Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Honored Enemy (Legends of the Riftwar, #1)Honored Enemy by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a pleasant surprise!

I kinda expected some old side stories placed at the end of the original Riftwar taking place on the outskirts in the cold north, but not a REALLY GOOD novel about enemies banding together to survive against an implacable foe alien to both.

The tale itself is pretty simple in outline but really told well in detail. The nitty gritty is what this is all about, keeping their men alive at all costs, the dangers and distrust, the cultural exchanges, the growing trust, and of course, the knowledge that they would eventually have to square off and kill each other... eventually. :)

As a novel that really affected me, this kinda did the job better than most of Feist's other novels. :) Odd, right? The big action and the epic awesomeness is missing here, instead focusing on a deep tale of friendship in adversity. :) Totally recommend.

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Hope for the Best (The Chronicles of St. Mary's, #10)Hope for the Best by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think it's safe to say that Taylor has done it again. Not MAX doing it again, per se, but for writing a great SF time-travel hijinx novel, the WRITER has done it again. :)

My goodness. Max taking herself into Mastermind territory? Oh, WHAT COULD GO WRONG, indeed? lol

I admit I'm a huge fan of big heist-type novels and this one gives us all the attempted makings of one. Max even GETS PERMISSION to run such an ill-conceived notion against her arch-enemy. Will wonders never cease?

Of course, things go wrong. They always go wrong. History department or FAR off the History department's tracks, I was consistently amazed at the lengths that Max went. From start to finish, I think this one might be one of my favorites in the series.

Sure, there isn't so much involvement with the old characters so much, but that is to be expected, being on the run and all. :)

So? Bravo! Totally entertaining. :)

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Jimmy and the Crawler (The Riftwar Legacy, #4)Jimmy and the Crawler by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Picking up with Jimmy and hunting down the mysterious Crawler soon after the events of The Tear of God, the core of the team is back in is moving on to a fresh city to set up more of a spy network.

Like the other novels with Jimmy, it's fun but somewhat predictable. Indeed, the predictable bits are what makes this fun.

Let's see the ex-thief get into trouble, shall we? Let's see him fight or sneak his way out of it. Let's have him fight assassins, demons, mages, and all kinds of nastiness. :)

Fun? Yes, fun. Not epic, but Jimmy's stories aren't really supposed to be.

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Krondor: Tear of the Gods (The Riftwar Legacy, #3)Krondor: Tear of the Gods by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More Jimmy!

Honestly, I just find this fun. Fluffy fun. We get a little side-story lead-up to the big war with GODS a few decades later and it all fits like a straight line from Arutha to Demon War.

Was this or the other two novels strictly necessary?

Ehhhh... no. They WERE, however, necessary for the pure fun of it. Jimmy carries the tale with Pug's grandson and a Keshian court wizard. Getting into trouble is the name of the game for this ex-thief spymaster Jimmy. And he does... getting caught up with necromancers and dead gods and mad pirates. Alongside an angry dwarf. :)

More of a traditional fantasy than anything else, but it is still FUN.
It's fleshing out the early Krondorian days in a very big way.

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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Walking to AldebaranWalking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know those times when you are reading Harlan Ellison and you say to yourself, "Where are all the newer writers doing DARK FREAKING TWISTS in their SF, full of humor, horror, and anxiety?"

Ah, good news, ya'll! This one fits the bill. :) In fact, I think I should make a little bookshelf named "MUAHAHAHAHAHA".

Yep. Expect a first-contact scenario playing out in flashback, wry and disturbing humor as we catch up with our poor pedestrian walking through the halls of the Frog God, and explore distant worlds and galaxies by foot. Expect, hunger, thirst, SO MANY OTHER aliens in the same boat, and especially...

A wonderful twist or two.

Come on. If Tchaikovsky is channeling Harlan, YOU KNOW it has to come. :) Ah, transformations. Well-rounded characters. Muahahahahahaha.

So fun. :)


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Krondor: The Assassins (The Riftwar Legacy, #2)Krondor: The Assassins by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For those fans of Jimmy the Hand wanting all the hints of adventure he must have had as a Squire in Arutha's court, becoming a spymaster, hunting down assassins, then this is the book for you.

It's weird going back in time to the days after the original Riftwar like this but I'll admit the story potentials are rather rich. If small, focused, and detailed. :)

In some ways, the end of this novel feels like a slightly more awesome ending to Silverthorn. No complaints. At all. Lots of action, character development, skullduggery, infiltration, and all-around fun fantasy thievery. :)

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Transcendent (Destiny's Children, #3)Transcendent by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's a lot to love about this novel even though I have a few quibbles. My issues are purely personal in nature and do not reflect an actual fault in the novel, however.

First, the good:

We're split in the action between the digital new year coming up for us in about 25 years, at a time when Michael Poole has a stalled career and is still trying to overcome personal tragedy. The worldbuilding at this time is pretty awesome. Sentient houses and landscapes, severe environmental guilt that has led to us giving up cars in favor of virtual, and an extremely pragmatic outlook when it comes to recording genomes as so many species die.

Fast-forward half a million years in the future. Far beyond the conflict with the Xeelee, so many branches of humanity live and diverge and come back together again. Interestingly, the feel of this is very close to Olaf Stapledon's brilliant future history explorations, dealing with big species and existential issues in such a broad, astronomical space-and-time sense that I can't help but be awed by it.

Humanity has become as diverse and interesting as we could have hoped, adapted to any and all kinds of environments, developed symbiosis with alien biologies, techs, and even AIs. Some are undying, having lived a truly vast amount of time. Some are focused entirely on transcendence.

Interestingly, individuals in this far future are given the chance to be the ultimate observers for individuals in any portion of history. The MC in the future observes the MC of the past. Loves him. Feels his pain. And she is offered the opportunity to join the vast collective consciousness (augmentation) of the Transcendence.

The quibble:

The direction the transcendence takes is one of guilt and suffering, reliving every individual of humanity, of whatever flavor, and feeling their pain.

Yeah. Well, that's kinda the point of the novel, too, and it's rejected as the faulty logic it is. I'm not complaining about that. I'm only complaining that such an entitled future of humanity should fall into that trap in the first place.

But then, we've always fallen into worse, haven't we? lol



Even so, the novel is fascinating and filled to the brim with great ideas and techs and it falls into the full future history that Baxter has painstakingly built up. It's pretty amazing.

This novel does NOT need to be read in any particular order with any of the others. In fact, I might recommend it for anyone new to the SF mythos. :)

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Friday, April 26, 2019

The Laws of the SkiesThe Laws of the Skies by Courtois Grégoire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I suppose I'm spoiled for truly wicked horror after reading so much Hunter Shea over the last few years, so when I grabbed this on Netgalley, loving the sound of it from the blurb, I thought I was going to be really terrified.

I mean, let's face it... the premise is sick as hell.

The text lives up to the promise, too, but expect it to be more in line with a B-Movie horrorshow that doesn't spare the kids. At all.

Think about the original Halloween meets Kindergartener Survival. Or, rather, first grade. :)

Is it sick? Quite. Does it scratch all those sensational penny dreadful urges in me? Quite.

A very nice change of pace. Mind you, only the sickest readers need to hunt for this little gem. :) This is not for you old farts who sip lemonade on the porch. This is a battle royale with ultimate stakes among six-year-olds. Gird your loins.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton: An AutobiographyMiracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton: An Autobiography by J.G. Ballard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This short, concise, brilliantly sharp commentary on Ballard's own life from childhood to the moments before his own death in his home is probably the most shocking and tear-jerking autobiographies I've ever read.

He doesn't embellish anything. He plainly tells us that his life as Jim in Empire of the Sun is true as far as it goes, made into a more fantastic story that is then later turned into the movie, but more than that, he briefly outlines the rest of his science-fiction career.

Not the what-if SF of his contemporaries, but the what-next.

I really appreciate the idea. I've read some of his novels and really enjoyed them. Very imaginative works. But, like the author himself, I'm surprised to have liked his closer-to-home work about his childhood in Shanghai during WWII best.

This is not to say I am going to stop here. I'm a big SF fan and I've just decided, after reading such a sharp history, that his writing should never be forgotten. I am going to read everything of his I can get my hands on.

It's important. He may be repeating the same themes in variations, but there is nothing about them that isn't NECESSARY. Rebirth, hope, dream-like calculation, intense connections between sexuality and violence, and, of course, WHAT COMES NEXT.

He was an author who should never be forgotten.

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Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables, #1)Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a lot of ways, I wanted to HATE this novel. At least for the first few years of Anne's life at Green Gables, it was a green meadow of paradise in upper Canada filled with a ton of minor self-inflicted disasters, with Anne her worst nightmare. :)

Okay. Maybe it doesn't sound so bad when I put it that way. After all, aren't most of the Harry Potter books the SAME DAMN THING?

Ah, but at least HP had magic. All Anne has is IMAGINATION. An abundance of imagination, daydreaming, and a tongue that JUST CAN'T STOP... or at least, can't stop until she puts a few years on her 11-year-old self. (MY GOD, I WANTED TO ROOT FOR EVERYONE WHO WANTED TO DESTROY HER.)

Okay, no one wanted to destroy her. She's a loveable orphan in the orphan-as-hero tradition and at least she wasn't kicking in the doors of poor goblins to murder their children, although she did have a sharp enough tongue to lash the hell out of old, ugly harridans who would dare look down on her for her red hair.

MOVING ON.

Yes, this is a wonderful exercise in loving the living hell out of the idea of the imagination and how much love and life can be brought into a couple of sexless old siblings living together in the middle of nowhere. It encourages all the little children inside of us who were chastised for being forgetful, flighty, and otherwise willful to the exclusion of anything remotely practical. After all, imagination is king and it's so damn delightful, RIGHT?

Maybe if we're too sleepy to see that imagination is all around us already, this might be a kick in the pants, but for me, the uptight past is still uptight and giving this novel tons of praise ignores the strides we've made since then.

If I want minor hijinx and sincere apologies and silliness, I want it with magic, please. :)

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Carpe Jugulum (Discworld #23; Witches #6)Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On this re-read, I'm going to revise my rating a star higher.

Why? Because I really enjoyed it. :)

Really, what else can anyone say about reading Pratchett? That they love the quips and the little funny wisdoms and the bloody-minded humor? Well, sure, all of that is grand, but pitting Granny against vampyres that have a bit of Weatherwax wisdom is a sure-fire way to make the sparks fly. And even mythological birds are still birds. :)

Stand-out scenes for me are the ones where Nanny Ogg becomes the "other" witch and I absolutely loved her flirtations with Igor. :) Oh, and Oats. Oats and Granny were so CUTE together. :)

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Exultant (Destiny's Children, #2)Exultant by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel was something of a shocker to me. I actually expected a continuation of Coalescent with the hive-mind Romans even if they take place in the near future with more George Poole or perhaps a future Michael Poole, but nothing could be farther from this.

(Not ENTIRELY true, actually, the hive-mind humans and a remnant 20-thousand-year-old near-immortal in Exultant gave us some continuity.)

But in actual fact, Exultant reads more like a bonafide Xeelee novel. As in, pulling together all the Time-Like Infinity short stories, references to Flux, Ring, and even a hint of what could come in some of the others.

We jump right out of the past and into the deep future after two great expansions of humanity across the galaxy and 20k years into an ongoing rear-guard near-retreat against the inscrutable Xeelee project that herds stars into the center of the galaxy to make the super black hole in its center ever larger.

Humanity is losing the war. Barely bringing the Xeelee to a stalemate, we've bred ourselves into a race of children designed to fight a losing war. For 20 THOUSAND years.

Not everyone thinks this is admirable or smart, however, and this is where the novel starts. Expect all the timey-wimey stuff of Baxter's other novels. Closed Time-Like Loops are a major plot point and I think it's gorgeous. Closed-Time-Like computing, especially. Cuts down on the wear and tear of the computers. :)

Moreover, this novel gives us one of the most epic moments in all of Baxter's future history, the push and last hurrah against the super black hole, the big reveal about the Xeelee's purpose, and THEIR great enemy.

Since I was already familiar with some of these events explained in retrospect in the other novels, I thought it was something of a really cool treat to see it up close and personal.

I may have been surprised with this novel, expecting something else, but what I ACTUALLY got was better. It was just... kinda out of the blue. Maybe it should have been billed as a direct Xeelee novel, marketed as one of the great and gorgeous battles of a galaxy-spanning mankind against a race who thinks we're less than vermin and aren't to be bothered with communicating with us. :)

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Coalescent (Destiny's Children, #1)Coalescent by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes I think Baxter is a hit-or-miss kind of author, thinking he goes over the same ground in rather interesting new ways, but when I think about it... His George Poole characters are all rather... DIFFERENT. Yes, yes, George Poole is here, again, but the kind of story told isn't spanning the world or the galaxy or all of time... this time.

Rather, we've got a rather cool Roman historical romance (of a kind) that brings together old English history and the Celts in rather awesome ways while jumping back to the current time in a cool family history mystery.

I was frankly entertained. Both sides of history (and later on, a future history,) were fascinating and thrilling and reminded me at times of Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio, a historical drama, and a first-contact SF. All three are wonderful and at some moments I was reminded of Poul Anderson's The Boat of a Million Years. That's high praise. :)

I'm into this enough that I have to jump on the second book right away. After all, we're talking about a full transformation of humanity into a HIVE MIND!

Yay! It's what I asked Santa for Christmas! ;)

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Monday, April 22, 2019

Empire of the Sun (Empire of the Sun, #1)Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know whether it's a mistake to read all the other things this great SF author has read first and THEN read this brilliant WWII novel of a young kid lost in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation or whether it might be best to see all the wildness of his short stories, longer fictions, and utter fascination with flying and emotional deadening in the middle of tragedy FIRST.

Or whether everyone and anyone with even a slight interest in reading one of the very best novels of the war should drop everything else on their list and jump right into this.

I admit I watched the Spielberg film back in the day, utterly fascinated and totally identifying with Jim, the main character, who just happened to be played by a young Christian Bale, admitting that while this kind of movie was NOTHING like the kinds of movies or books I preferred, and yet falling for it completely...

...right down to the dead-eyed stares after so much starvation, death, and Jim's last vestiges of innocent wonder and miracles retained throughout the very worst that humanity has to offer.

I've seen the movie like four times.

And yet, I only just now read the book AFTER having read several others by the same author AND the complete short story collection.

I FEEL LIKE A DAMN FOOL.

Maybe I should have started with this. It's brilliant. No two ways about it. I broke down into tears and was amazed by how much further the book takes it even after KNOWING what to expect from the movie.

I'm not exactly NEW to this genre. I shouldn't have been affected this hard. I shouldn't have had to stop the book for several minutes at a time because I couldn't breathe right. It was just... almost... too much for me. Emotionally. I'm wrecked.

Sure, the movie is a good intro or perhaps a companion to this brilliant novel, but by NO MEANS should the novel be skipped. It's just one of those brilliant classics that may be regarded as timeless.

No pressure, right?

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JoylandJoyland by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm kinda embarrassed.

I neglected reading Joyland because it was A: short and B: I didn't think it would be a trademark King.

For the first, I have no excuse. The second is all Shame On Me.

That cover is pure hogwash. The book diverges a bit from the normal SK in that he goes out on a REALLY STRANGE LIMB and writes an MC who doesn't have much in the way of faults. In fact, he's almost godlike the way young Danny Torrence was in the Shining. :) He's a damn good kid. A little depressed and unhappy, perhaps, but he breaks King's mold by being a genuinely decent kid!

*gasp* *shock*

Honestly, I found myself falling in love with this book from the very start and it only got better as it went on. I never really enjoy super-sappy nostalgia novels unless they're tinged with some really cool conflict and stakes, so Bradbury sometimes annoys me, but King? King does dead people with his beautiful memories and treasures and REAL HAPPINESS.

Yeah, King does REAL HAPPINESS here.

*gasp* *shock*

Yeah, no one is more surprised than me. I'm kinda blown away. :)



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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral (Voice from the Edge)Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral by Harlan Ellison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harlan Ellison's stories are always a treat for me. Mostly acerbic, always well-crafted, vibrant, exciting... and above all, full of depth. I've never read a collection I didn't at least feel like raving about. Not all stories are perfect or super-engaging, mind you, but like any music album, I tend to give high marks when four out of the bunch absolutely thrill me. :)

Here are the ones that made a big impression:

Midnight in the Sunken Cathedral. Let's turn regrets into an Atlantean multiple-dimensions What-If story that is both fascinating, uplifting, and a memento-mori all at once. :)

The Function of Dream Sleep. Easily my absolute favorite of the lot. I found myself impressed by the starting point and then fully engaged and then downright frightened. Yes. This story actually scared the bejesus out of me. THAT GENERALLY NEVER HAPPENS to me. I might have nightmares.

Jeffty is Five. At once totally scary with the seemingly innocuous implications, it moves the fear aside and heads right toward wonder, deep nostalgia, and right back to horror. Five-year-olds are SCARY when they're five for seventeen years. :)

Soft Monkey. I now have a new appreciation for the streets of NYC. I've never been so impressed or thrilled to have an action movie surrounding a homeless black woman. :) The image of the Draino will stick with me, I think.

These stories, and I assume, all of Harlan's stories, are the type that should never be missed by anyone who likes wildly entertaining and often sharp-enough-to-bleed stories. Mostly SF and F, but did I mention these are SHARP? :)



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The Light BrigadeThe Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here's another WOW title. I've enjoyed Kameron Hurley's other novels quite a lot but nothing prepared me for this one.

It's the spiritual grandson (or grandaughter) of Haldeman's The Forever War and Heinlein's Starship Troopers. It has a little of both and a lot of the very modern tone, updated to our very real cultural relativity wrapped up in a very hardcore DUTY wrapping while never quite knowing what is really real. In that respect, it's a bit of PKD, too.

And I love it.

Getting turned into light to fight on Mars in a neverending war is the signature of futility in a fantastic hard-SF bow.

For those of you who are big fans of Hurley's other hard-SF trilogy, it deals with the same issues of torture, being ground down to nothing, and working through the lies, lies, lies surrounding them.

The big bad is never all that clear. We're told it's Mars but while everyone is kept in the dark and strange time-hopping things happen out of sequence and big horrors keep turning their lives into a patchwork, we're given a very special look at the real enemy. Could it be ourselves? :)

Back into the meat grinder, men!

Just... wow. I think Hurley's writing is getting even better. I'm such a fan of this novel that I want to see it get nommed for Hugo.

That's three for this year so far! Really great SF, folks. :)



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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1)The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the most part, I enjoyed the novel. I especially loved how easy it was to read aloud to my daughter and how toned-down it was compared to *almost ANYTHING* At all. Hell, even my six-year-old found it sometimes EXTREMELY boring. (Her words)

*sigh* At least I have the movie to look forward to, right? And yes, she likes that just fine.

Back to the book...

All the characters are so iconic it's easily fun for *ME* to get into them, tho, and enjoy the broad-brush strokes full of simplistic...

Oh, well, IT IS FOR CHILDREN. Right? Maybe we adults are too spoiled with delightfully subtle and/or subversive children's messages in children's books and we never grew up during the "simple" times our great-great-great grandparents grew up with. But the sense of wonder is definitely here. I kinda miss that.

And I ramble. :)

Honestly, I have no real issues with it. It was a pleasure to read aloud to my girl except when she made me stop two dozen times because she was too bored. And I'm like... huh? FLYING MONKEYS! Who doesn't like FLYING MONKEYS?

Alas. :)


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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Little WomenLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm of two minds on this. I forgot I had read it a LONG time ago and that basically tells me everything I needed to know about this book.

It was so unremarkable that I completely forgot I read it.

Oops? Okay, let me caveat this a little. As an exercise in enjoying ostensibly good writing, I have no issues with this. In fact, I actually rather enjoyed myself in the way that I can enjoy any bucolic afternoon with my family, wrapping a big wholesome comforter around myself.

But as an exceptional tale full of fundamental conflicts and unerring excitement, as, say, Austen is good for, or the Bronte Sisters, I'm afraid this is kinda boring. I wanted our aspiring writer to keep writing the trashy stuff that sells, not wrap the subject around a big moral blanket and then point it back at this entire novel, proving to everyone that YES, you CAN write a thoroughly, awesomely MORAL novel in an interesting way without succumbing to anything sensational.

So, hats-off to Alcott. She wrote a very bucolic novel about sisters as they grow up and get married. Included herein are tons of moral lessons that may as well be a perfect Ladies Primer.

Is it good?

Yes. Very good. Sometimes it's even amusing and heartwarming.

But my goodness I started bouncing off the text a LOT. Boredom does that.

Now, where's my horror film line-up? I need an antidote!

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Of Sorrow and SuchOf Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been a big fan of Angela Slatter ever since reading Sourdough and Other Stories for the lyrical and gorgeous writing.

Magic, shapeshifting, and truly magical worldbuilding surrounds these short stories and the others from the other collections.

I cannot stress enough how much I love her writing. Evocative, triple-layered line-item goodies, wry, loving, hateful, despairing, vengeful, and deep.

Every character is real in the way only the very best writers can make them. There's no bashing of sexes. It's all equal mixes of all the best and worst that humanity has to offer in every single character even though the main focus is on witches and witch-hunters.

There's no real way to describe how good these are except by experience. They're haunting and on the same level, at least to me, with Cat Valente's writing.

So deeply layered, simple in execution, and vast in implication. :) Total recommendation.

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The OutsideThe Outside by Ada Hoffmann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know those times when you're super anxious about new (to you) authors you request on Netgalley just by the looks of the cover?

Yeah, well, I think I've just found my second squeeworthy book for the year and I'm going to say just this one thing:

If there's any justice in the world, this book is going to get nominated and rise to the very top of the hopefuls for 2020's Hugo Awards for best novel.

Wow, right? Like, WHY?

It tickled ALL my hot buttons. I'm a superfan of good science, Hard-SF beautiful explorations, quantum computer AIs ascended to gods, and Outsider coolness that quacks like a Cthuhlu duck, walks like a Cthuhlu duck, and chatters with insanity in your ears with hundreds of tentacles and eyes as you just fall down the hole of imaginary numbers made real.

Oh, it has a great autistic scientist female in the lead, engaging in a cat-and-mouse chase with her old advisor who is guilty of unconscionable crimes against humanity and is a heretic of the AI gods.

Who is good and who is bad? Can she trust anyone? Is reality even what it seems?

Oh, yeah. This is the cat's meow. It has all the best features of Yoon Ha Lee's Machineries of Empire with a very different kind of story and flavor. Tentacles, madness, living alien spacecraft, altered reality, timey-wimey stuff... you name it, this has it. :)

AND I JUST EAT THIS STUFF UP. This is easily one of the two most squeeworthy SF's of the year and now I'm a life-long fan of this author.

*Squeedance* *Squeedance*

Let's get this one READ and talked about, folks!!!

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Hobbit or There and Back AgainThe Hobbit or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fourth time reading? I think so. Or maybe fifth. But any way you look at it, I'm a fanboy of the whole world, the author, and the writing.

From a pure enjoyment view, it's a pure delight. From Bilbo's annoyance with the dwarves to Bilbo's annoyance with the dwarves and all his hobbit relations, I can't get enough.

But what about the obvious correlations with Beowulf?

Meh, this is better. :)

Did I love Gollum, the wargs, Beorn, the spiders, the grey elves, the men of Dale, the jewel under the mountain, or SMAUG? Oh, yes. And the pointy-hat guy, too. :) And the wonderful songs. And the delightful pacing. And countless details that only enrich the history of this realm. :)

Is it better than just about any fantasy out there?

Possibly. There's more depth here than just about anywhere. And that's including massive tomes with dozens of volumes in the more modern varieties. This one is simply rich and well-written. :) And, of course, it has been copied and plumbed for all its depth in so many imitators.

Let's hear it for the king of all YA fantasy!


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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Krondor: The Betrayal (The Riftwar Legacy, #1)Krondor: The Betrayal by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I began this with a little trepidation. I mean, any book that starts referring to its video game companion but still firmly in the author's Riftwar bibliography could kinda go either way. Is this a game advert or is it more its own thing? Either way, the game was a hit in the nineties and may be rather hard to find nowadays. :)

What was I expecting? Well, after the last four-book epic taking place 50 years after the first Riftwar, full of its own troubles, I half-expected something pushing the timeline forward. Not backward. Not back to a young middle-aged Jimmy the Hand and barely gray Pug with Prince Arutha still in his prime.

But, hell, okay! Cool! Side-story time! Big side-story time with all my favorite characters back in their prime and a slew of new, weaker peeps finding their own way.

I am not disappointed. At all. I really loved the progression and the wealth of new-and-old worldbuilding. The drill-down. :) And it really can't go wrong when we dive into so many cool new elements.

Yes, the central story is actually written around the main plot of the game. It's a collaboration with the game-makers. But you know what? I have no problems with it. It is a great story. :)

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Shards of a Broken Crown (The Serpentwar Saga, #4)Shards of a Broken Crown by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These last two Feist novels have been rather wonderful, a return to the grand epic-style stakes and battles that drew me to the writer in the beginning. The aftermath of the Serpentwar mainly focused on the fate of the survivors from all over the place scrambling to take control of the rubble and while we follow some rather sympathetic characters in this, INCLUDING a ton of Pug, I found a ton action and intrigue to love.

But more importantly, and other than the big battles, I particularly loved the reveals about the gods. And the results of our long-lived characters' choices. This kind of thing is both very satisfying and sets up the rest of the series for some really spectacular blowouts.

Mad gods, sleeping gods, new avatars, new religions... it's all great. But I particularly love how lawless this place has become. And Pug's final decision. And I agree with him. Screw them all. :) Not worth it. :)

It's going to be a wild time in the rebuilding. :)

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Rage of a Demon King (The Serpentwar Saga, #3)Rage of a Demon King by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book really ends with a bang. The first half continues to build the preparations for the big war to come, fulfilling the promise of the first two books in the Serpentwar Saga, but it really goes above and beyond after ALL the great heroes and magicians band together to figure out what the hell is going on.

Gods. Lots of great worldbuilding happens here. :) Gaimanesque, elemental, and very cool.

I admit I've missed seeing so much of Pug and he takes a big role here. Thomas, too. And all the oddball magicians we've grown to love. But the tragedy is real, too. Pug loses the most. He also gains a lot in the end.

What can you expect in this novel aside from the magics?

Oh, just a nasty war and the destruction of Krondor. It has everything you lovers of mayhem might want. The stakes are the death of universes and the defeat a mad god, after all. All hands on deck! Expect a lot of deaths. Expected and unexpected.

Quite good. Quite enjoyable. Enjoyed this more than the last two. :)



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Monday, April 15, 2019

The Legend of GriffThe Legend of Griff by Richard Sparrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Competent and amusing, this fantasy turns the traditional fantasy trope on its head in a very familiar way. You know, get that hero-laden orphan, a magical sword of destiny... and kill him.

It's a thing, now. And at the moment, I'm still amused by the trend and would still like to see more of it... until I don't. :)

This particular book crams just a few days into its delightful pages, adding tons of cool and light-hearted plot that mixes in polite goblin hoards, jackass humans, a truly legendary young man with all the right accolades (with his death), and a hapless young goblin who just happens to take up HIS DESTINY. :)

Who really cares the sword was designed to kill goblins and it blisters his hand? He's got a good heart. :)

Light and fun, humorous in ways that remind me nicely of Pratchett. I'll definitely like to read what happens next. :)

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

State Tectonics (The Centenal Cycle, #3)State Tectonics by Malka Ann Older
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Five stars for what the novel and the previous two is attempting to do. The idea behind the whole Infomocracy one-world government of democracy by self-involved special interests delineated not by geography but by ideas is a great milestone in literature.

Sure, others have done something similar in regular modes or have skirted around the idea in the past, but Older grabs hard onto the topic and runs at full speed with it.

I mean, let's face it, the idea sounds complicated but it really isn't. NRA nuts vote along NRA lines. Pro-Lifers do the same. When we have an idea that we're willing to sacrifice all other ideas upon its altar, we get together all our buds and tell them to sacrifice all the other things they believe in to focus HARD upon that one single idea.

It's insane, but it's what we do. Older's SF is a whole world full of voting blocks and, as in the second novel, Null States who refuse to take part in the grand social schema. But in this third novel, we're focused post-tragedy rebuilding, the mistrust with all the voting blocs, and a serious misgiving for the whole political process that seems oddly familiar...

RIGHT?

So, yeah, Older is really tapping into our current political Zeitgeist and hits us hard where I suppose a lot of us are fairly weak. How do we trust information? Can we trust information? Is there any way to cut through the s*** and get the truth when the truth can be twisted 23 ways before breakfast?

Things can never be simple. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you their snake-oil. And yet, that's where the problem always becomes worse. We need to be informed, so we decide to trust loved ones or personalities we think we can trust or any other illogical mode JUST BECAUSE we're so unsure. And then we roll with it for good or ill because that's what we've always done.

Older tells this story in her own way and couched a very thoroughly thought-out near-future world and I really appreciate the attempt. Truly. Much respect.


However, the actual story and plot in this one? Sigh. Not all that interesting. It had its moments and the very thing I loved most about the novel, the intricate political and information-terminology complexity, was also the most difficult thing to enjoy. The exposition dragged the tale even though the exposition was exactly what made this book (or these books) so great.

It should definitely be read and enjoyed, but a certain amount of managed expectations should be involved in the process. :)

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

BaudolinoBaudolino by Umberto Eco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Aside from a few parts that I got a little bored with, this novel was, by and large, a tour de force of humorous historical storytelling proportions. I was delighted and totally amused by Baudolino, the inveterate trickster, storyteller, and liar.

Putting aside actual history for a moment and the MC's way of explaining that he is, as always, a liar, but he only lies for good, the novel grows epic from the first passages. We start with the fall of Constantinople, getting in tight with Barbarossa (the Holy Roman Emperor), and move into an amazing and amusing set of circumstances that include the founding of Alexandria, going on several quests for Prester John, meeting all manners of strange creatures and lands right out of the weirdest Medieval descriptions, and so much more.

This is Umberto Eco, after all. If we're not knee-or-thigh-deep in fascinating historical footnotes couched in an expansive idea-rich adventure, then we must have wandered into someone else's novel.

I laughed-out-loud many times. I especially loved the whole con game about selling relics. In this case, the seven severed heads of John the Baptist. :) The kinds of lies that Baudolino and his cohorts told were fantastic, rich, and while they didn't always pan out the way they hoped, the effects were gorgeous to behold.

Is this a farce? A satire? A wonderful sarcastic and worldly tribute to imagination and The Pilgrim's Progress? (And better, too?) Hell, you know this is crazy when you have our hero carry around the Holy Grail.

But what is real and what is pure fabrication? Possibly everything, but even Baudolino warns us that he tells us lies to get to the very truth of things. And that's the best part of the novel.

I got lost in the stories and didn't care a fig about anything but the telling.

My only complaint was with the whole sequence around Hypatia. I kinda didn't care for the philosophical ramblings so much. I just wanted him to move on with the rest of the adventure. But aside from this, I loved everything. :)

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Friday, April 12, 2019

IncandescenceIncandescence by Greg Egan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book definitely falls under a hardcore sub-category of Hard-SF. Great for fans of Dragon's Egg, Flux, The Inverted World, or The Integral Trees / The Smoke Ring where we get a significant amount of time from the PoV's of the aliens as they discover the science and topography of their world.

I love these kinds of books for exactly that reason. Great science, fascinating discoveries, and truly ODD topographies. They're mystery novels for physical sciences. :)

BUT. For the same reasons, I often get angry at the tediousness of them. The dragging pace and the often boring characters. *sigh*

But it's not a reason to throw out the novels altogether. There's a real rich atmosphere going on in them. Incandescence arrives at a lost, genetically enhanced alien species that forced itself into a kind of survival in the tight liveable bands surrounding a neutron star. We're forced to discover this the hard way, along with the aliens, from first principles.

If you love math and topography and discovery, I TOTALLY recommend this novel. For everyone else more interested in characters... look elsewhere. :)

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

The World Jones MadeThe World Jones Made by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn't eggsactly (prior readers will get my pun) a classic PKD novel, but it has some rather interesting ideas scattered within it. Or upon it.

It's almost hermaphroditic in its construction. lol

OKAY, fine, I'll stop being weird.

This world that Jones made is brought about by a one-year foreknowledge of his own life. It's always one year ahead in time, too, so when the alien invasion comes, Jones gathers a ton of followers who believe in him and his vision of how to save the world.

Jones is not the protagonist. :)

There's a ton of interesting reveals and twists in the novel that would ruin prospective readers' enjoyment. Probably. So I'll skip them, but maybe just one. The aliens are RATHER interesting and I loved the whole concept. To think of humanity as a virus is pretty spot on, and using a biological process to fix it is also pretty brilliant. This came out in 1956. It's pretty cool to see various themes stolen by later novels and movies. *coughmatrixcough* Or some great David Brin stories. Or perhaps some of you might point to your own great examples. :)

The legend of Jones will not live forever, unlike the prediction in the novel, but I still think that PKD will. :)

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Mass Effect: Initiation (Mass Effect: Andromeda, #2)Mass Effect: Initiation by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very fun and superior novel to the other Mass Effect: Andromeda game tie-in. :)

And it's not just because I'm a fan of the author they brought in to do it justice.

It can even be read on its own without knowledge of the games, which is a definite plus, but if you've already played ME Andromeda and enjoyed Cora as a character and you loved Sam as much as I did, this is going to be a real treat.

The events here take place in the Milky Way before they get going and focuses mostly on Cora meeting and eventually gaining papa Ryder's full trust, going about it in a very cool Noir-mystery kind of storytelling.

You know, a human trained my Asari warriors hiring on as a merc, getting shafted by much more powerful forces, getting a little revenge with the completion of the mission and eventually uncovering all the cool little secrets (AI RESEARCH, YO,) that make this universe something special to me. :)

And now we get the FULL story about Cora's little jealousy in the game. :)

I'm quite happy. :) Totally satisfied with the characterizations and plot and I had a great time reading it.

So why only 4 stars? I might be a bit biased against media tie-ins.
But maybe I shouldn't be.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Mass Effect: Nexus Uprising (Mass Effect: Andromeda, #1)Mass Effect: Nexus Uprising by Jason M. Hough
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I admit I came into this knowing full well it was a franchise novel and I usually never go in for franchise novels. Maybe a few Star Treks here and there, a Doctor Who occasionally, and pretty much nothing else.

So why did I go this route?

Names. The heavy-hitting authors involved. Well, I've heard of Hough but I haven't read any of his work, but for the next two on the docket, N. K. Jemisin and Cat Valente, my admiration knows no bounds. So, yeah, I had to read these.

Oh, and I am one of those rare fans of the game. I love all of the games. I played this one to 100%. :)

Enough of that. How was this BOOK, Bradley? lol


Well, it was okay. Nothing seriously wrong with it, just kinda average. It's a prequel to the game and I enjoyed ferreting out the history and the developments at the home base, Nexus, and how they happened to go through a mutiny and sent off a ton of exiles into an inhospitable world.

This is the rest of the story.

Reasons, developments, survival on a mostly broken mothership, and a slew of badly-handled situations. In a nutshell. And it was okay. Not fantastic. Just... fine. No surprises going in, no surprises going out, and I found myself wondering if there was really a point. Yes, the story is fleshed out a lot more from the game, but all-in-all, I probably could have done without it.

Should I keep my expectations a little higher for the next two? Perhaps.

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Jude the ObscureJude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a beautifully depressing book. I kinda want to call him the Job of Marriage. Or rather, the Jude of Marriage, because, let's face it, he is or should be an archetype. :)

For those of you not acquainted with Thomas Hardy, he's primarily a poet but he is best known for his novels. And, if I might be so bold, for good reason. He's almost Dickensonian in his command of the pathos, but more than that, he's a naturalist with his thumb on the pulse of the times.

Those times, the 1890's, presaged the Roaring Twenties in a big way, giving us all, in bright glaring colors, the horrors of what we call MARRIAGE.

What free love? No free love. The deadly social structure of the times forced everyone into bad matches for no better reason than custom. And custom rules all. If you're stuck in endless misery and want to get out of it, doing so only brings approbation, poverty, loss of dreams, and ultimately a fate worse than death.

Death is a wonderful release.

Ah, the joys of Marriage.

We can read this book today with a HUGE sigh of relief. We can point to it and feel good about ourselves because at least we didn't have to live through THIS tragedy.

I can see all the young kids growing up during WWI reading this novel and going, "SCREW THIS" right before they ushered in the Flappers. Free love, yo!

Truly, a classic novel. Everyone should have the "joy" of it. :)

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Warship (Rise of the Jain #2)The Warship by Neal Asher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is something quite amazing.
And when I say quite, I mean, "HOLY S*** what just HAPPENED here?"

It's been a while since I sat down to read SF expecting and eventually receiving a whole AWE effect. This is wide-brained high-tech imagination at its best, building on all the major developments and changes from all his previous books, giving us such massive scope and terror that both the combined might of the Polity AND the Prador are totally freaking out.

It's the Jain, folks. Their nanotech, just a minor sub-sentient bonder of biology and tech that seems so useful and uber-powerful on the surface, is designed to fulfill all your dreams. Too bad it's a tool designed to wipe out every intelligent race it ever comes into contact with, right? Old news from the previous books.

Unfortunately for everyone alive in this later tale, and despite some seriously major Space-Opera military improvements, the combined resources of all kinds of "people", be they Golems, hive minds, AI ships, Prador, Prador-Skatterjay, Human-Skatterjay, Haimans, or Prador-AIs, neither biological transformation or truly fantastic tech OR an old offshoot of the original Jain is quite able to handle this.

In fact, all of life is hopelessly outclassed.

This book is a cumulation of everything, but more than that, it's all battle, strategy, seeming success and bitter defeat. :)

I feel their horror, their desperate hope, and I'm left splattered on the floor.

This is Asher at the top of his game. :)


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Monday, April 8, 2019

The Soldier (Rise of the Jain #1)The Soldier by Neal Asher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FREAKING THRILLING.

But I have one caveat: Anyone reading Neal Asher needs to treat this one like the start of huge Endgame scenario with a full catalog of books having built-up to a huge crescendo. :)

The full importance of everything going on builds on all the enormous happenings from before, from the entity now known as Angel, so many AIs that have had big parts in previous novels, the entirety of Jain technology in all its forms (including Spatterjay), and the Prador. And then I'm still missing a few key players like Orlandine, Dragon, and The Client. :)

Never mind the old tech of U-Space missiles. The Jain is awake and the Librarian is ACTIVE. One little soldier from 5 million years ago is more than enough to take down the entire freaking Polity. And when you start realizing that a gun that fires BLACK HOLES is still too-little, too late to turn the tide, you know you're in DEEP S**T.

These are some HUGE events and I have to admit I'm freaked out. Most Space Opera can't come near this. At all.

Asher does High-High Tech like few others. I LOVE the feeling of true dread. If planetary AIs are running scared, you know you've hit on something big. :)

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Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Book of Flora (The Road to Nowhere, #3)The Book of Flora by Meg Elison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a worthy successor to the previous two that began with The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, but it DOES require some managed expectations.

Such as?

The book is not plotted traditionally. Rather, it reads from the past and present in equal measure and really focuses on the full gamut of gender issues. And I don't mean just men and women but all states of transformation and gender identity.

And it does it in the bleak and dismal post-apocalyptic world that Elison killed us within the first of the trilogy.

Let's back up. Most women are treated like breeding machines, as sub-human, in this world where very few babies are born and women become rare. In the previous book we explored a pretty cool revolution and the reality of Horse Women, or men who are cut to become women-surrogates for the rest of the brutish Man.

This one continues a further exploration of those ideas and develops them carefully. We get friendships and survival and even a fair portion of humor. The bleak world still exists, of course, but there are some interesting cultural modifications and stranger (possibly) biological oddities.

What would our world become if there were no more women? Well, we read this from the PoV's of alternative-gendered people who might, in another world, still be considered women, so all we have is a hard world to swallow.

This is a very hardcore dystopia.

There is blood and horror. But the books are NOT about that. N0t primarily. Look elsewhere for that. Instead, if you want a genuine thought experiment about an utterly transformed world without women (or where women are turned into slaves as a matter of course and then get used up and we can SEE the beginnings of the end of the human race) then look no further. This book is great for this.

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Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Priory of the Orange TreeThe Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unfortunately, I'm not really falling for the hype on this one.

I'm giving it 3.5 stars.

I appreciate the strong female characters here and love that there is -- eventually -- dragons, but much of the characterizations did not really grab me all that much.

As a consequence, the light and circuitous intrigue, assassination attempts, and double-lives tended to just feel slightly... usual. Usual for High Fantasy. And make no mistake, this is very much High Fantasy. A large cast of characters, big focus on place and world-building, and a drive to take down the Nameless One.

How are we going to get two seemingly naturalistically antagonistic empires of Dragons and Wyrms to fight together against the big bad?

Okay. No problem. I'm down with that. The big story and the magic and the dragons were fun, all told. But nothing about this really stood out. It may be on the level with some of Robin Hobb's lesser works or squarely in the center of the curve for the rest of the High Fantasies coming out these days.

But it doesn't really stand out to me. I've read tons of fantasies with Dragons. The first Temiare books were fantastic. I've played lots of D&D and some with playable Dragon races. And then there's McCaffrey who had TIME TRAVELLING DRAGONS, yo. Not to mention JRRT or Potter or Wizard of Earthsea or Hobb or EVEN SOIaF. All of these had better dragons.

Sorry. Just because it is new doesn't make it better.

It's okay.

And slightly too long.

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Friday, April 5, 2019

Moon Rising (Luna #3)Moon Rising by Ian McDonald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ian McDonald is one hell of a writer. I've been following his career rather closely and I've loved the kinds of intricate people-centric webs he weaves. They always appear rather rambling and exploratory but more than that, they're deeply about the characters.

Fascinating doesn't begin to describe them. And these three popular Luna novels give us the full run of the five families on the Moon and the gory feud that culminated in mass death in the first book and ending with a fully brilliant realization in the third.

Is this final book in the trilogy worth the wait?

Oh, yes. I was glued to the pages, loving the intrigue, subterfuge, the revenge planning, the thwarted love, the epic battles against bots, and the near-gladiatorial-style combat as the resolution for legal battles.

We may as well be in Verona during the Renaissance or experiencing a Godfather epic taking place on the moon.

But you know what? I liked this book a lot more than the second. It not only felt more vital but it held my interest so much more. It's almost exactly like the feel of the first, only in reverse. :) And the end? Well, the end is the best part. No spoilers. I really can't believe how it got resolved.

Very satisfying. :)


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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Million Mile Road TripMillion Mile Road Trip by Rudy Rucker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read and enjoyed a number of Rudy Rucker novels and I can practically taste the surf on this one. They all have very distinctive flavors, but in all cases, they're wildly imaginative.

I admit I have a soft spot in my heart for easygoing kids more interested in being practical about relaxing, getting some surfing done, and playing their instruments, jamming out and taking it slow. This may have the hallmarks of a YA but it isn't, really. It's a road trip novel.

Here's where it really stands out: It's like reading Cat Valente's Space-Opera or Douglas Adams with a very surfer ethos, where the MCs take in the introduction of tiny aliens and a Dark Matter conversion kit for his bus with absolute aplomb.

What? Road trip with more peeps? Okie-dokey! With the kid brother? eehhhh.... okay... and we're doing a million miles and doing it powered by the strength of our music? ALL RIGHT! :)

If it sounds fun, you haven't gotten to know all the freaking aliens yet. :)

There's a ton and they're fun and of course, the journey ends with saving the universe and all, but the point is THE JOURNEY, man. :) And kisses that spawn a room full of babies. Or a whole WORLD of surfing! That bus goes through A LOT. :)

Very funny novel and delightful characters. I am reminded that I REALLY have to get back into reading Rudy's whole catalog. :) Well worth the time!


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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Shadow Captain (Revenger, #2)Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second Revenger book continues on with a pretty traditional Space Opera tale.

Where the first began with revenge on the mind, the second focuses much more on financial survival, salvage, and after a particularly awesome Reynolds-homage-to-Reynolds sentient skull candy partnership with suits becoming a shambling hoard of zombies, a desperate need to find SOMEPLACE to hide from shadow ships and recuperate.

That's where the real story picks up. Intrigue, lies, torture, cat-and-mouse antics, and even picking up a rather interesting new crew member.

As a regular Space Opera, it's fun. It's more than competent. It's full of bickering sisters and an attempt to turn a mutiny into something much more respectable. :)


So why did I knock off a star?

Because I'm a huge fan of Reynold's more adult fare and this isn't at THAT particular level. The high science and deeply intricate worldbuilding and ideas I usually get are watered down here. That's not to say it's poor for the sub-genre or even the full SF genre. It's right there with the most solid entries. But Reynolds is usually a full head above the rest.

I judge this a lesser example of his works. Not bad at all and actually rather fun, but not fantastic.

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The Bread We Eat in DreamsThe Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Long ago, in a far-off mythical land, I discovered that Cat Valente is brilliant. Not only brilliant, but I love everything she's ever written and it DOESN'T BOTHER ME IN THE SLIGHTEST if I am forced to read quite a few stories that were published in other collections.

Truly.

That's the strength of these stories. They're all brilliant no matter how many times you read them and it still feels fresh every single time. I'm not used to that. If it was any other author I might get a sinking feeling and skip the remembered story and start getting anxious about all the rest.

Not with Cat. Cat reaches DEEP into my subconscious and toys with all the archetypes like she is a goddess, wraps them up in nice meta-bows, and then tosses them at your dream-self like a guided-missile made of dragons and unicorns.

And it's SMART. Always so smart. :) And I feel the need to shout Catherynne M. Valente's name from the mountaintops.

Her fantasy and SF cuts to the very heart of everything, doing it more than lyrically before turning you into cotton candy that will be forced to eat itself.

Barbes-à-papa-cannibalism-literature.

I can't recommend her stuff enough. I truly can't. It's like eating the bread in our dreams. :)

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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Extraordinary Voyages, #3)Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let's go on an adventure!

But first, an apology to Mr. Verne. I avoided this book for many years because I'm a fan of planetology and anyone who attempts to convince me that they can get this deep into the crust has GOT TO BE SHITTING ME. So what did I do? I avoided it.

Never mind when this came out and never mind about dinos and giants and lightning storms and great underground oceans and a very distinctive and cooler mantle.

As Science Fiction, with just a grain of credulity, the novel is GREAT! :) I mean, Verne even gives us the puzzle at the very beginning and sets up the great scientist against all the other great scientists and goes out to disprove the super, super hot interior theory! That's a big nod to science, yo. Let the handwavium commence. :)

I refuse to refer to this book as Journey to the Center of the Earth ever again. It will henceforth be referred to as Journey to the Interior of the Earth. It's true enough. 320 kilometers deep. That's not a lot. It's just a tiny fraction of the crust.

But for a few blokes first walking then rushing forth on a grand underground waterway, meeting vast monsters in vast caverns, getting separated and having to determine their locations by each other by the time it takes the speed of sound to get to them, I have to say that this ranks right up there with the very, very best adventure novels I've ever read.

I can easily imagine transplanting any number of its features upon an alien world and being just as thrilled. Move over, Doyle. Verne is the reigning champion. :)

Just... wow. :)

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Monday, April 1, 2019

Six Sacred Swords (Weapons and Wielders, #1)Six Sacred Swords by Andrew Rowe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By this point, (and I don't mean at the point of Dawnbreaker) I'm pretty much hooked on anything that Rowe writes. It doesn't matter anymore. My trust is always rewarded.

This here sets up a brand new series that happens to be set in the same world as Arcane Ascension but takes place quite a bit before.

What is similar?

Quests, dungeon crawling, puzzles, big action, and quirky coolness.

What is different?

Oh, nothing much, just an uber-powerful guy punching dragons and breaking the rules to the sacred tests, befriending constructs, romance-reading dragons, and trying to keep his world-killing sword from, well, you know, KILLING THE WORLD.

Oh, and he's a pretty positive guy. :) I can see why he picked up such wonderful companions in this book. :)

I had a HELLUVA FUN time. :) And you know what? This author really spins not just a great yarn, but he knows his audience WELL. :) We're the gamer audience. So many chapters hearken right back to our favorite JRPG games. :) All the dungeon crawler stuff is just adding story icing on all the corny puzzles we grew up with. And in other cases, I'm kinda awestruck that we get a BETTER Dawnbreaker story, assuming we're thinking on a particular Skyrim quest. :) Rowe tops that one. :)

What can I say?

This book is pure candy. Candy for the mind. :)

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