Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Unfamiliar GardenThe Unfamiliar Garden by Benjamin Percy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely love feeling this gleeful after reading a novel. Wickedly gleeful, that is.

First, let me get something out of the way. While the first novel in the series (The Ninth Metal) shares a common event with it -- the world-changing post-meteorite chaos -- it only does so obliquely and both are self-contained. It can be read on its own without any issue.

That being said... Just wow.

It's equal parts murder thriller with an EXTREMELY cautious heroine, a heart-wrenching family tragedy with very sympathetic characters, and an all-out horror by the end.

No spoilers, folks, but this will be a must-have horror/SF for fans of Vandermeer. While it is nicely grounded and beautifully tragic for most of the novel, it goes out on a great gardening limb later on that had me whooping with joy when it got weird. I love weird. I love THIS kind of thing, especially.

In reality tho, I just want to spoil the hell out of this novel and keep chatting about it and icking out about it and ask the other huge questions such as WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE??? because I'm totally on board. I want EVERYTHING.

Yes. You might say I'm very, very excited by this one. Give me more of the corrhizae!!! :)

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Friday, June 18, 2021

The Ninth Metal (The Comet Cycle, #1)The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an unexpectedly pleasant mix of backwoods good-ole-boys with all their country poverty and an SF-tainted goldrush.

In most respect, the novel is entirely about the characters, their hopes and fears, their sense of belonging, or their need to find justice or even exploit the hell out of people's weaknesses. It's about being a fish out of water. Of coming home to a place that doesn't want you any longer. It's also about the complete and ugly transformation of your home once the sharks smell blood.

And it's also something of a gritty origin story for people with superpowers. But that takes a serious back seat to everything else. Because let's face it, economics rules everything. The rest of us are just trying to survive.

There's a lot of familiar things in this novel. It could very well be a contemporary fiction piece if it wasn't for the SFnal elements that drive the force of everyone's motivations. And the idea of a super-natural meteorite bringing tons of change isn't exactly new, either, but when we put them together, it's a pretty fascinating social commentary and thriller in its own right.

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Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Bride Wore Black Leather (Nightside, #12)The Bride Wore Black Leather by Simon R. Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit that the last adventure was both campy and fairly cool at the same time. Impossible to imagine that this is his equivalent to a stag party, tho, and with so much that happens during this SHORT period of time, it feels like a campaign of war. But that's to be expected when way-too-powerful magic is thrown about left and right.

The things I liked: Proto-hippy-god. I'm sorry, but that just made me laugh. I also enjoyed hanging out with the old Victorian adventurer.

The things I didn't: the little details usually make or break these books. These particular books are all about the big crap coming down without much in the way of foreplay. So I felt more or less cheated the entire time I read these.

But since this is the last book in the series and I can now give it both a thumb up and a thumb down, just know that it has a bunch of great things going for it and a few that make me groan. It's certainly not the best UF I've ever read but the infrequent sparks were enough to keep me reading.

I'm satisfied.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A Hard Day's Knight (Nightside, #11)A Hard Day's Knight by Simon R. Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one really should be read as part of book 10, and that being the case, should be rated together, and slightly better, than either alone.

That being said...

Really? Arthur? Excalibur? The Knights?

Okay, okay, it wasn't totally derivative and it was actually rather fun, all told, with the elves and evil Avalon and all the rest. In fact, that was all some of the best parts of this novel, with a close second coming to Taylor FINALLY returning to London after having abandoned it since the first novel.

Is it just me or did we just lose a ton of great possible storylines here?

Regardless. I was amused, so it's not a complete loss.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny (Nightside, #10)The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny by Simon R. Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one seems kinda tired. I mean, yes, Walker is trying to groom Taylor for his job and all but we already got that idea at the end of the previous volume and this book seems to be all about milking it.

It's sometimes funny and I always get a kick out of the wide cast of colorful characters in Nightside, but between some bar tales and a wild goose chase, I'm not sure this one was one of the better ones. It could have been handled a little better.

Not that it was precisely bad... but it was quite predictable. I think we're hanging on by the side characters again.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Ordermaster (The Saga of Recluce, #13)Ordermaster by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The follow-up of Wellspring of Chaos featuring the fall and rise of Kharl the Cooper was quite the ride. I've enjoyed all these novels from the start and have gotten to know lots of different times, peoples, and aspects of magic, social positions, and so on, but this is the first time we got into the rather interesting and complicated distinctions between law and justice.

And it's not even the simple spirit of the law versus the application of the law kind of distinction. Indeed, there's a lot of feeling and fumbling about for the true balance and that is a very nice thing to see in a series that basically rides the question of balance all the way through, leaving no stone unturned.

Other than all this theme stuff, however, I just had a great time with the adventure. It was nice seeing Kharl get his just deserts. And since he's a genuinely decent guy, I really enjoyed how unironic that statement was.

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Monday, June 14, 2021

Fungipedia: A Brief Compendium of Mushroom LoreFungipedia: A Brief Compendium of Mushroom Lore by Lawrence Millman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Know what kind of mushroom you're picking up here.

It's a brief, breezy overview of ALL mushrooms! Best of all, even if all the mushrooms in the book aren't edible, the book itself is quite tasty. It might give you a few hallucinations, however, of their sex lives (some have 26 ways to procreate!) or having that little reminder that you have some on your eyelashes or in your beer or bread or that we have dozens in our gut or that public parks often have a much greater variety of mushrooms than regular forests.

They get around, man. And woman. We're all big, ripe, fruiting spore colonies, yo!

Now, while this book is more of a quick, fun sampler, it DOES manage to whet my appetite to learn more about our worldwide mycelium network.

And, fun fact, Paul Stammetz is a REAL EXPERT on mushrooms in real life, for all you folks who are ongoing fans of Star Trek Discovery. :)

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