Friday, December 14, 2018

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

Is it tragic, absurd, or funny?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Totally amazing.

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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

The Moon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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

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

Best points?

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

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

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


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

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Monday, December 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

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

Two things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

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

I'm a bit of a completionist at heart.

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

This is one of those novels.

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

Maybe it's just me?

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

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

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

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

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Friday, December 7, 2018

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

So. Someone just got eaten by a god.

That's right! It's ME!

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

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

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


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

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


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

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

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

Re-Read 12/5/18:

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

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

The extinction of the human race?

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

Original review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

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

Ahhh, expectations versus reality. A real conundrum.

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

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

Or so I thought.

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

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

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

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


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Monday, December 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, December 2, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, December 1, 2018

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

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

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


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

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

His imagination is truly phenomenal.

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

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

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

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

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