Friday, November 30, 2018

Let The Swine Go ForthLet The Swine Go Forth by Auriel Roe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now, this is one fun ride down the dark, disturbing forest of the modern educational system, full of the seven deadly sins, gross incompetence, and scarred children.

In other words, it's funny as hell.

Roe took us into a public institution last time. This one is quite a bit more private. Her experience in the system comes out with wildly satirical flair. It's awfully oddball and sharp and full of great moments.

What makes this stand out is the PoV of the headmaster. It feels quite English, quite droll, but also as zany as you might expect. Birds and torture go quite nice with the seven sins pig. Does anyone want to stage a play?

I would absolutely recommend this for anyone who's in the mood for modern mainstream matriculation mania. :)



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Praise of FollyPraise of Folly by Erasmus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know, before I read this, I imagined it was satire.

I couldn't have been more wrong! Indeed, after listening to Dame Folly, goddess extraordinaire, I think I will convert myself wholeheartedly to her teachings.

There has never been a more persuasive tract in literature. Hide thy wisdom, folks! There is no greater treasure than to proclaim just how much folly you possess!


It's especially good for churchmen and writers. The former generally do not know they are being made fun of and the latter can derive a sort of sick satisfaction that they, more than any other breed of fools, exemplify the teachings of Dame Folly.

For who else could go about the rest of their lives putting words down for nothing more than faint praise, outright scorn, and little to no money for their extensive efforts?

Exactly.

:)

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Noumenon InfinityNoumenon Infinity by Marina J. Lostetter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one hell of a great sequel.

It goes well beyond the fandom who like generational starship stories, delving into high physics, Big Dumb Objects, and very strange aliens.

But more importantly, the stranger aliens are ourselves. Generations of clones growing up and educated in a closed society, fixing the original generational starship problem by going as a fleet of semi-specialized components in one big social whole. That's not so strange, of course, but the emergent AI and the "retirees" of every clone over 65 to become a part of a massive biological computer system as dreamers *is*. :)

But the core story is no slouch, either. The fleet splits in two. One to finish a truly glorious Dyson-sphere-like project and the other devoted to exploration and learning about the aliens who made it. Of course, from there, everything goes to hell. But differently. :) This is not the same kind of novel as the first, but it IS a genuine continuation in both spirit and characters. :)

I especially loved the aliens. I may have a few spoilerly quibbles about the end. One particularly big plot thread that wasn't concluded. But other than these, which could EASILY be addressed in future books, I absolutely adore this book. Or rather, books.

Few modern SF novels are this devoted to ideas anymore. That is: pure ideas drilled down to consequences and snags and complications.

The writing is more than fine, the characters are fascinating, but it's the ideas make this a true inheritor of old-school SF. Everything from psychology to sociology to genetics to high physics is explored here, and that's just the foundation. :)

I'm a fanboy now. :)



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Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Fall of IoThe Fall of Io by Wesley Chu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just what IS the Fall of Io?

I mean, to me, I expected the grand wheel of Hubris to dunk Ella and Io under the water of fate, but similar to the first novel... the rising and falling aren't that spectacular. It's more of a personal choice rather than an epic downfall. :)

It's okay. :) We have a lot more to entertain us here.

Like heists, flashbacks to events that will already have happened right AFTER the events in the first book, heists, tons of action, heists, and feeling all buddy-buddy with the Yakuza. Oh, and did I mention h.... oh wait... I think I did. :)

An alternative title to this novel might be, "Everyone Hates Ella." Except for Cameron, of course, although he's just a stupid man. :) It's kinda nice to enjoy a relatively hated MC for once. She doesn't have much going for her and her alien is kinda a f***-up, too. This is no surprise.

No spoilers, but I had a good time with this. It's pure popcorn fiction.

It's aliens riding our meat-bags in a mutually beneficial arrangement, a whole taking over the world conflict between the good aliens and the bad, and an extended roll in the mud. :)

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Rise of IoThe Rise of Io by Wesley Chu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a totally enjoyable return to the Tao universe. Or, I should say, to the Earth set up in the Lives of Tao with all its sparkly aliens still fighting a civil war using humans as their bodies. :)

Hey, and not only do we have a new personality to get to know and love (or hate) in Io, but Tao himself shows up and plays a big role! Woo! Cameron!

But it is Ella who really shines here. Our Indian thief has all the trademarks of an underdog hero. It has the feel of the first Tao book with one HUGE difference. The lines of engagement, of just who is good and who is not, are VERY blurred. :) Or at least, Io believes so. This makes for some very interesting conflicts going forward.

I already have huge trust in Chu for this universe and loved the previous Tao books. They went crazy with the action. :) This one is shaping up to be one hell of a great series. :)

Total popcorn SF. Easy and fun. :

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book might be a bit difficult to review.

There's a TON of fantastic plotting and truly wild mystery reveals packed in here, keeping us always guessing and on our toes. The level of detail is equal to the plotting, as is the uber-Clue model that frames the book. But the best part was the fantasy aspect.

This isn't a normal whodunit, no matter what anyone says. Body-hopping and repeated days like Groundhog Day fills the pages. Just trying to figure out THAT part kept my mind as busy or busier than the murder mystery.

But then there are the aspects, despite the good writing and fantastic setup, that dragged the book down for me.

Many, if not most of the characters were really hard to enjoy, bringing equal amounts of distaste and cringing to the tale. Almost no one is a redeemable character, and while that's to be expected in a Clue-type tale, a novel generally needs at least ONE anchor point.... but the narrator is an almost blank slate, giving us almost no motivation to feel for him even when we finally get his reveals. Forgive me for the hint of the reveals but the everyman lost almost all of his memories and became a large portion of these despicable creatures through the course of the tale. So how much of an everyman is he? He's practically subsumed in the muck.

And then there is the last bit I had some trouble with.

It was too long. Bits went on and on while I had no decent anchor to hang my hat on and I just didn't care about what was going on because the core of the tale was a bit too occluded until MUCH later.

Yes, a lot of this is necessary because of this type of book. The joy of the surprise, the multiple twists here rather REQUIRE the setup we are given almost as if we're reading (or rather, watching,) Momento. I just think a shorter treatment when we are SO much in the dark might have worked better.

Otherwise, the wrap-up and the twists really did make this novel stand out and shout. I still recommend it despite all my bellyaching. :)


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Monday, November 26, 2018

The Dreaming VoidThe Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've come to the conclusion that Peter F. Hamilton is an acquired taste. Maybe it just requires patience and getting used to his often HUGE PAGE COUNTS. Most of it is devoted to establishing his characters and their backstories, so it's not a huge complaint. Where he shines is his vast SF worldbuilding which takes on a very complex and rich character rarely seen in ANY series.

We're dealing with 20 or 30 thousand pages of the same universe across vast distances, worlds, and timeframes. And not only that, tons of alien species we get to know intimately, fantastic realms, Fae world hopping, wormhole networks, and a whole DREAMING REALM.

This particular novel fixes a lot of the issues I generally run into with the other novels. It's SHORT. It's also rather focused for what it accomplishes, splitting its time between a high-tech uber powerful post-Commonwealth era, 1500 years after Judas Unchained, and a very interesting seemingly low-tech fantasy world full of psi users and teeks. I have to admit I think I loved the second realm much more than the high tech side. The implications and the hints throughout this novel make me suspect MUCH. :)

Is this my new favorite Hamilton? Or am I just getting so used to his writing that I'm fine with rolling with the roving text and getting excited when the big action happens? Am I simply impressed by the vast worldbuilding and the competent characters?

A little of both, to be certain, but now that I've been reading quite a lot of his work, I'm really getting into the easter eggs and the recurring characters I grew to love in the previous books.

Yeah. Characters coming back after 1,500 years. And still being fun. :)

There's something really glorious about the gigantic tapestry that Hamilton is writing here. It's truly vast and often mind-blowing.

Sure, he has his faults and the writing style sometimes takes getting used to, but the rewards are well worth the effort. And then some. :)

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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Maskerade (Discworld, #18; Witches #5)Maskerade by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Phantom of the Opera!

With the Witches!

WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

Well, obviously, anything. This is Opera and the Show Must Go On! With or without Greebo in the mix. :)

Quite fun because I love the Phantom of the Opera and I love the Witches, but am I a fan of Anges?

Nah. Not really. I keep wanting a certain Tiffany to join the stage. Patience, patience.


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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Skyward (Skyward, #1)Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, it's official, folks. Brandon Sanderson is a god.

He's not just a go-to guy for all things fantasy. I've read a few of his Cosmere SF stores but this is the first outright SF novel I've read from him and OMG he slams it out of the park. Or sky. :)

Let's put it this way. You remember how Armada should have been the glorious Last Starfighter? Let's just ignore that for a moment.

THIS is the quintessential Top Gun meets the Last Starfighter, complete with a girl pilot with a huge chip on her shoulder, a lot of growth to be had, a mysterious AI starship she's caring for while undergoing training, and KILLER dogfights.

Did I cry a little as the cadets started dying or being pulled from the classes by freaked out parents? Yes. Did I feel the urgency and the hopelessness and the absolute need for pilots at all costs? Yes.

Did I have an INSANE amount of fun reading this?

YES.


Hell, I'm already devoted to this man's fantasy.

I just never guessed, although I SHOULD HAVE GUESSED, that Sanderson's Law was always a great means to bring understandable science-like laws to the field of Fantasy, but COME ON... a man who does this already has a FANTASTIC grip on SF. The story is fantastic, fun, and jammed with action, pathos, and a LOT of cute. :)

I can't wait for the next one! It's a great blow out and an even better set-up! :)

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Friday, November 23, 2018

The Psychology of Time TravelThe Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There have been a lot of time travel books. Like. A LOT. But few deal quite this directly with the secondary effects of a lot of movement through time. This one does.

The title is entirely accurate but it is NOT a DSM listing. Rather, it's part a worldbuilding exercise where madness, murder, and mayhem is realistically unfolded in the reality of knowing Time. This is not a universe where paradoxes happen. This is unmovable Time. The institute can set up trade agreements between time periods and a timeless economy can flourish, paying taxes during whatever time period is most favorable. :)

But better than that, everyone in the department knows when they die and prospective partners engrave their births and deaths on their rings. Isn't that messed up? Well, not really. People still do their willfully ignorant things, play around with time, get revenge for slights and wrongs, murder, investigate murders, and while there is no prevention, at least there is Understanding.

I like this best about the novel, but a good runner up aspect is the fact that most of the characters are women of all qualities. Sure, there's plenty of questionable mating practices among both sexes, using foreknowledge to mess with or cheat on or seduce when there might never have been any chance at seduction.

And yet, the question is something odd, since All Things Are Set In Stone.

What happens with people's minds when that point is driven home? It's almost theological. :) Or rather, future time travelers already go there. :)

Well worth the read. Complex, great characters, and even better forethought here. :)


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Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy, #3.5)Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't generally expect much out of in-between novellas in series, and this one had all the markings of a gratuitous "oh, we're getting married, let's roll in the mud with the relatives" kind of story...

But what I got was that AND a bonafide whodunit with a jewel heist, an attempted mass murder, hate, graft, blackmail, and a little kiddo coming into her own.

In other words... coolness all around. :)

But what about the wedding???!

Um... was there a wedding?

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H+ incorporatedH+ incorporated by Gary Dejean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a surprisingly fast and fun cyberpunk read, less concerned with the punk and more in tune with the cyber.

It's Cyborg City! Sort of. The town is built into a floating city where robotics flourished and the human element languished. Transhumanist paradise, only it's no paradise. The author gives us cool characters who either uphold the law, create the tech, consume the tech in a big way (cyborg boy!) or otherwise support those who must.

The details and scope are very important in this short novel. Themes, as well. Are we the pieces of our body, or will we forever be whittled down to lease-parts and remaining biology? The injustice of high-cost prosthetics, mortgaging your very life and mobility because you have a disease or are otherwise crippled, is insane to contemplate. Especially when companies can just demand you give your leg back. Or your whole body.

The novel quickly turns into a furiously excellent action thriller that I could literally see and enjoy in my mind's eye with perfect clarity. I could almost feel the explosions, the bullets, and the wild glee. :)

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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Witchmark (The Kingston Cycle, #1)Witchmark by C.L. Polk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I honestly did not know what to expect with this except that a ton of people I know swore by it. So sure, I barely looked at the blurb and dove right in, basically clueless.

What I found was a mystery soon after a world war, featuring a hounded mage serving as a doctor in England. Cool. And yet, for me, the charm was in the strong voice, the genuine sympathy, and the wonderful details of the time and place.

Of course, there's a lot of really horrible situations going on here, like being bound magically to a Mage's will, becoming a battery to someone else's magic. The Doctor went to war to escape that fate and became a doctor... but the world pulled him back into the old horrible intrigue.

And then the love story happens. And let me say this... I was charmed to death. :) Yes, it's LGBT, but I have to admit it's just charming as hell. :) The meet-cute fit perfectly with love at first sight but in this case, it's hard to tell whether the Fae is charming the magician or vice-versa. :)

The rest of the novel had a freaking awesome plot, too.

I think I'm going to be following this author for everything she does. I am totally trusting her. I did not expect to like this or any of the subject half as much as I actually did.

It just goes to prove: Good is Good. No matter what. :)

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The Apollo IllusionThe Apollo Illusion by Shari Lopatin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes the hardest part of reviewing a book is telling the prospective reader that their impressions of the first quarter of a book should not be the expectation they should have by the end.

For me, and with little more to go on other than the feeling like I was reading another The Giver mixed with an impression that this was another 1984 in spirit, my expectations led me to believe that scales would fall from eyes. And they do. But also because this is a YA dystopia with a lot of the feel of Divergent, we can also expect some resistance action. And we do.

But then, the difficulties of leaving home eventually lands us in a very futuristic world and I'm now sitting upright and enjoying the ride. The home of Apollo is not what it seems at all, and this particular quest of discovery makes the rest of the book a lot more enjoyable. For me. After all, I've read perhaps too many of these to get really surprised anymore. :)

Add a bit of Twelve Monkeys, hacker collectives, and a very decently-built world that has a lot more to say than I usually see in these kinds of novels, and the novel fairly hops along with all it's missing people, the despair of whole populaces, and a completely disconnected and probably schizophrenic society.

In other words, it's a pretty realistic description of our world. :)

So, all told, I was underwhelmed at first and excited for the rest. This is a very decent read.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Oracle YearThe Oracle Year by Charles Soule
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a fun ride. It falls in a category I like to call a Blockbuster Hit. Light tone, exciting premise, great pacing... but above all, a great trigger novel. It has everything we like in mainstream SF hits. A little wish-fulfillment, a little naughty action, a point where the character decides to change, and the point where the S*** hits the fan.

From there, it's all action and thriller.

Yeah, yeah, but what is it ABOUT?

Will is a modern-day oracle.

108 prophesies, a little dark-web anonymity, a little greed, a lot of action, and a little saving the world.

Cool, right? And it is cool. I had a great time.

It's much better than the other things I've read by Charles Soule. :) She-Hulk was okay and Swamp Thing was kinda a mess, but his bonafide novel was as sharp as a tack. :)

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The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy WarriorsThe Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God's Holy Warriors by Dan Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great treatment of a truly spectacular legend/horrorshow.

The story of the Templar Knights is gloriously varied, complex, courageous, insane, praiseworthy, mysterious, and tragic. It's primarily a history about the five Crusades and chivalry, but it becomes a harrowing monstrosity by the time King Phillipe enacts his vendetta against the Order.

I simplify. There's two hundred years worth of fascinating and edge-of-the-seat crusader action going on here as well as a farce of a trial that cut the head off of the first International Bank that the Templars had become for the sake of stealing its wealth.

Of course, all the Templars COULD have been telling the truth after years of torture in dungeons extracting confessions that they were kissing bejeweled bearded heads and penises before and after spitting and trampling across the cross. But... Yeah... That's reasonable.

Dan Brown does a damn good job with the narration, adding bright anecdotes wherever he could.

My only complaint is the summary single-line dismissals in the epilogue for ALL "What Happened Afterward" theories. Whole popular books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail: The Secret History of Jesus, the Shocking Legacy of the Grail, The Da Vinci Code, and even Umberto Eco's satire Foucault's Pendulum were given nothing more a few words equivalent to a spit and a trample.

The first was a genuine investigation that might not have panned out with further study, the second was a popular novel that leaves the decision to believe on us, and the third was a funny, sharp-as-nails tongue-in-cheek satire making fun of ALL conspiracies while being erudite at the same time.

Dan Jones could have just kept his history focused on the actual history rather than mentioning, rather dismissively, a rather enormous library of works devoted to the mystery of the Templar Knights and "What Happened Afterward". His opinions in the epilogue are just that. Unsubstantiated opinions. Literally. Single-line dismissals. It mars what was otherwise a fantastic recounting of factual history, even if a lot of the history remains mysterious and missing.

History does require a narrative for us to make sense of it. What Jones left out was the immense amount of learning, from science to history, the exchange of cultures between these two Holy War combatants across the centuries. We are also missing any possible deeper significance to what amounts to the bankrupting of whole nations to retake the Holy Land during a time of plague. It reads like nations preparing for the Olympics or a bloody Football League. WHY would so many resources be thrown at this Search for the Holy Grail?

Oh, wait, see what I did there? I used a metaphor for the whole purpose of the Crusades to illustrate that for a lot of the people there, it was LITERALLY the Search for the Holy Grail.

Narrative. See? Skip the narrative and all you have are a bunch of Monks With Swords aiming to get killed for the Glory of God. Nothing more. It doesn't exactly inspire my imagination. I'm sure the motivations were as varied among the Templars as they would be across any person alive.

Anyway. lol

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Red ClocksRed Clocks by Leni Zumas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sorry, SF fans, this one isn't SF no matter how it might be billed that way. There is ONE alteration to reality and it's only a legal one. Abortions are outlawed. The rest is, as they say, history.

Enter into a novel about vaginas. Names are missing because it's popular to write about real people as only their roles.

Other than that, it feels like popular fiction, complete with disgruntled housewives, teachers who dream of having children but are denied, little girls who get pregnant and must suffer all kinds of horrors in this realistic world of insanity. Just roll back the clock a little. Or roll it forward. Roe VS Wade is HISTORY.

All in all, this novel *is* a what-if. It says nothing more than what I already believe, that women should not have to suffer, either economically or legally or socially, for the desire NOT to be saddled with a real and true burden. Not unless they're able and willing to take care of said burden.

And yet, what makes this novel popular is the fear that this little freedom will soon go away. In real life.

Horrible? Yes.

It's a subject that should not be shot, burned, ostracized, locked-away, or otherwise relegated to dirty street corners with coat hangers.

As a novel, however, it's okay. I might have liked it better if the more fascinating Biographer had an actual name. A lot of the details of the characters' lives were more interesting than their Roles would have them be. Is it on purpose? Undoubtedly. Did it work the way it should have? Not sure, but I'm leaning toward no.

It wasn't bad tho and I support the attempt.

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Vengeful (Villains, #2)Vengeful by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has been a while since I read Vicious, but that didn't stop me from fully enjoying this sequel.

Aftermaths are a bitch.

A quiet few years of dying over a hundred times isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Of course, one death is bad enough for all the specials who get their powers through a close call, but I have to say our main anti-heroes have it bad. It's all torture. Their whole lives.

Fortunately, friends make all the difference. It's all about strengthening your weak points and putting together a team that's impossible to beat. Or in Eli's case, laugh as his heart is cut out. Repeatedly.

I had a great time reading this. Every character is vivid as hell and the story is deliciously dark and twisted. No one is unabashedly good and most are frankly terrible people. But most of them have great super-powers and motivations that run the full range, so what the hell! This tale is as juicy as a still beating heart. :)

After reading so many of Schwab's books, I have to say that her adult fare is probably my favorite. Still. :)

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The Bird KingThe Bird King by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in 1491 Grenada, most of this novel reads like a devoted historical novel where the Muslim world is mixed with the Christian at a time when the Spanish Inquisition is running strong and the last Emirate is about to fall.

Fatima, the last concubine, and her friend Hassan, a mapmaker with the ability to open up doors to the Other, transforms this novel from a strict historical to an outright fantasy. But it happens slowly. The historicity of the world is rich and lush and it introduces the world of the Jinn and magic in pure magical realism style, later becoming an outright adventure to find the Bird King.

The old world has died. The only course now is survival. Perhaps happiness. But mostly, it's just finding a place to survive, and if it is with the help of the Jinn and all the creatures under Allah, so be it. Allah made all.

I liked the message at the end of the book.

I also happened to like G. Willow Wilson's Alif the Unseen a lot more. But that being said, there's a lot to love right here.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

DichronautsDichronauts by Greg Egan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For fans of multiple world-time-lines and especially for fans of Christopher Priest's The Inverted World, welcome to Dichronoauts.

Walking one way brings you to the future, the other, to the past. But space is still space and time is still time. Thanks to the little creature attached to the people here, we've got a cultural/exploratory thing going on that is the spiritual godchild of Priest's classic novel. Just look at the cover to get an idea. That's a picture of the Earth. As in, the Earth, to these people, is shaped like an hourglass. That makes EVERYTHING pretty messed up. :)

So let's explore! And the characters barely know anything more than us, so we're introduced to many theories that may sound absurd, but the Earth is ALREADY absurd... because time and alternate worldlines are as easily traversed as walking across a field.

As a LITERAL worldbuilding novel, almost all the fun is in exploring and visualizing the world they inhabit.

The rest... well... as okay. Not overly special. The chasm was pretty cool. Bits and pieces elsewhere. But overall, I was not overly invested in any character.

Win some, lose some. The cool aspects are VERY cool, however. :)

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Alif the UnseenAlif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A clever mashup of equal parts efreet fantasy and golden hackers in a Big Brother Muslim state seems like a winner at first glance to me. I love everything about the first two and the addition of throwing it into a Muslim culture MAY or may not have been a winning move. Sometimes it can come off strange or cheesy or uncomfortable.

Fortunately, Wilson's strong writing and respectful nature carried a number of complex and interesting characters into a great tale with romantic elements, stronger hackereze, and a massive David and Goliath take-down that rove right into the Unseen world of the spirits of air and fire.

How does this work?

Well, as a matter of fact.

Combining the mystical permutations of Allah with quantum computing is as natural as breathing. Has anyone seen Pi? ;)

So, this book mashed all my buttons. I didn't even care it was YA. I'm a fan.

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The Monster Baru Cormorant (The Masquerade, #2)The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Remember the Red Wedding scene in GoT?

That sense of horror and disgust and shock and the feeling that everything was NOT going to be all right ever again?

That's how I feel now, having read Monster Baru Cormorant.

Sure, sure, I kinda felt that way at the end of Traitor Baru Cormorant, too, but this is the real deal. The Game is set up and all the pieces are on the board. No side trusts her and yet, no one KNOWS, and yet she still manages to keep everyone doubting. Is Baru with them? Against? Is she fighting and scheming against the Masquerade? For it?

Even she doesn't know. She's betrayed so many people, thinks of herself as a monster, and yet she is still having an issue between wearing a mask for doing the right thing or just doing the right thing because it's right, with no calculation.

It's obviously a journey novel, but she knows all the islands in this fantasy realm. She's the one gaining ever more power. But pushing aside the deeply dark bits, it's more about identity. Being a lesbian, being feared, finding real connections with others, and making absolutely impossible decisions... regularly.

The novel juggles all of it brilliantly, and more. The islands and cultures are amazing. The depth of worldbuilding is as good or better than almost any Fantasy novel I've read. And the author doesn't stint when it comes to economics, politics, science, medicine, and even the mythological ramifications of a world rich with uranium (and how it poisons the people here).

Every character is smart. Almost everyone wears a mask between official beliefs and keeping an open mind, between faith and mistrust. But best of all, the journey Hits Hard. *shiver*

Well worth the wait.

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Empire of Silence (Sun Eater, #1)Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really, 3.5* rounded up.

Do you remember that time that you read Dune for the 6th or 12th time and thought, "Hey! Wouldn't it be great to write fan fiction and mix up some of the elements in it, change all the names, and make it longer, more convoluted, and make Paul rebel against his family? Maybe just put him in House Corrino first, throw out the godlike abilities but keep 80% of the other worldbuilding under a thin shroud?"

Yeah. Me too.

And that's exactly what kept me from precisely enjoying this the way I wanted to. It was too close to the original. If I wanted a confluence of events exactly like the original, I think the original is STILL BRILLIANT.

This one reads in a more modern style with a first-person PoV. A huge stretch of the beginning just FEELS like Dune. And then, after it diverges, we have all the important scenes from Dune, such as playing with your opponent, extra gladiator stuff with Russel Crowe, and even a mad dash of what Patrick Rothfuss is known for. I guess I would have enjoyed this more had there been a lot LESS nods to Dune. Fear mantra? Floating Fat Man? Benighted race with a religious secret allowing total dominance of the universe?

Well, no, we haven't gotten THERE yet. That'll be in another huge honker of a book.

Whereas Dune conquered the known galaxy in ONE BOOK.

I guess the case could be made that this is for a new generation, blah, blah, blah, but there's just a bit too much imitation for my taste. Let's just write in the Dune universe instead. Or cut out all the homages, fly on the strength of your own tale.

There's something here. It might be a bonafide epic... eventually. But it's pulling on a few too many shirts right now.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Babylon's Ashes (The Expanse, #6)Babylon's Ashes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 11/14/18:
I am still loving the series and I still love this book in particular.

Civil War. Gotta love and hate it. Love it if we're not living IN IT. But overall... what a nightmare. Especially after what happened to the Earth. This is basically the end of the Solar System. Any kind of future we will have will be ELSEWHERE. :) As we soon see.

Otherwise, I think I said everything else I wanted to say in my previous review. :)


Original Review:

Reading this series is always like coming home to a really wonderful and wonderfully fucked up family. You know, the kind that always seems to sink right into the heart of the whole solar-system's problems and even manages to be held responsible for its civil war.

Some might even go so far as to indirectly link these guys to the tragedy that befell Earth. I know I would. But I'm kinda hard on my family.

Seriously, these books are great, but I think this one was a huge step in a great direction that I've been half-expecting since the very first in the series. James Holden is a real character. He keeps opening his mouth. And one of these days, someone's going to hold to him.

President Holden. Jeeeeezzzuuuuuuusssssss.

And then there were the deaths. The big one was surprising and sad. I always liked him.

The plot was pretty fantastic and full of action and who doesn't love BOBBIE in the hot seat? Wowie! And even a certain transhuman working closely with the crew. It's like a who's who of my favorite characters all working through dire hells. So nice.

This book clears up so much of the craziness that blew up in the previous one. That setup was amazing, but this one equally so. I can't believe just how crazy the solar system had gotten. :)

If any of you haven't picked these books up yet, then I'm just plain sorry for you. :) These are the gold-standard for system-wide (and now galactic) space-opera. :) It's all so close enough to us that we can taste it. :) Still great stuff.

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Willful Child: The Search for SparkWillful Child: The Search for Spark by Steven Erikson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I tore through this one and had a great deal of fun. These are the continuing adventures of... Oh My God, who put that flea collar on that cat!? This is genocide!

Ahem... the continuing adventures of the sexually frustrated captain of the Starship Willful Child as he and his loyal crew of a beachball doctor, a claustrophobic engineer, a mad AI holographic chicken, Scalzi, two replacement janitors, and ABSOLUTELY NO RED SHIRTS anywhere to be found discover the meaning of life in the undiscovered country. But before that, they will merrily jaunt across the galaxy, blowing up aliens with extreme prejudice and redefine the entire genetic destiny of oddly malleable consumers.

"We will be called the Purse."

Oh, yes. Hunting down spare change in all the couches across an enemy's fleet, letting nothing stop them. *shudder*

In-jokes abound. Everywhere. Every page. Erikson is pulling off one hell of a ride here, but I should warn you: it's dark humor. Very dark, with a splash of light that is usually followed with a cocktail of drugs and a quick displacement into a tank filled with teeth within teeth within teeth.

Is the original spirit of Star Trek preserved?

Sure, if you think of it as an Orville on steroids and force it into the R-Rated category. :)

But where it really shines is in the deep and abiding love and knowledge of all the originals. Erikson subverts them all. :) And he doesn't limit himself just to Star Trek.

I think I would recommend these books to all hardcore fans of SF. They're not just parodies. They poke holes in universes and the logic at the originals, sure, but this is a good story all by itself, too. :) So much happens... and I'm only referring to the Space Marines in their D&D marathon!

I just want more. And more. I can't get enough. :)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Wrath of Betty (Willful Child #2)Wrath of Betty by Steven Erikson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whereas the first Willful Child was a harrowingly wicked and smart loving/parody of Star Trek with an episodic feel barrelling down to the eventual discovery of Tammy's origins, the Wrath of Betty feels more like a movie tie-in.

Which is only fair, considering the title.

Fascinating references include time travel to Comicon in 2015 to find the missing Krill, dark universe hijinx with women commanding all the battleships, (including a female doppelganger for our favorite insane MC), and plenty of gorgeous and delightful references to other SFnal universes like Wall-E and Star Wars... because everyone should be heckled.

Including Sad Puppies. It was pretty glorious to join our heroes in the takedown that egalitarian utopia based on respect and reason, relocating them the way a nuclear bomb can relocate atoms in the wind of desolation. Obviously, the SJWs are the greater evil. Bigotry and wanton destruction is our species birthright. Huah.

Am I a big fan? Oh yeah. So much happens, so many SHARP commentaries, so many unbelievably wicked satirical moments.

These are the continuing adventures of the Willful Child, promoting the cloning of a boss's literal asshole to a shipful of aliens who all willingly severed a thumb to ceremonially place in the said asshole.

A bit edgy? Perhaps. But also funny as hell.

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Willful ChildWillful Child by Steven Erikson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A quick caveat before I review:

There is a lot of hardcore, almost gratuitously cruel humor going on in this Star Trek parody/enshrinement. I can almost guarantee either revilement or a blind reverence to the treatment herewithin.

That being said, I'm gonna squee a little.

I'm not always in the mood for an Orville-esq Star-Trek lambasting with rated R nastiness on the level with John Dies at the End, treated for the likes of the Federation, but this one tickled all my funny bones. Where Galaxy Quest did NOT go far enough for me, Steven Erikson lets me have all the wondrously insane magnifications that could only be dreamed up by an existing uberfan of the original series. And I mean, the entire series from the 60's all the way through the 80's, 90's, and oughts. Erikson made me chuckle, laugh out loud, and sometimes even made me drop my jaw by some really wicked SFnal devices that are hella worthy for any traditional treatment.

The Dimple Ray comes to mind. :)

But beyond that, we're treated to nod, lambast, reverence, even while our fearless captain breaks all the rules of engagement, decency, sociopathy, and reasonableness. This is the grimdark equivalent of every dark comedy and it is set in the future.

Crank it up. Play it loud. Louder. LOUDER.

Hey, Tammy? Could you put away that chicken, please?

BTW, I LOVE Tammy. Psychopathic Godlike AIs get me going. She's a nice change from Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. :)

Well worth the risk. Erikson's a smart cookie. :) I may like his SF better than his Fantasy.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

The Long Sunset (The Academy, #8)The Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I can never say that these books by McDevitt are super original, he does have a talent at writing them very well. And I don't mean that they're just some super-action fluff, either, because he just doesn't write those kinds of novels.

Instead, we have a thoughtful pacing, in-depth consideration of circumstances, a deep love of curiosity and archeology, and a need to bring up issues that are just as important to us as they are for the characters in this future time.

Interstellar travel is here and it has been here for quite some time since book #6, but AGAIN Earth is hell-bent on saving resources and shutting down the programs that keep our eyes fixed on the stars. Isolationism. Again. But after a transmission from 7 thousand years ago finally reaches us, depicting intelligent aliens with music tastes that we can get behind, Hutch is asked to take a trip.

Unlike another few of these Academy novels, I actually liked the aliens. The mystery is rather more mundane and the discoveries are a lot more pleasant as a whole and I don't miss the multiple deaths that usually happened in these novels.

I really enjoyed the rescue mission as a whole. I fully expect to keep reading all about this story in the future. Big things are only beginning. :) Friendship in the stars? It's about time. :) The OTHER argument. No Dark Forest here. :)

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Breakfast at Tiffany'sBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cannot and probably should not judge this according to the time it was written. To do so may or may not deepen the impact of it. If I wanted a slightly lighter tone, I could always watch the old movie.

As it is here and now, I feel like I should only judge it by my own sensibilities of this day and time.

The novella is breathless and anxiety-ridden, full of self-aware sexuality and hypocrisy, and it's also a purely whimsical fantasy. That is to say, I fell in love with these flawed characters and my heart broke for them.

Everyone loves Holly. She gives of herself so freely. She's so energetic and playful and outgoing.

And that is her tragedy. She gives away everything. Even her cat. And yet, according to one postcard, she will always be okay. It's really fascinating and heartbreaking because she will never have anything of her own. She lives on the largess of everyone around her and they all love her to death.

I can't give a crap about the fact she sleeps around. She is what she is, and that's what we're meant to see clearly. I love it.

She's very bright. Even her gift of a birdcage to the writer-narrator is astute as hell. She could be talking entirely about him or about his love for her. The point is... there is no bird.

So pretty. So understated. So heartbreaking.

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read, 11/11/18:

The only real review for this book is one that fully experiences it from the inside. In other words, take the roads, listen to the rocks, and above all, DON'T TRUST THE FARIES.

This was a classic when I first read it and it's just as good on any re-read. That's why I put this in my top-100 list. :) It will stand the test of time.

Let's fight with Wellington and defeat Napoleon with magic! Let's get into major trouble, get majorly paranoid, and do it with arrogance and style!

Above all, this is a buddy novel that starts really rocky, continues worse, ends in mistrust, and yet, is quintessentially English. In other words, polite and often uplifting. :)

Brilliant book. I think it will always be. :)

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Friday, November 9, 2018

Armed In Her FashionArmed In Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I want to say this is a well-thought-out historical novel, and it definitely dovetails nicely with history, but let's face it: It's Hell on Earth.

In a lot of great stylistic ways, I'm reminded favorably of Peter Newman's The Vagrant, only it's right here and the minions of hell all speak French.

The novel is very female-centric, making this all kinds of awesome. Not all men are jerks, but all the revenant men definitely are. Add that to the laws which disenfranchise the lot of women, a cool attempt at bringing Justice to Hell, and a big smackdown when that doesn't pan out.

These mothers, widows, and even a non-identified transgender warrior all do everything they can to survive and secure their place in the world filled with dead-but-still-being-assholes husbands.

Don't assume this is just a fast-paced and bloody-minded fantasy with the minions of hell pouring out of the Earth. I mean, it is absolutely that, but it's also about doing the right thing... or not. :) :)

I very much enjoyed this. I'm gonna keep my eyes on this author. :)

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Alice Payne Arrives (Alice Payne, #1)Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time travel.

Sure, it has been done a lot over the years, but then, so has detective tales, historical novels running over the same old grounds, or vampires. The key to a good tale is in the depth of detail, the strength of the characters, and the piledriver of the plot.

Fortunately, Heartfield rams it home in this novella. Does it feel like the beginning of a serial? Absolutely. Is the novella still fun to read on its own, with lots of time-jumping, future world-building, and conflict between hoards of other time-travelers attempting to correct other factions' wrongs or fix history, thereby making a botch of all history? Hell yeah.

It's a strong entry. It doesn't hurt that the lead female is gay and her lover is an inventor from 1788, or that there's an almost heist-like feel going on in the plot, or that the young Alice is half-black.

It's still good to be a time-traveler. :)

My only complaint is nothing much of a complaint. I want to have the full arc of the story in my hands, not just the attempted fix of history. :)

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Quantum MagicianThe Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have no problems raving about this book. It has everything I love about SF and then I get the best things I love about the thriller/mystery genre.

HEISTS.

At first, I believed this was written as a homage or a more accessible version of Hannu Rajaniemi's Quantum Thief, and I was right... to a degree. It forwent the truly odd stuff and gave us a readable and full explanation of quantum mechanics and name-dropped a few more while throwing us into a more widespread future that never quite touched the singularity.

In other words, it had odd cultures and odder branches of humanity but it still felt a lot like everything we know. Bruisers coming in the form of gene-modded humans able to withstand punishing pressure, a technician in the form of insane AI who think he is a Saint from three thousand years ago or an inside man who is a part of a whole people modded to worship everything about self-torture as a religious experience.

Add our mastermind who is a broken quantum computer (in the old sense) who ought to be able to go into a fugue state and savant his way through any difficult problem except for the tiny detail that it hospitalizes him, and we've got an MC who needs a social challenge big enough to tax his brain without busting it.

There's a lot of great gallows humor here. A truly wild backdrop of space-opera with wormholes, big space-fleet conflict, and empires who all think they're the most formidable foes in the playground. What could go wrong?

Well, as it turns out, a lot, but the ride is fun as hell. After all, it's a HEIST! :) :)

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The Three PoisonsThe Three Poisons by John Molik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got this on Netgalley not having read the previous two books, but fortunately, I didn't have any problems enjoying this novel on its own. That being said, I think I'm going to have a hard time reviewing this novel because it is RICH with ideas, worldbuilding, themes, and characters. Where would I start?

It is equal parts technothriller and a character study. AI-assisted espionage, genetic enhancements, transhumanist movements, the push to the stars... all this is a huge part of the novel and it's very fun. But the novel shines when the AI becomes human-like and heavily augmented girls become a little more flesh and blood. And that's the point. So much of this novel is about transformation. It is certainly not limited to this example.

The world and the themes go from economic theory, the evils of greed, to paranoid blaming of shadow conspiracies (which are real here), to the hunt we all share to find peace and love in the middle of a near-future dystopia. We travel all over the world with a large handful of well-drawn characters, learning, fighting, striving, and surviving. There are a couple of plot threads that are very strong and exciting and a few others that are quiet and introspective. This makes reviewing the novel without a long diatribe on both kinda unwieldy, but suffice to say...

If you like rich and complex technothrillers with excitement, heart, humor, and a LOT to say, you won't go wrong with picking this up. :) I'm quite impressed with all of it.

Reminds me of a mix between Daniel Suarez, econopunk, and a Buddhist-flavored PKD. :)

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

War Factory (Transformation #2)War Factory by Neal Asher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I have finally become a card-carrying fan of Asher. Before, it was all about the awesome tech and the cool reveals that usually surrounded the cool tech, but then I was getting into the wide range of messed up characters being transformed from normal baddies to nearly godlike baddies... while the rest of the Polity goes nuts with godlike AIs of every flavor and disposition ruling us poor fools however they liked. Often to some very strange results.

Fast forward to the current novel. It continues on with the story of Pennyroyal not from his POV but from all his Faustian victims. After the results and cool as shit reveals from Dark Transformation, we still don’t get the ubergodlike AI’s POV but he has suddenly become my absolute favorite AI character of all time. Talk about a backstory!

This novel is both a fantastic backstory and a great adventure bringing the most fascinating creatures and monsters from the previous and throwing them together in a truly awesome way....

At the whims of a dark god with truly crazy motives and crazier abilities.

Think of a Lovecraftian nightmare with hyperspace, superintelligence, and even time travel capabilities. Have him apparently bring about the most elaborate scheme to enact revenge upon himself by creating paradigm shifting creatures capable of busting planets, and then make him look like a king slumming it in a local bar.

Too freaking awesome.

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Monday, November 5, 2018

LysandraLysandra by T.J. Zakreski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a lot of ways or perhaps all of them, the only way to review this book is through spoilers. So here's your mild warning.

There's a lot going on under the surface that is both essential to the tale and interesting enough that we actually NEED to talk about it in a review or the awesome JUST CAN'T BE SHOWN. :)

I mean, I could just say it's awesome and all but that kinda misses the point. WHY?

Because... the New Adult clone of Jesus created by an AI virus from another star system is getting into trouble, is taking on the monstrosity of the future Religious State, and she's not doing it alone.

The virus has plans of his own and he's just as godly as before. He's including the poor guy from the previous novel, too. And if this wasn't cool enough, the whole nature of reality, virtual reality, of alternate universes and times as seen through branching-off versions spawned through wormholes, is on full display here.

As the Stones might say, we've got ourselves a revolution.

I mentioned once in the review of the Cygnus Invasion that the author takes the ball from Philip K Dick and runs with it. And he does. There's a lot of godlike stuff going on here. Zakreski has a zany core here while retaining the serious exploration of the original subject. It's treated lightly, quickly, as well as with all the solemnity and depth it requires. I can't ask for more. Easy to read and yet it tackles a lot of complex topics.

Religion, godhood... beware the Spear of Destiny. It looks like a little quantum tomfoolery is on its way. :) Beware the minotaur in the labyrinth. :)


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The Reluctant BarbarianThe Reluctant Barbarian by John Haas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This self-aware dungeon master romp is skirting the edge of the fun LitRPG trends going around. Arthur gets a belated wish from his childhood and gets plopped in the center of a Grand Adventure as a normal regenerative barbarian with the undead, an oh-so-predictable Paladin, and enough funny adventures to satisfy any D&D head. Add a Lich for good measure, and this is one hell of a Dark Horse story.

But more than that, it's light and just plain fun. Even the Paladin.

I hate Paladins. So stuffy. :)

Just add all the misunderstood social bits of our world and mix them into the rich fantasy world to give us all the sour chuckles we'd ever desire. :)

Missing your gaming session? Come on over. :)

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Feeding Frenzy: Curse of the Necromancer (Loon Lake Magic, #1)Feeding Frenzy: Curse of the Necromancer by Maaja Wentz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's a solid UF for ya.

That's ya, not YA, in case you're wondering, for while a lot of the action takes place on a Campus, the action is all witches, ravenous hoards, and horror nods. The first half of the novel promises to be a humorous romp as students and teachers succumb to a strange illness/curse that makes them gobble up everything in sight and then walk around like a zombie afterward. I'd say Bulimia, but this is a bit of tight necromancy instead. The second half is an all-out zombie-ish apocalypse that is part food riot and part magical conspiracy.

I thought it was pretty fun! Pure popcorn, of course, but sometimes we just HAVE to have our popcorn reads. :) Fun is fun is fun. :)

I'm looking forward to eating the next book. :) Nom Nom Nom.

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Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming: Book One: TheoryThe Heretic's Guide to Homecoming: Book One: Theory by Sienna Tristen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I just found one of my most favorite books of all time.

Even if the novel didn't remind me of Cat Valente's best writing, with all its poetry couched in prose, the way the stories within stories kinda blows me away.

But you know what really speaks to me the most?

This novel is about awe. Hope. Regaining spirit, driving forward your dreams, fighting anxiety, and finding wonder.

Quite aside from that, the novel has a truly delicious and deep worldbuilding that is matched or perhaps overmatched with the depth of characterization. On the surface, it's a novel about a scholar putting his books away to fully experience the world no matter what anyone thinks and taking up with a fascinating traveler.

But that's like saying LoTR is about some short person taking out the trash.

As I was reading, I counted three times I was brought to tears. The first was probably the hardest hitting. The traveler's rules for our hapless scholar put him through a profound and genuine change, revealing his heart's innermost desires, smashing walls and unearthing all the buried dreams of a lifetime. The courage and the point of it and the execution floored me.

And that might have been more than enough for any novel, but this one forges forth and gives us some of the most engaging reveals I've ever read. Never mind that some themes might have been explored in older fantasy novels.

The author's take on these themes is superior. Courageous. Delightful.

Am I in full-on crush mode right now?

You better F***ing believe it.

I plan on reading this again. And again. At delighted leisure. There is nothing about this that isn't uplifting, even if it is often difficult. Or even more than difficult. You could call it an artist's journey, but it is as valid for self-discovery, self-actualization, or even just accepting yourself and falling in love with life and your own destiny. :)

BRAVO!

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Dwarves of the WorldDwarves of the World by Brandon Draga
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This short collection of 9 Dwarf stories is quite entertaining, featuring real issues, real emotion, and only slightly reminiscent of the normal images of Dwarves we all seem to have in our heads. You know. Singing. Short people. But these have nothing to do with Jonny Depp or candy of any type.

Because there's mines, artistry, social niceties, and GIRLS WITH BEARDS.

What else are you looking for? Huh???

How about good stories? It's all here. :) I liked all of them. Intrigue, action, near devastation, heroism, and hardly any elves to speak of. :)

Give me that ax. I want to get my masterwork out of the way. :)

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The Stars Are Calling (Starchasers Book 2)The Stars Are Calling by Kay Hawkins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Good parts first: The story is a bit more on the ball than the previous novel, with a more interesting plot, more character development, and a stab at relevance. I like the fact that the characters are on the road to change.

As a whole, it is fine for fans of a simpler Star Trek universe without dealing with the actual characters of the Star Trek universe.

Skyler is a brat who will stop at nothing to be a captain and Michael is sick of the inequality dealt at his species and has moved on from being a technician to an inexplicably brilliant metallurgist overnight, and Kax, the catgirl, is just as brilliant with her piloting skills. There's a little more depth to some of the characters but no real struggle to get their SF superpowers.

That isn't a real dealbreaker, however. I've seen a lot of SF fluff... but I generally avoid reading it. This is more a school-space adventure revolving around characters. None of the science should be taken seriously.

... Unfortunately, the text in this book seems to be on the same level as a first draft. Grammar problems, margin errors, autocorrect wrong words, and punctuation is all over the place. Especially in the second half of the novel. I usually never mention this unless it becomes a serious problem to either understanding or flow.



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Saturday, November 3, 2018

ElevationElevation by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

King novella!

Half of this novella is a feel-good friendship fest and the other half is a dark fantasy meeting together in a soft chewy center of miscommunication, making friends, and body-horror.

But because it's King, and he likes to mess with us, he doesn't give us a chill-fest. Rather, he went all out to tackle small-town assholes and prejudice against a nice lesbian couple who opened up a Mexican Restaurant in Castle Rock. And he pulls it off without being preachy. Indeed, he focuses on wrapping things up for his main character before he gets blows away. :)

I likey.

The supernatural bits are VERY reminiscent of Thinner, but thankfully not too much. The method and the outcome is a lot more SF than a gypsy curse. :) Why not revisit a theme but do it a lot differently? It works very well here. :)

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Friday, November 2, 2018

The Stars Will Rise (Starchasers Book 1)The Stars Will Rise by Kay Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you can imagine a space cadet academy that runs like a trade school with characters that are a lite version of cocky Kirk, a sexually ambiguous engineer who is held back because of race and his orientation (alien and asexual), and a cat girl who refuses to be pigeonholed, then you've pretty much nailed this quick novel.

To be perfectly honest, I was kinda taken aback by how many fish sticks and holo-monopoly the novel focused on. Or clubbing, getting drunk, or hooking up. Large stretches dealt with life not even remotely SF. It might as well be early dorm life with short punctuations of intense battle and inexplicably easy stints of stealing spacecraft, impersonating a captain, or just happening to come up with that brilliant idea that saves everyone's butts without quite having to work for it.

Indeed, a lot of the book lacks conflict other than rebuffing sexual contact or working through issues of childhood. The actual space conflict scenes generally have no build-up or depth. They just happen with an almost cartoonish ease. And are resolved as quickly.

The first half of the novel was slightly difficult to get through because the whole space academy bit was mostly "I want to be a captain" and the rest was hanging out. It did pick up nicely for the last half, however, and it was a very light read.

I would totally recommend this for new readers or anyone who doesn't want to work very hard with their tales. Fluff, basically. :)

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The Bone MotherThe Bone Mother by David Demchuk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, wow! I think I may have found my new favorite horror author!

Well, new for me, anyway. He's been around for many years but mostly as a short story artist. But after meeting him and listening to him speak at a convention, I knew I had to read his work. Sharp mind, deep horror sensibility. :) But even without meeting him, this book is an awesome treat.

Ukranian in flavor, we have all the Slavic influences at the fore. Each story in here makes up a much larger picture of the surrounding area filled with VERY creepy influences. You know, like the Night Police, parents eating their children, mass starvation, government-sponsored assassinations, children never growing up, Strigoi, old witches feeding children worms, and a dark mystery that weaves through every story in the best possible way.

Sound cool? It gets better. Demchuk has a WAY WITH WORDS. At first, I thought he was writing in a minimalist way, but it's better than that. He writes like poetry.

The rhythm to his writing is more than compelling. It takes over your heart and pumps your blood for you. I generally never get scared with horror books. Generally. But this one managed to burrow under my skin and wrap around my spine, making me twinge with every new creepy reveal.

I'm totally thrilled. It's like Angela Slater decided to focus on horror. :) My eyes are wide open, now. I'm going to keep a very sharp eye on this writer. :)

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