Monday, December 31, 2018

A Darkness At Sethanon (The Riftwar Saga, #4)A Darkness At Sethanon by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm so glad I squeezed it in for the end of the year. :) Reading A Darkness at Sethanon again after so many years and having loved the series BOTH times, I feel kind of sad having finished it. I could keep going forever.

Fortunately, I might be able to. Feist has kept writing since I finished these the first time. :) :)

We see a lot more of the dragons, Pug, and Thomas in this one. But let's not forget about Jimmy the Hand! Martin Longbow! Getting to know past enemies and butting heads with new is just as good now as then!

I think I forgot about all the twisty timey-wimey multiversal adventures! Riding a dragon, going to the halls of the dead, defeating the eater of worlds... but above all, it's seeing all the changes in ALL the characters. So much happens, so much intrigue, so much mind-blowing BIGNESS. It's something I'm used to in SF but generally, don't see all that much of in Fantasy... but it's perfectly suited to it. :)

All told, I'm very, very happy to be getting back into Feist. Now I can catch up with ALL the books I've been missing. *rubs hands together hungrily*

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2018 on Goodreads2018 on Goodreads by Various
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Year-end review! Best of the best, or if I'm to be entirely honest, the CLASSES of the best of the best. Too many of these "oh my god this if f***ing GREAT" books happened to fall into series. And since I read or re-read a ton of my favorite series this last year, it makes no sense to point at individual novels in the group unless I wanted to give ya'll a list longer than your arm.

So, Series Reads:
Charles Stross's Laundry Files (all) starting with The Atrocity Archives
Terry Pratchett's Discworld (all) starting with The Color of Magic
Neal Asher's Transformation series starting with Dark Intelligence
Sebastien de Castell's Greatcoats (all) starting with Traitor's Blade
James Islington's Licanius starting with The Shadow of What Was Lost
Nicholas Eames's The Band starting with Kings of the Wyld
Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs (all) starting with Altered Carbon

Long list, I know, but I did read 565 books this year.

On to the best individual books of the year for me! I'm categorizing a few out of place but in every case, I'm judging them based on how I feel LONG after I've read them. If I still love it months and months after the initial bloom has worn off, they get thrown into this pile. :)

Individuals (with a few sequels worthy of mention):
The Monster Baru Cormorant
Vengeful
Foundryside
The Gone World
The Years of Rice and Salt
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
To Say Nothing of the Dog
Little, Big

Best Classics:
Catch-22
The Trial
The Three Musketeers
The Count of Monte Cristo
Metamorphoses


Totally Freaking Creative and Delightful:
The Body Library
Space Opera
Food of the Gods
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Vol. 1
Uzumaki: Spiral into Horror, Vol. 1
The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming: Book One: Theory
The Eight Apostates

Best Totally Hardcore Concept Novel:
The Measurements of Decay

And last, but not least, the Totally Infamous List:
Saga, Vol. 9
Vol 8 and ESPECIALLY Vol 9

It broke my heart into millions of pieces.


There might be a ton of honorable mentions and past favorites and Stephen King to mention... but I'm not doing that here. :)

This is just my current, still present in my heart, favorites for the year.

Happy New Year!

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Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Gallows Gem of PrallynThe Gallows Gem of Prallyn by Ian H. McKinley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The worldbuilding and depth of the characters in this novel gives me the epic sprawl I'm used to in the very best epic fantasies. Lots of unique characters broken well outside of the cages of cliche, with each on an arc of growth, discovery, and quickly into a tapestry of huge change across the world being built.

The city is full of corrupt clergy, and rather than being a light romp, the author gives every character a beating heart and a chance to say their peace. We're treated to a big sweep of change, cast along the turbulent waters of revolution, freedom, and a lot of attention to detail.

I'm quite impressed with the tight prose and energy. Nothing happens overnight and the build-up is rather explosive.

In the acknowledgments, I'm actually rather impressed. It might have begun out of a gaming session, but almost nothing about it resembles an actual gaming session. It's a lot more like a careful sprawling epic fantasy a-la Jordan or Erikson rather than Weis and Hickman.

I can very much vouch for some great quality fantasy here. No blowout magics. Rather, a choice and subtle magic that lies in the dreams, the mind, and deep inside the city. :) No spoilers, but I dug it. :)


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MatildaMatilda by Roald Dahl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading with the kid.

Oh, Matilda is the penultimate Mary Sue, but you know what?

I don't care.

She's SO over-the-top brilliant, reading grown-up books after teaching herself to read by five-years-old, playing wonderful pranks to even the score at the injustice of the world and even getting superpowers when it becomes TOO MUCH to bear.

A wish-fulfillment novel? Absolutely! She even gets a much better family and solves all the problems and everything is LOVE AND LIGHT.

Unbelievable? Who cares! It's sweet and Miss Trunchbull was NASTY HORRIBLE and WICKED and deserves EVERYTHING she got!

Plus, I got a little girl to say, "That was AWESOME, daddy!"

Fair enough. Fair enough.

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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Harbinger (Northern Fire #1)Harbinger by Ian H. McKinley


Welcome to the North, where the cold kills as often than the raiders.

This fantasy is not one of the traditional sorts, instead relying on depth of character, subtlety not limited to original poetry, and magical realism that brings home a very Nordic feel without going the Skyrim route.

Indeed, it's the depth of the characters, the complex storytelling, the tragedy, pathos, and the realistic bloodshed that drew me in. No massive magics but plenty of mysticism. More adventure rather than a reliance on the "four children of destiny" setup.

I had a great time reading this. The text picks up and flies with all kinds of naturalistic twists after a head-first plunge into an almost traditional Epic Poem listing of the names of gods and people in the first parts of the novel.

I'll be honest, it almost knocked me senseless. Fortunately, it lets up and tells the story soon enough and, after the fact, I like the way it DID freak me out. At the time, however, I was almost overwhelmed with the strange names and the richness of the world-building information. No worries, though. :)

I'm going to head on over to the next novel in the Northern Fire right away. :)

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Silverthorn (The Riftwar Saga, #3)Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So much fantasy goodness packed in this one. Even if the first two were complete in themselves, they still serve as perfect vessels to bring about a somewhat standalone adventure full of nearly all the characters we've grown to love. Even Pug has a role, but mostly we get to follow and love Jimmy the Hand and Arutha.

This is not a simple "find the freaking herb to save his love" quest no matter how simple the blurb makes it seem. Indeed, there's a lot of intrigues, big bads only hinted at in the first two novels, and evil much bigger than two worlds could handle even if they could band together.

No spoilers, but even this "nearly" standalone adventure has all the makings of epic greatness of a slightly different flavor from before despite the familiar characters. :) Indeed, it's the characters and the complicated plotting that makes this great.

So much set up for the next one! Completely necessary, of course. I remember Darkness VERY fondly from way back when. :)

Okay, so, I may not have loved this one nearly as much as the first two, but my complaints are few and far between. :) I can't see how it could improve other than combining books together into much larger tales for continuity. :)

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Friday, December 28, 2018

Westworld Psychology: Violent DelightsWestworld Psychology: Violent Delights by Travis Langley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For what this is, it's quite good, but that begs the question. What IS it?

It's primarily a method to give real examples of modern psychology in a truly eclectic fashion especially for the fans of Westworld. Each of these essays, complete with examples, aside-blurbs in textbook-fashion, variously dive deep into ways of thinking, be it cognitive behavioral therapy to existentialism to PTSD and lots else, besides.

It comes with plenty of examples from the first two seasons of the show.

Who is this for?

It's for people who want to learn more about psychology and would love to see Westworld broken down to quite a few (but not all) psychological components. Of course, most of it focuses on coping mechanisms and issues like consciousness, uncanny valleys, and a nice heavy focus on how to be well adjusted rather than spelling out what's wrong with us (or the hosts). :)

What kind of surprised me was the rather huge reference bibliography at the end. :) In this respect, it's a rather more scholarly work than a popular one but a number of the essays still fit the popular bill nicely. Do I recommend?

Well, yeah, I for one rather enjoyed it because I have a psychology background so it served as a nice refresher. And since I'm a huge Westworld fan, they both dovetailed nicely. I makes me hunger for a nice Westworld PHILOSOPHY book, next.

Some of the essays might have been slightly dry but I didn't mind so much. I'm rather a geek.

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Thursday, December 27, 2018

Magician: Master (The Riftwar Saga #2)Magician: Master by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm SO happy to realize that my original love of these books in my youth remains as bright in my middle age. :)

As a matter of fact, now that I've had a lot of time to read and process a very large assortment of fantasy novels both epic and derivative and sometimes both, I can confidently say that this may very well be as good as the WoT series that I have been known to put so much store by.

Impressive, no?

So Much Happens. Pug gets kidnapped in the previous book and sent to an alternate world across a rift in space and time, spends years as a slave, gets discovered by the powerful mages there as one of their own, gets trained and indoctrinated. What a change from his past life! But while this is all fondly remembered from before, what becomes a real treat for me is life back at home.

Harrowing sailing, intrigue and politics in cities, and 9 years of a long, long war with the peoples across the rift. Unforgettable characters, immense battle, tactics, strategy, and mindblowing magic at all the very best instances. :)

Fondly remembered? Oh yeah. But now it's firmly enshrined. :) I cannot WAIT to dig into all the rest. :)

I sincerely hope to call this one of my absolute favorite fantasy series. We shall see! :)

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Magician: Apprentice (The Riftwar Saga, #1)Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read.

I devoured this book and the next four back in the late eighties and SERIOUSLY desired more... and yet, I never did get around to picking up all the subsequent books... until now.

Of course, I needed to re-read an old love and see if it stands up to the test of time, and you know what I found?

Fantastical fantasy goodness! I love it! And you know what's better? The author did a bang-up job of re-editing this "author-preferred" text. An extra 50k words, side plots, characters, and more rounding of the world. The old story was not touched, just enhanced. What can I say?

I like this novel better this time. :)

Great elements remain, and now through my YA-jaded eyes, what could have been a cringe-worthy love triangle was nothing of the sort. Becoming an apprentice, solidifying life-long friendships, going on an adventure full of pathos and seeming tragedy ends with lots of valor, gorgeous descriptions, and a vast, sweeping war.

Alien invaders in the literal sense, if not in an SF sense. Alternate world, rifts, magics, slavery, and SO MUCH VALOR! :)

I'm SO glad I'm revisiting this. I fully plan to read all the way through this next year. :) Yay! What a treat!

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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Hogfather (Discworld, #20; Death, #4)Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read on Xmas!

And it couldn't have better timing. Who else would like to see Death taking on the role of Discworld's Santa?

Or better yet, have Susan get involved. :)

Or have a hit put out on the Hogfather while Death flies with the pigs?

OR HAVE TO DEAL WITH RIDCULLY's BATH? *shudder*

Well, here's to ants in the AI! I've just upped my score on this one to a full five. For some reason, this Pratchett tickled me in all the best places. :)

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Counter-Clock WorldCounter-Clock World by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Meh, I'm rounding down because even tho Bishop Pike is a big deal in this one as he was in the Transmigration of Timothy Archer (through a mirror darkly), the basic premise behind THIS book is pretty strong and should have been explored more fully.

I mean, look, PKD had a great thing going here now that newly dead peeps are coming back alive in their graves and clawing their way out, living full lives before they find a womb to crawl back into. This is a THING now. Long dead peeps are coming back, too, and now that time has done a little flip-flop in individuals, everyone still remembers when it worked the way we know now. :)

We've got some intrigue and rights issues going on here and a huge religious undertone that's focused more on the aftermath of religious movements rather than the content, and while that might have made a pretty good novel if not a particularly strong one, I found myself wishing that the main storyline had the limelight. Alas.

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Monday, December 24, 2018

A Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ah, revisiting the past by revisiting the past. :)

Just in time for Xmas, I've successfully read this story to my daughter on Xmas eve. Is six too young for the original? Not at all. She cried when Tiny Tim died, freaked out when Scrooge got to see his gravestone.

Ahhh, what says Xmas more than a bunch of time-and-space traveling ghosts kicking your butt and telling you to stop being such a dick!?

NOTHING.

Merry Christmas one and all, and to all, a good night!

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Beartown (Beartown, #1)Beartown by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If this review sounds like it was written by some octogenarian who sounds like he was forced to watch the latest Marvel movie and discovered that he liked it, THERE'S A REASON. ;)


My caveat: I am not a huge hockey fan. In fact, when it comes to most books or tv shows or movies related to any kind of sporty topic, I'm already rounding down or trying to find any kind of excuse to run away from it.

Why? I grew up with this s**te. I generally hated the hometown band-together-for-the-team mentality and privately called them all tribal yokels and worse. Let's have an institutionalized us-versus-them mentality, shall we? We can step up our witch hunts and hand out blinders to everyone equally.

Sigh.

So I read this book about a little hard-nosed hockey town because I was forced to. Truth. Someone held my head in position and kept poking me with a burning branch until I finished enough that I would have to do the rest on my own thanks to my OCD that comes with books. HAVE TO FINISH!

So yeah, I did, and you know what? I enjoyed myself.

The wide range of characters with all kinds of flaws butted heads against reality in all the worst ways. Good men and women did bad things and bad men and women did good things. There might have been some feels in here for me.

But more than anything, this is the kind of book that gives fans and non-fans and everyone who might have the slightest bit ambivalence about the crap that goes on in these kinds of insular communities a good long pause. You can say that shit happens, that rapes happen, that star players can and should get off free and clear.

Or, you can be on the shotgun's side.

I might be on the shotgun's side.

So, yeah, beautifully written, sprawling, a panoramic hoard of vivid characters, and a town torn apart. What's not to love? Issues of rape versus the "greater good" smothers these pages and *should* hit everyone in the gut. So yeah, this isn't just a hockey novel. I'll give it that.

:)

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Butterfly KidThe Butterfly Kid by Chester Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Merry lobstery Christmas! Come take a Reality Pill and make all your trippiest dreams come true!

Or rather, sidle up to your best buds, take as much LSD or tokes that you like, and welcome the alien invasion, man. Don't forget to jam and rap! This is gonna be one wildly imaginative ride. :)

Welcome to the hippiest days of NYC when walking hallucinations roam the streets or transform them, where milling crowds take the drugs that let their imaginations change reality, where six-foot pacifist lobsters in Jesus Robes enlist a devoted hippie pacifist to fight their wars for them.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

Honestly, I've read a good number of mind-blowingly imaginative books that revel in the strange and the wonderful and just don't care whether or not you're on any mind-altering substances. Hell, I've written a few books like that, myself. But after all this time and a rather huge bibliography to draw from, I can honestly rank this one up there with the very best. :)

Context is important. This came out at the height or the very end of the beginning of the LSD heyday in 1967. Chester Anderson more than capitalizes on the movement... he puts himself right in the tale. As a character. With reality slipping all the time.

This is a real trip and a half to read and imagine. I bet he had a fantastic time writing it. :) It takes courage, strength, and fortitude to let quite this much of yourself hang out for the world to see.

Of course, I really should mention that it would work just as well to read this in today's age for one good reason. Comics and superheroes play a huge part. Context-wise, back then, it was usual for kids and a very select number of the counterculture to still love Marvel. Not like today where the love has gone totally mainstream.

So, for the day, it's not exactly normal to read about dropping acid and going totally green-lantern in the middle of NYC. I'm a huge PKD fan, but even he never pulled something quite this extroverted. :)

Merry trippy Christmas! :)



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Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid TestThe Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To me, nothing says Christmas better than trippy colors mixed with love, peace, and harmony.

Turn on the lights and turn yourself on, find the bus and/or Santa's sleigh, and it's truly the season to be jolly!

... and freak out the squares, man.

Break the mold in our lives, put on the day-glow, THINK DIFFERENTLY, and DEFY EVERYTHING! It's CHRISTMAS-ish. :) Let's check out those elvish helpers...

The Merry Pranksters!

Ken Kesey (un)led this band of social explorers took so many mind-altering trips that they spawned a whole movement in the mid-sixties... so much so that the whole thing became passe and overdone well before '69, and even burned out a number of mental cosmonauts before LSD became illegal a few years before.

This particular book is a Non-Fiction in the best tradition of great storytelling. Or is it the reverse?

Doesn't matter. It's all real. It happened. A Kerouac-Adventure diving deep in the psyche as well as busting social-norms, these Merry Pranksters hung out with Hell's Angels, disturbed a disturbed America, and gave access to unimaginable quantities of hallucinogenics to the world. The impact on music, fame, spirituality is undisputed. This was the total awakening of the imagination, for good or ill, that made people hope for a brighter future.

Hope and all these people working together to build something bigger than any of us IS the point. Never mind that it didn't quite turn out the way they hoped. The pendulum sure swang back HARD on them.

Even so, this history is pretty freaking amazing. All the good, the bad, the ignorance and the hope... it just smells like Christmas to me!

Merry Christmas! The bus is here!



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Friday, December 21, 2018

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, WitchGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Re-read 12/21/18:

Winter Solstice! Well, certain reads and re-reads lend themselves well to anniversaries and horsemen. :) And YES I was forced to re-read this because I was told I must be crazy to only give this a three-star rating and LOOK! It's about the be on the tele! So I agreed to give it another shot.

I'm adding a half star.

Why only that? Because all the things I love most about Pratchett, in general, is done better in his Discworld books. Because Gaiman's iconoclastic use of mythology and dark humor was always a bit more detailed and deep in his own works. Together, Pratchett's humor feels like a bunch of talking heads cracking witticisms and Gaiman's depth gets lost in peddling bikes.

That is NOT to say that I didn't find vast swaths of this book awesome, because I did. The horsemen, the celestial buddies, and even Anamathia and Adam were quite delightful at times. Unfortunately, there is still something about this book that bounced off me. You'd think that reading it 5 years apart might have loosened something in me. That reading all of Pratchett's works a second time and some of Gaiman's two times as well might have softened my heart to this more... but no. I'm simply not much of a fan of pastoral fantasies.

It's a good thing this is a great book for almost everyone else, however! :) :) I'm pretty sure I'm going to love the television version, regardless. :)



Original Review:

It was funny enough for a novel about 11-year-old antichrists and barroom jokes about a devil and an angel. On the other hand, I must be a bit severe and say that I loved practically everything else by both of these authors a lot more than this single novel with them together. The characters weren't bad, they were just elaborate set-ups for the humorous device. On the other hand, I did really like Anathema Device. I'm not disappointed in reading it, I simply won't recommend it due to the very outdated humor. (Think about answering machine or cassette jokes, and you've got it.)

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Kitty Steals the Show (Kitty Norville, #10)Kitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Solid ramp-up for the series, Kitty goes to London, starts a war, and does what she does best.

Talk. :)

The full direction of the series picks up to a decent clip here. I can see the final showdown against Roman the Vampire shaping up. We all need allies to make a REALLY huge death count.

This is generally a pretty good UF that keeps within the lines and plays with social issues and problems in a positive way. Not bad, but still kinda fluffy even when it calls the clarions of war.

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Hierophant's Daughter (The Disgraced Martyr Trilogy, #1)The Hierophant's Daughter by M.F. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Word to the wise:

This novel has a ton of great worldbuilding... as in, the grand majority of your reading pleasure may very well be in the worldbuilding going on here. My recommendation? Skip to the appendix first, give it a brief, probably delighted, gander. Then, read the timeline. Do not skip the timeline. This will give you all the proper context to go into the novel proper. :)

But wait, Bradley, is that REALLY necessary? I mean, even Peter F Hamilton can be read without that long, long, detailed timeline at the beginning of his novels.

Yes, certainly, you can, but I would caution you to be patient because the full import of all the things that happen in this Future History skipping forward 2000 years is full of scientifically created vampires in a full cyberpunk world having undergone civil wars, vastly altered political landscapes, and herds of human meat ready for the dining pleasure of the "Martyrs".

Is this vast tapestry of bloodsuckers well thought out? Hell yeah. Right down to the ongoing mystery of where the Hierophant came from, the cult that sprang up around him, the general social and socioeconomic landscape, scientific progress, and so much more.

But what about the story?

Pretty damn fun. It has a good number of twists but the core is an immortal daughter's rebellion. :)

This is NOT your standard horror or SF epic. Or UF, for that matter. This is a fully realized future history with a fully explained SF core for every horror element here. Nicely done, I might add.

This is not a light read, overall, but it isn't particularly difficult, either. It is, however, worth investing a lot of effort. Well done.

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Golden StateGolden State by Ben H. Winters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm always a BIG fan of science fiction that girds its loins in the heaviest armor and strides boldly into the darkest, most complicated territories. The more ambitious the novel, the more props I am absolutely forced to give it. :) Of course, it has to also blow me away, but the core courage and not just good writing has to shine through for me to WOOOOOOOO!!!! ;)

It's easy enough to say this is a panopticon where every last bit of our modern lives in this future Utopian California resembles 1984, but it's closer to say it's a slightly different take on The City & the City. Where the other novel is focused on keeping a lie going that separates two overlapping worlds, Winter's police drama is focused on the deeply ironic law that places Truth on the highest pedestal. It's ironic because while all falsehoods are immediately found out and punished thanks to the uber-surveillance State, the Golden State's history is shrouded in mystery. And fiction is utterly subversive despite the deeper truths within it.

White lies carry heavy sentences. Acting is an unheard-of crime.

We follow an old cop whose job is to ferret out lies and watch as his world unravels before him. The mysteries are well-thought out and a perfect foil for the premise. I totally enjoyed the traditional mystery aspects as much as the hardcore social SF.

So is this just another Big Idea dystopian in utopian colors? It might seem that way, but Winters pulls off one hell of a great and *important* read without treading on any other novel's toes. :) No re-hash.

This is about taking on TRUTH head-on. :) Well worth the read!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Beyond ApolloBeyond Apollo by Barry N. Malzberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This here is a very unusual novel.

Most of the time I read it, I was equally disgusted and remorseful for the kinds of pathetic sexualizations that came out of the early 70's. Being a New Wave SF novel, thoroughly in league with the heyday's literary works of "genius" in that the complicated concerns of mainstream knocked heads with a heavily SFnal landscape, I shouldn't have guessed otherwise. Sexuality was always made so large that they became frankly absurd. And the best novels turned this on its head and gave us Pure Absurdity.

I think Beyond Apollo, which might rightfully be renamed Beyond Venus, is one of those novels.

The fixation on sex is fully intentional every step of the way. It's rife with a lack of self-awareness and hyperawareness, impotence and hyperpotence, guilt and anger with his wife and wanting relations with his male captain, and possibly murder. Multiple murders. In all kinds of ways.

On the surface, it's just a failed expedition to Venus in a two-man capsule and trying to come to terms with being the only survivor.

Things get REALLY weird like an LSD trip when the MC tells us he will write the story as a novel, starts mixing his identities, gets super fixated on sex, aliens living on Venus, his multiple failures and rationalizations, his horrible marriage, and even the possibility that all of outer space is just a story we just made up. That timelines are like revisions in the story. That the universe is nothing more than a meta-fiction. That time travel, the re-ordering of the Solar-System, and a sense that everything is as malleable as virtual reality is a major question... or that, indeed, the narrator is BUGSHIT INSANE.

Actually... the whole novel is kinda brilliant. If not always consistently great, it is nonetheless brilliant. I'm willing to hate it a little while appreciating just how it always keeps us teetering on the edge of full collapse. :) Is this a novel about a man who goes into total mental fugue after a bad breakup with his wife? Or could he have been significantly f***ed with by the Venusians?

Who knows? :) Either way, it's pretty damn great. I love to hate it a little, too. :) Or a lot. But damn... PROPS.

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Thunderbird (Miriam Black, #4)Thunderbird by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Miriam seems to be growing up. A little.

I mean, what else can a girl do but survive all these years of being able to see everyone's death in graphic detail by just her little touch? Take up jogging? Quit smoking? Stop cursing all those wonderfully imaginative curses at everyone and everything and despair at just how f***ed up her life is or how EVERYONE gets hurt when they're near her?

Ah, well, no. But baby steps. Baby steps.

She's trying. And taking to the road with her girlfriend who inexplicably wants to stay by her side and taking a wizard along with them... Or I should say, they're riding the wizard... it all becomes a fateful quest to remove the curse from her by whatever messed up means or idea that comes into her head.

Of course, everything goes horribly, horribly wrong. This isn't so much a UF as it is a hardcore trainwreck of a life slamming into other trainwrecks, fighting fate, others with abilities, and Miriam Black herself.

The writing is key. And Wendig shows us all about the seediest underbellies.

Very good book. Maybe not as hard-hitting as the previous, but that's what she gets when she discovers she has friends. It's not a bad trade.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Lies Sleeping (Peter Grant, #7)Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Coming back to Peter Grant is always a super-huge breath of fresh air. Every time I pick up one of these books, I know I'm going to be blown away by hugely interesting details, a very tongue-in-cheek Deputy-Constable's wry humor, and a richly imagined and described London.

Oh, yeah, and Peter's a wizard. Working as a cop.

Always under the bureaucratic nightmare, wishing things hadn't gone so bad with his previous partner, having sexytimes with a river... it's all GOOD. Even the takeout and stakeouts.

Aaronovitch's writing is always a freaking delight. This is one of those cases where I say, "Ignore the overt UF overtones and feel the magic in the telling." It's full of music, geeky humor, Latin, and enough British pluck to make you run to your mommy holding a teaspoon.

Saying much more other than this is, by far and away, a police procedural with lots of great plot points and discoveries, might just give away the jig. Suffice to say, it's quality is just as good, and delightful, as the previous ones. :)

What an end! WTF is going to happen next?

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The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the DarkThe Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever read one of those books you SWEAR you've read before. Nonfiction? Where every single point seems to have been made elsewhere?

Well, that's where this book went with me. From witch trials to alien abductions to conspiracy theories and a lot more, Sagan extols us to bring rational thought back to our lives. The scientific method is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.

I totally agree, and that's why I kept reading despite every single point being a re-hash... but that's me. Sometimes we like to be reminded why we keep going, why we believe certain things, and realize that we can apply the scientific method to everything in our lives. It doesn't stifle creativity or spiritualism. It broadens everything.

And it also happens to help us throw out the trash. :) WOAH! RATIONALITY! :)

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Monday, December 17, 2018

Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles, #1)Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was thinking to myself as I read this... wow, this seems like a great YA novel that has major overtones of steampunk and dystopia. I would have LOVED this back in the early 2000's.

I really should have read it back then. Seriously.

Because now, after a glut of dystopia, strange steampunk (even if it is a far future dystopia), and charming YA characters also glutting the market, Mortal Engines now feels a bit... dated.

The cities chomping down on each other and the later spoilerish coolness is still cool, mind you. And the characters are cute in the "I've seen this a million times by now and sigh" kind of cute way.

But now? Does it really stand as a work of grand imagination? Maybe some bits. The rest, well, it's okay.

Sorry, fans! I think I wanted to love this based on the premise. The bad guys were pretty cool but nothing really that spectacular. A certain assassin, notwithstanding.

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A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe (The Salvagers, #1)A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First, the fine and the good:

It reads like any number of treasure hunting (or salvaging) space opera tomes in that we're focused on an ensemble cast with quirks, heisty moments, and quite a few getaway chases. Lots of action and overall, I have nothing I want to complain about when it comes to this. I was thinking of the Italian Job at a few moments, and later of the ONE BIG SCORE kind of trope later on. Fun? Sure! Overall I'm a sucker for this kind of story. The underdogs get rich against all odds and baddies hot on their tail.

Okay, and then the bad. With one caveat. It may not annoy ANYONE other than me, but a future society hundreds of years in the future needs to have some kind of reason for switching from SF tech to Magic. There's spaceships, explosions, fast cars, AIs, and battlesuits. Instead of going along with the normal genre, the author or perhaps some pressure from an editor to get rid of all the "hard" techy bits just substituted any regular techy handwavium with Magic. Arcana, magic, and powered glyphs. Power your car, sick your mind magic on AI computers, hack with magic, shield your ship with magic, put people to SLEEP with magic.

I suppose it's too hard to rely on fuel, raw ability, intelligence, physics, or drugs.

I've read a lot of great magic mixed with high-tech societies, but the worldbuilding here is sub-par and reason-less. Even with the final reveal and the tragedy there (which was exciting) the rest of the magic system could have used a LOT of fleshing out. I invite him to read some Sanderson. :)

Otherwise, if I could only get over my fairly large gripe, the novel was entertaining enough. :)

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Sunday, December 16, 2018

The TerrorThe Terror by Dan Simmons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dan Simmons is an author's author.

Every time I read something by him that is either A: not quite in my interest zone, or B: reads workmanlike but nothing particularly brilliant, he SQUASHES my expectations.

HMS Terror and Erebus are out to find the Northwest Passage. In the meantime, I am tricked into caring about every one of the men on the ships. This is not a Darwin Award I'm reading, even though a few characters WERE on the Beagle.

This is a harrowing and perfectly period descent into an icy hell. Enjoy murder, scurvy, madness, a monster on the ice, wicked dreams, withdrawal, and... of course... SOYLENT GREEN.

Oh, wait, wrong book.

I'll leave it for posterity. :)

At least I never ate human flesh. At least I never ate human flesh.

Just keep telling yourself that, buddy.

I was lukewarm going into this, but it turned out to be one hell of a brilliant frozen horror. :)



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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Q-16 and the Eye to All WorldsQ-16 and the Eye to All Worlds by A.A. Jankiewicz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I was reading this I was hit with a glut of all my past reading influences, thinking, most of the time, "Hey, this reminds me of..."

But this list in my head of old titles from Guy Gavriel Kay to Roger Zelazny to C.S. Lewis, all great classic Fantasy authors, doesn't quite EXPLAIN what this book is.

I could bring up Kay's fish-out-of-water epic fantasy style but make sure it is firmly on YA territory. Or I could bring up C.S. Lewis for his Narnia in almost the same way, with Q-16 being a bit darker and faster-paced.

But no, I'm going to focus on Zelazny. His amber books have a LOT in common with Q-16 in the same way that King's Dark Tower does, but this is not as crazy. :)

This novel has multiple worlds and these kids who travel between them must deal with spaceships in some, and a full gamut of telekinetic powers and magicians in others. Add a huge, huge training regimen to get good at all kinds of magic, throw in many discoveries and reveals galore, and then still force these kids to go back to school. In Canada.

Jeeze. No rest for the wicked.

Suffice to say, training leads to building an army and fighting off a really big bad that wants to rule over all realities, so there's no lack of plot here. :) However, be forewarned: it is a long, long book for a YA title, but at no point was it hard. We spend a lot of time in our reality, a high-tech space-opera reality, and more in a fantasy realm. I'm rather impressed with all the hats it takes on, AND it's a fully-fleshed epic to boot. :)


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Friday, December 14, 2018

Catch-22Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is it tragic, absurd, or funny?

WHO CARES!

This beats out almost every book that purports to be funny, I'm not particularly unfamiliar with funny books.

Catch-22 grabs you by the skinny hairs and shocks you into the most wonderful and horrible bureaucratic nightmare ever devised. It's not even the clarity that strikes you. It's not the convoluted insanity of a huge cast of truly unforgettable and brilliant characters as they stumble from one mismatched contradiction after another or as they game the system to truly amazing proportions. (Milo.) :)

It's the timing, the clever buildups, the sheer insanity of one damnable event after another and the realization that the only clear solution, the only way out of this trap, is...

No. Wait. That IS the realization. There is no way out.

We can put the book down, but the absurdities live on. Not just the absurdities inside the book, but in our own lives as we deal with one more piece of nonsense after another. There is no escape. None.

And yet, I kept laughing throughout this novel. This brilliant, brilliant novel.

I'm going out on a limb here to say it's in the upper 20 books of all time. Maybe higher. There's absolutely nothing about this book I didn't love. I'm gonna have to read this 4-5 times just for the sheer perverse pleasure of it.

Sure, some Italian whore might come at me with a steak knife or other piece of cutlery, but that's the cost of doing business with the military.

Totally amazing.



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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Helen and Troy's Epic Road QuestHelen and Troy's Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Totally enjoyable humor, AGAIN, from A. Lee Martinez. :)

Great tongue-in-cheek premises, such as the local minotaur girl working in a BURGER JOINT getting almost sacrificed by the Hamburger God (Chernobog) by her manager, leads directly to a QUEST. :) Bring along Helen's cute co-worker Troy, get Quest licenses from the local board, tell their parents they'll be going on a roadtrip, and off we go, running. :)

Martinez always rather rocks. :) It's not always the premises that are best, but the way the author always makes characters who are so damn well-rounded. Courageous and insecure, shy and deadly. The meet-cute is so damn cute. The magical artifacts are fun.

But you know what I like best? Nigel the Accountant. He is pretty pissed at how stupid his orc ancestors are. Of course, no one asked HIM if he wanted to get caught up in his own quest to destroy these two poor kids. :)

Love it. :) :) The best part is the journey, but that ending was funny as hell. :)

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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

The Moon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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

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

Best points?

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

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

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

ELEPHANTS IN SPACE!!!

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

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Monday, December 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

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

Two things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

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

I'm a bit of a completionist at heart.

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

This is one of those novels.

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

Maybe it's just me?

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

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

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

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

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Friday, December 7, 2018

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

So. Someone just got eaten by a god.

That's right! It's ME!

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

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

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

VIVA LA WORM!

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

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

SO FREAKING AWESOME!

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

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Red MoonRed Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let's be real here. I didn't come to KSR's dinner table for a simple adventure story.

I always come to eat a novel so rich with ideas that I tent to forget that there's a core story underneath all the cool bits of political revolution, economic warfare, the problem of representation, quantum intelligence, cultural identity, and of course... CHANGE.

But like a rice dish with WAY too many spices, the core story to this novel is somewhat overwhelmed by this plethora of great ideas.

Did I enjoy the characters represented? The popular-revolution pregnant-princess on the run with an American quantum physicist as they hop throughout the heart of China and the moon, angling toward a war of hearts, minds, and wallets?

Yeah. I did. :) But it was downright SUBTLE compared to the rich mess of other ideas popping all around me!

In this respect, it's quite on par with 2312. Less space-opera, more revolution, and very wonderfully full of Chinese. :)



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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Persepolis Rising (The Expanse, #7)Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 12/5/18:

Since reading all these books in a row, I can now honestly compare all the books against each other without long waits in between. Conclusion?

Yeah, this latest one is definitely one of my favorites. All that buildup about protomolecules and what killed the alien civilization is finally coming to a head. The questions are asked seriously. And now we're getting big hints about things to come.

The extinction of the human race?

Possibly. :) But really, I just wanna see the Roci all decked out in protomolecule shit for xmas. Pretty please?


Original review:

I think I like this more than most of the other Expanse books, and that's saying a lot. I actually loved them all.

That being said, OMG I can't believe all the changes we get thrown into! The whole team is together, all my favorite (living) characters from the other books together on the Rosie, but it's simply wild to see how much time has passed. Jim and Naomi are talking retirement for void's-sake.

Let me be very clear, though, when I started reading this I thought to myself, "Is this the final wrap up? A last adventure?" To be honest, I was fairly okay with that, but then the authors threw me for a loop. So much big action happens and it affects almost 2000 established star systems. This is not just a wrap up of old threads. This is a setup for something even bigger and badder. Remember the whole question about what killed off the alien civ? But first, we've got some of the best grey baddies building EMPIRE out on the fringes. :)

This is the best part of having a tale pass a lot of time. So much has changed. I love it. It's fresh. And of course it's a blast to see random people say, "James f***ing Holden". :)

But beyond all the great big stuff going on, the novel is full of fantastic little moments that are so hard to get through without laughter and a bit of tears. I think of the scene between Bobby and Amos the most. :)

So damn fun! This is the gold standard for Space-Opera for me. :)

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The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1)The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will not lie. As I read through half the book, it felt like a YA fantasy with quite dark undercurrents, but then it took off as a genuine War novel that never let up on the grim.

No problem. Hell, I really enjoyed the very Chinese feel to it with all its inherent province racism, meritocracy tests, and very in-your-face reliance on Poppies to keep a population in line. It laid a great foundation for a rigid and fatalistic world-building and the rest is all up to the MC and the changes she undergoes.

From being married off to an old man to a rising star in the military school to the vast unburdening of hopes and dreams that follow once she's embroiled in combat, the tale only grows darker from there.

You think this is just about addicts on the battlefront? Or a war about the production and distribution of heroin? No. It's a pure epic fantasy that has gods and vengeance and a sharp eye to strategy and tactics. What seems like love is just fuel for the fire to come. :)

The novel is more than solid. It's nearly as breathtaking as the end in The Traitor Baru Cormorant. No spoilers, but the end is not that traditional. :)

I really enjoyed this and I will absolutely be looking forward to the next. :)

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Baby TeethBaby Teeth by Zoje Stage
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Ahhh, expectations versus reality. A real conundrum.

With the premise and such a great name for a horror, I truly wanted this to work for me. Hell, a lot of the time I DID feel the sick dread and oppression of living in a house where your own child HATES you.

Seven-year-old Hanna suffers from a textbook Electra complex. Add a little psychopathy to grease the wheels and we've got a duplicitous child who wants to kill mommy to have daddy all to herself and is willing to go to extended lengths to get it.

Or so I thought.

Well, in fact, the novel does atmosphere okay. It leads us to the starting line very well. But every time the buildup threatened to boil, the pot is taken off the stove.

So what happened?
... It's mild.

This ain't Halloween. This is just a troubled house that fizzles. No death. No supernatural elements. Just a palpable relief that I can move on and disappointment that so many elements couldn't have just pushed us off the edge with a little more courage.

You don't want to be a mild horror these days.
I've read psychological thrillers from eighty-years-ago that packed a more shocking punch.

Sorry!

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Infinity Engine (Transformation, #3)Infinity Engine by Neal Asher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my god. Or, I should say, Penny Royal. :)

I've been steadily raving about Asher's novels more and more because they just keep getting BETTER and BETTER. This Transformation trilogy has got to be my absolute favorite.

Actually, the whole weaving of all these threads from book one to the end was so thoroughly SATISFYING that I may just start raving about it to non-specialized high-tech space-opera fans and just start pulling in normal SF fans to point and say... "Just look at this trilogy, skip the rest, just read this and MARVEL at the juicy characters, epic events, and thoroughly F***ed-up poison chalice wish-granting going on here.

Get your wishes granted! But Penny Royal, the mad AI that almost all of the Polity AIs fear, and rightly so, thinks on a VERY twisted path. The second novel was fantastic for giving us the AI's history, but the third novel gets the Mad AI Factory back online in a big way and EVERYONE is out to put an END to it. And Penny Royal.

And if that wasn't enough, the whole twisted story of Penny Royal creating many teams of creatively uber-powerful peeps of all walks and races JUST to murder the hell out of him because he's JUST TOO POWERFUL and suffers HUGE guilt for the things that broke his mind... well... I can't think of a better or more satisfying end to this trilogy than what we got.

Brilliant! I'm dancing about here in utter glee! :)

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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4)Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This latest and perhaps last Diary wraps up a very interesting time for our wonderful Security Bot.

Who knew that going completely rogue, hacking his/her own programming, and calling no shots but his/her own could be so HAIRY?

Oh, wait... EVERYONE knew that. :)

I know I just got done hacking my own programming and just went through the exact same issues as our favorite Murderbot. Guilt. Emotion. Friendship. Yeah. I hate all those things, too.

But at least I have my SF soaps! Soaps make everything good.

What's next on the agenda... could it be a full novel with Art? Hmmm???

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Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Temporal VoidThe Temporal Void by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm frankly getting rather awed by Peter F. Hamilton.

Any single book doesn't quite DO his stories justice, which is kind of weird because each book seems to be bigger than a mountain, more sprawling than wide plains, and filled with meandering and sometimes inconsequential passages. They could be tightened up with more focus on the core stories and threads. Easily.

BUT.

When it comes to the sheer scope in time and space for all his books, each of which is interconnected with common events, histories, and characters who live for an awfully long time thanks to the heavy SF factors of re-life and alternate methods like multi-life, dream paradise, AI, or even some much stranger methods... everyone eventually comes back to play in this awesomely developed universe.

It only keeps getting larger and stranger with every new book. Some characters don't get interesting until after their lives get turned upside down, others are fantastic from the get-go. But when it comes to every core story met with truly awesome convergences between all these threads, Hamilton just can't be beaten.

His imagination is truly phenomenal.

Okay, this kinda sounds like an apology for his work, but don't be confused. I love this. It has a few faults, but damn, when I compare this to practically any other SF author on the grounds of glorious worldbuilding and scope of characters, Hamilton basically wins by default.

Epic SF, folks. Just think of the most sprawling fantasy you most love and multiply it by two, give it everything from bionics, massive dreaming collectives, a total space-opera atmosphere with multiple alien forces, and then shake it up by having an intelligent UNIVERSE threaten to grow and eat our own. Epic stakes. Epic scope. And through it all, thousands of years of novels and history pulling forward to this late historical date.

I'm frankly amazed. And it's getting better with every book I read.

The last time I was this bowled over was the first time I read through the WoT series. Both have their faults. But for the patient reader, both are freaking awesome. :)



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Friday, November 30, 2018

Let The Swine Go ForthLet The Swine Go Forth by Auriel Roe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now, this is one fun ride down the dark, disturbing forest of the modern educational system, full of the seven deadly sins, gross incompetence, and scarred children.

In other words, it's funny as hell.

Roe took us into a public institution last time. This one is quite a bit more private. Her experience in the system comes out with wildly satirical flair. It's awfully oddball and sharp and full of great moments.

What makes this stand out is the PoV of the headmaster. It feels quite English, quite droll, but also as zany as you might expect. Birds and torture go quite nice with the seven sins pig. Does anyone want to stage a play?

I would absolutely recommend this for anyone who's in the mood for modern mainstream matriculation mania. :)



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Praise of FollyPraise of Folly by Erasmus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know, before I read this, I imagined it was satire.

I couldn't have been more wrong! Indeed, after listening to Dame Folly, goddess extraordinaire, I think I will convert myself wholeheartedly to her teachings.

There has never been a more persuasive tract in literature. Hide thy wisdom, folks! There is no greater treasure than to proclaim just how much folly you possess!


It's especially good for churchmen and writers. The former generally do not know they are being made fun of and the latter can derive a sort of sick satisfaction that they, more than any other breed of fools, exemplify the teachings of Dame Folly.

For who else could go about the rest of their lives putting words down for nothing more than faint praise, outright scorn, and little to no money for their extensive efforts?

Exactly.

:)

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Noumenon InfinityNoumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one hell of a great sequel.

It goes well beyond the fandom who like generational starship stories, delving into high physics, Big Dumb Objects, and very strange aliens.

But more importantly, the stranger aliens are ourselves. Generations of clones growing up and educated in a closed society, fixing the original generational starship problem by going as a fleet of semi-specialized components in one big social whole. That's not so strange, of course, but the emergent AI and the "retirees" of every clone over 65 to become a part of a massive biological computer system as dreamers *is*. :)

But the core story is no slouch, either. The fleet splits in two. One to finish a truly glorious Dyson-sphere-like project and the other devoted to exploration and learning about the aliens who made it. Of course, from there, everything goes to hell. But differently. :) This is not the same kind of novel as the first, but it IS a genuine continuation in both spirit and characters. :)

I especially loved the aliens. I may have a few spoilerly quibbles about the end. One particularly big plot thread that wasn't concluded. But other than these, which could EASILY be addressed in future books, I absolutely adore this book. Or rather, books.

Few modern SF novels are this devoted to ideas anymore. That is: pure ideas drilled down to consequences and snags and complications.

The writing is more than fine, the characters are fascinating, but it's the ideas make this a true inheritor of old-school SF. Everything from psychology to sociology to genetics to high physics is explored here, and that's just the foundation. :)

I'm a fanboy now. :)



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Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Fall of IoThe Fall of Io by Wesley Chu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just what IS the Fall of Io?

I mean, to me, I expected the grand wheel of Hubris to dunk Ella and Io under the water of fate, but similar to the first novel... the rising and falling aren't that spectacular. It's more of a personal choice rather than an epic downfall. :)

It's okay. :) We have a lot more to entertain us here.

Like heists, flashbacks to events that will already have happened right AFTER the events in the first book, heists, tons of action, heists, and feeling all buddy-buddy with the Yakuza. Oh, and did I mention h.... oh wait... I think I did. :)

An alternative title to this novel might be, "Everyone Hates Ella." Except for Cameron, of course, although he's just a stupid man. :) It's kinda nice to enjoy a relatively hated MC for once. She doesn't have much going for her and her alien is kinda a f***-up, too. This is no surprise.

No spoilers, but I had a good time with this. It's pure popcorn fiction.

It's aliens riding our meat-bags in a mutually beneficial arrangement, a whole taking over the world conflict between the good aliens and the bad, and an extended roll in the mud. :)

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Rise of IoThe Rise of Io by Wesley Chu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a totally enjoyable return to the Tao universe. Or, I should say, to the Earth set up in the Lives of Tao with all its sparkly aliens still fighting a civil war using humans as their bodies. :)

Hey, and not only do we have a new personality to get to know and love (or hate) in Io, but Tao himself shows up and plays a big role! Woo! Cameron!

But it is Ella who really shines here. Our Indian thief has all the trademarks of an underdog hero. It has the feel of the first Tao book with one HUGE difference. The lines of engagement, of just who is good and who is not, are VERY blurred. :) Or at least, Io believes so. This makes for some very interesting conflicts going forward.

I already have huge trust in Chu for this universe and loved the previous Tao books. They went crazy with the action. :) This one is shaping up to be one hell of a great series. :)

Total popcorn SF. Easy and fun. :

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