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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Broken Angels (Takeshi Kovacs, #2)Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I truly didn't have a clue what I was getting into when I started this second book in the Kovacs trilogy. Altered Carbon was a VERY different beast.

That being said, we pick up with Kovacs thirty years after his reawakening on Earth and he's far down his lonesome path, giving up on private eye stuff and giving up his free will to join a war. An ongoing war that's either economics or ongoing economics by other means, that is. Give him something bloody to bite into and he's happy enough. It certainly doesn't hurt that his particular Envoy training gets him all the best gigs and privileges.

But is this a hard-bitten war novel? It certainly seems to be, with the wrinkle of easy sleeving into new flesh and the bitter by-line of corporations versus colonial governments.

But. Add an ancient civilization, the one that we stole the tech that turned us all into immortals, a fantastic find, and then turn it into an exploratory heist novel with enormous opportunities for cross and double-cross, and we've suddenly gone into great hardcore SF territory.

Kovacs is still fantastic and Morgan has a talent turning out complicated and memorable characters up and down the line. I felt sad for each death. And what beautiful deaths they were. This was some harsh territory filled with great mysteries. Kovac's intuition still runs as hot as his hallucinatory madness.

Few hard-SF novels are quite as memorable as this one, but that's more a feature of the characters than anything else. I've read some really amazing epics. Even so, this one is deeply satisfying and a winner on nearly all levels.

It IS NOT anything like a repeat of the first. Get that expectation out of the way and I'm sure everyone's enjoyment will be very high. :)

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The PostmortalThe Postmortal by Drew Magary
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved the first half of this novel. It was disturbing and absolutely divine the way it explored the whole issue of what happens after we cure old age:

A whole world full of fledgling immortals and those people ideologically opposed to it, gradually realizing that the s**t is about to hit the fan when resources run out and we're all stuck with each other. :)

It was delightful and often RATHER disturbing what we all got up to.

And then our MC had his change. He became the End Specialist.

I didn't hate this part, but it wasn't easy to read. I didn't like seeing his soul erode. I liked him for so long. It was like seeing cancer take over a loved one.

But it felt real as hell. This is a novel to read when you want a serious "be careful what you wish for". Make sure no one else gets their wishes. Otherwise, well, it's a Chinese curse. (Apocryphal or not.)

Either way, it's a great novel. Painful and funny and glorious. :) The end is very bittersweet and perfectly in line with the main theme. :)

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Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs, #1)Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 2/27/18:

I had to pick this up again and hop on to the second and third books mostly because I was guilted into it by the Netflix production. :) I really enjoyed the show and found myself misremembering some plot points.

It turns out I didn't misremember. The tv show was close to 90% faithful. :) The other bits might be reveals pulled forward from the subsequent books which I haven't read! I honestly don't know. And that's why I'm doing the re-read. :)

So did I enjoy it more the second time around? Yep, I did.

I really appreciate the whole concept of post-cyberpunk societies running with the technological development and getting established darkly. We're all just meat suits. No one really dies unless you get your implant destroyed or your backups corrupted, but in the meantime, you can get a new meat suit. Or if you have a religious outlook that prevents it, you can't. :) Starting from there, it's a great crime drama, a private PI with a dark past, and enough twists and turns to turn most regular mysteries into cheap trash. :)

So do I recommend? Hell ya. :)

Original review:

Great genre writing, even if it is a perfect mix of noir and post-cyberpunk. I know, I know, cyberpunk is generally associated with noir 50's style tough guy private-eye pulp, only with the shiny.

This is different because it is POST-cyberpunk in the great tradition I love to associate with Brin's Kiln People or any of the hard-sci Stross or some of the best of Stephenson. You know, the sci taken to the second or the third steps, and then twisted and here you've got a stock character thrown into this really messed up science fiction world and it all depends on how well the story is written, and yes, oh, yes, it is written very well and is very enjoyable. :)

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Saga, Vol. 8 (Saga, #8)Saga, Vol. 8 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's no way in hell I can call this series anything other than MY FAVORITE COMIC EVER.

It truly has everything. Love, heartbreak, cute, strange, brilliance, funny, mind-blowing, edifying, and JUST PLAIN AWESOME.

Did I mention that it's rather cool?

After the heartache of the last volume, I've been anxious and anxious to avoid this one because of the things it might do to me.

It did all those things I was worried about, but it had that right level of oddball humor to make it all OKAY.

I'm thinking mostly about the sight of a blood-drenched werewolf abortionist. You know. Details.

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Iron Gold (Red Rising, #4)Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The man ain't sliding on his storytelling.

Expect excellent things. Difficult things. Tragic things. And best of all, NEW CHARACTERS! And old, of course. :) The wheel turns and turns and turns.

Yep. I'm a fanboy. It's not just the fantastically detailed worldbuilding or the way the author colors all the planets upon a mythological background or how awesome all the space-opera plays out or the really cool battles or the blood.

It's the whole package. It only gets deeper with this new book. We have a real sense of history and the cast is pretty immense. When we say epic, we talk about a whole series. The weight of everything that came before, propelling the rest forward. This is definitely all that and more.

And Brown is exceeding expectations. :) No spoilers. A lot of plot happens here as well as character development. Huge changes after ten years and even more changes during this text... even early on.

Little is resolved. This is a bona fide start of a new trilogy (or more).

And I don't care because I'm fully invested in these big books. :) :) :)

War. War never changes. Boys grow into their fathers.

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

iD (The Machine Dynasty, #2)iD by Madeline Ashby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disturbing, fairly nuts, and good for pushing buttons.

The whole robot angle is a side issue. Most of this novel has a lot of sociopathy and exploration of emotional triggers as its main focus. It helps that there's institutionalized pedophilia that's all right because it's just robots.


But that's not even the main focus, either.

It's Javier's PoV. It's a rather wild journey, literally swinging every which way, eventually becoming a quest to redeem himself. That was all kinds of all right. :)

This book was definitely better than the previous, but there was still something about it that was off. And it wasn't just the ick factor. That was explainable by the general theme of the novel. It had a place. It was an ugly place, but it had a place.

The things people do to people. Especially we downgrade them into robots that are just hardware. Good point to make? Absolutely. SF does its job well. :)

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vN (The Machine Dynasty, #1)vN by Madeline Ashby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm gonna have a hard time reviewing this one not because the book was hard or particularly idea-dense, but because my expectations mismatched the resulting tale.

Don't get me wrong, it's still about self-replicating machines and it eventually gets to the meat of good ideas explored relatively well, but for the longest time, I just had the impression that I was reading a YA novel. Not even a very good YA novel. Family issues, growing up too fast, being on the run, hanging out with that flawed boy. It took too much time. I wanted worldbuilding.

Of course, that's my issue, not anyone else's. I suppose I just wanted something spectacular based on that cover. *sigh*

The ideas have potential. A potential herd of babies? Sure. Potential. Subverting "protective" programming to find your own destiny outside of what the humans want? Potential.

Unfortunately, most of what I read skirted the edge of noise. Human drama, mediocre situations for large parts of the novel, and missed opportunities. I'm not saying it's a bad novel, just an average one. Nothing grabbed me. Which is a shame... because I liked the author's Company Town novel.

I'll continue because I already bought the second novel, but I probably wouldn't have, otherwise.

Win some, lose some.

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Friday, February 23, 2018

The Jennifer Morgue (Laundry Files, #2)The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Third read! 2/23/18:

I'll give a more loving review this time. :)

After much much reflection, I have to say that this is probably the funniest of all the Laundry Files books. The Ian Flemming style works perfectly not only for the plot, the geshes, and the snark... but for the fast pacing and the dry, dry humor. :)

Smart cars on the Autobahn? Destiny entanglements? Hero traps? Supervillains controlling the world through their military spec word processors? Delicious. Utterly delicious. :)

And of course, there are a few absolutely gorgeous musical scenes with Mo. But I won't get into that here because that's some of the best parts of the whole story. But Bob absolutely shines. :)

I'm still giggling at all the great scenes and the snark. And please don't mistake me when I refer to snark. The snark is built into every level of the novel, from dialogue right down the scenes, the characters, the themes, and the plot. All of it: SNARK.

Yummy. :) :) :) One of my favorite UF series ever, and it has everything a growing boy could ever want. Tentacular horrors, hacking, Bond action, and utter geekiness. :)

Original review:

This book is my personal favorite of the series so far. Maybe I happen to enjoy Ian Flemming's style, and maybe I just happen to love the freaky humor that turns the whole novel into a very prolonged visual joke. The best reason for loving the novel is the same as the previous stories: the beautiful mixture of ideas.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

The PowerThe Power by Naomi Alderman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I've just stumbled upon one of those "Important Works" I keep saying is so necessary. No UF fluff with magical women or post-apocalypse SF nonsense where it's mostly about shocking us about the brutality of man against woman. (It seems that's mostly what it is, these days.)

Indeed, what we've got here is a careful and complex study of all the gender roles turned on its head, slowly, surely, and irrevocably.

We have women getting the power to shock the living shit out of anyone and teach this power to any other woman. Throw that wrinkle in today's worldwide culture, and suddenly we have a really ugly war of the sexes on a scale that's horrifying. All the abuses of power, of violence, of insanity, is now going to be returned to the sender.

I'll be honest, I loved the grand build-up of this reversal of power, thought the justice of it was delicious as hell. But it's another thing to see the justice turn to insanity. The practice of power for power's sake. To see women roaming the streets looking to abuse a stray man who was just looking for it, to have training camps to make women all stronger, to destroy anything that gets in their way.

It still seems like justice. All those nasty patriarchies and misogynists getting their due was FUN. Until it wasn't. Until women become fully as bad as the men always were. Or as we assume men always were.

The book also brings up the question of archeology in a wonderful way, fast-forwarding 5000 years into a culture where women have all the power and men are treated exactly the way women are treated today. With intellectual dishonesty, prejudice, ignorance, and the assumption that things were always as they were now, that men in armies are a joke or a sexual fantasy that could never have been true, like some of us may say Amazonians are today. That all the ancient statues destroyed depicting men as warriors back then must have been a grand joke or not what it seems. That the author, a man, ought to change his name to a woman's for the publication of the book to lend it credence.

And this last bit happens throughout this novel, lending it an inevitable and horrific outlook on the nature of the real problem.

It's not men. Or women. It's as Adler says. It's a POWER issue. Those with power abuse it. Those with power over others need to have someone to USE it on. This is the root of the disease.

I've often thought and agreed with certain authors who bring up the possibility that women DID have the power in our ancient pasts, 45-55 thousand years ago, the statues being the only evidence I really have. I liked to daydream about what lost societies, full cultures, civilizations in our own deep pasts might have been like before time eroded everything.

There really is no reason not to believe we've been through this exact same cycle many times, always suffering the same hubris and error in thinking. Power causes upheaval. The pendulum swings. The weak inherit the earth, and then the new weak inherit the earth, and then the new weak inherit the earth.

It's humbling, this turning of the wheel.

But back to the novel. It's extremely well written and painful to witness and thought-provoking and even delightful at times. It's also deep. Easily one of the very best novels of it's kind, being obviously gender-centric, sociological, and quite entertaining on the character level. The skein of power is almost secondary to the story. It's all about turning the tables. :)

I totally recommend this book for everyone. Period. It's just that brilliant and should be required reading for anyone in the discussion of what it means to be a woman OR a man. Let's open our eyes! :)

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What can I say? It felt very much like book one of Harry Potter in terms of plot and situation, only milder and set in Nigeria.

It shouldn't have felt milder. Objectively, there were child mutilations and a serial murderer on the loose. And there wasn't some gigantic castle with enchantments up to protect the students. So theoretically, if I were one of these four kids, I'd be creaming my pants.

Brushing that aside, the setting is deeply fascinating to me, with magics very tied to the place and culture, with masks and masquerades and local spirits and demons and angels. The magic system was solid and cool, as were all the magical beasties.

I didn't even mind the mirroring of HP elements popping up like clockwork... like everywhere... I just let myself enjoy the magic, the discovery, and the coming of age.

Sometimes that's all you need to do. :) I think I might like to continue with the series. It's a comfortable, familiar ride, but just off the beaten path.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Food of the Gods (Gods and Monsters: Rupert Wong #1-2)Food of the Gods by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh lordy. When it comes to genre mashing, I'm usually first in line and chortling with glee when it comes to the wild and the wacky. Coming into this one relatively free of any expectations other than knowing it was a group read with some friends, I blanked my mind and began it.

First impressions: Oh! Chinese gods, the underworld, a damned chef and the problem of keeping the ghouls happy with their meals. Oh! Godfather. Oh! This is GORY. Oh! Rupert has one hell of a snark going on and even if I don't particularly like him or what he does, he's funny as hell.

Second impressions, coinciding with the second novella (two of which make up a single novel): I'm really getting into this. Life on the line for the stunt he pulled, he's sent to work for the enemy, I.E., the Greek Gods. As a Chef. And they're all a real nasty piece of work. Survival novel, mystery, and twisty, twisty machinations including new gods, old gods, and a really fun Outsider Cthuhlu god later... CHAOS, BLOOD, and so much gory death. :)

The second one was even better than the first, but I'll put it this way: 3 star, 5 star. This damned chef has really grown on me. Like undead tattoo fairies. Or an immortal youtube cat begging for scraps. :)

So, a word of warning: You must be comfortable with graphic, graphic gore. :) The rest is a very humorous comedy of errors featuring a cannibal chef who keeps getting into trouble with all the wrong gods. It's very reminiscent of some classic mystery/comedies with a huge American Gods twist.


Me, I LOVE bizarro fiction and Khaw's writing skill is tops. No complaints there. Quite funny, great turns of phrase, and always snappy. She just pushes the boundaries as far as she likes with the gore, and I really appreciate that. :)

Now, I need to go take a shower.

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Monday, February 19, 2018

NoumenonNoumenon by Marina J. Lostetter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's always nice to pick up tales about generational starships, a repeatedly cloned crew, and an AI that helps them make the journey.

Sound familiar? I mean, we've had stories like this for many generations aboard this starship and have discussed AIs for as long. We've had a long line and a recent bout of great novels touching upon all these aspects, such as KSR's Aurora and Neal Stephenson's Seveneves, not to mention Tchiachovski's Children of Time, to mention some of the very best among the latest.

Fortunately, this isn't a rehash. It's a serious thought experiment combining new thought in the fields of psychology, sociology, artificial intelligence and even DNA hard data storage techniques. :) I appreciated the subtle explorations and the different directions the author took them, showing me that she knew her SF history like an expert, never running over precisely the same ground.

But it is still all very familiar. And adding that to solid characters with their own personalities, some much more interesting than others, of course, we always have an entertaining and nicely flowing tale. Very few hiccups at all. I especially liked the exploration of Earth after their return. It could have gone so many ways and I'm very pleased with Numenon's final direction.

I can't say this is the best novel of its type but it is written in a nicely flowing modern style with a big focus on characters. It doesn't stint on the science, either, and the big, big focus on the AI is a major bonus in my book. :)

I do recommend this for you fanboys and fangirls. :)

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Only Human (Themis Files, #3)Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The final book in the trilogy!

This one's a hard one to review only because it bucks expectations. Maybe only mine, but still.

Did I want answers and a big robot battle? Yes. Did I get answers and a big robot battle? Absolutely.

The direction of the storytelling will probably take you for a wild loop, however. It did for me. The cliffhanger had all my sights on the alien homeworld (or it's war-staging area) and I'm totally into the epistolary nature of these novels, so now I've got to reconcile myself to the fact that humanity is in WAY OVER ITS HEAD.

Derp. Fast forward another 10 years.

The aliens don't have their crap together. Haven't for a while. Oh, sure, they're technologically advanced and can still vaporize cities and teleport and do these nifty perfect atomic clones, but they're a pretty damn good mirror to our own messed-up selves. You know, US/Them crap about genetics. Purebloods and democracy skewed in favor of said Purebloods. Like I said, very familiar.

And our MCs live in this world for a decade, feeling the weight of the aliens' guilt and embarrassment until it all goes pear-shaped and we spend the rest of the novel back on Earth.

The characters really carry this novel, as they did the previous ones. Our fantastic rock-em-sock-em robot bash and the two battlers turned the scene into some really really tragic, heartwarming and rage-filled. The father/daughter dynamic was pretty brilliant.

I may have shed a few tears. The buildup was intense.

But the end? I really want to talk about the end but that's a spoiler too much. Suffice to say, I'm both conflicted and satisfied at the same time. Some pretty awesome humor and a lot of shame for being a member of this human race.

But then, what should we expect with a title that evokes a shrug? Oh, we're Only Human. Well, no excuses are going to cut this. You go, Rosa. :)

I'm already getting nostalgic. Action and pathos for the win. :)

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Waking Gods (Themis Files, #2)Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 2/17/18:

Thrilled as hell to get the ARC of book three, I decided to go on a tear through the first two again.

But Why?

Because they're just that good. Great characters, fantastic dialogue, and action, action, action. What kind of action? GIANT ROBOT ACTION.

I hated to see who died and loved to see who took over. I'll leave it at that. I would like to call this pure popcorn fiction, but it's a bit better crafted than that. Deceptively simple, even, sprinkled with very sharp quotes and humor. I'd say don't miss this SF if you're at all a fan of SF at all. It's pure fun. :)

And with that cliffhanger.......

I'm SO HAPPY to have the new book! WOOOO! WOOOO!

Original Review:

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I've been looking forward to this one ever since I read the ARC for the first, and I cannot even begin to describe how excited I was when I got the second. :)

In the first, we get an adventure and the assembly and the loss and the regaining of the Giant Robot Themis, with our motley pilots and oh-so-mysterious Interviewer.

In this one, we dive right into the thick of things ten years after the adventure began with the arrival of rival robots from right across the universe. We'd already heard tales of them in the first, from strange long-lived people who'd stayed behind to see through the bloodlines, but this is where things get really wonky.

And where the death-count starts rising.

And if you're more interested in the characters and their arcs, never fear. Some very interesting developments are happening. Am I just as thrilled for the Neon Genesis Evangelion nod? Hell yeah. Do I love this tale and the odd kinds of twists and turns surrounding our original researcher? Double hell yeah.

As for our not-so-favorite geneticist? I feel nothing but loathing. That's kind of the point. She rather deserves it. :)

No spoilers since this won't be released for several more months, but suffice to say I really enjoyed it and I really want to sing its praises. I love my big robots! I love ALL my big robots, even if they're not on our side. They still give me the warm tingles. :)

All told, if you guys haven't enjoyed the first novel, then get on it. The second is just as delicious and its satisfying all types of unfulfilled SF niches for us. :)

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Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1)Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Update 2/17/18:

Boy, I keep re-reading this stuff and I never seem to have any problems doing so. I'm still having fun and it's still popcorn fun!


So why did I re-read? I just got the pre-release of book three, Only Human. It's CALLING TO ME! :)

Update 12/10/16:

Just re-read and what can I say? I still love it. Didn't really miss anything from the first time, but that certainly doesn't matter when I'm just having fun. :)

Robots! ROBOTS!!!! *squeeeeeeeeeeeeee*

And now that I've got the ARC for the sequel, it's more like *double squeeeeeeeeeeeeeee* :)

Old review 2/2/16:

A big thank you goes to Netgalley, and I can only ask for an apology for holding off so long before reading this novel. I suppose I figured that anything that would give away such a long lead-time is either playing the really hopeful card or the really cautious one.

I'm here on the other side of reading it to say that I had a great time!

I do hate blurbs that say misleading things to link an author to other big items like The Martian or World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, and honestly, this novel is really nothing like them.

It deserves to stand on its own. And thanks to a little reconstructive surgery, I'm sure it will! ;) Sorry. That's a little inside joke. Read it and I'm sure that'll become crystal clear. :)

No, if I really HAD to make a connection with this and some other media, then it's closer to Pacific Rim or Neon Genesis Evangelion than some space adventure or a zombie apocalypse. Indeed, in some ways it's better written than either of those novels.

I've had the pleasure to review a few novels with epistolary writing recently, and this one happens to clock in at one of the easiest and interesting, based entirely on transcripts, so it's completely a novel of dialogue. I loved it.

Out of all the characters, I think I loved the interviewer best. He or she, whatever the person's name is, has got to have one hell of a head on his or her shoulders. All I can say is, "Bravo on the Long Game!" I wanted to cheer!

This is an absolutely delightful and pure SF novel that doesn't dumb down to us, expresses true joy at revealing the nature of the universe, and for the rest of us who are in it for a grand adventure with high stakes and much, much higher stakes to come thanks to the Titans, you're in for a treat.

I was never bored. Not even once. I loved the scientific progression that led to the political horrors all the way to the ruthless exploitations. But what really sparked my fire was the quick return to something wonderfully idealistic, even if, or despite its being paraded about as an absolute necessity.

There's something delightfully evil about it.

If this isn't a brilliant start to a wonderful new SF series, then I'll be a monkey's uncle. I'd read the living hell out of the entire series and chortle all the way, knowing that SF is not dead or dying... it's just preparing for a new and JUST life as a Giant.

Is this a Heroic novel? Hell yes. I think that's what we've been missing all these long years. :)

Wonder and heroism and a nice handful of mythology to boot.

Read this. Read it, everyone. We need more stories like this on the market. :)

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Legend of Sumeria (Life · Blood · DNA)Legend of Sumeria by Biju Parekkadan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This first installment grabbed my attention nearly for the subject alone. I love Sumeria and everything related to it and I have a rather large fondness for genetics, too.

I kinda expected something along Zecharia Sitchin's work transformed into a comic or something along these lines. I didn't care. It could get as wild as it wanted. :)

The story in this is fine, kinda written in broad strokes and high emotion and less meat than I might have preferred, with the exception being the drawings of blood from a science standpoint. That was meaty, so to speak, but it was almost the entire meal. The rest was... okay. It didn't really grab me one way or another.

The drawings were not good. Angles and perspectives were highly unflattering or even odd in a way that never came close to being psychedelic or a part of a greater story. It was annoying.

Some bits and pieces of the whole work showed a little promise, but the alien angle was as rushed and bland as the character development back on Earth.


At least I still like the generalized idea behind it!

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Good GuysGood Guys by Steven Brust
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fairly light UF superhero fiction with traditional powers, relics, and mystery.

Of course, it's fueled by quasi-governmental agencies and assassinations that may or may not be justified, but the real joy in the novel comes from the mystery.


Increasingly interesting and gory effects murder.

But to whom? And why?

The guilty. :) You know all those bank people who busted the economy, or the a-holes who focused on all their specialty pet projects but completely ignored the plights of the common man? Yeah. Deaders.

Feeling conflicted? Me, too.

But that's the joy we can gleam from this superhero novel. Magic, relics, and the common man. Minimum wage superheroes???? Come on. You KNOW this has to be a gimmick. A fun one, too. :)

I've been a big fan of Brust for a long time now and this modern rendition of the comic tradition is fun as hell. Just bring the beer. Please. The good stuff. Don't get all pansy ass on me.

Thanks to netgalley for the ARC!

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Knight's Shadow (Greatcoats, #2)Knight's Shadow by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I fell into this second book with no hesitation, read through its long pages with great joy, and ended it feeling so satisfied.

This is odd.

Why? Because despite being a party to a great character's prolonged torture and hellish defeat, I still feel like I came out on top. Falcio has it really rough in this novel. Really, really rough.

And yet, all the humor is intact, all the brilliant action scenes, all the corruption and vice in the kingdom and all the desperate idealism of those few who still believe in mercy and justice in the face of an overwhelming need to get all revenge-y on those Knights' asses. :)

It's a hell of a good balancing act and the author pulls it off beautifully. The world-building is deep and thoughtful and larger than life, but it's the people inside it that live and breathe.

And then there's the whole Saint business, the visiting gods and their inability to shape anything except obliquely, and, again, the brilliant action scenes filled with despair, skill, heartbreak, and sacrifice. I can't emphasize these bits enough.

As a fantasy, I'm placing it right up there on some of the best of the best, but not for the flash of magic or the scope, but for the nitty-gritty heart, the detail, and the characters.

What can I say? I'm in love. :)

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Unclean Spirits (Gods & Monsters, #1)Unclean Spirits by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let's be real here. This one is bare-bones wicked, amping up the horror elements, the noir mystery elements, and then, finally, a total American Gods vibe.

Only all the gods have been cast down and the one who cast them down is gone. As in gone, gone. What's left? All the b-listers with a fragment of their original abilities, from Sumerian, Greek... everything... working to maintain their little kingdoms in the modern world.

Fifty years of this, and even the gods are jaded, annoyed, and upset about their lot in life.

This isn't funny like Kevin Hearne's great Iron Druid series. It's not sly like a natural noir. It's gritty, bloody, and dense. It starts with great action and mystery and always just trying to keep one's head afloat, and it gets absolutely wild with absolutely enormous stakes. As in an empty hell and and empty heaven kind of stakes.

It's hardcore cool, but it's also tiring as hell.

Who should I recommend this to? Anyone who's a fan of old gumshoe tales, super-gritty and disturbing personal lives, and anyone who wants a world of mean streets full of all the most fantastic gods. Eros gets murdered, Psyche is a MC, and so is Aphrodite. Want more? Read the book. No spoilers, but it's wild. Shifting alliances, backstabbers, hidden gods and imprisoned ones, awesome parentages and bloodlines fill these pages while always remaining true to a hardcore thriller mode.

I'm super impressed. I'm really surprised that this isn't being read by everyone. Like, rabidly. Especially all you folks who love your mythologies and can trace all the bloodlines of all the gods and demigods.

It's important. :)

And thanks to Netgalley for the ARC! (Republished, I do believe.)

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BesiegedBesieged by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is pure candy. What else can we expect out of a collection of novellas and short stories set in between the long-running Iron Druid series? Of course, we need to have some passing familiarity with the events, but for the most part, these snap right along and give us cute, sometimes, funny, and sometimes horrific scenes of an immortal druid battling demons in the wild west or taking on carnies.

Say what?

Well, yeah! And running from Bast in ancient Egypt! Oops. Well, we always knew that Atticus was a dog person. Right, Oberon? Want some meat, my immortal Irish Hound? :)

There's even a short with the knock-off thundergod sporting black leather and hunting down a wizard perv. You gotta love these.

Gods and goddesses are everywhere and Atticus always makes such GOOD friends with everyone.

This is great for all of us who miss the series. Fortunately, I'm enjoying Hearne's new fantasy quite a bit, so I'm not going to cry. Too much.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Body LibraryThe Body Library by Jeff Noon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To call this a simple Noir mystery is to completely miss the point. Noon has created something on a completely different level of anything I've read before.

Yeah, that's right. The world of the imagination taking to the mean streets, turning meta-fiction on its head and grounding a whole world in a stinking reality where people really are the stories and stories walk the streets.

This is a fantasy and a science fiction novel. Make no mistake about that. Noon is running with a fantastic idea where a city must live with the fundamental fact that words are magic for everyone. Everyone is a writer, and if they aren't, then they're a character in someone else's' story. The motivations are clear. To get ahead, you must write. And then the police are editors and there are Dada fiction writers rebelling against the same-old narratives and murder isn't always murder... it's art.

The novel makes it gritty and grounded in the Noir foundation, but by god, it gets hallucinogenic as hell as Nyquist (our escaped protagonist from a city beset by shifting timelines) finds himself in a murder mystery he has to solve, only to get caught up in a madness of becoming a writer or be the written.

Lordy, this was one HELL of a trip. Not for the faint of heart. Or the impatient. But by Bradbury in heaven, I swear this is the spiritual godson of The Illustrated Man on PCP.

Noon's imagination is TOP NOTCH. I think I've just found my new favorite to-go guy for cutting edge and brilliant Weird fiction.

*does a happy dance*

A BIG thanks to Netgalley for letting me read this early. :)

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Monday, February 12, 2018

A Man of Shadows (John Nyquist, #1)A Man of Shadows by Jeff Noon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this book should be proud to sit atop the "New Weird" label.

It is like Dark City, a potboiler Noir with a very timey-wimey worldbuilding twist.

For the early part of the novel, it's all hardboiled detective stuff and it's familiar and fun, but I for one was clicking my teeth for the moment it started showing me the good stuff. And it did... in time zones.

A city all in man-made darkness, stars that never moved, where time is a relative thing, where industry collapses when certain pieces of reality can slip into different time streams.

Like, cool, right? Chaos. And industry leaders, working stiffs, government officials, everyone does their very best to keep the peace and the time in place.

I can't tell you how much I love this idea.

The detective noir stuff is polished, too. From a missing kid to a freaky wild family mystery to lots of cool spoilery things happening. :)

I can easily say I'm going to be reading a LOT more of Jeff Noon. Mixed genres may be a kind of specialty thing for intrepid and courageous readers, but it's so damn rewarding. Let your imaginative hair down! :)

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sienna McKnightSienna McKnight by R.K. Syrus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a novel of ultraviolence for all you military novel nuts with a hankering for added paranormal abilities. :)

I know you're out there. You like the fight. You like the anger. You like drive, the teamwork, the gun- nuttery. :) Above all, you like the anger.

It doesn't hurt that Sienna is a borderline sociopath with great survival skills. It's fun for exactly what it is. It's popcorn and gunporn.

Looking forward to more!

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The Last IotaThe Last Iota by Robert Kroese
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I seem to be reading a lot of humor books capturing the essence of economics lately. It's almost as if economics is funny.


The Last Iota certainly takes electronic currencies on a wild spin. It throws us in a wild cyberpunk future mixing clones, lawless zones in the heart of LA with high-tech military action and gives us a sociopathic genius as the other MC, the main one being a tactically brilliant hands-on guy who we follow and love to see clash with his partner.

So wait. Is this a great high-tech thriller or is it a comedy?

It's both, maybe neither. It's a noir mystery with overtones of Sherlock Holmes if Sherlock just wanted to see the world burn and he thought an Ex-Seal Team murderer might be a good choice to serve as his conscience. It's certainly funny as hell. Weird, huh? It works. Especially when you hunted a lost sheep in the heart of the city in the previous book and a worthless limited edition coin representing electronic currency in this one. :)

See the disconnect?

Oh yeah. It's pretty awesome.


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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Christmas Past  (The Chronicles of St. Mary's, #8.6)Christmas Past by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Short and delightful xmas story featuring our scariest mom yet. Max. Also, arguably the worst. Or best. Depends on your POV. :)

She takes her child to disease-ridden London to give food and blankets to Matthew's old friends in the muck.

Time-travel can be nice, sometimes, and no one got pissed on. This time.

The best part is the yelling. Go Max!

A very Scrooge-y story. :) And cute.

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Fire DanceFire Dance by Ilana C. Myer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Without getting into spoilers, I think this novel is poetry.

This may not be self-evident, but when we deal with poets and an academy of poets who may or may not grow into magicians, anything might happen.

It begins with death, from a highly-placed demise inside the academy to the deeply shaded returning character of Lin from A Song Before Night to the gruesome demise of many melted people. It's a lightly-stepped dance between light and shadow, life and death.

The writing is gentle and nuanced. Don't expect harsh plotting. Expect winding and weaving and storytelling that's more about paths and discoveries and the darkness that lays ahead, the light behind.

I said it was more like poetry than a novel. And it is.

For a fantasy, and specifically for being a sequel, it feels like a departure in tone and events. There were some things I missed and some things that were explored much better in this one, but I'm afraid that these are purely personal preferences.

In all, this is an exceptional novel of personal discovery within the academy and from without, following along with students on one hand and back with an older, wiser, and beset Lin on the other.

Settle in for a long tale that deserves a leisurely read or at the very least a careful one. Much can be missed by moving too fast, but know that it is worth it in the end.

More will come. The fire doesn't end in absolute ashes. :)

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

White Trash Zombie Unchained (White Trash Zombie, #6)White Trash Zombie Unchained by Diana Rowland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Make no mistake, when I rate this book, I'm rating it out of sheer enjoyment. It's total popcorn goodness. AND this particular book in the series is a bit more fun than all the rest. Or at least it just feels that way.

See those crocs on the cover? See that zombie handling them? Yeah?

I'm telling you. This is FUN. It could have taken a more generally funny turn, but it didn't. It's just pure UF goodness with a tribe of zombies eating brains in exchange for immortality, secret and not so secret facilities trying to use or destroy them for their immortality, and it does it with great characters.

Cure for zombies? No, way! Enslave zombies? No, way! Brains in chip format? Sure. Love and rot? Sure. High tech research, zombie crocs, a dreaded sociopathic foe? Sure! :)

I'm sorry, but this just tickles all my funny bones. :) Like raspberry ice cream. With BRAINS.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Troop of Shadows (The Troop of Shadows Chronicles #1)Troop of Shadows by Nicki Huntsman Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe I'm getting a little jaded with the whole idea of post-apocalyptic fiction or maybe I'm just tired of plain-Jane portrayals without excellent hooks.

Fortunately for us, this isn't one of those. :)

The execution is all survival fiction after a major plague with all the elements you might expect, the food runs, guns, men treating women like inflatable bags to be thrown away, evil villains, and striving for civilization amongst all the rot.

However, the hook is rather neat. The plague kills off everyone except special needs cases. There's a big continuum between sociopaths, the autistic, and the genuinely brilliant and adaptable, but that's a cool spin on who survives to later die.

I had the most enjoyment not out of the survival bits but in seeing how the characters moved along and got along and how they meshed in a large community.

It feels like humanity is being fine-tuned to some gigantic genetic experiment, and we're right there in the heart of it.

No spoilers. It's simply good post-apocalyptic fiction that not only conforms, but stands out with the rest of the genre. More than that, it shines in the twist. :)

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Ophiuchi HotlineThe Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After I finished the Gaia trilogy, I knew I had to keep going through all of John Varley's work.

It's not a compulsion. It's a necessity for the sake of my love of SF.

John Varley is one of the most impressive authors of the field I've had the pleasure to experience. The imagination and the devotion to pushing all those envelopes is the key to my love. :)

This one starts out noir with cloning goodness, moves on pretty quickly to the fate of the Earth and how it had been invaded, very successfully, to save the fishes and to oust the rest of humanity as lower life-forms. If the intrigue to Free Earth hadn't been enough, there was the whole business about the message being transmitted just outside of the reach of the inner system, the one letting us know that the bill has come due for the instantaneous communication technology we'd been using for the last five hundred years.


I guess it's time to figure out if humanity is doomed two times over!

Maybe it sounds like a joke, but it's hardly anything like a joke. The telling of it is all adventure, immortality, corruption, intrigue, and pure imagination through and through. The joy is really in the execution.

And the ending? Wow. Like, totally wow. This is easily one of the very best Hard SF novels I've ever read. It's right up there with anything I can think of. It explores time, memory, and even the social aspects of what alien races might think or do and how they could relate to any other species.

I'm tempted to rank it right up there on the same level as Cixin Liu's latest English-translated trilogy starting with Three Body Problem and ending with Death's End, and I haven't even read Varley's subsequent novels. :)

You can guess that I'll be picking up books two and three very soon. :) This is on another level compared to most modern SF. Let's just call it an undisputed classic. :) '77 and timeless.

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The Agony of AfterThe Agony of After by Scott Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm willing to go out on a limb here and say that Mr. Hale is one of the most compellingly disturbing masters of horror to have come out of nowhere in the last few decades.

The rest are just piddling around with character studies of people who have lost a little here or there or people who like to cause a little misery. Some just have monsters to survive or monsters to be.

Mr. Hale takes everything much further than that. He goes epic. Great characters, deep imaginings, fully connected worldbuilding in every single story and novel, and more blood and tentacular horror than I've seen in any book.

I've read a lot. A lot. My guilty pleasure has always been horror in all its breeds, but I have a very soft spot for the over-the-top stuff. As in... you've become super comfortable in this life of genres, have you? Loving the social message, the complicated family life, the career? It sucks you in... and then the worst horrors of anyone's imagining crawl out of the walls, the ground, the trees, even time, flipping everything you think you know on its head.

And the greatest thing about Mr. Hale's work? It's consistent, it's freaking horrific, and he's only getting better.

These four long novellas have probably gone to the top of my list of favorites.

Where the Dead Go to Die - A social worker gets a lot more than he bargains for with the remnants of the Ashcroft family.

Augurs - My personal favorite, a complicated LGBT community tweets itself into a nightmare of epic proportions, but first it does a damn awesome job of exploring its own issues.

A Child in Every Home - A place where families are the causes of their own misfortunes. A missing child case goes horribly, horribly awry.

Trauma - Mr. Haemo is back and we explore behind the scenes of so many of the happenings in the novels after the Trauma, where black is white and graves are the birth canals.

Welcome to the Wormverse.
I can't recommend these enough. There's more blood in these than you can fit in a stadium pool.

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Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Vor Game (Vorkosigan Saga, #6)The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 2018:

My head spun. Really. It did.

I will not go on record saying that this was anywhere near my favorite Vorkosigan novel, but there is enough plain fun and wild plotting and vibrant characterizations to satisfy any old-school Space-Opera junkie.

I make no excuse. Miles is a superhero. He rides the wave of superheroic Bujoldian coincidence and Miles always happens to be the right person in the right place with the right quippy tongue and the right mind for the job. Even when he isn't. He just happens to have a rather quick imagination and the ability to spin tales that anyone believes.

That, I guess, is pretty damn amazing. :)

It also says a lot about Bujold. :)

Original Review:

This was a great fast tale, and satisfying on many levels, but I have a few issues with it. Perhaps it's my same issue with all of the tales. It's plot providence. It ties up all of the side issues quite nicely, true, but it's almost unbelievable. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the different sections of the book almost as if it was a collection of short stories, and it really had the feel of just that, but when Miles comes up against his previous commander in the employ of the other mercenaries on pure chance, I went... Huh? He was old guard, and very unlikely to leave his beloved homeland. Perhaps he could be convinced to participate in a coup, but not to work as a mercenary. I might not have had this reaction if he had just been a completely different man, but then, the same level of hate wouldn't have made sense.

Sometimes, it's impossible to satisfy readers.

That being said, I had a great time reading it and Mile's antagonists were crushed to my great satisfaction. It can only be described as a great yarn. A lot happens, and I even accepted the fantastic chance that brought the Emperor into Miles's care (or neglect) as a funny way to up the stakes. Actually, the emperor kinda stole the show at one point.

Actually, a lot of Ms. Bujold's supporting cast tend to steal the show, often. I'm reading all of these with a keen eye on Ivan, too.

Very enjoyable!

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Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Mountains Of MourningThe Mountains Of Mourning by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Third read, 2/3/18:

You know, maybe it's just me, but the other times I'd read these books in a row, I really wanted big pew-pew military action. I wanted something big and outrageous like we had in Warrior's Apprentice.

When I read this in the timeline order, I was mightily pissed to have a measly character-building and societal change message wrapped tight in a murder mystery in the boondocks on Vorkosigan lands, in what should have been a lull right after graduation.

Upon a lot of reflection and ratcheting up a just eye, I'm reading this novella as if it had nothing to do with anything. I took it on its own merits.

What did I come up with?

Great mirroring of themes. Prejudice against mutants among all the ignorant peoples. Infanticide, blind fear, and a Miles who is automatically assumed to be the devil because he looks like a mutation. And even if he isn't, it'll be impossible to look into a murder of a child for being a mutant without having a ton of hate also centered on him. Maybe the backwater population of his own people should have been justified in being afraid of what Miles would do.

He's livid. But he's also trying to be just and clever and impartial even when it doesn't seem remotely possible in this situation. What can he do in a day and a half? Where can justice be found? Children are still being murdered in ignorance. In his own people's eyes, he should have been murdered in his own crib.

It's a powerful story.

Miles is still reeling under the effects of his own impossible grandfather who had been such a source of pain and a rift in his own family, who had wanted to do the same to him as the rest of these people, and yet Miles had won him over just by being super stubborn.

The young, freshly graduated military man Miles, having broken nearly every bone in his body from experimental treatments to keep him alive throughout his childhood, survived and thrived by this same stubbornness.

The solution and the resolution of this particular murder mystery are very bittersweet. It requires a lot of understanding and a lot of painful wisdom... all of which Miles must cultivate through his own tears.

I upped my rating. I didn't give this enough justice. There are no spaceships, but there is fast-penta interrogations, horses, firebombs, and vitriol. Sometimes scaling it all back is worth it for the penetrating look into a people.

(This won the best novella for hugo, btw)

Original Review:

This novella was intended to underscore social change and flesh out the backwaters of Barrayar and did so in murder-mystery fashion. Miles got himself into it and eventually got himself out, as well. The story takes place right after his graduation, and while it doesn't create immediate and widespread social change, it's a start. It's also not particularly my favorite out of the series, but it does have its place. There's no space battles, mercenary fleets, or megalomaniac dictators. That being said, it's certainly not a bad story. It should be judged on the murder mystery sci-fi standard.

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Absolute Infinite (Absolute Knowledge #3)Absolute Infinite by Drew Cordell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Drew Cordell's future of humanity is surrounded by an AI with inscrutable aims.

In the first novel, what began with a hi-tech dystopia where scarcity was in the mind and humanity is harvested for a very clever use has led to rebellion.

Later on, we're thrown into a rich dystopia with other people who are much better off, but it leads right to the heart of War.

Think Terminator and a long-changing torn world as humanity is exterminated.

But the third book's reveals pick up on a number of fascinating hints in the previous two, taking us right into bootstrapping AI with even more time-travel goodies and much more in the way of uploaded consciousnesses, hi-tech warfare, and discovery, but don't think this is some sort of simple riff on other tales. These novels run with all the implications and is a rather more epic and well-developed.

It's definitely not fluff. It's delicious for all the great SF elements, the interesting character arc, the reveals, and the ultimate shape of the trilogy. :)

All you post-cyberpunk junkies will be doing yourself a great disservice if you ignore this. Seriously. :)

Ready to get thrashed?

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The Long Fall: Book 1 of the Thrilling Post-Apocalyptic Survival Series: (The Long Fall - Book 1)The Long Fall: Book 1 of the Thrilling Post-Apocalyptic Survival Series: by Logan Keys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Do you like technothriller SF that takes the global route, say Day After Tomorrow style? Want deeper characterization and the promise of an epic ride that doesn't go all kiddy on you?

Check this out. It's the first in what is planned to be a long serial, so expect nothing more than 80 pages here, but do expect a dozen more. :) Epic? This is going to satisfy any SF disaster sweet tooth you might have growing in you. :)

Fortunately for us, the action and the fall, the disaster, begins almost right away.

And if you like your whole global warming theme to pick up the pace and scare you to death with a man-made chill, look no further.

SF popcorn read?



Absolutely. :)

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Friday, February 2, 2018

The Wrath of DavidThe Wrath of David by Sean-Paul Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I knew this was a dystopia nightmare before I came into the reading of it, where war had made a nightmare of the world, not just Scotland and the UK where this is set.

I even imagined it was going to be a rather standard tale of a man all in a rage over getting justice for his wife and not finding it after civilization barely hangs on. Not with the police, not with the military, nowhere. I really thought it was going to just be one of those vigilante thrillers full of guns and bad guys getting theirs, all graphic violence and many horrors done to women and the poverty-stricken.

What I didn't expect after this time of standard build-up was a world much worse off than I initially thought. I mean, it's really bad. Slavery in the UK, man. Total brutality toward women. Anyone who's brownish goes through the meat shredder.

And suddenly I'm entirely on-board with a little or even a lot of vigilante justice. Between David and his conscience, Louise, I was sitting on the edge of my seat with awesome action scenes and a great body count. Neo-Nazi England. Pure hell on all immigrants.

Just hell.

Maybe I ought to postpone my trip to England... *shiver* (strikes that off my wish-list)

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Eric (Discworld, #9; Rincewind #4)Eric by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my second read and my reaction is pretty much the same as the first time.

Rincewind is funny.

Or rather, the situations he always gets into showcases the Discworld in awesomely epic ways and we always get vast adventures. Usually with some kind of weird sidekick and a healthy dose of Death.

All true, sure, but what if Rincewind was mistaken for a demon, summoned by a nerdy kid who insists that he is, because, after all, Rincewind came at his demon summoning. :)

Or how about Discworld's version of Troy? Meeting the Creator? Seeing the bureaucratic hell that is... um... hell? :)

It's a tongue-in-cheek romp and while it's quite hilarious and imaginative as hell, I'm caught in that unenviable place of having to judge it among all of Pratchett's other works rather than against the backdrop of all humor or fantasy books.

It's not my favorite Discworld novel. Not by a long shot. BUT it is a lot higher than some, and not even close to many of the later novels. Even so, I loved having Rincewind back again. :)

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

QuietusQuietus by Tristan Palmgren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

This book is going to be a difficult one to review because it breaks a lot of normal conventions. The first half of the novel reads like a good outsider/anthropological exploration of our Black Plague from the PoV of a visitor from an alternate universe (the many-concurrent-universes brane). The second half reads like an outright space-opera full of huge ships and a truly immense population across space and branes and a plague that threatens to wipe them all out.

Similarities? Of course. Direct-line similarities, even, and it gets even more interesting when we have nearly godlike extradimensional civilizations involved in long conflicts with each other and with their own followers. Adding a monk from the middle ages asking important questions about God and why he lets bad things happen becomes another direct mirror to the subjects in these huge extradimensional empires and god-like beings involved in plague warfare.

The structure of this novel is pretty top-notch. I can ruminate about it for a long time and still find some really great questions and explorations. I've barely scratched the surface here.

On the other side of the coin, the factor of how much fun the novel is, how easy it is to read, boils down to how much you like heavy doses of historical fiction. I saw HUGE comparisons to be made between the front half of this novel and Connie Willis's Doomsday Book. Her's was time traveling historians getting stuck in the Black Plague and Tristan's was the moral and ethical quandaries of a multiverse-hopping anthropologist. I enjoyed it well enough and it went in quite interesting directions when it came to messing with indigenous cultures (in a very Prime Directive way) and the question of unintended consequences in timeline-development.

The second half of the novel was spaceships and AI companions and godlike beings messing with all us puny mortals in a very high-class SF full of action, more ethical quandaries, the fate of two vast empires.

My initial reaction as I was reading it was mixed. I liked it well enough but I wanted something juicier and more exploratory. It just felt like a number of other novels I've loved, also including KSR's Years of Rice and Salt and Michael Flynn's Eifelheim.

I did eventually get it. It just took a while to really flow into the historical fiction slant because, with that cover, I really expected the later explosion of big SF. :) No worries. It's there.

This was something rather interesting. I really enjoy the chances it takes. :)

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