Friday, December 14, 2018

Catch-22Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is it tragic, absurd, or funny?

WHO CARES!

This beats out almost every book that purports to be funny, I'm not particularly unfamiliar with funny books.

Catch-22 grabs you by the skinny hairs and shocks you into the most wonderful and horrible bureaucratic nightmare ever devised. It's not even the clarity that strikes you. It's not the convoluted insanity of a huge cast of truly unforgettable and brilliant characters as they stumble from one mismatched contradiction after another or as they game the system to truly amazing proportions. (Milo.) :)

It's the timing, the clever buildups, the sheer insanity of one damnable event after another and the realization that the only clear solution, the only way out of this trap, is...

No. Wait. That IS the realization. There is no way out.

We can put the book down, but the absurdities live on. Not just the absurdities inside the book, but in our own lives as we deal with one more piece of nonsense after another. There is no escape. None.

And yet, I kept laughing throughout this novel. This brilliant, brilliant novel.

I'm going out on a limb here to say it's in the upper 20 books of all time. Maybe higher. There's absolutely nothing about this book I didn't love. I'm gonna have to read this 4-5 times just for the sheer perverse pleasure of it.

Sure, some Italian whore might come at me with a steak knife or other piece of cutlery, but that's the cost of doing business with the military.

Totally amazing.



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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Helen and Troy's Epic Road QuestHelen and Troy's Epic Road Quest by A. Lee Martinez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Totally enjoyable humor, AGAIN, from A. Lee Martinez. :)

Great tongue-in-cheek premises, such as the local minotaur girl working in a BURGER JOINT getting almost sacrificed by the Hamburger God (Chernobog) by her manager, leads directly to a QUEST. :) Bring along Helen's cute co-worker Troy, get Quest licenses from the local board, tell their parents they'll be going on a roadtrip, and off we go, running. :)

Martinez always rather rocks. :) It's not always the premises that are best, but the way the author always makes characters who are so damn well-rounded. Courageous and insecure, shy and deadly. The meet-cute is so damn cute. The magical artifacts are fun.

But you know what I like best? Nigel the Accountant. He is pretty pissed at how stupid his orc ancestors are. Of course, no one asked HIM if he wanted to get caught up in his own quest to destroy these two poor kids. :)

Love it. :) :) The best part is the journey, but that ending was funny as hell. :)

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Moon and the OtherThe Moon and the Other by John Kessel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Moon!

This is an awesome epic, but let me clarify this. This isn't Ian McDonald novel, but it *IS* as deep and complex in its interpersonal explorations, its social experiments, and more for its thought-experiment.

I'm honestly astonished by this man's writing. It's like reading a mix between John Varley and Ian McDonald, only we focus on how a planned matriarchal city on the Moon might look like from within and from without. Domed cities, flight in the open air, scientific exploration... all of this is here, but all of it is subservient to the real story.

This a novel about men and women. All kinds, all orientations. It's a matriarchal society, but there's nothing simple about it or surface about it. Kessel has managed to go deep into the ramifications in such a way that I'm frankly amazed.

The depth of the characterizations and the complexities of the questions raised make this a truly fantastic novel. It is more than equal with any traditional treatment of the subject, whether historical fiction, modern thoughts on feminism, being gay, or what it means to change the meaning of being a Man. I got lost in these pages.

More than that, I was delighted by the amazing amount of world-building, social exploration, and especially about the vast amounts of love, idealism, protest, regret, greed, and tragedy.

These kinds of thoughtful, complex, socially-focused novels come along only once in a blue moon. There's nothing trite or unambiguous about it. It's real people caught in the web of a future history.

Do NOT expect it to have a ton of action, murders, or intrigue. It's not that kind of thing.

The novel is about trying to change things. For good or ill, it's about how men and women get along with themselves or the Other. For this, I give it all the stars in the world.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Poseidon's Wake (Poseidon's Children, #3)Poseidon's Wake by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reynolds continues to amaze. I remembered Blue Remembered Earth very fondly and this third book, taking place several hundred years after the events taking place there, captures more than just the spirit, but gives us one hell of an adventure among the stars.

Best points?

The Watchmakers, a race of sublime intelligences that went too far and are no longer fully conscious. :)
The uplifted elephants. :)

The sheer scope of the adventure, discovery, horror, and amazing courage. :)

This is Reynolds. Never doubt it. His world building and tech are some of the very, very best in Hard-SF. These characters, in particular, are also some of his most interesting and well developed. From the Savanna to the oceanic human-mods to the Mars takeover of machine intelligences to deep space exploration, the settings prove to be more than good spice for the treat that is his characters.

ELEPHANTS IN SPACE!!!

And let me make one caveat, here. This is not Barsk. Barsk came out 4 years after Blue Remembered Earth and one year after this third book. :) And I Reynolds's tales better. :)

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Monday, December 10, 2018

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I found half of this book as painful as if I were being bullied in school. Sure, this is the lot of a mortal girl in the Fae court, with all the Fair Folk being as nasty and cruel as if they were all Men in a Man's world.

Yes, this is the story of a bullied girl going bad, anti-hero, and carving her way through the bad Seelie Court.

In conception, I liked the idea well enough. I even found the last half of the novel rather gripping. I enjoy spycraft and cold calculations and betrayals, but something about this was either too dark for a YA or not dark enough for a traditional grimdark adult novel.

What lessons shall we learn? Trust no one. All men, ahem, I mean Fae, are evil. If you're a woman you have no choice other than to cozy up to the creeps or be the one to knife them. What is love? Oh, that's a fool's game.

Wait... haven't I read this before? Well, the theme is, unfortunately, nearly universal. At least in modern YA fiction. Or 50's soap opera tragedies.

Did I find anything really fresh about the Seelie court? No, unfortunately. Seanan McGuire and even Laurell K Hamilton gave me more interesting takes, but these are adult. Cat Valente's YA is written by a goddess.

This, however, makes me feel excluded. Or maybe I've read too much in the same vein to properly appreciate how one more emasculation serves anyone's best interest. There IS a lot of injustice in the world, but not all of us are asshats.

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Consuming Fire (The Interdependency, #2)The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two things:

What this novel does right, it does very right. Namely, he's got some very tight prose. His barebones linear plot always manages to explain everything in crystalline fashion, leaving nothing occluded, and it shows in just how much he accomplishes in such a short novel. I'm reminded of some of the best short novels of the Golden and Silver age of SF in both the style and function with one caveat: there's nothing at all racist or homophobic or sexist about it. :)

Second thing: His underlying message about climate change deniers in terms of a collapsing wormhole network works fairly well. Hello, idiots, your house is burning down! :) Ah, alas.

BUT.
The soapbox is a thin veil. I'm trying not to mind but it is the vehicle for the whole novel.

Even so, it doesn't detract that much from my total enjoyment of the novel. Indeed, I almost gave it a 5 star just because I had a lot of fun and it turns out to be a super easy read. :) Between the funny moments, the alternately cool action moments, and a surprisingly sweet romance, I call this a sure bet. :) It's a great space opera by Scalzi! Looking forward to the next!

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The Eyes of the Overworld (The Dying Earth, #2)The Eyes of the Overworld by Jack Vance
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oddly enough, I think I enjoyed this second book of Vance's Dying Earth much better than the first. It's not only smoother but it also tickles most of my funny bones.

Cugel is one hell of a damned rogue! Very flexible of morals, quick of wit, and easily a loveable/hateable anti-hero. In most respects, I felt like I was reading a high-fantasy version of Gulliver's Travels, always skirting the edge of high satire and always roving knee-deep in extremely lucky circumstance, tragic reversals, and yet more inexplicable adventure.

The man is charmed and cursed in a very enjoyable fashion.

Best of all, Vance never dumbs down his text. I was very amused to find some awesome language and a highbrow vocabulary inserted so deftly. I'm not used to ANY modern fantasy being allowed a free hand with words.

Fortunately, this came out in 1966 by a firmly established master of the craft with little interest in catering to the lowest common denominator. :) Go, Vance! :)

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

The AbominableThe Abominable by Dan Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a bit of a completionist at heart.

That means when I really love an author or at least a single one of their works, let alone several of their works, (or 8 novels that I simply adore,) then I just HAVE to work my way around all the OTHER novels that may or may not tickle my immediate fancy.

This is one of those novels.

I don't get thrilled about climbing novels. Yep, even one of those Tibetan hills. Sure, bits are pretty cool but I always had a bit of a hang-up about all the locals being treated like disposable rags. Oops, we lost another porter. Oh, well, good chap, let's sally forth.

Maybe it's just me?

ANYWAY. Despite that Simmons is a very good novelist. He even addresses several of these issues. But above all, he exhibits some pretty intense love of the sport. Okay, so this isn't really a sport. It's more utter survival because your body is dying just by reaching that high and they're on the mountain as a recovery mission of a poor old chap's demise up on the hill. Noble. And it is good. All 30 hours of the quest. Most of which takes place on the mountain.

And let's not forget the somewhat interesting twists, both supernatural (ish) and political (ish). It is ostensibly a historical novel, after all, and back in 1925, there are some interesting cameos.

My personal enjoyment consists of my appreciation of Simmon's craft, his ability to maintain suspense, and his energy. If it wasn't for the author, I probably would never pick a book with this subject. Or rather, again. I've read quite a few and none of them really tickled me.

Final estimate? 3.5 stars. Nothing wrong with it except some rather sensationalist twists I can't determine is accurate or not. Still.

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Friday, December 7, 2018

The Eight ApostatesThe Eight Apostates by Scott Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So. Someone just got eaten by a god.

That's right! It's ME!

Scott Hale has consistently blown me the f*** away with his horror. I'm especially thrilled when he dives into the epic dystopian landscape of our modern world twisted by the Trauma. These novels are some of the most wickedly subversive and massively wicked epic-fantasy twists I've ever read. And that's saying a lot.

It also says a lot that the most heartwarming scene in the novel is a small child running through a hallway draped with freshly flensed skin, dripping various gore, and the caretaker sees absolutely nothing wrong with picking the kid up and cooing at it. What a sweet child. :)

Or when our most heroic heroes regularly dine on fresh human flesh and we learn real heroism from a walking, talking skeleton. (See The Three Heretics). All gods in these books are EEEEVVVVIIIIILLLL. After reading this, you'll think Cthulhu is a sweet cuddly bunny with a tooth problem.

VIVA LA WORM!

Or, as Scott briefly had in his blurb, "DEICIDE"

Sums it up nicely, since this book is going to put some GODS TO BED. :) :) Epic battles, horrific societies, and that are just the normal people. Just wait till you see the horrorshow that's all monsters and blood and warped realities. :)

SO FREAKING AWESOME!

If there's ANY author more deserving of getting a huge bump in popularity, they're going to have to wait in line behind Scott Hale! :) Seriously. This guy is the BOMB.

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Red MoonRed Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let's be real here. I didn't come to KSR's dinner table for a simple adventure story.

I always come to eat a novel so rich with ideas that I tent to forget that there's a core story underneath all the cool bits of political revolution, economic warfare, the problem of representation, quantum intelligence, cultural identity, and of course... CHANGE.

But like a rice dish with WAY too many spices, the core story to this novel is somewhat overwhelmed by this plethora of great ideas.

Did I enjoy the characters represented? The popular-revolution pregnant-princess on the run with an American quantum physicist as they hop throughout the heart of China and the moon, angling toward a war of hearts, minds, and wallets?

Yeah. I did. :) But it was downright SUBTLE compared to the rich mess of other ideas popping all around me!

In this respect, it's quite on par with 2312. Less space-opera, more revolution, and very wonderfully full of Chinese. :)



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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Persepolis Rising (The Expanse, #7)Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 12/5/18:

Since reading all these books in a row, I can now honestly compare all the books against each other without long waits in between. Conclusion?

Yeah, this latest one is definitely one of my favorites. All that buildup about protomolecules and what killed the alien civilization is finally coming to a head. The questions are asked seriously. And now we're getting big hints about things to come.

The extinction of the human race?

Possibly. :) But really, I just wanna see the Roci all decked out in protomolecule shit for xmas. Pretty please?


Original review:

I think I like this more than most of the other Expanse books, and that's saying a lot. I actually loved them all.

That being said, OMG I can't believe all the changes we get thrown into! The whole team is together, all my favorite (living) characters from the other books together on the Rosie, but it's simply wild to see how much time has passed. Jim and Naomi are talking retirement for void's-sake.

Let me be very clear, though, when I started reading this I thought to myself, "Is this the final wrap up? A last adventure?" To be honest, I was fairly okay with that, but then the authors threw me for a loop. So much big action happens and it affects almost 2000 established star systems. This is not just a wrap up of old threads. This is a setup for something even bigger and badder. Remember the whole question about what killed off the alien civ? But first, we've got some of the best grey baddies building EMPIRE out on the fringes. :)

This is the best part of having a tale pass a lot of time. So much has changed. I love it. It's fresh. And of course it's a blast to see random people say, "James f***ing Holden". :)

But beyond all the great big stuff going on, the novel is full of fantastic little moments that are so hard to get through without laughter and a bit of tears. I think of the scene between Bobby and Amos the most. :)

So damn fun! This is the gold standard for Space-Opera for me. :)

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The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1)The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will not lie. As I read through half the book, it felt like a YA fantasy with quite dark undercurrents, but then it took off as a genuine War novel that never let up on the grim.

No problem. Hell, I really enjoyed the very Chinese feel to it with all its inherent province racism, meritocracy tests, and very in-your-face reliance on Poppies to keep a population in line. It laid a great foundation for a rigid and fatalistic world-building and the rest is all up to the MC and the changes she undergoes.

From being married off to an old man to a rising star in the military school to the vast unburdening of hopes and dreams that follow once she's embroiled in combat, the tale only grows darker from there.

You think this is just about addicts on the battlefront? Or a war about the production and distribution of heroin? No. It's a pure epic fantasy that has gods and vengeance and a sharp eye to strategy and tactics. What seems like love is just fuel for the fire to come. :)

The novel is more than solid. It's nearly as breathtaking as the end in The Traitor Baru Cormorant. No spoilers, but the end is not that traditional. :)

I really enjoyed this and I will absolutely be looking forward to the next. :)

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Baby TeethBaby Teeth by Zoje Stage
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Ahhh, expectations versus reality. A real conundrum.

With the premise and such a great name for a horror, I truly wanted this to work for me. Hell, a lot of the time I DID feel the sick dread and oppression of living in a house where your own child HATES you.

Seven-year-old Hanna suffers from a textbook Electra complex. Add a little psychopathy to grease the wheels and we've got a duplicitous child who wants to kill mommy to have daddy all to herself and is willing to go to extended lengths to get it.

Or so I thought.

Well, in fact, the novel does atmosphere okay. It leads us to the starting line very well. But every time the buildup threatened to boil, the pot is taken off the stove.

So what happened?
... It's mild.

This ain't Halloween. This is just a troubled house that fizzles. No death. No supernatural elements. Just a palpable relief that I can move on and disappointment that so many elements couldn't have just pushed us off the edge with a little more courage.

You don't want to be a mild horror these days.
I've read psychological thrillers from eighty-years-ago that packed a more shocking punch.

Sorry!

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Infinity Engine (Transformation, #3)Infinity Engine by Neal Asher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my god. Or, I should say, Penny Royal. :)

I've been steadily raving about Asher's novels more and more because they just keep getting BETTER and BETTER. This Transformation trilogy has got to be my absolute favorite.

Actually, the whole weaving of all these threads from book one to the end was so thoroughly SATISFYING that I may just start raving about it to non-specialized high-tech space-opera fans and just start pulling in normal SF fans to point and say... "Just look at this trilogy, skip the rest, just read this and MARVEL at the juicy characters, epic events, and thoroughly F***ed-up poison chalice wish-granting going on here.

Get your wishes granted! But Penny Royal, the mad AI that almost all of the Polity AIs fear, and rightly so, thinks on a VERY twisted path. The second novel was fantastic for giving us the AI's history, but the third novel gets the Mad AI Factory back online in a big way and EVERYONE is out to put an END to it. And Penny Royal.

And if that wasn't enough, the whole twisted story of Penny Royal creating many teams of creatively uber-powerful peeps of all walks and races JUST to murder the hell out of him because he's JUST TOO POWERFUL and suffers HUGE guilt for the things that broke his mind... well... I can't think of a better or more satisfying end to this trilogy than what we got.

Brilliant! I'm dancing about here in utter glee! :)

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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries, #4)Exit Strategy by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This latest and perhaps last Diary wraps up a very interesting time for our wonderful Security Bot.

Who knew that going completely rogue, hacking his/her own programming, and calling no shots but his/her own could be so HAIRY?

Oh, wait... EVERYONE knew that. :)

I know I just got done hacking my own programming and just went through the exact same issues as our favorite Murderbot. Guilt. Emotion. Friendship. Yeah. I hate all those things, too.

But at least I have my SF soaps! Soaps make everything good.

What's next on the agenda... could it be a full novel with Art? Hmmm???

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Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Temporal VoidThe Temporal Void by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm frankly getting rather awed by Peter F. Hamilton.

Any single book doesn't quite DO his stories justice, which is kind of weird because each book seems to be bigger than a mountain, more sprawling than wide plains, and filled with meandering and sometimes inconsequential passages. They could be tightened up with more focus on the core stories and threads. Easily.

BUT.

When it comes to the sheer scope in time and space for all his books, each of which is interconnected with common events, histories, and characters who live for an awfully long time thanks to the heavy SF factors of re-life and alternate methods like multi-life, dream paradise, AI, or even some much stranger methods... everyone eventually comes back to play in this awesomely developed universe.

It only keeps getting larger and stranger with every new book. Some characters don't get interesting until after their lives get turned upside down, others are fantastic from the get-go. But when it comes to every core story met with truly awesome convergences between all these threads, Hamilton just can't be beaten.

His imagination is truly phenomenal.

Okay, this kinda sounds like an apology for his work, but don't be confused. I love this. It has a few faults, but damn, when I compare this to practically any other SF author on the grounds of glorious worldbuilding and scope of characters, Hamilton basically wins by default.

Epic SF, folks. Just think of the most sprawling fantasy you most love and multiply it by two, give it everything from bionics, massive dreaming collectives, a total space-opera atmosphere with multiple alien forces, and then shake it up by having an intelligent UNIVERSE threaten to grow and eat our own. Epic stakes. Epic scope. And through it all, thousands of years of novels and history pulling forward to this late historical date.

I'm frankly amazed. And it's getting better with every book I read.

The last time I was this bowled over was the first time I read through the WoT series. Both have their faults. But for the patient reader, both are freaking awesome. :)



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Friday, November 30, 2018

Let The Swine Go ForthLet The Swine Go Forth by Auriel Roe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now, this is one fun ride down the dark, disturbing forest of the modern educational system, full of the seven deadly sins, gross incompetence, and scarred children.

In other words, it's funny as hell.

Roe took us into a public institution last time. This one is quite a bit more private. Her experience in the system comes out with wildly satirical flair. It's awfully oddball and sharp and full of great moments.

What makes this stand out is the PoV of the headmaster. It feels quite English, quite droll, but also as zany as you might expect. Birds and torture go quite nice with the seven sins pig. Does anyone want to stage a play?

I would absolutely recommend this for anyone who's in the mood for modern mainstream matriculation mania. :)



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Praise of FollyPraise of Folly by Erasmus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know, before I read this, I imagined it was satire.

I couldn't have been more wrong! Indeed, after listening to Dame Folly, goddess extraordinaire, I think I will convert myself wholeheartedly to her teachings.

There has never been a more persuasive tract in literature. Hide thy wisdom, folks! There is no greater treasure than to proclaim just how much folly you possess!


It's especially good for churchmen and writers. The former generally do not know they are being made fun of and the latter can derive a sort of sick satisfaction that they, more than any other breed of fools, exemplify the teachings of Dame Folly.

For who else could go about the rest of their lives putting words down for nothing more than faint praise, outright scorn, and little to no money for their extensive efforts?

Exactly.

:)

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Noumenon InfinityNoumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one hell of a great sequel.

It goes well beyond the fandom who like generational starship stories, delving into high physics, Big Dumb Objects, and very strange aliens.

But more importantly, the stranger aliens are ourselves. Generations of clones growing up and educated in a closed society, fixing the original generational starship problem by going as a fleet of semi-specialized components in one big social whole. That's not so strange, of course, but the emergent AI and the "retirees" of every clone over 65 to become a part of a massive biological computer system as dreamers *is*. :)

But the core story is no slouch, either. The fleet splits in two. One to finish a truly glorious Dyson-sphere-like project and the other devoted to exploration and learning about the aliens who made it. Of course, from there, everything goes to hell. But differently. :) This is not the same kind of novel as the first, but it IS a genuine continuation in both spirit and characters. :)

I especially loved the aliens. I may have a few spoilerly quibbles about the end. One particularly big plot thread that wasn't concluded. But other than these, which could EASILY be addressed in future books, I absolutely adore this book. Or rather, books.

Few modern SF novels are this devoted to ideas anymore. That is: pure ideas drilled down to consequences and snags and complications.

The writing is more than fine, the characters are fascinating, but it's the ideas make this a true inheritor of old-school SF. Everything from psychology to sociology to genetics to high physics is explored here, and that's just the foundation. :)

I'm a fanboy now. :)



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Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Fall of IoThe Fall of Io by Wesley Chu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just what IS the Fall of Io?

I mean, to me, I expected the grand wheel of Hubris to dunk Ella and Io under the water of fate, but similar to the first novel... the rising and falling aren't that spectacular. It's more of a personal choice rather than an epic downfall. :)

It's okay. :) We have a lot more to entertain us here.

Like heists, flashbacks to events that will already have happened right AFTER the events in the first book, heists, tons of action, heists, and feeling all buddy-buddy with the Yakuza. Oh, and did I mention h.... oh wait... I think I did. :)

An alternative title to this novel might be, "Everyone Hates Ella." Except for Cameron, of course, although he's just a stupid man. :) It's kinda nice to enjoy a relatively hated MC for once. She doesn't have much going for her and her alien is kinda a f***-up, too. This is no surprise.

No spoilers, but I had a good time with this. It's pure popcorn fiction.

It's aliens riding our meat-bags in a mutually beneficial arrangement, a whole taking over the world conflict between the good aliens and the bad, and an extended roll in the mud. :)

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Rise of IoThe Rise of Io by Wesley Chu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a totally enjoyable return to the Tao universe. Or, I should say, to the Earth set up in the Lives of Tao with all its sparkly aliens still fighting a civil war using humans as their bodies. :)

Hey, and not only do we have a new personality to get to know and love (or hate) in Io, but Tao himself shows up and plays a big role! Woo! Cameron!

But it is Ella who really shines here. Our Indian thief has all the trademarks of an underdog hero. It has the feel of the first Tao book with one HUGE difference. The lines of engagement, of just who is good and who is not, are VERY blurred. :) Or at least, Io believes so. This makes for some very interesting conflicts going forward.

I already have huge trust in Chu for this universe and loved the previous Tao books. They went crazy with the action. :) This one is shaping up to be one hell of a great series. :)

Total popcorn SF. Easy and fun. :

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book might be a bit difficult to review.

There's a TON of fantastic plotting and truly wild mystery reveals packed in here, keeping us always guessing and on our toes. The level of detail is equal to the plotting, as is the uber-Clue model that frames the book. But the best part was the fantasy aspect.

This isn't a normal whodunit, no matter what anyone says. Body-hopping and repeated days like Groundhog Day fills the pages. Just trying to figure out THAT part kept my mind as busy or busier than the murder mystery.

But then there are the aspects, despite the good writing and fantastic setup, that dragged the book down for me.

Many, if not most of the characters were really hard to enjoy, bringing equal amounts of distaste and cringing to the tale. Almost no one is a redeemable character, and while that's to be expected in a Clue-type tale, a novel generally needs at least ONE anchor point.... but the narrator is an almost blank slate, giving us almost no motivation to feel for him even when we finally get his reveals. Forgive me for the hint of the reveals but the everyman lost almost all of his memories and became a large portion of these despicable creatures through the course of the tale. So how much of an everyman is he? He's practically subsumed in the muck.

And then there is the last bit I had some trouble with.

It was too long. Bits went on and on while I had no decent anchor to hang my hat on and I just didn't care about what was going on because the core of the tale was a bit too occluded until MUCH later.

Yes, a lot of this is necessary because of this type of book. The joy of the surprise, the multiple twists here rather REQUIRE the setup we are given almost as if we're reading (or rather, watching,) Momento. I just think a shorter treatment when we are SO much in the dark might have worked better.

Otherwise, the wrap-up and the twists really did make this novel stand out and shout. I still recommend it despite all my bellyaching. :)


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Monday, November 26, 2018

The Dreaming VoidThe Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've come to the conclusion that Peter F. Hamilton is an acquired taste. Maybe it just requires patience and getting used to his often HUGE PAGE COUNTS. Most of it is devoted to establishing his characters and their backstories, so it's not a huge complaint. Where he shines is his vast SF worldbuilding which takes on a very complex and rich character rarely seen in ANY series.

We're dealing with 20 or 30 thousand pages of the same universe across vast distances, worlds, and timeframes. And not only that, tons of alien species we get to know intimately, fantastic realms, Fae world hopping, wormhole networks, and a whole DREAMING REALM.

This particular novel fixes a lot of the issues I generally run into with the other novels. It's SHORT. It's also rather focused for what it accomplishes, splitting its time between a high-tech uber powerful post-Commonwealth era, 1500 years after Judas Unchained, and a very interesting seemingly low-tech fantasy world full of psi users and teeks. I have to admit I think I loved the second realm much more than the high tech side. The implications and the hints throughout this novel make me suspect MUCH. :)

Is this my new favorite Hamilton? Or am I just getting so used to his writing that I'm fine with rolling with the roving text and getting excited when the big action happens? Am I simply impressed by the vast worldbuilding and the competent characters?

A little of both, to be certain, but now that I've been reading quite a lot of his work, I'm really getting into the easter eggs and the recurring characters I grew to love in the previous books.

Yeah. Characters coming back after 1,500 years. And still being fun. :)

There's something really glorious about the gigantic tapestry that Hamilton is writing here. It's truly vast and often mind-blowing.

Sure, he has his faults and the writing style sometimes takes getting used to, but the rewards are well worth the effort. And then some. :)

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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Maskerade (Discworld, #18; Witches #5)Maskerade by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Phantom of the Opera!

With the Witches!

WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

Well, obviously, anything. This is Opera and the Show Must Go On! With or without Greebo in the mix. :)

Quite fun because I love the Phantom of the Opera and I love the Witches, but am I a fan of Anges?

Nah. Not really. I keep wanting a certain Tiffany to join the stage. Patience, patience.


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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Skyward (Skyward, #1)Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, it's official, folks. Brandon Sanderson is a god.

He's not just a go-to guy for all things fantasy. I've read a few of his Cosmere SF stores but this is the first outright SF novel I've read from him and OMG he slams it out of the park. Or sky. :)

Let's put it this way. You remember how Armada should have been the glorious Last Starfighter? Let's just ignore that for a moment.

THIS is the quintessential Top Gun meets the Last Starfighter, complete with a girl pilot with a huge chip on her shoulder, a lot of growth to be had, a mysterious AI starship she's caring for while undergoing training, and KILLER dogfights.

Did I cry a little as the cadets started dying or being pulled from the classes by freaked out parents? Yes. Did I feel the urgency and the hopelessness and the absolute need for pilots at all costs? Yes.

Did I have an INSANE amount of fun reading this?

YES.


Hell, I'm already devoted to this man's fantasy.

I just never guessed, although I SHOULD HAVE GUESSED, that Sanderson's Law was always a great means to bring understandable science-like laws to the field of Fantasy, but COME ON... a man who does this already has a FANTASTIC grip on SF. The story is fantastic, fun, and jammed with action, pathos, and a LOT of cute. :)

I can't wait for the next one! It's a great blow out and an even better set-up! :)

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Friday, November 23, 2018

The Psychology of Time TravelThe Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There have been a lot of time travel books. Like. A LOT. But few deal quite this directly with the secondary effects of a lot of movement through time. This one does.

The title is entirely accurate but it is NOT a DSM listing. Rather, it's part a worldbuilding exercise where madness, murder, and mayhem is realistically unfolded in the reality of knowing Time. This is not a universe where paradoxes happen. This is unmovable Time. The institute can set up trade agreements between time periods and a timeless economy can flourish, paying taxes during whatever time period is most favorable. :)

But better than that, everyone in the department knows when they die and prospective partners engrave their births and deaths on their rings. Isn't that messed up? Well, not really. People still do their willfully ignorant things, play around with time, get revenge for slights and wrongs, murder, investigate murders, and while there is no prevention, at least there is Understanding.

I like this best about the novel, but a good runner up aspect is the fact that most of the characters are women of all qualities. Sure, there's plenty of questionable mating practices among both sexes, using foreknowledge to mess with or cheat on or seduce when there might never have been any chance at seduction.

And yet, the question is something odd, since All Things Are Set In Stone.

What happens with people's minds when that point is driven home? It's almost theological. :) Or rather, future time travelers already go there. :)

Well worth the read. Complex, great characters, and even better forethought here. :)


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Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy, #3.5)Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't generally expect much out of in-between novellas in series, and this one had all the markings of a gratuitous "oh, we're getting married, let's roll in the mud with the relatives" kind of story...

But what I got was that AND a bonafide whodunit with a jewel heist, an attempted mass murder, hate, graft, blackmail, and a little kiddo coming into her own.

In other words... coolness all around. :)

But what about the wedding???!

Um... was there a wedding?

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H+ incorporatedH+ incorporated by Gary Dejean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a surprisingly fast and fun cyberpunk read, less concerned with the punk and more in tune with the cyber.

It's Cyborg City! Sort of. The town is built into a floating city where robotics flourished and the human element languished. Transhumanist paradise, only it's no paradise. The author gives us cool characters who either uphold the law, create the tech, consume the tech in a big way (cyborg boy!) or otherwise support those who must.

The details and scope are very important in this short novel. Themes, as well. Are we the pieces of our body, or will we forever be whittled down to lease-parts and remaining biology? The injustice of high-cost prosthetics, mortgaging your very life and mobility because you have a disease or are otherwise crippled, is insane to contemplate. Especially when companies can just demand you give your leg back. Or your whole body.

The novel quickly turns into a furiously excellent action thriller that I could literally see and enjoy in my mind's eye with perfect clarity. I could almost feel the explosions, the bullets, and the wild glee. :)

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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Witchmark (The Kingston Cycle, #1)Witchmark by C.L. Polk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I honestly did not know what to expect with this except that a ton of people I know swore by it. So sure, I barely looked at the blurb and dove right in, basically clueless.

What I found was a mystery soon after a world war, featuring a hounded mage serving as a doctor in England. Cool. And yet, for me, the charm was in the strong voice, the genuine sympathy, and the wonderful details of the time and place.

Of course, there's a lot of really horrible situations going on here, like being bound magically to a Mage's will, becoming a battery to someone else's magic. The Doctor went to war to escape that fate and became a doctor... but the world pulled him back into the old horrible intrigue.

And then the love story happens. And let me say this... I was charmed to death. :) Yes, it's LGBT, but I have to admit it's just charming as hell. :) The meet-cute fit perfectly with love at first sight but in this case, it's hard to tell whether the Fae is charming the magician or vice-versa. :)

The rest of the novel had a freaking awesome plot, too.

I think I'm going to be following this author for everything she does. I am totally trusting her. I did not expect to like this or any of the subject half as much as I actually did.

It just goes to prove: Good is Good. No matter what. :)

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The Apollo IllusionThe Apollo Illusion by Shari Lopatin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes the hardest part of reviewing a book is telling the prospective reader that their impressions of the first quarter of a book should not be the expectation they should have by the end.

For me, and with little more to go on other than the feeling like I was reading another The Giver mixed with an impression that this was another 1984 in spirit, my expectations led me to believe that scales would fall from eyes. And they do. But also because this is a YA dystopia with a lot of the feel of Divergent, we can also expect some resistance action. And we do.

But then, the difficulties of leaving home eventually lands us in a very futuristic world and I'm now sitting upright and enjoying the ride. The home of Apollo is not what it seems at all, and this particular quest of discovery makes the rest of the book a lot more enjoyable. For me. After all, I've read perhaps too many of these to get really surprised anymore. :)

Add a bit of Twelve Monkeys, hacker collectives, and a very decently-built world that has a lot more to say than I usually see in these kinds of novels, and the novel fairly hops along with all it's missing people, the despair of whole populaces, and a completely disconnected and probably schizophrenic society.

In other words, it's a pretty realistic description of our world. :)

So, all told, I was underwhelmed at first and excited for the rest. This is a very decent read.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Oracle YearThe Oracle Year by Charles Soule
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a fun ride. It falls in a category I like to call a Blockbuster Hit. Light tone, exciting premise, great pacing... but above all, a great trigger novel. It has everything we like in mainstream SF hits. A little wish-fulfillment, a little naughty action, a point where the character decides to change, and the point where the S*** hits the fan.

From there, it's all action and thriller.

Yeah, yeah, but what is it ABOUT?

Will is a modern-day oracle.

108 prophesies, a little dark-web anonymity, a little greed, a lot of action, and a little saving the world.

Cool, right? And it is cool. I had a great time.

It's much better than the other things I've read by Charles Soule. :) She-Hulk was okay and Swamp Thing was kinda a mess, but his bonafide novel was as sharp as a tack. :)

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The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy WarriorsThe Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy Warriors by Dan Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great treatment of a truly spectacular legend/horrorshow.

The story of the Templar Knights is gloriously varied, complex, courageous, insane, praiseworthy, mysterious, and tragic. It's primarily a history about the five Crusades and chivalry, but it becomes a harrowing monstrosity by the time King Phillipe enacts his vendetta against the Order.

I simplify. There's two hundred years worth of fascinating and edge-of-the-seat crusader action going on here as well as a farce of a trial that cut the head off of the first International Bank that the Templars had become for the sake of stealing its wealth.

Of course, all the Templars COULD have been telling the truth after years of torture in dungeons extracting confessions that they were kissing bejeweled bearded heads and penises before and after spitting and trampling across the cross. But... Yeah... That's reasonable.

Dan Brown does a damn good job with the narration, adding bright anecdotes wherever he could.

My only complaint is the summary single-line dismissals in the epilogue for ALL "What Happened Afterward" theories. Whole popular books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail: The Secret History of Jesus, the Shocking Legacy of the Grail, The Da Vinci Code, and even Umberto Eco's satire Foucault's Pendulum were given nothing more a few words equivalent to a spit and a trample.

The first was a genuine investigation that might not have panned out with further study, the second was a popular novel that leaves the decision to believe on us, and the third was a funny, sharp-as-nails tongue-in-cheek satire making fun of ALL conspiracies while being erudite at the same time.

Dan Jones could have just kept his history focused on the actual history rather than mentioning, rather dismissively, a rather enormous library of works devoted to the mystery of the Templar Knights and "What Happened Afterward". His opinions in the epilogue are just that. Unsubstantiated opinions. Literally. Single-line dismissals. It mars what was otherwise a fantastic recounting of factual history, even if a lot of the history remains mysterious and missing.

History does require a narrative for us to make sense of it. What Jones left out was the immense amount of learning, from science to history, the exchange of cultures between these two Holy War combatants across the centuries. We are also missing any possible deeper significance to what amounts to the bankrupting of whole nations to retake the Holy Land during a time of plague. It reads like nations preparing for the Olympics or a bloody Football League. WHY would so many resources be thrown at this Search for the Holy Grail?

Oh, wait, see what I did there? I used a metaphor for the whole purpose of the Crusades to illustrate that for a lot of the people there, it was LITERALLY the Search for the Holy Grail.

Narrative. See? Skip the narrative and all you have are a bunch of Monks With Swords aiming to get killed for the Glory of God. Nothing more. It doesn't exactly inspire my imagination. I'm sure the motivations were as varied among the Templars as they would be across any person alive.

Anyway. lol

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Red ClocksRed Clocks by Leni Zumas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sorry, SF fans, this one isn't SF no matter how it might be billed that way. There is ONE alteration to reality and it's only a legal one. Abortions are outlawed. The rest is, as they say, history.

Enter into a novel about vaginas. Names are missing because it's popular to write about real people as only their roles.

Other than that, it feels like popular fiction, complete with disgruntled housewives, teachers who dream of having children but are denied, little girls who get pregnant and must suffer all kinds of horrors in this realistic world of insanity. Just roll back the clock a little. Or roll it forward. Roe VS Wade is HISTORY.

All in all, this novel *is* a what-if. It says nothing more than what I already believe, that women should not have to suffer, either economically or legally or socially, for the desire NOT to be saddled with a real and true burden. Not unless they're able and willing to take care of said burden.

And yet, what makes this novel popular is the fear that this little freedom will soon go away. In real life.

Horrible? Yes.

It's a subject that should not be shot, burned, ostracized, locked-away, or otherwise relegated to dirty street corners with coat hangers.

As a novel, however, it's okay. I might have liked it better if the more fascinating Biographer had an actual name. A lot of the details of the characters' lives were more interesting than their Roles would have them be. Is it on purpose? Undoubtedly. Did it work the way it should have? Not sure, but I'm leaning toward no.

It wasn't bad tho and I support the attempt.

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Vengeful (Villains, #2)Vengeful by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has been a while since I read Vicious, but that didn't stop me from fully enjoying this sequel.

Aftermaths are a bitch.

A quiet few years of dying over a hundred times isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Of course, one death is bad enough for all the specials who get their powers through a close call, but I have to say our main anti-heroes have it bad. It's all torture. Their whole lives.

Fortunately, friends make all the difference. It's all about strengthening your weak points and putting together a team that's impossible to beat. Or in Eli's case, laugh as his heart is cut out. Repeatedly.

I had a great time reading this. Every character is vivid as hell and the story is deliciously dark and twisted. No one is unabashedly good and most are frankly terrible people. But most of them have great super-powers and motivations that run the full range, so what the hell! This tale is as juicy as a still beating heart. :)

After reading so many of Schwab's books, I have to say that her adult fare is probably my favorite. Still. :)

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The Bird KingThe Bird King by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in 1491 Grenada, most of this novel reads like a devoted historical novel where the Muslim world is mixed with the Christian at a time when the Spanish Inquisition is running strong and the last Emirate is about to fall.

Fatima, the last concubine, and her friend Hassan, a mapmaker with the ability to open up doors to the Other, transforms this novel from a strict historical to an outright fantasy. But it happens slowly. The historicity of the world is rich and lush and it introduces the world of the Jinn and magic in pure magical realism style, later becoming an outright adventure to find the Bird King.

The old world has died. The only course now is survival. Perhaps happiness. But mostly, it's just finding a place to survive, and if it is with the help of the Jinn and all the creatures under Allah, so be it. Allah made all.

I liked the message at the end of the book.

I also happened to like G. Willow Wilson's Alif the Unseen a lot more. But that being said, there's a lot to love right here.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

DichronautsDichronauts by Greg Egan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For fans of multiple world-time-lines and especially for fans of Christopher Priest's The Inverted World, welcome to Dichronoauts.

Walking one way brings you to the future, the other, to the past. But space is still space and time is still time. Thanks to the little creature attached to the people here, we've got a cultural/exploratory thing going on that is the spiritual godchild of Priest's classic novel. Just look at the cover to get an idea. That's a picture of the Earth. As in, the Earth, to these people, is shaped like an hourglass. That makes EVERYTHING pretty messed up. :)

So let's explore! And the characters barely know anything more than us, so we're introduced to many theories that may sound absurd, but the Earth is ALREADY absurd... because time and alternate worldlines are as easily traversed as walking across a field.

As a LITERAL worldbuilding novel, almost all the fun is in exploring and visualizing the world they inhabit.

The rest... well... as okay. Not overly special. The chasm was pretty cool. Bits and pieces elsewhere. But overall, I was not overly invested in any character.

Win some, lose some. The cool aspects are VERY cool, however. :)

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Alif the UnseenAlif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A clever mashup of equal parts efreet fantasy and golden hackers in a Big Brother Muslim state seems like a winner at first glance to me. I love everything about the first two and the addition of throwing it into a Muslim culture MAY or may not have been a winning move. Sometimes it can come off strange or cheesy or uncomfortable.

Fortunately, Wilson's strong writing and respectful nature carried a number of complex and interesting characters into a great tale with romantic elements, stronger hackereze, and a massive David and Goliath take-down that rove right into the Unseen world of the spirits of air and fire.

How does this work?

Well, as a matter of fact.

Combining the mystical permutations of Allah with quantum computing is as natural as breathing. Has anyone seen Pi? ;)

So, this book mashed all my buttons. I didn't even care it was YA. I'm a fan.

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The Monster Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade, #2)The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Remember the Red Wedding scene in GoT?

That sense of horror and disgust and shock and the feeling that everything was NOT going to be all right ever again?

That's how I feel now, having read Monster Baru Cormorant.

Sure, sure, I kinda felt that way at the end of Traitor Baru Cormorant, too, but this is the real deal. The Game is set up and all the pieces are on the board. No side trusts her and yet, no one KNOWS, and yet she still manages to keep everyone doubting. Is Baru with them? Against? Is she fighting and scheming against the Masquerade? For it?

Even she doesn't know. She's betrayed so many people, thinks of herself as a monster, and yet she is still having an issue between wearing a mask for doing the right thing or just doing the right thing because it's right, with no calculation.

It's obviously a journey novel, but she knows all the islands in this fantasy realm. She's the one gaining ever more power. But pushing aside the deeply dark bits, it's more about identity. Being a lesbian, being feared, finding real connections with others, and making absolutely impossible decisions... regularly.

The novel juggles all of it brilliantly, and more. The islands and cultures are amazing. The depth of worldbuilding is as good or better than almost any Fantasy novel I've read. And the author doesn't stint when it comes to economics, politics, science, medicine, and even the mythological ramifications of a world rich with uranium (and how it poisons the people here).

Every character is smart. Almost everyone wears a mask between official beliefs and keeping an open mind, between faith and mistrust. But best of all, the journey Hits Hard. *shiver*

Well worth the wait.

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Empire of Silence (Sun Eater, #1)Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really, 3.5* rounded up.

Do you remember that time that you read Dune for the 6th or 12th time and thought, "Hey! Wouldn't it be great to write fan fiction and mix up some of the elements in it, change all the names, and make it longer, more convoluted, and make Paul rebel against his family? Maybe just put him in House Corrino first, throw out the godlike abilities but keep 80% of the other worldbuilding under a thin shroud?"

Yeah. Me too.

And that's exactly what kept me from precisely enjoying this the way I wanted to. It was too close to the original. If I wanted a confluence of events exactly like the original, I think the original is STILL BRILLIANT.

This one reads in a more modern style with a first-person PoV. A huge stretch of the beginning just FEELS like Dune. And then, after it diverges, we have all the important scenes from Dune, such as playing with your opponent, extra gladiator stuff with Russel Crowe, and even a mad dash of what Patrick Rothfuss is known for. I guess I would have enjoyed this more had there been a lot LESS nods to Dune. Fear mantra? Floating Fat Man? Benighted race with a religious secret allowing total dominance of the universe?

Well, no, we haven't gotten THERE yet. That'll be in another huge honker of a book.

Whereas Dune conquered the known galaxy in ONE BOOK.

I guess the case could be made that this is for a new generation, blah, blah, blah, but there's just a bit too much imitation for my taste. Let's just write in the Dune universe instead. Or cut out all the homages, fly on the strength of your own tale.

There's something here. It might be a bonafide epic... eventually. But it's pulling on a few too many shirts right now.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Babylon's Ashes (The Expanse, #6)Babylon's Ashes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 11/14/18:
I am still loving the series and I still love this book in particular.

Civil War. Gotta love and hate it. Love it if we're not living IN IT. But overall... what a nightmare. Especially after what happened to the Earth. This is basically the end of the Solar System. Any kind of future we will have will be ELSEWHERE. :) As we soon see.

Otherwise, I think I said everything else I wanted to say in my previous review. :)


Original Review:

Reading this series is always like coming home to a really wonderful and wonderfully fucked up family. You know, the kind that always seems to sink right into the heart of the whole solar-system's problems and even manages to be held responsible for its civil war.

Some might even go so far as to indirectly link these guys to the tragedy that befell Earth. I know I would. But I'm kinda hard on my family.

Seriously, these books are great, but I think this one was a huge step in a great direction that I've been half-expecting since the very first in the series. James Holden is a real character. He keeps opening his mouth. And one of these days, someone's going to hold to him.

President Holden. Jeeeeezzzuuuuuuusssssss.

And then there were the deaths. The big one was surprising and sad. I always liked him.

The plot was pretty fantastic and full of action and who doesn't love BOBBIE in the hot seat? Wowie! And even a certain transhuman working closely with the crew. It's like a who's who of my favorite characters all working through dire hells. So nice.

This book clears up so much of the craziness that blew up in the previous one. That setup was amazing, but this one equally so. I can't believe just how crazy the solar system had gotten. :)

If any of you haven't picked these books up yet, then I'm just plain sorry for you. :) These are the gold-standard for system-wide (and now galactic) space-opera. :) It's all so close enough to us that we can taste it. :) Still great stuff.

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Willful Child: The Search for SparkWillful Child: The Search for Spark by Steven Erikson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I tore through this one and had a great deal of fun. These are the continuing adventures of... Oh My God, who put that flea collar on that cat!? This is genocide!

Ahem... the continuing adventures of the sexually frustrated captain of the Starship Willful Child as he and his loyal crew of a beachball doctor, a claustrophobic engineer, a mad AI holographic chicken, Scalzi, two replacement janitors, and ABSOLUTELY NO RED SHIRTS anywhere to be found discover the meaning of life in the undiscovered country. But before that, they will merrily jaunt across the galaxy, blowing up aliens with extreme prejudice and redefine the entire genetic destiny of oddly malleable consumers.

"We will be called the Purse."

Oh, yes. Hunting down spare change in all the couches across an enemy's fleet, letting nothing stop them. *shudder*

In-jokes abound. Everywhere. Every page. Erikson is pulling off one hell of a ride here, but I should warn you: it's dark humor. Very dark, with a splash of light that is usually followed with a cocktail of drugs and a quick displacement into a tank filled with teeth within teeth within teeth.

Is the original spirit of Star Trek preserved?

Sure, if you think of it as an Orville on steroids and force it into the R-Rated category. :)

But where it really shines is in the deep and abiding love and knowledge of all the originals. Erikson subverts them all. :) And he doesn't limit himself just to Star Trek.

I think I would recommend these books to all hardcore fans of SF. They're not just parodies. They poke holes in universes and the logic at the originals, sure, but this is a good story all by itself, too. :) So much happens... and I'm only referring to the Space Marines in their D&D marathon!

I just want more. And more. I can't get enough. :)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Wrath of Betty (Willful Child #2)Wrath of Betty by Steven Erikson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whereas the first Willful Child was a harrowingly wicked and smart loving/parody of Star Trek with an episodic feel barrelling down to the eventual discovery of Tammy's origins, the Wrath of Betty feels more like a movie tie-in.

Which is only fair, considering the title.

Fascinating references include time travel to Comicon in 2015 to find the missing Krill, dark universe hijinx with women commanding all the battleships, (including a female doppelganger for our favorite insane MC), and plenty of gorgeous and delightful references to other SFnal universes like Wall-E and Star Wars... because everyone should be heckled.

Including Sad Puppies. It was pretty glorious to join our heroes in the takedown that egalitarian utopia based on respect and reason, relocating them the way a nuclear bomb can relocate atoms in the wind of desolation. Obviously, the SJWs are the greater evil. Bigotry and wanton destruction is our species birthright. Huah.

Am I a big fan? Oh yeah. So much happens, so many SHARP commentaries, so many unbelievably wicked satirical moments.

These are the continuing adventures of the Willful Child, promoting the cloning of a boss's literal asshole to a shipful of aliens who all willingly severed a thumb to ceremonially place in the said asshole.

A bit edgy? Perhaps. But also funny as hell.

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Willful ChildWillful Child by Steven Erikson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A quick caveat before I review:

There is a lot of hardcore, almost gratuitously cruel humor going on in this Star Trek parody/enshrinement. I can almost guarantee either revilement or a blind reverence to the treatment herewithin.

That being said, I'm gonna squee a little.

I'm not always in the mood for an Orville-esq Star-Trek lambasting with rated R nastiness on the level with John Dies at the End, treated for the likes of the Federation, but this one tickled all my funny bones. Where Galaxy Quest did NOT go far enough for me, Steven Erikson lets me have all the wondrously insane magnifications that could only be dreamed up by an existing uberfan of the original series. And I mean, the entire series from the 60's all the way through the 80's, 90's, and oughts. Erikson made me chuckle, laugh out loud, and sometimes even made me drop my jaw by some really wicked SFnal devices that are hella worthy for any traditional treatment.

The Dimple Ray comes to mind. :)

But beyond that, we're treated to nod, lambast, reverence, even while our fearless captain breaks all the rules of engagement, decency, sociopathy, and reasonableness. This is the grimdark equivalent of every dark comedy and it is set in the future.

Crank it up. Play it loud. Louder. LOUDER.

Hey, Tammy? Could you put away that chicken, please?

BTW, I LOVE Tammy. Psychopathic Godlike AIs get me going. She's a nice change from Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. :)

Well worth the risk. Erikson's a smart cookie. :) I may like his SF better than his Fantasy.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So pretty. So understated. So heartbreaking.

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

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

Re-read, 11/11/18:

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, November 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time travel.

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

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

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

HEISTS.

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

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

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

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

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

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