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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Wanderers of TimeWanderers of Time by John Wyndham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short collection of stories that were written in the Golden Age, mostly 30's as far as I can tell.

For those of you not in the know, Wyndham wrote one of the first best horror/SF dystopias in 1951 called The Day of the Triffids, plummeting a stolid middle-class England into a world full of blind men and women (save a handful) living and dying in droves while man-eating plants like in The Little Shop of Horrors picks off whoever is left. The style, the excitement, and the quality are palpable.

These short stories here came out before then, and like most of the Golden Age SF that came out, its very dated by today's standards and some are outright passe. The time travel stuff, for example, is kinda wild and sometimes seems like carbon copies of all the others, while the space-travel stuff is usually pretty wild.

The breakdown:

Wanderers of Time - my least favorite. Basically, it's an undertow of time machines causing ripples and popping travelers out of time. Time to get off the isolated island after a shipwreck!

Derelict of Space - easily my favorite. A salvage operation, with rumors of treasure, becomes a kerfuffle when governments turn it into a black-flag operation and a PR nightmare that presages the opening salvos of WWII BEFORE WWII. It's absolutely nuts, not wild like some adventure, but scarily plausible every step. How perceptions and the BIG LIE can take over everyone's talking points and the truth gets lost in the old legend of lost treasure. You can guess what the lost treasure is. :)

Child of Power - very decent.
Pretty weird and scary sensitive child comes into extra senses in the modern '30's and is either used or not quite used by others. Mostly it's a character study of the kid from the parents' point of view. It's odd and a warning at the same time. Reminds me of Wyndham's later Chocky.

The Last Lunarians - okay first contact story. It's really more of a warning, but what kind of contact story isn't?

The Puff-ball Menace - my second-favorite story in the lot. Mycelium and bio-warfare in rural towns. Wild end. :)

Wyndham is no author to sneeze at. :)

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Friday, June 29, 2018

The Churn (The Expanse, #0.2)The Churn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Claustrophobic and set on a dirty, poor future Earth, we see a nasty Baltimore run by the mob, a populace living on subsistence-level Basic, and a young Amos from the later series living as a thug with a missing sense of right and wrong.

It's classic and awesome SF. It may be a prequel and there's no space stuff, but the atmosphere and the thug life is pretty fantastic. The characterizations are top-notch and it really adds a LOT of dimension to one of my favorite characters from the books.

Totally recommend.

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Small Gods (Discworld, #13)Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm upping my ranking from a four to a five just because this tickled me much better the second time around. :)

Re-read from about 15 years ago, and somehow more satisfying now than it was then. Why? Om... I don't know... :) Flying turtles kinda rock my world.

This is a total Moses coming out of the desert kind of tale, only the GREAT GOD OM is a tiny turtle with only one believer and the kid is kinda hopeless, but a god's gotta do what a god's gotta do. Get Believers. On DISCWORLD.

So yeah, it's kindof a mess, traveling from the city of believers who don't believe in anything, to the city of philosophers who believe in ignorance, to the deep desert where there are a bunch of destitute almost-ex-gods who've seen much, much better days.

The humor is the best part. Of course. I mean, it IS Pratchett.

So glad I got to re-read this one in particular. Religion has a really huge target painted on its back. And people. Especially people. :)

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Firstborn (A Time Odyssey, #3)Firstborn by Arthur C. Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Concluding (sadly) the Time Odyssey trilogy, this book firmly solidifies the wildly disconnected first and second novels into one cohesive storyline.

There are bigger stakes, believe it or not. Badder weapons, new strangeness, and a direct call-back between Clarke's Firstborn race that became noncorporeal, were the architects of intelligent life, and who were directly referenced in all the psychedelic images from 2001 A Space Odyssey. If that doesn't get your blood pumping with all those obelisks, I don't know what will.

Add that to some of Baxter's most awesome aliens in the silver spheres, a massive world-building experience with the Xeelee with universal implications and an almost completely one-sided fight, and this novel becomes a truly fascinating collage and melding of two absolutely enormous adventures full of great (and apparently accurate) science, lovely characters (especially the AIs), and a great cross-section of everyone. Spacers, Martians, Earthers, Alt-Earthers, Non-human intelligences, including the Watcher and our Missing Linkers, and of course the Firstborn.

Let's destroy some planets, damn the fates of some futures, and ask a few new questions.

It's good. Not great, but very good. It's better in the idea realm where we can explore the worlds of Clarke and Baxter in a truly cool mesh between their imaginations. I really believe it was an equal collaboration. This is, despite the fact that Clarke died soon after.

And that's where my biggest concern lies.

The end. Is not the end. It's not even close to an end. Everyone SAYS it's the end, that it wraps up the trilogy, and it does, at least by combining the previous two in a really big and cool way, answering tons of questions while asking even more...

But the VERY END is ... unsatisfying. Who the HELL is the Lastborn, and why are they losing the fight????? WTF!?!

Okay. Great cliffhanger. Whatever. But where is the NEXT trilogy?

Oh, wait. Clarke died. That was back in '07.

*screams and pulls out his hair*

I'm emotional because I see great things in this series. I see how the Three-Body Problem built and stood on the shoulders of JUST THIS KIND OF SF. OF course, this was a much easier read and didn't jam-pack nearly as much astounding ideas in its pages as Cixin Liu's work, but it comes awfully close.

And years before Cixin Liu wrote his something similar. :)

Just postulating here. And wondering. And wistful. I wish I had a lot more of these books.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sunstorm (A Time Odyssey, #2)Sunstorm by Arthur C. Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a really interesting novel on a completely different level from the previous. They're linked almost tangentially to each other, focusing only on the grand design of these inscrutable aliens called the First Bornes and the MC from the previous novel who was returned from the Riverworld-type stitchwork Earth with so many times combined as one.

This Earth's direct challenge is dire as hell... a solar storm strong enough to scour the surface of the Earth and do significant damage WAY out at Jupiter, possibly Saturn. We're talking an extinction-level event here.

5 years to prepare. It's a future world about 35 years from the time this was written in the mid-2000's and even with the help of AI's and some advancements, the outlook is still poor as hell.

Clarke's characterization comes in very handy with Baxter's wild science, and we've got a much earlier look at what made Neal Stephenson's Seveneves so interesting. Neal's OMG let's save humanity right after the moon exploded might be rooted in a closer science-take than this one, and therefore better in that respect, but this one goes all out and pulls a Kim Stanley Robinson level of HUGE projects.

You know, like creating a refraction device wider than the sun, grown nanofilaments in the most interesting of plot twists. :) And the combined efforts of all humanity and AIs to save ourselves? Pretty damn amazing. :)

The focus is not on the characters, although they're pretty great. The focus is on the science, the Big Dumb Object, the means and methods, and the social problems surrounding it all. In that respect, I give this novel top marks.

It's SO different from the first one in the trilogy. I've got this impression that we're dealing with a trilogy-attempt at something super-huge and grand. Where it doesn't quite hit that EPIC GRAND mark, it still hits the OMG this is SO COOL line. :)

Really, it's pretty perfect for anyone tired of weak-ass SF who want huge projects with awesome huge stakes, not focused on war, but just plain survival. Bravo! :)

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Time's Eye (A Time Odyssey, #1)Time's Eye by Arthur C. Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What can I expect from a title like that with hard-hitting authors like this?

A little bit of the strengths of both and a few of their weaknesses, of course. Most of the characters feel like Clarke's inventions, but some of the odder characters kinda felt like Baxter.

The real strength of this novel is the slicings of time and location, jaunting whole segments of the Earth's populace into mish-mashes quite like Riverworld.

How do the armies of Genghis Kahn and Alexander the Great sound, clashing in an epic end? Good?


Astronauts, AI phones, ravening hoards, gentlemen Greek explorers (HA), and modern Afganistan warriors and, for good measure, the missing link species for humanity. The mix is quite fun and the promise is there.

Strong start, fun middle... but what happened to the end?

Oh, wait, book one. Let's see where this goes. :)

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural HistoryThe Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've read a lot of non-fiction books that are dry and sometimes gets bogged down in details and others that are very engaging but rather light on the meat. And then sometimes, you get a very cogent work with a very rich sampling of science from all different quarters laid out in such a way that it is impossible to believe anything BUT the final summation.

This is one of those works. We are in the middle of the sixth extinction event on Earth. The final result of the dieoff, as of just how many millions of species will succumb to the tipped balance of the biosphere, is yet to be known.

But let's put it this way: if you were just informed that there were no jobs in your town and that everyone else was just told that 1/3 of the jobs would remain for the next six months, and then after that, they would leave as well, you'd decide to move away. Right? So, you try to, only you find out that someone has just destroyed all the roads in or out of your town and there's no supply line for foods or services. Imagine the chaos. How would you survive? How would anyone? Now assume you slow that process down just enough that no one or very few people living there have a clue as to the reality of this situation. Belts tighten, poverty increases, some may try to move away but get crushed under the wheels of a much larger machine.

Now extrapolate that situation to every other town in the world.

And then overlay the problem to every other species in the world. Dice up ecospheres, destroy the homes and habitats there, and only the fleet of foot can survive... but where do they go? They're an invasive species now. They take on and live or die in someone else's backward. If it's a human's backyard, it'll get killed. Rinse, repeat. Add disease, and predatory species filling in stressed niches, and you've got a pandemic. Across all species.

Now, remember, a few hundred years or even a few thousand is just a flash in the pan for extinctions. Not all come from meteorites or volcanoes. We probably didn't kill off the Neanderthals by hunting. Economics works just as well. And even if a tribe hunts down a wooly mammoth every ten years, the gestation is slow enough that it would still bring a downward pressure on the species until it's gone in several thousand years. Period. And this isn't even accounting for the widespread death in rainforests now.

Add global warming, acidification of the ocean, the deaths of the coral reefs, the disappearance of the frogs, the bees, and from there, the tipping point that will eradicate larger species as they begin to wipe out other species because their food is disappearing, too, and we've got a major dieback.

In hundreds of years, or even 50, our world might become a bonefield. An optimistic outlook is 25%-50% of everything dead.


Truly a sobering book. One of the very best I've read on extinction events. Only, this one might be ours.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

The Honor of the Queen (Honor Harrington, #2)The Honor of the Queen by David Weber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am a victim of having already read some really great MilSF, and so many of them have had vibrant characters and an outrageous hat-trick narrow escapes.

What does this mean for this particular novel?

Well, unfortunately, the characterizations were NOT as good as the setup in the first Honor book. It seemed rather cardboard-cutout, actually. So I have to rely mostly on good worldbuilding and battles to carry me through this particular novel. It's not a dealbreaker, but it does lessen my enjoyment by loads.

It's a shame, too, because I liked the interplay between the ice-queen and her new crew in the previous one. So years have passed and Honor gets the honor of being on a diplomatic mission as a prelude to war. It's tactics. Staging planets and beachheads and supply lines.

Unfortunately, the planet they're courting for this seems awfully Isreal mixed with a bit more fundamentalist elements that seem Muslim. This book is from '93, so on one hand, I can be somewhat impressed with the willingness to explore social craziness when it comes to women's roles, the perception in the military from the fundamentalist PoV as well as Honor, the exemplary female officer, balking and resolving some of her own issues when dealing with very different cultures. It's all right.

But by this point in my reading career, it's woefully flat and mild and full of aspects that I just can't quite believe.

This is a spacefaring society and, yes, the colonists here were fundamentalists under major terraforming problems that tortured the populace and made them regard women as breeding machines blah blah blah.


So wait, the characters fell in quality and the seemingly impressive worldbuilding bits are kinda falling short? Possibly. So what's left?

Space Battle.

That was okay. :) Oh, and battle wounds. Particularly Honor. I felt something for her there. ; ;

I will probably continue this at some later date, but I'm not sure it warrants the full-press treatment anymore.

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

The OutsiderThe Outsider by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I'll go out on a limb here and say this is better than the Bill Hodges trilogy. There IS a lot of crossover here, minus one very main character, of course, but all in all, I really enjoyed this MORE as a murder-thriller than the others.

But wait, aren't I just judging Stephen King by his own works, as if he's on his own level and everyone must bow down to him and worship his brilliance? Yeah. Pretty much.

Same sprawling character-field, clever characterization, buildup, turnaround and redemption arcs. Saying any more than that is tantamount to spoiling a GRAND DEAL of this fun novel. Like, who am I supposed to root for? Who did it? Why did they do it? And best of all, HOW. :) :) :)

Yeah, it's a gruesome murder mystery full of twists and turns, but more than that, it's a STEPHEN KING novel. :)

Is there a supernatural element? A buildup of great horror and imagery and a so-delicious Nacho Libre add-on? Hell Yeah. So funny. :) Nuff said. It's totally worth it.

So am I perfectly happy with King? Yeah. You have no idea. :) He's sticking to his landings better these days, too. :) :)

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Mockingbird (Miriam Black, #2)Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is for all you peeps who have strong enough stomachs to get through the first Miriam Black novel!

The second one has just as much colorful language as the first! YAY! It had me chuckling with every grand disgusting description of place, person, and action. So funny. So fun. So redneck. So trashy.

But that isn't all. Miriam tries soooo hard. And fails. At almost everything. But when there's a sick serial murderer gunning for her and the special supernatural bits she has inside her, she's forced to go after him. Or him, her. It's complicated. But fun. :)

The UF is gritty and poor and trashy, but the language is fantastic and the pacing really quite great. Be prepared for some real raunch, blood, and death. I'm mightily impressed.

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Dead Man Rising (Dante Valentine, #2)Dead Man Rising by Lilith Saintcrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Falling back into this series is as effortless as it comes.

Dante is wallowing in the loss of her old self (having gained demonic powers) and the loss of her demon lover. Not only that, she's lost a lot more and while she's now super hard to kill, she's obsessing over her difficult past, her childhood of abuse, the magical practitioners who fed on the students.

Of course, all of this comes wrapped in a fantastic high-tech bow with plasguns, gene-engineering, a full extra-modern city with necromancers, sex-magic practitioners, and... of course... cops, private investigators, and mercenaries.

Add to that the devil and Dante's unwilling association, having found love with a fallen demon and then losing him... and we've got enough pathos to charge a mag-lev train.

The past really comes home to roost in this novel and there was never a point where I wasn't thoroughly entertained. It's just one of those novels. Total flashy UF goodness with everything I like in both SF and Fantasy. :)

So good. :)

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Friday, June 22, 2018

The Wind in the WillowsThe Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read now to make up for reading it a long time ago.

What did I think about it? The adventures of Toad, that inestimable peerage of nobility and intelligence?


Unlike the other classic I just finished, these talking animals have little to do with religion or politics other than a cameo performance from Pan. And that was just a little last minute grace. :)

So what did I think about the whole book? It's a comic buddy novel with very loud and distinctive Victorian animals having adventures, watching Toad get into trouble or eventually getting Toad out of trouble, or otherwise enjoying rashers of bacon.

Funny? As in Three Men in a Boat funny? Perhaps. But this one is absolutely a children's novel, too. And quite fun. :)

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Watership Down (Watership Down, #1)Watership Down by Richard Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, yeah.

Rabbits going gung-ho in England and encountering many different politics, talking about mythology, death, and courage.

Oh, yeah, and if you didn't pick up on that bit... it's FANTASY. They can't count to five but they have complex Briar-Rabbit mythologies. Oh, and there's a bit of a Cassandra precog stuff and ghosts, too.

But don't let this next bit bring you down! It's YA.

Oh, a lot of people might say it's too graphic for younglings but that's entirely a matter of opinion. It's rabbits, ya'll. Have you told your little ones about where the meat they're eating comes from? It's all part of the same idea. Kids aren't dumb. Well. Most of them aren't. Give them some credit. :)

All told, this really IS a classic. Plenty to entertain everyone. It's a subversive, political, adventuresome survival dystopia with delightful bunnies.

Marlon Bundo eat your heart out. :)

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Quarantine (Subjective Cosmology #1)Quarantine by Greg Egan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've had Greg Egan on my radar for a long time but aside from a lucky chance encounter with a novella, it still took me almost two decades to finally break down and read him! It wasn't his fault. That lies entirely with me. I'm absolutely ashamed.

Why? Because this hard-SF novelist is unashamedly tackling some of the hardest quantum physics interpretations, (smearing possibilities and collapsing the wave functions of reality) to very, very courageous levels.

The writer runs with a loaded gun with a safety off. It's pretty awesome. The risk he takes from turning a cyberpunk Private Investigator novel into a completely sidelined thought experiment including the mythical Observer and the death of all the wave functions to create a single reality, multiplying it by a few observers, and then eventually to the whole Earth, is not an end ANYONE ought to miss. I cheered. I gasped. I whooped.

Am I explaining this too esoterically? Possibly. Okay, let's back up. The Earth is suddenly quarantined in a quantum bubble to protect the rest of the universe from summarily changing realities willy-nilly because we THINK it into being. It starts out as quantum tunneling on the macro scale, cheating at cards, getting hugely improbable number sequences right, but then we go deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole where multiple worlds can be chosen from at will, thousands, hundreds of thousands, and each die as the "best" possible world becomes real. Now let's throw that into the stew and add more people. How about adding everyone to that powerful quantum schedule? What happens when we all get the ability to be gods?

Yeah, Egan attempts just this. :) Brilliant attempt, too!

So why didn't I give it 5 stars? Because great ideas don't always equate great fundamental stories with plot and characters. There's nothing wrong with this one, but most the plot and characters are puppets to the need to make clear what is going on, science-wise. I like good exposition when I need it to follow the intent of the author. In this case, it's absolutely necessary. And delightful. But it necessarily slows down the plot, too. Like, to a crawl.

Fortunately, it was never boring to me. Just uneven. No harm, no foul! And what we have here is a novel of quantum possibilities gone totally nuts. :) I LOVE THIS!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Shelter: Tales Of The AftermathShelter: Tales Of The Aftermath by Dave Hutchinson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm of two minds on this one.

I feel like I ought to go easy on it because it is, after all, just a recreation of the Hatfields and McCoys set in rural post-apocalyptic England. It's been many years after a broken asteroid took out North America and we have a mostly illiterate farming community that is run more like a feudal system than anything else.

Enter in the characters. This is where all the fun is going to be had, assuming you have fun with them. Me? I was kinda meh with them and the underlying concept of the novel. It was competent but nothing truly stood out. I've enjoyed Hutchinson's other novels quite a bit but this one kinda left me flat.

You know it's a bad sign when you're rooting for the bloodshed and a nightmare-fueled war between these "sane" rural community folk.

Then again, maybe that was the whole point. I'll be looking out for other novels by him but this one... not so much.

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Thrawn (Star Wars: Thrawn, #1)Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away, I was once absolutely amazed and thrilled when a certain Timothy Zahn revitalized the whole Star Wars franchise by picking up a few decades after the events in Episode Six, introducing the most charming and deadly enemy the New Republic had ever faced.

I was doubly amazed because there was no heavy reliance on BDOs, just strategical and tactical strength. Grand Admiral Thrawn came back from the outer rim and WIPED everything in his path.


Instead, we had a prequel trilogy and then two out of three after-trilogy and two side-stories.


I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.


So, eventually, I got this bright idea. Go back to the original author of Thrawn and read all about Thrawn's rise to power. I avoided it only because I tend to avoid franchise novels, but come on! It's THRAWN!

And I was satisfied. More than satisfied. I loved getting an inside look into this brilliant guy with dual loyalties and enough wisdom for three sectors. :) So? Love to hate? Enjoy just how brilliant a villain he is because he's also complex and admirable?

Yep. All of the above. All the love of Darth Vader before we saw him as a kid and none of the mistakes. :)

Totally worth it. Easily my favorite SW novel after Timothy Zahn's original classic. :)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Soft ApocalypseSoft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I may have just found my favorite dystopian SF. Maybe not as good as, say, The Postman or The Stand, maybe, but out of all the last decade's dystopian runs, I like this because of the freaking REALISM.

What? So it's like The Road?

NOPE. Not gritty like that. The title is okay but it really should be named SLOW Apocalypse. This is how it will probably land on us. You know, putting a frog in a pot and set the temp to low. This is how the world ends. Not with a bang... but a whimper.

We're damn suckers for that kind of destruction. :) We might not like to admit it, of course, and all these dystopias like the plagues and the radiation and the zombie outbreaks... but what happens when we run out of resources and our natural cupidity and incompetence drags us down?

The usual. Death. Destruction. But what will it REALLY be like? Especially if it's SLOW?

People will adjust to the new norms. Try to have relationships. Grumble about the new depression. Perform hugely boneheaded stunts. Eventually, run out of road. And all the while, just trying to get by.

That's REALISM for you. Doing good where you can or letting it all rot, trying to find a bit of happiness in the crap and sticking with friends where you find them. No huge rape-fests. No blowout fight of good versus evil. There are still dicks with guns and politicians without a clue and nuclear warheads going off in this novel, but events are spread out as the apocalypse comes to a full boil. You wake up from your 1950's dream to see the 1980's. You wake up from your 1980s' dream to see the 2010's. Only it's worse. Much, much worse.

You still hungry? Trying to sell a few tampons for a piece of bread? How about all that murdering of illegal immigrants by the trainload?

Oh, yeah, this is rather timely. And you know what? It's very realistic. It might even be happening to us right now. How's that for scary?

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Monday, June 18, 2018

The Return of the NativeThe Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My very first Hardy. I've always had this impression of Hardy but I've never had an actual OCCASION to actually read him!

Naturally, I have been mortified at my neglect. So many people have been required to read his works and yet I have gracelessly skipped on by. For shame!

So what do I think of this Master of the English Novel?

OMG he writes such TORRID SOAP OPERAS!

I mean, let me be clear here: his writing from the very first passages was GORGEOUS, flowing, evocative, and darkly humorous. And that's just the description of the fictional town. I LOVED IT.

And then we were introduced to the people.

Young people, all of them. Stupid young people. With not a lick of sense, amazing passions, blinded perceptions, wild imaginations, and almost guaranteed spots on any daytime tv serial designed to spark emotion but not even two brain cells.

For all that, I loved the characterizations and the build-up before the first of the marriages... and then things took a dark turn. Things went from Wuthering Heights DRAMA to Wuthering Heights tragic. Ish. I mean, nothing gets THAT tragic. Or drenched in pathos.

But this does come close. :)

Oh, woe! Woe! Woe! Whoah.

Recommend? Well, let me put it this way. I would knock on every door and pound on any window if I read a writer with this much talent putting his skills to a much worthier topic than the stupidities and tragedies of kids with their heads firmly ensconced in their backsides. To imagine this as a fantasy title would have me jittering with enough pent-up excitement to power a city block for a week.

But alas. Alak. This is just a torrid soap opera.

A good one, mind you, and it even ends on a solid moral foundation for the edification of the gentle reader too scared to be scandalized by a whiff of IMMORALITY. But then, we must make some adjustments for the time in which this was written.

It really is a classic of wonderful WRITING. Too bad about the ideas. Alas. :)

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington, #1)On Basilisk Station by David Weber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Years and years and years ago, in a mental galaxy far, far away, a boy saw a ton of Star-Trek Military Mary Sue Hard-SF novels on the shelves of his local bookstore and collectively went...

Eh? No.

So boy read everything else. And everything else. And everything else.

Enter GoodReads.

Boy asks himself if he's been entirely fair to said Mil-SF titles so summarily dismissed. Is frankly amazed that it's been generally highly received and it's still getting written. To high praise.

Boy wonders. And ponders. And finally decides to throw out preconceptions. To read for himself.

And guess what? The boy was entertained.

There's surprisingly little sexualization at all. It follows the long tradition of Military Competence Porn, where meritocracy is faced with the evils of privilege and overconfidence. A severely handicapped heroine is given few resources, a dead-end station (thanks to her kicking the ass of an almost-rapist privileged jerk). She brushes her shoulders and sets to work with tons of misfits and maladjusted crewmembers and whips the Bad News Bears into shape.

And they turn this backwater system into something they can be proud of.


I admit it. I was charmed. The only cliches were the non-embarrassing ones. It was all-competence, all the time.

The only thing I got lost at, unfortunately, was the long sequences of actual BATTLE later in the novel. Yeah. That's kinda embarrassing. I mean, it's a MILSF. But unless I'm looking at a ton of flashy lights on the screen or the author is extraordinarily gifted at description (read: less info-dumping, or at least restrain the info-dumping to something that's interesting to me, read: dry military blah blah,) I kinda need my battles to be fairly quick and telegraphed easily. :)

Maybe that's just me.

HOWEVER, all that wasn't much of a dealbreaker for me because I'm kinda used to it with all the other MILSFs I've read. I just don't go nuts over that particular aspect of the novels.

Characters make me fall for the stories. Not the space-battles. :) Fortunately, I had a great time. It's a pretty simple take, but the adventure is well thought-out and we're given the full run from misfits to supreme lords of this backwater system. I call that a win. :)

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Brass Man (Agent Cormac, #3)Brass Man by Neal Asher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a lot of ways, this is primarily a character-driven novel.

It may not seem that way because we're surrounded by more Ship and World-AIs than we can shake a stick at, Jain mushrooms infecting whole civilizations with super-high-tech hacking monstrosities (that are mycelium), androids, cyborgs, messed-up alien ecologies, and alien BDOs that aren't so dumb.

Where's the character-driven stuff? They're now on a tech-race about to turn all the intelligences in the galaxy into greed-monsters inciting war on a REALLY huge scale.

Well, fortunately, the Brass Man, a robot built like a literal tank and so full of split personalities that he's almost become SANE, is a great character. Cormac is great, too, and he definitely gets a powerup here, but mostly the novel is all about the bad guys and these two. :)

Oh, the bad guys get a LOT of time and they're pretty much entirely a Bond-Villain schtick. :) I don't care. It's fun as hell. :)

I will NOT say that this novel was as good as the others in terms of plot or twists, but the ambiance was pretty awesome. :) As a space-opera, I was constantly thinking about how this ranks up to Iain M. Banks and it does, very admirably. Not in the same quality, mind you, but when we're dealing with huge AI-mindships and the whole Polity behaving badly, I had a LOT of great flashbacks. :)

I think I'm going to be having a lot of fun with all these books in the very near future.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had some pretty darn strong reactions to reading this. I mean, I already know that Chuck Wendig writes some gritty and hard-hitting unlikable crap-like characters that wallow around in the muck and make even more of it, but that wasn't really where my strong reactions were coming from.

Or were they?

Let me back up. Reading this is like reading the lovechild of Chuck Palahniuk and Seanan McGuire. One half of it is an emotional and vivid supernatural UF ride with a strong female who is on the way to hitting bottom when we first get to know her, and the other half is Marla Singer.

She's WELL on the way to breaking the glass-bottom boat and going all the way through. And why? Every person she touches, she see's the moment of their deaths. Her coping mechanism went through the other side of drinking herself to death to making a sport of hooking up with truckers on the side of the road at 1 am just to combat the death that's always inside her.

It's dark and self-destructive and its hard to like her even if I feel some sympathy.

It gets easier and better as she tries to make real connections again and she's forced into fighting for her life as con men and murderous women and criminal organizations use and abuse her because at least she's not being so self-destructive. Others have that covered.

The best parts of this novel are the LANGUAGE. :) Such COLORFUL use of it. And the resolution is quite satisfying, too. The many, many descriptions of death, both foul and disturbing, were brilliantly depicted. The MC's viewpoints on EVERYONE comes through like a slap on the face, too.

I mentioned Chuck Palahniuk for a reason. It's almost a nihilistic sex-sport gothfest for con-men and women. It's also graphic as hell.

For those who like this kind of thing and like it SPICY, I totally recommend this UF. :) It's hard to like these characters, but I was absolutely entertained by them. :)

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The Gabble: And Other StoriesThe Gabble: And Other Stories by Neal Asher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to go all out and even read the short stories surrounding some of the memorable and unknown peeps in the connected universe that Neal Asher has made.

I mean, why not? He has a very engaging splatterpunk Hard-SF style with tons of great alien environments, interesting aliens, AIs, enormous constructs, ancient dead alien cultures, cyborgs, regenerative immortals, and more bullets and interesting ways to kill stuff than you can shake a railgun at.

These stories are all pretty fun. Of course, it's even more fun when you've been building up a corpus of his novels and can start pointing fingers and laughing at the in-jokes, and that's where I'm beginning to be. I'm no master yet, of course, but as I get closer, I tend to have a lot more fun.

Worldbuilding! Universe-building! And a few core characters that always show up.

It's NICE. :)

Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck - Re-introduction to the alien duck. Semi-sentient, funny, scary. :) I liked all the stories that had them. This includes Alien Archaeology and The Gabble, as well. Fascinating stuff! Devolved? A victim? Who knows?

Putrefactors was like a wild-west town with some horrible company secrets, enforcers, and angry locals. With horrible alien biology involved.

Garp and Geronamid was a very fun whodoneit involving a not-quite-dead corpse and an AI finding justice on a non-polity world. :)

Acephalous Dreams has the AI Geronamid in a very cool alien-tech (Jain) cautionary tale.

The Sea of Death, even though it has a pretty cool concept, kinda left me cold. Same is true for Adaptogenic. They seemed to have some promise, but I liked all the others much better.

Snow in the Desert was just fun and funny and was full of sex and a weird conspiracy. :)

Now, I can't really say whether this would be a good place to start with Asher's writings or not, but it definitely fills in a few gaps for me and whets my appetite for the rest. Definitely worth reading.

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BorneBorne by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 6/14/18:

It never ceases to astound me how much one day's blow-me-over imaginative fiction can suddenly be a warm and cozy blanket to carry me through a chilly night. Or, I should say, an enormous bear-hug to destroy whatever is left of a dystopian-ravaged city to give my belly a good belly laugh.

But it does, and strange is the new comfort food. :)

It may not be as great the second time because I knew what the reveals were going to be, but I still enjoyed the sheer beauty of the imagination going on here. So good. :)

And yes, I still think this is a better, even if more accessible, novel than the Area X ones. :)

Original Review:

This is probably going to be one of those times where I rail against the universe and popularity norms because this novel is an exemplary piece of imaginative fiction that goes well above and beyond the call of any duty to amaze, wonder, and offer up a meal of monstrously epic proportions.

First, I should say that no matter how much I loved the weirdness and the atmosphere of VanderMeer's previous trilogy, nothing quite prepared me for just how good this was going to be. In fact, if I didn't already have an ultimate favorite for the year's best SF already, I'd be pushing this one to the fore. But that's not going to stop me from nominating it for the Hugo, mind you. :)


It's deceptively simple and very engaging at first, but as life and growth become a bit more complicated, as it always seems to get, or when your lover starts getting jealous of your rescued intelligent abandoned biotech creature, then you have to make a few decisions.

Add that to the fact that this whole world is a brilliant biopunk nightmare dystopia where most people have died and minnows are alcoholic and a gigantic bear eclipses the night, dropping monsters and salvageable biotech down onto the broken city, and we've got ourselves a recipe for a piece of imagination that will rival most books anywhere. Add to this a very wonderful and generous dose of wit and charm, delightful characterizations and dialogues between Rachael, Wick, and our loveable ubermonster, Borne, and I'm shot over the moon.

The devil is in the details, of course, and there are enough details for any fan of Geoff Ryman, early Greg Bear, and the more recent Robert Jackson Bennett.

So what's my complaint, again? The fact that I love this so much? No, of course not... it's the fact that it's WEIRD.

I love weird! I love it to freaking death! I live for weird! And it's a weird that rides on the coattails of originality, too!

I mean, sure, we've seen a lot of oddball and screwy (read cute) biotech monstrosities in the world of fiction, from Heinlein to cartoon shows, but few will do as smooth a job of turning an ubermonster into a delightful child to be raised, who never needs to poop or pee, and which focuses all its energies on what it means to be a person when there's no such "thing" left in this world.

At least, of course, until it all goes wrong... or what that means to the rest of the city, Rachel and Wick's relationship or the fact a series of godzilla-like battles will rage across the world.

Pretty, no?

Yeah, this is the good shit, man. This is the stuff I live for. Now if only I could get everyone else in the world to see this my way. :)

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

SummerlandSummerland by Hannu Rajaniemi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a bonafide fanboy of Rajaniemi, first for his trilogy and then for his short story collection, I was really chomping at the bit for ANYTHING he might write next. His imagination is by far some of the most hard-hitting spectacular steam-rolling post-singularity tour-de-force circuses I've ever come across.

So what was my initial reaction when I heard he was writing about 1938 pre-war spy fiction where the afterlife is not only accessible but is actively involved in politics in that alternate world?


For me, I've never been a gung-ho fan of Le Carre spy fiction, and although this is apparently written in a very similar style, I can't go completely ga-ga over it because I'm not starting out as a fan. Fortunately, I have read enough similar stuff to enjoy it, at least intellectually. And so I dove in. Keeping an open mind.

Both the Soviets and the English have their own separate afterlives. Not everyone has the means to stick around after they die, however, and so a kind of economy is set up. A Meritocracy. Only the deserving can keep from fading away. But what's worse is the fact that the really old politicos don't go away. Ever. The living is ruled by the dead and wars are a fantastic mixture of Ideology (Communism vs Socialism), Religion (or lack thereof), and of course all the other trappings of temporal power, including resources, economics, and all the other things that the living are interested in. :)

I think the novel was fantastically researched and developed. It's more finding reasons to stay with a particular side kind of novel than discovering who might be the bad guy. Or even if there IS a bad guy. This kind of spy fiction is about ideas, plain and simple. And a few great reveals later that paint the whole situation in a very different light.

For me, I have no problems with the novel as it is. Not the characters, the subjects, or the action. I enjoyed getting to know both the main characters from either side of the ideological (and temporal) divide. :)

FINAL ESTIMATION. It ain't the same kind of novel, by a long shot, to his other trilogy! Don't expect it! It's quite an easy read so long as you're fine with your history, too. You know, like the contents of the Spanish Civil War. Or extrapolations of a world that can't get over Queen Victoria WAY past her expiration date.

Double-crosses, mystery, murder, ectoplasm! Dark secrets, darker times... where life seems rather meaningless because life is almost the same after you die! It's all there. And it's pretty fantastic. :)

So why didn't I give this a five star if I'm such a fan? Because I tend to bounce off Oooooldschool spy fiction. It's okay. I just don't usually resonate that well with it. The same is true here. I liked the novel. The characters, all the elements, but something got sacrificed for the sake of being more accessible, IMHO.

I LOVE his wilder stuff. :) Plain and simple. It's not fair to this novel, of course, because it's very much ahead of its competition. I think of Ian Tregellis's trilogy, in particular, which I liked a lot. Also, Larry Correia.

Rajaniemi kills it on the ideological forefront. :)

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The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the SelfThe Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self by Thomas Metzinger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have a psychology background, so I am deeply interested in neuroscience and AI research. I've even read Metzinger several times in the past, ranking him up there with Dennet and also a number of bleeding edge modern philosophers. :)

So I had to read this DESPITE that HORRIBLE TITLE. Ego Tunnel? Seriously? I mean, sure, he explains it as the outward connection after we've formulated our internal modality of consciousness, but STILL... EGO TUNNEL?

Enough bitching. And no crude jokes, please. This book is actually some pretty awesome philosophy, metaphysics, and neuroscience. He asks the big questions.

Such as, what is consciousness when it's being ignored by neuroscience or being butchered by quacks?

No laughter. He takes it seriously and it's well worth the effort to ask. We've all been asking it on one level or another, but everyone agrees: consciousness cannot and will not be reducible. No simple explanation will take away the quantity or the quality of anyone's experience. We all recognize our being conscious as highly subjective and reproducible. That's not an issue.

But what is an issue is HOW consciousness is formed. This is important for not only AI research or our damaged selves or any number of psychological needs-based therapy... but because of the fact of knowing causes a qualitative and quantifiable dimension to the nature of what we are. And from there, we have a lot more tools in our toolbox.

The book is a lot denser than I can give good treatment for a review, but let me explain some of my most exciting discoveries.

We are what we say we are. And by "say" I mean unconscious and conscious self-references. If we lose a leg, we might have a phantom limb, but we work around it because we have included our "body" in our reference frame. When we drive and get good at it, we often just "feel" if we'll make a tight parking space because we've included the car in our reference frame. It is our new "body". Pick up a baseball bat or a sword and make it an extension of you. Video games. You become your avatars if you're doing it right.

It is a meta-understanding of your surroundings that is infinitely adjustable. Reality itself is just a shadow, of course, in both physics and in the Platonic ideal, but our conscious and unconscious restructuring of our "body" field gives us better and better understanding of our surroundings. Connecting with other people with meta-narratives, models, modes, is an effort in sidestepping "reality" in order to fit the two models and narratives together. Hence... the tunnel. :)

Cool, right? Next comes the experiments and confirmation, but so much of this feels intuitively RIGHT.

We make up a meta-structure of reality inside our own heads, make our own body, and see if it conforms with everyone else's. The nature of Consciousness is just the self-awareness that springs up from having told a story and seeing whether it works with the observations or whether it needs to be thrown out.

So cool.

Mind you, that's just a minor feature of the whole book, but to me, it's pure gold. :)

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

ImplantedImplanted by Lauren C. Teffeau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the get-go I was reminded of a direct mix of Nexus and Europe in Autumn.

This isn't a bad thing. I love neurotech and transhumanist stories and love spy fiction couched as Courriers. So based on nothing more than the blurb and a Netgalley interest, I tore through this book and quite enjoyed it.

Who doesn't like to do clandestine data handoffs through their blood, become invisible to all sensors, or otherwise erase your identity in favor of being a hardcore member of a spy network in a futuristic Earth city under a dome with archeological layers of city life within? You know, with the poor down below and the rich up above?

Uh, right. That doesn't sound too good, even if direct mind-to mind linking is possible and it encourages a level of intimacy unheard of except among full telepaths. Or the wild virtual games that are better than life. Unfortunately, the haves and the have-nots take up the crux of the novel.

I thought it was going to be more about intimacy avoidance and layers of consciousness and identity, and there was a lot of that, but most of it revolved around economics, re-terraforming our own planet, and other dystopian stuff. I liked the early spy stuff quite a bit more than the later stuff. :)

All in all, it was a very enjoyable mix of tech and the future vision of dystopia with a bit of romance, rebellion, and funky spy-stuff. :) Quite decent for what it is: some fluff, some angst, great tech, and an overarching idea. :)

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Deepsix (The Academy, #2)Deepsix by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The best thing I can say about McDevitt's SF is that it's always consistent, rich, and adventuresome.

While I never expect anything wild or any the pushing of the boundaries, I can always enjoy planetary exploration and the archeology of ancient, long-dead alien races. It's a mystery wrapped in interesting physical dimensions for worlds, such as this one. It's much more massive than earth but the density is still within the perfect zone... and yet we know everything has to go to hell.

Yep. More death, a planet set to be completely destroyed, and a crew of academics and explorers trapped on the surface by massively bad luck. Add other spaceships responding to the distress, instantaneous communications and a media circus thanks to a few well placed and vocal peeps in the crew, and everyone's tuned in to this exciting rescue.

Too bad the rescue is doomed.

I was reminded of the very best portions (and extravagant portions) of a certain Lost In Space movie. Only expanded, improved, made less stupid. :)

This novel was quite enjoyable. Exciting popcorn fiction full of great tech, standard humans, and a modern sensibility NOT reminiscent of the golden age SF mythos. It might be less spicy than most SF, but it's definitely some of the most accessible.

Especially for fans of adventure. :)

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Something really fun, ya'll!

I got the opportunity to get an insider scoop on Yoon Ha Lee's perspective when writing this trilogy! I hope you enjoy! These books are a personal favorite of mine and I couldn't be happier. :)

Yoon Ha Lee's own words:

When I first thought about writing Ninefox Gambit, I was so nervous about the prospect of writing a whole novel from outline that I did a "test run" by writing a 27,000-word Fullmetal Alchemist fanfic from an outline.  I'd been writing short stories ever since I decided I wanted to be a writer in 3rd grade, although of course the early ones weren't any good.  But eventually I got to a point where I could sell my short stories pretty reliably.  Novels, on the other hand--novels were a completely different animal, and I was hesitant at first because of the greater time commitment involved.

I did manage to complete the fanfic, though, so I decided it was worth giving Ninefox a go.  It was hard at first, because I was struggling with learning how to structure a novel, and sustaining characterization as well.  I almost gave up several times because I was so discouraged, but I persevered with the encouragement of my sister and some friends.

Raven Stratagem felt easier to write simply because I'd completed one space opera so a second felt more possible, even if I was going in with all-new POV characters, and three major ones at that, as opposed to Ninefox's one main POV (Cheris) alternating with a bunch of throwaways.  It also helped that I was writing in the same world, as it was a sequel, rather than inventing something from scratch.  Even so, braiding three main POVs came with its own challenges.  I ended up having to write Mikodez some additional chapters and reorganizing the chapters' order in revisions to try to smooth out the pacing.  In particular, getting the midpoint in the right place, since it serves as the keystone of the plot, was tricky.

In a way, the original draft of Revenant Gun was the easiest to write because I had a little experience under my belt.  It also has a fairly straightforward plot.  I think it helped that my initial attempt focused on Jedao Two as the protagonist and POV character, with only a couple chapters delving into other characters' heads.  Of course, I ended up adding 40,000 words in revisions (the original draft was only 80,000 words long) and I had to make a lot of changes in response to beta readers' comments because a lot of the character interactions were out of whack.  Live and learn?

What I discovered was that it became easier to write longer works, to the point where writing short stories became tricky because I kept running over!  The pacing of a short story and a novel differ, and structurally speaking you can get away with more in a novel because you have space that simply doesn't exist in the shorter form.  I mean, I always wonder every time I begin something new if I've forgotten how to write, but having a short story try to become a novel is somewhat alarming.  Fortunately, I can always go back to outlining...
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Vol. 1 (My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, #1)My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Vol. 1 by Emil Ferris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This graphic novel -- and I use that in the strictest sense because it is absolutely novel-quality while being told through a graphic medium -- is one of those deeply surprising discoveries you rarely come across. It's deep, funny, disturbing, gorgeous, insightful, and if that wasn't enough, it's technically brilliant.

It's definitely not a simple tale. I mean, sure, I could break it down by saying it's about a ten-year-old girl in late 60's Chicago who identifies deeply with b-movie horror monsters but also identifies with being a private eye, who knows something fishy is going on when her neighbor, a survivor of the Holocaust is found dead after having been shot in the heart, moved from the living room to the bedroom, and being ruled as a suicide.


But that almost misses the point. It's almost a backdrop to the real message in the art.

What? Isn't that another Duh? Kinda. The art here is explored from the cartoony to the classical masters. From B-movie homages to museum-quality love WITH a side of art theory. I mean, I'm just an amateur, but this comic is almost a master's class in the subject, ranging through almost every painstaking style I've ever seen... with care and devotion.

And yet, the quality isn't merely with the art. It's also the story.

Sadness, identity, grief, sexuality, prostitution, systematic abuse, the mob, Martin Luther King, love, madness, and mystery all play a very central role throughout the volume. And in a very serious way. I found myself staying up very late to see where it was all headed, only to break down in tears at a certain point because the novel had successfully burrowed under my skin.

Do not expect something light!

And there's also no way in hell I'll ever pass up on anything else the author creates. None. I'm a fan for life.

Oh, and it was ALSO nommed for '18 Hugos.

I would not be unhappy at all if this won the graphic novel category. As much as I LOVED Saga vol 7 and went gaga over Monstress vol 2, this one bites as deep or perhaps deeper than the rest.

I wasn't quite sure at first. It snuck up on me. Just.... wow.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1)The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, I was fairly excited to read a fantasy involving Jinn in both Cairo and Daevabad. I was only slightly worried that it was YA. In the end, I give it more of a 3.5 rating.

BUT WHY? (Says the hoard of YA enthusiasts)

Because while I actually didn't mind the love triangle-ish direction of the tale near the end while Nahri and Dara and Avi have their little intrigue in the famous City of Brass (Daevabad), getting there was something of a slog.

Wait, wait, have you heard this one?

Thief discovers she has magic, binds an old magic to herself, has to run a LONG WAY AWAY, has adventures, makes it to a magical city, is heralded as a lost princess, has two magical guys fighting over her, and it ends with a tragedy with a silver lining.

Oh. Right. It's like, the most common story EVER.

But that shouldn't stop us from enjoying it, right? Right. As long as it's done well. Right? Right. So it has times where it's done right. Good long stretches. And then I'm bored. And more good long stretches where I'm pumped up. And then I'm bored.

The place where I was pretty much entertained was in Daevabad... despite the love triangle.
I had a pretty good time there. The reveals for Avi, and I don't mean the whole financing the rebels bit, were pretty good. The END was pretty good.

The rest of this rather long novel, though? Long segments were just ... dull. An editor to tighten this up would have turned it into something rather better. My opinion.

Still, it wasn't bad. Just not drop-dead gorgeous. I've read 3-4 Jinn based novels that WERE gorgeous. This one was kinda... well... I've read this same story a million times. *sniffle* Sorry.

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Gone WorldThe Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I honestly didn't expect this novel to be quite as hard-hitting as it turned out to be.

From the opening passages, I was plunged into a nightmare future world of nanotech and some humanity-ending Cthulhu-esq horrorshow of humans hanging from trees, undying hoards of men and women running, insane, and us, time-travelers in a spacecraft, observing our own future end creeping up on us sooner and sooner and sooner.

OMG, I LOVE THIS. This just blows me away.

But right before it scares off the normals, the author backs us up and plants us firmly in a top-secret NCIS investigatory world that has time travel and deep-space spacecraft. And mundane murder on the world in the meantime. And the means to travel through time to help solve the sticklers. :)

I think I loved all the hard-SF elements the most, second by the MANY MANY MANY shadow-worlds of time, the worldbuilding, the heavy thought put into this reality. Time and multiverses work a bit differently than our run-of-the-mill time-travel stories. We deal with dark forests and multiple branches that loop back in on themselves but all tend to converge in truly horrific ways that are perfectly aligned to make us totally freak out... in the end. Shadow worlds. Popping bubbles of reality. Hopping and erasures and yet... the END OF HUMANITY...

Am I squeeing? Yes, I am.

But wait!
I'm not just squeeing over the SF and Horror side of the novel. This will probably blow your mind.
It's also a great thriller. Not just a truly excellent time-travel novel with a lot more than its fair share of surprises, twists and turns, but it's a full-on excellent modern thriller. Murder mysteries, a full complement of FBI tracking, footwork, NCIS, as well as hopping through time and multiple worlds to meet up with partners, often not in the know, murders before they happen, suspects before they ever get a glimmer of their later involvement in the events that END HUMANITY. Every little murder is a mystery within a mystery within a mystery, and it still has to lead to the meeting on other worlds with strange alien or time-like or nanotech or Dreamtime or Ragnarokian origins. :)

We're all left wondering and wondering and wondering. The author knows his craft. :)

And you know what is perhaps the best part?

The characters. Shannon is awesomely deep and interesting in her own right. As a thriller it succeeds on all these little life-details across the board, perfectly separate from the SFnal and Horror bits. And most of the novel IS exactly this.

I cannot see a universe in which this particular novel doesn't make it ultra-huge. I mean, it has all the elements and high-craft of a super-huge best-seller. As a genre-masher, it's perfectly mainstream and exciting and entirely in line with what people seem to WANT. And it excels at each part! No half-ass aspect anywhere. :)

So I liked it, right?

Oh, hell yeah. :) Hit me out of nowhere and I'm a total convert. :)

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