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Monday, October 31, 2016

The Haunting of Hill HouseThe Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The often light tone of Eleanor belies a whole can of worms.

I expected and received a rather fine ghost story in a haunted house, of course, but I was actually more interested in how Eleanor was always so unhappy in the beginning and how everything changed for the better when she moved into the house. How all her priorities and her descent into crazyville was directly linked to the tragic house, about how she wanted to be afraid, changed this rather simple tale into one that actually applies nicely to all us horror fans just begging to be scared.

What? The crazy girl is just like all of us? No way! :)

But what about the ghost? The ghost investigation? All the automatic writing and spooky stories?

It's great. :)

It's not over the top like what we usually get with our modern sensibilities, but he psychological side of this makes up for the simple story by actually managing to be profound. Nice work. :) 1959 and hardly dated at all! Color me impressed. And spooked! :)

Happy Halloween!

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ultima (Proxima #2)Ultima by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one was a satisfying end to the duology as long as we go along with the premise that the past is always full of options and the future always ends in death.

I'm talking universal death under the theory that there is a finite number of universes in a multi-verse, meaning that somewhere along the line the bubble is going to pop when it runs up against the wall. It's a very fascinating theory and it even makes a ton of sense because infinite is a very irrational number.

So what does this mean for this story? It means that none of us have as long as we think we have. It's the universal equivalent of random death. It can happen at any time. It can even happen to whole universes at any time.

This is scary. It also means that the story frame of massively parallel intelligences toying around with space-time effects in order to tweak the universe's beginnings or any small factor afterward is really just a last-ditch effort to find a way out of the exploding-bubble mess.

On a human scale, we were introduced to weird things happening such as alternate timelines re-writing the universe with the exception of the people going through the Hatches on these remote planets, each of whom remember everything about their old universe.

In this novel, the whole alternate timeline angle is taken all the way, giving us a Roman Empire that never ended, an Incan civilization that succeeded and colonized worlds, too. Each one is just another subtle tweak attempting to give humanity that one small glimmer of hope, that tiny little edge.

So what's the real theme of the novel, then? Curiosity is really big. So is the simplicity of wanting a journey. None of it is easy, of course, and it's a real trip to see Roman Legionnaires get pummeled by the Incans, but the real treat has got to be the inclusion of the AIs.

I don't know. The novel sets out to demonstrate tons of options that always narrow down to the last single choice, or no choice. He succeeds perfectly.

Me, personally? I think it's a perfect expression of fatalism. No hope. Surrounded by endless hope, super-intelligences dreaming up new realities, and yet, all of it is for nothing. It's rather scary.

Good book, but still rather scary.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

ProximaProxima by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I kinda dropped off the Stephen Baxter map for a good decade while he was writing about things that were mostly on the earth or in the far past, but before then, I was a die hard fan. Sure, I was always mildly or slightly more annoyed with the characters sometimes for various reasons usually regarding subtlety, but when it came to any portion of the universe he was making, I was always enraptured like all the best captive audiences alive.

No, this isn't a galaxy-wide naked singularity allowing egress from our dying universe. This isn't a colony within an altered universe filled with so many bright stars it drowns out the darkness. We're not even living on the nano-scale on the surface of a neutron star. (Yeah, those are some of his actual novels.)

But we do have a truly Baxter novel of a far-future universal mind preserving *us* and some of our neighboring stars as their universe fades away.

Not that we know that within the text. Nope, we're actually explorers making it to a nearby dwarf star, Proxima, and settling upon a tidally-locked planet with very interesting alien life, and just below the surface, there's some rather interesting things going on. You know, like stargates and stuff. And let's not forget what we found on Mercury! Or the fact that our AIs are just a bit more effective and interesting than they really have a right to be. Or that whole timeline narratives sometimes get jolted in the proximity of those space-time useful bits we found on Mercury. No, no, let's forget about all that.

Because, after all, even if this is mostly a great exploration novel, it's also a huge chunk of an interplanetary politics novel right here at home that ramps up to have some rather fascinating and hard-hitting stupidness. Stupid on multiple levels. (Because all war is stupid. Especially when we're all just a part of some universal mind. :)

Seriously, I never should doubt this guy. I think this was pretty much a home run SF on the idea front.

The characters with a few caveats were all rather decent for Baxter, but I've never really expected all that much, so I am admitting that I am biased. :) I loved the exploration AI, though. No problems there. Intelligence is a function of curiosity, indeed. That core intelligence is practically dragging me to the next book in this SF all by itself.

Well, not really. I wanna soooo meet the far far future intelligence. :)

Like I said, home-run!

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

New Night (Gothic, #2)New Night by Fiona van Dahl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fascinating re-entry into the hell-hole town and area around Gothic.

With the first novel, we got a very creative horror that was half alien-invasion with portals to another world and half body-horror. With this next novel, we've got a lot more of the same going on, but this time with a much more complicated story and a much freer hand with the portals.

What got me the most was the way the aliens and the humans made a third race so seamlessly and wonderfully so, easily slipping into new roles that would generally freak normal folks out.

But is this a natural progression? Or is this just a social evolution of man and monsters? Is there a difference? It's so easy to love this kind of exploration, and the horror is pitch perfect. :)

Lots of action, lots of great description, and the pace is one to die for. I'm really glad that I'm getting to read these! Thanks to the author for the ARC! It's much appreciated, and the timing was absolutely perfect for Halloween! :)

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Crimson Death (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #25)Crimson Death by Laurell K. Hamilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Personal recommendation: don't go into this expecting much of anything, and then you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Of course, after the last book, where I got so frustrated I actually gave it a single star and a rant, where I told myself I was stopping the series altogether, I fully didn't expect to pick up this 25th book at all.

Especially because we were going to have to deal with whiney-boy Damian as a main character.

But. Haven't I invested so much time and energy loving this series as a whole? But. If I can just ignore the constant insert part A into part B endless sex scenes, wouldn't this be better? But. If I can ignore the fact that so much relationship drama is dragging me around as if I had a noose around my neck and some cowboy was riding away holding the other end of the rope, can't I just focus on the police procedural and the supernatural goodness?

Yeah. I can. I have been for so many books, now, ever since right after Obsidian Butterfly, admittedly my favorite book of the series.

So, yeah, this wasn't so bad.

Damian and Nathaniel and Anita were the first complete triumvirate. They were the weaklings. They were also the first solid power base that Anita had since all the crap between Richard and Jean-Claude. I hoped to see a lot better stuff between them, but then Damian's thread was just marginalized and the author turned him into the ugly red-headed step-child. Literally. For more than a dozen books. And all the while, Anita collected men (and now women) as if they are trading cards and those relatively solid storylines and wealth of opportunities with her supernatural power base just kinda slipped away.

Until now. Hell. I was very worried it'd be just another whiney whiney Damian story, but no, he's actually starting to grow up and take responsibility, which is about time since he *is* a 1000 year-old vampire. I was relieved. It felt like some of the good times I had before Obsidian Butterfly, when Anita was backed into a real corner and she had to dig *really* deep for some hidden juice. And she does, once again. The supernatural stuff in this one was great. It's the main reason I keep on reading the series.

Ireland. The leadership of the Harlequin. What does Mommy Darkness's shards of power mean for Anita's fate? I mean, the American Vampires are just consolidating their power, now, but there *is* another whole world out there. I'm glad that this issue is being addressed, finally. I hope to see even more of that. This book is actually establishing a very solid reason to do so.

Damian's old master, the lady of fear, is an awesome reason for Anita to go on a political duck-hunt across Europe and beyond.

As for the tragic death of a main character? Well, what can I say? It's about time. And no, it's not Damian. As far as I'm concerned, he's golden again. It's nice to have the hints of an actual triumvirate that WORKS. You know, rather than just using relationship drama to limit the overpowered monstrosity that is Anita Blake, we might actually get back to core issues like Ethics and Other Overpowered Monstrosities. :)

So yeah, if I ignore those things that annoy the shit out of me, I have to admit that the rest of this book was pretty damn cool. This is the Ultimate Flawed Novel, but I can't help but think that we need to have a cheat-sheet for readers of the series. Something like an Anime Filler List for tv episodes that don't follow the Manga, but in this case it'd be pages we can successfully skim or just plain skip because of relationship drama or tired sex scenes.

Yeah, Um, you can skip pages 23-68, 74-82, 112-150, etc., etc. :) (Not real pages you can do this with, I'm just citing an example.) :) We need this for the whole series, then. Let people enjoy a really awesome UF, sometimes skipping whole Character-Named books entirely, and love it as much as some of us have, but without the angst. :)

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

PsychoPsycho by Robert Bloch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been meaning to get around to reading this defining work of horror for quite some time. In fact, SK recommended it to me within Danse Macabre, and I just knew that someday, somehow, I'd come back around to it.

Of course, this book was already old when I read that SK book back in '89 and now I feel kinda foolish for putting off this classic so damn long.

What's my excuse? I thought the story would be kinda... you know... old. Out of date. Without tension.

I really shouldn't listen to myself.

This was a pretty damn tight thriller with very well drawn characters and all the proper reveals to love and enjoy. We all know the shower scene and we all know the BIG surprise of Norman and his mother's secret relationship. :)

Classic. Good. Scary. Creepy. All told, perfect for October. :) Anyone have any popcorn for the movie?

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FallerFaller by Will McIntosh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was amazing! I'm quickly revising my growing list of books that should be nominated for next year's Hugo, and this one certainly fits the bill. :)

The ideas are really awesome. Two big ones, slamming against each other in a truly horrific and out-there way, and all the while, our MC, Faller, falls through the skies on his quest.

The book has a parallel structure to it. The present mess and the past slowing catching up to where the present mess began. Revealing the events that made a world that has been broken into city-sized chunks that are repelled from each other as if we were all a part of quantum physics was nearly as fun as jumping and falling from each one of these lands.

And what's the other big idea? A virus that wipes everyone's memories. That reveal was pretty amazing, too, as was the epic battle between two old friends, one of whom blames the other for his wife's death and the Faller, who has lost all his memories.

Each world-island is just a dystopian present-day world that we know, with no one remembering how to use technology, no power to run things, and not even the ability to read. It feels pretty hopeless, but Faller has the picture of his wife and a map directing him far, far below, through the clouds and islands, to where he might find the answers. Any answers. It's a pretty sweet setup, and the adventure is downright awesome.

But how could something like this, the inclusion of a duplication machine, a singularity, and an Earth turned into a macroscopic version of quantum fields actually resolve into a glorious story, rather than a cool premise? Ah, don't worry about that. It does. Rely on the author to walk you through the cool reveals and set us up for one hell of an awesome resolution. :) He pulls it off.

I'm really excited for this year's best SF, and this one certainly fits that bill. :) This was really gloriously cool SF.

Great concepts, fearless execution and a very solid story with characters that I can't help but love.

Woo Hoo!!! :)

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

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Monday, October 24, 2016

The Lost Book of Enki: Memoirs & Prophecies of an Extraterrestrial GodThe Lost Book of Enki: Memoirs & Prophecies of an Extraterrestrial God by Zecharia Sitchin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a flawed work, but even so it happens to be one of the most accessible complete translations of the Sumerian mythos from the creation tale all the way through Gilgamesh. For that, I can easily give it a 5 star. It's very readable, which is something of an amazing thing, considering most of the academic articles or having to rely on google for the information.

This being said, however, a lot of the legends seem to missing out on all the alternative tellings, some of which are frankly enormously different, and it makes me seriously wonder whether a lot of the legends of Damuzid and Inanna were cribbed from Ishtar or whether it was the translations from Akkadian rather than Sumerian. I'm not a deep scholar, but I've been interested in this for quite some time and I was able to pick out something like over 20 major (not minor) differences.

And then there's also the OTHER side of this book, which rankles my insistence on scholarship, but completely delights my creative side.

ALIENS. I mean, come on. The author IS correct that this whole field reads like some amazing science-fiction epic. The fact that it actually holds together very well across the entire legend, including the colonizations of many of the planets in the solar system, the destruction of at least one, the seeding of our world with hybrid genetics between themselves and the natives, creating humanity... well, all of it is pretty sweet. :)

Too out there? Not really. It's just an interpretation based on a *mostly* real translation, a lot of which is extremely suspicious to begin with. The earth got its name from the god EA who took over, getting it ready for the ingress of the gods. Dilmun, the clean and well-lit place, is described as a sterile space-ship, and all the gods have flying boats that go right into space and they have access to deep-water traveling gear. And then there's the destructive weapons that spread an evil wind that sounds just like radiation sickness. The descriptions of genetic engineering are suspiciously close to what we already know in modern days. The genetic symbol for the double helix is the same that EA, or as he is also known, Enki, used to describe the means he used to make the new people to work for the gods and how they mixed their own code into us.

This isn't precisely news to me, I've been loving this stuff for ages, but this book revels in these facts and goes beyond just the descriptions to gleefully spout, "See! See!"

Fascinating! I don't even have to agree with it to see just how fun this is just from a creative angle.

And yet, the other side of my brain still wishes it was structured with a bit less commentary. :) I mean, gold? Wtf do gods need with gold? I almost put it down at the very beginning for that, all by itself. But I persevered, and gladly so.

It looks like I really want to find some really good scholarship now, but aside from specialty websites, I just don't know where to look. Am I going to have to learn Sumerian? Um... more Sumerian? lol

I totally recommend this book, though, despite its faults. It's pretty clear where the author is headed and underneath it all, it's pretty damn solid on the scholarship front. Maybe not ADVANCED scholarship, but definitely a lot more than just a glancing blow. :)

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Of Life, Death, Aliens and ZombiesOf Life, Death, Aliens and Zombies by Dario Cannizzaro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very strong voice. I can easily say that about all of this author's short stories. The other thing? Very self aware and genre-aware. For that, I can easily recommend all of these.

This particular book was very quick, but don't let that dissuade you. There's really a shortage of strong voices in the world. I mean that there's always a need for authors who refuse to back down in the face of fields that has already seemed to have exhausted themselves. In these cases, and even through so much self-awareness, the stories seem to shine. It's great that the author has so much to say! :)

Definitely a good read for the season. :)

Easily, I can say that these were a lot of fun and very sharp. Thanks to the author for the ARC!

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Dracula vs. HitlerDracula vs. Hitler by Patrick Sheane Duncan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks goes to Netgalley for the Arc!

Full disclosure: I imagined that I was going to be reading a humorous horror based on the title alone, as if it was one very long and humorous joke, but what I got instead was a serious and well thought-out exploration of the times precisely 50 years after the accounts of the original Dracula, written in much the same style and even including a very old Van Helsing, his granddaughter, and even the inclusion of Harker's grandson, too.

These are not affected. These flow naturally into the tale, because, after all, some evils are worse than others. Dracula was originally a freedom fighter, after all, and now his homeland has just been invaded by the German War Machine. Enemy of my enemy.

After what I thought was a slow start relying overmuch on real times and places and not quite getting into the good stuff early enough, I was soon transported and delighted into the fullness of the tale, and I loved the interesting and realistic fascination between the tragic hero of Dracula and Van Helsing's granddaughter, who is a pretty fantastic and interesting character in her own right.

Did I fail to mention that this is also a pretty cool romance?

The writing is very good, too, epistolary in the same nature as the original Dracula, but it goes on with much, much better action scenes. :) I loved the Nazis and their attempt to harness the power of vampirism. :)

I repeat, this is NOT a throwaway cash-in or a humorous joke. The novel is serious and a lot more complex than I believed could be possible, full of history and deep characterizations and real love for story.

I totally recommend this! :)

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Friday, October 21, 2016

FrankensteinFrankenstein by Mary Shelley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my third read of this classic. :) I've been through all the surprises before, like the fundamental differences between hollywood and literature, and I'm sure by now most people know that the creation is a rather smart and passionate cookie.

My deeper ah-ha moment was the revelation that the real monster is Victor, the creator, not so much the creation. He's a dead-beat dad. No matter how you see it, he's an ass. Does anyone blame the creature for being angry, for learning how to read so well just so he could complain, eloquently, just how much he is disappointed in Victor? We only blame him for the murders. Of course, if he's not really human anymore, so our morals hardly apply, right? Alas. That's another can of worms I'll save for Crime and Punishment someday.

So Victor is really brilliant natural philosopher, absolutely, but he's also very short-sighted, and so we have the other theme of the novel. The "Uh, oh, look what I did," theme. "Is there no one in the whole damn world that can help me clean up this pile of doo?" After keeping silent, blaming himself, and two courtroom dramas later an a couple major tragedies, he still doesn't appeal to a slightly better class of people... say... the military...? :)

Of course, this presages all the technological additions to Mary Shelley's world, the eventual ramp-up of the industrial revolution, and the general atavistic fear of anyone versus the *new*. Sure, it's a cautionary tale, but fortunately, this novel is a LOT MORE than just that.

It's great prose. In fact, it's nearly poetry. It's lofty and passionate and framed by a very popular theme of the day. Finding the Northern Passage. I honestly loved that part of the novel, beginning and ending with a chase of vengeance across the Arctic. I hardly care any more that the novel is part epistolary, because the majority is all first-person. :)

Fun from beginning to end. :) I still put this one in my top-one hundred. :)

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had hoped that a re-read would have increased my appreciation of this old, albeit classic, tale, but alas, I still just find it *okay*. I can't complain about the style because I've read a lot of Stevenson's contemporaries. I can't complain that it's not "fantastic or gruesome" enough, because it does have a certain low-level miasma of hysteria that works fine as a thriller.

What I can and want to complain about is something that has annoyed me about these people from day one. The insistence that Evil is Written in People's Ugliness. I mean, jeeze, way to play up that prejudice, Stevenson! I mean, sure, the guy eventually got around to murdering someone, but for the most part, he was just letting down his hair, masturbating, visiting prostitutes and spitting on little old church ladies. Not in any particular order, mind you, and probably not all at the same time.

This is a GUILTY PLEASURE novel of good ole repressed England. A "Oh my goodness I'm being so naughty aren't I a bad boy and wouldn't it be great if I could get away with this without ANY repercussions?" novel. Just because it upholds the majority moralistic lip-service in terms of evil getting its just deserts doesn't mean that the book didn't also represent a real and true undercurrent of rebellion.

In fact, I'm sure it was seen and gloated over for just that reason. Hyde may be despicable, but he's also a rock-n-roller, a biker dude, and Trump. He just wants to see the world burn because the world has burned him.

I can understand the popularity of this tale. I enjoyed it on both reads, too.

BUT, I don't have to appreciate the pandering to the lowest prejudices of the time.

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Titus Groan (Gormenghast, #1)Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I was reading this, I kept thinking of all the great and richly-detailed fantasies I've ever read, from Tad Williams to Robin Hobb, and then I just had to look up when this book had come out.

You see, I have this thing. I like to read a book, or at least books that are considered classics or the best of their genre, with a clear and un-jaundiced eye. So sometimes I don't even read the blurb or the date of publication. Actually, I rarely look at the date. I can usually figure it out by the style.

On the other hand, this one had me stumped. I got through nearly 3/4 of the novel before I broke down and found out that this was published in '46. I was shocked. The level of detail, the creepy magical realism, the ritual-building, the clever descriptions, and especially the the plot just screamed out, maybe, late seventies with a reliance on fully traditional fantasy with an evil minister-type bringing down a kingdom. But 1946?

I have to readjust everything.

Sure, this has a lot of great gothic elements and a heavy reliance on Dickens, feeling more like a timeless and isolated castle full of a loving people (at first) only to have it fall to the whiles of a lying snake.

And then I slowly realized just how much of an influence Titus Groan had upon so much modern fantasy. You know those authors I mentioned? Yeah, I'd eat my boots if they weren't heavily influenced by Peake. It's that clear. :)

But how did I like this novel? I loved it. What it didn't have in dastardly wars, it did have in masterful prose, sneaky action, creepy and delightful and complex characters, and truly brilliant descriptions.

I'm really looking forward to reading the next one. :)

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SynnersSynners by Pat Cadigan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Is it all pretty much a mess wrapped up with mirror shades and spinal shunts, hacking and guns?

NOT this one!

Well, it was pretty much a mess of characters and mediots for more than half the novel and I'll be honest, I was rather mystified and wondering where the novel was going or whether it WAS going anywhere. It felt like a random number generator approach to novelization. We had a bunch of friends all interconnected on the media-train in all different positions or outside of the corporate loop, and most of it was fairly interesting in and of itself, but then I kept asking myself... Where is this going? It felt like a discovery novel. As in, the author is throwing out everything and she's just gonna get there when she gets there.

Which is fine, but I truly had to wonder. As a coherency thing, I got through something like 70% of the novel and I was CERTAIN that I was going to give it a 2 star rating. I was SO over it. I didn't like it. I didn't care.

So what happened?

Well, apparently, Cadigan pulled one hell of a magic trick on us, or she just poured over her text with a VERY fine comb in prep for the rewrite and then just produced GENIUS, wrapping up all these character threads into something really freaking amazing for the last 30% of the novel.

Total vindication.

All those bits and pieces came shining out of the page and turned this hot mess of a novel into something profound, technologically awesome, and strange.

I wouldn't say that I'd like to read this again anytime soon, perhaps, because it was something of a chore, but the satisfaction quotient is WAY up there. She knows how to pull of ENDINGS. Wow.

This was the dark horse of all novels. :)

And it turned out pretty punk-ish by the end, too, but no guns. It's a nice change for the genre. :)

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Freedom™Freedom™ by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nearly as amazing as the first book in the Duology, Daemon, it leads us right into the middle of an ideological breakdown or a breakthrough, with hoards of Daemon followers playing their lives as if it was all a huge game. And indeed, the way our economics and military and politics is run, it is just that.

So what happens when a game AI successfully outplays our gloriously flawed human nature all in the desire to prevent a total breakdown of our society, as all societies have broken down when our reach outstrips our grasp?

Why, the old-guard, the rich, the staunch governmentalists, and the old idealists band together to take down, impossibly, the background program that had transformed the world. With devastating effect. Civil Wars, corn rebellions, tent cities, and absolute fear of the internet dominates this book.

Oh yeah, and high level wizards (techno-kind) roam the world, having risen high in wealth and real power thanks to the Daemon, and they are truly awesome and rather scary. Sound like a game? Well, it is! But this system of rewards is all in real wealth, real influence, and really awesome tech.

Who do I root for? *waves his wand around*

I won't tell you.

The fact is, this is still very much a techno-thriller to its core, but beyond that, it's super-ambitious and it's also a rather enormous SF undertaking in its own right, from the ideas, the social reform, or from the deeper implications of what it means to be human and so flawed as to have one stupid distributed program be able to outthink us, surprisingly so because it doesn't even have real intelligence!

It's just programmed to manipulate us all really, really well. And I can't say I disagree with it's core purpose, either.

But then, I must quote Robert A Heinlein, "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."


Great book, great conclusion, and I don't even mind the soapbox that the author stood upon. SF is really all about ideas, but this one's a great story, too.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

DaemonDaemon by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've just become a huge fanboy with one book.

That's to say I was rightly blown away. :) All right. To explain. What first seems like a techno-thriller with gamers and programmers and a murderer doing all his murders after his own death by cancer then quickly turns into a social and economical exploration based on the trends we're now facing.

This is a fun and complicated story filled with many twists and turns, awesome characters, and a world-changing creation that turns us all into players in a world-wide socio-economic game based on distributed network theory and game-development strategies. You know that little military idea of Game Theory? Why not take it to an All New Level and create for ourselves a Game Of Our Lives, so pervasive a virus and lucrative for all the players that it takes over every level of government, corporation, and home? It's like having the mafia become a super genius living in every computer and taking over everything purely by social hacking. It's beautiful.

I've seen a number of somewhat similar tales grace the page, but most of those are social hacking through social media. This one is a bit more fundamental than that. This one leaves us all alone unless it has something it needs, in conjunction with so many other people-pieces, that when they're put together, create major changes without anyone knowing exactly what was up until it happened. A computer god or Microsoft Design Strategy. Whatever. It's gorgeous.

And so strange that the novel still keeps up with it's techno-thriller ride, still managing a wonderful story while also exploring the depths of an entirely plausible and scary takeover of the world. :) By AI.

I totally recommend this fantastic SF. It is both fun and important for the field. :) Solid as hell and a pure delight, even with some of the more disturbing social aspects intact. No one is innocent. That's kinda the point. We deserve to be taken over by a computer parasite. :)

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Monday, October 17, 2016

number9dreamnumber9dream by David Mitchell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I want to say, "It was me, it wasn't you," to this novel. She and I just didn't click. She's obviously got a lot going for her besides her perfect neck, including a horribly pretentious style and a vividly dramatic penchant for detail, but while I had a very good time with some of his other novels all lined up in a row like some Voltron Robot of literature, this one just seemed to go on and on with rambling and disjointed plot-lines that EVENTUALLY, like, at the END wrapped up into the Matrix-Style "This Is Only A Dream" Science Fantasy extravaganza with immortal witches and people Outside Of Time that so punctuated his other novels.

Don't get me wrong. I really wanted to like her. The novel feels just as epic as a wandering and hopeless kid with a very, very late destiny can aspire to. Maybe I've just run out of patience after getting through so many of David Mitchell's novels. The glorious bits are glorious, the normal bits are strongly detailed and interesting in their way, and the density of ideas is sometimes an awesome pleasure to behold.

But the overall structure of these monstrosities?

I Just Don't Know. I feel like I'm trying to suck a fifth of Whisky from a bottle left unbroken. I want to love the insanity and I want to love sheer chutzpah. It's always a heavy mix of traditional literature, fascinating locations, interesting peoples, and OUT-THERE SF to tie it all together like a nightmare or a dream.

Indeed. A dream. *sigh*

I'm sorry, number9dream. It was me, not you.

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The Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to say that re-reading this as an adult is a much different and more wonderful experience than as a snot-nosed kid of 15. I was able to appreciate the nuances much more, enjoying just how established Mr. Crane could be as a realistic and sympathetic character, even if he was slightly foolish.

In other words, he felt real, I felt invested, and as any lover of horror knows, we must also feel superior to our victims before their inevitable and somewhat moralistic demise by supernatural or nefarious deeds.

Now, whether this was a mortal practical joke played on a lover of the fantastic and the horrible or whether this was actually a real-life ghost story, as the Dutch Wives would insist, is a matter for debate.

Either way, it was nice and ghoulish and ramped up perfectly to a thrown screaming head. :)

Quick tale, fascinating, and expertly described. :) And an eternal Halloween Treat. :)

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A Calling Of Quarrels (Stewards of the Plane #2)A Calling Of Quarrels by Shannon Wendtland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second modern-world fantasy builds upon the same modern-world beliefs in magic and explores the implications further, with more grown-up characters and a seriously impressive oppressive conflict brewing.

This time, it isn't all about closing a vortex. This time it's about the shadow conspiracy that is dragging humanity's consciousness through the gutter.

Of course, this might sound oddly familiar, with good reason, if any of ya'll have read up on modern conspiracy theories, from frequencies in the air destroying our immune system and our thought processes, Orgone generators to fix it, the magical symbolism of money, intent, Schumann harmonics, and a lot of Edgar Cayce. And don't forget the bad guys who are grand puppet-masters controlling the world to eat us!

Truly, the author is mining a lot of great counter-cultural oddities. I can't complain at all; It's quite fun! I recommend this fantasy for anyone tired of the same-old fantasy blahs. Aim for something more in-line with modern magical thought and skip the fireballs for the time being. :) It's not like you'll be skipping the monsters, tesseracts, or world-ruling baddies if you do!

Thanks goes to the author for a copy of the book!

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Steal the Sky (The Scorched Continent, #1)Steal the Sky by Megan E. O'Keefe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This new fantasy novel had me in a twitter before I sat down to read it. I expected a steampunk fantasy tome, and if I'm really honest with myself, I always *want* to like steampunk more than I ever truly do.

In fact, I almost pre-judged this one based on my lackluster experiences.

Good news! This is anything but lackluster! :) Now, I don't even know what I was worried about! We've got solid characters butting heads with each other across battle-lines of prejudice, class, and logic. We've got airships tightly tied to a complicated and well-thought-out magic system that is also part and parcel of the prejudice. We've got good adventure.

I'm absolutely going to be keeping my eye out for the rest of these books. I'm nothing if not very impressed by this debut. I especially loved how a few characters kept falling out of their comfort zones with catastrophic results.

This is what the genre needs to be revitalized, IMHO. :) Or better yet, to finally rise out of the fringe. :)

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Theft of Swords (The Riyria Revelations, #1)Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a light and fun fantasy that happens to be mostly traditional in that it features kingdoms, elves, betrayals, a wizard and a big bad monster and a broken sword.

And oh, yeah, two lovable rogues, a princess, a prince, and a geek. Um, sorry, I mean monk.

It's really all about the adventure, adventure, adventure.

This book was originally two smaller volumes that was combined into one, and I'm not quite sure that combining them was really the proper way to go about it. Do they really fit together all that well? Sure, in terms of characters, but not really in terms of flowing story. Years pass between the books and the individual adventures are pretty much complete unto themselves. Still, it may not matter that much.

Both are an enjoyable romp, even if it's pretty traditional Sword and Sorcery. So what are the real differences, as opposed to the many, many similarities to the rest of the Traditional Fantasy Adventure? Mostly it's in the elves, superior to humans and also the great losers in a long lost war. Our main surprises revolve around them, too, whether in long-plot or characters, so hold your horses. Or not. There really are too few horses in this Fantasy, and that's a feature, not a bug. :)

This is not gritty and definitely not grimdark, which I happen to think is a good thing. The focus is on the story and the characters and in securing life, limb, and kingdom. :)

The writing is clear and easy. I'm more than willing to continue on with this series to see where it heads.

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The DeepThe Deep by Nick Cutter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well now! It looks like I've found my next favorite Horror author!

It has modern sensibilities and old-school terror and gross-out all wrapped up in one shiny underwater package and a really bad mom.

Say what?

The psychological horror, from the flashbacks of a horrible mom and the losing of his kid and the dawning realization of what he's *now* going through kept pace with the sheer physical horror of the story. The pacing was pitch-perfect. The gross-outs were creepy as hell and utterly delightful. *happy dance*

I was Scared. *happy dance*

That doesn't happen all that much anymore. I've read a lot of horror. But this one? VERY NICE.

There's a great balance of discovery and awe and undersea danger and especially a long-term hope when it comes to the possible cure for the 'gets. (For'gets. A plague on the surface.) It goes ooooh so nice with his nightmares and the way he tries to hold on to a version of reality as something really deep and sinister rises up out of the deep in the actual ocean and his subconscious, too. I kept in step with the characters all the way.

I'll never look at bees in quite the same way. Oh, yeah, and perhaps I shouldn't touch random muck on walls, either. :) And poor doggy. ; ;

I think it's time to round up all his books and do a marathon. :)

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Friday, October 14, 2016

A Blindefellows ChronicleA Blindefellows Chronicle by Auriel Roe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very fine read that follows a few friends through the years, beginning and remaining mostly at the Blindefellows school and ending on a very personal note at the end.

It's rather charming, through and through. :)

I frankly found the characters a hoot and the evolving nature of the private school, its history and how it changes through the years, a character in itself. It was great to see the students rebel in order to get heat and better food. :) I loved the problem of the sheep and the eventual solution. It's also one hell of a cool tale when it comes to drawing out the feel of the times and how it affected everything in the school, from allowing women to work or later to even attend, to how the school makes its money, to the blossoming of a wonderfully restored institution. :)

This is where the other characters really get their own say, too, fully intertwined and interlinked.

It's a light tale, and just as the title says, it's a Chronicle. A passage through time. Quite delightful, cleverly written, and just plain fun. :)

Thanks goes to the author for a copy of this fine and heartwarming novel.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

The RoadThe Road by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I seem to be the last one on the planet to have read this "Dystopian Masterpiece" destined to go down in history as blah blah blah. :) Yeah, it's good. Simple tale told extremely simply. Poetic in places, very realistic in almost all ways, and it was true to human nature, both in the good and in the bad.

People are scared. It's how we deal with the fear that makes us good people or average or just plain bad.

This is true at all times, of course, not just when the rubber tires on the highway have melted into the pavement. If we deal with the terror with optimism and decency, such as the kid deals with it, we see it as how we would like to be, but how the man deals with it is a lot more realistic, full of self-deception and compromise and desperation.

The best part of the novel is in the descriptions, the heavily oppressive setting. I personally thought these two characters were a bit too everyman for extended consumption. Fortunately, this classic is also rather short, so it didn't really bother me that much.

Well! Now I can say I've read the classic, even though it's pretty much like all the bookcases of dystopian literature I've already read. :) Nothing groundbreaking, just solid writing and a universal feel.

I suppose this is what makes classics, classics.

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A Quarrel Called (Stewards of the Plane #1)A Quarrel Called by Shannon Wendtland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A group of four adventurers set forth to save the world...

No, this isn't a video game, and it's nothing like a D&D session. What it is, however, is a YA novel that gradually immerses us in New Age mysticism that happens to be very real in action and scope. It also happens to be modern day, firmly grounded in our everyday world of dates and clubs and Orgone Generators, ghosts, and coming of age pranks.

Young adults will be young adults, after all.

I like it because it feels like the author and I have been reading and watching all the same books and documentaries on modern day occultism and conspiracies, so all of this was rather familiar ground, from protective crystals to firmly-held intent to auras to opening up higher dimensions. It was nice. :)

The tentacles were just icing on the cake.

I loved the A Wrinkle in Time, homage, too. :)

Easy read, quite enjoyable. :)

Thanks to the author for the ARC!

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Taming of the ShrewThe Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As with all of Shakespeare's plays, there's always a different interpretation always handy at foot, be it a woman's duty to place her hand under her husband's foot or not.

As it is, though, I can both be supremely annoyed with a society that demands that women be always so obedient, culturally, and be wickedly satisfied that Kate and Petruchio have worked out a true meeting of the minds and wills in such a way as to transcend all other's expectations.

There's a little something for everyone in this classic comedy, whether or not you subscribe to the patriarchy or the matriarchy. Kate gets a lot out of the situation because she's discovered just how much power she really holds with the right partner who respects her, and Petruchio finds a mate that will always be his equal in wit and will. Is there another definition of happiness?

Ignore the setting if it upsets you. These men in this man's world, even Petruchio's methods of "taming" his wife. The method merely demonstrated his deeper positive qualities by the negative, just as Kate's shrewishness belied a razor sharp wit.

Don't we all have such depths and thorns?

I've seen this one done in many different Veins, now, and the one constant is this: There are no victors, merely endless combatants that sometimes sue for peace. It could be a true power struggle or perhaps it is just an eventual meeting of the minds. What do we prefer? That's interpretation. :)

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Naked LunchNaked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was freakishly amazing, simultaneously making me wish I was on a full H binge with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Infinite Jest, and a whole slew of Stephen King books to cap off this horrific tome of pure poetry.

1959. And still absolutely harrowing today.

I thought movies like Requiem For A Dream or tv shows like The Wire were the most absolutely effective anti-drug memoir ever created by richly immersing us in the addict's life... but no.

Naked Lunch tips the reader right off a cliff into the deep end of an Heroin Dream, starting us right at the gross end of bodies breaking down, moving on to 1984-like Reconditioning Centers for total mental reprogramming, thank you very much, and then moving into the skull of a paranoid delusional fever dream of homosexuality and then alien societies.

If I could pick all of the heaviest hot-topics of the day and cram them all together into the heaviest fever pitch of a "normal's" fear, paranoia, misconceptions, and conspiracy theories, making the prose into a Beat-Poetry slam, and then fearlessly drowning the reader in jizz, then this is the book I'd point to as the poster child of all the books that would come after.

Seriously. The impact of this book on mainstream druggie fiction CANNOT be underestimated. Whole horror genres have spawned off of this book in the 80's. Talking assholes? A man who stole an opium suppository from his own grandmother's ass? Spontaneous liquefaction of bodies as a bug's-eye view of our modern society?

This stuff is RICH. It's also disgusting.

Hell, I'm a huge fan of Chuck Palahniuk and Peter Jackson's Dead Alive, and even these guys didn't quite go off the deep end as far as William S. Burroughs.

Hats off. Total Respect. Even if its an enormously wild button-pusher, it's not like it's un-factual. The drugs are real. The lives of homosexuals were probably quite real for the day and age. The explosion of the importance and the wild revelry makes these things into a realm of All-Importance in this novel, though, making it at first horrifying, then surreal, and then almost pure science fiction. :) Truly a delight. :)

It's also a perfect piece to prepare for Halloween. Perfect for the feels, NOT the camp. I got scared. :)

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I don't think I loved this one quite as much as the previous one, it was a pretty solid hit for me, full of revenge and real angst in the troubled aftermath of the heist that had been so beautifully pulled off.

We're left breathless with betrayal and the spiriting away of one of my personal favorites, leaving us to question, nearly until the very end, whether Brekker would live up to his promises or whether he'd cut his losses.

There was also a very huge and rather surprising focus upon Jesper in this one, taking up perhaps the majority of the pages in the book, making us wonder whether he'd be redeemed to himself and to others, or if he'd always be the loser gambler.

Other than this, there's a decent amount of romance on the table, but probably not too much, thank goodness, for that would take out the sting of the basic Revenge core of the novel. More than anything, though, the heart of the tale was really the makeup and the world-building of this dirty old town, of which I heartily approve. Variety is the spice of life, and we did get a lot of everything.

Complaints, though? Yeah, well, perhaps I wanted a lot more of a Heist novel, again. There was a bit, and this part of the story was more or less satisfying, but I miss the feel of the truly enormous stakes and the pull-together of the previous novel. This one felt rather more like everything was falling apart and nothing would put humpty dumpty back together again. New friends are always a good thing to have, though, and I can't complain of that direction.

So, over all, this was really impressive and a fun read. :) I did hesitate a bit between giving it a 4 and a 5, though, only to land on a 5 because of the satisfying end.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories, #3)Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another easy read for anyone who likes a smattering of fantasy to grace their Regency Romance, tinged with a bit of the Luddite rebellion, other peaceful demonstrations painted as rebellion and used politically, culminating in a courtroom drama.

It's fluff.

Why do I say that? Because most of the novel is focused on the snap judgements of Jane and the misunderstanding and prejudices surrounding the Irish, or from outside her personal acquaintances, the similar theme of the general downtrodden, including certain types of magic users and and the poor in general.

It doesn't hit her directly for the most part, and when it does, it's because she's finally getting a taste of the prejudice, and it is practically only then that she changes her mind and ways.

And this is supposed to be impressive? Nah, it's just lessons learned all around. Hey, everyone, stop pre-judging each other. Right? Fluff. Obvious stuff.

This is not to say it isn't a pleasant and rolling ride, because the novel definitely is. Pretty, too. Romance, fluff, interesting conversations, a steadfast man by her side, the chance to protect or eventually support her little sister; all these little things make for a light and easy read.

A pleasant way to spend an afternoon. :)

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Needful ThingsNeedful Things by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With this tome of Stephen King small town horror, I'm constantly amazed that I had missed picking this up and geeking out over it when it first came out.

I'm certain that I would have. It has all the things I'd been learning to geek out about with his general horror universe, including Cthulhu references, homages to his previous works including events and characters, all of them strung up as if on a map of homicide victims on a perp board, and of course, Castle Rock, itself.

Castle Rock Entertainment, indeed. This is the grand blowout of the town, with evil creeping in and changing all of its residents from a patina of middle-class respectability and Rockwellian charm into roving bands of gleeful murderers with very dark hearts.

And can we really blame it entirely upon Antique Madness? Roadshow Antiques? That equally weird craze of the early 90's, turned EVIL? Or was it just Mr. Gaunt, aka (Flagg, maybe?) stirring up loads of crap? Nah, it's just the greed and pride of humanity, stoked in just the right way, and that's what Stephen King is really known for.

His supernatural aspects are generally underplayed and always in direct support of deep characterizations, of twisting flawed people into even more atrocious examples of humanity, with usually only a few semi-heroic survivors at the end that *sometimes* manage to make it through the fire.

This novel is a shining example of all this, taking all the best simmering-pot boil-over of 'Salem's Lot, the twisted madness of Tommyknockers, and throwing in an epic battle of two older ladies eviscerating each other in broad daylight on the street. :)

Truly a charming novel. :)

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Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Speed of DarkThe Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one hell of a fantastic SF and it hit me in all the right feels. It's not flashy, either, just really well made.

It's also custom-made for anyone wanting to see and feel what life would be like as a high-functioning autistic. Its set in the near future, with talk of highly advanced treatments and AIs, but the real joy is in the narrator's outlook, the focus on patterns in everything, everywhere.

For while this novel is pretty soft-SF, it actually has a hard-SF feel because of the character. And even though he goes to work, has hobbies, thinks about having a love life, and continually strives to be better, the difference within his perception of things is a real joy.

I love this book. I really love this book. It's not even one I would have normally picked to love, either. It just slammed into me from out of nowhere. It even has sword fights. :) Well, fencing. And bombs! Um, dangerous pranks and jilted lovers. :)

Yes, it is a joyous celebration of differences in humanity, but more than that, this novel is also a great story. :)

I totally recommend it for anyone, anywhere.

Even those of us who already "think differently". :)

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Earthfall: The CircuitEarthfall: The Circuit by Rhett C Bruno
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks goes to Netgalley and the author for this ARC!

This is the conclusion to Mr. Bruno's Circuit trilogy, and I hope he'll forgive me for saying so, but I honestly believe they should all be read together in a single swoop. After all, this is where all the main characters finally band together and where the growing action and the final epic conclusion cumulates. I understand the need to split them up, and each book is worthwhile, but I can't help but wish that they were all bound together as one enormous volume. It would be pretty darn epic. :)


It's brutal, here, and Vale practically stops at nothing to become a wrecking machine, having let ADIM, his abomination of an android, loose upon the solar system to gain ever more freedom of agency and independence, becoming the single most powerful piece in the war. It is beautiful.

The whole novel turns into a very satisfying conclusion for the entire series based upon religious and resource conflicts hovering above the shadow of the ruined earth. All the tragedies and the bonds of the main characters have become something rather special, but it's the personal tragedy of Vale, arguably the greatest villain of the books, that affects me the most. He's consistently the one character that seems bigger than life and also the one to nearly transcend it in his regrets even as he becomes a nearly single-handed wrecking ball. He's not a simple character, but he is easily my favorite among all the main characters.

I totally recommend this series to fans of Space-Opera and world-building (or destroying). This is a future taking place a few hundred years from now with many settlements across the Solar System and a vastly changed social structure. It should appeal to many SF fans, but I can't recommend reading this out of order of the rest of the trilogy! Together, they make up a prett awesome tale. :)

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was pretty good.

It's perfect for people who want a light and easy paranormal read that happens to be a teen urban fantasy, rather than a teen urban fantasy that has paranormal elements.

For me, that focus is key. I like ghost stories, and while this one isn't particularly scary, it does manage to be fun, full of magic, a bit of mystery, and interesting characters. It's pretty popcorn and a pleasant way to spend a morning. :)

Nothing deep, just ghost hunting with high schoolers. :)

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Behind the Throne (The Indranan War #1)Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to think this might have been a vast empire-building SF epic, with spaceships galore and an underdog rise from the dregs, but no. Even the SF portions feel kinda tacked on, focusing more on taking a bit of world-building along the cultural lines and making a matrilineal succession the focus, instead, with an almost obligatory strong female cast to "round" it out.

In actuality, this is not really an SF except in the fact that it has cut and paste SF space-operatic featured over a very old "Princess-Turned-Pirate Returns to Court and Has Intrigue" Fantasy plot. I swear I've played this over twenty times in Japanese RPGs. But yeah, this is supposed to be SF, not Fantasy, right?

So what has the novel going in its favor? Bright first-person snark, fairly claustrophobic conflict, and decent interpersonal angst.

What could I have done without? A truly tired plot that is really just a slightly dressed-up fantasy in SF rags.

But what about the action? The intrigue? Wasn't that fun?

Um, yeah, it was okay. The action is something you have to wait for, and if you don't mind ferreting out traitors and dealing with the absolute terrors of being next in in line to a monarchy with all your siblings dead and mamma nearly so, then perhaps this is exactly the right kind of fairly-well-paced novel for you.

For me? I love my SF really juicy with ideas and innovation. This one just felt like it was a repurposed manuscript from the trunk of a paint-by-numbers Fantasy, sadly, with a politically-correct allocation of women and pasted-on cultural bits that were interesting in themselves but didn't leave me all that much to hold on to within the grand expanse of the novel.

Maybe I'm being too hard on the novel, and maybe not. It was very readable, but I just didn't enjoy it all that much. Maybe I've been spoiled by way too much truly good SF to be swayed by something like this, that feels flashy but doesn't have all that much real substance or courage.

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In the Shadow of the ConquistadorIn the Shadow of the Conquistador by Shane Joseph
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a strangely satisfying novel, with a main focus on the relationship of two men and the woman that they both loved.

The novel does take place mostly in Peru when the two old friends reunite for an adventure. One is a lady's man, moving from one "conquest" to another through his whole life, while the other is a bit more regular. The whole novel spans their entire history, the love triangle between them and their loss.

It mirrors the history of Peru as they go to visit it and their adventure on the trails, and all of the conflicts that rise are beautifully explored and are eventually resolved.

This is a very polished novel, focused on all three characters rather deeply, with a lot of heart and an amazing degree of disappointment, too. I was genuinely moved, but to be honest, I was mostly moved by the conquered, not by the conquistador nor by his buddy. Their drama was at the forefront, of course, but I felt a lot of pity for the woman.

Two ravaging armies, and the innocent caught in-between. *sigh*

Very nice novel, quite entertaining.

Thanks goes to the author for a copy of the book for review!

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

The CircleThe Circle by Dave Eggers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Facebook Bad. Twitter Bad.

Oh wait, we all know that, that's why we're drawn to its dark, dark powers. We love to be frightened by a totalitarian regime based on widespread shaming and a few likes.

Seriously, this book has some really great prose going on, imminently readable, with wonderful characters and a very good progression of plot... kinda like sitting in the cold water as a pot starts heating up. We see all the great stuff that this new omnipresent social media/accounting has brought to us, with mini cameras shareable as Facebook apps, fantastic data-sharing apps, and, of course, 1984. This book takes it all the way, giving us the step by step progression of great ideas and then knocks on our door, meeting us with a huge shark face and a bunch of shark poop trailing behind him, telling us how much he loved our neighbors.

It's not impossible. I mean, we've had great ideas turn into amazing nightmares ever since we started telling stories. I appreciated the inversion of David Brin's completely visible society, the running with the ball almost all the way through the novel, and then, SLAM, it's taken down in a paranoid frenzy, at least for the reader, telling us to be scared.

Sure, it makes for a scary dystopia. The points made on either side of a complete accounting of evil-doing is pretty powerful, and timely, and well written.

Unfortunately, the only thing that prevents me from giving this a full 5 stars is the fact that it's pretty old news. :) And I don't believe that a company called The Circle would ever have gotten as far as it did. It was a nice thought experiment, though, and pretty decent SF. Or wait, was this supposed to be Mainstream? Sheeet... nah, this was pretty much entirely SF. Firmly in the category of Cautionary Tale. Trying to convince me of something in a dramatic way.

Okay! Got it! Now where should I put this Cautionary Tale? Um.. under popcorn fiction? Um, fairly amusing Social Media Slamming? Cultish Brainwashing? Golly... I have so many choices.

The dark ending might get people upset, but I'm fine with it. It's an old established rule for this type of tale. At least it's updated for Social Media versus the horrible, horrible effects of TV watching for ultimate brainwashing techniques, or the fact that radio signals are sent out there to reprogram our brain waves (and hence the tin-foil hats) or the fact that the cotton gin is destroying the working man and we must all rise up and destroy all such machinery, now, now, NOW!

Of course, Frankenstein was a good tale in this vein, too, as was LoTR, so perhaps it doesn't rank up with the very best, but I can say that The Circle was entertaining, though. :)

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Mansfield ParkMansfield Park by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fanny is quite a different bird than most that fly through the books I normally read, self-effacing, eager to please, and horribly self-conscious. I'm not used to that as a main character in an Austen book. Still, it works. She's shy and sensitive, and while we all like to poo-poo such characters in novels, they're generally quite wonderful people in real life.

So am I giving this novel a pass because I felt something for Fanny? Possibly. Otherwise, I probably would have been up in arms against the stupid man who just HAD to have her and all the family members and friends who just HAD to have her marry the cad. Seriously. What's up with these people? If a girl says, no, it should be NO. Seriously.

Quite besides that, I really enjoyed the tale and the twists and turns, from the awful production of the play to the horse-riding to the nasty social crap in a society known for being really crappy with social crap.

Still, if it wasn't for Fanny being so likable and beset amongst all her betters, I'm not quite sure I'd have cared so much. This novel walked a fine line and I liked it quite a lot. In any lesser hand, this would have been an unqualified disaster. :)

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Inheritor (Foreigner, #3)Inheritor by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm entranced (again) by reading this series straight through. I was always a big fanboy when they first came out and it was by this book that I devoted myself, mind and soul, to the collecting of every hardcover edition.

Yeah, I still think it's that good.

The high expectations between Jase and Bren, now that Jase has made it, barely, to the mainland after his drop from space, and now he's basically regretting everything that brought him to the Atevi. Bren's not having the time of his life, either, because the Human's island had all but written him off and the extremists are badly harassing his family, and he can't do a damn thing about it.

Political tensions are high on every side. The Atevi, even though they're doing very well with the schedule to be the first to get into space and join up with the human starship and to retrofit the abandoned space station, is still on guard from all the factions that could still derail it. The humans are caught in their lies and their inability to pull off the miracles they'd promised to the returning starship. And between them, war is absolutely on the table.

This is exactly what Bren would prevent, and so he's working his butt off to build ever-stronger associations, a spirit of comradeship and helpfulness and the highest tide of well-wishing Atevi the world has ever known, very happy with the humans. Especially Bren. But of course, he has opened all the floodgates of technology that the humans, by the losing side of a treaty, was forced to release to the Atevi slowly so as not to disrupt their civilization. But now, that doesn't really matter any longer because the two societies are practically in parity, with the Atevi in control of vast numbers of truly brilliant workers, all the resources of the planet, and the humans grumbling and generally making asses of themselves, now a minority and a less advanced minority, to boot.

Things could always get worse.

And of course they do. Most of the book is politics, getting into the country with grandma, and dealing with tragedies in the middle of heavy political nightmares. Still, the ending was quite satisfying on a purely emotional level, and that's true not only for me, but for Bren as well. Thank goodness!

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Magic Binds (Kate Daniels, #9)Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a more mature tale from this great Husband and Wife team, easily, and the relationship between Curran and Kate reflects it. I can't be happier.

When it comes to plot, of course, we have one hell of a string of previous novels to build and explode all over these pages, too, and the surprises are generally both horrific and pleasing.

Unfortunately, I can't gush over all the wonderful characters who return or who are developed or the other subset of characters who are wonderfully missing from these pages unless I start going into spoiler territory, but I will say that Family is full of Joys and Terrors, no?

ROLAND! He's a character and a half, and I mean that any way you wish. I can't help but think that he's truly tragic and absolutely delightful while simultaneously wishing I could throw the entire board of the Geneva Convention against him. What a guy. What a horrible, evil, no good guy! I mean, he wants to run ramshod over the menu at the wedding and kill their unborn son! What the hell?

When it comes to action, though, I loved this one. When love and war comes at them at almost the same time, things will never be the same. The binding, as you might guess, is a very happy wedding, btw. :) I know lots of people who will start gushing over that scene. These guys are a very lovable couple. Roar. :)

What and end, though. If the rumors are true, then there's only one more book in this series. I can see it. Things are beginning to wrap up, but the REALLY big action has yet to come. At least Kate and Curran and Co might actually have a spitball's chance in hell, this time. Maybe.

Or maybe not. Oh goodness. This a mark of a really good writer, no? I can't guess whether the end will be happy or not. Eeek. I wait with baited breath for the next. ; ;

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Europe in WinterEurope in Winter by Dave Hutchinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I was very happy to get a copy of this early. The story has gotten very, very interesting through the trilogy, and getting my hands on it at this point is simply a delight. The whole thing is more than unusual for any kind of SF or Thriller, and I just have to applaud.

Couriers are always a big part of this trilogy, but more than that, it's the mystery and the myth of these men and women who refuse to be bound by borders that makes this spycraft novel into something a bit more than drug-running or refugee-spiriting across arbitrary jurisdictions of Europe.

If that wasn't enough, it's even better because it's a near-future hard-SF tale following not only plagues and exploded bombs and a fantastically interesting rail system into ... elsewhere. And more, because it's a heavily-stressed commentary on expediency, the absurdity of borders, and power, as well.

The SF portions really popped out of the woodwork in the previous novel with an awesome reveal, and in this one, it is now a done deal that the whole world is aware of. We also get a lot more of Rudi this time, learning a lot more about his place in the world, how his actions have changed the world and the Couriers and the real meaning of all that money.

Everything ties up very nicely, indeed. I'm very impressed. :) I admit that I was worried at certain places within the previous novels, but making it here and finishing it is very rewarding and very interesting, indeed. :)

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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Europe at Midnight (Fractured Europe Sequence, #2)Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Running parallel to the times and events of the first novel, this one is still full of spycraft and intelligence work from both sides of a very, very strange divide.

On one side, we have a true Invisible College, in spirit and in reality, that is barely accessible to the real world of our near future after a plague has decimated the world badly and even worse for Europe. Civilization is still around, though, and so is the politics that make life living there damn stressful.

So what happens when a mystery of a map in the first book, a place that doesn't, and can't exist, then meets up with the Invisible College that has been purposefully estranged from modern society so as to continue or enact research that is frowned upon by the modern world?

Well, obviously, it's a true security nightmare.

The plot and the pacing works as well as the later portions of the first novel, using the hops and jumps to good effect while having a stronger and more established Intelligence officer taking the lead.

No spoilers here. Things happen. And we get to see a lot of both sides of the equation.

But that brings me to a single word that I love.

Cartocalypse. I love this. A destruction of Maps. :) An apocalypse of cartography! :) For those who've read the first one, I'm sure this'll mean something to you. Let's bring it to the next level! :)

And now I'm looking forward to reading the next one, which I just got from Netgalley. Woo!

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The Operator (The Peri Reed Chronicles, #2)The Operator by Kim Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

Poor Peri got out of the interpersonal hell of the previous novel and quit her job without ever wanting to look back, and who can blame her? Not me.

Of course, when powerful people want something and resources are on the ebb, they always seem to find a way to drag a poor girl back in. And office politics were never quite as nasty as this.

I'm skipping a lot of the huge plot points because I'd rather not dim people's enjoyment of this novel, but I can very easily say that this second book in Kim Harrison's SF series has improved upon the characterizations of all the side characters by leaps and strides. It feels as if she's really gotten into the swing of things, now.

There isn't quite as much of the horrible interpersonal reversals, either, because I think Peri is probably never going to be as trusting again, and in her case, that's a very, very good thing. Her ability to have short time-reversals in reality at the cost of her memory isn't quite as pronounced, now, either, because of Bill's little invention, but if we can learn anything at all in this series, every advancement or advantage comes at a truly serious cost.

I loved Michael and Helen and Harmony. I missed having more women in the previous novel, and these two were a real delight. And Michael? There's truly nothing more interesting than having an antagonist that's close to our hero's in ability, if not disposition. It worked extremely well.

All in all, I liked this one much more than the first one, and I liked the first one a lot, so that's saying something. It has a different feel, too, and these little bouts of madness are very, very interesting. :) You could say that it's an improvement on her life after everything that happened, too. At least they're not *always* out to get her. :) Just mostly.

I am glad that I re-read the first book right before tackling this one, but I realize now it wasn't that necessary. The author is an old hand at throwing us back into the thick of things gently and interestingly enough that we don't get whiplash, even if the first book was dense with those reversals. This one is a bit more streamlined and I appreciate it. :)

I can't wait for the next! I'm really hooked!

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