgotten that I read the complete short stories of Asimov when I was much younger. :) That being said, I enjoyed them the second time around too.

The three laws of robotics were obviously in play but what sticks most in my mind is the light professional tone of Asimov throughout every single story. They weren't uncomplicated, but they were definitely studies of stark spotlight stories that always had definite points to be made.

They might not be extremely good points, such as turning a robot into something that has "feminine intuition" but turning her into a Greek Oracle was funny. And then little charmers like murderous buses are always a grand treat. :)

The dryer closed-room mysteries involving robots, including the one that set out to prove a local politician as a robot, are all lightly amusing and clever, but by today's standards, they're rather short on depth. That's fine. These are classics of the 30's after all.

There is still an element of universality at least!

Some things I don't like: the underlying arguments that robots should be slaves. I know that we can make a very good argument that Asimov has plenty of stories trying to free robots, such as Centennial Man and of course the end of his Robot novels with Olivaw, but for the most part, no one questions it, and no one cares.

It's a case of too little notice, in my opinion, but at least some of it is there.

And then there are the cultural assumptions, despite the author's naysaying it, that women are inferior... which grates on me. But it's far and away the lightest and least noticeable out of Classic SF in general. I can think of 75% other classic novels that are much worse, and they're not even SF. :)

All told, though, these were very enjoyable. :)


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The Turn (The Hollows #0.1)The Turn by Kim Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks goes to Netgalley for this ARC!

And maybe that should be double because I fell out of my chair when I discovered that I was approved. So here comes the total honestly: I'm a total fanboy of the series. I always have been. So when the series ended and I had nothing new to look forward to in this universe, I felt so sad. So sad.

But now? So happy!

We're in the sixties now. Yup, too early for most of our favorite characters to show up, but here's a little surprise for you: soooooo many of the supporting cast happens to be worked right into the tale. I didn't even have a single qualm about any of them showing up. Not even Rachael's teenager dad. :)

This is a backstory novel in the very best sense of the word. We get all of the downfall of humanity and the rise of the tomato-immune peoples, the elvish and vampire involvement in the tragedy, but more importantly, we get to learn all about another certain MC's parents. I can't say it's a particularly happy tale despite the ongoing need to put a brave and optimistic face on things from Trisk's PoV, but she's having to fight many battles on many fronts and my heart goes out to her. Mysogyny rears its nasty 60's head.

And then, of course, is the supernaturals deciding to come out of the closet and we get that story as well.

But there's one main character from all of the Hollows series that gets a nice big chunk of a role in this one that I just had to squeeeeee about.

And I refuse to reveal his/her/its name here.

But I loved it. I really really really loved it. :)

The whole novel was a perfect companion to the rest of the series and there's a lot to connect with even though most of the characters are either seen in new light or are fleshed out a ton. I geeked-out about it all. This goes well beyond nostalgia. It's a real Hollows novel. :)



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Sunday, January 1, 2017


The Policewoman by Justin W.M. Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a straight-up police thriller, but don't let that explain it for you. Sarah is Indonesian, has worked for (and we get to see her perform within) Interpol, British special forces and a few others.

Not only that, but Sarah's a badass.

The charm in this book is not in the kinds of overt storytelling directions, either, even though so many thrillers share these same kinds of directions: proving oneself, complicated love interest, tragedy, proving oneself.

The real charm here is in the details. The author says that he changed official police procedures within the text to protect real police. And yet, despite that, I still got the amazing feel that I was absolutely a part of an elite police team every step of the way through the novel.

Sarah's confident of her sexuality. If it wasn't for the strength of the extremely strong police action, the characterizations, the dialogue, I might mistake this for a male-oriented dream-fiction where a policewoman who worked undercover as a model (yes. a model.) and yet succeeds despite her gorgeous bod. You've read or seen this repeatedly on tv, I'm sure. And yet, the trope is here and strong as ever, BUT the author manages to make it work. Maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine.

Either way, the novel is pretty damn awesome as a police drama. Lots of action, good surprises (in that it keeps us on our toes), and great pacing. I think it's rather refreshing the way things always move along and we see so much of Sarah's life and career. It feels like years pass even though it's only six months. There's a lot of action.

I totally recommend it for anyone with a passion for elite police. :)



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2016 on Goodreads2016 on Goodreads by Various
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

2016 has been a difficult year in general. I think everyone can agree.

However, it appears that it has also been a relatively active year, too, at least when it comes to my reading.

Even I have to boggle at the amount of books I've read. What is it? 623? Sheesh. Granted, a great deal of those are volumes of comics and manga, but certainly not enough to average only 2000 pages a month versus my 13,000 to 16,000 pages that came from regular books, per month.

Enough about that. :) This was an anomoly. I pushed myself to see what I could do for how long I could do it. I did it. Now I'll probably cut my reading time down by a quarter. Maybe even a half! :)

Alas, with so many books, I stressed for a few minutes trying to think of a way to break it down and tell ya'll which ones were best, perhaps by genre or other types of personal organizational technique, but in the end I made it easy on myself.

I'm going by which titles remain super strong in my memory even after being flooded with sooooo many other stories afterwards. Staying power, in other words.

The top one is Ninefox Gambit, and following close behind that happens to be The Broken Earth books: The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, one of which was a re-read.

I was blown away by Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others and Wonder Boys. I was challenged and thrilled and ultimately bowled over by Death's End.

I re-read some old favorites that remain favorites: Anathem and The Foundation Trilogy.

Some hit me from out of nowhere and still shock me: Too Like the Lightning, The Broken Sword.

No list would be complete without giving a huge nod to the writers who made fantastic tales (who also seem to have hit it really big) that I also happen to love: the Pierce Brown trilogy (Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star and V. E. Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows).

And then there's the pure literary delight I got out of Cat Valente's Fairyland series. I can't recommend these YA's enough. :) Nor can I get over re-reading Gaiman's Sandman (Including Oveture which ROCKED). Or finally getting into Michael Moorcock's Elric!

There's a ton of really great books out there, but in the end I only made a very tiny dent in them even so. Even in this list.

I'm leaving out the studied and impressive tomes that I appreciated heavily and the delightful and strange tales that come very very close to making it here but were crowded out just by the sheer magnitude of how much I loved the ones I listed. Alas. I remember them and some of them extremely well, but in the end, the cream always rises and gives me that giddy feeling that I just can't ignore. :)

Great reading, everyone!

2016 may have sucked, but books always makes things better.

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