Monday, November 12, 2018

The Long Sunset (The Academy, #8)The Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I can never say that these books by McDevitt are super original, he does have a talent at writing them very well. And I don't mean that they're just some super-action fluff, either, because he just doesn't write those kinds of novels.

Instead, we have a thoughtful pacing, in-depth consideration of circumstances, a deep love of curiosity and archeology, and a need to bring up issues that are just as important to us as they are for the characters in this future time.

Interstellar travel is here and it has been here for quite some time since book #6, but AGAIN Earth is hell-bent on saving resources and shutting down the programs that keep our eyes fixed on the stars. Isolationism. Again. But after a transmission from 7 thousand years ago finally reaches us, depicting intelligent aliens with music tastes that we can get behind, Hutch is asked to take a trip.

Unlike another few of these Academy novels, I actually liked the aliens. The mystery is rather more mundane and the discoveries are a lot more pleasant as a whole and I don't miss the multiple deaths that usually happened in these novels.

I really enjoyed the rescue mission as a whole. I fully expect to keep reading all about this story in the future. Big things are only beginning. :) Friendship in the stars? It's about time. :) The OTHER argument. No Dark Forest here. :)

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Breakfast at Tiffany'sBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cannot and probably should not judge this according to the time it was written. To do so may or may not deepen the impact of it. If I wanted a slightly lighter tone, I could always watch the old movie.

As it is here and now, I feel like I should only judge it by my own sensibilities of this day and time.

The novella is breathless and anxiety-ridden, full of self-aware sexuality and hypocrisy, and it's also a purely whimsical fantasy. That is to say, I fell in love with these flawed characters and my heart broke for them.

Everyone loves Holly. She gives of herself so freely. She's so energetic and playful and outgoing.

And that is her tragedy. She gives away everything. Even her cat. And yet, according to one postcard, she will always be okay. It's really fascinating and heartbreaking because she will never have anything of her own. She lives on the largess of everyone around her and they all love her to death.

I can't give a crap about the fact she sleeps around. She is what she is, and that's what we're meant to see clearly. I love it.

She's very bright. Even her gift of a birdcage to the writer-narrator is astute as hell. She could be talking entirely about him or about his love for her. The point is... there is no bird.

So pretty. So understated. So heartbreaking.

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read, 11/11/18:

The only real review for this book is one that fully experiences it from the inside. In other words, take the roads, listen to the rocks, and above all, DON'T TRUST THE FARIES.

This was a classic when I first read it and it's just as good on any re-read. That's why I put this in my top-100 list. :) It will stand the test of time.

Let's fight with Wellington and defeat Napoleon with magic! Let's get into major trouble, get majorly paranoid, and do it with arrogance and style!

Above all, this is a buddy novel that starts really rocky, continues worse, ends in mistrust, and yet, is quintessentially English. In other words, polite and often uplifting. :)

Brilliant book. I think it will always be. :)

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Friday, November 9, 2018

Armed In Her FashionArmed In Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I want to say this is a well-thought-out historical novel, and it definitely dovetails nicely with history, but let's face it: It's Hell on Earth.

In a lot of great stylistic ways, I'm reminded favorably of Peter Newman's The Vagrant, only it's right here and the minions of hell all speak French.

The novel is very female-centric, making this all kinds of awesome. Not all men are jerks, but all the revenant men definitely are. Add that to the laws which disenfranchise the lot of women, a cool attempt at bringing Justice to Hell, and a big smackdown when that doesn't pan out.

These mothers, widows, and even a non-identified transgender warrior all do everything they can to survive and secure their place in the world filled with dead-but-still-being-assholes husbands.

Don't assume this is just a fast-paced and bloody-minded fantasy with the minions of hell pouring out of the Earth. I mean, it is absolutely that, but it's also about doing the right thing... or not. :) :)

I very much enjoyed this. I'm gonna keep my eyes on this author. :)

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Alice Payne Arrives (Alice Payne, #1)Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time travel.

Sure, it has been done a lot over the years, but then, so has detective tales, historical novels running over the same old grounds, or vampires. The key to a good tale is in the depth of detail, the strength of the characters, and the piledriver of the plot.

Fortunately, Heartfield rams it home in this novella. Does it feel like the beginning of a serial? Absolutely. Is the novella still fun to read on its own, with lots of time-jumping, future world-building, and conflict between hoards of other time-travelers attempting to correct other factions' wrongs or fix history, thereby making a botch of all history? Hell yeah.

It's a strong entry. It doesn't hurt that the lead female is gay and her lover is an inventor from 1788, or that there's an almost heist-like feel going on in the plot, or that the young Alice is half-black.

It's still good to be a time-traveler. :)

My only complaint is nothing much of a complaint. I want to have the full arc of the story in my hands, not just the attempted fix of history. :)

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Quantum MagicianThe Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have no problems raving about this book. It has everything I love about SF and then I get the best things I love about the thriller/mystery genre.

HEISTS.

At first, I believed this was written as a homage or a more accessible version of Hannu Rajaniemi's Quantum Thief, and I was right... to a degree. It forwent the truly odd stuff and gave us a readable and full explanation of quantum mechanics and name-dropped a few more while throwing us into a more widespread future that never quite touched the singularity.

In other words, it had odd cultures and odder branches of humanity but it still felt a lot like everything we know. Bruisers coming in the form of gene-modded humans able to withstand punishing pressure, a technician in the form of insane AI who think he is a Saint from three thousand years ago or an inside man who is a part of a whole people modded to worship everything about self-torture as a religious experience.

Add our mastermind who is a broken quantum computer (in the old sense) who ought to be able to go into a fugue state and savant his way through any difficult problem except for the tiny detail that it hospitalizes him, and we've got an MC who needs a social challenge big enough to tax his brain without busting it.

There's a lot of great gallows humor here. A truly wild backdrop of space-opera with wormholes, big space-fleet conflict, and empires who all think they're the most formidable foes in the playground. What could go wrong?

Well, as it turns out, a lot, but the ride is fun as hell. After all, it's a HEIST! :) :)

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The Three PoisonsThe Three Poisons by John Molik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got this on Netgalley not having read the previous two books, but fortunately, I didn't have any problems enjoying this novel on its own. That being said, I think I'm going to have a hard time reviewing this novel because it is RICH with ideas, worldbuilding, themes, and characters. Where would I start?

It is equal parts technothriller and a character study. AI-assisted espionage, genetic enhancements, transhumanist movements, the push to the stars... all this is a huge part of the novel and it's very fun. But the novel shines when the AI becomes human-like and heavily augmented girls become a little more flesh and blood. And that's the point. So much of this novel is about transformation. It is certainly not limited to this example.

The world and the themes go from economic theory, the evils of greed, to paranoid blaming of shadow conspiracies (which are real here), to the hunt we all share to find peace and love in the middle of a near-future dystopia. We travel all over the world with a large handful of well-drawn characters, learning, fighting, striving, and surviving. There are a couple of plot threads that are very strong and exciting and a few others that are quiet and introspective. This makes reviewing the novel without a long diatribe on both kinda unwieldy, but suffice to say...

If you like rich and complex technothrillers with excitement, heart, humor, and a LOT to say, you won't go wrong with picking this up. :) I'm quite impressed with all of it.

Reminds me of a mix between Daniel Suarez, econopunk, and a Buddhist-flavored PKD. :)

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