Monday, November 12, 2018

The Long Sunset (The Academy, #8)The Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I can never say that these books by McDevitt are super original, he does have a talent at writing them very well. And I don't mean that they're just some super-action fluff, either, because he just doesn't write those kinds of novels.

Instead, we have a thoughtful pacing, in-depth consideration of circumstances, a deep love of curiosity and archeology, and a need to bring up issues that are just as important to us as they are for the characters in this future time.

Interstellar travel is here and it has been here for quite some time since book #6, but AGAIN Earth is hell-bent on saving resources and shutting down the programs that keep our eyes fixed on the stars. Isolationism. Again. But after a transmission from 7 thousand years ago finally reaches us, depicting intelligent aliens with music tastes that we can get behind, Hutch is asked to take a trip.

Unlike another few of these Academy novels, I actually liked the aliens. The mystery is rather more mundane and the discoveries are a lot more pleasant as a whole and I don't miss the multiple deaths that usually happened in these novels.

I really enjoyed the rescue mission as a whole. I fully expect to keep reading all about this story in the future. Big things are only beginning. :) Friendship in the stars? It's about time. :) The OTHER argument. No Dark Forest here. :)

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Breakfast at Tiffany'sBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cannot and probably should not judge this according to the time it was written. To do so may or may not deepen the impact of it. If I wanted a slightly lighter tone, I could always watch the old movie.

As it is here and now, I feel like I should only judge it by my own sensibilities of this day and time.

The novella is breathless and anxiety-ridden, full of self-aware sexuality and hypocrisy, and it's also a purely whimsical fantasy. That is to say, I fell in love with these flawed characters and my heart broke for them.

Everyone loves Holly. She gives of herself so freely. She's so energetic and playful and outgoing.

And that is her tragedy. She gives away everything. Even her cat. And yet, according to one postcard, she will always be okay. It's really fascinating and heartbreaking because she will never have anything of her own. She lives on the largess of everyone around her and they all love her to death.

I can't give a crap about the fact she sleeps around. She is what she is, and that's what we're meant to see clearly. I love it.

She's very bright. Even her gift of a birdcage to the writer-narrator is astute as hell. She could be talking entirely about him or about his love for her. The point is... there is no bird.

So pretty. So understated. So heartbreaking.

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read, 11/11/18:

The only real review for this book is one that fully experiences it from the inside. In other words, take the roads, listen to the rocks, and above all, DON'T TRUST THE FARIES.

This was a classic when I first read it and it's just as good on any re-read. That's why I put this in my top-100 list. :) It will stand the test of time.

Let's fight with Wellington and defeat Napoleon with magic! Let's get into major trouble, get majorly paranoid, and do it with arrogance and style!

Above all, this is a buddy novel that starts really rocky, continues worse, ends in mistrust, and yet, is quintessentially English. In other words, polite and often uplifting. :)

Brilliant book. I think it will always be. :)

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Friday, November 9, 2018

Armed In Her FashionArmed In Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I want to say this is a well-thought-out historical novel, and it definitely dovetails nicely with history, but let's face it: It's Hell on Earth.

In a lot of great stylistic ways, I'm reminded favorably of Peter Newman's The Vagrant, only it's right here and the minions of hell all speak French.

The novel is very female-centric, making this all kinds of awesome. Not all men are jerks, but all the revenant men definitely are. Add that to the laws which disenfranchise the lot of women, a cool attempt at bringing Justice to Hell, and a big smackdown when that doesn't pan out.

These mothers, widows, and even a non-identified transgender warrior all do everything they can to survive and secure their place in the world filled with dead-but-still-being-assholes husbands.

Don't assume this is just a fast-paced and bloody-minded fantasy with the minions of hell pouring out of the Earth. I mean, it is absolutely that, but it's also about doing the right thing... or not. :) :)

I very much enjoyed this. I'm gonna keep my eyes on this author. :)

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Alice Payne Arrives (Alice Payne, #1)Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time travel.

Sure, it has been done a lot over the years, but then, so has detective tales, historical novels running over the same old grounds, or vampires. The key to a good tale is in the depth of detail, the strength of the characters, and the piledriver of the plot.

Fortunately, Heartfield rams it home in this novella. Does it feel like the beginning of a serial? Absolutely. Is the novella still fun to read on its own, with lots of time-jumping, future world-building, and conflict between hoards of other time-travelers attempting to correct other factions' wrongs or fix history, thereby making a botch of all history? Hell yeah.

It's a strong entry. It doesn't hurt that the lead female is gay and her lover is an inventor from 1788, or that there's an almost heist-like feel going on in the plot, or that the young Alice is half-black.

It's still good to be a time-traveler. :)

My only complaint is nothing much of a complaint. I want to have the full arc of the story in my hands, not just the attempted fix of history. :)

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Quantum MagicianThe Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have no problems raving about this book. It has everything I love about SF and then I get the best things I love about the thriller/mystery genre.

HEISTS.

At first, I believed this was written as a homage or a more accessible version of Hannu Rajaniemi's Quantum Thief, and I was right... to a degree. It forwent the truly odd stuff and gave us a readable and full explanation of quantum mechanics and name-dropped a few more while throwing us into a more widespread future that never quite touched the singularity.

In other words, it had odd cultures and odder branches of humanity but it still felt a lot like everything we know. Bruisers coming in the form of gene-modded humans able to withstand punishing pressure, a technician in the form of insane AI who think he is a Saint from three thousand years ago or an inside man who is a part of a whole people modded to worship everything about self-torture as a religious experience.

Add our mastermind who is a broken quantum computer (in the old sense) who ought to be able to go into a fugue state and savant his way through any difficult problem except for the tiny detail that it hospitalizes him, and we've got an MC who needs a social challenge big enough to tax his brain without busting it.

There's a lot of great gallows humor here. A truly wild backdrop of space-opera with wormholes, big space-fleet conflict, and empires who all think they're the most formidable foes in the playground. What could go wrong?

Well, as it turns out, a lot, but the ride is fun as hell. After all, it's a HEIST! :) :)

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The Three PoisonsThe Three Poisons by John Molik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got this on Netgalley not having read the previous two books, but fortunately, I didn't have any problems enjoying this novel on its own. That being said, I think I'm going to have a hard time reviewing this novel because it is RICH with ideas, worldbuilding, themes, and characters. Where would I start?

It is equal parts technothriller and a character study. AI-assisted espionage, genetic enhancements, transhumanist movements, the push to the stars... all this is a huge part of the novel and it's very fun. But the novel shines when the AI becomes human-like and heavily augmented girls become a little more flesh and blood. And that's the point. So much of this novel is about transformation. It is certainly not limited to this example.

The world and the themes go from economic theory, the evils of greed, to paranoid blaming of shadow conspiracies (which are real here), to the hunt we all share to find peace and love in the middle of a near-future dystopia. We travel all over the world with a large handful of well-drawn characters, learning, fighting, striving, and surviving. There are a couple of plot threads that are very strong and exciting and a few others that are quiet and introspective. This makes reviewing the novel without a long diatribe on both kinda unwieldy, but suffice to say...

If you like rich and complex technothrillers with excitement, heart, humor, and a LOT to say, you won't go wrong with picking this up. :) I'm quite impressed with all of it.

Reminds me of a mix between Daniel Suarez, econopunk, and a Buddhist-flavored PKD. :)

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

War Factory (Transformation #2)War Factory by Neal Asher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I have finally become a card-carrying fan of Asher. Before, it was all about the awesome tech and the cool reveals that usually surrounded the cool tech, but then I was getting into the wide range of messed up characters being transformed from normal baddies to nearly godlike baddies... while the rest of the Polity goes nuts with godlike AIs of every flavor and disposition ruling us poor fools however they liked. Often to some very strange results.

Fast forward to the current novel. It continues on with the story of Pennyroyal not from his POV but from all his Faustian victims. After the results and cool as shit reveals from Dark Transformation, we still don’t get the ubergodlike AI’s POV but he has suddenly become my absolute favorite AI character of all time. Talk about a backstory!

This novel is both a fantastic backstory and a great adventure bringing the most fascinating creatures and monsters from the previous and throwing them together in a truly awesome way....

At the whims of a dark god with truly crazy motives and crazier abilities.

Think of a Lovecraftian nightmare with hyperspace, superintelligence, and even time travel capabilities. Have him apparently bring about the most elaborate scheme to enact revenge upon himself by creating paradigm shifting creatures capable of busting planets, and then make him look like a king slumming it in a local bar.

Too freaking awesome.

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Monday, November 5, 2018

LysandraLysandra by T.J. Zakreski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a lot of ways or perhaps all of them, the only way to review this book is through spoilers. So here's your mild warning.

There's a lot going on under the surface that is both essential to the tale and interesting enough that we actually NEED to talk about it in a review or the awesome JUST CAN'T BE SHOWN. :)

I mean, I could just say it's awesome and all but that kinda misses the point. WHY?

Because... the New Adult clone of Jesus created by an AI virus from another star system is getting into trouble, is taking on the monstrosity of the future Religious State, and she's not doing it alone.

The virus has plans of his own and he's just as godly as before. He's including the poor guy from the previous novel, too. And if this wasn't cool enough, the whole nature of reality, virtual reality, of alternate universes and times as seen through branching-off versions spawned through wormholes, is on full display here.

As the Stones might say, we've got ourselves a revolution.

I mentioned once in the review of the Cygnus Invasion that the author takes the ball from Philip K Dick and runs with it. And he does. There's a lot of godlike stuff going on here. Zakreski has a zany core here while retaining the serious exploration of the original subject. It's treated lightly, quickly, as well as with all the solemnity and depth it requires. I can't ask for more. Easy to read and yet it tackles a lot of complex topics.

Religion, godhood... beware the Spear of Destiny. It looks like a little quantum tomfoolery is on its way. :) Beware the minotaur in the labyrinth. :)


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The Reluctant BarbarianThe Reluctant Barbarian by John Haas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This self-aware dungeon master romp is skirting the edge of the fun LitRPG trends going around. Arthur gets a belated wish from his childhood and gets plopped in the center of a Grand Adventure as a normal regenerative barbarian with the undead, an oh-so-predictable Paladin, and enough funny adventures to satisfy any D&D head. Add a Lich for good measure, and this is one hell of a Dark Horse story.

But more than that, it's light and just plain fun. Even the Paladin.

I hate Paladins. So stuffy. :)

Just add all the misunderstood social bits of our world and mix them into the rich fantasy world to give us all the sour chuckles we'd ever desire. :)

Missing your gaming session? Come on over. :)

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Feeding Frenzy: Curse of the Necromancer (Loon Lake Magic, #1)Feeding Frenzy: Curse of the Necromancer by Maaja Wentz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's a solid UF for ya.

That's ya, not YA, in case you're wondering, for while a lot of the action takes place on a Campus, the action is all witches, ravenous hoards, and horror nods. The first half of the novel promises to be a humorous romp as students and teachers succumb to a strange illness/curse that makes them gobble up everything in sight and then walk around like a zombie afterward. I'd say Bulimia, but this is a bit of tight necromancy instead. The second half is an all-out zombie-ish apocalypse that is part food riot and part magical conspiracy.

I thought it was pretty fun! Pure popcorn, of course, but sometimes we just HAVE to have our popcorn reads. :) Fun is fun is fun. :)

I'm looking forward to eating the next book. :) Nom Nom Nom.

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Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming: Book One: TheoryThe Heretic's Guide to Homecoming: Book One: Theory by Sienna Tristen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I just found one of my most favorite books of all time.

Even if the novel didn't remind me of Cat Valente's best writing, with all its poetry couched in prose, the way the stories within stories kinda blows me away.

But you know what really speaks to me the most?

This novel is about awe. Hope. Regaining spirit, driving forward your dreams, fighting anxiety, and finding wonder.

Quite aside from that, the novel has a truly delicious and deep worldbuilding that is matched or perhaps overmatched with the depth of characterization. On the surface, it's a novel about a scholar putting his books away to fully experience the world no matter what anyone thinks and taking up with a fascinating traveler.

But that's like saying LoTR is about some short person taking out the trash.

As I was reading, I counted three times I was brought to tears. The first was probably the hardest hitting. The traveler's rules for our hapless scholar put him through a profound and genuine change, revealing his heart's innermost desires, smashing walls and unearthing all the buried dreams of a lifetime. The courage and the point of it and the execution floored me.

And that might have been more than enough for any novel, but this one forges forth and gives us some of the most engaging reveals I've ever read. Never mind that some themes might have been explored in older fantasy novels.

The author's take on these themes is superior. Courageous. Delightful.

Am I in full-on crush mode right now?

You better F***ing believe it.

I plan on reading this again. And again. At delighted leisure. There is nothing about this that isn't uplifting, even if it is often difficult. Or even more than difficult. You could call it an artist's journey, but it is as valid for self-discovery, self-actualization, or even just accepting yourself and falling in love with life and your own destiny. :)

BRAVO!

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Dwarves of the WorldDwarves of the World by Brandon Draga
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This short collection of 9 Dwarf stories is quite entertaining, featuring real issues, real emotion, and only slightly reminiscent of the normal images of Dwarves we all seem to have in our heads. You know. Singing. Short people. But these have nothing to do with Jonny Depp or candy of any type.

Because there's mines, artistry, social niceties, and GIRLS WITH BEARDS.

What else are you looking for? Huh???

How about good stories? It's all here. :) I liked all of them. Intrigue, action, near devastation, heroism, and hardly any elves to speak of. :)

Give me that ax. I want to get my masterwork out of the way. :)

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The Stars Are Calling (Starchasers Book 2)The Stars Are Calling by Kay Hawkins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Good parts first: The story is a bit more on the ball than the previous novel, with a more interesting plot, more character development, and a stab at relevance. I like the fact that the characters are on the road to change.

As a whole, it is fine for fans of a simpler Star Trek universe without dealing with the actual characters of the Star Trek universe.

Skyler is a brat who will stop at nothing to be a captain and Michael is sick of the inequality dealt at his species and has moved on from being a technician to an inexplicably brilliant metallurgist overnight, and Kax, the catgirl, is just as brilliant with her piloting skills. There's a little more depth to some of the characters but no real struggle to get their SF superpowers.

That isn't a real dealbreaker, however. I've seen a lot of SF fluff... but I generally avoid reading it. This is more a school-space adventure revolving around characters. None of the science should be taken seriously.

... Unfortunately, the text in this book seems to be on the same level as a first draft. Grammar problems, margin errors, autocorrect wrong words, and punctuation is all over the place. Especially in the second half of the novel. I usually never mention this unless it becomes a serious problem to either understanding or flow.



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Saturday, November 3, 2018

ElevationElevation by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

King novella!

Half of this novella is a feel-good friendship fest and the other half is a dark fantasy meeting together in a soft chewy center of miscommunication, making friends, and body-horror.

But because it's King, and he likes to mess with us, he doesn't give us a chill-fest. Rather, he went all out to tackle small-town assholes and prejudice against a nice lesbian couple who opened up a Mexican Restaurant in Castle Rock. And he pulls it off without being preachy. Indeed, he focuses on wrapping things up for his main character before he gets blows away. :)

I likey.

The supernatural bits are VERY reminiscent of Thinner, but thankfully not too much. The method and the outcome is a lot more SF than a gypsy curse. :) Why not revisit a theme but do it a lot differently? It works very well here. :)

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Friday, November 2, 2018

The Stars Will Rise (Starchasers Book 1)The Stars Will Rise by Kay Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you can imagine a space cadet academy that runs like a trade school with characters that are a lite version of cocky Kirk, a sexually ambiguous engineer who is held back because of race and his orientation (alien and asexual), and a cat girl who refuses to be pigeonholed, then you've pretty much nailed this quick novel.

To be perfectly honest, I was kinda taken aback by how many fish sticks and holo-monopoly the novel focused on. Or clubbing, getting drunk, or hooking up. Large stretches dealt with life not even remotely SF. It might as well be early dorm life with short punctuations of intense battle and inexplicably easy stints of stealing spacecraft, impersonating a captain, or just happening to come up with that brilliant idea that saves everyone's butts without quite having to work for it.

Indeed, a lot of the book lacks conflict other than rebuffing sexual contact or working through issues of childhood. The actual space conflict scenes generally have no build-up or depth. They just happen with an almost cartoonish ease. And are resolved as quickly.

The first half of the novel was slightly difficult to get through because the whole space academy bit was mostly "I want to be a captain" and the rest was hanging out. It did pick up nicely for the last half, however, and it was a very light read.

I would totally recommend this for new readers or anyone who doesn't want to work very hard with their tales. Fluff, basically. :)

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The Bone MotherThe Bone Mother by David Demchuk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, wow! I think I may have found my new favorite horror author!

Well, new for me, anyway. He's been around for many years but mostly as a short story artist. But after meeting him and listening to him speak at a convention, I knew I had to read his work. Sharp mind, deep horror sensibility. :) But even without meeting him, this book is an awesome treat.

Ukranian in flavor, we have all the Slavic influences at the fore. Each story in here makes up a much larger picture of the surrounding area filled with VERY creepy influences. You know, like the Night Police, parents eating their children, mass starvation, government-sponsored assassinations, children never growing up, Strigoi, old witches feeding children worms, and a dark mystery that weaves through every story in the best possible way.

Sound cool? It gets better. Demchuk has a WAY WITH WORDS. At first, I thought he was writing in a minimalist way, but it's better than that. He writes like poetry.

The rhythm to his writing is more than compelling. It takes over your heart and pumps your blood for you. I generally never get scared with horror books. Generally. But this one managed to burrow under my skin and wrap around my spine, making me twinge with every new creepy reveal.

I'm totally thrilled. It's like Angela Slater decided to focus on horror. :) My eyes are wide open, now. I'm going to keep a very sharp eye on this writer. :)

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