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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Make Room! Make Room!Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oddly enough, I kinda expected something hokey before I read this, but instead, I just got a dystopian nightmare of overpopulation.

This isn't unexpected or a bad thing. After all, I've seen Soylent Green and felt the huge impact of the scene where the old man Saul mouths the BIG SECRET through the plane of glass. I remember the riots, the pressure, the senseless violence, and the massive levels of injustice AND stupidity that brought us to this state.

And yet, after reading this novel, that sense is more visceral, more realistic, and a lot less sensational. Yes, there's massive injustice. Just look at the Squatter law that gives priority to squalid massive families regardless of any consideration, or the way no detective is able to do his job because life is already worthless.

For '66, this nightmare world that has used up all resources by 1999 and has ignored or actively fought all birth control or warnings, has resorted to sticking its head in the sand.

Sound familiar?

Well, fortunately, our modern world is getting well-adjusted to living with less... and less... and some technologies are letting us live with a bit less squalor than predicted in this novel... and a New York City of 35 million in the novel is pretty damn close to what some cities are reaching now, true, but the quality of life is NOT as bad as predicted in Harrison's novel.

Of course, in some ways, the violence, the poverty, and the cultural clamp-downs are WORSE in our world. It's odd to see our 7.7 billion people displayed against the novel's measly 7.0 billion. And yet... it's interesting because most of the world is a dustbowl and the only place to safely live .. on the dole .. is the big cities, so everyone migrates there.

I'm just saying this is a really fascinating world-building exercise. I love books that predict or fail to predict in really big ways. :)

Does anyone want any meat flakes? It's just snails... right? Yum, yum.

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Johannes Cabal the Detective (Johannes Cabal, #2)Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Omg, this is a breath of fresh air. Or at least, it's a perfectly welcome respite from the normal books I've been reading. Either way, I'm delighted. :)

The first Johannes Cabal novel made me constantly wonder who were the good guys and who were the bad, a Faustian tale of beating the devil, carnival antics, and our favorite smart-as-hell necromancer. I remember being hesitant about continuing after I had finished it, but either enough time has passed or I was totally tripping, because after starting THIS novel, I fell totally in love.

This one is a cozy armchair mystery AND necromantic patriotic spy-fiction AND steampunk.

I always WANTED to love steampunk stuff but generally never did, BUT this one is a clear exception to the rule. :) I did genuinely love this airship murder mystery. :) A total Agatha Christie with necromantic elements, a totally fictitious Europe-not-Europe during Empire, and new and fantastic Ultimate Enemies by way of business as usual...

All thanks to Cabal's winning personality.

And all said, I had a grand ole time. Never a single complaint. I do believe I'm going to fly into the rest of these novels very soon. :)

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Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes, #3)A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit that I was slightly worried that this novel wouldn't live up the sheer numbers of glowing reviews behind it.

I mean, I read the other two novels before and I think I really liked them well, but it's been so long and if I'm perfectly honest, I've lost a few details along the way. Is that a bad sign for the longevity of the book, or is it just because my memory is failing? lol

Either way, most of it eventually came back to me, but it took a while. The novel starts and continues on in a very martial way, making me rather wish I remembered and loved the characters or that I should have re-read the others so the character development became fresh once again. So. Yeah. I'm trying to say that I lost my reason to care since the last time I read the others. ;)

BUT. This novel eventually recaptures that. It's not all war and war and strife and more war, a few reversals, bolstered defenses, or a REALLY BIG reversal.

These kids come back to the fore. They make me love them again. It just took a few moments. And I'm glad because I really love where this took me.

The BIG reversal at the end, the one that prepares the way for a truly epic blow-out in the 4th book, is more than enough to make me super excited to come back, but it will always be the characters and the little details that make me LOVE the book.

I'm so glad the author didn't rely entirely on the war. People are a lot more than just that, with or without their souls getting lost. :)

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Friday, September 28, 2018

Take Back the Sky (War Dogs, #3)Take Back the Sky by Greg Bear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Believe it or not, this book was a pretty solid 3 star rating that slipped a bit to 2 stars for a few stretches in the "so this is the alien we've surrendered to" dialogues.

Descriptions of the mysterious Planet X, the bombardments of planets over millions of years, the evolving history of the Gurus, the Antags, and the whole nature of the entire mess was slightly better.

In some ways, this book and the others that preceded it would have been better served as a straight discussion of war-profiteering, war-as-entertainment for the elite, and an all-around mind-fuq for all the lousy saps getting caught in the circus.

Who knows? Maybe it still can. But for most of the book, we're involved in a not-so-surprising mystery that unfolds.


Ahem. And the rest of us, Antags included, are dupes? That we're all just pit dogs fighting it out for the amusement of arseholes?

Well, fortunately, the last half of the novel was pretty cool and I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than the first half and a long stretch of the second novel.

This was something of a hit-or-miss novel. I include that as a whole hit-or-miss series. It's likely Bear's worst works. Some good parts were here, mind you, and the battles and a few of the wilder ideas were pretty awesome, but I was NOT that invested.

I miss Queen of Angels, Moving Mars, Blood Music, or even his original fantasy titles! I miss Darwin's Radio!

Well. We can't always get what we want. Still, I'm glad I finally got to see what these latest novels were all about.

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Killing Titan (War Dogs, #2)Killing Titan by Greg Bear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't think I'll ever call this the best Space Opera mil-SF I've ever read, but it DOES have its moments. The fighting is quite a treat, in fact, as was the cool alien tech, the tea, the crystals, and all the reasons and purposes around them.

On the surface, it may appear very familiar to the SF trope world, but Bear digs deeper and serves up some really great and classy, mind-trip stuff. Oh, my uploadable universe. :) Taking the data stores of Eon and ramping it up big time.

On the other hand, I'm caught between treating this as lite-fare popcorn fiction with alien discovery elements showered with military action, moving out to the reaches of Titan. Did I already say I love the alien stuff? Well, I did, and the BIG QUESTION about the Guru's, those guys giving us tech and telling us to go fight this battle, became a bit clearer.

Too bad about the fallout of a little bit of information, right?

What didn't I like?

Well... some of the character stuff was a bit confusing or overblown, almost like the MC was under a drug haze, and that IS the big question here. Between the Tea, all the artifact stuff AND the Guru stuff they threw into the soldiers, it's slightly confusing. Is it coming from him, other's memories, mind-conditioning, or just plain post-traumatic stress disorder?

And then there's the thing about me and Mil-SF in general. I like it somewhat, but not always and I have to be in a mood for it. Is it me or is it this book?

Still, overall, as an SF, it was average-to-good. This trilogy is probably going to be at the bottom of the list for must-read Greg Bear, unfortunately, but as for popcorn, I'm okay with it.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing, #1)The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I both had a very hard time with this book and I also really appreciated it. That is to say, I hated aspects of it and found other parts boring and/or way overblown, while other parts were quite delightful and pushing the boundaries.

So... wait... did you like it?

No. Honestly, I didn't like it much at all. The women were all weak and were all portrayed as whores, but to be fair, most WERE. Long stretches of PoV were from a whore. For reals. But that's not everything. We have a prince of a kingdom who is a military genius plotting everything, we have a holy war and many personages working to rule the world. We have a great No-God evil coming back from the deep past and an apocalypse on its way.

And violence for violence's sake? Yes. This is Grimdark. It is what it is and a lot of people love this. It's also a very close cousin to the Malazan series. Complicated worldbuilding, a magic system that's more mystery and sometimes surprising, and generally.... no way to know what the hell is going on.

You know, unless you're using cheat sheets.

But there was one character, a certain sociopathic philosopher-monk who is mostly a dry Machiavelli, who stole the show. I DID like him. His clear thoughts and bloodless personality belie a true gift for bloodying others. He was fun. But he's only a single character in a long list of epic grimdark characters in this novel.

Do I feel up for the challenge of continuing?

Not really. Maybe someday. But not today. Too much work for the payoff at this time.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The AlgebraistThe Algebraist by Iain M. Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm of two minds with this novel. I'm tempted to rate it based on all of the novelist's other works and rate it lower just because it isn't the most fascinating out of the bunch. It's also not a Culture novel but I feel like it might ALMOST be. :) Gas giant aliens take the forefront of this novel, although the main character is human. We get a real treat of far future cultures and alien aliens that just happen to take the term "gas-bag" and OWN it. I have NO COMPLAINTS about the world-building in this novel. It's glorious.

But it also has a number of slow parts. Some are just "okay" for long stretches. Not brilliant, not horrible, but perfectly serviceable. But then I got into the intrigue, the spy stuff, the big mystery with these floating aliens that goes way beyond the fact they've been around for 10 billion years. Or that they're a deep-down Anarcho-syndicalism or maybe plain anarchists in the sense that nobody rules anyone and their weird war traditions or brutal childrearing techniques just make them seem like total crazies. But everything they do seems to work.

And that appears to be the big mystery... until war comes and so much crap comes together and reveals to us a much bigger and bigger mystery... until we know. :) And knowing is half the battle.

I probably would have given this a 3-star rating if it hadn't been for the awesome reveals. Even the whole mystery over the name of the book is PERFECT.

My surprise and enjoyment DEFINITELY ramped up by the time the war arrived. Lots of space battles, grief, and mystery keeps the novel jumping. But that's for later. :)

Taken on its own, not knowing that it's by Banks, I might have rated it higher just because of the amount of imagination thrown into it. But as it is, Banks has written better novels, so in the end, I still ranked it slightly lower. Alas.

Still, definitely worth the read.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Machine StopsThe Machine Stops by E.M. Forster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was honestly surprised as hell to learn from my GR buddies that this old classic fantastic traditional fiction author wrote an SF novella. EM FORSTER???

Well, yeah! Contemporary of Wells, this particular novel seems to be a rather delightful stick to poke at the culture that spawned it.

Fear of the Machine, perhaps only Bureaucracy, but probably a lot more as in the kind of AI the world has become, I was more impressed with the snide comments it had about eschewing primary sources over a constant rehash of old ideas. :)

Now, of course, this came out in 1909 so I have to wonder if it inspired so many similar tales to come after. I'm reminded of Morlocks, but better than that... there's a little gem of a film that came out 20 years later called Metropolis that seems to be the best fit. :)

Never mind Tolkien and his condemnation of machinist thinking in The Ring, or even the Truman Show to break out of his virtual shell to see the world by first principles and first experience. :)

Honorable mention in the novella goes to the ideas of the videophone and the internet and AI's. :) Yes. 1909. :) And machine overlords, of course. :) Pretty awesome. But that's just for the ideas.

The writing, alas, is not quite as evocative as his traditional fiction. Oddly enough. Still, quite good. :)

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Cibola Burn (The Expanse, #4)Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 9/25/18:

This second read went down SMOOTH. :) Sure, we're out of the Solar System and Holden is attempting to play peacemaker rather than the lone voice of truth, but what he's got on his shoulders is the one-eye'd king in the land of the blind syndrome... AND massive conflict. Not whole Powers breathing down his neck this time, but things get really hairy out on the frontier where law and order is played fast and loose.

Yep. It's a cowboy novel featuring slugs that blind you, a planet literally going through an upheaval, falling moons, billions-of-years-old alien genocide, and one undead cop.

Cool? Hell yeah. Still loving the crap out of this. :)

Original Review:

After the sequence of the last novel, practically anything was possible. The whole universe was up for grabs, tempered with the terror of knowing that everyone in it had died. I had tons of faith in these authors before picking up this book. I knew they could pull off anything they wanted, and not only did they succeed, they succeeded fantastically. This is some of the absolute best space opera-ish sci-fi I've ever read. Perhaps I am also very invested in the characters, and so anything I think is going to be skewed horribly. Fortunately, that's also a great sign of a great book.

Holden. What the hell. That guy...

Seriously, he's one of the most interesting guys I've ever read. He has one hell of a flaw. Without him, it would certainly make for a shorter story, but never as good.

I love it!

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Bloody Rose (The Band, #2)Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames

I finally read this and while I was fully expecting to be as blown away by this truly EPIC AWESOMENESS of a fantasy, I did NOT expect it to be this good, this deep, or this fun.

In fact, I just re-estimated Eames as one of the grandmasters of epic fantasy. By just two books. And I've read A LOT of fantasy, some great, some better than average, and some stinking like a bag of dicks.

I can rank The Band up on the fingers of one hand, and depending on what mood I'm in or what kind of rocker, or I should say, punk-rocker, I am, a lot of you might guess which finger this series lands on.

And just for good measure, I'll hold both of those fingers up on both hands and Idol it up with a Rebel Yell, Lauper it up with more than a little Fun, and rock on through the night with a Springsteen in my step.

The boys aren't back in town, but the girls are DEFINITELY in it for a hell of a lot more than Diamonds. In fact, there's one bear that becomes a Diamond Dog, a summoner whose ink turns her into the ultimate goth rocker, and there's WAY too much to say about Bloody Rose. Someone could write a book about her. :)

But what probably surprised me the most was Tam. Little Tam, "I'm just a bard," Tam. A piss-poor bard, indeed. :) I love the crap out of her.

Did Eames just mic-drop a bit of brilliance on the stage? Maybe! I know I haven't been as thrilled about a new fantasy series in a long time. :)


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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Marked (Alex Verus, #9)Marked by Benedict Jacka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG, I couldn't be happier with that ending. :)

Jacka has been one of my favorite go-to guys for UF series ever since another fireball-flinging wizard stopped gracing the page. Ahem, D.

Fortunately, Alex Verus has all the snark and even more magical goodies and artifacts and a much nastier set of problems to deal with.

Like being a replacement for Morden on the White Mage council and living up to the issue of leadership. Yeah, leadership. WEIRD.

Anyway, a sting operation trying to bring down Richard is well underway, but it's the personal developments I like even more.

TOTAL POPCORN GOODNESS. :) I dance every time one of these books come out?

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Time and AgainTime and Again by Clifford D. Simak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Simak. Whenever I'm in the mood for some old-time SF that can still be read with joy today, lacking the most pernicious queasy qualities of the time-period in which popular fiction thrived back then, I always turn to Simak. He never lets me down. It's just plain fun.

This book is no different. It's a time-travel paradox story on the fringes, but at its heart, it's all about Destiny. A guy tries to see what he can see with some strange aliens, comes back missing 20 years and a mysterious group is out to kill him. Sounds like pretty standard thriller-SF, right?

Well, in this case, it's really about leveling up, writing a book that will have a grand effect on the rest of future humanity, making a difference to all the downtrodden androids and aliens who suffer from the "largesse" of the super-dominant mankind.

A light and a once-removed tale of race issues, sure, but this book from 1950 focuses on the heart of it, doesn't stint on pushing for equality, and even pokes huge holes in "Manifest Destiny". Back then, I'm sure the term was used to the nausea of everyone, but not now. Even so, it's interesting to see such a forceful condemnation. :)

It may be old hat now, but the rest of the story is delightful and fast-paced. :) Duels, corporations with a million-year strategy, a time war, and paradox-poking. Very good classic SF. :)

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Eclipse Corona (A Song Called Youth, #3)Eclipse Corona by John Shirley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The conclusion to A Song Called Youth trilogy ends with a bang... or rather, a very gruesome whimper. That's not to say it's sad, but after so much dystopian reality so close to what we have now and a rich and nasty strain of ultimate fascism threaded through the text, I feel like we've been living it.

Okay. Maybe I'm overexaggerating a LITTLE. But still, it's chilling to see a truly pan-racist fascism crop up among the religious right, the generally hateful, the fearful, and the power-hungry.

This one ends with freedom fighters and selective germ-warfare, an antidote to the disinformation machine, and the few good men (and women) standing up against the face of evil.

All in all, it's still an epic and sprawling fight against fascism worldwide and on a colony off the planet. Sex, drugs and rock-and-roll punk against the machine, baby. :)

Oh, and there's a very nice cyberpunk Plateau going on here, man. Counterculture for the win! :)

Honestly, tho, I think the most important thing to realize here is that this trilogy is just as timely now as it was back in the mid-eighties when it was first published. In context, I'm actually pretty astonished. Even more astonished than I would be during a re-read of Neuromancer. Some things age better than others, and this one has aged fine.

A fine non-wine cocktail of cocaine and hard-liquor. ;)

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The Medusa ChroniclesThe Medusa Chronicles by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Two of my favorite authors collaborated to bring me a continuation of a classic Arthur C Clarke story.

I admit I was a bit hesitant. Not overly much, mind you, because these authors are all heavy-hitters, but the fact remains we're dealing with a character-driven transhuman cyborg from the science of 1971. His name is Falcon. For me, I was thinking it was going to be like one of those spin-offs of golden-age SF revamped for modern consumption and excised of nasty and/or embarrassing elements.

I was *mostly* wrong.

Instead, Falcon and the machine intelligence Adam are treated to over a half-century of future history as we deal with our natures. And as for "we", I mean ANY kind of intelligence. Machine, human, Medusa (in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter) or OTHER.

I was pretty much "okay" with the character development and the ongoing history and the treatment of old-SF ideas such as machines pushing us organics aside or interplanetary war over resources or just the focus of a single good man (or cyborg) playing fair with all sides in mind with a long-term good.

This was all very nice and a very welcome change from the darkness or utter realism of most modern SF. I steadily got more interested in the tale as time progressed, and far from the tired "humans unshackle themselves from our machine overlords" kind of tale, we get something awe-inspiring and optimistic.

I dare say we got a true by-the-heart continuation of Arthur C. Clarke. :)

Well worth the admission price. Would make a delightful Sunday afternoon cartoon marathon. :)

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Behemoth (Rifters, #3)Behemoth by Peter Watts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After the last book gave us a world above the ocean and the one before gave us the world below, I wondered just where this (duo/single?) third novel would take us.

Indeed, it gave us a synthesis. We had a treat of biology, more gene-modding, collapsing ecospheres, and even a bit of cooperation as the virus that had once been biological had become computational and had destroyed our modern world AND infected us biologically.

This is a true dystopian, no matter how you look at it, but it is also a wonderful combination of cyberpunk, biopunk, and military SF.

Military SF? Oh yeah, it went there this time. :)

Big time war. All those victim/victimizers out there finally found common ground and decided to team up or team-WITH the ancient big-bad. Totally cool.

I think it redeems a bit of the issue I had with the middle book by way of theme and analysis. It was also a bit more fast-paced and focused, less wandering. It had less discovery. I like discovery, of course, but with everything else that was going on, I really wanted to see some kind of cool resolution.

And we got it, here.

I totally recommend this SF series. Some people might prefer to have stopped at the first, but this entire cycle was well worth the effort.

Peter Watts is an absolute Must-Read for me. I won't quibble anymore. He's on my favorites list. :)

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Maelstrom (Rifters, #2)Maelstrom by Peter Watts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing with Rifters, we've jumped out of the water and taken our horribly damaged cyberpunk gene-modded abuse-victim/victimizer plague-carrying corpse-runner MERMAID with us.

Special mentions go to the gel packs that pack a horribly efficient computational punch, a 4-billion-year-old biological computer from the deepest Trench, and a death count of most of the world's population.

Woah, right?

Well, this IS Peter Watts and when he writes, he throws in ALL THE BEST SF GOODIES, making one hell of a spicy narrative soup that, in general, outcompetes and eats all the other modern SF out there. On ideas alone, he is one of the masters.

On narrative, in this case, however, I have to say it has a few weak points. It's not bad at all and I loved how Clarke became a world-destroying meme through fast-replicating viruses of a VERY old version. I loved the quest for discovery, too, regarding how she victimized and was made into a victim. And of course... ALL the rifters fit that bill. It was a major theme of the first book, where early victims, survivors, made the very best adaptations for deep-trench work.

Following Clarke above the water was almost as good as below, but not quite.

Still, this was a great setup for the future, and the devil is truly in the details. :)

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

This Idea Is Brilliant: Lost, Overlooked, and Underappreciated Scientific Concepts Everyone Should KnowThis Idea Is Brilliant: Lost, Overlooked, and Underappreciated Scientific Concepts Everyone Should Know by John Brockman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No matter who you are or where you're coming from, this should be a must-read.

It doesn't require much in the way of any scientific background, prior knowledge level, or anything. BUT it does highlight, in a long series of short essays, the most important thinking we've probably glossed over or never looked carefully at.

As a whole, this non-fiction builds one hell of a glorious picture. Just from core ideas explained clearly, these numerous essays range from something as simple as the need for us all to remember how to COUNT, or knowing Numerical Significance, all the way to the concept of Epigenetics, Semiotics, or an honest plethora of other awesome ideas.

The point here is not to dive deep into any, but at least understand what they are so as to more richly inform ourselves so we might apply THESE SAME IDEAS across all fields.

For me, this is the essence of creativity and righteous thinking. We need to cross-pollinate ideas. Every field grows richer with new thinking. And that includes all us laymen or writers or just plain thinkers.

I enjoyed this book immensely for that reason. :) I think I might need to subscribe to the Edge to get more of this stuff. :)

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The TrialThe Trial by Franz Kafka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm sure there are as many ways to describe this novel as there are readers, but for me, I'm struck by how accessible and surrealistic it is.

The novel transforms from a tale of railing against bureaucracy into a quiet dystopian nightmare of shadowy conspiracy. K is awoken to his arrest, is subjected to inane bureaucracy, corruption, incomprehensible justice proceedings, and best of all, NO REASON.

In fact, we never get a reason why he is arrested or the purpose of the trial, but we are subjected to every stage of the nightmare in a way that could be the seven stages of grief or could be explained as a parable of the Self being subsumed by the State. Or perhaps just the natural progression of a natural person being replaced by the illusory. :)

Of course, it could also be read as a religious parable whereas we are never given a clear set of codes or if we are, the number of interpretations make the result absolutely meaningless and in the end, there IS NO RESOLUTION.

Or it could be as the surface intends, that we live in an increasingly complex system designed primarily to stifle and strangle us by the weight of its own importance.

We can read into it morals and promiscuity and even the Fall by Pride, too, but these are just the delicious mores and quagmires that K is subjected to. :)

Imminently readable and still as applicable today as it was back when it was written in 1914 and pubbed after Kafka's death, I am spoiled as a reader to read it for the first time now.

Am I blown away? Am I thrilled and in total love with his writing?

Yes. :) In fact, I'm going to knock this into my top one-hundred list of best novels of all time. :)

I am pretty damn amazed. It also turns out that I'm probably MOST influenced by him as an author even though I've never read him directly. Surrealism is FREAKING AMAZING.

It's the super-grandaddy of everything that makes dark horror, dystopian literature, and magical realism great.

Oh, and I've been told my own novel writing fits the bill. I think I'll own that. Sweet! :)

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Monday, September 17, 2018

The Face Of Battle: A Study Of Agincourt, Waterloo And The SommeThe Face Of Battle: A Study Of Agincourt, Waterloo And The Somme by John Keegan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I debated between being objective about this nonfiction or just reviewing it based on my gut feeling.

In the end, I had to give it a 5 for good analysis and its own bright objectivity.

But for myself, I have to wonder why I read military history and why, after each time I do it, I feel sullied and unclean. If I leave enjoyment out of it, I did learn a lot about the details of these battles and the author did his very best to bring in all sides of the battles, not just what-ifs and strategy, but a lifetime of critical thinking.

I really appreciated that. And, a point-of-fact, I would absolutely recommend this book for all military buffs and history buffs. He's not only pretty exhaustive and wise about the battles, but he has a healthy dose of self-doubt tempered by a lot of experience. But not of battle. He makes it very clear he cannot understand battle from direct knowledge. But more importantly, neither can almost anyone. :)

But, of course, any history is going to rest or fall on its details and analysis. Fortunately, this one comes through with flying colors. :)

But again... I really didn't *enjoy* this text all that much. Be it mood or distaste, I generally don't go out of my way to read about war and for that reason alone I had a hard time liking it. And yet I can still appreciate a good dose of new knowledge, so it balances out.

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The Curve of the Earth (Samuil Petrovitch, #4)The Curve of the Earth by Simon Morden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is what I call some very satisfying SF.

Petrovitch continues to be the master wizard in this dystopian/adventure mashup, becoming a bit larger than life in his abilities but still CHOOSING to limit himself and roll around in the muck because he is, after all, not only a master spy, a brilliant inventor, a three-times self-proclaimed savior of the world, but he LOVES HIS DAUGHTER. And his wife.

Oh, the things he won't do for his family...

Like pick a fight AND WIN against America.

Fast forward to this novel. He's now more of a cyborg than ever, America is frightened to death of him, and despite everything, he's devoted to the Metrozone, his family, and his ideals. He just doesn't care who he has to kill to save any of them.

Or does he?

The whole novel is spent trying to find his daughter and save her, assuming her disappearance didn't mean her death... and the biggest suspect is the totally pissed off folks in America who are still stinging from the thrashing he gave them. No one likes a dude who hacks his way through ALL the missile codes, playing mind games with a reactionary religious president, or proving himself to be a better man by it.

This novel is part revenge on Petrovitch and part the start of a war that will consume the planet.... with a few cool surprises in store for us.

Impressive, right? Well, the best part is the coolness of the character is and just how many tech-toys there are and just how rational/anarchistic the Metrozone is. :)

I admit to warming slowly to this series but by now I'm just rocking hard to this ride. :)

So my big question is... are there ever going to be MORE of these? I'd be super-down to reading more. :)

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Skellig (Skellig, #1)Skellig by David Almond
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's odd. The first time I read anything that could be considered Magical Realism, I was super impressed by the subtlety and the grounding of the tale, as if it was mostly traditional fiction bordering on allegory, only milder.

After a certain point, each Magical Realism tale sits rather more blandly than the last.

It's Fantasy-lite. For those people who are scared of using their imaginations but like a little bit of awe, a little bit of wonder.

Imagine such a person saying, "Oh, no, I'd never read FANTASY. Give me slice of life and coming of age story, only. IF it has a bit of awe and wonder in it and it's done WELL, then I *might* bump it up as my absolute favorite novel of all time because it shows everyone just how DARING I am. You know. Because I could never LOVE Fantasy. My friends will be so impressed."

Yeah, sure, Skellig does the mystery bit pretty cool, but it's like a back-masking on an album about family drama, a premature kid sister and how it affects everyone in the family. Is it evolution? Is it an angel? We're meant to make up our own minds because the novel is meant to be timeless.

For me, it just feels a bit pretentious. And mild. Super mild.

And maybe I'm being too harsh. A lot of people love this. But to me, it's just barely dipping its toes in the interesting stuff and the rest is either just painful or fraught with a tiny bit of love thrown in.

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A Passage to IndiaA Passage to India by E.M. Forster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The one word that kept coming to mind as I read this and even after I finished, is: "Remarkable".

Honestly, even if I had never been told that E. M. Forster is one of those legendary greats, as mysterious as he is beloved, I would point to his writing and say the same damn thing.

I'm genuinely awed.

Beyond simple, clear prose, I was enraptured by the humor and odd observations in the dialogues, the irony of Colonial England ladies wanting to see "The Real India", or the great way that every single character is painted without bias or slant. It's definitely a humanist novel. But beyond that, for a novel out of 1925 and dealing with the heart of English occupation of India and the enormous prejudices and idiocies on BOTH sides of the debate, I'm flabbergasted with the number of courageous turns and observations.

It's not just a condemnation of the occupation, but there's plenty of that. It's about ignorance across the board, about true friendship, understanding and, of course, rampant misunderstanding.

India is painted in a gloriously chaotic fashion and England as is stolid, claustrophobic self, but there's lots of humor and heart and simple plain erroneous humanity on both sides.

Don't mistake my ramblings as a description of a travel tale. Misfortunes abound and innocent people's lives are or are nearly ruined. Who's to blame? Everyone. Is it a comedy? Yes. Is it tragic? Yes. Is it thoughtful and emotional and wise? Yes.

What really stuck with me was the preoccupation with the idea of marriage. Not actual marriage, but the perception of it. So many faults and accidents and a weight of tradition conspired to make a real hash out of the MC's engagement. But what made this novel brilliant was the way it perfectly dovetailed and highlighted, or was reverse-highlighting the reality of the English Occupation.

Marriage and occupation are so VERY alike, are they not? And Forster is no slouch on any front. He's clever and wide-ranging with his portrayals of women. Each is as different as can be. The good, the bad, and everything in-between. :) Like anyone. But the important bit is WHEN this came out. It's no knee-jerk reaction to women's right's movements. It's just seeing them with clear eyes. Or seeing the people of India the same way, for that matter. :)

But again, don't let me persuade you that this is all the novel is about. These are just a few tastes to a VERY rich and remarkable novel. :) I think I could read it 4 or 5 times and still find new gems or facets inside it. :)

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream (The Voice from the Edge #1)I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wondering whether to read early Harlan Ellison is a complete no-brainer. I admit to avoiding Harlan for most of my life despite calling myself a master fan... but why? Oh, the several reasons seemed good at the time, like I prefer novels over short stories and it's such an investment in time and Hey, isn't that the guy always surrounded by controversy and you either hate him or love him and sometimes waffle in the same day?

Well. Haberdash. His writing is what counts. I've been asinine and idiotic.

So here I am, falling off the wagon and reading whole short story collections, starting with his earliest, and you know what?


I mean, sure, I read a few of these classics before, like I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and A Boy and his Dog and I've heard of even more, but I didn't quite realize that every single story is as playful as his most well-known.

I'm surprised to not like the titular story as much as all the rest, but it was still quite fun to see a planetary AI torture the last humans.

Moving on to the lighter and fun stuff, Laugh Track really set me back and made me go... ooooh COOL. :) Some heady SF ideas here, but most importantly... it's LIVELY AS HELL. :) Quicksilver, even.

The same is true for most, but not all. Ticktock and Harlequin is trippy as hell.

And Harlan's favorite story of all, Grail, is maybe not the lightest one of the bunch, but it IS the most interesting intellectually. :) Tons of ideas, history, religions, and heart went into this one, culminating in perhaps one of the most stimulating sex stories to be handed down through the ages. :)

I loved The Very Last Day of a Good Woman because it shocked me. A great avant-garde snub piece. :)

The Time of the Eye had the same feel, aiming more for the bashing over our heads kind of twist that was so GREAT about A Boy and His dog and Good Woman. :)

In all, I was laughing and being creeped out and enjoying just how much of our modern culture and SF markets can be traced from this acerbic and fearless collection.

Truly. I am an idiot to have put this off for so long.


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MEG: Primal WatersMEG: Primal Waters by Steve Alten
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I must have been more than usually willing to suffer trash this month. Do I like trash? Well... sometimes... especially when it's horror trash.

This fits the bill... a little. :) Jaws on steroids. Chum in the water. A Reality TV show going really, really wrong.

Well, that part was pretty cool. :)

What I didn't care all that much for was the MC's. Jonah in his late sixties is kinda... hmmm... expectedly or unexpectedly boring. His damaged wife, too.

For the most part, I just waited to see who would become shark food. That's Okay. :)

I will never recommend this series unless you A: LOVE SHARKS or B: LOVE to see sharks EAT PEOPLE.

Fortunately, there's a big market for this kind of thing, so I don't have to single-handedly support the industry. :)

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Wylding HallWylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one hell of a striking horror story.

Not because it was overly horrific and the scary bits were positively mild compared to ... almost ANY horror novel out there, but because it was SO BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN.

Yes. It's a ghost story, but the realization that it WAS a ghost didn't show up till nearly the end. The rest is all details, details, details. That pretty much sums up any great ghost story, of course, but I have to say that Elizabeth Hand NAILED IT.

Plus, I happen to be a huge fan of stories about musicians, and in this case, it's all about singer-songwriter avant-garde 70's folks trying to make a mark by setting up camp in an old unused mansion. Old story, sure, but I was rocking along with all these creative juices flying and enjoying the house and freaking out about the damn birds.

No one was afraid. Just creeped out sometimes. And that made all the difference. I just wanted to learn more about these guys and listen to the actual album. Becoming a cult classic and all is just plain fascinating, and I was on the ground floor to hear the inside scoop.

And the main singer/songwriter's strange disappearance? LEGENDARY. :)

I totally recommend this for music fans and fans of VERY well-constructed ghost stories. :)

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To Kill a KingdomTo Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I seem to be reading a ton of Mermaid stories lately. I mean, first, I thought it was wild when reading Charles Stross and cool when it was Mira Grant... but lately it's been a closer re-telling after closer re-telling of the original legends. With a very, very regular dose of yet another YA Fantasy plot rehash, of course.

You know what I'm talking about. Boy and girl are on other sides of clashing kingdoms and they're bound to hate each other but they fall for each other anyway and there's a bloody battle and they wind up in each other's arms. A regular dose of yet another YA Fantasy plot rehash, in other words.

WELL. Guess what?

It's the same here.

Fortunately for most of us, and that includes me, if it is done well, it's worth it. We like these stories. Ad nauseam. We can't get enough of them. We love the hate at first sight stuff. Obviously, they're going to wind up together.

In this case, it's the race of Sirens with their magic and insurmountable language barrier against the rest of the kingdoms and especially that of Man. Hello, little mermaid, get ready to battle mommy to the death for the right to rule the bloodthirsty kingdom. Oh, wait, here comes the prince of Man.


BUT, like I said, it's done well and it's enjoyable even if it's very much like everything else we tend to enjoy. Nothing groundbreaking. Ha. Ha. You see what I did there? But the characters are enjoyable and their character arcs are fun and the final realization is satisfying and the magic and battles are very good.

I enjoyed myself DESPITE the first third of the novel making me want to puke. Yeah. It's that kind of novel. :)

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Soul Music (Discworld, #16; Death, #3)Soul Music by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very nice re-read 9/13/18:

I love music. I love humor. I love seeing wizards rock the house. Oh, and everyone else getting slipped an extra-dimensional mickey in their drinks, too. :)

If we're really talking about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, I know we have the rock and roll down. There are even a few trolls to do it RIGHT. The drugs bit is Discworld itself, OF COURSE. And if you really think about it, our universe really is doing a little slip & slide with Discworld, too.


I loved seeing Susan here. She's a real trip. Death, too, of course. But it was a certain raven and a few unwashed rockers who stole the show today. :)

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I put this together today, and while it isn't quite done, I just wanted to show it off a bit. :)

Odyssey (The Academy, #5)Odyssey by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While this novel was generally okay, I can't rank it higher than a three for a couple of important reasons.

1. MacAllister. He has a few good moments in a previous novel but he's given a LOT more time in this one, pushing Hutch out of the limelight. He's no longer just a foil for charming Atheism against all the believers in the 23rd century... he's now a romantic interest. I kinda squirmed. Plus, all the newscasts and blurbs surrounding the whole atheism side-commentary WAS ALREADY DONE in a previous novel.

2. I became embarrassed and shocked that I might have been reading the SAME novel all over again. I hunted and double checked and went... hey... okay... this ISN'T the same novel, but WAY too much is repeated. Almost or sometimes fully verbatim. Damn. It was good the first time, but I'm not so sure about a second time.

3. A lot of it is more long-winded and slower-paced than the previous novels. Does lackadaisical fit? Perhaps. The adventure part is kinda missing, in favor of mirrored commentary and a slightly forced "sense of wonder". This is me saying I was bored.

Well, this isn't the same as saying I hated the novel. I didn't. I just didn't fall head over heels for it. I missed some of what I appreciated a lot more in the previous novels, too.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Trench (MEG, #2)The Trench by Steve Alten
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh, wow, what did I just read? Was this about a megashark or was it REALLY a discount-rate James Bond adventure under the sea?

Hmmm. Not telling!

*looks to either side, then up and to the left*

Really! It's NOT just a discount-rate James Bond adventure with hokey science, stretchable wild situations, Russian femme fatales, or overblown (and frankly boring) manufactured pathos.


Ah, well, my megashark has interesting competition/snacks. Am I talking about another Trench species, or am I talking about the poor peeps in the novel?

I will leave you with that image.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Time's ChildrenTime's Children by D.B. Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've never read the author's other works but that doesn't really matter here. I was caught by the description alone.

It's a high-fantasy time-travel novel!

Yup. So we have all the goodies of messed up timelines, time-walkers, and similar time/space practitioners in a magic rule system seated in a heavily world-built fantasy world! All the benefits of a kingdom built from scratch AND the breaking of it several times during different periods of its history!


And I wasn't disappointed in the text, either. It starts great with a kid on his effective journeyman quest, only when he's asked to break the rules, we're slapped in the face with the consequences of this particular magic.

Every day you go back in time ages you in direct proportion. A fifteen-year-old going back in time by 14 years will have lost half his life in a single jump. Ouch.

I can easily recommend this to fans of either Epic Fantasy or Time Travel SF. It combines the best of both worlds and with all the assassins, intrigue, and even love going on here, the novel entertains very roundly indeed.

Officially it could be classified as a "saving the baby" tale, but because we keep seeing the timeline change in future and the kingdom change with it, it gets very interesting.

My only complaint? The ending is only mildly satisfying. I'm not sure if it's meant to be a series or a single novel, but if it's a single novel, then I kind of wish it came with a more kickin' ending. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the beginning and the core. :)

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #26)Serpentine by Laurell K. Hamilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So. Yeah. I keep wondering why I keep up with this series, but it boils down to just one thing:

Investment. I have a ton of hardcovers. This must be it.

But, let me go over what isn't so bad about this book. NO NEW LOVERS. See? That band-aid has now been torn off. We don't have to go into another long introduction of a new character who has been mind-raped by Anita or is mysteriously overwhelmed by her monstrous sexuality. That was the last book. And many, many others. No.

In this one, we're in firm familiar territory again.

What? You mean we're ass-deep in murder investigations featuring paranormals or we're dealing with one bad-ass necromancy horrorshow again?

Um, no. The OTHER familiar territory. You know, butt-hurt feelings, relationship snafus, Nathaniel crying because Micah won't twiddle his bum, and missed VACATION opportunities. *cry*

But no pride or litter box or the fourteen hundred other lovers? NO! Not this time. This time we get to focus a bit more on Edwards marriage, the fallout of the lies told and bad deeds assumed, and a bunch of jealousy, scene-making, and biting a scratching. In practically any other novel it would be standard near-comedy romance drama.

AH, but then there's missing persons, murders, and YET MORE reactionary cop behavior hating on polysex folks. Is this count up to around 40, now? Maybe higher, depending on how you rate it. Is it by individual or by each offense? If it's the later, then we're probably up to about 4,000.

Alas. But even so, out of all the possible complaints I could levy against this series, I can say with perfect honesty that Hamilton is remaining true to form. She's consistent. The final blowout is interesting as hell, the monsters interesting, the plot is somewhat cool, and the power-ramp up is fascinating. The good and the bad is in perfect balance.

Did I actively not have fun tho? No. I admit I had fun even as I rolled my eyes. Yes, pointless sex, pointless procedural shit, more pointless sex. And yet, less pointless characters even if we have more hurt feelings. The full hate-on everyone seems to have for polyamorous individuals is frankly baffling. But other than that, wooooo. It's another Anita Blake novel!

It's not the worst of the lot. I'm just glad I can spread them out now. :)

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My Sister And IMy Sister And I by Sean-Paul Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm always willing to read a new Sean-Paul Thomas book because he always surprises me as to where the tale will go next. Or even which genre. Sometimes the books are light and sometimes they're pitch black.

This one is like the struggling bright lights of two barely-teen sisters under the insane yoke of an uber survivalist dad who pretty much puts them through all kinds of paces... that steadily get worse and worse.

At its core it's horror, but it's far from being on the lighter side of horror. It pushes you deeper and deeper into worst-nightmare territories and makes you want to survive despite all odds. Even your ideas about what constitutes right are utterly twisted by the journey. Make no mistake, the novel is carried by the heart of the characters, through the sick and the depraved to the shining little core of hope that is sisterhood.

Of course, it eventually turns into a roadtrip tale of hell.

Truly delicious.

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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Our Bloody Pearl (These Treacherous Tides #1)Our Bloody Pearl by D.N. Bryn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Well, to be more precise, a bloody, action-filled romance including the mermaid legend as Sirens, and lots of conflict between humans and factions of the sirens.

More than anything, it's a character study and a gradual shifting of priorities and emotions and it's quite LGBT friendly.

What's great about it is the body horror and the sign language, the slow building of trust, and eventually the heroism on both sides. Perle really comes into her own and this is NOT exactly a light rendition of the Little Mermaid... more like it's the gritty dystopian version.

Well worth the read. And it goes nicely with the growing trend of the mermaid genre! :)

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-GlassAlice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What kind of drug-addled haze was he on? I mean, sure, the author was a respected mathematician and all... OH, WAIT! Nevermind.

The only thing that I can't quite wrap my head around is the fact he focused mostly on geometry. And he didn't live during the times of quantum theory.

Of course, if he had been dealing with the quantum nightmare, Dodgson's Alice would read more like a cat that was both alive and dead at the same time rather than that grinning ghostly monstrosity. And mercury in hats would really be the observational spin that makes up consensual reality.

This is a re-read and I love it for its imagination first and foremost. The wordplay is also awesome.

Who doesn't love this book?

Of course, we all know it, right? From being late to slaying the Jabberwocky to losing one's head to falling off a horse to tea parties to the drinking up of special potions. It's all great. :)

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Saturday, September 8, 2018

Treasure IslandTreasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. Shiver me timbers!

This is THE PENULTIMATE pirate adventure, me mateys!

Never mind that it's written for a 12-year-old or that practically every aspect of this adventure has percolated through our collective zeitgeist.

Here it is! The YA to eat ALL YA. Or the tale to drown your young one in so much rum that he or she expires by the bloody knife he or she didn't see while inebriated or by the blasted drink itself.

Pure escapism? No. There's a bit of a heart in here and mercy is not the least of it. But even mercy has a very keen edge.

Pirates, mutiny, dastardly villainy, greed, and democratically elected captaincies.

Wait... WHAT?

*slips quietly out the back door*

Where's Sparrow?

Even so, this was quite a fun diversion. :)

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War Dogs (War Dogs, #1)War Dogs by Greg Bear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a long-time uber-fan of Greg Bear back in the day, I'm constantly mystified with myself that I have mostly avoided him since the mid-2000's. WHY? Well, let's put it this way: I expected him to throw mind-blowing fantastic SF at me on every level, messing with my head and showering me with brilliant ideas and smart stories.

So I shrugged and enjoyed it when he did a Hari Seldon prequel. I shrugged and tried to pray that a Star Wars novel was not selling out. And then I grew despondent when a novelist of his caliber started writing Halo novels and other for-market stuff. Thrillers? They were okay, but not great. Where's his out-there stuff? So I took a break.

I'm trying to do him justice. I loved his writing soooo much! So when I saw this new Mil-SF trilogy I sat back in my chair and said to myself, "So, is this more writing to the market instead of writing to his sense of great story?"

And then I saw the reviews, the ratings, and the corners of my mouth turned down.

And then I FINALLY read it.

This requires a little readjusting for our expectations.

Bear's done military stuff before but never to this degree. Don't get me wrong, it's pure mil-SF and Bear seems to go all out with making it as freaking accurate and PSTD-ridden and stacked with all the right terminology and even the claustrophobic sense of a life thrown to the wolves.

I was impressed! This is a genre I know fairly well and Bear writes for it damn well.

And then it hit me. This was designed to be popcorn fiction. Fun and smart and fast-paced military action that comes full of massive angst and battle on Mars against aliens and even better reveals about what they're even doing there.

It's not Moving Mars by a long shot. It's pure popcorn, and while there are a lot of great books similar to this, Bear is far from being simply average at it. He has the writing chops to amaze and put us in the hot seat. :)

And while there isn't quite as much groundbreaking stuff as his early stuff, it IS full of tech and is great at exploring all its uses. Terminology is hardcore, as is the stiff-upper-lip, but it's the claustrophobia that really made the novel shine. Single viewpoint, never knowing what's going on, and so much hostility everywhere. :)

I had to put away my expectations. This really wasn't a bad novel. It's a pure popcorn ride. :)

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Friday, September 7, 2018

VoxVox by Christina Dalcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes, this book fills me with rage. Other times, incredulity.

Still other times, a bit more incredulity.

And yet, I can say that I definitely liked this book. Not love. But I certainly liked it.

The good:

Clearly emotional text, a story I can wrap myself in, and an absolutely disgusting near-future where all women are literally silenced. No more than a hundred words a day.

Sounds like the premise to a misogynist joke, right? Oh, but wait, all women have a choice to be good silent angels or they'll be forced to be whores.

The trick to this novel is how the author gets from Point A (our world) to Point B, which clumps a whole nation into reactionary 50's idealist right wing religious nutters who go a few steps over the fundamentalist Muslim line.

When it works, it works well. All my rage was reserved for a humanity that could let this come to pass, and for the souls of the women suffering in this. A bit of my incredulity sat within the lines of the novel, wondering just how bad a species we could be.

The bad:

The other side of my incredulity. This is a dystopia, sure, and in most cases, we absolutely MUST put a degree of belief suspension in our cup.

Unfortunately, once I get out of our MC's head and think about the actual world, the circumstances that made this worldbuilding come to pass is patently broken. The rest of my incredulity is reserved for not being able to image a way that this could have come to pass. Not by religious fundamentalism. A president and a vocal minority CAN wield a lot of power, but I simply couldn't see how THAT many people could remain silent and go along with it.

Examples of Hitler aside, even THAT situation had at least a few dozen factors converging at the same time that middle America didn't suffer, and then there was... EVERYONE ELSE who isn't a WASP.

As long as I held my tongue and turned off my brain, I still enjoyed this novel quite a bit. :)

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The TechnicianThe Technician by Neal Asher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Back to the world of the Theocracy and home to some of the most weird-ass creepy-crawlies in the known universe, twenty years after the Theocracy's fall.

What we have here is a seriously cool work of ideas and ongoing development and reveals. What I loved most about the previous Asher books was the grand mystery surrounding Jain technology, the aliens who destroyed their own intelligence to escape the weapon they made, and all the cool-as-shit AI's, partial AI's, quantum AI's, and all the ALIEN AI's.

Carry over a 2 million year mission from these old aliens to the present fiction day and here we go. :) The Technician. The assassin of assassins, the clean-up crew of a multi-genocide technology, including itself. :)

Again. Cool. Very cool. :)

And I love these drones. Polity peeps are CRAY.

I had a lot of fun here. :)

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

SalvationSalvation by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Under normal circumstances, I would normally rate a book like this lower because the setup leaves us hanging, but this is PETER F HAMILTON we're talking about. That means, if you're picking up the first book in one of his trilogies, no matter how long each individual book might be, you're invested for the long haul. You might be slightly miffed you need to wait that much longer before SOMETHING major gets resolved, but that's the nature of this beast.

That being said, Salvation has a ton of great multiple storylines going on here, full of technothriller action, early AIs, assassins and investigators, and a mysterious alien spaceship that seems to be quite benign, hopping into our system and piling us with some pretty cool medical toys turning us all into *better* immortal-ish younglings. There are still people around from our age and tons of understood references from our day, so that means this trilogy is much earlier than most of Hamilton's other books.

Oh, and the aliens are encouraging us to join their religious crusade to the end of time. As in, come with us, we'll transform the hell out of you and we'll be on our merry way. But they're not dumb about it. They trade with us, live among us, and are generally good neighbors.


Another huge plotline takes us to one of our colonies designed to be a true utopia. Post-scarcity. And they're also trying to go about protecting the hell out of humanity. Fun, interesting characters, and of course there's tons of conflict there because the rest of our species loves to distrust the hell out of them.

Is the novel a winner?

Only in the sense that it's fun to get a fully established storyline, character base, and feel for the galaxy-at-this-time. We're also rightly suspicious of everyone. The intrigue is high.

End analysis?
High-quality setup, interested in reading on, and I think Hamilton is mightily imaginative. The devil is truly in the details.

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CreatureCreature by Hunter Shea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have three ways to describe this novel:

Body horror, metaphor coming alive, and it's a deliciously painful romp.

AND it hits uncomfortably close to home for not just the author, whose wife is going through a long-term illness in too many similar ways, but for almost all of us. At least, I assume so. Enough of us either know or have been through family members sliding down that horrible slope to make this part of the novel truly harrowing all by itself.

But here's the best part: there's a lot of love between these two. He takes her off to a cabin retreat for 3 months while she's going through her decline, and in a lot of ways, it's just another familiar SK Maine cabin horror setup. Or, to me, I was deliciously reminded of Evil Dead.

But no worries, Hunter Shea pulls off a very tight and emotional body horror that leaps out of the confines of that particular horror category drives the great characters down into a particularly difficult hell.

It's all about the choices, man.

This is the second longer Shea novel I've read after a long stream of novellas that are just plain great. The thing about the longer ones is this: he tends to write sympathetic characters in them. The shorter ones are where we can cheer for every death. But this one? I kinda love everyone. It's just that kind of ride.

A very decent horror, and while it relies on a number of cliches to start off, the author, as always, has full command of his arsenal and knows exactly where to diverge to great effect. :)

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Judas UnchainedJudas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading the first book, Pandora's Star, I was slightly miffed at just how scattered and sometimes ... dull... it seemed. I only felt that way because the alien bits and the big spaceship stuff and the weird alien stuff simply SHONE for me. I didn't really cotton to all the human-only investigation stuff or the politics until it kinda snuck up on me and grabbed me by the neck because IT WAS IMPORTANT.

Well. It became important eventually. But I should mention that each of these books is roughly the equivalent of four normal novels EACH. That's 8 standard-length novels. A slight digression is more of a novel-length wander. :)

What I am most impressed with is the wide range of genre-writing going on here. There's full-flung mil-SF, political intrigue SF, murder-mystery and spy SF, revolutionary thriller SF, media-scoop SF, as well as hardcore alien Hard-SF with Big Dumb Objects galore, miniature wormhole attacks, rejuvenation, memory cores so you can get a new body, as well as a LOT of nova'd stars. Big-ass scale.

But for me, it's just a matter of having to TRUST the author to get me there. All the other books I'd read by him had the same kind of style. Like a Dickens-like wander getting us the feel of so many levels of the society, or Hugo in the way he did Les Miserables. It's BIG. It requires a LOT of trust from the reader.

Fortunately, my trust was not misplaced. I'm going to rate-up the previous novel and wholeheartedly recommend BOTH books with this caveat. Stick with it. It's VERY rewarding and everything comes together eventually and necessarily.

The first book has a great blow-out at the end, but it is FAR from being wrapped up. This book did a GREAT job with that. :)

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Monday, September 3, 2018

Kitty's Big Trouble (Kitty Norville, #9)Kitty's Big Trouble by Carrie Vaughn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kitty the Werewolf goes to Big Trouble in Chinatown. Literally. I can almost see Kurt Russell hopping in and the dude with the lightning bolts. Only this time we've got Naruto joining in the fun. Or at least, we've got a nine-tailed demon fox.

The thing is, the novel is okay. It's meant to be lighthearted fun and a little treasure hunting adventure and a little new discovery with Cormac and a little encounter with Roman.

Fun? Sure. But it's no more than adventure time with our favorite radio announcer. With wild west vampires, hero worship with Civil War werewolf leaders, magical pearls, and campy fun.

Is this what the Kitty Norville series has become? Sure, it's fun to have all these idea points, but where's the personal involvement? Everyone in the cast is pretty much set in stone.

I suppose that's fine if you want an ongoing series that doesn't change all that much, but ... it is what it is. Just okay.

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Pandora's StarPandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 *

In a lot of ways, this ambitious novel, like all of the Peter F. Hamilton novels I can think of, should be put on a higher rung than all the other SF out there. Why? Because it's LONG.

Throw in an enormous cast of characters who won't die because they can be uploaded and put back in new bodies, complete with full rejuvenation treatments that sometimes go wrong, space travel, wormhole technologies, and a huge Commonwealth of systems fully colonized.

Add characters of all stripes: from reporters to police to politicians to terrorists to technologists, throw them into a slowly boiling cauldron of scientific intrigue with a few Dyson spheres locking away an alien species, leave even more to deal with the political consequences back home. You know, like the detail that someone who could lock away an alien species is already super powerful, or the question as to why the species was locked away, to begin with. Good stuff all around.

So why do I have a bit of an issue with this?

Well, for the same reason I think it should be put on a higher rung than most SF. It's super ambitious, leading in and through whole lives as if we were reading a classic novel on the level of Les Miserables, giving us a very clear picture of the future worlds that are very much like our own except for a few heaping handfuls of world-changing techs. We have social commentary that would be welcome in any shorter soft-SF, mysteries that would be fine in any techno-thriller, big scoops for the expose crowd, and decades of spy intrigue. WITH the big alien threat. Any piece of this would be great, or even two. Or even three.

I need to face it. I find some parts slightly boring and others fantastic. I find myself dreading another novel-long subject I'd rather skip in favor of the other stories I love more. This is sometimes a problem with super-long novels. My attention wants to wander if it's not super fantastic. And then I keep wondering if this might have been better served with a HUGE edit. Or cut them up into a lot of side novels.

My appetite had been whetted with the big story. I just wanted to stick with the big story. And yet, most of the threads DID tie back in, eventually. It just took a novel's length of time for each to get there.

I AM very impressed with the whole book, and even more so that Hamilton keeps pulling off these HUGE works, but I'm worried that I'm bouncing off of them.

Even so, I've made a commitment to continue with Judas Unchained and I've been accepted for a Netgalley ARC for Salvation, so maybe I'll just grit my teeth and enjoy what I do enjoy in them. There's plenty to point at. :)

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