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Monday, April 30, 2018

Star MakerStar Maker by Olaf Stapledon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Just wow. This novel disproves the general assumption that golden age SF is either hokey or unscientific.

In fact, it starts out like a strong hard-SF exploration novel touching on many possible alien races, mindsets, and physiologies, but it dives right down the rabbit hole into vast combined telepathic minds, galactic societies that actually are GALACTIC in scale, telepathic communication with multiple galaxies, and even to the discovery the rich stellar intelligence. That's right. Intelligent suns.

And an ever further exploration follows. This is a short novel that spans 5 billion years! It may be fast, glorious, imaginative, and deeply philosophical, but more than that, it's SUBVERSIVE.

Let me be clear on this. This novel is just as valid and fun today as it must have been back in 1937. More than that, it's probably something that would be appreciated more NOW than way back then.

Why? The Star Maker is the creation of God from Man. And even better, it even flies right into Manichean heresies! :) As HARD SF! It's fast as hell and fun as HELL! :)

Olaf Stapledon is easily one of the most brilliant and imaginative writers to have ever decided to use hard-SF as a furious vehicle of massive speculative philosophy in sociology, biology, physics, and cosmology. Was he a brilliant man? What do you think?

I can't get my jaw to stop dropping. I'm not even giving it special props for coming out of 1937. It's as good as any of the most vast-spanning hard-SF of today.

Come blow your mind! :)

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The Folklore of DiscworldThe Folklore of Discworld by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wavered between 3-4 stars on this one, but I'm nothing if not a bit generous when it deserves it.

My main concern was that this was another book cashing in on the huge popularity of Pratchett, and it is, but it didn't dim my enjoyment.

I love folklore and myth and this one is full of a bunch of mirroring of both, breaking down examples of how Pratchett twists and captures the spirit of so many legends... (mostly English or within that scope, which is also large). Is it good? Sure, if you like a refresher on myth and more local sources of custom, magical thinking, and fairy tales. :)

I do. And so I thought it was quite good. I did learn a few new things, too, but mostly it was comparative religion and callbacks to the standards. :) Not bad, but it still reads like a popular literary analysis textbook. :)

Do I recommend it? Absolutely, if you're a huge fan of Pratchett! :) Gives you a new dimension with which to read the books! :)

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Engines of God (The Academy, #1)The Engines of God by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Xenoarchaeology. On a grand scale.

McDevitt really does a fantastic job with vast worldbuilding and mystery when it comes to dead alien races, exploration, and working through the questions.

I'm particularly fond of all the expeditions. None of them are nuts but quite plausible and dangerous and deadly. And not everyone comes back from them. The realism is very nice.

Fortunately, however, this and the plotting and the focus on discovery is usually good enough to carry the tale over the characters. The characters are interesting enough but some of the descriptions come off as either bland or not quite right. The heroic parts and the action sequences are spot-on, while the romantic bits... well, I'm not coming to these books for the romance. :)

Fortunately, there's no outright cringe-worthy stuff here. Just fascinating brainy adventure. I'm looking forward to future huge developments. I can see them on the far horizon. :) You know... like massive catastrophy for humanity. :)

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Saga, Vol. 1 (Saga, #1)Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 4/29/18:

Buddy read! But no, that's just a flimsy excuse. I LOVE this series. I think I can re-read it forever. I was okay with it the first time I read the first volume, but the weight of the fantastic quality ever since has justifiably rocketed my love out of the stratosphere.

I can easily say this is my absolute favorite comic of all time. It tears me to pieces with humor and spontaneous sobs. It GETS ME.

Just revisiting the story now is making me see how much is revisited and continued and pre-planned and I'm frankly amazed at the whole package. Beautiful art, so subversive a story, and characters to die for. :)

Original Review:

What really stands out about this series is its focus on family. It's not only cute and heartwarming, but it has some of the most interesting characters I've seen in a long time. Sure, it has the whole star-crossed lovers vibe, but the robot people are really weird. We've got magic vs technology, treeships, dead babysitters, and scorned women. Beyond the strangeness is a very solid story with pathos. It looks like I'm going to have to pick up Y's after these are done. I'm a fan.

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Saturday, April 28, 2018

AnomalyAnomaly by Peter Cawdron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very solid first-contact novel that deservedly belongs on the shelf next to Contact, but I will be the first to admit it does some things better than Sagan and other things much weaker. HOWEVER, none of that changes the fundamentally good exploration of what it means to us to present ourselves before a far-advanced entity only to reflect all crap of what we are upon it.

It's not the same book as Sagan's. It's actually rather streamlined and distilled, having us focus more on lateral thinking, new physics, and communication as only a grade school teacher could swing it.

So, yeah! Having a grade school teacher teach experts how to get it right was pretty awesome. :) Things clarify and the basic story was not only intelligent, it was focused. No big heroics to save the day, but there is heroism. No resorting to violence, but there is violence. No ultrareliance on either science OR religion to break through to the heart of the story, but there is plenty of both in here.

IF what you might be looking for is a clear and focused SF tale to say something very solid about ourselves, then I wouldn't look any farther than this. It could very well be a bestseller turned into an intelligent SF movie and I would love its special effects and its message.

But I wouldn't call it super original.

A comfort read? A joy? Yes, absolutely, but not super original.

Fortunately, few of us necessarily need originality to enjoy a story. :)

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MetamorphosesMetamorphoses by Ovid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this for one of those bucket-list reasons, having read a bunch of scholarly articles in college that constantly quote from Ovid... but I had NEVER READ THE ORIGINAL.

Alas. How many years has it been, with that guilt slowly creeping up on me?

So I did it. I read Ovid.

And I fell in love.

What the hell was I thinking? Avoiding this? I mean, how many damn mythology books have I read that go on and on about all the Greek classics, touted for their clear and concise styles, but really what I should have been doing is read the damn book of prose/poetry by the first-century master!

Even in translation, it's clear, entertaining, full of action and wit and subversiveness and plain JOY. And get this: it's not much longer than those full mythology books.

SO SILLY! Enjoy the ART! The action! The joy of beautiful text!

We even get poetical treatments of segments of the Illiad and Odyssey! But my favorites were Orpheus and the whole damn slew of the poor mortals getting f***ed over by the gods. :)

Granted, if you're not already familiar with the kind of name-dropping that comes with a world that normally knowns all these legends, it might seem rather overwhelming, but for all of you who've read at least one book on the Greeks and are tolerant of learning on the fly, I TOTALLY recommend Ovid.

I fairly danced with fun as I read this. I felt like I was watching the original Clash of the Titans for the first time. This had some really bloody sequences! The funny ones and the clever ones and even the LGBTQ ones are spread throughout, too! :) I'm frankly amazed we don't just have THIS to read in school. It's much better than most!

lol *shakes head*

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Reaper Man (Discworld, #11; Death, #2)Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-read with buddies!

I suppose it helps that I'm already a lifelong fan of Pratchett, but even objectively, this is a delightful novel about Death's retirement. Sure, he was tricked, but he really needed some time off. Or some time, period.

The magicians were delightful, as usual, and the undead, even more so. This is the zombie apocalypse, Discworld-style, when no one's allowed to die.

It was rather pastoral. :)

I wouldn't say this is my favorite of the Discworld series, but it *does* mark the inclusion of one of my absolute favorite Discworld characters of all time.

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The Apocalypse Codex (Laundry Files, #4)The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read with buddies! 4/27/18

A more sober read of this novel has made me realize something: I love this shit. Like, hands-down LOVE it. :)

Mahogany Row, the track for upper management, Bob's predilection for honesty and loyalty, even the enormous tongue-in-cheek bashing of American Religious Behavior. It's all fun, funny, and gloriously genre-mashed. I could read this stuff forever.

And the way things are going, I might keep re-reading these books for just that reason. I may never get tired of them. So much wry humor, so many Lovecraftian horrors, so much excellent plotting. What's not to love?

Original Review:

And whatever god you choose to believe in have mercy on your soul, indeed! I've been loving these books from the start, and while it took me a little time to get into yet another spy-fiction style since Mr. Stross has consciously been imitating the greats up till now, I did indeed get into it. In a few ways, it's even greater than some of the previous Laundry files.

Fascinating character developments for Howard. I think I like the new standard characters as well. I can't wait for a new novel!

Viva la gibbering horrors!

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Regenesis (Cyteen, #4)Regenesis by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been a life-long fan of Cherryh, first for the original Cyteen, then Downbelow Station, and then, a few novels later, Foreigner, which set me on a path where I squeed every time a new one came out.

So returning to the Union-Alliance universe and specifically with the characters from the original Cyteen now seemed like a perfect treat! What's not to like about waking up to learn you're a clone of a brilliant scientist who has left you tons of brain-engrams and a political squabble and the fact that she has been murdered? I mean, it's times like that a kid just HAS TO SCRAMBLE to catch up! I loved it.

This is her as an 18-year-old and the pieces of that old murder needed to be picked up. And solidifying the political arena, since this scientific corporation that basically runs the whole world of Cyteen seems to have a LOT of different views on how it ought to be run. And this is where we pick up. A lot of politics. A lot of everyday life getting her head together. Interpersonal quagmires. And a coup.

The basic story is pretty decent and I know from experience that Cherryh is pretty AMAZING at intricate politics on alien worlds or futuristic colonies. The latter part of this novel feels like part courtroom drama and part insurgency.

But damn. I was kinda overwhelmed, or maybe I should say, underwhelmed. There was too much that wasn't interesting and I lost interest. Many times. So much of this book could have had a very heavy haircut. The resulting story would have been exciting and fun as hell.

It's okay tho. It's not my favorite Cherryh novel, but I should mention that after reading over 25 of them, it's kinda like having a lukewarm meal at your favorite restaurant. You're disappointed, but not enough to still rave about the restaurant to your friends. :)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Pilgrim's ProgressThe Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Classic Christain Allegory from a contemporary of Milton? Or an upbeat adventure fantasy with monster slaying, epic quests, moral quandaries, and much deceit?

It's very easy to fall back on this as a tool for moral teaching especially since the lessons being learned are all in the names of the characters, but I am forced to remember that this kind of everyman allegory has a long, long tradition in literature.

I'd rather see this as an easy to read upbeat fantasy adventure featuring first The Christian who goes on without his family to have adventures and his death AND THEN to have the second half be the rest of his family following down the same path, albeit somewhat differently.

The fact is... it's fun. Ignore all the religion stuff for a moment. Read it as a story. It's STILL FUN. Epic quest time!

It's also a pretty decent antidote to your normal GrimDark fantasy binge. :)

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Red Mars (Mars Trilogy, #1)Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-read! With buddies!

I originally read this way back in the mid-90's and was struck by how brilliant and entertaining it was, of how wide a sweep of characters could bring Mars alive, from inception to travel to the first habitats all the way to the first revolution 30 years down the line.

What I remembered with the most love, however, wasn't the characters. It was the science and the various aspects of making Mars habitable. That, and I just geeked out. I went on to read all the slew of Mars colonization novels that came out at the same time in response to how popular this one was and had to admit that none of them did quite the same job on the topic. KSR Wins! Woo Woo!

But now? My re-read isn't so much critical of the way the novel felt bloated with people-stuff as it was only wishing that we could do away with all the people altogether.

I was almost cheering with every death during the revolution. Is that wrong of me? *sigh*

Don't get me wrong! I still love the novel but I'm knocking off a star. The science is fantastic and all the well-researched ways to change Mars still makes me geek out. It's STILL one of the very best Mars books, INCLUDING The Martian.

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Last and First MenLast and First Men by Olaf Stapledon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's really hard to describe this novel in a way that can do it justice because any cursory explanation such as "plotless" and "characterless" has some rather negative connotations. :)

Indeed, it's kinda impossible to have those here except in brief glances relying on bird's eye views before necessarily jumping on to the next BIG IDEA and Super-Imaginative setting.

For what we have here, way back in 1930, is novel of Future History influencing every big SF author of the day, even influencing Winston Churchill, HG Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, and countless SF writers ever since.

Why? Let me do this quick: Eighteen iterations of mankind over a billion years, from the total death of our mankind, the evolutionary re-emergence of the next, the differences, oddities, rediscoveries after soooo much time, the new dreams, aspirations, religions, the different values, before the next mankind dies off. We have Martian invasion, we have our invasion of Venus, we have major genetic modifications, telepathy during other iterations, the ability to experience racial memory a-la Dune, adding multiple sexes, immortality, living in gas giants, and sometimes merely striving only to improve the human race. Over a billion years. And of course, whole races die. Over and over.

It's grand, majestic, awe-some, and brilliant.

So much imagination is crammed into so few pages that a prospective SF author could just pour through this and continue to point at reused story ideas for even current-day authors! I look at the nuclear-powered version of life on Venus, the intelligent clouds of Mars, the huge brains, the musical race, the race of time-travelers, and my jaw just drops.

It's not without emotion, either. There's a deep an abiding love for everyone here even as a whole race suffers deep ennui and an existential crisis or during others that suffer impossible odds, accidents, or the final death of our solar system. The philosophies give it away. The spirit of the human races rise and ebb and undergo vast changes.

And yet there's no characters or plot. Just setting and world-building and vast movements of so many people. :)

It would never get published today.

And yet, it's still brilliant. Absolutely worth knowing, even now. :) It makes me wonder what we're collectively doing. We can't forget that works like this EXIST. :)

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Monday, April 23, 2018

The Battersea Barricades (The Chronicles of St Mary's #9.5)The Battersea Barricades by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this case, for our intrepid STAFF of St. Mary's of the time-traveling historian crew, we get a very cool interview telling us of a Future History that happens in our future but just before the inception of the Crazy Historian Crew. :)

Confused? Don't be. It's basically a great tale of England tearing itself apart and seeing the downtrodden people rise up against others with guns. Or in this case, a scary black helicopter. :) Very fulfilling. Oh, and amusing, too, with all the stealing of bikes. :)

Go England! (of the future.) ;)

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Defiant (Towers Trilogy, #2)Defiant by Karina Sumner-Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very enjoyable continuation, but I'm on the fence about aspects here. When it comes to the worldbuilding and the magic, between the towers of magic, what they're made of and what they're doing to the rest of the world around them, I'm in full-on love mode.

When it comes to the main characters, I'm totally onboard, a Radiant ghost and her best friend the soul-sucking death monster who are just trying to stay alive amid assassins, economics, and outright war between the clans of towers.

The only thing I have any concern about is the in-between bits. Some parts were kinda ordinary and not particularly driving the plot forward except in retrospect nearing the end of the novel. That's not horrible, of course, especially when it ALL becomes clear enough to ask the NEXT big question about the world, but I thought parts could have been tightened. Too much focus on the bad leg, maybe, or the family stuff. But then, maybe that's just me. I see some really awesome stuff brewing, I don't really want to hang out in the usual duller bits. :) The previous novel built up well with the MC being one of the poorest of the poor, but this just seemed to be marking time while hiding out.

Until, of course, all crap hits the fan, which it does. :)

Very imaginative fantasy here!

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Radiant (Towers Trilogy, #1)Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was recommended this one a while back and I feel slightly sheepish that I’m only just now getting to it.

I wanted something close to Jemison’s Fifth Season and I can see a few similarities, but other than the eventual near-end blow-out that takes on some huge-magic ramifications, it’s really its own beast.

Skyscrapers of magic. This part is rather cool. Kinda modern but after some huge collapse, the technology is now almost entirely based on magic. I’m reminded of Max Gladstone and dystopian urban fantasy mixed heavily with ghost talking. Sound cool? It is.

It takes a while to get into the magic system, otherwise focusing mainly on relationship building, a friendship between an abused ghost and the mc girl who, rather than disposing the half-alive mostly-ghost for the complicated job that it is, develops a strong friendship, instead.

Later on, however, is where I think this novel shines, when the world building blooms and the magics develop and then, all of a sudden, everything goes to hell.

It is technically a YA fantasy, but it is easily strong enough as a regular modern fantasy. I’m definitely continuing this.

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Lucifer, Book Five (Lucifer, #5)Lucifer, Book Five by Mike Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly goddamn amazing.

This whole series has the epic awesomeness of the Sandman series with half the empty (albeit interesting) calories of all those side-stories. Indeed, the plot is pretty epic and all characters are important.

It's the end of creation. God abandoned his creation. The sparks of everyone's souls are dimming, dissoluting, and all sides go to war over the throne of God. Some want to reforge creation and others want to see it all become Silence.

This is no-one's simple tale of battle and rage and power-grab. Lucifer himself is a supremely reluctant hero because he knows the meaning behind his own decisions as no one else can.

Elaine has grown into something brilliant and beautiful.

The philosophical questions that arise throughout these comics are deep, complex, and unswervingly bold, courageous, and RIGHT. :) Everyone is criticized.

But more than that, I had a GREAT TIME with all of this! The plotting is tight, the characters delicious, and the art much better than most comics. :) I have nothing bad to say about any of it!


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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Lucifer, Book Four (Lucifer, #4)Lucifer, Book Four by Mike Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Elaine. God's granddaughter, Lucifer's niece, is a trip. I loved seeing her play surrogate god to Lucifier's universe, getting entangled in Destiny's wheel, and feeling the nastiness of everything that Fenrir has brought to the table.

It's only the end of all the universes, man.

Add a bit of the world-tree, some literal world-building, and some of the funniest changes to hell yet, and the beginning of a huge Lilith arc storming the Silver City, and I can honestly say I love this series.

Lucifer playing mentor is not a bad thing when it's the fate of all things. It's him he's saving, too. :)

Again, I love Elaine. :)

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Lucifer, Book Three (Lucifer, #3)Lucifer, Book Three by Mike Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit I've tipped over the edge of just liking this series. I think I've just become a huge fan.

From getting together a dream team to take on the task of saving God's Grandaughter from the halls of silence to having the titans of chaos take over God's power, this book is rich with great stories and epic action.

Wanna see Loki and his brother? Frost giants? The boat of fingernails? Delicious stuff here, as well as a trip through death to meet imprisoned gods. But if that wasn't enough, we get to see the mind of God and see what that knowledge does to his two favorite sons, Michael and Samael. :) Family drama!

I'm super thrilled with these! :)

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Lucifer, Book Two (Lucifer, #2)Lucifer, Book Two by Mike Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's very little bad I can say about an epic tome where Lucifer steals the Demiurgic power to create his own universe and allow anyone to stay there as long as they obey one rule: worship no god.

Of course, when a pack of sentient tarot cards borrowing Destiny's book decides to screw Lucy over by forcing a universe to worship them, culminating in treachery, unexpected hope, sacrifice, and a whole slew of fantastic storytelling and plot, the end of this collection is solid as all hell. Without hell, of course. He's done away with both heaven and hell and wants everyone to live their lives without bending any knee anywhere.

Kinda glorious, actually. Too bad all these jerks have to come in and break all their grudges against poor Lucy. He's still an insufferable twat in his way but he never forgets his debts. Or his ideals. For that, I'm super impressed. :)

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Lucifer, Book One (Lucifer, #1)Lucifer, Book One by Mike Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm finally getting around to reading Lucifer. I mean, I loved him in Sandman and I happened to have seen a few episodes of the tv show, but I needed to KNOW, you know?

And it's a lot more wild than the tv show. By a lot. :)

This first book takes on the first thirteen comics and it manages to be messed up, clever, disturbing, and a great premise for more. There isn't any PD stuff. :)

There are new gods and angels, private hells, demiurge powers, ghosts, and an angelic battle to take out Lucifer right here on Earth. An all out affair.

That fails. :)

I'm hooked. It may not be the biggest and baddest comic out there, but it is definitely entertaining.

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Bearly a LadyBearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up for two reasons. The author is a badass, and who DOESN'T love Prada-wearing were-bears?

Seriously, Khaw has writing chops if she can turn a Devil Wears Prada/chick lit/candy-coated plus-sized fashionista who has the hots for all the wrong supernaturals into something *I* really enjoyed.

I mean, it's rom-com and talking about *feminine issues* and having *that time of the month* I.E., turning into a Kodiak Bear, and alllllll about hooking up with that special someone(s). And yet I chuckled throughout the novella! :)

It ain't one of Khaw's dark, blood-soaked, ultra-sick lovecraftian genre mashups, but she's got me hooked from now to eternity. I'm following this one around like some super fanboy stalker from now on. :) (or at least, I'm going to devour everything she writes from now on) lol TRUST. I totally TRUST her.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Measurements of DecayThe Measurements of Decay by K.K. Edin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes you will read a book that stuns you into such a deep silence that the backlash envelops you and kicks you out of space and time.

This is one of those books.

I'm still reeling. It's not every day that an author goes out of their way write a complex philosophical dissertation in the style of David Mitchell but goes on to make it hardcore SF with mind-blowingly cool science tropes, transhumanism, and a man-made god in the service of the serious philosophical treatise. Indeed, the multiple PoVs are deadly serious about driving home their ideas and their idealism and I was treated to one of the coolest villains I've ever read in the form of the primary narrator.

This is empathy, understanding, and wisdom taken to its full completion, yo.

Just what would happen if idealists and focused heavy philosophical thinkers gained the physical and temporal power to overcome all obstacles and fulfill their ambitions? Or how about just one. A serious one. One who believes that empathy and understanding is the ultimate goal.

I'm of the mind that the Borg collective fits that bill. If you're part of it, there's perfect empathy and understanding. :) Run with that.

I give this book top marks for being fearlessly dense and super intelligent and creative as a mother****er. I was somewhat worried about the somewhat less clear language used, but the sheer scope and beauty of the imagery and the speed at which so many wonderful scenes happen make up for just about anything.

This is NOT your average adventure hard-SF novel, nor is it a lofty philosophical discussion with a few SF trappings. This is a true shotgun wedding of the best of both worlds.

I'm flabbergasted. This is the kind of SF novel that comes along only a handful of times in a generation and it is NOT something to undertake if you want a light and thoughtless read. I'm putting this novel in the category of *OMG YOU MUST READ THIS*.

This is serious literature. This is thought-provoking and deserves a devoted cult following and if not recognition now, then at least serious recognition in 5 or 10 years. It may take that long for enough serious fans to get their hands on this or work their way through it, but I'll tell you now: it's worth it.

How's that for a squee? I want discussions on this book, people! PHD's welcome. :)

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Time WasTime Was by Ian McDonald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time to manage our expectations here.

I'm a fan of Ian's work and I'm generally amazed by the amount of research he puts into his novels, twisting strange stories into very creative manifestos, and there's a bit of that coming through the pages here, too, but it begs the question:

What is this?

It is a love story only if you see it through the lens of a mystery fan first, a time-paradox sleuth second, and if you like a REALLY slow burn through a deep focus on poetry and old personal notebooks from the PoV of a bibliophile in hunt of the central mystery.

It's not bad and the questions raised do drag us to the inevitable end, but this is a very niche piece.

History buffs, bibliophiles, and SF mystery fans who don't mind a slow burn that leads to a somewhat odd end in this thankfully short work will probably get a lot out of this.

But for me? It was fine. Okay. But not my favorite of his by a long shot.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

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The Shining (The Shining, #1)The Shining by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back in the day when I read this, years ago, I thought it was pretty good but not fantastic. I went ahead and went through all of SK's movies, too, and remembered watching Jack Nicholson in his iconic crazy and thought to myself, "Hey! This guy is freaking crazy! I love it!"

And now. I saw the Ready Player One movie with so many scenes right from that old film and had to rewatch the original Kubrick film and read the original novel again for *very* good measure since I'm back on an SK kick.

I watched that movie a few days ago and thought to myself, "This is a really bad movie. I still think that Jack is pretty awesome, but no matter how cool he is, it can't save this film."

And then I read the original book, keeping in mind what SK's thoughts were on the Kubrick film, as remembered so iconically through RPO. He despised it. And as I read The Shining, trying to keep an open mind, I realized something.

The Shining is Really, Really Good.

Gorgeous details, imagery that blows me away, thoroughly amazing characterization, depth, beauty, and such a great rising unease. I loved Jack in the book. I loved Danny in the book. I loved Halloran in the book. Wendy had a moment or two. But what I loved the most was the Hotel and all its creepy secrets, its depth, its horror. You might say the worldbuilding in this was something pretty damn amazing.

And then it hit me.

The Kubrick film is a dumpster fire trapped in a bubbling lake of poo.

It CRAPPED ON EVERYTHING that made the book great!!!!!

Jack in the book went nuts, sure, but the underlying message that "normal" novelists writing "normal" books are inherently batshit insane in comparison to "horror" novelists is as clear as day!

Seriously, there's enough story in this book to choke an ox and put any mainstream novel to shame. Because let's face it, SK shows more talent for mainstream fiction in this book than the majority of mainstream fiction, and he's just going to burn the whole house down! :)


Just do me a favor, folks, and skip any screened production of this novel and stick with the text. You will NOT be disappointed. :) :)

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Monday, April 16, 2018

We Can Remember It for You WholesaleWe Can Remember It for You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Classic novelette by PKD that was the basis for the first adaptation of Total Recall. :)

Aside from some of the later nuttiness of the movie, I was very surprised how faithful the film was to the original story. :) So many great aspects carried over. :)

Gotta love classic PKD! This is just plain fun.

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Three Men in a Boat and Three Men on the BummelThree Men in a Boat and Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is nothing useful this book. Nothing edifying, nothing instructive, or clarifying in this novel.

I read Three Men in a Boat last month and didn't learn anything at all! And this month I pick up Three Men on the Bummel and expected *AT LEAST* a concise travelogue with pretty pictures describing the joys of riding bikes down hills in sweet German countrysides and partaking of local cuisine and generally trying to make myself understood.

What I did get was a bunch of prattle about how to extricate yourself from collapsing in a mess with the locals, how many fines you have to pay when you walk on the wrong side of the street, stolen bicycles, mysterious dogs, and the fact that the narrator was kicked out of his own house because he's a twat.

I swear!

This is last time I pick up a travel brochure from that guy down by St. Denis square with the ratty top hat and that extensive collection of hair restorative products.

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Tyrant's Throne (Greatcoats, #4)Tyrant's Throne by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an extremely entertaining end to this amazing quadrilogy. We went through hopelessness and idealism and amazingly horrible odds and through every book, wonderful snark, action, and suspense.

I think I can rank this whole series up there as one of my absolute favorite fantasies ever. Why? Because it's effortless. A truly wonderful read. And the author has the ability to tear tears from my cold, humorless eyes. ; ;

The big things that happen in this book are somewhat scaled back from fighting and defeating gods as in the third book, but damn, it had to be. Fortunately, this isn't a bad thing. In fact, it really drove home all the horrible and fantastic things that happened to all the villains and heroes in all the previous books, featuring the very fate of the entire kingdom and its whole future. Subtle? No. But it is epic.

I love all the characters. Even the nasty ones. The action is amazing, but the dialogue is even better. The worldbuilding is something divine. But above all, the imagination, heart, and soul of the text shone through.

I will be following this author forever. I have to. Anyone who can write this is a master storyteller. Period. :)

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

An Argumentation of Historians (The Chronicles of St Mary's, #9)An Argumentation of Historians by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Always a solid SF read no matter what my initial mood. This is my go-to popcorn fiction/time travel/goofy historians/soap opera. I'm always excited to read and always amused to encounter and always satisfied at the end.

What more can anyone ask?

Hmmm... less heartbreak? But no. Then it wouldn't be such a soap-opera! Hunky lords of late-middle English castles or LEON? Hmmmm. Abandoned in time, making do with a hunky English lord that gets Max all hot or WAIT FOR LEON TO SAVE HER? Hmmmm.


Setting that aside for just a moment, of course, we have some delicious Henry the 8th action, Persopolis, and some more dastardly villain stuff. And of course, tea and teddy. And reset buttons. And tears.

And Max burning down St. Mary's not just once, but now, TWICE! Sheesh!

Funny stuff, dark stuff, great stuff.

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Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of OrĂ¯sha, #1)Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I fear I'm going to be one of those rare people who won't gush over this new fantasy. I wanted to.

Let me first say that I enjoyed aspects of it. The end was very strong. But aside from resting an entire fantasy on the strength of Nigerian (and surrounding) territories and the rage-filled text flowering in the text, focusing on senseless brutality and the underlying sameness of us all, there was little else for me to hold on to.

The fantasy itself was thoroughly cliche. There was nothing seriously wrong with it aside from being just like every other average epic fantasy tale I've ever read. Runaway princess, downtrodden people, the return of magic, the quest items, the building of an army. It was steeped in local culture, sure, and the author had a lot of emotion regarding the themes, but the basic plots dragged on and on and I frankly had a really hard time staying focused. Unfortunately for me, I've read this same story over a dozen times, just change the culture and names, and to make it worse, parts of it were very long.

I would, however, recommend this to anyone who wants a slightly different flavor of big fantasy who also hasn't gorged themselves on the genre. The cliche, for me, just happened to be too much for too long. If it had been a shorter work I probably wouldn't have minded so much, but when I kept hoping for a grand twist that wouldn't come, when I kept counting the minutes until the tale ended, when my strongest and most heartfelt reaction was in the actual ending, then I knew something was a little off.

That being said, I can absolutely appreciate the core of what is trying to be accomplished here (Stop the Senseless Violence) perfectly well without gushing over this novel.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

The Woman in BlackThe Woman in Black by Susan Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In an age (the 80's) when horror was at its peak and ravening monsters of supernatural and human types ravaged the bookstores, Susan Hill decided to write a Victorian ghost story using modern sensibilities but the distinctive flair of the classics.

Since then, it's enjoyed modest popularity and I don't doubt why. It's simple and direct. It tugs at the heartstrings, from sympathy and shared horror to the mystery and even the heartwarming companionship of a plucky dog on the moor during the darkest hours.

And then there's the expected and satisfying twist at the end that is the core of all classic ghost stories.

I really don't have any complaints because it was amusing and craftily wrought, but make no mistakes... there's nothing new under this sun. Expect all the classic tropes performed magically well.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Space OperaSpace Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Life is beautiful. Life is stupid.

This book was all kinds of freaking wonderful, packed to the gills with glam and snark and a buttload of heart-wrenching brutal honesty wrapped up with a bow of sex, aliens, and rock and roll.

A lot of people are equating this with Hitchhiker's Guide, but in a lot of ways, it's better. And worse. The sheer amount of delightful rock-and-roll trivia and snark made me think of Rob Reid's Year Zero, but this was better. Think about all the aging Glam Rock stars who have had their best days long ago being catapulted into galactic society in a sing-off with the stakes being the fate of the race.

You know, time lag. Can't use the recent stuff and most of the old stuff is either hopeless or dead. Who's left? The Absolute Zeroes. :) One is dead and the others are impoverished, and yet they have to sing for their lives against all the biggest stars in the galaxy. Because, after all, Life is Beautiful, Life is Stupid.

It just happens to be better than most of the alternatives. :)

Great concept, even BETTER execution. Every page is full of awesomeness, glam, and utter despair. Meeting all these poor alien saps and their quirky f***ed up lives and kinks is half the fun, but I happen to LOVE Decibel Jones. He's so early Bowie and aging rock star and a whole ball of f***ed up, himself. :) I swear I can hear all the songs playing in my head, adding several soundtracks to this novel as I read it. :)

And the end? MY GOD that's a lightshow-and-a-half. :) Ziggy Stardust has NOTHING on this. :)

I think I may have found my absolute favorite Valente novel out of a TON of favorite Valente novels. I mean, I'm always super excited to read Valente, but this has got to be the one that tops them all. :)

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Revenant Gun (The Machineries of Empire, #3)Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This series continues to be one of the most unique trilogies I've ever had the pleasure to read, and that's saying a lot.

It took me a little bit to get into the new direction this novel takes, but if any of you folk were creeped out by Kujen in the previous novel with all his psychosurgery and inventions, you're going to love this book. You might say that this last book in the trilogy is all his.

Jedao has yet another large role again, and believe me, it's not what I had expected. He's a 400-year-old immortal general who has a talent for getting things done, but in the first book, being uploaded into Cheris's mind took a rather odd turn and despite the fact he's known everywhere for being a mass murderer and a psychopath, he sacrifices himself to let Cheris have his memories. The second book has Cheris playing a long game pretending to be the general that everyone is deathly afraid of and she manages to set off a fractured calendar. (Consensual reality math-magic that can perform some super-powerful stuff.)

This book picks up after that. A decade later. And now two sets of fractured Jedao memories in two different bodies are running wild.

I love the mirroring and the way this particular novel feels like an inversion of the first. It also feels like Jedao is a puzzle piece, two halves of his soul, his memories, are fighting each other in an epic battle that reflects just how morally and ethically GRAY this entire series is. Who is right? Who is wrong? Who knows?

But the fact is, it's brilliant. I love the vast worldbuilding, the magic maths, the alien species that are subjugated by the humans, the servitors (AI robots), the sheer number of people, and the social building throughout.

I won't say this is an easy read, but it is easily one of the most rewarding. I've read the first two books two times and this one a single time, and I keep discovering new things in each. I'm also more invested. I recommend this very highly for any of you true fans of original and fearless SF. :)

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC, too!

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Monday, April 9, 2018

The Wild Dead (The Bannerless Saga)The Wild Dead by Carrie Vaughn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No spoilers!

But this is a better kind of mystery novel.

One that's simultaneously post-apocalyptic SF and a hopeful social experiment and a thoughtful quest to *understand* in the middle of an ongoing pastoral murder investigation.

Wait! Isn't this what happened in the previous novel? Well, sure, somewhat, but no two murders or struggling communities are the same. The world-building here is pretty cool. So much has been lost, but solar cars and sophisticated birth control is a sign of the kind of social setup that's left to these frontier settlers. To have a banner is to be allowed to procreate. To have enough to live on is more so much more important than to hoard or amass anything at all.

And below that is the fear. The fear that they might herald in another Fall.

But it's not all dark. This is some of the most hopeful post-apocalypse novels I've read and the good mashup with deep murder investigations reminds me more of The Name of the Rose than anything else.

This particular novel introduces us to the people on the outside of these hopeful Banner communities, and I was particularly fascinated by the interplay and the lies and the reveals on both sides.

I think I may have enjoyed this one better than the first, too! :) Well worth checking out!

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

BannerlessBannerless by Carrie Vaughn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What this is:

A post-apocalyptic pastoral with mystery elements, with murder, light social corruption, with traces of old tech in a much-reduced future where simple ways are regulated with tight social pressures. Banners are referring to the right to have children... as if overpopulation was the true cause of the earlier devastations.

What this isn't:

A literary post-apocalyptic novel. It's not attempting an outright thematic-based artsy-fartsy post-apoc. Indeed, it focuses on a hopeful future with an interesting social setup that attempts at a very real fairness that really isn't the norm for these types of novels. I'm used to women being raped every other page, and nothing like that is happening here. It's a real delight to see! Almost as if people are somewhat DECENT or something.

I did mention it was a pastoral novel, and it very much is. There are no big blowouts despite the investigation of a murder. There are very deliberate and reflective tones here, a big sense of patience and delving into characterization, too, but it's all in the service of a big picture.

It's a big departure from the author's UF, but that's fine. I love to see different genres from authors I trust. :) I'm very interested in continuing the sequel, now, too! :)

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Apocalypse Nyx (Bel Dame Apocrypha #1.5, 1.7)Apocalypse Nyx by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is solidly sandwiched between Hurley's Nyx's first and second novels right where we can still enjoy scenes with Rhys.

Short novellas or short stories.

And this perfect for all us fans who loved this wild bio-punk world full of "magicians" who pull wild bioengineering stunts in the name of a religious war and mercenaries who feel like they're losing their souls. It's also great for all you hard-drinking, hard punching, embittered readers who like a lot of grit in their post-apocalyptic hard-SF Biopunk. :)

So was this good on its own, too? I think so! Short quests, jobs, and Nyx really shines darkly. Well, she's a mess. :)

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Pollen (Vurt #2)Pollen by Jeff Noon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm already a big fan of Jeff Noon and this novel has solidified it for me. Any problems of sheer enjoyment I might have had in the one that precedes it, in Vurt, has disappeared.

Maybe it's because I've learned the world and maybe it's because the pacing has improved a great deal and we're not forced to ride the storm of dreams from the PoV of a junkie.

This is more of a detective novel, quite similar to Noon's later novels.

It still showcases the world of dreams, a doggy world, men and women of shadow, androids, and plant people. :) It's still weird fiction, but it's also literary. I've never seen Persephone become a bad guy. And so many literary characters (and movie stars) dragged out of the dream to walk reality. :)

For something that was written '95, it has all the spirit of Gaiman's Sandman and the spunk of the best metafiction and the verve of what is now called the New Weird. :) He's definitely on the forefront of it all.

But how did I like this novel? It was fun and above all, super imaginative. For all of you who bemoan the lack of creativity in novels these days, I would direct you here. :)

It's all about sex and lust and sneezes and cabbies and the Law and going down into Hades and it's also about half-zombies and doggie nature. :) It's fascinating as hell. :)

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Vurt (Vurt #1)Vurt by Jeff Noon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I honestly don't what to think about this book.

On the one hand, it's like a jazz festival that mixes Naked Lunch with Trainspotting.

Add an alien feast, nanobot robot cooks, robodogs, The New Weird, and a vast dreamscape that goes from heaven to hell, from arty cafes to cop busts, to licking feathers to get high, to an outright possible reference to Tammuz and Geshtinana with an incestuous bent, and I STILL don't know what to think about this book.

It has a clear jazzy style that jumps all over the place easily, filling in backstory in a fun way, but at the same time, there are so many odd references to a world so alien and just like a drug-filled afternoon, that I can't quite say it was comfortable at all.

And yet it was very creative. I loved the virtual meta moments, the way it felt like a mix between Matrix and Strange Days years before those movies were ever made. It also felt like Existenz in a HUGE way. Again, this was written long before that, as well.

So here I am, looking at the genuine article, the haze of the utterly strange and fascinating and brilliant, and I'm wondering if I even like it.

On one hand, I will absolutely respect it and give it major props for existing and to myself for having read it, but I can't say that it was all that pleasant. However, I have also said the same things about China Mieville and Vandermeer, so it may be a tolerance thing and a mood thing rather than an exacting approbation or me being amazed. Of course, I could be both at the same time. :)

Love, and hate. Or beauty and ugliness. My reaction fits quite well with the contents of the book, from imagery to spelled-out themes. So perhaps this was the whole point, to begin with.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Head On (Lock In, #2)Head On by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a super easy read that hits all the fun spots for all you folks who're into Sports, Mysteries, and great concept SF filled with robots designed for tele-reality and virtual reality.

I'm one of those readers who are very partial to the SF stuff and I like a good mystery, too, so I had a great time on that alone. But here's the funny part: the sports aspect is unique as hell and full of some great twists. :) Such as getting your head pulled off during the play to be used as a football. As part of the game. :)

Those people from the previous book, the folks who're stuck in their bodies and can only get out by using a waldo-robot or by those biological peeps who are wired for it are now pretty much the only game in town when it comes to full contact sports. It's all robots, of course, and transferred consciousnesses, and a wild story that's the equal of any modern mystery in that OTHER genre. :)

In a lot of ways, I think this sequel featuring our favorite FBI Lock-In is superior to the first. :)

I'm totally glad to have read it. It's just plain good and fun. :)

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Doomsday Book (Oxford Time Travel, #1)Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my second read.

The first time I read it, I was fascinated by CW's take on time travel and the mirroring of the plague in the future with the past's Black Death, but moreover, the characters snuck up on me and tore my soul apart. It was, perhaps, the best time-travel novel I'd ever read.

That was then.

But now? Even when I knew it was coming, when I tried to keep from loving all these characters in the past and in the future, I was unable to help myself. They're flawed, annoying, lovable, hurt, and intense. I feel their reality. And I still tried to hold myself apart from the tragedy to come.

But I failed. I failed hard.

I cried the first time I read this and it may have hit even harder this time. I held off for so long, just enjoying the everyday lives in the past and the growing unease in the future, not just Mr. Dunworthy's frantic efforts, but the epidemic that spreads there. When the past's Black Plague finally hit, however, I was undone.

This is the difference between good books and truly fantastic ones. Classic ones. Bowl me over and kill me ones.

This book has the timeless quality, the depth, the complicated emotions, and especially a complicated story that defies any easy description, or if I can describe it, such as what I've already done, then it simply cannot *really* describe it.

It's a hard book to read because it affects me so much.

But it's also one of the most memorable SF books I've ever read, too. I can easily place this in my top 100 books of all time. :)

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Taste of Wrath (Sin du Jour, #7)Taste of Wrath by Matt Wallace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And the series is done.

I can honestly say I was deeply amused by this ensemble cast of chef-mercenaries who are so devoted to making the best possible meals under the worst possible conditions... including serving angel meat to demons, being tortured on live-tv, hellgnomes, and enough guns, monsters, UF, grimdark fantasy, and gun-toting madness to fill your belly and then some.

It's a wild ride. Lots of death, pathos, humor, and irreverent awesomeness.

And yes, I'm kinda sad right now. No matter how much I enjoyed the action and the foodie goodness, I've grown rather fond of some of the characters and having them leave the kitchen is pretty rough. ; ;

Thanks to Netgalley for letting me continue this Foodie Nightmare!

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st CenturyThe Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was thoroughly charmed by this well-written guide on how to write better. :)

Maybe it's because real language changes. Maybe it's because true clarity comes from the spaces between the words and not absolutely from the rules about the words.

But that's not to say that this cogent discussion on grammar isn't rife with practical examples and great reflection, because it does. It just happens to bring up the fact that one generation's Haberdash is another's charming fireside chat. Moreover, it uses humor, skepticism, and common sense to throw out the grammar nazism and return us back to the firm hand of insight and delight.

For writing should not be a chore.

It should edify, clarify, and wrap us up in a warm comforter and hand us a favorite beverage and ramble on about what it really loved about its day. Am I clear?

Rules are for chumps, yo. But learn them first before you break them. :)

(Advice I think I will always have to take to heart.)

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

To Marry MedusaTo Marry Medusa by Theodore Sturgeon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, this was fascinating. I've read some really fascinating Sturgeon before but this one is nearly as good as my favorite, More Than Human.

There's a ton of great and flawed characters and they were interesting enough to carry us to the freaking huge conclusion. We follow a real villain around for most of early part of the novel, one very reminiscent of The Stars My Destination, where a deplorable man carries the seed of some truly awesome changes.

More than that, however, is the inescapable mind-blowing change of becoming a Medusa, a single head where every hair is each of us. A single mind. Every one of us knows what everyone else on the planet has learned. A total and ultimate godhood that is, nevertheless, just us.

Sturgeon has always been one of the most fearless writers I've ever had the pleasure of reading. When he sets his teeth into an idea, he goes all out and blows our minds. It's one thing to say he does something like this, but it's another entirely to see the buildup leading to a nearly instantaneous conversion. Or the reason for the conversion. Or the battle with another hive mind.

I was like... damn! This was a very short novel, too, and he NAILED IT.

This is a spicy classic. It may never be everyone's cup of tea, but I think I can rank it up there with Bester. :)

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Monday, April 2, 2018

Shadowplay (Shadowmarch, #2)Shadowplay by Tad Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One shouldn't go into a Tad Williams epic fantasy romp expecting nonstop action or grimdark developments or a cookie-cutter plot. Indeed, if you decide to dive into his works, you can expect a very awesome and deeply fleshed-out worldbuilding with enough history to choke a horse.

This isn't a bad thing. Indeed, I'm rather floored by how much love and care has been put into every single detail herein. From the plays and the poetry to the deep past, the corruptions of history, the way the remembrances of the gods fail to match up to their appearances in the novel, or the amazing depth and complexity each of the regular characters, be they human or fae, exhibit.

Indeed, aside from a failed expedition, plenty of warcraft between the shadow peoples and the humans who have apparently been squatting on the land out of antiquity, of a few certain characters' captures and settlement behind enemy lines, and gender-bending playacting, this novel could be described as a deep history lesson. I'm learning so much of this place! :) As a wonderful whole-cloth piece, I've rarely been treated to so much rich unique mythology, art, and exploration of such different peoples.

I include the shadow races here. Most of the novel takes place away from the human lands and in deep shadow.

I should mention that the shadow is a real thing, an actual line of demarcation, and monsters and fae live on the far side. In this novel, we're treated to a deep look into them and the gods of this world. Some of those gods are still alive and some of their ancient artifacts are still rather functional. Don't mistake this aspect as some kind of knock-off to a thousand other fantasy novels, however. The world-building is very rich and I can't find cause to complain.

However, I should mention that these books DO require a modicum of patience. The things that are most praiseworthy can sometimes be a chore to break through. :)

All in all, this is rather rewarding, if long. :) Of course, that's sometimes a decent selling point, too. :)

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