Monday, May 17, 2021

ScorpionScorpion by Christian Cantrell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fairly interesting techno-thriller filled with echoes of Minority Report, Alias, and a long line of other modern spycraft/cop dramas.

I expect that a lot of people will enjoy it for what it is: tech and geek driven; game-friendly, cryptocurrency-friendly, and, when we get to it, the joys of one of the oldest SF tropes which I won't mention here because it's spoilery and late-game in the novel.

That being said, it was fun for the ride even if it never absolutely blew me away.

Little things did get on my nerves, for example, such as a desk-jockey getting into the field with relatively little supervision, but that didn't bother me so much because the entire genre seems to be rife with it. Regardless, it did seem to be on par, with more empahasis on all our modern obsessions. :)

Definitely worth the read.

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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Bridge of Birds (The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, #1)Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mid 80's Silkpunk adventure, in tight with the World Fantasy Award, and very much a kung fu mystery/heist/fantasy.

In other words, if I had been reading this during my 80's fascination with badly dubbed kung fu movies, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and my still-unrealized love of Chinese fables, I probably would have gone nuts over this.

As of now, and reading this late in my reading career, I'm stuck comparing it to Guy Gavriel Kay's cool alternate Chinese histories or even Kim Stanley Robinson's explorations into historical otherness, and still, Barry Hughart's writing is still quite fun.

It is, however, all adventure. First for trying to save all these children from a mysterious disease -- to a huge deal about Ginsing -- immortality -- and ancestors. And to be fair, all of that was quite fun.

I wouldn't say it was deep, per se, but it was definitely fun and knowing what I know about the fantasy of the mid-80s, it would have been quite unique... assuming you weren't also reading/watching anime. Like Dragon Ball. :)

But hey, there is one very positive thing I can say about this: If you're craving SilkPunk, definitely pick this classic up. :)

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Magi'i of Cyador (The Saga of Recluce, #10)Magi'i of Cyador by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I could just say that I really enjoyed this tale of a chaos mage that couldn't cut it, who was shipped off to be a lancer on the rough borders of Cyador, but I won't. That's a given.

What I will mention is this: I've developed a relationship with Modesitt's books. With other authors, I tend to expect certain things, maybe great tech, rules, battles, or high emotions in their characters. Some books are volatile.

These have the unique distinction of being emotionally balanced. Logical. Reasonable. They always make me feel good. In charge. Able to cope. They make me ... better.

There's no other way to describe it.

I'm definitely not saying these are boring. There are tons of deaths and bloodshed and backstabbing and intrigue, but at their core, the MAIN CHARACTERS always pull it all together and give us a solid, rather amazing, balanced outlook that always wins out in the end, despite the travails.

I mentioned this kind of thing in previous reviews in the full series. I even complained a little about how the MCs are all cut from the same cloth.

But now? I'm coming to RELY upon it. A tale, an adventure, a love story, and despite setbacks, a constant upward trend. I'm really starting to love this effect.

So yes, it's still about mixtures of chaos and order and yes we're deep in the middle of an ongoing tapestry of Cyador's history. That's all still great. But what might be better is how it makes me feel. :)

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Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Doors of EdenThe Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 5/15/21:

Still love it! :) It's just as good the second time as the first.

And you know what? It's VERY good for the imagination. For us, as readers, to think through the implications and dream and dream about what all those others that might/could/should become a vast side-series.

You now, like Farscape on steroids. *sigh*

I WANT more of this book. I don't know how it'd be pulled off, but I still WANT more and more and more. :)

Original Review:

I just read one of my new favorites not just for this year... but perhaps for this entire decade.
Or rather, let's just scratch that and say it's one of my favorites.

Adrian Tchaikovsky himself said, about this book, "I have quite the trip in store for readers," and he wasn't joking around. The opening seems rather scientific and dry, and perhaps some people will appreciate the little primer on evolutionary science through deep time, the first building blocks of life through Earth's current cycle.

Hell, I was personally wondering what the hell it had to do with anything. Of course, with a little patience, it turns out to have EVERYTHING to do with EVERYTHING.

Adrian Tchaikovsky has repeatedly brought OTHER intelligent life to us in so many different forms and thought patterns. Just look at Children of Time (intelligent spiders butting heads with humans) or Children of Ruin (that includes intelligent squid) in a full space opera. Or let's look at his fantasy series with tons of animals (and insects) with their own societies in an epic fantasy! He has a thing for biology. And he takes it further in Doors of Eden than he's taken it anywhere else.

This book is simultaneously MORE accessible, more down-to-earth Modern Earth, than any other book (not including novellas) that he's ever written. But it is ALSO one of the hardest SF novels he's ever written.

Yeah. That tickles me to death, too. How can it be light and heavy at the same time? Because he pulls in real science, truly fantastically creative speculation on how Earth's own species could arise to intelligence if luck had JUST been on their side, and he wraps it all up with excellent modern technothriller sensibilities.

I can't even begin to count how many tropes Tchaikovsky brings in to stand on their head, change forms, and then come back out like a cyborg of its original form.

Or, I COULD, but then I'd be simply listing all the fantastic ideas and how he made them even more fantastic and how the novel kept growing and growing and growing in scope until I felt like it had forever ruined the best aspects of Sliders for me while also sticking a fork in the best First Contact novels I've ever read. :)

To sum up... this book should win all the awards. It's not only accessible, but it does all the Hard-SF ideas justice.

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Friday, May 14, 2021

The Dragon WaitingThe Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one is a World Fantasy Award winner and a heavily researched historical fiction with vampires, magicians, and even a dragon.

But oddly, it's not the vampire aspect, or the magician aspect, or the appearance of the dragon that makes this novel. Indeed, they are just complications to a rich, detailed world that ranges from Julian to the Medicis to Edward the 4th to the fall of the Byzantine empire. It's the real-world characters and intrigues and HISTORY that make this novel shine.

I can't stress this enough, but if you want to know what the book is about, it's all in the blurb. That's the prime driver. The fact that some of these famous personages happen to be vampires, magicians, or even dragons (and I'll let you have fun finding out the REAL history of the princes and Richard III, as told in this book,) is just spice to a deep, deep tale.

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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Navigators of Dune (Schools of Dune #3)Navigators of Dune by Brian Herbert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, out of the three books in this somewhat promising pre-prequel sequel trilogy, this last one did manage to wrap up most of the dangling plot threads competently but I suppose I finally got over my previously managed expectations and now I'm wishing it had more oomph.

I mean, sure, as a tale on its own, without being a part of the bigger Dune universe, it probably would have been a pretty decent yarn, but it suffers from very real issues that make it butt heads against a real classic that's very much in the same category.

And that wouldn't be much of a problem, either, if it didn't insist on opening up issues about continuity and even worldbuilding.

Still, it satisfied a craving for more info on these Great Schools. In a way. And the plots were pretty fun while they lasted. But now that it's done, I do feel the need to fold it back in with the greater Dune universe and... the original still must come out on top. Alas.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Deathworld 3 (Deathworld, #3)Deathworld 3 by Harry Harrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Eh, okay. This one is just fine if you want a bunch of horse-lords, an alien (read human) professional gambler, and a big hot mess of conflicting desires.

It really is more of the same of the Deathworld series in general, but this one just heads straight into warrior territory and that's FINE if that's all you want and/or expect.

Good points: the light tone is very familiar to fans of Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series. Also, we get some good science tidbits thrown in for the fanbase.

Meh: It went straight into cliche territory but who cares as long as we get to beat some heads, right?

Final analysis:

It's ok, but nothing to write home about.

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