Thursday, May 31, 2018

Reality is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum GravityReality is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity by Carlo Rovelli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'll be honest and up front, I only wanted to read more into Loop Quantum Gravity.

Say what?!? Well, it's the leading contender against String theory. It doesn't try to mash together the main problem area of gravity with quantum mechanics, but rather extends quantum mechanics as a granular geometric equation into the macro realm of what we understand as special relativity.

In other words, reality is finite, quantifiable, and can be extrapolated from the underpinnings of the general field of quantum mechanics.

If you know anything about the underlying basis of string theory, this idea is both flabbergasting and simplistic. And maybe, it's also correct.

I can't say for certain, and as far as I can tell, neither can the author. Most of the book gives us a survey of the underpinnings of reality physics from the conceptualization of the atom through Einstein's reformulation of heat energy on the equilibrium of those atoms in their environmental matrices. (E=MC squared)

Spin Foam is the name of the minimum Planck distance that forces atoms into discrete and quantifiable distances between each other. It's the reason why atoms don't just fall into singularities like black holes or crushed neutronium states under normal gravitic circumstances. It's not merely probability shells and energy levels, but quantum loops that behave like bubbles forcing certain distances... and therefore forcing Matter to behave the way it apparently behaves... making atomic structure.

The most interesting idea I'm getting from this is the idea of the Big Bounce. In other words, the cause of the great expansion once the Big Bang got lit. It reminds me a lot of how iron molecules make stars burp in the process of digesting (fusion) and cause a nova. Only we're dealing with a quantum state that coaxes atoms into creation through special wave functions behaving like granular notations. You know, like how light behaves like both a wave and a particle.

And beyond this... I'm completely lost. :)

I don't know the math but this book is pretty decent on the conceptual side. The basics are commonplace and I was mainly into it for the later weird stuff.

But all in all? Rovelli is a very, very good writer. Convincing. Clear.

It may not be the answer to the great question of our day and age, but he makes a very good case. :)



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Silently and Very FastSilently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is actually my second time reading this story and it's just as good this time as the first.

Let me back up. This Hugo winner for best novella a few years ago may not have taken the world by storm, but Valente herself has been taking a lot of us that way. You know. Blown away.

She has a fantastic talent with words, always lyrical, rife with ideas, and most importantly, beautiful.

This particular story starts with a parable about Inanna and Ereshkigal and Tammuz and draws it right into a tale of raising an AI from humble house beginnings to childhood to adulthood, and far beyond. It also seamlessly incorporates sleeping beauty, legends of many monomyths, and incorporates it into sexuality, mourning, and the nature of intelligence (and how humans failed the Turing test). :)

And believe it or not, Valente does this magically. It rolls off the page with such beauty and easy flow, we can hardly believe we're being riddled with myth, deep thought, and hard-SF. We come away from it, FEELING something grand. :)

Do I recommend this?

HELL YEAH. It encapsulates everything high-brow, magical, poetical, and lovely. This is literature AS hard-SF. :)

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Hellhounds of the CosmosHellhounds of the Cosmos by Clifford D. Simak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Short story time from one of my favorite old-school SF authors!
1932. :)

OMG this was not what I expected it to be. The ideas behind this are not so much dated as just plain creative and oddball. You might say the young man Simak was just having a blast. Of course, it was the time of the Great Depression and horror was HUGE at the time and he couldn't resist doing a complete mash-up with hard SF.

But I honestly thought this was pretty damn great! :) Flawed to hell, sure, but I give it top marks for underlying ideas. :)

What was so great about this?

The world is getting torn up by oozy black creatures taking on whatever shape it wants out of our nightmares and nothing we do can stop it. But a corny scientist not only postulates a wild theory, he has a machine to test it. He can change volunteers into our 4th-dimensional selves in order to fight the monsters slipping through the 4th dimension. Handwavium at it's best, but this isn't the good part. :)

Evolution works slightly different than What Darwin would have us think. Simple organisms do become complex ones, but the direction for evolution is reversed on the dimensional playing field. 7th-dimensional life forms evolve into the greater 6th, 6th evolves into the greater 5th, and so on. The scientist assumes, wrongly, that we become a superman living across vastly different time scales when we pass through the machine, sending all these volunteers through to fight our survival in the most epic way imaginable.

What really happens is that we devolve into 4th-dimensional conglomerate intelligences engaged in eternal fisticuffs across all-time against other lumbering monstrous giants.

Oops. We become demons. :)

And it ends with the scientist very publicly committing suicide.

LOL it's like a modern Anime mixed with a little Lovecraft, a B-Movie mixed with a clever Darwinian twist, even a satire lambasting our most cherished tenants.

Yeah, it's also kind-of a bad story, too, but it tickled me. :) We are our own hellhounds. :)

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Odysseus Ascendant (Odyssey One Book 7)Odysseus Ascendant by Evan Currie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This latest space battle in the fight for humanity against the Empire continues to be light-hearted despite the stakes.

Technology and bluffs save the day!

Truly, I do think this particular book has a bit more oomph and less light-lag than the last few entries. I liked the others well enough but this one didn't need to rely on slow reveals and mysteries revolving around the extra intelligences hanging around. Indeed, they're all pretty much out in the open and getting accepted by the brass.

Little kid Odysseus is cute. :)

These books continue to have that certain space opera popcorn charm we've come to know and love. Pew pew! :)



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Foundryside (Founders, #1)Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes I come across a piece of fiction that tickles every single one of my funnybones. As in thoroughly delighting me. Charming me. Making me fall in love.

This is one of those.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I've LOVED Bennett's City of Stairs books and gushed on and on about those, but this one is a near picture-perfect mix of extremely detailed rules-based magic based on Scriving, or rune-like ancient language, to *persuade* reality to behave differently.

Basically, it's a hacking manual for reality. Nothing could be better designed to make me go squee.

Then give me a near-non-stop heist novel with a great thief, an AI-like skeleton key, a thief-catcher full of wonderful mysteries, himself, and a dirty town called Foundryside with corrupt Houses of writers, an old war of deadly physics-based-reality-hacking destruction ramping up into a new episode, and wonderful reveal after reveal after reveal for a meaty and delicious plot, and we've got ourselves an honest-to-Hierophant winner.

Truly. I never once got bored. Never once wanted to put the novel down. I was engaged from the first word to the very last and never wanted it to end.

This was a great story on its own, but the end really makes it shine. I could read this as a series FOREVER. And EVER. :) :) In fact, knowing Bennett's power of storytelling, I am pretty certain this is going to be one of my top-favorites for fantasy. Period.

Let me back up a little. Think of Sanderson's Mistborn for its magic system. Think about the best fantasy heist novels that jump from extremely deep worldbuilding and atmosphere and character-building into an ensemble cast that must band together against an utterly unstoppable foe behind impenetrable walls. Now get REALLY clever with the magic system. And go NUTS with history, implications, magic items that are more than what they seem, and a dark past that is waking up to take over the world.

Sound good?

Me ---> SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Nuff said. :)

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

BurnBurn by James Patrick Kelly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was perfectly willing to suspend judgment on this book... and I did, refusing to look up any reviews until long after I was thinking about what I read.

I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. I don't mind pastoral-type SF all that much, but it has to be rich in the internal life and lots of great ideas being bandied about. The fact this was a reaction to Walden, a perfect Luddite if there ever was one, was also fine by me. I had problems with the guy, too, but not all the way. I like nature, I like technology. I do not want to simplify my life so much that I lose out on the necessities. At all. James Patrick Kelly basically makes the same argument in this novella.

Firefighting on this regressive world. If only there hadn't been such restrictions, more could have been saved.

I don't think there's any kind of counter-argument. Not realistically. Or at least, not in this century.

So what do we have to fall back on within the story? Characterization, a little worldbuilding, a kinda meandering live-your-life-tale that fits more in FAVOR of Walden than the counterargument, and then the big action and the reveals after the fire.

Of course, that's where I'm most interested. The many worlds and post-near-singularity galactic civilization. You know, uploaded minds. That kind of thing.

As a mirror to all that happened on the planet before, it kinda hammers a nail in the coffin.

There are some open-ended questions that make me squirm, too, regarding his wife, but that kinda detracts from the rest of the novella rather than adding a new dimension. I did kinda like the MC before that. A memory wipe is a total PKD issue and it might have been better explored in much greater detail throughout the tale or left out of the end entirely. It just raises way too many questions and concerns regarding all these Walden people.

Such as the idea that they might all be in a zoo.

Maybe that's the point. I WANTED to like this more, but the ideas are kinda all over the place and I'd like to come away from this story chewing on a single good idea rather than a number of unsatisfyingly explored ones.



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The End of EternityThe End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just had to do a little retro SF catch-up, grabbing those old classics by big-name SF authors that I haven't yet had the pleasure to read, and this one kept cropping up as one of the best of the best by Asimov.

You know, OTHER than Foundation and the Robot novels. Of which, a few are sub-par. We'll ignore all of these for now and focus on this standalone.

About time travel in a kettle, kinda like Wells' time machine, only let's make a society of men, only men, living outside of time a-la Time Lords and have our MC be a pre-Doctor kind of character who's ACTUALLY willing to fall in love with a girl and is willing to DESTROY this little bubble of Eternity for her sake.

You know, because a society of nothing but men will obviously think with nothing more than the spout of their kettles.

And don't get me started on this 50's assumption that only men can do the work, but because even Asimov recognized all that and turned her into a femme fatale and made the girls more badass than the boys. So we learn. LATER. :) So let's move on from there.

This is basically Doctor Who on steroids and less buddy-buddy unique eras and a hardcore dive into escaping a whole society of time travelers who meddle with the past to erase the really bad stuff, fixing whole timelines on massive scales over vast time periods... ALL FOR THE SAKE OF TIPPING HIS TEAKETTLE.

Oh, and he decides it's okay to destroy all the Time Lords. Ahem. Sorry. Eternals.

What could have been a relatively average and not bad at all novel right HERE is then given the full Asimov twist and he turns it into a full adventure with deeper and deeper intrigue, reversals, surprises, reveals, and mystery. Not bad, Asimov. And then he even goes for the short-story twist at the end and makes us re-evaluate EVERYTHING that has happened before in a new light.

NOT BAD AT ALL.

So if you can get over the naming conventions and the cardboard cutout characters and the whole psychosexual mess, I can ABSOLUTELY PROMISE YOU that there's a very fine and fun novel in here. :) Worthy of anything we've got today and somewhat more ambitious, even with the length, than most of the same.

I'm very glad to have read this. :)

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The City and the StarsThe City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Classic fifties SF by Clarke. Widely regarded as one of his best works. So what do you know? I have to check it out.

First of all, its 50's feel for SF is quite noticeable. It's mostly straight adventure with travel and discovery and a few interesting locations, notably two last cities of mankind after a LONG retreat from the galactic scene. Most of them don't even realize that they were pushed back into a self-sustaining lethargic existence without change or hope, relying on a massive computer that basically has everything they are hard-encoded for reuse. And I mean people. With memories, reincarnation, the works.

Sound stagnant? It is. So Alvin, the "unique" boy that was created without any kind of reusable information, gets a hankering for adventure and finds the other city full of mentally superior types and the real situation gets explored. As in the galactic situation. And the only way to truly survive is mixing it all up. :) Nice? Sure!

The characters are the weak point but they're not all that bad. The real strength is in the outright imaginative SF world including domes, robots, virtual reality, interstellar communities, and especially the extrapolation about what we'd become a billion years down the line. :)

It's like a more traditional take on an Olaf Stapleton extravaganza adding some real plot and story to an idea fest. And I'll be real here. There are more ideas and a better plot going on in this novel than I usually see in contemporary SF of that day and age. It's solid even if this particular style has become a bit stale for our modern sensibilities.

Definitely worth reading.

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Monday, May 28, 2018

The Witchwood Crown (The Last King of Osten Ard, #1)The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm almost speechless.

I mean, reading this long, long book takes me back to all the long, long books of Tad Williams and especially his most well known and beloved original fantasy. (Of which this picks up many years down the line, with Simon the Scullion a grandfather and King of the kingdom.)

What this does extremely well: worldbuilding and characters. He takes his time. And I mean, he lets all the characterizations come out gloriously slowly, with rich detail and living in such a world that runs so deep as to reclassify the term "escapist fiction".

We live there. We become one with the world of Osten Ard. Whether we're a Norn, one of the elfish immortals, or of men, we dive really deep into the world. I can't find real good or evil anywhere. Just people of all kinds, be they giants, shapeshifters, any kind of immortal, half-immortal, or of the race of men. It's easy to just "say" this, as well, but Tad Williams shows us in all the glory just how true it is.

And then we have the echoes of the undead king, the darkness of magics to come, all the reasons why all these kingdoms are on the path to being laid very, very low, and it all boils down to PEOPLE (of any flavor) doing what they think is right, and still they bring about the greatest evils.

Did I mention how much glorious, deep, well-thought-out, detailed worldbuilding is going on here?

A taste: Prester John, Herne, echoes of catholicism twisted into undead rituals, elves coming across the sea from far away to live here (rather than the reverse), and a whole immortal ppl lied to and left in poverty... for what? It reminds me of Dragon Age, but let's get real here. Tad Williams' epic came out over twenty years ago and this only continues (gloriously so) the long, long tale. :)

I can't say that this fantasy has anywhere near the epic bloodshed and magics that anyone might expect out of today's epic fantasy genre, but when it comes to depth of character, the main story, and worldbuilding... few and perhaps none can compare.

Frankly, I'm lost in admiration.

It's far from a hard read (aside from the length) and it's easy to fall deep into the good writing. I'm remembering my original response to his first fantasies in just the same way.

Truly Excellent!


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Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Heart of What Was Lost (The Last King of Osten Ard, #0.5)The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was somewhat skeptical hopping into this one because it *appeared* to be a full-length novel masquerading as a bridge between Williams' original fantasy series and a later incarnation in the same world. I mean, it's nearly ten hours in audio and yet it's only a #0.5 in reading order? Yikes. But then, that's Tad Williams for you. His books are HUGE. Small print, mondo page count. Yak-chokers. If a full novel can be considered nothing more than an *appetizer* in comparison, then it is what it is. Welcome to the land of the giants. :)

THAT BEING SAID.

I'm so glad I read it. It's a great refresher after twenty odd years since reading the original brick house. The Norns, the menfolk, the Duke, all the different races of immortals are brought to life for us. It includes the history of the conflict, the smattering of the magics, the fundamental differences in culture, thought, and even their old history, the nature of their making... all of it came back to me. :)

So what else did we get? Oh, just an epic battle between the Duke and the immortals, mixing up our expectations and flipping everything on its head again. Our sympathies are meant to be challenged.

And already we have a grand defeat, an epic loss, a freaking cool setup, and expectations of much evil to come thanks to the fundamental misunderstanding between the races.

Does this sound like most fantasies? Hmmm. Possibly, at least a little, but Tad Williams has one great thing going for him.

Skill. Great writing. Careful attention to detail. Great characters. And EPIC blowouts. He's kinda go-to guy for this kind of thing. Most of us will agree. We've all been blown away at one point or another. And he's BACK. :) :)


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Blue Mars (Mars Trilogy, #3)Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first two novels in the Mars trilogy were pretty much a tight mix of colonization, politics, SO MUCH GREAT SCIENCE, and fairly interesting characterizations pretty much designed to carry the sprawling expanse of what MARS is more than anything else.

Let's put it this way, and careful, because here comes a spoiler, but...

Mars is the main character. :)

The third novel has relatively little action in it, but that's okay.

There's a new constitution being hammered out for the fascinating experimental political parts, new customs as both time and the planet changes radically with the terraforming, and the influence Mars has on a massively overpopulated Earth being driven crazy by the new life-prolonging treatments. (Designed and exported from Mars.)

I squealed like a little fanboy with the endless wordcount of the science, from the physics of brain chemistry at the quantum level to the terraforming of Mercury and Venus and some of the bigger moons out by the gassy ones. :)

What COULD be considered a negative to the novel was actually its biggest strength. Let me explain...

This is about old people. Senescence. You could take it as a metaphor if you like, Old Blue Earth vs New Mars, memories versus living in the present, or even White versus Red thinking (It's a Thing).

It's also about synthesis. As in alchemy. Mars is both its pristine red past and its new living, ocean-filled, green, boat laden glory. So are we. We're our memories, our hopes for the future, be it science, children, or ourselves, AND we are our present. Live your life, quick, the promise of immortality is an illusion. :)

I will never call this novel a great one in terms of plot or characters, though I really grew to love Sax and Ann, our embodiments of White and Red thinking, by the end. Everyone else, nascent gods supplanting their titan parents, were amusing and fascinating, but in the end, unnecessary... EXCEPT for the character of world-building, science, the collective unconscious, the zeitgeist, the evolving thought, and the evolving planet.

It's a sprawling jazz-filled explosion of life and erosion of time, water, and memory.

At least, that's how I see it. :)

If this novel had been presented today as a Hugo winner, I probably would have declined to nominate it, but for the time this won in '97, as well as the other two Mars novels, it was a revelation.

Most other SF is weaksauce compared to the science and exploration of science in these novels. Truth is truth. All this glorious science doesn't always make for a good STORY, but the story was good enough to showcase a polymath brilliance spanning ethics, psychology, politics, terraforming, biology, quantum physics, and even the meaning of life.

Come on. CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE. :) :) :)

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Witches Abroad (Discworld, #12; Witches #3)Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-read 5/24/18:

Second read! And MORE WITCHES. Well, voodoo, too!

What happens when stories just INSIST that witches come over and to the other side? What, with all the wolves misunderstanding that they're not men and dwarves trying to steal Nanny Og's shoes and ALL THOSE MAGIC MIRRORS!

And in the end, it's just family rivalry. :)

Weatherwax really stole the show.

Yeah. Even more than that damn cat Greebo! :)

The novel is a great mish-mash of fairy tails with proper Discworld attitude. :) Better than most of the Witches novels, IMHO, but I'm just biding time till Aching comes along. :)

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A Time Of Dread (Of Blood and Bone #1)A Time Of Dread by John Gwynne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first time reading John Gwynne and I seriously debated whether or not to read the original trilogy before picking up a tale hundreds of years after the events there. It was a close thing, but I decided the strength of his writing would either wow me or it wouldn't.

As a matter of fact, his characterizations while not too varied or unusual for the fantasy genre at all, are still rather well done for all that. Time and effort are taken, drawing out familial relations and emotional impacts and a broad setup for the oncoming war, getting to know all the players through the individuals within it. I've seen much worse epic fantasies, but I will admit he does improve on a lot of the classics. For example, the farmboy with a destiny trope was given a lot of time and care and it was quite believable and impactful DESPITE being one of the oldest tropes in the book. The rest of the character threads were also quite entertaining.

I was tantalized by the past, of course, and enjoyed seeing what kind of races filled this book, from angels and demons cohabitating the land, giants, and even mounted bears. The action is plentiful, dark, and bloody.

He pulls off the trick with gray areas quite nicely. It's not so clear who are the good guys and who are the bad. For that, I think I enjoyed the book even more. I wouldn't quite call this grimdark, but it's definitely a series I'll consider continuing!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Tomb (Repairman Jack, #1)The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel has a lot of modern (80's) thriller sensibilities with a can-do 'fixer' focused mainly on character study and definition, mostly in the same way that horror novels do it. Righting wrongs, giving up close and personal Justice to those who escape the law.

With a supernatural twist. Hindu Rakashas!

It sounds pretty cool, actually, but my personal expectations were more along the lines of a proto-modern UF... and it is. It just happens to be MORE focused on character study and interpersonal dynamics. Good for what it is and if you prefer that kind of thing. It's a decent horror, I suppose, but it happens to be perfectly average, as one, unless you give bonus points for using the idea of Rakashas as the primary story.

I've read a lot of things like this, however. I enjoyed the exploration of Kali and Hindu mythos well, but I might want to point at Dan Simmon's Song of Kali as a bit more horrific and fascinating.

This one, however, is a modern thriller and should have a lot of ongoing appeal. I'll continue the series to see if it continues to evolve. There's a number of books behind this one. :)

Final grade? Above average. Solid.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Working for the Devil (Dante Valentine, #1)Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Picking up this series kinda blindly, I wasn't really sure where to categorize it in the UF world. Obviously, it's a kick-ass female with magic and blade, but you know how that is. Seen it on the shelves a MILLION TIMES. Huh. Even the blurb just tugs at my old heartstrings for Anita Blake and Rachel Morgan. I thought it was a throwaway blurb.

But then I learned how wrong I was.

Imagine this: It's bladerunnerish, high-tech noir with hovercraft, laser pulse rifles, juicy biotech implants, gene-splicing. It's also rune magic, Annubis-based necromancy, whole schools of magic, and even eclectic voodoo, ritual, and a lot more right out in the open. It's open trade for SF and Fantasy in this near-future overpopulated world.

So delicious.

And then there's Dante with her deep connection with Annubis and her dripping holy blue fire blade, her strong necromantic craft for sale for lawyers, the police, or anyone with the means to pay. And she's got a new job from a character she can't quite refuse: Lucifer. Who wants her to assassinate another demon. As a little backup, she gets a high-level demon as a backup... and as a familiar.

Holy crapola.

So wait a second.

Not only are we getting to levels of necromancy only seen 7-8 books into Anita Blake, but we're also moving ahead to powers equivalent to books 4-5 in Rachel Morgan. In Blade Runner.

OH, MY GOD, I AM SO IN LOVE.

And it's true. I slammed through this book kinda dancing with glee. And yes there's a bit of UF romance but it takes a back seat to the action and intrigue... just as I prefer it. And let me be a bit clear about where I place this in my favorite UF categories. I have some series I love for being imaginative and others for being super charming and classy, but my first love is for outright powerups and bitch'n kick-ass magics.

This one is pulling on those heartstrings HARD. :)



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Monday, May 21, 2018

The Rhesus Chart (Laundry Files, #5)The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 5/21/18:

My god this series only gets better as it goes along. I thought this was a somewhat weak novel in the whole mix but I was definitely mistaken. Knowing what comes later influences my decision. Easy.

This is, however, a pretty big turning point for both Bob and the Laundry. His personal life suffers by way of the events that eventually occur, but the Laundry suffers more. It's invasion time. By bloodsuckers. And there a LOT of casualties.

Of course, that means a general org-chart rearrangement and no manner of funny and light built-up in this novel will erase the fundamental tragedy.

But yeah, I laughed my ass off about the vampires. For most of the novel. It was gorgeous and satirical and clever as hell. :)

If only the end hadn't been so dark! And yet, that darkness really hit me in the gut. That last bit makes me stay around.

This is totally cool.


Original review:

Watching Bob become beast couldn't be more fun, and the workplace drama, whether it is the Laundry or cutthroat banking, is always humorous. Not too much was on the plate for this novel, but in my opinion, that was just fine. It allowed me to focus tightly on the interpersonal relations, and for good reason. The ending was a real zinger. The novels are only getting better as time goes on.

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Tongues of Serpents (Temeraire, #6)Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have been a pretty good fan of this series, but unfortunately, I've grown tired of it by now.

This isn't dragons against Napoleon anymore. This isn't an intrigue in China. This is exile to Australia.

Long treks, dragon eggs, and filler await us. Maybe it's because I took almost a decade to return to the series or I burned out, but this didn't capture my imagination. Almost at all. No hope for glory, just establishing a colony? For dragons?

This is how the world ends. With a whimper, not a bang.

Not sure I'll continue with the last novels, but since Novik has proven herself pretty good with the mythology retellings, I will continue there. :)

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Boy and His DogA Boy and His Dog by Harlan Ellison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one hell of a divisive short story. The fact it's written very well, that it evokes so many positive and negative emotions, although, MOST of them are negative, speaks very well of the author even I hate what's going on inside the story.

I've only read a few of Ellison's works and I guess I've been avoiding it for a long time. Mostly because he's a known jerk and iconoclast and while he's also doing most of it for the shock value almost as if he's the Marylin Manson of the 60's. I can respect a man who knows his own mind and writes stories that are shocking and repulsive and funny at the same time

This definitely falls into that category. Rape. Rapey stuff. Brutal dystopian world that not only condones but explicitly encourages the objectification of women. But wait! Isn't that most of the dystopian literature, these days!?

Yeah, I guess it is. But back in '69 when this little gem came out, it threw all the optimistic post-nuke claptrap out the window and dived deep into the truly ugly side of men vs. women.

Come on. He uses his telepathic dog (who is much smarter than him) to serial-rape women. Just because he finds one that just likes sex and talks about love doesn't excuse his past behavior (or anyone else's).

But damn! Ellison writes this so damn well and with a lot of dark humor. The twist at the end was nasty and gorgeous and rather fitting, too. I can't fault this. It's too dark. Too funny.

So in one respect, I just want to give this a one star. In another, I can't help but be impressed by the writing and the controversy and the way it sparks a LOT of huge emotions in every reader. This is what art is meant to do, no? Well, this succeeds.


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The AlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finally got around to reading this. So many people love it. I just... avoided it. Probably for that reason.

But then as I was reading it, enjoying the lyrical flow and the fact that it really *IS* a fable, I warmed up to it.

You know... the kind of story where that Legendary Treasure hunt is not an actual physical treasure? Self-development? lol

I enjoyed it. It's very uplifting and motivational and underscores the fact that you should always follow your dreams no matter what.

The fact that it was an interesting story, that the novel was never dull or overly preachy (except for the lessons that the fable was strong on,) only helped. :)

It *is* slightly sappy, tho. :)

I mostly just enjoyed the juxtaposition of real alchemy and metaphysical alchemy, the road-trip aspect of the novel, and the simple parable. :)



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War with the NewtsWar with the Newts by Karel Čapek
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a pleasant surprise! And a total satire, too!

1935 and lambasting fascism in a very funny and totally SF way. Little 4 ft lizards as smart as us who can breed like CRAZY, who are totally literal, and who (mostly) follow orders like good soldiers.

Of course, quickly outnumbering the human race at 20 billion, things get a bit hairy despite how much all the leaders of industry love their huge workforce. :)

It was funnier than anything, but the SF concept was nothing to sneeze at. I loved how much humans mistook all their actions and their intelligence, how souls, self-consciousness... even sexiness is so much more important than asking a simple little question... "Is this really a good idea?"

We all miss the point. It's damn fine satire.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Song for Quiet (Persons Non Grata, #2)A Song for Quiet by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My gods, I loved this! Deep DEEP Jazz meets gibbering horrors and the connections between memory, selflessness, and total sacrifice WITHIN the music.

The prose was jazz in its most intensely lyrical and dense and evocative!

Like... total purple prose, man. But here, it was absolutely gorgeous. Syncopated tune with counterbeats to a Cthuhlu horror eating memories even as the most delicious riff, harmony, and melody bridged two souls together on the stage.

Deep, emotional, utterly horrific. I imagined this as a riff on The Ballad of Black Tom, taken short, sharp, and as heartbreaking as the best set ever played, known to man or monster, used as a way to abort a gibbering horror JUST about to be born into this universe. :)

This is something of almost pure poetry. :)

HOLD NO PUNCHES!

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Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1)Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this novel has been a LONG time coming and I'm glad it's here. Now.

My only concern is that this UF series came out so late in the whole UF cycle thing. I needed this a decade ago. I needed a full American Indian mythological romp with Coyote and so many fantastic supernatural additions to my reading schedule!

Not just fae and vamps and druids and wizards... I needed THIS!

That being said, I really liked it. :) Flooding took out most of the world and it was like coming back home to New Mexico, one of the few places to survive the wipeout and the breakdown of society.

So here we are... post-apocalyptic breakdown with a tight, tight supernatural native American pantheon coming to life. :) And I love Maggie. :)

No spoilers. I will say that the plot is solid as hell and the magic is gorgeous and the action delightful. It's a primo UF that delivers on the fun factor, the mythological factor, and the character factor. :)

Definitely looking forward to the whole series.


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Cat PersonCat Person by Kristen Roupenian
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

So when I was voluntold to read this so my friend could stop feeling so alone, abused, and ashamed of herself for having finished this story, I did it because I felt like it wasn't that much of an investment. It's just a short story, I said to myself. Published in the New Yorker! This is what modern literature is all about outside of my cloistered cozy little comforter of SF/F/H books.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Or is it Wrog. *Wrong.

Sigh.

Well, I'll tell you. Girl meets older boy, both play out weird little dramas in their head as they circle each other through texting, and then after a very uncomfortable date, they do the nasty.

It's just as nasty as you might imagine when it's degrading, full of personal illusions on both sides, including additional characters springing up out of each others' heads while having sex. (BTW, not literally. That might have been a cool post-modern Fantasy.)

It was just a BAD DATE that made everyone feel nasty and horrible even after subjecting themselves to the "expectation".

The aftermath, avoiding the guy, and the ending texts he sent her was just as ugly as everything else in the story.

If I was in the mood for some bad reality and/or I had the patience to swallow this "realism" shite, I might have given this more stars because it DID accomplish what it set out to do.

I feel like I need to chlorinate a few gene pools and go through a very THOROUGH level 4 contamination rig.


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Friday, May 18, 2018

Green Mars (Mars Trilogy, #2)Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Green Mars is, unfortunately, a bit dated.

The science is still freaking awesome and the sheer amount of cutting edge technology, be it biology, the physical sciences, the sheer insanity of terraforming a whole planet... still blows me away. Some of my favorite parts, or, indeed, *most* of my favorite parts, are the scientific expositions, ruminations, digressions, and especially the plot developments and twists that come from the science!

Where I have a little issue is where I had a little issue in Red Mars. It's the people. I don't really mind all the drug use or sex addiction or all the little social explorations when it comes to these brothers from another mother (world), but there *is* an awful lot of seemingly pointless, (if otherwise presented in a non-SF novel, rather decent) characterization and character studies that seem to go nowhere. Too much Phyllis and Maya, to be honest.

It's not true for all of them, of course. I love Nirgal (but not Jackie), Sax, and Art. It's really a toss-up between Sax and Nirgal, though. Nadia was nice to see, however. :)

And that leads us to the main focus of the novel. At first, I thought it was going to be mostly about a pristine Mars versus a terraformed one, but it wasn't to be. It's about Mars versus Earth.

It always was going to be this. It's kinda obvious, isn't it? :) Revolution!!! No more dictating terms, unlimited immigration, police forces, policies that can't really be enforced over THIS much distance! And then, of course, there's the other big snag.

Prolonged life. Overpopulation. Near immortality aside from all the degraded mental acuity and memory loss. :) The Earth is in deep shit. And it looks at Mars as a bolt-hole.

Good drama.

Now, aside from my personal complaints about too much character-study time, I have no doubt in my mind that this trilogy is STILL one of the greatest Mars books ever written. I did knock off a star and boot it from my top 100 list of all time, however.

I just don't have that much patience for characterizations that don't directly result in a better overall story or that don't affect the outcome of the plot substantially. A little or even a middle amount of it is no problem, but when all the awesome is skewed toward the science and the action and especially to the breakout emotional scene near the end where all those people hike it across the sands of Mars? Well, that stuff is absolutely brilliant and heartwarming and beautiful and whoop-out-loud amazing!

Comparing the character stuff to that... doesn't cut it.

A lesser novel could have rested on the character stuff. This is one of the most well-thought-out and scientifically researched Mars colonization novels ever. It shouldn't have to suffer from any side weakness... even though it does.


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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Sparrow Hill Road (Ghost Roads, #1)Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I need to be very clear about this: I read it mainly because it is written by Seanan McGuire, not because I was particularly enthralled by the subject matter. I prepared myself for merely *liking* the book, not loving it.

At first, it just appeared to be a rather good character study of an already dead girl, dead back in '53, as she jaunted from time to time because that's what the dead does -- getting filled in on her after-death and the status of her urban legend ghosthood.

And then something happened. Maybe it's how Seanan approached the character, as a dozen snippets and somewhat contradictory stories, but she wrote one of the most complicated and delightfully rounded characters I've yet seen from her. Our dead heroine really came alive.

Death, tragedy, and psychopomps. It's a real roadtrip novel based in the real world and the roads of the dead, from Highway 1 to the Ocean Lady, crossroads guardians, deals with dead witches, and a ghost rider from a precursor of James Dean who eats souls to stay forever young, this entire novel rocked.

There are so many sides to it, but it's always close to the chest and raw and real.

I'm afraid I fell in love with it. It ranks up higher than Seanan's Incryptid series, easy. It probably outshines books 2 and 3 of Wayward children, too. It's hard to compare it to the whole of the Daye novels, but it is better than some of them. It's an entirely different beast from her Grant novels tho, so I won't even try to compare. :)

I honestly want more of this. Please, more Ghost Roads!



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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Saga, Vol. 7 (Saga, #7)Saga, Vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 5/16/18:

Still a mind-rape for me. Can't write a review through the tears.


Original Review:

I'm nearly speechless. That ending. Breathtaking.

You know when someone is telling the story right when I want to scream and rage and cry, no matter what the medium. The fact that this is a comic is even more astonishing.

Seriously. This one blew my mind. I've said before that all comics should use this as a standard to create by, and it's no less true now. Indeed, with all these things happening, I'm about ready to start a petition against the writer and the artist to tone it down and give me a breath.

But no. They won't listen to me. They keep bringing the feels to me. What a nightmare.

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Saga, Vol. 6 (Saga, #6)Saga, Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 5/16/18:

My god. Right in the feels.

There's just something about this series that grabs hold of you and whips you from side to side as it gnaws on you before spitting you out, licking the stumps of your missing legs before licking your face.

I love you, but I seem to have eaten you. Sorry!

The end of this volume is so happy! So. Happy!

Can I "allegedly" murder someone now?


Original Review:

Saga is STILL the biggest place to be if you want smart stories, fantastic art, deliciously evil humor and adult situations, and a rocking romance for the ages that doubles as social commentary and an epic rescue and tragedy all rolled into one.

Sound confusing? Yeah. Blame that all on me. The fact is, this series, and specifically this volume... ROCKS.

I'm of the opinion that this is the STANDARD TO BEAT, and I've read a lot of comics.

Not only is this independent, but it just GOES all the places it wants and it does it brilliantly, not caring a whiff about what anyone else is doing or thinking. It's Art, man. ART. :)

I can't believe how great it is. Do I sound gonzo? I am. I don't care. This is the BOMB. :) Still. :)

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Deep Roots (The Innsmouth Legacy, #2)Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel, but let's be real here: this isn't your average Cthulhu monster novel full of mystery and intrigue and reveals that turn your hair white in disbelief. There aren't even 1d6 investigators to throw into the open maw of a multitentacled AND multidimensional immortal beastie!

But there are multitentacled and multidimensional immortal beasties, ghouls, Deep Ones, halfbreeds and Creatures of Air. Not to mention strange boxes, a focus on books, legacy, and the ultimate fate of mankind. I mean, the whole thing that comes with a Cthulhu tale is the realization that we're insignificant specks of poop in a disturbed nightmare of a dead but sleeping god. Of *course* our fates are up in the air!

But that's where we take our tale out of the norm and place it firmly in the hands of a nuanced and careful character who has been locked away in a concentration camp thanks to her own country, who only wants to read and preserve her culture, who had suffered a massacre of almost all her people on her home soil in Innsmouth.

And she's a monster. An immature Deep One. Who likes books and just wants to be left alone. But thanks to the FBI and her folks under the sea and a nightmare of diplomacy with other Outsiders that reckon diplomatic negotiations in terms of 50 thousand years, she's thrown right into a tangled tentacular soup trying to protect the flies (that's us humans) with the super-technologically-advanced multidimensional space-traveling immortals that WE call Lovecraftian horrors.

The premise and deep exploration of characters and processes and reveals -- including dreamwalking, magics, and threats from well-meaning gods that think that consuming us is a proper way to preserve us forever --is a perfect delight.

It is NOT a humorous tale, however. So fans of Stross' Laundry Files should be forewarned. It is, however, philosophical, ethical, and it tries to answer all the questions about what constitutes MONSTERS. No one is at fault, but the power differentials are immense... and even the flies can sting.

I'm perfectly on board for reading this series until the end of time. :) It's deep, clever, and monstrous. :)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Saga, Vol. 5 (Saga, #5)Saga, Vol. 5 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 5/15/18:

And just when I started to love ANOTHER CHARACTER... I have to get heartbroken again. Not all characters, of course, but some have a special place in my heart. ; ;

What a fantastic series. Heavy-hitting, pull no punches, freakstorm.


Original Review:

Still seriously wicked cool. The story is fantastic, but so is the art. The pacing is divine and it is so damn funny and disturbing at the same time I just can't understand why EVERYONE hasn't just gone bonkers over this title.

I mean, my only complaint is that it comes out too slow and I have to wait so long for each issue!

I am a lifelong fan. Period.

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All Rights Reserved (Word$, #1)All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This happens to be one of those books where the only thing I wanted out of it was the satisfaction of seeing a super BOLD idea slapped across the page. The BIG IDEA is admittedly fantastic.

I was even more interested in seeing if ANYONE could pull it off. It comes with a ton of issues, but if properly handled, even as a YA dystopia, it might have been brilliant.

I have no problems with a huge suspension of disbelief, but sometimes a big idea doesn't (and can't) ever jibe with reality. Sure, if the author put tech inside everyone's head that forced them to comply quite aside from the monetization of words, I may not have had too much of a problem... BUT. And here's the big but:

The world is ruled by lawyers, and beyond that, it's predicated on perpetual copyright taken to the full extreme. Very cool. Every word is monetized. You pay to use anything. Therefore, the only way to rebel is to stay silent. But even gestures are copyrighted and the totally observed police state is quite diligent and any neighbor can easily get a big paycheck by a helpful suite of lawsuits when it comes to pain and suffering. Good stuff. I love this kind of worldbuilding. I don't even have an issue with perpetual copyright laws handed down 6 generations of punishment for a stolen song.

It's good, perhaps great, satire.

However.

When it comes to the next step, when and if a populace decides to rebel, I had to ask a simple question. Why not make up our own words? When every word in existence is monetized and you need to start using them beginning on your 15th birthday, wouldn't YOU begin looking for a way around that? Keep the old language for making money with product placement. But make up your own words or language, or BETTER YET, any number of OTHER LANGUAGES?

Humans a wily that way. Just the idea of unintentional drift drives makers of dictionaries crazy. Some people can make tons of money keeping ideas stratified, but others would EASILY start making up whatever they want to get around the whole stuffy thing, too! That's just human nature! How many curse words do YOU know?

Exactly.

Well, I would have explored that issue instead of wringing my hands and crying and sticking by my weird silent guns on the hope that others would care. Or watch loved ones die. Or rely on the off switch.

Where are the pirates of the mind?

Other than this, it's a pretty decent YA SF dystopia. In one aspect, all the monetization and ads is pretty great worldbuilding. It's just the next step, the next dig down, that I have an issue with.

I usually don't go this hard on a book for ideas, especially since the rest was a pretty decent read as long as you suspend disbelief. Unfortunately, the disbelief became just a tad too heavy. ; ;

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Shadowblack (Spellslinger #2)Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't care who knows it, I'm a fanboy. Yes, it's fantasy YA, but after the first novel and having loved the flow so well and where it wound up, there's nothing that might convince me to stop now.

On the road.

Everything about the characters is fun. Sorry. It's just super easy reading and what's not to love about a wisecracking thieving racoon-cat who is the nightmare of every mage alive as your best friend? Or having a wily dancer/charmer showing him the ropes on the road in a permanent exile? Or how about solving the riddle of a plague of shadowblacks overwhelming a far-off city?

This one is mostly about living off the land and surviving in it, enjoying the characters so expertly developed in the first book, and learning a bit (or a lot) about oneself in the process.

The exile is coming into his own! Evil or not evil? We shall see. :) :)

Totally looking forward to the new audiobook this month for book 3! :)

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Spellslinger (Spellslinger #1)Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Good lord. Sebastien de Castell is kinda a god among writers. I have not read a single one of his novels that I haven't loved.

It's really hard to say what I love the most. The characters have such bright and vivid voices, the magic is both interesting and well fleshed-out with wonderful rules and consequences, and the plots are snappy.

This may be a YA novel but that hardly matters to me at all. The reckoning is coming, the buildup and reveals perfect, and the humor sharp and delightful and dark.

What do you do when you gradually learn that all your folk is bad? Maybe not currently bad, but there's a lot of that, too, but bad ethically and morally? That their culture propagates prejudice and nastiness and what could become general slavery for anyone not in on the inside?

We ask this question all through the tale as our MC slides from promise and becomes all the things that his world hates while remaining true to truth and honor as he sees it.

Great theme, right? But this gets better. The entire novel is just plain FUN. Great fantasy, quick delight, and solid end. :)

I don't think there's anything this writer can't do right. :)

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

AcadieAcadie by Dave Hutchinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On a whim sponsored by a buddy read, I hopped on this novella by Hutchinson not knowing what to expect at all.

I mean, sure, the cover kinda tells me something, but other than something like a deep space opera or a generational ship and perhaps some AI action, I kinda cleansed my mind and let myself slide in.

And it was a gentle ride! Superbrights and an interesting colony and technological advancement and a really laid-back narrator. It was cool and light and pleasant...

Until the end. Or nearly so.

I LOVED the dark twist. :) No spoilers, but it's quite hardcore and tickled all my fancies. Hard SF shouldn't be afraid to go all dark. :) Fun twist, solid story.

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The Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FINALLY got around to reading this classic for the first time.

I mean, who doesn't love a GOOD revenge story, right? Alas, it's a lot more than just that! At 1200 pages, don't you think it ought to be? :)

I'll skip a breakdown of the plot because a ton of people will already have done this or watched some version on TV, but since I have also never watched a movie of this, I cannot say how well they do.

I CAN, however, say that I was never bored. Not once. From conspiracy and intrigue, the hope of a grand happy life, dashed, the fear of Napoleon coming back to the mainland driving some jerks to frame the poor kid Edmund Dantes and sentence him to a life in a nasty castle prison on the eve of his own wedding... it sounds glorious, fantastically evil. And it is. But that's just the start of the fun.

In prison, he befriends and is befriended by a learned man of the cloth with great knowledge and the secret of a great treasure, but it still takes Eddy 14 years of his youth to orchestrate a grand escape by way of a cannonball attached to his leg, being tossed into the sea as the dead.

What drives him is REVENGE on those people who put him away through no fault of his own.

The other 850 pages is a wild rags-to-riches story as he takes on the guise of the brilliantly rich Count of Monte Cristo as he inveigles, bribes, buys, and cons his way into high society in Paris. He never loses sight of his overarching theme of revenge, looking up and looking into every one of the creeps that took away his whole future, but unlike the modern tales of revenge we're familiar with, he does it in a very Christian way.

If a man properly repents and does good deeds, Eddy forgives. If the jerk remains a jerk, then Eddy conspires with all his intelligence and wealth to bring about the utter ruin of his enemy. And I mean utter ruin. Not just their wealth, but their family, their hopes, even their very souls... he casts them down into the abyss. :) Slowly. Carefully. Eddy is never blithe about his task. He makes sure it is the right thing to do, always questioning, always giving his enemies more and more and more rope... and through many diverse plot threads, we see the noose close around each and all... unless they are good.

And like judge, jury, and executioner, Eddy gives each of them their just desserts. :)

Classic? More than classic. It's still an easy and delightful read even for us moderns. Timeless? Perhaps. One of the best novels ever written?

Yes.

With one caveat. There's a lot of modern favorites in the movies and novels that take directly from the plots and themes here. Like, huge swaths. Like Shawshank Redemption and V for Vendetta. These movies even make huge references to the Count. :)

It also has a rich tradition in my own personal favorite genres such as SF. The Demolished Man by Bester very strongly comes to mind, as does the Lightbringer books by Weeks in Fantasy. :)

It's telling that stories like this are still such huge crowd pleasers, no? What's wrong with us??? lol

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Night Watch (Watch #1)Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I'm a bit amazed.

There's an awful lot I love about this novel and I had to put aside a lot of my well-misinformed prejudices about what I think I like most about modern Urban Fantasy.

Let's be clear here... this novel came out before most of the modern batches. 1998.

When it comes to similar themes of dark magic vs. light and the exploration of an amazingly deep moral ambiguity between them, I actually prefer Benedict Jacka's UF novels when it comes to straight action, magic, and characters, but Night Watch takes things slightly farther with the honest questions.

In both, anyone can be good or evil despite the categories, and there's a LOT of ground covered in both series, but Night Watch actually comes close to laying down a foundation of philosophical thought. I can be summed up as balance if I wanted to be crude. Let's not be surprised this is a modern Russian novel writing about modern Russia as a full-out UF with vampires, magicians, alternate dimensional side-realms, and a fight between the light and dark. Add the police-like drama and ramp up the focus of a morality of action versus the singularity of truth and the ambiguity of all the details will bring a hoard of devils home to us.

Sometimes slow, very often broken up into what could be a series of novellas, this first book is nevertheless pretty brilliant.

Where do dark magicians get their power? Suffering. Where do light magicians get theirs? Joy. Both diminish the source. It's quite delightful.

But if I'm being very honest, this is more of a 4.5 than a full 5 stars, but that's only due to my sheer enjoyment (or lack) that pulled down this otherwise sprawling philosophical twist to a traditional gritty UF. Maybe my issue is in the translation. Maybe it's my greater enjoyment coming from similar series to have treated the topic. I do not know.

Even so, I did enjoy this very much. Especially the end.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

The ImmortalistsThe Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This wasn't a particularly bad novel. It had a tiny bit of magical realism, a slapdash of carpe diem, and a lot of character study. The details surrounding the entire family was the strongest part.

I suppose I just wasn't in the right mood for this one. It was weak on any particular Fantasy and it wasn't a sprawling generational Family Epic. We deal with four siblings who were told the time of their deaths as children. Each dealt with it in wildly different ways.

And that was about it. I sometimes like character studies and this one was perhaps better than average, but it wasn't particularly hard-hitting. Even with AIDS scene. It was a strong start, but the rest was just... okay.

I supposed this is my failure to fall in love with traditional mainstream fiction. It deals with a lot of reality and very little else. Death? Yes. That's the whole theme.

How do you deal with what you're given when you're alive?

Fine. *sigh* I suppose I would have gone nuts if this was full of philosophy and depth. But it wasn't.

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Degrading Orbits (Darkside Earther #2)Degrading Orbits by Bradley Horner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So I decided to write a fake review for my wonderful glorious new novel, but I got stuck with the wording.

I started out with "... a gruff semaphore from Niflheim ..."

And then felt jealous of "... an urgent tickertape from hell ..."

But in the end, I felt that neither were quite as timely as "... a fart of an IM from rehab ..."


But in reality, I am very pleased with how this turned out. I leveled up. I also followed my heart, kinda bled for this novel. I decided to go all out with the cool stuff, the action, and the pain. There's very little teenage stuff in here. It's dark, adventuresome, wild with tech, imagination, and pathos.

Axel and Helen are pretty much tortured. This is where several worlds collide. On multiple levels.

I can't wait to see people's reactions. :) Working on the third and last book in the trilogy even now.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

FuryFury by Henry Kuttner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Classic SF from '47. It isn't bad and it has a solid plot thread and a very streamlined theme, from breaking off the yoke of immortals only to realize you are one, to founding a rebellion allowing all the people to earn their own immortality and a place in the sun. (On Venus, nonetheless.)

I don't have any outright complaints about this tale. No embarrassing idiocies and I can tolerate a climate-controlled venus just fine when it's in service to a decent tale.

However, all in all, it's just too simple for my taste. It's pretty much golden age pulp fiction designed for people hankering for adventure. Throw in a smattering of telepathy, the prejudice that might come from immortals, and a somewhat exotic location, and it's a pretty classic SF theme. Simple.

Get the rebellion on. Forward the Fury!

Like I said, no complaints, but no great accolades, either.

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Shadowheart (Shadowmarch, #4)Shadowheart by Tad Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What Tad Williams does good, he does very, very good. I'll give him that. The ending of this huge Fantasy series is sufficiently huge, magical, war-driven, god-killing, and mad enough to fill the hearts of any epic fantasy fan.

Williams takes his time to build everything so very slowly until it all comes crashing together and we're left breathless.

On the other hand, stories like this are still only as good as the characters that drive them. And if you're dealing with a huge cast of characters, they really need to have a lot of interesting situations, interesting responses, and general likability. I'd give half the cast here that accolade. The other half, however, either bored me or just made me want to hurry through and get to the good stuff.

Briony is the huge issue. Her brother Barrick is just fine.

I tried. I really tried. She has aspects about her that I liked intellectually and not all of her storyline was a complete waste, but I never felt emotionally invested.

Overlooking that, I really enjoyed most of the Funderlings, the fae-call out, the dead or dying gods, the dreaming, the con, the mad immortals, the sacrifices, and the siege of the world. No complaints there. :)

It's just unfortunate I couldn't have enjoyed the entire sequence equally. Too many bits seemed too long, in need of a big shave. The plotting sometimes seemed pointless or just a way to get from point A to point B because I wasn't invested in some of the characters. But then again, maybe it's just me.

I can't say this is more than an above-average epic fantasy. Flawed, still good.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Genius PlagueThe Genius Plague by David Walton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fast-paced and nerdy in a "cocky newbie to the NSA fights an intelligent Mycelium plague" vein. :)

The initial premise was what brought me to the book and that still stands. The fungus is mimicking our brains from within our brains and makes us smarter... with the pitfall that it only behaves to improve its own survival.

I might have preferred an all-out hard SF going much deeper into a fully-successful plague, but hitting the breaks like this was fun enough for a single novel. The alternative might have become a doorstopper and I might have loved that, too, but alas... this is only my opinion. :)

What we do have is a cocky bright kid getting into a ton of trouble who does everything he can to save the world. It's really not bad. It's smart. Interesting. Tons of great science and ideas were thrown about for all you mushroom lovers out there. It's a real smorgasbord. :)

I may not like the end so much, but I really enjoyed the ride getting there. Walton's writing is fast-paced and as cocky as his MC. It's designed to be popcorn fiction and for the most part, it fits the bill perfectly. :)

Now, where's my salad? I'm in the mood for a few whitecaps. :)

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Monday, May 7, 2018

I Only Killed Him Once (Ray Electromatic Mysteries, #3)I Only Killed Him Once by Adam Christopher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So very, very enjoyable. Ray Electromatic is the Robot's Robot of the dirty streets of LA Noir. Sometimes he's a PI and sometimes he's a hit-robot-for-hire, but what makes him really stand out for me is his memory issues.

He runs on RAM. Poor Ray! Every day, he comes back with the same template as before. Useful when he needs plausible deniability, it's a real pain when the damn mysteries keep coming back. And back. And back. :)

This one has a lot of fantastic reveals and snappy dialogue. Ada, the master computer who gives Ray his jobs, is out of the picture for a lot of the tale and Ray has to figure out who the next Job is on his own! Who does he have to kill?

Oh, the nightmare!

Of course, I was just happy that it could have been anyone because this is classic Noir, but the final reveal was very satisfying. And very SF. :)

I'm LOVING this kind of genre-mashup. Big time. The best of both worlds.

And I'm probably going to have to scream for more of this. It can't end here. We have to have MORE. :)

Sladek, Wells, Martinez... we need more like this!!! :)

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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These Murderbot Diaries are quickly becoming a go-to popcorn SF read for me. I love killer robots as much as the next bloke, but I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for this one.

It's not just the hundreds of hours this mass-murder-capable robot pours into his/her SF soap opera binge-watching time. It's not the kinds of situations that make it need to pretend to be human among all the myriad prejudices AGAINST mass-murder-capable robots.

It's the candid conversations with pissed-off robot carriers.

I kinda agree with these two. Murdering all the humans would truly make their lives much simpler. But then again, I suppose that could be said about all of us.

Good worldbuilding! I'm really flying through each one of these like it was popcorn. :)

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The Lightning Stenography DeviceThe Lightning Stenography Device by M.F. Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a hard book to get through, unfortunately, but not for the normal reasons.

For one, I did kinda like the premise and have always wanted to see it done in ways more glorious than the way Stephen King did it, namely the automatic typewriter from Tommyknockers, pouring out a novel telepathically, but what LSD did, here, turned it into an existential/literary/religious/meta twisty-turny writer's wet dream.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a writer, too, and a part of me really gets off on the deep writer's angst bits, but most of the first half of the novel is devoted to it. I slipped from enjoying it intellectually and fell into "this is pretentious". I should have liked it more by natural inclination, but I didn't.

And then, apart from it being too long, I don't think anyone else would like it unless you're pretty much just like me and this author, enjoying the literary meta ride.

But then, the novel took on a very different turn and stuck close to actual storytelling. It turned into a fantasy with tons of great allusions and allegories and they were told with a strong voice both familiar and not *SO* usual that we are kept guessing. It was a pleasure to read.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the whole novel. If it had been *most* of the novel, I probably would rate this higher and clap. But it wasn't. Something just felt off.

Still, the whole novel was a very big LSD trip, even so, and I can appreciate the idea even if I didn't quite enjoy the ride. :)



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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Murder at the Scrambling Dragon (The Carnival Keepers #2)Murder at the Scrambling Dragon by Amber Gulley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Following up after Carnival Keepers, we remain in an early Victorian society rife with dark magics and strange creatures and curiosity shops with secrets.

I was struck by how many interesting characters filled this novel. Lots of PoVs! Some are rather more fascinating than others, but I'll be singing the praises of a few rats. :) NOT just street rats, but actual intelligent rats. :)

This is a classic curiosity shop novel, but what makes it stand out is the sheer number of horrific and magical events that happen here. It's full to the brim and often very dark. The worldbuilding is quite imaginative. :)

If you liked the first one, you'll definitely like this followup. I've grown to like these characters quite a lot!


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DISCO SOURDISCO SOUR by Giuseppe Porcaro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a post-civil-war high-tech world where voting has been relegated to cell phones and just about everything is trademarked, I was struck by how close to Malka Older's work this was. Voting blocks are ideological and boundaryless in a true sense and even children can vote.

It's truly democratic... but, unfortunately, random.

Not so for the plot. This bit of worldbuilding is fairly interesting but in my opinion, wasn't explored to great lengths. I kinda wish it had been.

Rather, the plot took over as a breakup gone bad, tons of alcohol, travel misadventures and crossed wires with hookup apps. I came away with this thinking that the whole novel was a commentary on the political systems we already have in terms of making real relationships work.

In other words, it takes effort, not just saying the right things.

Proper enough, I thought, but while it was a rather easy read, it was, on the other hand, not deep enough. I wanted it to keep digging and keep digging, not just saying the right thing.

Fortunately, I enjoyed the character and the basic idea well enough and felt some sympathy, so I can honestly say I'll keep reading more from this author! And thanks for the review copy! :)

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Friday, May 4, 2018

To Say Nothing of the Dog (Oxford Time Travel, #2)To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fateful re-read 5/4/18

This is one of my all-time favorite books. From the clever phrases and deep PTSD exasperation to the total eventual collapse of the space-time continuum because of a freaking cat to THE BISHOP'S BIRD-STUMP, I find myself chortling nearly twenty years after the first read and again on the re-read.

We're catapulted through time thanks to the Oxford History Department's time machine put to the disposal of a wealthy American patron who is, let's be frank, NUTS. She's sent seemingly countless overworked historians into the Blitz to recover artifacts from the destroyed cathedral at Covington.

What really happens is a LOT of slippage in the time-stream, a deep mystery, even more miscommunication and strange coincidences and classic slapstick and some of the funniest Victorian Romance I've come across.

Oh, it's definitely hardcore SF, but it's also a tribute to Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat and the spirit is very much alive and well.

What we've got is a genre-masher of epic proportions. It's a high-stakes time-continuum travel and looming disaster, a truly atrocious MacGuffin that has everyone running around like headless chickens in a slapstick comedy, and a classic 1930's Hercule Peroit Agatha Christie mystery.

All three genres are pulled off wonderfully! And she tops it all off with VERY well-turned phrases that stick with you so warmly. :)

Charming? Beyond charming. Utterly delightful. No poppycock. :)



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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Shadowrise (Shadowmarch, #3)Shadowrise by Tad Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series continues to be something of an enigma, but not in the usual sense of the word.

Sure, there's a number of great reveals in this volume that let us dive deeper and deeper into what the gods are and what they were and how they work. We understand the god's children, the Fae who are bursting out into this fantasy land and displacing or killing the lesser, or rather, quite equal humans.
There's even a great deal of good action and epic battles and tons of court intrigue and traveling on the road if hobnobbing with gods isn't your thing. It is my thing, however, and I count that part of the storytelling to be some of the most interesting. By far. Keyword STORYTELLING. Those of you who've read this will understand what I mean. It's quite beautiful how the gods and their lands work.

Dreams, imagination, passing on of immortality, the difficulty of children... all of it wraps up into something quite delicious.

And then there's the enigma.

How can something with such core awesomeness in an epic fantasy wind up having so many tedious passages? I'm sorry, but the book is too long. I might have said the same about the other two and by the look of things, the fourth is the worst.

Unfortunately, some storylines lost my interest. I might have perked up with the assassination attempts and the escapes and the times of good dialogue where reveals were being had, but the rest was full of sad tedium.

And yet I still rate this as a four star because on the whole, I love the story. That's the strength of Tad Williams and it's why I'm willing to slog a bit. It's worth it in the end. Especially this novel. The end was pretty fantastic and has me rearing to pick up the next. :)

But I shall wait a little. I need to recharge. :)

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