Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Point BPoint B by Drew Magary
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Drew Magary does it again. There hasn't been a novel of his that I've read that I haven't fallen over dead after having finished reading.

No, no, this isn't the Post-Mortal, and I didn't over-exert myself on a Hike. Indeed, the idea of traveling at all has become absurdly easy... just like reading this novel.

Cell-phones in ten years now allow us to teleport. Like Jaunting, ya? But these are tied to nasty cell phone plans with nastier reams of unread legal-sleaze. But who cares, right, so long as we can take a trip to Spain, Brazil, Newfoundland (just kidding), and back to school in New Jersey during your lunch break.

This SOUNDS like a pretty good YA, no? And it is. But it has some really dark points that are quite as dark as Post-Mortal (and with as huge a range of ramifications, evil, and annihilation) and *almost* as weird as the Hike. But let's just swap the weird with an epic tale of revenge and you'll have a better idea about what this novel is about.

It just goes to show, dehumanization and power and racism is STILL going to be a massively huge problem when anyone can go wherever they want. After all, if there are no restrictions, and just about anyone can hop into your room as you sleep, it may not be a *NICE* future. Take along your war, your hate, and your insanity, and suddenly no place is safe.

So how do we get to Point B? Dial it up! It's very worth the Jaunt, and lordy.... that last 1/3 of the novel was absolutely un-putdownable. Brilliant. I lost sleep over it.

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Monday, September 21, 2020

The Shadow Saint (The Black Iron Legacy, #2)The Shadow Saint by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second book in the Black Iron Legacy was, IMHO, a better book. More interesting.

I'm sure some mileage will vary, but I was a lot more fascinated by the reconstruction following the war, the politics, the spy-stuff, and the total aftermath of all the god-stuff suffusing the world than I was for the previous book's build-up and explosion.

Overall, I think the entire novel was very entertaining.

What would I compare it to? The Powder Mage trilogy. There are a ton of similarities. I'm sure most fans of Epic Fantasy who LOVE the big magic throughout the worldbuilding will be tickled as hell by this.

Just be forewarned, this Epic Fantasy stems from a grimdark root, has everything from guns to god bombs, and let's not forget the city itself. It has personality. And anger issues. Fun stuff!

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Gutter Prayer (The Black Iron Legacy, #1)The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Gutter Prayer has a wonderfully balanced mix of worldbuilding, grimdark sensibilities, striking characters, and a huge blowout of an ending. Between an interesting race of Ghouls who get power from eating the dead, to men who are slowly, horribly turning into stone, or from an extremely fascinating history filled with old gods (and an extremely interesting setup and rule-orientation for them), overall, I thought this novel was a pretty decent epic-fantasy setup. There are many other details, of course, but I really latched on to these.

But the novel isn't merely a cool collection of interesting ideas. The characters are solid and interesting. The worldbuilding in particular tickled all my fancies. But above all, it is the balance between all these aspects, including pacing, reversals, and steady ramp-up to a huge ending, that made me take notice. I really appreciate how the author came from the gaming industry. It serves him in good stead.

So far, I'm quite pleased with the turnout here. I'm really curious to see how it takes the reveals in new directions, or if it does, in the next.

Those damn old gods... :)

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Friday, September 18, 2020

HorrorstörHorrorstör by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My initial impression of this novel and my post-reading impression are perfectly aligned. :)

A cool idea of setting a soul-less Ikea with a massive haunting and a crazy satire about the modern-day service industry is EXACTLY what I got.

In other words, I enjoyed my B-Movie experience. I chortled, groaned, and felt like I was One with the Corporate Narrative which is One with the batshit crazy Experimental Prison Culture.

I really enjoyed it for what it is. :)

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Malorie (Bird Box, #2)Malorie by Josh Malerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a world so eerily similar to our own, fast-forwarded 17 years after our facemasks became a permanent fixture to our eyes rather than our breathing orifices, Malorie from the original Bird Box has teenagers of her own, raised in fear and a constant litany of "no, no, no" begins a new tale of discovery.

Or rather, rediscovery. Her parents might just be alive. Is this a blind-call to adventure?

This is undeniably a good tale of suspense. I don't think it is QUITE as suspenseful as the first, but living in terror for almost two decades can put a damper on your fight-or-flight response. Or does it? I think I most liked the creepy idea that the enemy might possibly have left. Who would know? :)

This is definitely our modern world right now. We can't see the evil, but we fully expect it to be right on the edge of our consciousness...

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The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying VampiresThe Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm already a fan of Grady Hendrix after We Sold Our Souls so picking up this one and a few more to come is not a brain-teaser. In fact, it's about as wholesome to me as a suburban book club taking on True Crime tales.

Well, wholesome isn't really the proper term, maybe, but just the fact of such late '80s, early '90s housewife rebellion is enough to carry the tale even WITHOUT vampires.

But with vampires? Well. It's been said before, but it bears saying again: NEVER MESS WITH MOM.

A personal aside: I grew up in suburbia during this time, so it was like a blast from the past. Including all the weird obsessions, the stifling conformity, the drugging up of our youth, wives, and the men who banded together to stamp any kind of dissension out of the family. And their eventual loss of control, of course. And who picks up the pieces.

Hmm. And yes, another thing: I'm a housewife now. I GET IT. The lack of control, the lack of respect, how we must juggle everything, and yet never get a single moment of peace.

And then there are those FREAKING BLOODSUCKERS. Gaaah!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Burning God (The Poppy War, #3)The Burning God by R.F. Kuang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It feels like a long time coming for the third book in the Poppy War trilogy, but that's only because I've been eagerly awaiting it.

Now that it has finally come my way, I'm all BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD excited for it, and it absolutely delivers. The war between the technological and sociologically advanced enemy and the more numerous but poverty-stricken allies is a clear reference to our modern world.

Who do we root for?

Ah, well, that's the real question, is it not? The first book is like a backwater student advancing her own career in a modern institution, while the second one is the full eruption of one's morals versus one's training, and the third is an all-out war that demands the utter sacrifice of... everything... and the real question is... are we good for it?

I'm not answering that question.

The fact is, there's a lot of great nuance in this novel. Great plot, great war strategy, and great moral conflict.

The emotions? It's solid here. The conflict? Epic. Gods versus technology, you know. And when they get to the point where all seems lost, well, it's that time when the novel gets really great. :)

Am I a fan of the full trilogy? Absolutely. Is it full to the brim with burning volcano flames of rage and vengeance? You bet. Does it come with tons of reversals and ginormous fantastic reversal-reversals?

Read it. :) It's awesome. :)

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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Dark StarDark Star by Oliver Langmead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The one thing that drew me here to this book happened, in the final estimation, to be the least important aspect:

The fact that it is SF written as Poetry.

I read it in audio format but after the fact, I kinda wish that I had read it as print. I'm probably going to get a copy soon.


Because even though the core story seems to rely almost entirely on a Noir mystery with an investigator who is addicted to a drug that makes a person emit light, but it comes with addictions and a rather strange murder, with some rather big consequences -- it is also deceptive.

As a fan of poetry, I'm also overly aware of the fact that there are many layers to any text. Do you think that metaphor is dead? Ha! Iambic Pentameter is also used in Shakespeare to illustrate high importance and major turning points. Anyone reading this 5 hours long Noir SF mystery should certainly enjoy it on the surface-level, but it's the heart of it that makes me RAVE about it.

In this dark world, light is a drug. Heat radiates everywhere, but it's light (and here's where the metaphor is very, very strong) that causes tremors, creates an underground market, throws people into paroxysms of drug-addled numina, and is ultimately the grand reversal of the tale.

Have a partner named Dante and you can figure out the rest. Is light love? Maybe God's love in the bowels of hell? If it's such an addictive substance and the whole idea of getting off the drug or fighting the crime syndicates is such a huge deal, then the whole FLAVOR of this far-future SF becomes... something else entirely.

I really don't need to spoil it. This is a book that lends itself to many different interpretations.

Just rest assured that every word is important and carefully placed, as is most good poetry. :)

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This Virtual NightThis Virtual Night by C.S. Friedman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I might have mentioned in my review for the first book in this series, This Alien Shore, that I missed this kind of SF.

The bookgods have smiled upon me. (Or at least C.S. Friedman has.)

What we have here is a setting focused on gritty space stations, hacking, aliens everywhere among us, GAMES, mystery, and a good healthy dose of wanderlust gone wrong. If you liked This Alien Shore, I'm pretty certain that you'll love this one.

It's a return to quite complicated SF settings, characters, and investigations that are never reduced to stereotypes. There's heart here and a clear love of the possibilities inherent in these tropes. Virtuals, hacking, melting pot space stations, and pure noir. I'd say it might be a cyberpunk novel, but it's very well rounded.

I very much recommend it.

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Monday, September 14, 2020

Utopia AvenueUtopia Avenue by David Mitchell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I place this Mitchell novel in the firm hands of the ladies Muse not because it is gifted by the muses (although some people will say so) but because the tale is all about music and the entire gifted milieu of the mid-to-late '60s rock scene.

For this, alone, I got sucked into the torrent of the band. Utopia Avenue, from its struggling beginnings through its rocky career and a brief taste of stardom is more than enough for me. I love this kind of novel. I love music, I love the rebellion, I love the sheer chutzpah of MAKING A NEW REALITY for yourself.

There is one particular scene that reads like a fateful monologue and admonition for every age. The only real power we have is in stories, after all. We show the path to a new world. That story might be in a song, a novel, or in an impassioned plea to a loved one, but it's never not powerful.

I had a genuinely good time with this.

I may not have been alive during the time this takes place, but music and the heart are fairly eternal.

PS, yes, this book has a ton of weird Mitchellisms with fantasy and SF poking holes in the pretty standard traditional tale of the '60s. It doesn't say much NEW about these things, but it's still fun to see. :)

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Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte CristoThe Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Honestly fascinating and hitherto fully neglected, the hook of this biography is appropriately fantastic. The author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeer's father was a bonafide hero having commanded 50,000 troops... as a black man.

The author of this biography, Reiss, performed a heroic feat, himself, with his research. It's not only full of Alexandre Dumas's reflections on his father General Alex Dumas, but it's corroborated with extensive confirmations AND a truly excellent focus on the historical context, places, events, and significance.

I'll be honest here: I knew a bit about the French Enlightenment and the idealism and its ties to America. I also knew a bit more about the French Revolution. The rise of Napoleon? Yes. His reactionary and full-on return to racism and exploitation of slaves? Yes.

But this book opened my eyes to a much broader look at this surrounding history that showed a quite sympathetic eye racism issue. This isn't simply a modern take on it This is regarding France's own positive Enlightenment developments that preceded and were active during the American Revolution. (So much of this goes hand-in-hand with each other.)

France briefly insisted that all slaves ought to be free. It wasn't universal and it was quite uneven, but it DID exist before Napoleon. Alex Dumas had been an Enlightenment star, highly educated with fantastic martial prowess, and distinguished himself with all the best ideals, and was universally admired even before his successes in the field.

But we know of what happened during the French Revolution. We know how idealism was co-opted by craven power-hungry opportunists and demagogues. How people more interested in power can take advantage of terror to consolidate power and propel their own agendas.

Keeping our OWN world out of this is rather difficult. I'll admit that. I see too many similarities between what happened before the French Revolution to what's happening in the USA today. Bright ideals can quickly be twisted by demagogues to promote massive chaos... and bloodshed.

But as for this book, by itself, I'm MORE than happy with everything I learned. History is beyond important. I'm amazed at the truth of the saying, "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it."

I fear that we have dark times ahead of us.

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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Sucker Punch (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #27)Sucker Punch by Laurell K. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Anyone who has kept this series knows they can expect a certain amount of craziness of one kind or another. If you've kept up with these books, you know that the first ten-ish books were classic awesome UF that's bloody, interesting, and quirky. From then on, the books continue in this vein but take on a decidedly different personal turn. I'm talking about the polygamy.

I'm one of those that appreciates the message without not particularly caring about the cause. Sure, you can love whomever you want, with as many as you want. Check. But I kept with the series mainly because when all the earlier strict UF police procedural, thinly-veiled commentary about sexual activism as vamps and weres was said and done, the stories were just FUN, FAST, and FURIOUS and often OTT when it comes to the action and magic bits. To me, they were the gold standard, and when LKH focused on that, I was always as happy as could be. I wasn't in it for the neverending sex or the full-stage production of multiple deep relationships that made my head spin and my care-o-meter break.

So many of these middle books broke my care-meter. But the great stuff was great, so I kept going.

Fast forward to today. I think LKH is changing direction, or DID change direction in the main plot and concern, for this book. I was used to her focusing on sexual issues for so long that I almost missed how she had become TIMELY in a different way.

Legal Rights for the people who are disenfranchised. I'm talking about systemic racism. Injustice at its very core. What if there is reasonable doubt, but custom (in the guise of law) dictates that you must treat a whole people like animals?

In this case, it's literal. It's a wereleopard who must be "put down" but there's serious doubt that he did it. Anita has gone through this kind of thing too many times and it just happens to be this case that nearly breaks her. She pulls out all the stops to save him, calling in the calvary, and I actually appreciate this.

This isn't a book that's all about the blood and guts, raising zombies, or playing dominance games (much). It's about taking that first and hardest step toward JUSTICE when you see that there IS NONE.

And like reality, there are no easy answers. There is only the fight.

As for the sub-plot with Olaf... well... we can't win everything, but I appreciate the fact that there was NOT a total overabundance of millions of romantic partners this time. In fact, there was practically no sex at all. It was pretty much... a RETURN TO THE EARLY DAYS.

Me, personally, I LOVED the early days. With the timely new focus? I love this one even more.

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Friday, September 11, 2020

To Sleep in a Sea of StarsTo Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It having been much more than a decade since I've read anything else by Paolini -- his dragons were pretty okay -- I came to the idea of reading his adult space opera with mild anticipation.

I mean, sure, it's often true that many writers of fantasy who decide to jump the fence into SF do so brilliantly, so a part of my mind kept thinking of, say, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and I wondered. I wondered hard.

After getting my hands on this book and having started it, I began comparing it to Becky Chambers with a few hints of Iain M. Banks, but as I continued on this quite interesting journey with an already wonderful main character, Kira Navárez, I discovered something really gorgeous. This novel continues on with a single PoV in Kira. Loving her is easy. Falling into the complications of her life as they get rather more complicated -- and epic -- is something of a no-brainer for me.

I mean, the moment that the ex0-biology and exploration segments get to a certain spoilery point that I will keep mum about, it's all COMPLETELY downhill for me. I couldn't stop reading for the life of me. Really. I took the book with me EVERYWHERE and actually growled at everyone I met if they tried to draw my attention way from the book. And it's not like I have a PROBLEM with focusing my attention. I was hooked and it never let up and this is a DOORSTOPPER.

Let's just say that the novel became a huge confetti snowstorm of a classic alien invasion Anime, and combines a literal ton of great classic and modern SF easter eggs in the telling.

Oh, and as for you folks who were worried that a fantasy author might not have the chops for an enormous and very fulfilling SF romp of an adventure, let me just say this: Paolini knows his SF. Take it from someone who has read over 2.2k SF novels and knows his tv and movies. He weaves a great deal of SF tropes reminiscent of Neal Asher and Alaistair Reynolds with his quirky and delightful Becky Chambers crew.

We even get a full-on galactic war, people, with a full resolution in a single standalone novel.

Please, allow me a little squee here. *squees like a little girl* Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Out of several years worth of recent space operas, some of which I really enjoyed and some I even swear by, I think I had the most outright FUN with this one. Some of the others might be more intriguing in the plot, others might have blown me away with the sheer science-magic, but this one touched me deeply while giving me all my darkest wish-fulfillment SF desires in a single delicious Navárez package.

Please don't assume this is an old, tired space opera. Rather, think about the promise, if not the execution, of, say, Babylon 5 or the idea of a Guyver suit (Japanese only) on methamphetamines, and you might get a slight idea about what might be going on here. :)


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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Throne of IsisThrone of Isis by Judith Tarr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Judith Tarr does what she does best, here. Fantastically researched history and really beautiful characters.

While this one is ostensibly about the grand romance between Antony and Cleopatra, I think it's really about Dione, one of the priestesses of Isis. The tumultuous romance of the other two is kinda obvious, after all. Antony and Cleopatra is one of Shakespeare's best Histories. It's probably one of the best-known romances in history.

Is this really enough to carry a whole novel, however well-researched?

Possibly, but Judith Tarr is a better writer than most people ever give her credit for. It's her equal focus on Dione, this priestess of Isis -- of love -- that balances everything out.

There are two relationships in this novel. The mirroring between Dione and her steady scholar from Rome is a wonderfully subtle indictment of Antony and Cleopatra.

The two couples mirror each other. Wonderfully. I was as invested with the quiet, understated romance as I was in the flashy and tragic one, and it served as a really nice antidote.

Between the bigger than life and the totally grounded, I felt like we were getting a wonderfully beautiful and rounded (perhaps eternal) exploration of love.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Selections from the Prison NotebooksSelections from the Prison Notebooks by Antonio Gramsci
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Without writing a book on this book (and believe me, I'm tempted) I'm going to try to keep this simple.

However, this classic working-Marxist text is anything but simple.

The first more-than-half of it has enough variations on political principles to make an Ism out of Isms, going into vast detail about enough 1910-1930 Italian politics INCLUDING the rise of Mussolini, post-revolution Russia political movements, and even some French.

As for me, I know enough history to be slightly dangerous, but trying to follow THIS Trotskian/Italian Fascism/polemical nightmare without having BEEN there and STEEPED in the times makes me realize that I am out of my depth. Slightly. BUT these Selections from the Prison Notebooks come with a pretty awesome bonus.

It has commentary. Whew!!!

Getting something out of the almost Naturalist descriptions, all the play-by-play political dealings of all these countries as they undergo a Marxist transformation, is more of a matter of letting the IDEAS sink in rather than hearing a formal statement. Indeed, the text is full of short maxims that felt more like reading Nietzsche than anything resembling a Social Science.

However, for me at least, none of THAT was as impressive or thought-provoking as what came in the second half of his writings.

The rest is philosophy. Fine philosophy that tries to drag the study of massive social movements out of the realm of art and into the realm of science. I swear, he was probably trying to pull a Wittgenstein on his logic, but really, I know he was just pulling a Hegelian argument.

Here's the weird thing about Gramsci: most of the later Marxist thinkers love the hell out of him, but first they had to pour over his overly complicated text to root out those rare nuggets of wisdom like pigs hunting for truffles. There is nothing overly clear about anything he has written.

Almost ALL of my understanding of Gramsci comes from the (much) later commentaries.

Some exceptions exist, however.

I got the clear impression that Common Sense, in the parlance that he uses it, is the core of any nascent or growing political theory. But Common Sense, as he uses it, is often very uncommon and is almost ALWAYS used to drive the unthinking masses into positions that may not (or likely probably not) be in their best interests. It's the idea that if you want to drive the people to do what you want, then first you must convince them that YOUR ideas are simple Common Sense whether or not it has anything to do with whether it BENEFITS them or not.

A common modern example is using any or all of the moral foundations See Here to whip a people into a frenzy (Pro-Life, for example,) and use this as a COMPLETE platform to push through a wide set of policies that will probably drain the constituents of all their self-respect, drive them to perform horrendous acts of racism, or even steal their money -- but it's perfectly valid because at least the prime tenet of (Pro-Life) is kept sacrosanct.

As Gramsci would put it, you must never get so intellectual that you lose the heart of the argument, and never be so emotionally riled up that you lose the core intellectual awesomeness. In other words, you always need to find that sweet spot and change tactics for your audience. (Gramsci was never so straightforward, however. We get our modern concepts of this from him, distilled over time and use.)

Another great (or disturbing) feature of Gramsci is the full, detailed descriptions of how Fascism came to its rise in Italy. How it could convince so many people to dehumanize and create enemies out of the other side.

It is a slow, painstaking process, but please refer to the Moral Foundations Theory I linked to above and couple it with massive, massive repetitions. This is the core of changing the basic Common Sense of a people. If you change the dialogue, if you change the fundamental NARRATIVE, then you can drive people to believe and do ANYTHING.

As people in Italy used to say, "Eh, I hate fascism, but at least they got the trains to run on time."


After all, a little intelligence can get any train to run on time. It doesn't take fascism to do anything except have a whole people eat itself.

All in all, this is some pretty interesting food for thought. And trust me, I barely scratched the surface. I hope I piqued your interest, however.

If we don't know our history, we will always be doomed to repeat it.

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Architects of Memory (The Memory War, #1)Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So! The good:

The pacing, a lot of the action, the core concept of the aliens, and the OTT blowout of the end.

The so/so:

The relatively generic space-opera feel with very little to make it stand out from most space-opera setups. Such as corporate indenture. Has no one read Cherryh? Scavenging is also so commonplace as to be a core fixture of these types of SF-lite novels. The originality is centered, but not very developed, on the (no spoiler) abilities of the aliens and how it relates to our MC. That being said, the whole tale feels mostly surfacy and I never got that invested in either the over-plot or the characters.

I don't think this was a bad novel by any stretch. My main complaint is that I've read way too many novels that behave almost exactly like this. It didn't kick my pants in the originality department. At all.

That being said, it does fill a number of checkboxes for those of you looking for it: Disabled. LGBTQ. However, these aspects never really felt core to the story even if we were meant to believe they were. (At least to me.)

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Sunday, September 6, 2020

UnDivided (Unwind, #4)UnDivided by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, now that the series is done, I have to re-order my expectations.

Did I expect a bigger, more creative, and crazy end? Possibly. Did I expect a revolution? Yes.

Was I satisfied with the whole perception of reality resolution and the legal niceties and sacrifices? Yes.

So what's my problem? The YA conforms to all the general YA standards. The kids are given horrible situations but not TOO horrible situations. It's mostly dealing with their own expectations and plodding their way toward changing everyone ELSE's expectations. It didn't become a horror masterpiece with tons of shambling Cthulhu monstrosities of added limbs with full personalities active in every limb. We didn't have a full society of rejects or all the old unwound kids rebelling WITHIN all the bodies they were transplanted to. Alas. That would have been brilliant.

Instead, we have legal bills, special interests, public perception, and protests.

Not that I have anything against protests. Far from it.

I mean, the whole idea that any society could be set up to drive another segment of its population crazy is not very crazy at all. I mean, with all the destruction of human rights and dignity going on, we really SHOULDN'T be surprised that the disenfranchised are so upset.

Of course, to blame that same population for being angry after having been beaten down for so long and initiate draconian measures against them is pretty much a Fascist Playbook kind of thing.

Unfortunately, when I look at society now and compare it with the mildness of these books, I think this is a case of reality being stranger than fiction. Or at least wilder.

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Saturday, September 5, 2020

A Wind in CairoA Wind in Cairo by Judith Tarr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this way back in High School and I absolutely loved it. As a romance, it was magical and heartbreaking and I admit that I broke into tears then as easily as I did now.

As a fantasy set in the extremely well-researched time of the Early Crusades as written from the PoV of Muslims, it frankly blew me away. Not only did the humanity and the civilization shine through, but so did the culture.

But let me address the one problematic issue that pretty much prevented me from re-reading this well-beloved magical historical fantasy of a love story between a fiery headstrong Muslim woman and her equally headstrong horse: the rape.

This is no glorification, first of all. This was a crime in the novel that was met with a very severe punishment that could very well have led to much, much worse consequences for Hasan. But in the punishment, there was MERCY.

I know, I know, this is a trigger issue, but I personally believe the crimes should be treated with justice and not cruelty. The tale, over the full length of its telling, walks a very fine line and ends where I believe most tales SHOULD end.

They should teach us that mercy and justice are not dead. They should teach us that no one should ever be perpetually judged by the worst thing they have ever done. There is a balance here. And, indeed, the balance is all the harder because it teaches us that any of us can change.

Hasan, a selfish prick, can learn to be obedient, loving, and self-sacrificing.

If you want a novel that simply desires blood for the blood god, this is not for you. If you want a novel that is gorgeous, hopeful, redemptive, and a great tear-jerker that rests its head on Humility... then OMG, yo: PICK THIS UP.

The balance is real. Both men and women are real men and women. The quality of justice is NOT strained. It is hard, it is painful, it requires tons of effort, good-will, and the open-mindedness of all parties, but the quality of justice is NOT strained. It may, indeed, be one of the most beautiful things in the universe.

This novel touches something truly great. It may prod your boundaries, but it is still something truly great.

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Friday, September 4, 2020

UnSouled (Unwind, #3)UnSouled by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is what might have happened if the plight of teens was turned into an industry of Frankenstein's monsters.

You know, the older folks shamelessly profiting on the consumption of young flesh.

No, no, this is NOT an accurate reflection of our modern society! No, no, not at all.


Well! I honestly hoped that the first book would continue on into a MUCH darker and nastier dystopia. Instead, we just get the normal kind of social dystopia that villainizes an underclass in order to perpetuate the massive profitization.

No, no, this is obviously NOT an accurate reflection of our modern society! No, no, not at all.

Even if it doesn't go in the direction I had hoped, it's still a pretty good skewer. You could almost cut and paste the whole non-SF setup and apply it to so many modern protest groups and see a pretty obvious correlation.

Key points: don't get violent, focus on peaceful protest, but don't forget... they will lie. It's an unenviable position. Let's hope you don't lose all your body parts, too.

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Thursday, September 3, 2020

MetrophageMetrophage by Richard Kadrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit that I'm something of a fan of cyberpunk. I guess it has something to do with my geeking out over Max Headroom and Neuromancer and all the cheeeeeesy movies of that time period, but for the most part, I was a much BIGGER fan of the post-cyberpunk movement.

Why? Because it moves beyond the punk while keeping all the tech goodies, diving into stories well beyond gangs, drug wars, noir, etc.

Kadrey's 1988 novel happens to be of that type. It's not bad. I love the idea of this kind of thing more in its ideas than its execution, granted, but, like Arnold's version of Total Recall, it's still good fun.

It's mostly about plot. Drug running, a wide variety of inner-city locations, post-government crime cabals, and even intrigue with a moon colony. More than anything, I was reminded of a lite version of Altered Carbon. Between an interesting plague, various factions, freedom fighters, and a poor MC bouncing like a pinball between everything, I was always kept on my toes.

Was this something that rose above a crazy slip-and-slide gangland adventure?

No, not really, but it did give me a flashback feel of the '80s.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

UnWholly (Unwind, #2)UnWholly by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing the Unwind books remains pretty interesting. No huge over-plot has really developed, but it IS very interesting to see all the cracks in this society's facade.

I especially like how all the cracks are widening in such blatantly WEIRD ways. :) Re-wound? Yes, please.

I'm really curious to see if these novels get super dark and wild. Right now, I'm just seeing implications take on a life of their own.

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The Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black ManhoodThe Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood by Tommy J. Curry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this will be a hard book for people in academia to accept.

Not because there isn't a mountain of evidence displaying not only the misandry of black men, because there is a big movement to maintain and further their entire erasure from the discussion.

What? Men are included, aren't they? We have reportings of their deaths almost every single day. I mean, just look at the news. This one was shot, this one was brutalized, this one... oh. Wait. These are just bodies. Did you want to talk about the actual MEN? Well, no. We only assume they are about to become a statistic.

Black MEN are not worthy of study despite a mountain of evidence proving that they are raped as often as women. Their suicide rates, depending on age, is 4-6 times higher than women. Job opportunities are much less available compared to black women, and it gets much, much worse after having the stigma of having been incarcerated. And they are arrested, searched, and brutalized at a much, much higher rate than any other sex or race, and often for only trumped-up reasons.

And yet, they are only studied as their dead bodies.

There is a major disconnect here. When men's balls are literally being crushed so as to need hospitalization, when plunger handles are used to penetrate men, is this not the definition of rape? When the numbers prove they aren't isolated examples, but pervasive and sickening, is this not WORTHY of study?

Let's face it. Academia has its own misandry and racism to acknowledge. When papers and books, even when they are monumentally well-researched, are not published because they don't set the right "narrative" about the plight of women, or about LGBTQ, they are, in effect, ERASING a whole CLASS of men (MEN, mind you, as defined by feminists).

When we talk of toxic masculinity, of patriarchy, of anything like this, it is NOT based on actual evidence.

Do not look at a class struggle in the same light as a sexual struggle, because the theories will come crashing down. Men, not just black men, are victims of class struggles too. Poverty doesn't give men a patriarchal advantage. It's completely absurd, with all the additional factors aligned against black men, that they are automatically the beneficiaries of male privilege.

Look at the actual evidence instead of pushing an ideological theory.

Neither men nor women are saints. One should not use intersectionality to dehumanize ANYONE.

As for this book, please read it as the academic eye-opener that it is. This work is about the erasure of men. So much talk goes on about "how they bring it on themselves," or "how to strip them from their actual gender identity," or to dismiss them on the basis of a perceived but unfactual arguments that have become fashionable in the rise of feminism. And by the way, dehumanizing men just because they are men is called misandry. Both men and women are guilty of it.

The NEWS is guilty of it. Academia is guilty of it. Politics is guilty of it. None of us are perfect, but disenfranchising a whole class of people is, in actual fact, the definition of prejudice.

Be aware.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

We Are Where the Nightmares Go and Other StoriesWe Are Where the Nightmares Go and Other Stories by C. Robert Cargill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Cargill's fiction. First, I loved his SF, but it wasn't until I dived into his two fae-based fantasy novels that I was rather blown away.

This particular book is a collection of short stories that really showcase his love of fantasy in general. When I judge them, I judge them solely on how much fun I had. *hint -- I had a lot of fun* Dark Fantasy? Yes, please!

There are more stories in the collection than the ones I mention here, but these are the ones I personally loved.

We Are Where the Nightmares Go - I kinda squeed on this one. It's all about a fairy tale gone very, very wrong. I actually chortled. CHORTLED.

As They Continue to Fall - At first I thought it was gonna be a little like Supernatural where the angels are all dicks, but no. This is much worse. And the implication underneath? Even darker. :)

Hell Creek - Why not have a MC be a triceratops surrounded by an undead invasion of other dinos? There's only one thing to say about this: HELL YES!

I Am the Night You Never Speak Of - Sin-Eating as a rather UF-y profession. I think I'd love (and be sickened by) a full UF series based on this.

A Clean White Room - (co-authored) but totally awesome continuation of the Sin-Eating profession. This is one HELL of a sick job. Perfect for those of us who want to be thankful for the jobs we already have, thank you very much. :)

The Soul-Thief’s Son - A side tale of Cargill's dark fantasy novels featuring Colby Stevens in dreamwalking Australia. I personally LOOOVED this one. It was like coming home. Even if home is a soulless husk. :)

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Monday, August 31, 2020

Xeelee: RedemptionXeelee: Redemption by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay. I'm going to have to caveat the hell out of this novel.

I am BOTH waving my hands over my head like a green muppet AND I'm slamming my fists down on the floor, yelling, "Nooooooo!"

Let me unpack this:

As a long-time fan of Baxter and being a bonafide nerd about the Xeelee universe, I'm also extremely annoyed at Poole and all the relatives of Poole and all the alternate universe versions of Pool. (Although, I'm pretty okay with the software version of Poole. He's all right.)

YES, I get why so many Pooles are necessary and I even enjoyed the gimmick for quite some time, but ALSO as a long-time fan, I just want NEW CHARACTERS with all shiny awesome shit.

And let me be clear: this novel (and the one right before it) are JAMMED PACKED with shiny awesome shit. From the sheer scope, from the inception of the universe to the creation of the Ring (or here, called the Wheel), and far beyond the last star winking out, we've ALSO got multiple do-overs in alternate universes, tons of time-like loops, galaxy-spanning wars (or you'll see, you spoiler hounds,) and so much more. Just read the novel if you want to have all that neat stuff.


And so that brings me to one of the hardest things I've ever had to say:

NEW READERS, START WITH Xeelee Vengeance (book 16), continue with Xeelee Redemption (book 17).


As a new reader, getting to know Poole is no big deal. Baxter has improved his writing over the years, too. If I had read these two novels without ever once knowing ANYTHING about Baxter or the Xeelee, I would have started worshipping him as an SF god.

Do you want a scope like Cixin Liu's recent trilogy? How about some classic Asimov or Clarke? Do you want HARDCORE magical science with good science but taken to totally magical levels? Do you want an obsessive story that has taken on mythical levels?


And here's the good part: you get a total overview of the over-story. If you get hooked and need to fill in ALL the massive amazing blanks, THEN go back and read the entire Xeelee sequence.

It's a total win-win. The best of all worlds.

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Sunday, August 30, 2020

Xeelee: VengeanceXeelee: Vengeance by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Xeelee sequence is one of THOSE huge storylines that I just can't get out of my head. It's a monolith of HUGE HUGE HUGE space and time stories that spread from the inception of the universe to the very end of the universe, countless time-travel re-creations, battle-lines that re-form all of HISTORY many, many times, and often just punch ultimate holes in the universe to GET THE F**K out and into alternate universes.

And through it all, Humans have become the runner-ups in the galaxy-wide conflict while being unable to communicate with the more advanced and inscrutable Xeelee who freaking SHEPHERD STARS or create a naked singularity out of a galactic core. You know. Little things like that.

This particular book, late in the many, many battles and time-rewrites and massive battles, takes us back to a time -- again -- to the Pooles. And between putting a wormhole into the sun to heat remote parts of the Solar System, uncovering and engaging with an ancient Xeelee artifact that had been buried for millions of years despite having come from a very distant future (or discovering that Poole, himself, is a grand hero celebrated half a million years in the future,) (again), things soon go to total s**t again.

The war never ends. Not when time-like loops and vast scales are matched with even more vast scales in multiple timelines.

This is HARDCORE hard SF, folks. I LOVE IT.

So why did I give it only 4 stars?

Because of Poole. The first time we had an alternate timeline with another version of Poole or one of the extended historical Poole family, I was like... okay. This could get very interesting.
The fourth time, it was beginning to look like a gimmick.
The eighth time, I was already begging to just GIVE ME A NEW CHARACTER ALREADY.

If I was going to judge these books on just that one little annoyance, I'd probably say toss it only 2 stars. But when I judge these books on their great over-plots, the tactics and strategy, the mind-blowing physics and scale and creative uses of ... EVERYTHING worldbuilding? I have to give it a full 5 stars. Every time. Every book.

In fact, that's why I keep coming back. It's really awesome. Deeply, deeply satisfying.
And pity humanity.

Even Poole pulls some awesome s**t. Give him some credit.

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Saturday, August 29, 2020

How to Stop TimeHow to Stop Time by Matt Haig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit I have a soft spot in my heart for stories about immortals. You know, regular, average, everyday immortals who aren't vampires.

The whole idea is rich, in my opinion, and full of almost limitless possibilities. Unfortunately, I've rarely read particularly GOOD tropes like this. They usually feel drawn-out and weak, aimless, and/or unnecessarily wrought with ... too simple emotionalities ... that don't do a life that's LONG any true justice.

There are exceptions, of course, such as The Boat of a Million Years, which I loved. The history was rich and so were the characterizations.

But what about this one?

Honestly? I STILL want to read more complex characterizations, psychology, and books of history along these lines. This wasn't bad -- at all -- and it felt like a really good literary, emotional, and heartbreaking treatment of the idea.

All in all, however, I still want MORE. Like, a lot more. A life that doesn't automatically devolve into "just getting by" or an amorphous ill-defined "carry on". Why? Because it FEELS as if his life is just like everyone else's.

But wait, am I missing the point of OTHER PEOPLE?

I don't know. I don't think so. I thought it was rather sweet. But this didn't give me the full emotional hit that I wanted.

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Snuff (Discworld, #39; City Watch #8)Snuff by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 08/29/20:

Reading this in the light of race relations is rather enlightening. It's a gentle treatment on simply learning to treat people like PEOPLE in the end, but this is a very GOOD thing.

So, honestly? I was sad, enthusiastic, angry, and hopeful as I read this again.

It's a fine novel.

Original Review:

I go through different stages of Pratchettism throughout my life. Sometimes I can't do without Death, other times, I love the witches more than anything else. Then I've got to have my wizards. Lower down on the rung of things, I disliked the Night Watch more than I've ever disliked anything in Discworld; and then something really odd happened: I didn't dislike it at all. In fact, I kept thinking about how interesting all of these goofy characters have become. And then, without my quite realizing it, I loved them.
This is a novel about the Law. And a book named Pride and Extreme Prejudice.
Classic chicanery in the hills during a much-deserved vacation, and all that, and smartly done, too. Right!

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Friday, August 28, 2020

Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5)Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ahhh, Catalina and Alessandro. After a few rocky starts, a slow-burning romance, and a major reversal in the previous book, we finally get... more reversals.

There are some really cool magical bits, a nice and nasty antagonist, and enough familial angst and reveals to throw a kitchen sink at, but in the end, this novel IS pretty much a HEA romance through and through.

We THOUGHT we'd get that HEA in the previous one before the rug was pulled out from under us and the rocky start in this one seemed destined to keep that HEA out of our grasp with all the "I'm spurned so, therefore, I'll spurn" standard trope, but this is just a trick.

The novel delivers. In beautiful paranormal romance style.

What? You miss Nevada and Connor?

***psssst. They're here***

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Kings of Paradise (Ash and Sand, #1)Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I honestly didn't know what to expect when I started this. An epic fantasy using a low magic system, lots of grit and grim, and a fairly expansive world? Sure. That sounds reasonable. And pretty standard.

Pretty soon after we get through a pretty general opening with a downtrodden prince and a few other rather more interesting low characters, I think it started getting pretty good. I wasn't all that impressed with the start. But later on? It definitely drew me in and kept me engaged.

Runes? Count me in. A main character that goes through MANY, MANY changes of life, learning, failing, getting the full reversals, and still keeps on chugging?

I admit I began to LOVE it. No matter what happens, there's high risk, higher consequences, and a chance it all goes to worse hell than ever before. And yet, I'm glued to the page.

At this point, I'm totally hooked. It's not always the ideas that do it. It's the sheer storytelling goodness. I'm reminded fondly of some of the epic fantasy greats. :) Think about a mix between Feist and Rothfuss and you might get an idea.

Give me more!

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, #1)Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For some odd reason, I've been avoiding reading this book (or the whole series) despite it being well-beloved in general.

Why? I mean, I like a good heist novel and the cockier and the more headstrong the character, the more interesting I find it. So this should be right up my alley, right?

Well, it's YA. MG, even. Okay. So that's a big thing.

Even so, I thought I ought to finally GIVE IT A CHANCE. After all, wasn't there a big movie was made for it?

*crickets* *embarrassed shuffling over at Disney* *more crickets*

OKAY. So my desire to read this is no predicated only on sheer stubborn doggedness. I want to say I did it. That's it.

And so I read it and didn't think it was all that bad. Some fun bits. Fairly reasonable amounts of handwavium but that's okay even in the terms of plot because it's just meant to be FUN.

It wasn't bad. Flashy, genre-bending SF/Fantasy with interesting if simply-portrayed rules in a mythical book. And Action. Lots of action.

It's on par with that old movie Spy Kids. Just add spy tech to an Arsene Lupin kid, throw high-tech fae cops at him, and stir.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get my girl to read it past a few pages. This just had to be for me, this time.

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Sunday, August 23, 2020

23892389 by Iain Rob Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This straightforward space horror is right out of an old video game. Just add space zombies, a lunar amusement park, and shake all the grand elements of both.

I really have nothing much to say about it except it passed the time in an amusing way. I wanted to re-watch Event Horizon while I was reading this.

Corny stuff? Who knows! I just know I like a good classic horror SF story now and again. Like a bloodier old Doctor Who with a classic Zombie action ethos.

It was pretty good. Amusing. But not ground-breaking.

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Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick (Zoey Ashe, #2)Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick by David Wong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me just say that I'm STILL super impressed that this title ever got out of the gate.

As for everything else going on, this is very much a sequel but it's hardly needed to read the first book first. Crazy s**t happened. Zoey is way out of her depth. Still.

In fact, this novel goes completely off the deep end. Let's keep the humor running high, make sure our poor Zoey is now super freaking rich, inheriting all the ills of the rich, and feeling the total terror of rampaging human augments, gigantic farting kitties, and even more about futuristic suits.

What's the real issue tho?

Zoey is isolated like crazy and is starting to go crazy. It doesn't hurt that this totally nuts place in Ohio is a privatized anarchistic wonderland that has more in common with an anime than a rational city.

And that's what's awesome about this.

That, and the cat. Any of the cats. I'm all over this book. It's all about the cats.

It takes a lot of unusual social takes and maybe even takes an unpopular stance, but I have to grand the balls on this book. Or rather, where the focus goes. :)

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Saturday, August 22, 2020

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of ColorblindnessThe New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A little bit of honesty here:

This is an extremely important book that too few people will read.


Because it tackles the systemic institutional racism issue and breaks down all the many aspects that turn it into a full-blown machine.

"Wait. Huh? Why wouldn't people want to have that?"

Because it's understandably complicated and people are afraid of complicated.

"Oh. Right."

But this does not mean it shouldn't be read. Indeed, I think everyone should read it and understand it.

I've personally been reading about things like this for ages. Bits and pieces. Never the whole picture. And this one ISN'T the whole picture because no short-ish book can tackle it all. But this one DOES tackle a rather large portion of it.

I won't be able to mention them all here, but I'll do some:

Alexander brings up the historical aspect in brief and specifically how, during the race riots 50-60 years ago the whole idea of even mentioning race became a taboo subject. I think this is very important. If racism is at all to have a future, it must be couched in innocuous terms, and deniable policies or the "obviousness" of it would get all kinds of human rights violations thrown at them. The whole point was to create a new system where they could create a permanent underclass while avoiding racial terms while ALSO making it mostly about race.

Solution? Make a drug war. Ignore the fact that drug-related offenses were going down. Find something everyone can unilaterally agree upon during the '80s, hype it up WAY out of proportion to the actual problem, and turn it into a class/race specific issue without directly calling it a race thing.

The author backs up everything with all kinds of proof, easily verified with 20/20 hindsight, but the vast majority of drug users were white. Crack cocaine was only as addictive as regular cocaine. Alcohol abuse is MUCH worse than cocaine, crack, or especially marijuana, but since crack was actually unloaded upon black communities SPECIFICALLY, shortly after America's involvement in the drug cartels in the '80s, it was fair game to focus almost ALL attention on crack, and specifically, the horrendously pervasive narratives about its danger.

Anyone alive during the time will remember a deluge of ads, focus groups, MILITARY HARDWARE being gifted to police departments everywhere, and new laws that specifically allowed the seizure of property, homes, and vehicles on only SUSPECTED drug use.

Think about it. If someone calls a tip line saying you're up to no good, and you're black, this is all they need to blast down your door, freeze your bank accounts and take all your property. This is not PROOF of wrongdoing. And guess who gets the property? The cops are allowed to keep it all to fund the war on drugs directly.

Add to this that racial profiling is VERY much a proven thing and that it is pervasive, with sometimes more than 4 times as many blacks getting subjected to this and most of them too poor to buy off the racket, it means widespread poverty with no recourse.

And then we get to the good stuff. The prison system. Since the '80s, the prison system grew to an unimaginable size with MOST of the people in jail being black men. Why? Because most of them are there because of draconian laws on drug possession. Even though alcohol is objectively worse across the board, it is relatively light and is almost always focused on treating the problem. In other countries, sentences are described in terms of months, not a minimum of 5 years for possession. And yet, the whole IDEA of being TOUGH ON CRIME seems too GOOD to be TRUE, right? Well, yeah. It IS too good to be true.

The collateral damage is pervasive. Already poor people who have suffered "soft" segregation and housing issues are villainized further with all the same arguments made by plantation owners against their slaves. The forward-looking politicians of either side embraced these narratives equally. On the surface, it FEELS right. And that's the point. Let's not look at the conditions that keep an entire people in fear of losing everything, let's blame the ones who already have practically nothing for being angry that they have practically nothing. And then wonder why they're upset.

Oh! Let's send in more cops to clean up the streets! (Meanwhile more folk lose their houses whether or not they're actually guilty of anything. Take the case of the grandparents who lose their house because a grandchild was caught smoking crack two blocks away. Multiply truly egregious cases like that by thousands, and you might get a better idea.)

And then we come to one of the worst aspects of all this. Post-incarceration.

We all know that felons are massively discriminated against. It's almost like it's a law. Denied jobs, denied schooling, denied housing, denied hope. It's a perpetual system of punishment going on far, far longer than a prison sentence. Basically, the feeling goes, if you do the time, it'll be permanent. Permanent underclass.

So let's look at the judicial system a bit. Most cop dramas are pure narrative. And what I mean by that is that they are NOT accurately portraying the system we have. If a poor person gets a lawyer (and predominately, those arrested are black) they are generally always pressured to plea bargain. This means that whether they actually INNOCENT or not, they're pressured to do the time because the free lawyers are extremely overworked and don't have the time to do anything else with an overburdened system designed to target blacks. Again, the author does her homework and because there are so many obvious cases like this, it's become something of a dark joke.

What isn't clear to most people put into this position is this: once you're branded a felon, you stay one for the rest of your living life.

Most get their driver's licenses revoked. Their right to vote is revoked. Many of these aspects are done in such a way as to be a "soft" prevention, such as needing to pay, in perpetuity, legal fees, probation fees, even whopping $750 fines to just be allowed the right to vote again. When 100% of your paycheck can be garnished to pay for the legal costs (and many, many incidentals) after your getting out of prison, you are permanently locked into a no-win situation with no way out.

Now, combine this with tough on crime laws that target blacks WAY more than anyone else, who pull you over for minor traffic violations and then rifle through your vehicles, maybe finding a dime bag of marijuana, getting arrested, put through the plea-bargain machine, do several years, and then been way below the fact of poverty and be turned away ANYWHERE you go afterward... because you smoked marijuana while being black.

All of this is compounded as a huge social issue happening to millions and millions of people all the time. At one point, the prisons were 40% filled on drug possession charges. And afterward, after the meat-grinder of the justice system is done with you, all your prospects for a decent life dry up.

No, of course not, we don't call this racism now. It's NOT about race. It's about being tough on crime. In a perpetual punitive system that just HAPPENS to focus on mostly black people.

The whites who tend to USE the drugs more is just a weird fact. For all those whites that go to jail under the same rules, it's considered collateral damage. But since the ones that are hurt the most are the ones who are already poor, too, it doesn't really matter. Right? Because, if they could have afforded a good lawyer in the first place, they would have FOUGHT this travesty from the first arrest.

Note that rich drug kingpins and rich people, in general, tend to get out of the penal system. The war on crime doesn't care about getting the drugs off the street. They're too busy making sure that informants keep the seizure machine well oiled, fully funded, and that means making sure that the targets of these attacks are never organized, always politically in-fighting, and physically hurting themselves. It's also classic psychological warfare.

So yes, I don't go into everything that's in this book, but the primary points are here in this review.

I absolutely recommend reading the actual book for a much more detailed analysis. It's not really enough just to know about individual aspects of these problems.

We must see the whole forest, too, and not just the trees.

I *especially* recommend this book if you want to know the fundamental reason why "Defund the Police" is trending. Bazookas? REALLY? IS THIS WHAT WE REALLY NEED?

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Friday, August 21, 2020

The Saints of Salvation (The Salvation Sequence #3)The Saints of Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have nothing but positive things to say about Peter F. Hamilton's new series, now on its third book.

It has everything I dream of in a story. Not just a good story that takes on the full subjugation of humanity, but tens of thousands of whole technological alien species, but a rebellion story that goes all the extra miles with solid tech, solid circumstances, and mind-blowing ramifications.

For not only did we start out with micro-black-hole technologies in the first book, but we go way beyond that with post-human neutron-star hacking, expanded and split consciousness immortals, standard and not-so-standard cyberpunk, and a scope that spans the entire freaking galaxy.

The stakes? Freaking end-of-the-universe stakes. The enemies? An alien species that started its monocultural crusade to cocoon ALL other species to "save" them for the end of times more than a couple of a million years ago. The resolution?

Muahahahahahaha it's epic, man. It's epic.

Hamilton rocks. I've known this for a while. I did take some time to get into his earlier works, it's true, but now I'm a believer.

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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Future Home of the Living God: A NovelFuture Home of the Living God: A Novel by Louise Erdrich
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, this is definitely LitSF for you folks out there who love your LitSF.

What is LitSF? The self-styled lyrical, ambiguous, often rambling, sometimes even pretentious style of mainstream fiction that touts itself as being SF while being, primarily, pages from a regular everyday diary. The SF aspect is usually quite remote, and even if it might have an interesting premise, it usually never directly impacts the main character except during a few key points which are usually underwhelming.

Don't expect a plot. Expect waxing poetic on the joys of motherhood -- in this case -- and the vague fears and growing terror as expectant mothers are being taken away. This is terrifying, of course, and I would have loved to read a whole novel from a PoV that actively tries to resolve, act, or fight this trend. Or even a PoV that was one of the religious nutters that brought about the end of the world only to redeem themselves by fighting for the opposition of reason. But no. We are subjected to staying at home, staying out of sight, and our big mistakes are always preventable and the results are always predictable. But that's just plot.

Fans of this kind of novel will throw out plot entirely and just wax poetic on the lyrical (somewhat) language and the deep HUMANITY even while everyone else seems to lose their own humanity. Except for the post office. The post office was pretty heroic. But if you're stuck at home and the only kind of outside contact you ever get is from the postman, I suppose that makes perfect sense. After all, there are few choices when it comes to heroes.

Her man ... was rather one-dimensional. The feminist take on this entire story was quite predictable. Men did not have any choice in anything. They were either there to protect (or fail to protect) women, provide for them, or fail them. So, there's that. All intellectual thought or discussion came from only within our main female's brain and her uber-focus on the child in her belly that might destroy her life.

It may be, at this point in my life, I'm tired of just hearing stories of the womb. We hear a lot about humanizing women but when I read books like this, there's absolutely nothing done about humanizing men. There's no balance. There's not even a resolution with the overstory or the SF dystopic setting. Both men and women brought THAT world about together. The medical parts, the whole devolution bits? I thought it was done a lot better in Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio. That book was TERRIFYING.

This one just rambled and went nowhere.

Sorry, LitSF fans! I guess I'm not that much of a fan.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Unwind (Unwind, #1)Unwind by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've already been a fan of Shusterman's, so digging deeper into his original novels isn't that big of a stretch.

Cool underlying concepts taken to their full extremes? Check.
Kids having to live under these extreme conditions? Check.
A horrifying look at a society that has gone completely bonkers? Check.

Sounds pretty average for REALITY, right?

Eeehhhhh. Wait a moment. The Second American Revolution was fought over reproduction. Indeed, it was the Lifers and the Choicers that took it nuclear, with one little handwavium. All medical science now allows for totally easy transplants and a single human can be chopped up into all different kinds of pieces and used for... anything!

Of course, my mind went to huge flesh monsters first off, but no, this is all for *valid* reasons. It's all totally dehumanizing. You know, because while abortions are no longer legal... at all, we can now recycle our children when they turn 13. Have them live on eternally (or rather, internally) in other people. It's a respectable way to keep on living. And economical, too.

Enter another handwavium here about people actually agreeing to this horrific compromise. It happened, okay? This is America, home of the brave and terminally psychotic, and no one won the war.

*deep pause*

This is a rather dark book. For a YA, I kinda expect this kind of thing as a matter of course, but I'm just gonna say it. This is a rather dark book.

And especially if we just run with the natural problems being presented here and enjoy the truly sick premise of Humpty-Dumpty having a great fall, it's still sick.

It SHOULD be a straight horror. Not a YA. It ought to be hitting all the most horrific high-points of a horror novel. It doesn't. It's NORMAL. Adventure, escape, and confrontations, choices, growing as a person... all that is here. But DAMN. This is Human Centipede territory.

I think it's even SICKER because it is almost like it's a commentary on YA novels and how much they truly get away with. I'd have less an issue with it if it just went the way of blood. lol

I'm likely to continue. I have this horrid fascination thing going on inside my noggin.

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On Stranger TidesOn Stranger Tides by Tim Powers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is what happens when you're the ACTUAL inspiration for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

The movies shuffle around some pieces, make it streamlined and less complex, and of course NAME it after a ride.

But the story itself...

It's a truly historical romance that is filled to the brim with press gangs, pirates, hidden islands, Blackbeard, and with so much magic overflowing from the Lao that it absolutely reads like a modern epic fantasy.

It is not a modern epic fantasy. It came out in 1987. And yet... it happens to be one of the most wonderfully described and world-built pirate adventures I've ever read... and there are a lot of them. Some will go big, some will go crafty, but this one rests its laurels on realism and realistic details. DESPITE the magic. Indeed, the magic itself feels as real as the rest. :)

So magical realism? No. There's a lot more magic in this than that. :) Let's just say I was completely sucked in and this could still have been utterly real. (There's even a great deal of discovery about why magic is going away! Hint: head to the stranger tides to find out...)

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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Sandman (Sandman Audible Original, #1)The Sandman by Dirk Maggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very satisfying.

Mind you, I've read the comics several times through, so I was apprehensive about how well it would have transformed into an audiobook format.

Fortunately, it worked brilliantly. I'm sure it required a great deal of re-imagining for the format, but this should come as no surprise since it will soon come out as a TV SERIES!!!!


But back to the story. This only takes on the narrative through the Midsummer Night's Tale. We can all expect more, later.

Just imagine.

The lord of stories, of narrative, of dream.

For all of you who have never read the comics and think you might like to get introduced to this?

Definitely. Listen away. It only gives you a taste of the full tale, but it's very, very fun.

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Monday, August 17, 2020

The Towers of the Sunset (The Saga of Recluce, #2)The Towers of the Sunset by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I fell in love.

I mean, I really liked the first book in this series and I really rocked to the whole Chaos vs Order magic system. I’ve always loved this kind of thing. Still do.

But this second book? I freaked out. What appeared to be a hardcore adventure rebelling against a political fate and an arranged marriage had be reeling when I realized it was actually a


All this time I expected an epic fantasy with tons of swordplay and magic and discovery, adventure, torture, and even more magic.


Honestly, it’s the best part. These two tore me to shreds.

Oh, and the whole founding of Recluse was all kinds of awesome, sending us far back in time before the events of the first book, but it was the ROMANCE that floored me.

I didn’t expect it.
Such a wonderful surprise. :)

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Sunday, August 16, 2020

Dead Lies Dreaming (The Laundry Files, #10)Dead Lies Dreaming by Charles Stross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes I'm just astounded.

After reading this book, I'm not only reeling after a great Heist story, but I'm rocking to a Dark Fantasy that happens to be Hard SF while very much being a Superhero tale being couched in a Lovecraftian universe while setting me up to be murdered by Bond in its classic thriller milieu just before I wonder if Peter from Peter Pan will ever grow up.

If you're asking WTF, then you're in the right frame of mind.

And it's AWESOME.

For you old fans of Bob and Mo and fairy kingdoms clashing against Elder Gods, put your expectations on hold. There's not much of that here. We're very much in a day and age after a Greater Evil has taken over the government and the best thing that a government employee can hope for is holding the chaos at bay just a few seconds longer.

For the rest of us, and that includes a group of thieves and a thief-taker in modern pre-apocalyptic London, we've got a little mission. And a -- or rather, The Necronomicon.

If you're not just a tad thrilled (or horrified) by this news, then go read some romance fluff. That's the only genre that isn't expertly mashed in this brilliant novel.

Oddly enough, a new reader of Stross could read this particular novel without having read the previous ones. They may miss a lot of the worldbuilding jokes and might freak out at the sheer complexity of the inherent humor of computational necromancy or residual human resources, but that's okay. They'll still be in for a treat. After all, Santa is dead.

Long live Santa.

*I cackle, running off into the sunset, my hair turning pure white just before I jump on a sleigh, fleeing Boris Johnson*

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Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Killing MoonThe Killing Moon by Chuck Hogan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fairly decent thriller. It has a lot going for it. It's an easy read full of snappy chapters, clear characterizations, and an old-boy network in a dying town that just seems to be rife with corruption.

We know the story, no?

As I was reading I got the feeling like I was reading a Koontz novel and that's not a bad thing. All the setup and the mystery surrounding our main character drove the novel forward even as the crime drama propelled the plot.

This is still pretty much a standard cop thriller, however. Between all the tv dramas and books, it's rather hard to say anything more than I liked the pacing quite a lot and it felt like light (if horrific) amusement. I really enjoyed the twisty ending.

We all need fluff sometimes. And this happens to be pretty good fluff.

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Thursday, August 13, 2020

SeveranceSeverance by Ling Ma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would like to say this is mostly just a light satire on capitalist ethics amid some barely perceived end-of-the-world zombie-ish apocalypse in the still-beating heart of everyday routine and habit.

Indeed, it is almost entirely about the short-sighted and carefully constructed world-view that is so much our very modern selves that refuse to notice that the world has, in point of fact, come to an end.

Don't let the fact that everyone else keeps going to work fool you. Don't imagine, for just a moment, that it might be time to quit. You have a good job, after all. Or even if it isn't GOOD, it's still a job, and you know that you still need it... if only for your peace of mind. Of continuity. Of routine.

It's very, very good to have routine. People may not fight for the thrill of chaos, you know, but they will ALWAYS fight to protect their routines.

For all that this book reminded me of Lit-SF, of Station Eleven in style and immense focus on everyday life, I wanted to like it more. Maybe my personal complaint is that the worldbuilding and the SFnal aspects were just barely there in the background.

In point of fact, this was really just a slightly disguised New Adult Contemporary coming of age. Good if that's all you're looking for, but I wanted something with some more teeth.

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