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Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Barrow Will Send What it May (Danielle Cain #2)The Barrow Will Send What it May by Margaret Killjoy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. I'm kicked in the head from out on left field. I got this through Netgalley based only on its cover and a single word in the blurb, but the tasting and devouring of the novella? SOOOO good. :)

What to expect? ANARCHY! Woooh Hooo!

The best description I can make is likening this to the Rowdy crew from that Dirk Gently tv series but they're hunting baddies a-la UF fiction and when they aren't mystery-ing it up like the Scooby Gang, they're making pacts with ancient Egyptian gods to resurrect dead friends.

With huge complications.

And in the meantime, the Scooby gang steals, breaks, and thumbs their noses at evil magical Feds and makes sure their lives are led in the freest way ever. Spice of life. Live like this is your last day. Because, for some of them, it was. Yes, past tense. :)

So rowdy! :) Roadtripping, resurrecting, randomizing, you name it, they're doing it. And it's a pure delight.

I do think I'm going to be keeping my eye out for this author something fierce. :)

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Three Men in a Boat (Three Men, #1)Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I originally read this because I'm a big fan of Connie Willis and she went on and on about it, but when I actually read it, I was charmed for its own sake. :)

It's all so very droll.

Fish stories, laziness, incompetence, dishonesty, pathos and great verve stud these pages. It's an adventure for the ages! Of course, it's just three men in a boat, to say nothing of the dog.

Set in Victorian England, it captures the overblown hypochondriac feel of the age. :)

Well worth the read, and now I think I'm gonna hunt down takers for a first or re-read of Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, which, I might add, might be a bit superior in every way. :)

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Nothing Left To Lose (John Cleaver, #6)Nothing Left To Lose by Dan Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Final installment. I, for one, am quite happy with the direction it took and the way it got resolved.

Full circle. John the normal sociopath has been building his conscious ethics across all these books and has made a virtue out of choice. Doing the right thing is not something that comes naturally, but having self-imposed limits means that he defines his world and himself in a way that the demons have categorically *not* been able to do.

Supernatural sociopaths are the closest thing he has to kinship with anyone, too. That was very clear in the previous book.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that amid all the bloodshed and gruesome murders he feels the need to redefine his relationship with his greatest foes, focusing on choice, not revenge.

He doesn't feel things like normal people do. It only follows that he feels a kinship with the monsters.

That being said, I loved returning back to his hometown to finish the war with all the monsters. And things are dark. Very dark. It's the best feature of these novels.

Quite happy, I am! :)

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Over Your Dead Body (John Cleaver, #5)Over Your Dead Body by Dan Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simply gorgeous. A tale of friendship between a suicidal demon and the remnants of dead girls and a psychopathic boy set on destroying the rest of the demons.

It's a roadtrip novel, a cry for help, full of despair and love, goodness and evil.

This ought to be enough to describe it, but it isn't. The previous novels were a wonderful prelude to this, now streamlined and pure in its hellish clarity. Just wow. This is something like 2 or 3 times better than the previous novel, or perhaps its starkness just spoke something to me. :)

Fair warning, there's plenty of huge trigger warnings in this novel. Don't let the YA label scare you. Let humanity do that for you. :)

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume ThreeThe Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Three by Neil Clarke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to Edelweiss for a review copy of this short SF collection!

Like so many "best of" collections, it's often a grab-bag. Like some, and not so much with others.

Fortunately, there are a number of these I live very much and they all happen to hit the hard SF spectrum for me. Maybe this is just a personal preference and perhaps they were objectively a lot more original and creative than the others. Again, this could entirely be my preference-of-the-moment and not a reflection on the quality of the rest.

Which ones stood out, though?

A Series of Steaks - Vina Jie-Min Prasad - Flesh printing and con-jobs. I was rather amused and thrilled by the scope of this one.

Holdfast - an Alastair Reynolds hard take on Enemy Mine... was brilliant in every way and deliciously hard-core on every level. An easy favorite.

Every Hour of Light and Dark - Nancy Kress - It was an okay treatise on forgeries and time travel. Not my favorite story, alas.

The Last Novelist (or a dead lizard in the yard) - Matthew Kressel - Seemed to have a pretty interesting premise and light tone, but I didn't really get into it too much.

Shikasta - Vandana Singh - Pretty cool biology stuff and exploration tech, but its strength was in the diversity of its intellectual digressions even as they explored a new world and biology... not to mention the interesting AI vs human intelligence.

Wind Will Rove - Sarah Pinsker - This one was probably the most compelling non-hard-SF story of the bunch following a colony that had lost all of the cultures it had brought from Earth, desperately attempting to recreate what they had from memory as they moved forward.

Focus - Gord Sellar - Fairly interesting phone SF... but only mildly.

The Martian Obelisk - Linda Nagata - Building a Mars monument. Cool characters. Colonization. Tragedy :)

Shadows of Eternity - Gregory Benford - Lots of tech, exploration. Decent, pretty creative, wormholes, ancient civs, but mostly all about discovery.

The Wordless - Indrapramit Das - A lot more hard-SF and also quite interesting, dark ending.

Regarding the Robot Raccoons Attached to the Hull of My Ship - Jones and Muhamad-Ali - Good epistolary short full of conversation and interesting world-building and relationships. I think I liked these characters among the best in this collection.

Belly Up - Maggie Clark - I think I wanted to like this one more than I did based solely on the good pacing, but that wasn't enough in the end. I didn't really connect.

Uncanny Valley - Greg Egan - This one really stood out for me. Residual Human consciousness mixed into an old love story, degraded rights, a murder mystery, and great old Hollywood charm.

We Who Live in the Heart - Kelly Robson - This one was probably my favorite of all the stories. It had a fantastic mix of blow-you-away imagination and worldbuilding, brilliant setup, fantastic characters, great theme, and an even greater twist. I'm going to be looking out for more of her work for sure.

A Catalogue of Sunlight at the End of the World - A. C. Wise - A rather introspective piece on saving parts of the future and remembering the past with a solid science bent and decent characterization.

Meridian - Karin Loachee - This one snuck up on me but it was a nice twist of stowaways and brotherhood. Great worldbuilding.

The Tale of Alcubierre Horse - Kathleen Ann Goonan - Probably my second favorite story in the book, it's like a twist of Pohl's Starburst and a kidnapping and a wild psychology lesson with heart... ending with colonization. I really enjoyed the full storytelling experience with this one.

Extracurricular Activities - Yoon Ha Lee - Young Jedao. Need I say more?

In Everlasting Wisdom - Aliette de Bodard - Lots of station and setting, pretty interesting cultural worldbuilding, but it didn't quite strike any chords in me.

The Last Boat-builder in Ballyvoloon - Finbarr O'Reilly - A twist on stories from a bar with a future history and great atmosphere.

The Speed of Belief - Robert Reed - Machine souls and exploration, more focused on immortality versus waterbags, diplomacy, species-killers, and alternate intelligences.

Death on Mars - Madeline Ashby - Very interesting intersection between a Mars trip and inoperable cancer. This one might stick with me for a while.

An Evening with Severyn Grimes - Rich Larson - An almost Noir feel with high tech hijinx. Lots of great descriptions.

Zeros - Peter Watts - For outright great science, fantastic zombie characters turned cyborgs, existential horror with programming, and the ennui of war, I had to debate with myself whether this one was topping the whole list of short stories. It's truely great and I'm totally a fanboy of this author.

The Secret Life of Bots - Suzanne Palmer - I wanted to like this more than I did. Still, pretty fun to see the underbelly of the workforce. Shame there is so much stratification, but I guess it drives a story.

Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance - Tobias S. Buckell - Far future SF that I fairly rocked to. I liked feel of the end. :)

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Overtime (Laundry Files, #3.5)Overtime by Charles Stross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 3/28/18:

The weather outside (the universe) is frightful, but the fire (of the furnace) is so delightful, and since we've got no place to go (in time), let it snow (stack overflow), let it snow (stack overflow), let it snow (stack overflow).

Original Review:

My favorite kind of christmas story: gibbering nameless horrors leaving gifts in stockings.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Fuller Memorandum (Laundry Files, #3)The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 3/27/18:

Buddy reads, total fascination with the storyline and reading this multiple times and STILL getting over-enthusiastic about the orgy of nerdy Lovecraftian bureaucracy? Maybe it's just right for me and I've grown into it so much that I can't destiny disentangle myself any longer. :)

Or perhaps I'm just coming to deeply appreciate this series even more than I did when I first read them. It's all connected, man! :) So I'm upping a star. :)

I'll try not to spoil here, but the fact is... I'm a total fanboy. Bob is my nerdtastic hero. And his boss? Can I have a crush on a DSS? I suppose I can, but that's deeply scary. :)

Original Review:

Such a beautiful thing to be the Eater of Souls. I truly enjoy departmental cockups in lit, and when it all goes pear-shaped, I go all teary-eyed. Maybe if I try to get on the fast-track, I, too, can be an immortal monster determined to defend the Upper-Middle-Class English Lifestyle. We can only hope.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Moving Pictures (Discworld, #10; Industrial Revolution, #1)Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a re-read and I'm upping my rating because, well, let's face it: this is the start of a brand new chapter in the Discworld and it follows the main style that I have grown to love over all the rest of the books. I was slow to love them at first, but as I continued to see Progress raise its great lumbering head above the trash heaps of Ankh-Morpork (from inside the river, of course,) I can't help but get all bubbly inside.

Memorable moments, and there are a lot of them going well beyond this review, include a certain wild dash of the head magicians, a certain talking dog, Mr. Cut-Me-Own-Throat, and of course the clever use of the old Greek "anamnesis".

And of course the lambasting of old-time Holy Wood. :) It's time has come.

(Sounds rather ominous, right?)

Quite funny through and through, too. And of course, it only gets better from here. The weight of the Discworld about to break the backs of a few elephants and a turtle. :)

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-By-Step GuideOnline Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-By-Step Guide by Fauzia Burke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a much-needed primer for authors needing a kick-start on their marketing campaign.

A lot of it isn't news, but being reminded of everything that's necessary and to highlight a few steps we might be missing, it's fairly essential.

Big takeaways: Every reader, every kind of contact, needs to be earned by a real voice, a personalized message. It's unfortunate for the author who would rather spend his or her days actually writing and polishing the stories that they are so invested in, but it's still important. And kinda obvious.

No one likes spam or blather. Take your time with each person, build contacts, build relationships, make real friends. Then ask for help, especially after you've given it first.

Does this sound daunting for confirmed introverts like myself?

Oh. Yes!

I don't have any issue with treating anyone like they are real people. It's the amount of headspace required to build vast networking empire that makes me want to quail. I don't think I'm any good at any of that. I don't out and mix with people. At all.

If I'm talking with people about things that get me excited, and so much DOES get me excited, then I'm as right as rain. But ACTIVELY asking for help in the much-vaunted art of begging without actually seeming to beg?

It sounds so phony. It sounds so self-serving. It makes me squirm.

And yet. And yet. Writing books is an almost solitary endeavor... at least at first. Some of us are forced to accomplish miracles in a perfect vacuum.

But selling books? It requires word of mouth and therefore a constant building of relationships. We have to use our tools REGARDLESS of our strengths. :) Alas.

I guess it's time to start making friends and begging them to do the things we're unable to do! lol

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Scourged (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #9)Scourged by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm amazed, satisfied, filled with humor and equal dismay.

*wail* This is the end of the Iron Druid. The story of Atticus is done. *wail*

Fortunately, this last book is a wildly good ride, featuring a better Hel and Loki from some movies we've seen, a Ragnarok with full pantheons of the Greek and the Fae on board, as well as a number of great cameos from Jesus, Coyote, and the Monkey King.

This is one hell of a big blowout and it's time for Atticus to account for starting it.

And then there's the Oak Druid's sloth. I can't tell you how much I love her. I think Owen (Atticus's old teacher) is a pretty awesome dude. :) Hopping around the trees with his new friend and talking about bananas as power pills for monkeys is pretty sweet. :) Especially as an aside DURING THE WAR TO END ALL WARS. :)

I can see why the series needs to wrap up but it doesn't stop me from being sad. I am actually very satisfied with how it turned out.

As someone else has already said... "This book deserves all the wags!"


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Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Comet Kings (Captain Future, #11)The Comet Kings by Edmond Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I approached this old SF space-opera adventure from 1942 with some trepidation, expecting something of a Buck Rogers vibe, especially with a protagonist who calls himself Captain Future.


But what I found wasn't an abject travesty, but a plain fantastic adventure pitting a motley crew of a dashing scientist, a robot, a brain in a jar, a telepathic dog, a .... oh, wait... this is just like Buck Rogers... against aliens from the fourth dimension (read alternate dimension rather than time) who had transformed the peoples of Haley's Comet into shiny electric people who are forever doomed to exist in pale immortal caricatures of their former humanity on the hurtling ball.

It really wasn't that bad.

You get bluster and bravado and heroic professions of love, derring-do, and general space cowboy shit.

It's kinda refreshing. Light fun.

No horribly embarrassing misogyny. Or maybe just a little. But what can you expect out of a genuine space-opera? Like, one of the original space-operas? This is the Saturday morning cartoon equivalent of SF, folks. :) And for those of you not old enough to remember that little cultural artifact, it's the time where all the good (and corny) adventure cartoons with magic and robots were stacked up for you all morning. Some were okay. Some were trash. Some were the kinds you could binge watch because they were completely empty of calories.

Guess which kind of SF this was?


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Obsidio (The Illuminae Files, #3)Obsidio by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I went through some changes with this book.

At first, I was all excited to get to the next (and last), to see what happened to my favorite mad AI or, to a lesser degree, the silly tragic kids constantly surrounded by death and destruction and corporate greed and space-opera goodness.

And then war set in.

Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it. It kinda dragged for me. I wondered if it was all me or if I was meant to be dragged through the mud of never-ending resistance or feeling the horror of being on the side of evil and not having any means of getting out of it. The ambiguity should have worked for me, but this novel just kept getting darker and darker.

Every time my buddy AI came on stage, I was pretty happy, but the rest of the time, I had to wonder whether I was feeling down or if it was the purpose of the book.

Suicide triggers, ya'll. Fair warning.

I mean, I've read worse when it comes to suicide triggers, but I suppose I felt kinda close to it here. Sigh.

Still... I don't know what to think about that end. Objectively, the whole novel is full of action and I loved getting more of the original characters from Illuminae and all the battles and military actions felt authentic. I'm sure it's going to be on a lot of people's love lists.

Just not mine, unfortunately. I liked it for the most part, just not enough to go crazy like I had before.

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Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic FutureElon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are few people outside of the fiction world that I truly admire, but barring some unseen or future tragedy, I think Musk might well be on the way to becoming my hero.

If I didn't know any better, I might be looking at all his stated claims and seeing all the echoes of Asimov and Heinlein being dragged out of the page and brought to life.

Skip the whole Iron Man image for a second.

Let's talk about Ayn Rand.

Musk is John Galt. As in Atlas Shrugged.

Sure, he's also Dagney, too, or perhaps more like Dagney in that he's unwilling to let humanity roll around in the mud despite all the backstabbing and idiocracy, in that he hasn't said, "enough is enough". But the day is young. Wait until we get to Mars. Wait until we really take the man of genius and effort for granted. And THEN we'll see what we'll miss once it is taken away.

Ahhh, I don't want to see this man out of classic SF heroes become anything other than his stated goals.

I'll be honest here. He's giving me real hope for humanity. Maybe optimism *isn't* unfounded after all.

This biography tells me one hell of a great narrative. Is it life imitating art? The best ideals from the grandmasters? Who knows. But right now, I have real hope. I'm holding on to it for my very soul. :)

Let's MAKE the future we wanted. Let's NOT let anything stand in our way!


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Thursday, March 22, 2018

City of Saints and Madmen (Ambergris, #1)City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I would love to say this novel defies description, but it doesn't. :) In fact, thanks to the existence of a number of really quite fabulous works that came after it, some from VanderMeer's own hand, we can now properly place this work in its proper context.

New Weird.

Yeah, yeah, but WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

In this case? I'd call this a tightly interwoven series of stories and faux academic papers surrounding the fictional city of Abergris. Expect strange mushrooms that range from hallucinogenic to graphically horrific to a high-grade fever dream of a Lovecraftian occultist.

And let's not forget the squids. Or the squid cults. Or how we have a large portion of the most respected library in Ambergris devoted to books on the squids that range from naturalists to fairy tales to squid cults to conspiracy theories hinting that some of the most troublesome parts of a few popular squid plays were, in fact, written by a certain cephalopod IN HIS OWN INK.

Sound strange? It isn't. Not really. Each tale is a low-grade fever dream couched heavily in the normal, the regular, the banal. Things only get odd at a slow rate, kinda like being boiled alive and not understanding this fact until it is far too late. Of course, that makes us lobsters. Not squid. My metaphor breaks down.

I was honestly driven to real anxiousness and amorphous horror by many of these related tales. Much like his more well-known works in Area X and Borne, he has a wonderful command of the scientific method, an evocative sense of awe, and a well-developed manner of timing his prose to pack a heavy horror punch.

For those of you who are familiar with the general modern fantasy (often SF) field, the closest writers to this wonderful novel would happen to be Christopher Priest's Dream Archipelago sequence. Alan Moore's Jerusalem is also wonderfully close to it. But I won't fail to add, to a lesser degree, China Mieville. :)

New Weird is a genre-bender in all senses, adding heavy fake academics, amazing depth, horror sensibilities, passion, and a dose of THINGS THAT CAN'T BE RIGHT. But are, of course, in the tale. Most of the time, these aspects flabbergast the characters as much as it does us. It's charming and endlessly diverting. :)

Do I recommend?

Oh, yes. For anyone who likes a solid challenge and doesn't mind having their minds blown. Absolutely. :)

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Strange Practice (Dr. Greta Helsing, #1)Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This new Urban Fantasy was a rather slow starter for me. I was like... Oh, okay, a doctor for the monsters. What could go wrong? A little humor, a little less-well-known vamp, some old friendships with unknown monstrous types, and a serial murderer/s on the loose taking out all the good monsters who just want to get along.

The strength would have to rely on the writing rather than the concept for me.

Fortunately, I didn't mind the slow bits so much and after the action picked up I hopped along with the tale quite nicely. All in all, she pulled it off. The basic concept is okay but it's the characters that sold it. Add a pretty surprising run-in with a big bad and some cool worldbuilding with the supernaturals, and I'm quite happy. It may not be the most fascinating UF I've ever read but I may enjoy continuing it.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Murders of Molly SouthbourneThe Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very nice genre-bender, parts SF, Fantasy, and Horror, all surrounding the multiple instances of Molly every time she bleeds. Each time rising from the ground or floor to become a complete copy of herself.

This isn't a humorous novella, however. Indeed, the creep-factor is turned up rather high. Every time a duplicate comes up, she's forced to murder herself.

It works well on several levels. The literal is bad enough, managing to reach over to normalcy while being very horrific, but when it becomes a metaphor, a branching out into anything we must murder within ourselves, it also works wonderfully. It might be a desire or a drive, an orientation or even just a natural preference or religious observation...

And yet it still works. :)

And it works very well as a straight horror, too. Being all-out creepy and disturbing is the name of the game. A subtext isn't necessary to enjoy this. Just figuring out who is narrating should keep anyone endlessly fascinating.

Self-examination is a real horrorshow. :)

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Steel BeachSteel Beach by John Varley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a delightful surprise! Varley is one hell of an idea-prolific SF author who never rests on any old plotline but continually stretches his wings over new shores.

So far, I've read five of his novels and I'm frankly rather blown away each time by each in turn. Why? Because he's more interested in telling great character stories with depth and emotional importance than he is about amazing worldbuilding.

Huh. So what? A lot of modern SF does that all the time.

Ah, but a lot of modern SF doesn't go hog wild with amazing worldbuilding and tech and implications the same way as these older SF novels do.

So wait, what? Is this a novel of ideas or a great story about suicidal characters living in a utopia on the Moon after being ejected from the Earth after an alien invasion there? Or is this a story about a schizophrenic AI gone crazy from loneliness and who decided to experiment heartily on the post need-based humanity for the fuck of it? Or is this a delightfully deep and clever and thoughtful sexual identity SF that explores a lot of the pitfalls of being able to swap sexes for yourself almost on demand?

All of the above. Plus there's wonderful media quips, journalism commentary, wild west nostalgia, and an amazingly funny romp with Heinleinesque libertarians who have their own movement on Luna and who embody the heart of RAH's writings without precisely going into the truly weird shit. :)

Varley goes in his own direction there and it's never preachy and it's genuinely thoughtful. Am I charmed? You bet I am. But then, I loved seeing all the homages to RAH and the way Varley bounces off them in strange and wonderful ways.

One thing that should be remembered: RAH died right around the time Varley would have been writing this. Varley is too good a writer and thinker to pull off a straight homage to the Grandmaster. He wrote a great novel all by itself that is equal to anything Samuel Delaney ever wrote and did it with a great hard SF bent, but tipping his hat to the old master was quite delightful and heartwarming. :)

That being said, I loved this novel! I laughed many times and that's impressive when we're in the heart of depression, ennui, and suicidal thoughts. :)

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Vacuum Diagrams (Xeelee Sequence, #5)Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is some of the hardest of the hard SF out there. Staggering, even.

Let me back up. Baxter's hardest SF is several magnitudes harder than almost any SF author out there. His Xeelee Sequence novels are vast. I mean, we're dealing with an average of 5 million years worth of human evolution, galaxy crafting, and nearly unimaginable hugeness.

Stars' evolution are being sped up for the sake of Dark Matter alien civilizations and vast, inscrutable aliens of the baryonic universe (IE., us and those close to us) are fighting a losing battle against the quickening heat-death of the universe.

I remember my jaw dropping with the scope and how messed up the Ring was, a galaxy-sized superstring constructed around a naked black hole in order to punch a hole OUT of this universe because we can't defeat the truly alien aliens. And by we, I mean the Xeelee.

Humans are kinda idiots. But we have epic struggles and we change ourselves into very strange life, sometimes immortal, sometimes living on the crust of neutron stars, sometimes enslaved by other alien races, but usually always ten steps behind the Xeelee who just don't care about anyone else.

5 million years. That's a lot of amazing ideas jammed in here. Nanotech, physics discoveries, P complete theorems, black-hole quantum intelligences, spiders making webs between Pluto and Charon, deep sun explorers, living spaceship aliens, and truly vast wars and desperation.


And this novel is actually a future history made up of Baxter's short stories, all locked into the same worldbuilding. They're often centered around physics reveals, but there is also a ton of good character building going on, too.

The writing is sometimes not always the best I've ever read, but the sheer volume of ideas and mind-blowing events and situations more than makes up for that.

When I say I'm mind-blown, this is true after reading MOST of his other truly mind-blowing novels. The Xeelee sequence is simply... AMAZING. Wow. Wow. Wow. :)

It won't be for everyone. Not by along shot. But it is a definite must for fans of Cixin Liu or Peter Watts or Alaistair Reynolds. :) Robert L. Forward, too! Or David Brin! :)

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1)Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 3/18/18:

A buddy read and sheer nostalgic orneriness and excitement for the movie has driven me to re-read this classic SF. :)

What can I say? It's even better on re-reads and the nostalgia factor is just as intense. Only this time, I dragged out my old DVDs and watched my favorite geeky 80's films and watched them in the same way that young alcoholics will play a drinking game. Hear a reference, take a shot. In this case, when I hear a reference, I watch the damn movie. :)

I did NOT go the route of TV shows. That way lies madness. Since I am not mad, nor in possession of old tv shows of questionable value, I didn't go nuts. Maybe I did youtube a few old Knight Riders for giggles. Maybe I watched some of the new Voltrons. Shhh. Don't tell anyone.

Original Review:

I have to agree with Hugh Howey's review of this book, for the same reasons: The whole novel was written entirely for me! Of course, I also felt the same way about Among Others by Jo Walton due to the unabashedly glorious references to other fantastic works. Ernest Cline has brought back all of my favorite childhood cultural references in all their glory, except for one which I certainly wish he had worked in. I wanted Princess Bride! But alas, alak, sigh, and ho hum. No issues, seriously. I was giddy through the entire reading of this novel and thought about what a wonderful world it is to have such writers in it. Thank you!

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Unearthed (Unearthed, #1)Unearthed by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

YA Adventure Romance in alien ruins, full of scavengers, raiders, and a mystery that only really gets good at the end.

Yeah? But did I have fun?

Moderately so. No real complaints -- for the most part -- but I often wondered if this was really about tomb raiding or whether this was about the character dynamic of Elites versus the Downtrodden. The romance wasn't exactly bad in this regard. Some parts were quite enjoyable.

The raiders bit? Well, unfortunately, the raiders of the lost ark seemed to drag a bit for me. The puzzles were somewhat entertaining and the survival aspects were also somewhat entertaining, but the only thing that really kept me going was the promise of the big Phi reveal.

What was the warning? What is the big danger? Why SHOULDN'T they keep going?

But because they're kids and all the other greedy-types want it, everyone keeps going. Progress, reversal, progress, reversal, etc, until at last we have it.

Nice reveal. Not sure if it is justified by the journey, but it wasn't exactly bad. I'm just not sure it really sold me. It's probably mostly an "it's me, not you" scenario. :)

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Impostor Syndrome (The Arcadia Project, #3)Impostor Syndrome by Mishell Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's a lot to love about this UF that refuses to bow down to the usual expectations.

But then, this series does follow a *certain* set of expectations. For one, it completely relies on all types of mental illness to drive character arcs. It's not just the MC who is bipolar, who had attempted suicide, lost her legs, and yet still manages to use her head and save the day as a productive (if often very destructive) employee in a Fae (be it Seele or Unseele court) world. Ahem. Excuse me. Worlds. This takes place in both the Fae lands and LA (with some travel around the world).

This has got to be the most wildly diverse novel I've ever read. Not only mental spectrums are accounted for, but sexual, social, and ideological. Everyone has a place and usually they all want to murder each other or are willing to do it in a more socially acceptable (if also very destructive) way. :)

In this novel, we have a great Heist fiction with a wildly diverse cast and I'm frankly amazed that any of these characters function well enough to cause the amount of damage they do. And that's not even accounting for the damage they *intended* to do.

I'm caught in admiration for this novel and the series while also being a bit flabbergasted at the same time. It has good writing and it's always pretty entertaining, but I don't want it to always be about the mental damage. Even that which makes this unique can be overdone.

Still, it straddles the line and succeeds for the majority for me. :)

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2)Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Slightly weaker than the first book in the series, but it does have a single vast improvement going for it: The Thunderhead.

You know, the godlike AI who gave immortality and fine government to the utopian future humanity? The one who concluded that it would be best if humans dealt with the issue of killing off their own to keep the population down rather than becoming the demon so many of us feared.

You know... the cop out. Pass the problem along to the idiots who STILL don't know any better. You know. The Scythes. :)

EVEN SO. I like the two directions this book takes. Vigilantism and drastic fixes on one side and the good people working on the inside, correcting the corruption, on the other.

Still YA? Hmm. Technically. But despite the ethics tone, the bloodshed, and the difficult question of power corrupting, the basic story is still one of two kinds of good versus evil. The Thunderhead plays a large if largely self-imposed non-interference policy in all the events and I loved it the most.

A certain partygoer really grew on me, too. Sigh.

All told, I enjoyed the book quite a lot. :)

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Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)Scythe by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The cure for immortality. :)

Nicely futuristic SF where everyone is immortal and can be uploaded to the cloud, where that same cloud has become an AI god staying out of the affairs of population control. This leads us directly to the death dealers, the scythes, who have quotas and struggle with ethics and compassion.

At least, the good ones struggle. The rest are rather corrupted and evil. :)

And so we have a good story with a very clear writing style that's full of fun ethical and moral dilemmas.

For a YA SF it's quite delicious. And it's also a lot less heart wrenching than a few other titles I've read with the same premise or near-premise. :) It manages to be entertaining without making me cry. :)

Looking forward to the next! :) (Of which I'm preparing to read as I write.) :)

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Saint's Blood (Greatcoats, #3)Saint's Blood by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will join the hoards of Fantasy fans who feel like they "discovered" Castell's wonderful fantasy. :)

Truly, I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it and it flows so naturally and so entertainingly that I'm having a very hard time holding back from reading the next book.

Why? Because it has the flair and the panache of Alexandre Dumas, the hardcore Fantasy chops of the very best modern Fantasy, the verve and cheek of the best UF, and the heart and desperation of a truly good dystopian.

Gods and the Saints of Gods are the downtrodden characters in this novel. The rest of the benighted folk are commoners, idealists and oddly, the Dukes. The Dukes were the bad guys in the previous volumes. But not now. They're out of their league because a living god has arisen in the land and he's killing the living receptacles of the old gods of all manner of ideals.

Things really are desperate here. Only swashbucklers and religious knights with pistols can save the realm from the United faith that threatens to bowl over the Law of the land.

So cool. :) The worldbuilding is really fantastic, but it's the characters that shine so blindingly. :) Their dialogue comes in second. I'm in love with the characters. :)

Am I fanboy? You better f***ing believe it. :)

This is some of the smoothest Fantasy I've come across and it's more than entertaining... it made me cry. :)

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Monday, March 12, 2018

China Mountain ZhangChina Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is one that's brilliant on multiple levels, but first, you have to manage your expectations. What do I mean?

This came out in 1990 but it resembles the more modern trend of literary SF in that most of the focus is on characterization and social interactions but in my opinion, it is superior to those because McHugh's wild worldbuilding is detailed, pervasive, and devoted to a fundamental conclusion. Or several conclusions. Interesting ones. In this respect, it's more like Samuel Delany's work.

Stand out features: Post-American revolution where China takes it over. The MC and the focus are on the LGBT community, including a very dystopian view of living conditions, especially in China. Revisionist history, it also has complicated things to say about how history is made that breaks away from most older SF in that it relies on Systems Theory, and best of all, the whole book IS a Study In Systems Theory.

I loved the world-building, and I really got into the main character, himself named China Mountain Zhang, but it's the interwoven nature of the tightly focused life he lives, the one day at a time style of writing that gradually catches hold of you and won't let go.

Like I said, it's more literary SF than anything, but it has a really awesome hard-SF core that satisfies on several additional levels. I definitely recommend this for any classic SF aficionados who like their stories full of character.

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Beyond This HorizonBeyond This Horizon by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's time to prepare for the 1943 retro Hugo awards that will be presented in 2018! (Why? Why not? Some books deserve love even if they're before the Hugos even began!)

In this case, novels published in 1942 are eligible. Books like C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters are technically eligible but really shouldn't be. There's nothing much SF about the religious satire.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed Olaf Stapledon's anti-novel and worldbuilding masterpiece The Darkness and the Light that came out this year and please imagine how thrilled I was to learn that Heinlein also published a bona fide adult-oriented novel, too!

He was generally known for his Juveniles by this point, so an early adult novel is something of a treat. And fortunately, his writing is always polished and clear and sometimes funny and always full of light agendas. It's Heinlein! He's a very opinionated man. :)

In this case, we're treated to science lessons on genetics and a superior-gene race of humanity planning on overthrowing the current Utopia. The hero is the ultimate perfect superman and I kept thinking about the Howard families in his later fiction, the prototype that gets so fully explored later.

We shouldn't forget the day. 1942.
Does this kind of story sound familiar? In Heinlein's case, it feels like a mirror to a huge segment of the American population that already agreed with the Eugenics movement and what was happening in Europe at the time. Maybe no one really understood the impact or scope or even the reality of the death camps, but everyone could see the implications and the stated goals. It was war and knowing the publishing field, there's a long stretch between when a writer finishes a text and when it actually gets put on the shelves. I'll assume for a moment that Pearl Harbor had not happened yet, or if it did, there was no way Heinlein could have fixed his novel to reflect America's sudden inclusion in the war.

However, it should be noted that he got all the salient points and sentiments RIGHT. It might have been a utopia like Stapledon's work but unlike Stapledon, he went the full "good story" option with interesting characters, exciting plots, cool snags, romance, and a big blowout. :)

Without even mentioning the Hugos or the need to find the best SF or Fantasy of 1942, I would have read this early Heinlein novel thinking that it's a very polished introduction to his later genetic-field obsession with longevity.

No Lazarus Long here, but enough ideas were packed in here to stand proudly with any of his later works. :)

Between Stapledon and Heinlein, I choose Heinlein for the sheer fun factor, the timeliness of the topic, the sophistication of the storytelling, and lastly, the idea. :) Stapledon might blow him out of the water for sheer scope and range of ideas and world-building and commentary, but Heinlein's soup had the perfect mix.

He's my main choice for the Hugo. :) So far. I'm still reading, however. :)

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Freeze-Frame RevolutionThe Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is some classy hard-hard SF. :) Black hole/worm hole drive using new and real theories? Hell yeah.

But beyond that, I love the whole idea of short periods of wakefulness during a single trip that takes 65 million years.

Add a rebellion against IBM... I mean HAL... I mean CHIMP, without expecting anything to go quite the way that 2001 went, or even remotely like it, and we've got a really fascinating story.

Watts knows how to build really fascinating locations and situations... maybe better than almost any other writer. He never rests on a single awesome idea but adds to it and introduces even more interesting wrinkles such as watching an AI dance, or truly alien intelligences, or maybe just freaking out because the rest of humanity must necessarily be dead during the scope of your mission.

But add a complicated revolution among sleepers using old D&D manuals? Adding jarring notes during a musical composition?

Oh yeah, the devil is in the details. :)

I'm enjoying this novel(la according to the author) through Netgalley as an ARC, but this wonderful reviewer here: Claudia's Review has pointed out that this is not a standalone story. She's even provided a link to the author's website for the other stories (free to download) as well as the suggested reading order. Thank you!

I might be reading out of order, but I don't mind it all that much. Watts is a thinking man's hard-SF writer. I expect to be at least a little challenged and delighted. As anyone who has read Blindsight knows. :)

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Darkness and the LightDarkness and the Light by Olaf Stapledon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up specifically for the retro-Hugo read for this year.

I had no idea what I was setting myself up for, never having read Olaf Stapledon but having heard of him.

At first, I began complaining about the utter lack of even a basic storytelling premise that included things like actual CHARACTERS, but soon I fell into the writing because Stapledon's world-building chops are pretty amazing.

Imagine picking up The Silmarillion for your first taste of JRRT. Practically all of it is distant exposition and broad sweeps of history. The entire Lord of the Rings takes about 30 pages and it's only a footnote.

Now make a future history and write it like old-school utopian novels and less like SF, showing us the Darkness which is the end of humanity in a vast dystopia across a vast stretch of years, and then switching tracks again and showing us the Light which is an outright Utopia.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I'm reading Hobbs and Moore with a decidedly SF bent and focus on the rise or fall of Tibet, world-government or world empires. One ends with us being enlightened and the other ends with us being eaten by rats.

The amount of thought and exploration in this novel is frankly mind-blowing. It throws everything at us but carefully neglects any kind of traditional storytelling or characters.

Correction. The whole book is framed from a far distant future historian pouring over the past through multiple timelines and seeing all the "what could have been"s. But that's just it.

This novel might as well be an academic tome. :)

I like that kind of thing, mind you. It's rich as hell and if you don't mind anything BUT exposition, it's extremely rewarding. Jaw-dropping, even. Stapledon predicts the future in an absolutely grand style and doesn't pretend he'll get everything right. He just runs with it.

I want to say KUDOS for his courage and worldbuilding and OMG this should have been turned into a series of 15 traditional SF novels with an interweaving theme. Hell, when I was first reading it, I kept saying to myself... this is no more than 2-star novel. As he continued to build his tower of Babel and his Utopia, however, I had to readjust my thinking completely:

This is NOT an SF. This is an old-school Utopia/Dystopia. :)

That being said, so far it's my favorite contender for this year's Retro Hugo award. (Every year the Hugos award a Best Novel for another year before the Hugos even began. I love the love expressed here. Some rare books of SF should NEVER be forgotten.)

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Thursday, March 8, 2018

MastodoniaMastodonia by Clifford D. Simak
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is definitely not a bad SF and Simak is still one of my favorite go-to classic SF authors. Even the basic tale of a time machine to colonize the past or otherwise get rich off of stupid hunters who think they're the match for dinosaurs is well done if an old tale.

Of course, later novels such as Jurassic Park blows modest SF like this away, but then... maybe not. :) Time travel tales usually get a bad rap. I don't know why. I enjoyed this one for what it was: popcorn fiction. :)

Even the tax evasion schemes by setting up your own country in the deep past were funny and still feels timely. It's not like they were huge corporations. More like they were a small business trying to make it work despite all the static. :)

Simak remains a charming writer that I cannot find any fault with at all. He was never all that spectacular or ground-breaking, but he was always thoughtful, exploratory, and he always developed characters who never left a bad taste in the mouth. :) Oh, and he never went the corny route, either, for which I love him dearly. :)

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Project MastodonProject Mastodon by Clifford D. Simak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This old time-travel novella was quite cute. Definitely bare-bones, but it was light and breezy as a temperate day fifty-thousand-years ago.

Let's offer a foolproof bomb-shelter to the US government, shall we? We can just spirit away the president to the past! :) Don't believe us? Maybe 25 years from now, a new regime will believe. :)

What can I say? It was cute and almost poetical. It was definitely well written. :)

And it was also the kick-off to a full novel written almost 30 years later.

On to see the sabertooths and mastdodons! :)

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Hammers on Bone (Persons Non Grata, #1)Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I can read this kind of fiction forever. Like, literally 78 million years in the future, as an immortal intellectual bug, I will be reading this fiction.

To me, Lovecraftian horror is tops. Add a very solid Noir to it, a big of crunching bone and eyes everywhere, a case to solve, and I'm in heaven. Or some outer dimensional equivalent made of ice and regret and nostalgia.

Hardbitten PI meets tentacled horrors. Of course, he is one, too. :)

Highly recommended.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Shadowmarch (Shadowmarch, #1)Shadowmarch by Tad Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It has been way too many years since I picked up a Tad Williams fantasy. I read the books surrounding the Dragonbone Chair back when they came out and I was extremely impressed by the writing quality and character, the slow burn and devoted character building, the inexorable finality of the grand explosion or magical release or bloodshed to come.

He builds slowly, carefully, and with enormous attention to detail.

Therefore, I knew very well what I was getting into here. These are long books and there are a lot of them, and true to modern epic fantasy form, we have a firmly established place and time. We get to know all our main characters, their little squabbles, their personalities, their little strivings.

It requires patience. Even to me, it required a lot of patience. I grew bored with long stretches, but nothing is permanent. Battles and magic and the Shadow come to those who wait, as well as long stretches underground, fae creatures, goblins, and a truly wicked scene being set.

Darkness and all the creatures in it will come to reclaim the land. And I mean literal darkness, neverending night, and this is no hyperbole. Tad Williams is setting the stage for an end-all epic scene of destruction and mayhem and horror.

I trust him as I trust few writers. His Otherland SF series was a brilliant romp of the imagination and his fantasy reaches high-brow status while never skimping on the gritty detail.

But again, it requires otherworldly patience. :) The taste of things to come at the end of this huge tome is well worth the wait. I feel like I've grown up with these folks now. I feel like I'm living here, that I love this place. The anticipation of its destruction is truly wicked.

Suffice to say, I can't let this end here. I'm in it for the long haul, and that's sometimes the only thing you can do. :)

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Three Musketeers (The D'Artagnan Romances, #1)The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Most people know the story. At the very least, they know about the story or they can quote that famous line. I was one of those peeps. I had never bothered to read the book because I saw an adaptation or two. lol

I'm so silly.

So I finally read the book and it was better! Surprise, surprise, right? There's even MORE pathos, chivalry, swordplay, hails of bullets, swooning maidens, and truly an evil Cardinal and a nasty Milady to butt heads against. At first, I honestly thought the over-the-top preoccupation with honor and revenge was the brilliant prelude to a great satire, but it never lets up and there's never a punchline.

So, no. It's just exciting and silly and crazy fluff. :) Yes. Fluff. Hell, the writing style is fast and could be as modern as they come, all the characters larger than life, the action and intrigue and plot points as funny as they are old-school.

It makes for a very entertaining ride. :) There's absolutely nothing stuffy about this. And now I know why it's a classic. :) Classic popcorn fiction. :)

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, #1)Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am officially late to this party.

Then again, I've never been a huge fan of the whole werewolf thing and I've read a mountain of UF titles from other authors, so I felt like I could safely give this one a pass.
Don't judge! It felt like a valid excuse especially because the title and series are insanely popular and so, therefore, SOMETHING might be very sketchy about it.

I still remember Twilight, alas, BUT! This isn't anything like that.

Good news! I mean, yeah, there's a skinwalker and lots of werewolves and vampires and witches in modern society and there's a subtext going on like most UF, BUT... there's something about the slow burn in Moon Called that's rather nice. Maybe it's the avoidance of outright paranormal romance, instead relying on a slow and steady *something*. Maybe it's the interesting pack politics, the interesting drugs, the backstabbing. Maybe it's the cool worldbuilding around the Fae or the distinctions between supernatural classes.

Maybe it just clicked.

I'm not saying I'm head over heels in love with this yet, but I did think it was solid and it worked for me. :)

It was better than decent. :) I find myself interested in continuing.

Considering the number of fans out there for the series, I have high hopes. It only gets better, they say. Well, we'll see! :)

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Dragon's EggDragon's Egg by Robert L. Forward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Classic Hardcore Hard-SF. :)

Really hardcore, even, written by an astrophysicist and wild with the worldbuilding. :) It's the concept that shines. Think about the extended growth of a people from hunters and gatherers all the way to a massively accomplished civilization in the space of a single novel and add a little wrinkle: this happens in the space of how long it takes us for apes to notice a neutron star passing through our Solar System, to put together an expedition, and then to throw scientists at it.

This alien civilization is on the surface of the neutron star. :) They live fast, think fast, and pass through generations really fast. They had time to ponder and build religions and wage wars and learn, looking at our science expedition. It's pretty awesome. :)

I'm reminded of several novels that came out after this one, of course, such as Baxter's Flux, which might be a bit wilder and far-future, but has humans living on a neutron star, too, but I'm also thinking about Children of Time and Crucible of Time from other authors. :) Long-span civilizations and alien cultures. Great stuff. :)

I'm so glad to have caught this classic! :)

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Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Screwtape LettersThe Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Well, it's not for everyone, but considering that this was meant for uptight Christian prigs from 50 years ago, it's pretty good and timeless.

Enter Satan, AKA Screwtape, and listen to him extolling or deriding his demon nephew on the virtues of corrupting his human charge.

It's okay! Some of it is really funny and some of it just feels dated. But we need to put this kind of thing in its proper time and audience. The points are still valid but the people they're about are all dead. :) ... well, maybe not all, and there's always people more concerned about appearing Christian versus being Christian and most people are remarkably demonstrative about never actually having a real thought in their head, but isn't that the same everywhere? :)

So. It was okay as a satire. Probably much more scathing to the whole world way back when. :)

Big bad Satan giving brotherly advice. LoL.

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Clans of the Alphane MoonClans of the Alphane Moon by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started this book knowing nothing only to realize I had just fallen into the deep end of nutsville.

Literally. The inhabitants of Alphane Moon are full of crazies. Certified mental hospital escapees. Of course, that hasn't stopped them from building a skewy-functional society over 20 years full of overreactions but relatively peaceful cooperation among all the bickering.

Move on to a few "normal" Earthlings, a bitter struggle between an idiot CIA man, his idiot psychologist wife, and an idiot popular comic and we get paranoid intrigue, suicidal depression, telepathic slime molds, buxom women, and an interplanetary war.

I kept suspecting that this whole novel was a fever dream of a man in a psychotic break, but no, no cheap tricks here. :) It's a bona fide SF full of aliens and a message that no one is normal. :)

In other words, it's PKD to the core. Most of PKD's old standard questions are externalized in this early novel, but they're all clearly the same questions he revolves around later in his more intellectual and introspective later novels. Insanity is a big one, of course, but drug use, the nature of creativity and the holy spirit and the fluidity of human nature and perception is all bigger than life. :)

This is darkly funny and NUTS. If I had to compare it to anything, I'd rank it along the same line as the original Total Recall with Arnie. Full of cool crap, snappy dialogue, wild situations, and totally dysfunctional families.


It's a fun roll. :)

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Cetaganda (Vorkosigan Saga, #9)Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 2/2/18:

Buddy Read!

Mystery. Intrigue. Politics. A mouth that consistently gets Miles in trouble.

Not much to say here except the world-building is quite fascinating. Cetaganda's culture is a real treat, but I think I'm always going to focus on the trees. You know, the cats. :)

Funny, fast, and it's so WEIRD how Miles is so honorable. Some might say... stupid... with women. Any women. All women.

Boys. lol

Original Review:

I really enjoyed the inner workings of Cetaganda and the intrigue. Miles is always a treat, not only because he's such a brat, but also because he is the author of his own troubles. Without such verve and curiosity, then very little might have come of the plot, but fortunately, we're talking about Miles. No space battles this time, but that's hardly the draw for the novels. Seeing how Miles gets himself into trouble is.
Great fun!

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Woken Furies (Takeshi Kovacs, #3)Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I see a lot of mixed reactions to this book but fortunately, mine is all gung-ho. Why? Because I freaking love this book. Why? Because it has all the best features of the hardest of hard-SF, the fantastic world-building, the hard tech, the bloodthirsty craziness of uploaded and downloaded consciousnesses mixed with the mafia of all breeds and Oligarchies and corporations and all if it is mixed some of the tightest characters I've had the pleasure to read.

That doesn't really describe it, though.

The novel is an extremely complex homecoming for Kovacs, a returning to Harlan's World at long last. A hundred years of travels, war, exploration under shady circumstances under his belt, and his interesting outlook always getting him into serious trouble.

A death wish?

That's the big question, isn't it? All through the first two novels, he keeps engaging in super risky behavior such as falling in with traitors or con artists or government executives with dark secrets or just plain rebellions. His situational morality is honed to a very fine degree. :)

Take him back home and have him fall in with random strangers and you'll never believe how much trouble he gets into. Or the scope of the trouble.

Those alien artifacts are still around and causing trouble. The one over Harlan's World is a wonderful wrinkle in the worldbuilding. :) No spoilers, but I was blown away by the sheer weight of the complex storytelling propelled like a rocket named Kovacs. :)

All those little hints and reveals from the first book and the tv series really comes home to shine in this book. Did I mention that there is a lot of really great and complex storytelling going on here? Not just mirroring and externalizing of self-hate or the complications of the tech, but love, humor, and ... screw it. Just read it. :)

I'm going to hunt down some hardcover copies of this trilogy. I want to showcase them and re-read them at extended leisure. :)

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