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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Assassin's Fate (The Fitz and the Fool, #3)Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fantastically satisfying read. I mean, seriously. It only took three doorstopper Fitz trilogies, the Liveship trilogy, the Rainwilds trilogy to make this book shine... but shine it does. Like silver on the fingertips.

Hobb has Skill! No one can doubt that. I feel like I've invested so many of my memories and hopes and fears and anger into these books... it's almost as if something of a monumental world-building is shaking off its rocks and leaping off into the distance to hunt itself some prey.

I'm frankly amazed that Fitz's story took him through all of the tales of the Elderlings and the Dragons and the Liveships all the way to the Servants, held together with the singular intent to save Bee. It's just ... so immense.

Hobb's writing is always pretty much a careful construction and total immersion that builds to a howling wind that then explodes into some of the most memorable scenes in fantasy, but in this trilogy, she ties ALL of these trilogies together and let them ALL explode into something really grand.

Wit, Skill, or a synthesis of the two, it doesn't matter. She's got magic.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Fool's Quest  (The Fitz and The Fool, #2)Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Picking up right where the last book left off, but still agonizingly slow to action for very good reasons, I'm sucked right into the Buckeep palace and torn between Chade, Fitz's old assassin teacher and the Fool, his long lost and scarily far-gone friend. One wants Fitz to take up his job because he's old and failing and the kingdom needs a spy-master and the Fool tugs on every emotional string Fitz has due to his many years of torture and craving revenge... and the fact that Fitz's daughter has been taken by the same people.

The first portions of the book were agonizing because Fitz just didn't know that his daughter had been taken and his keep raided, his people brutalized, raped, or killed. We get that knowledge as readers, and I, for one, was torn to pieces by the knowledge.

The slow build-up of characterization and the building upon all that history from the previous books makes me wish that Fitz would do as EVERYONE wishes him to do, but of course, it's not possible.

Still torn by the Fool, he learns of all the horrors back at his old home and goes off to save his daughter. This part of the adventure is by now one of the most emotionally pain-wrecked pieces of the novels and it gets even worse when we discover how and why he's unable to find her. In fact, he's given up because of the unique way he knows he's lost her.

All that's left is either going on a suicide run with the blinded and broken Fool against a whole powerful kingdom by himself, or settling in with his old friends who love him like the hero that he is, trying to enfold him back into their graces despite his deep reluctance.

The conflict here is so hard, so good.

And when he finally decides to sacrifice his life on a Fool's quest, he even leaves the Fool behind, fully intending to go at it alone.

But Fitz has more friends than he knows, and things are NEVER easy or go as expected.

This has got to be one of the best of all the stories of Fitz. I'm so damn invested. Like, completely. It's truly amazing. What might objectively seem like a slow tale is actually very deep and very rich, full of the whole wide spectrum of posibilities and relationships. And when I say that his relationships are vast, it's also true. This author has the ability to slam home the force of the previous events in fresh ways, making us feel and remember all the special things that made the earlier books so great.

It's one hell of an emotional ride, and far from having the middle-book blues, it is even more engaging than the previous. If I had any complaints, it's only that I didn't get as much Bee time as I wanted.

Fortunately, Hobb is tying all the related novels of this fully-realized world and is bringing all of the Fool's other guizes in different lands together in a truly spectacular way.

I'm plowing through to the last of this trilogy now. These books are absolutely amazing.

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fool's Assassin (The Fitz and the Fool, #1)Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I mean, WOW.

I've read something like nine, now ten of her books at this point and they were all epic doorstoppers split as trilogies, and this one may actually be my favorite of them all.

Why? Well, it wasn't because there was a ton of death and grief in it. Indeed, middle-aged retired Fitz having a well-deserved life with his childhood sweetheart and bringing a new winter baby into their lives was probably the sweetest damn thing the author could have done for him.

She writes it so well that I don't even miss all the epic dragon battles or the battles with the Forged or the battle for the kingdom on the high seas, with Skill and Wit fighting together for once. No. In this case, it's introspection and memories and trying to put all the hard crap behind him and settling into the life of his dreams.

Too bad he's aging slower than his wife and he fears that she's going mad because of a pregnancy that lasted two years.

But what is the real kicker is the fact that she wasn't crazy.

In fact, his kid has both the Wit and the Skill.

This is where it gets really interesting, because we see this kid grow up with our favorite hero, the Catalyst without the White Prophet, and we as readers are making all the connections as Fitz does not, safe in his marital and familial bliss, even after his poor wife has died. On top of that, his daughter Bee is easily one of the most fascinating characters in the book.

No, the thing is... this book is objectively sedate. The currents of being a dad, missing his old friend the Fool, loving his wife... all these things are written so well that it's gripping and fascinating, but as we keep feeling the tension build, knowing that something will inevitably go wrong, we're left hanging on the edge.

Nearly the entire book is a setup. We know this. We're just reveling in a gorgeous span of time, giving Fitz the peace he'd always desired after having become the most deadly assassin and mass-killer of the land.

I just didn't expect to be completely bowled over by this slow boil and the emotional reunion or the rest that immediately follows it.

I cried. I stopped reading and I cried. That's the kind of effect this book had on me, and I generally don't cry with any books. I'm too used to plots and situations.

This one caught me unawares. Hard. So. Ten stars. :)

I'm gonna plow through all three of these doorstoppers in a row. :)

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

InfluxInflux by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*cackles with glee*

I love me some WILD technology! I love me so much technology I roll about in it like it was a king sized bed full of money, money, money! I love my technostravaganza!

Oh yeah, besides the tech tech tech tech tech tech coolness, this is a pretty decent technothriller, too, fluctuating from awe and surprise... to a bit of tech-explanation... to a bit of tech-horror, dark humor, tech theft, dark humor, action, action, tech-action, more tech-action, and finally, a laugh-out-loud chortle of dark laughter.

From myself, of course.

I love wild rides! And this one is definitely one! My head is buzzing around and I'm lost in admiration and awe for all the great pure SF tech goodies that they all play with. It's almost like golden-age SF except that it's proper modern-dark and sarcastic and cynical and yet, in the end, totally optimistic.

I love Daniel Suarez. Or, more properly, all his writing. I can't believe how much fun I have every single time I pick up one of his novels, or how thrilled I am to see so much science and tech and full explanations for each and very well developed consequences and social side-effects.

For me, it's not even about the techno-thriller. He's quite good with his characters and stories and twists, too, but all the SF goodies are the real stars that shine so bright. :) Maybe that's just me. Maybe not! I just know that there's no way in hell I'm ever going to avoid reading his works. He's got my undying trust.

Fantastic SF, ya'll!

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Stockholm SexyStockholm Sexy by Logan Keys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Death never stepped so lightly or with such fervor.

Like noir? Like dark comedy noir with a bit of sexy time and a lot of violent death? Yup. Me too.

The thing is, I love it when it's light and fun and quick, and this fits the bill. It has all the modern quick dying and moving on, each death a punchline, a question-mark.

But of course, it always goes south, as each death digs her deeper and deeper in trouble, despite an already established career of doing the hit-thing already!

It just goes to show. Don't go freelance!

Totally worth getting into. Pain fun!

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The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm checking it out, yo. I mean, it was supposed to be this big thing and I was kinda meh on the whole concept of dystopias about when this was all over the feeds, so I just didn't do it.


But now is a brand new day.

And today is all about the mass deaths. Let's do it in waves, each one so much more impressive and deadly than the last. Now let's add aliens and make them the perps behind it all.

Now make it a survival novel with a smart and logical and ruthless girl who's set to do whatever is necessary to survive.

Honestly, I thought this was pretty much a 5 star novel well past the mid-point. The style and pacing and the character and the dire feels were pretty awesome. I liked her family and I loved the effect that her brother going away had on her.

So where did I lose interest?

With the boy. Sorry. Also with the possibility that her little bro might be alive and the subsequent plot.

After all, what struck me as fantastic in the first more-than-half novel was the sheer "alien-ness" of the aliens, the disregard for us, their total commitment toward getting rid of us at all costs. I didn't want to ascribe a human-ish motive to anything that could go that far out of its way to destroy us, from flooding to making us bleed out almost universally. Even just letting us take ourselves out was fine. Doppelgangers, too. They wanted our world as a resource, but not us upon it. Got it.

I probably would have been great with The Road ending. I just didn't want to see a real romance situation. Not here. Not like this. There just seemed to be so much potential for learning and discovery, even trusting others again. There was some of that, but it still felt like a waste with the big action scene we did get.

Am I getting picky and personal about this? Possibly. It's just that so many great premises these days just have to go the way of dinosaur plots. And for what? A cheap sex thrill? At the end of the world? Meh. Even Saving Private Sam was pretty predictable. Maybe I just didn't want a happy-ish ending with such much perfect dark setup.

Whatever happened to tragedies, yo? I expected tragedy. Horrors get this right. This could have been a great horror/sf.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Punch EscrowThe Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

And a very special thanks to the author for writing Hard-SF in a really fun and engaging way. This is often much harder than it might seem at a casual glance.

Fortunately, the light tone and the clear explanations of the science prevailed and served only to propel the story forward. And what kind of story is it? It's a fast-paced thriller! And no, before you ask, this isn't a clone of Dark Matter. Far from it. We're dealing with a better version of Star Trek's transporter problem from a quantum entanglement viewpoint, and far from getting bogged down in an introductory reading of such a story, (which has been done a lot), we jump right ahead into the social and technological implications of a society that has come to accept it and the actuarial realities of checksumming your torrented self across great distances. How boring, right? But boring gets people moving, and moving, and moving... aaaand ... I really shouldn't spoil this, but all the cool stuff happens after the poop hits the fan from after this point.

Copy, paste, delete. We know the concept. No problem. Now skip the last step. Hello, me! :)

The author carries two PoV's wonderfully and keeps it light even when really bad things are happening. I loved it, from the marital problems to the chase, the ambulance, the AI, the conspiracy, the nutjobs AND the nutjobs, and of course, arguing with yourself. :) I like to think that I wouldn't have any such problems with myself, but let's be realistic here. A perfect teleportation clone is going to be competing with your resources right off the bat. There's a lot of real conflicts right there.

So, bravo! for keeping it real.

This was a very nice surprise. I asked for this one just on a whim and I am very pleased I did. I totally recommend this for all kinds of clone-fans who love thrillers. This one happens to be a lot better than most and I can say it feels rather more original than most. PLUS! It has the benefit of sticking close to real science to the best of our current understanding!

The same goes for all the multitudes of the great little idea-gems we visit in this future world. The carbon-sucking mosquitos are a delight. So are the self-driving cars that alert each other on emergency channels whenever some monkey is taking the wheel. :) Scary. :)

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The Dream ArchipelagoThe Dream Archipelago by Christopher Priest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This superb collection of short stories by Christopher Priest lives up to its title, being both subtle and subtly off.

Off not as in bad... but off as in we're being carried away by deep waters that are subtly carrying away our sense of the universe.

You see, these stories feel awfully familiar and normal, or if they're evidently and obviously on an alternate Earth, at least everything seems ultimately recognizable... until it isn't. And this, let me tell you, is damn awesome. There's practically no way we can't fall into his trap. He lulls us along and then stops the stories at places that confound and make us ask really deep questions.

At first blush, we keep seeing big themes of incompletion, usually surrounding unsatisfying sexual encounters, synesthesia, all kinds of off-art, and the sense that the war is just WRONG.

But expect no resolutions. These aren't those kinds of stories. They're deeply personal, intimate, and often disturbing, focused almost entirely on the inner or nearby worlds of the main characters, usually involved in what might be characterized as a travelogue of the Dream Archipelagos.

And like the other Dream Islands, the islands are a character in themselves, they're both disturbing and fascinating, and they're set right in-between two warring nations that have been going at it for up to a few thousand years. They're not going to defeat each other. They have too much invested in just keeping the conflict going.

There's undercurrents under the undercurrents, references back to real and fictional novels, themes that are both profound and familiar, and it's always heavily sexual.

These are almost impossible to truly describe. They're just that good. Expertly crafted, confounding, intimate, and interrupted. A few of them are truly wonderful, especially the last novella, but after reading them, it really is as if I've been living a dream... Not wild. Just carried away with the currents.

If you can't tell, I'm kinda at a loss for words. I feel like I'm one of the characters in these stories, all fish out of water and simultaneously horrified and caught in the beauty. :)

Anyway. They're absolutely worth the read. Really amazing, actually. :)

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Monday, May 22, 2017

The Stars Are LegionThe Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Memory, bio-punk, world-building extravaganza, betrayal, adventure, horror.

There's so much to love in this book. It's full to the brim with fantastic living "world/ships" and the special parasites that are living aboard them. (Us, or some kind of alien that's near enough us that makes no odds.)

I originally thought that it was going to be a lot like Starscape with the living ship, but in reality, this is much, much larger. At least the ship is. In fact, aside from a few quick space battles, most of the events take place across vast distances inside the ships. Worlds. :)

Here's another great bit: The women. It's all women. The ships manipulate and bring them back as clones (although it's never really described as such) and their memories come back slowly. This gives us a lot of really awesome plot devices that lead to so many horrible discoveries, but more-so, it gives us a really tangled web of social and interpersonal nightmares. And it's all women.

This is a fairly unique world-building exercise, and while it's not completely original, I've rarely seen it done this well while also being completely immersed in truly strange alien-tech, or being fully realized for huge story and biological reveals later. Suffice to say, I'm loving the hell out of the world-building.

The story is pretty cool, too, full of distrust and dire situations and nearly hopeless striving, neither side ever truly being able to come to grips with one another... or do they? It's truly a nightmare of social tangles when you include memories being lost or the fact that you might have been doing this same quest, futilely, over and over. The despair is palpable.

This is the fourth book I've read of hers and this is the one I probably like the most, all told. She always has fantastic world-building, full of wonderful ideas, explorations, and implications.

What can I say? I wish there was a lot more of this out there. I love this stuff. True playground of the mind. :)

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And this was exactly what I've been looking for.

Gods, dreams, epic fantasy, a richly detailed world, and more importantly, characters I can wholeheartedly love.

But what about originality? Oh, there's plenty here. I'm gonna name drop some titles to let you folk know a tiny bit of what's in store, but don't assume that because this book shares some elements of each, that it is a knock-off, because it isn't.

Think about a love child of City of Stairs and The Dragonbone Chair with a very healthy dose of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and a smidge of all the best modern epic fantasies, and you've got what does NOT feel like a tired YA romance... rather, it feels like a wonderful modern fantasy that tugs at you in all the right places and even lets you feel a bit of Gaiman's Dream magic. :)

But the best part of this is the writing, from the characters to the overarching arc of the story. It's good. Plain and simple. Very, very, good.

I love being blown away by hints and tragedies and enormous somethings in the background and the build-up to make it truly delicious when it all comes home to roost.

But if you're thinking that this is a standalone novel, then think again. Nothing can stand as it is now. Buckle up tight, because it's going to be a really big ride.

And yes, this is officially billed as YA but I don't think it should be limited to that sobriquet. It's perfectly adult. :) Perfectly dark and dire, in other words, and simple? This is not. :)

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, #2)Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Must love jazz.

Well, not really, but I could almost taste the love for jazz throughout this novel. Peter's dad was once a jazz legend, after all, and so it's not so hard to have his son pick up a bit of the love, if not the talent. This aspect of the novel was pretty nigh awesome. :) Flitting around the London Jazz scene, hunting down Jazz vampires... you know, those pesky varmints that nest in the musician's ear and suck out their brains and make them do really stupid things...

Or something like that. Maybe Jazz people are naturally messed up. But that doesn't mean that there aren't Jazz Vampires!

This second book in the series is spot on and very cool in the character department. There's less of the tropes and more of being a damn fine human being. The opening of the novel highlights this. I think I'd give it ten stars all by itself. Less guilt and more being a good friend. Hell yeah. :)

The rest of the novel runs like a jazz song... smooth, reoccurring riffs, and a baseline that, while not always steady, always came back into fine form.

That, and it's a great police procedural.. um... JAZZ POLICE... and magician-in-training novel. :) I continue to be very impressed. This is some of the very best detail-oriented and depth-of-character Urban Fantasies I've ever read, and I admit to having read a TON.

Totally recommend.

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Thin AirThin Air by Michelle Paver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy ghost stories in general, so getting into this modern rendition of a historical mountaineering thriller turned ghost story was pretty fun.

Granted, such stories about climbing mountains in the 30's have a long tradition. And of course, so do ghost stories. But regardless, this mash-up was first and foremost WELL WRITTEN. Modern style, of course.

I had a good time. That's pretty much all. It has brotherly angst, a fight against the elements, tragedy, pettiness, and above all, really great foreshadowing. Most of my enjoyment came from trying to find out what Kind of ghost story it would become, and when I learned, I was mightily pleased. Nuff Said about that.

It was pleasing. Thrilling, full of pathos, and it even included a great dog. What more can we ask for in a popcorn horror?

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Gameshouse (Gameshouse, #1-3)The Gameshouse by Claire North
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had to waffle between 3 and 4 stars, so call this 3.5.

But WHY? It's Claire North! You've never read anything of hers that you've disliked!

Well, I didn't exactly dislike this one. The first of the three novellas was pretty raveworthy, like a Machiavellian back-stabby game of thrones for people in Venice a couple hundred years ago, making and breaking kings in the Great Game they play.

It's smart, it's almost over-the-top, and it's quite delicious for an alternate-history high-stakes secret society story.

The second, by contrast, was good for its cool setting of 30's Thailand with rather deep descriptions... But, it just didn't have the same impact OR importance that developed in the first. For, after all, the winner of THAT game became the head of the order. (The rewards were somewhat unspecified except that it's so much better than kingships, etc.) This one was okay. The rewards for playing the game are getting fantastical, now. A real fantasy story mixed with a huge number of pieces (read human resources) being used up.

I honestly didn't care that much about this one.

The third novella had its ups and downs in a modern setting with an even bigger location. Note, we go from ONLY Venice to ALL of Thailand, and now, the world.

It was *okay* until it neared the end, with resources dwindling and piling up in a truly topsy-turvy game between order and chaos, and THEN I was like.... "Okay, this is pretty damn cool."

In fact, if any of you folks have been following the author's North-Only titles, you'll see a pretty big and awesome trend that includes immortality in one sense or another. This, in my honest opinion, is probably the very best feature of her novels. Identity, immortality, and often enough, a lot of fantastic locations.

This one was in line with the rest. It just didn't have the same punch for me as any of her other novels.

Still, it's decent. Not bad, taken all together. BUT I'd say just read the first novella if I was really recommending this to anyone except the Northian Die-Hards like me. :)

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Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire #2)Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I think it's safe to say that I'm a fanboy of this writer. I was blown away by the flashy greatness of the first novel, the quantum-perception nature of a whole society versus other whole societies, and especially the absolute craziness of having an undead general in your brain to help you fight impossible battles in space.

This one continues in that same vein, but it does so with a heavy dose of mystery and sadness and three other viewpoints while all eyes are focused on the resurrected General who's dead set on taking on absolutely everyone.

Continue the campaign? No problem. Do it over your dead bodies? No problem. Do it even when the people who thought they had him on a leash now just want him dead at all costs except for the one that says he's taking care of their enemies for them so why not let him continue on for just a bit longer? No problem.

Of course, the novel becomes a long exercise in truly scary mind-control loyalty games and the introduction of a long-term strategy to accompany the most brilliant tactician anyone has ever seen.

And perhaps the overthrow of the Calendar. Oohhhhh!!! THE HERESY!

Honestly, this one doesn't require as much effort to learn new things as the first one does. It does, however, suffer a little bit with the middle-book-syndrome. I'm also not quite sure I like the direction the end took, but the middle reveals were freaking fantastic.

And best of all... relieved.

There was a bit of difficult tension I had to go through while reading this, and it's all story and character. It had me almost in tears.

Now how in the world am I going to wait for the third book?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rivers of London (Peter Grant, #1)Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm giving this top marks for an UF for several reasons.

1. Plain enjoyment! (This one should be obvious but it doesn't always work even with a lot of other titles I respect across the board. I may love bits and pieces of them, but then you come across writing that is a breeze to fall into and enjoy throughout, and then you know you've got a real winner on your hands. That's this one.)

2. Geeky, rather a loser London Police Constable with a bit of a new magical talent, a heavy steeping of modern sf/f culture, and an even heavier steeping of police procedural and depth of characterization. It feels real and I just love this guy.

3. It's not light on the Londonite scene! This is great grounding and full of great humor and history, bringing in some of the weirdest tidbits of the past centuries like the proverbial grab-bag and shaking it about a bit and giving us a hell of a weird novel. It's a total blast.

Any one of these reasons should have been enough, but damn... who cares! It's a great read! Some of the best UF created, in fact. I can't wait to delve into the rest!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The New Voices of FantasyThe New Voices of Fantasy by Peter S. Beagle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I really liked, sometimes loved the stories in this volume. A lot of them are reprints, if not all, and I remember a number of them quite fondly from previous reads, such as, and especially, Alyssa Wong and Brooke Bolander.

However, there were a number of newcomers (the definition is flexible) that I really enjoyed or I've already had the pleasure of reading some of their actual novels, such as stories from Hannu Rajaniemi, Sofia Samatar, and Max Gladstone. Hannu is a personal favorite author of mine, and Max is rapidly getting there, too, for me.

Let me tell you... I really loved the one from Max. Dracula in the modern city. It was far from being overdone, rather, it was absolutely delightful. :)

Ben Loory's short of "The Duck" was an awesome surprise, and I'm really beginning to look forward to every Ursula Vernon story I'm running across, too.

All in all, though, I am very impressed and pleased by this collection and if its primary intention is to say, "Hey, look at these authors and revel in their glory!", then I think it did a wonderful job. Most of them have quite a few awards under their wings, too.

I totally recommend this for all modern fantasy lovers. (And btw, there's a TON of great OLD fantasy retellings, usually quite unique and unusual tales in their own right. If you love hard to find legends retold for modern sensibilities wrapped and layered in fantastic characters, this is ALSO your book.)

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Seven Secrets of the Silver Shoes: Principles for Success on and Off the FieldThe Seven Secrets of the Silver Shoes: Principles for Success on and Off the Field by Joe Washington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll be honest, books about sports (or sports in general,) generally can't strike my fancy.

But it is rather cool to hear anecdotes from a football legend that really feels like a genuinely nice guy. The general advice for living isn't heavy-handed or inappropriate. Indeed, I really enjoyed the last section on using your imagination even more than just listening to your coach, giving credit where credit is due, or even accepting the fact that we all have to back up.

It's very light fare, true, but it's also charming and it should be a huge delight for Football fans.

Hell, when I used to live in Oklahoma, I remember hearing all about Joe, too! It's odd how life turns us around and jogs our memories. :)

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

VALIS (VALIS Trilogy, #1)VALIS by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Update 5/13/17:
I had to dive back into VALIS because certain tales continue to resonate with me... and this one is still one of the very most important.

Who knows? Maybe I am just a crazy as PKD because I'm obsessed with the perception of reality, holographic universes, the edict of "As Above, So Below", and the nature of consciousness.

Or maybe I'm just a naturally curious person that happens to be heavily stimulated by PKD's intelligence, his humility, his sincerity, and his travails.

Any way that I look at it, however, I am still in awe of this man's writing. This one more than all his other novels, in fact, for the way he bleeds all over the page with his personal experiences, his deep searching, and his willingness to look practically everywhere for an answer.

So beautiful. Of course, after all these years, I can now see this as the capstone to the great pyramid of his other works and words. From Ubik and the nature of reality, to Galactic Pot-Healer for both the genetic regression and memory, and even to The Man in the High Castle for the alternate dimension mystery... for which all four of his last novels tie so well together.

I disagree with the blurb, of course. It wasn't a trilogy.

There were four, with The Divine Invasion exploring the return of Elijiah and how Sophia and the Logos reworks reality and the Earth, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer for the exploration of immortality in the form of a mystical mushroom and Pike (otherwise the most down-to-earth and charming of the tied-in-books), and Radio Free Albemuth which has the closest ties to VALIS out of the entire bunch since it IS the story of Brady from the movie VALIS and his troubles with president Faris F. Freemont in the police state that was the Black Iron Prison. :)

All of these diverse novels sprang, fully formed, from the brainchild that was VALIS. So rich a novel!


It's easily one of my favorites of all time. :)

Old Review:

This book has everything except plot. I still love the fraking hell out of it. As a mind experiment gone horribly, horribly awry, I felt myself slipping into PKD's mindset and taking every point seriously, as you could just tell that he was. It felt like the ramblings of a man who had gone through something he couldn't explain and did his damned awful best to figure it out, but that includes religious horror, classical Greek authors, a ton of philosophy, and a life that is falling apart.
I've since read his Exegesis, or at least the edited parts of it, but I was personally horrified by his own accounting of the Exegesis that he was currently writing at the time of, and within, this novel. A million words. Ten novel's worth. All densely populated with thought experiments, rationalizations, religious thought, humor, self-deprecation, and so much more.

Knowing what I know now hasn't diminished my respect for this novel, just given it more dimension. At the time I first read it, I honestly thought that PKD had specifically picked this highly intellectual, spooky, crazy method to tell a story in a novel, while using himself as a split personality as a foil. I thought it was Brilliant. I know now that he just took out a lot of his salient points from the exegesis and made a slapped together novel. That being said, it still doesn't deplete the depth and the density of this great novel.

I shook myself after reading it the first time and sat around dazed for a day. If I'm going to rank my favorite novels by the effects they had upon me, by their lasting effects upon my life, then I'm going to slap this one up near the very top. It still gives me shivers, and it made me feel small in a huge world of thought.

I've since read all of the authors that he name-dropped, and have explored the catacombs, and can rebut and argue with PKD now; but first I had to be bitch-slapped by this great man before I could get back up and try again.

It was NOT an easy read, but it was a fairly short novel. It was also a heart-wrenching piece to get through, as well. More than all of this, it was also an extremely rewarding piece of fiction, if you're willing to put the effort into not only it, but into PKD's thoughts and your own growth as a person.

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Absolute ZeroAbsolute Zero by Drew Cordell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second book continues Absolute Knowledge right where it left off, and does it beautifully, knocking the intrigue right out of the park and into action and a very dystopian militaristic world.

From eerie cyberpunk right into androids, mech-suits, and a world that is sliding ever deeper into chaos.

Years pass and we've got old and new MC's just trying to hang on as the absolute AI and the highest caged-prey of humanity lives out their lives in gilded cages.

And yet, through all the hard-scrabble existence and infighting among the last of humanity, big reveals are still coming and the revolution hasn't quite lost all its momentum.

This is a newer age of cyberpunk. Hardcore mil-SF, too. And where the first novel was intrigue, smaller-scale, and rebellion from the inside, this one takes over with action and, ultimately, a very dark turn.

Very enjoyable! Hard-SF for lovers of dystopia, mil-SF, and high-tech, all still based on Earth in the nearish future... so far. :) It comes as a very interesting piece with all the short stories and novellas. The world-building is quite fantastic. :) I recommend those, too.

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The Management Style of the Supreme BeingsThe Management Style of the Supreme Beings by Tom Holt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

This was a very funny surprise. I mean, the title itself is quite droll and I expected a lot of dry sarcasm and satire, but what didn't know could really fill a book. This one, in fact.

I'm so happy I finally got around to reading Tom Holt. I mean, I've seen his name in the bookstores and he's apparently very popular with folks, but I kept skipping right past him, not having a clue.

Well, now I do! Who knew that god and his son and his ne'er-do-well second son were running a business like anyone else, that Old Nick on the flipside is just an employee like anyone else? Or that papa was tired and wanted to sell the business? That the Old Ghost was a doddering old fool messing up our weather?

Delicious. Delightful. So Droll.

And we've got great characters all around. The second son, Kevin, has a good heart, but he never seems to get things right. There's heaven's call center clerks, an Indiana Jones knock-off named Jasper who just hit it big in an ancient tomb that had an 1-800 number, and a ex-walmart employee who picks up the slack in a downsized hell... and this is just the barest beginnings of a setup. Just wait for the story.

(It's a real hoot.)

Suffice to say, a Jolly Old Man plays a very big part in the tale, from scaring the bejesus out of martians to running a private elvish military, and all the while, credit cards are dinging and Hell is now run by Disney.

I'm frankly amazed and amused and I think it's WELL PAST TIME I went ahead and read EVERYTHING by this guy. It's a real pleasure and more than funny... it's even philosophical! :)


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Friday, May 12, 2017

AttachmentsAttachments by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe I'm going crazy, but I like this light romantic comedy stuff. :) I mean, a lot.

It's so light and predictable, but it's the tiny details, the way we fall into the characters that are just like us, with all our failings, the way they stress over all the little moral and ethical quibbles, the way they just feel so nice and the way they just need that one little break to let them get all the happiness that I feel like they deserve...

Yeah, I'm nuts.

It's just the way the author turns potentially very creepy and stalkerish behavior into something so charming and *right* that makes this novel so good. Wierd? Yeah. Perhaps. But you've just got to read it to see how much we can identify with each stalker as they stalk each other. :) It's Total Meet-Cute without the actual MEET-CUTE. It's the anti-meet-cute, where one party knows everything and it's a GUY. *gasp*

I suppose this just tickles all the right kinds of guilty pleasures, too. The dark fantasies on both sides.

Yeah. Romance. It'll drive you crazy.

This one is pretty damn sweet, though. :)

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The Long Cosmos (The Long Earth, #5)The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a quite satisfying conclusion to this epic pioneer hard SF tale of many Earths. :) With a sideline of many many cosmos, too. :)

I'm really glad I got to read all five books, and I didn't even get very misty-eyed by the thought that Mr. Baxter had to finish this without Sir Terry. The manuscripts had been penned long before his death, so the core story and practically everything else is as he'd have wished it.

I can see that, too. All those plot threads and hints get tied up in a very cool way, with some of the more interesting Earths explored deeply, one-on-one with Joshua and his troll friends, all the way to the end where a Contact-like exploration of the galaxy ensues. :) With multi-galaxy benefits, of course.

The whole concept is very intelligence-friendly. This isn't a universe that doesn't reward consciousness and intelligence. Indeed, things are set up quite nicely to help everyone along that path. Imagination has its rewards. :)

More than anything, these are very optimistic books. I've been missing that in my reading diet. :)

So glad this exists. :)

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Long Utopia (The Long Earth #4)The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you've gotten this far in the series, you might have some questions and a desire to see some of the stranger threads come together, like the parentage of our MC's, some of the hints of the stranger alien/Earthlings, the oddest Earths, and, of course, Lobsang.

I can characterize all of these novels as Pioneer Fiction, easily, but they're also heavy SF written in a very engaging and easy way, full of wonderful characters and simple, interesting plots.

Now, I must admit that the last one and this one don't really have quite the same vibrant flavor as the first two, at least with the characters, but the science bits and the sense of scale... almost a billion Earths and Mars, is absolutely gorgeous.

Beetle aliens are tearing up an Earth in a mind-boggling construction effort that acts upon Dyson-level energies and terraforming for a goal that is just as mind-boggling, and everyone else is kinda freaking out.

The kinds of political and war-like efforts are petering out because there's just way too much space and no way to rule over this much of an exodus, a diaspora of people. I mean, just think about it... The Datum Earth we all belonged to has just undergone an extinction-level event and everyone has mostly left it, the governments freaked out because now there's no way to control ANYONE or prevent them from stepping across dozens of empty Earths, let alone hundreds of thousands or MILLIONS of them.

People are free. Free to do whatever they want.

This, more than anything, including the history of the people who could "step" before the diaspora, or any of the "too little, too late" political machinations, hooks me good and solid. It's pretty amazing.

Utopia, indeed.

Too bad about all the other extinction-level events on the way, right? Oh, plot. :)

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Long Mars (The Long Earth, #3)The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Still very, very enjoyable, this series continues on as a grand adventure across worlds and worlds.

I think the final count was somewhere around a quarter of a billion Earths, where all possible worlds and iterations of the formation of the world was explored by a special dirigible. :) Almost steampunk, but more quantumpunk in my estimation.

And during this, another grand adventure takes place on Mars... but not the Mars we think we know. It's the Long Mars, where all possible iterations and special implications tied to the whole concept of a "Long" anything says that there must be intelligent perception and action to guide all these Poindexter iterations of the world. Cool? Oh yeah. Expect Martians and weird ecologies and biologies and psychologies.

This is a wild romp of the imagination AND a major tipping of the hat to both real science and possibility.

And all the while, the social ramifications continue to make a big mark on humanity... and a new species of humanity that is coming right from our own stock is caught right in the crosshairs. We all know these new kids aren't all dummies. Some of them are quite bright. They couldn't be a step forward, could they? Of course not. Homo-non-stupiditus, eh?

Plenty goes on in the development of this future Earth and the exploration of Mars. Don't miss it! :) And don't leave your Awe at home! :)

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The Long War (The Long Earth, #2)The Long War by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The title of this book is kinda misleading, I think. Maybe it was intended to drum up excitement in a way that may not have been needed. The first book of the Long Earth spans across more than a million alternate Earths that we are now able to "step" across, and the implications are explored at least in the early days quite well.

This one takes place 25 years into the colonization phase and we're in a cooperative space with "trolls" humanoids that grew up being able to "step" and have a singing language that is much smarter as a whole for their species than is generally understood by us stupid humans.

Of course, the idiots of our species start killing them off while others work with the others in tandem, and then there's also the OTHER humanoids we jokingly named Elves and Kobolds and First Person Singular (for a singular intelligence that developed to devour whole Earths).

This might be the reference to the title, but if so, it's more about humans fighting human nature and trying to limit the danger of our shortsightedness as bigots on Datum Earth (Or original home) spew vitriol about all the people who left, turning into a religious and economic and political quagmire.

Even so, this book still remains, at its core, an adventure that's part western, part hard-sf, and all a brilliant mesh of Baxter's vision and science and Pratchett's great worldbuilding and characters.

Oh, and the end is a real kicker. I can't wait to get on the rest of these novels. It's damn fun and easy, despite its apparent hard-sf premise of many-worlds. :) MANY worlds. :)

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Long Earth (The Long Earth, #1)The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like others, I'm often a bit skeptical about collaborations between authors, be they both well-known authors or not. In this case, I was very worried because their styles are very different and they take an amazing jump between hard-SF and character-driven world-building fantasy.

HOWEVER, I couldn't be more pleased with the combo. I was thrilled by the characters and felt the wonderful sense of adventure and then suspense as things got dire. And that's just it. We get the best of both worlds, the hard-SF premise that promises to throw us into a very, very large setting because we're traveling through hundreds of thousands of alternate Earths as people "step" through them, getting the implications explored, from economics to law to nationhood and all the way back to what it means to be an individual.

But what's more, it's a rip-roaring fun ride, with the classic iconoclastic loner with a unique ability to travel quickly between worlds and a truly fantastic Coke machine that thinks he's a human, (Really, he's a Buddhist AI airship, but who's counting?)

And through all this, my expectations for a fun story, great characters, heavy science (explained easily or even just glossed over for the sake of speed, while also remaining accurate), and world building and plain imagination is all thrown into the same bag. I loved it.

I'm a Baxter-phile. I'm also a Pratchett-phile. I don't know WHAT the hell I was thinking about avoiding this so long! On to the next and the next, I think. I may not get to anything else as I fly through these fun novels. :)

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Deliverer (Foreigner, #9)Deliverer by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am consistently pleased with this series and this one does not disappoint. It wraps up the third semi-trilogy that follows Bren Cameron, human translator for the Atevi/now Lord of the Heavens, friend and confidant to Atevi Lords and little Atevi children.

The great part of this book is that we finally get a new PoV. Cajeiri, the Son of Tabini, the great-grandson of Ilsisdi, is missing his human friends aboard the spaceship and is semi-successful in fitting in with the rest of the Atevi. He likes tech and is doing all he can to sneak away from his protectors.

What can go wrong?

Truly, even though I've always loved Bren from the start and he's becoming more and more confident in his position in the world, he does make a few mistakes along the way. That's all right. That's Bren. He always thinks his way through problems and he's as loyal a companion as anyone could want.

Cajeiri, however, has a big problem on his hands. He's not growing up with all the proper instincts of an Atevi. For one, he's ignoring his instincts and following a code of "friendship", and he doesn't think it's a code for "salad". Things are gonna get really hairy, now. :)

There's more action and intrigue in this one. Quite fun action and intrigue! But above all, it's the world-building that shines. I live here. I belong here. It's a world that lives and breathes and it's a shining example of SF if there ever was one. It only seems to get better with time. Fantastic!

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Massacre of MankindThe Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I felt trepidation before beginning this because I kept seeing unfavorable reviews, but fortunately, I thought it was pretty awesome after finishing. I might have a bit of an issue with the end, and I think that's where most people are complaining, but it wasn't as bad as all that.

I remembered that the original The War of the Worlds was written as an account, a narrative, and as such, there's generally no good wrap-ups unless forced... and that's true for reality, too.

That's the bad... but Now for the great!

The World-building is very, very neat, as is the sheer amount of research and history and tactics carefully laid out.

There's a comprehensive account of a much longer war that comes in several waves and with much greater numbers, and we get to see the horrible effects of the invasion and colonization of Earth from Martians across continents and over a good deal of time.

In a lot of ways, this reads as a pure and horrific tragedy where we know what's coming but we have no way to stop it. It keeps the blood pumping, that's for sure. The first invasion was just a scouting mission and they fixed the little issue with the pathogens, which is very reasonable considering just how much tech and implied tech these aliens have.

This is also set in an alternate timeline that takes into account exploited tech after the first war, and even though WWI happened again, the outcome was very different with a victorious Kaiser and an occupied England. It's little details like this that keep popping up that made this novel really delicious, but that's not to say the characters weren't fun as well. :)

This novel is a fully-authorized sequel from the Well's estate, and Baxter put a lot of time and research into making this one of the most thoughtful world-building exercises out there.

I'm a Baxter-phile. I remember the fantastic job he'd done on his direct-sequel to The Time Machine back in the nineties. I also remember enjoying his sequel more than the original, too, making things much bigger, broad-scale, and utterly fascinating. He does the same here, with this, turning it truly into a war of worlds, including the entire Earth and it's population, and this is what makes this novel fantastic. Horrifying, but also fantastic.

Goodbye, humanity!

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Carter & LovecraftCarter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a cool surprise!

Modern sensibilities, Cthulhu Mythos, Urban Fantasy, Cthulhu Mythos, and even enough modern references and even math geekiness and Cthulhu Mythos to satisfy the most jaded INVESTIGATOR. :)

Nom nom nom nom...

Oh, wait, this isn't the RPG game! This is a new and theoretically ongoing series! How awesome is that? AND this duo might be gracing the tube, too? Yeah. This sharp tale pulls all the greatest story developments and classic build-ups of the Cthulhu Mythos with its lobster boil, from "normal" mysteries all the way to weird coincidences to unreal possibilities to modern versions of cultists to universe-hopping... while all the while remaining both true and smart to the originals and the ever-evolving sub-genre of Cthulhu.

As an urban fantasy mystery thriller. :)

I'm thrilled! :)

It doesn't lack much but a lot more can be introduced in later grimoires... um, I mean tomes? Oh, wait... I mean novels. yeah. novels. :)

Now, where does this one get categorized if it refers to itself in its own a self-indexing catalog?

Oh stop it, don't divide by zero!

*wild cackles of glee*

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

New York 2140New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a novel of great and towering ideas, indeed!

SF idea novels have a long and fantastic tradition in SF and I'll be honest: I love them all. It's a very specific and niche SF, but thank the heavens, Robinson made it big enough in people's estimations to be able to keep writing the fantastically deep stuff and let the world-building go wild.

Remember 2312? Remember the Mars trilogy? He dives deep into location and gives us a very broad view of a whole world or a whole time, drilling deep into how the society works while simultaneously having TON to say about ours.

Not only that, but in this novel, he manages to pull off something that I kinda feel like he always seems to have a bit of trouble with: the characters. There's even a solid economic plot here, threaded pretty expertly among really fascinating sub-plots all directly tied to this New York City of the future after all the waterlines have risen across the world.

The only time that this DOESN'T feel like a long love-letter to this NYC of the future that's not only breathing but fighting for it's life and culture like a character of its own, is with the extinction of subspecies subplot that takes us all over the place in a dirigible. With nuclear blasts that take out polar bears, floating balloon cities in Canada, or a naked butt over a treeline for an eager online audience. :)

Truly, this may not be a novel for everyone, but it *IS* a novel for all you lovers of the Idea Novel sub-genre, the kind of read that takes you to the heights and depths of an economic mystery and an engineered economic collapse.

Honestly, it actually feels like an updated and rather more comprehensive The Dervish House with the focus being on NYC rather than Hungary. But it it goes full-hog Economics-Punk and I laughed deliriously because I LOVE this kind of thing. It's about as far away as you can get from the regular old SF, treating you not only as someone smart, but someone willing to think for yourself and LIVE in this complicated world of Co-Op skyscrapers, derivatives experts, boat pilots, divers, and champions of law. :)

Above all, it's smart and dense and fascinating across the board.

Don't expect too much in the way of BIG plots other than the one, and settle in for a world-building ride with cool characters and one really, really big character that supercedes them all: NYC.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was of two minds about this novel. I've read enough Russian literature to have a very healthy respect for practically all of it. This one evokes that very real feel, too.

And I love mythology. All flavors. I love to get into deep explorations of just about anything.

However, for some weird reason, I can't put my finger on, I couldn't get into this. The opening fireside story encapsulates the rest of the tale quite nicely, if a little easier than how the novel eventually turns, but even so, I just couldn't get into the characters the way I truly wanted to.

I don't know why. Maybe it was just bad timing for me and maybe a year ago or a year from now, I'd have loved this more.

But here? I remembered and loved Uprooted more than I loved this.

Don't get me wrong. The writing seems to be quite good and the characters are deeply explored and there's plenty of character twists and a slowly growing thread of the supernatural that is developed much later in the telling. I just didn't get into it. *sigh*

I may give the author another shot at another time! I really had high hopes and it felt good even if I didn't click with it.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Color of Magic (Discworld, #1; Rincewind #1)The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I hadn't already read the entire series, and if I was judging this book just by its own merits, I'd still be saying that it harnesses the lightning and even finds a way to make it go side to side rather than up and down.

It's really fantastic as a straight fantasy with tons of humorous elements, with a good deal more worldbuilding than all the later books, more obvious and harsher tongue-in-cheek elements, and a great setup for the Great Wizzard Rincewind.

Honestly? I love Rincewind. I love the shard of the Great magical spell lodged in his brain, Death's endless chase for him, the straight adventure he finds himself in, and the sheer fact that HE SURVIVES.

Twoflower is awesome, too, and the chest is one of the greatest unsung heroes of the age, and there is a very good case to be made that this whole novel (and the one following it) is probably the BEST INSURANCE MAN'S TOURIST GUIDE EVER WRITTEN. :)

'Nuff said.

Am I sad that Sir Terry is no longer with us? Yeah.

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Doctor Who: 12 Doctors, 12 StoriesDoctor Who: 12 Doctors, 12 Stories by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been a lifelong fan of DW, but for some reason, I've just been sticking to the tv shows for the last 5 years. This is, despite my very great delight with the Big Finish Audio Production, kinda embarrassing. There's a fantastic amount of great stories out there!

In this case, it's pretty much a who's Who of big names penning a single story for all twelve doctors and having a great time doing it, too.

As I had a great time reading them. :)

I have to thank Trish for shaming me into it. :)

As for my favorite stories in this bunch? I'll have to go for the first doctor, the fifth, the eighth, the eleventh, and especially number twelve.

That's just personal preference. :) Number twelve was pretty horrific for coffee drinkers and so I was very properly horrified. :)

All of these were pretty high quality, however, and while I've still had the pleasure of even better stories from the Big Finish collection, I am quite satisfied with these.

Doctor Who is more than nostalgia. It's a way of life. :)

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