Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Only Harmless Great ThingThe Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, humanity, SHAME ON YOU.

This is a shamefest of shameful shenanigans, from Radium Girls to massive mistreatment of elephants...

But unlike us and our own grasp of history, THEY WILL REMEMBER. :)

I've read a few of Bolander's stories and they all struck me as hardcore. In the sense that they hit hard and make you feel it in your gut and gonads, barely letting up long enough to go for another sucker punch.

Let's face it. We don't look at the crap we do to ourselves very well. Narrative restructuring for our lives has made it almost impossible to see the truth for what it is. So let's write more stories that SHAME us for the immortal monsters that we're becoming, shall we? Break through that immense narrative wall.

Ah... but... and here's the really shameful bit... people don't want to hear how bad they're being. Pointing fingers is what they do best, but those fingers never land on ourselves.

I think this novella works best for those of us willing to take our share of the blame. Or at least get angry enough to start pointing a few extra fingers at some random folk and hope it sticks. :)

Is the story fun, otherwise? Sure! Pretty awesome text that's like poetry and being inside an elephant's head. :) Oh, wait... :)

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Boy's LifeBoy's Life by Robert R. McCammon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do you know the feeling of eating some fresh-fresh-from-the-oven cornbread drizzled with some honey butter?

That's this entire novel.

A 12-year-old boy getting out of school, enjoying summer, then going back to school, in 60's Alabama. Sounds simple, right? But this is charming in not just a nostalgic kind of way a-la Stephen King's IT, but full of love, consideration, adventure, magical realism, murder, mystery, courage, and some of the best Coming-Of-Age writing I've ever come across.

It's more than a horror or a YA or an in-depth real piece of homegrown Southern American Literature.
It's genuine. It deals honestly about racism and jerks and the Normal Rockwell way of life in a way that never comes off preachy or overwritten. But it deals with all of this and much more, including large swamp creatures and mythical stags in the forest, bootleggers and organized crime, and even the KKK and the new neo-nazi movement. But at no point did this diverge very far from the Boy's Life. :)

Trust me. If you love writing like fresh cornbread, this novel will be like coming home.

After all these years, I've just found a new favorite. I wasn't even close to being born when these events happened, but damn, I feel like I was THERE. :) Easily one of the very best novels of its kind.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Two Dark Moons (Sãoni Cycle, #1)Two Dark Moons by Avi Silver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I generally read everything. And that means I sometimes read genres that are out of my comfort zone. What's uncomfortable, tho? Fantasy YA romance-ish stuff. :) I don't mind gender fluidity, and for some readers, this is a very big bonus.

So good news! If you like mysterious cataclysms, a return to a pre-technological cave-dwelling existence, and you want sleestacks... oh, wait, these aren't sleestacks, but they are definitely an interesting reptilian race, then you'll find a lot of interesting things going on here. :)

Sohmeng, living high in the mountain, develops as a character and goes through an adulthood rite, but an accident sends her tumbling down to Earth where she must learn to survive against her own inclinations, prejudices, and even find an unlikely love in what ought to be the wrong place... but isn't.

I particularly like the worldbuilding. The moon phases and their meanings hint at much more to come, but I'm very fond of the primitive setup and the subtle extra meaning to the height. :)

Quite an easy and charming read. Definitely primed for the YA audiences who need that ease into appropriate identification while dealing with the judgment.

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Mass Effect: Annihilation (Mass Effect: Andromeda, #3)Mass Effect: Annihilation by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was worried about this novel. I really was. Despite the fact that I love the Mass Effect games and despite the fact that I love Cat Valente's writing, I still felt anxious, wondering if this could never as good as another novel that is wholly original.

You know, the same complaint some of us always have against franchise SF. Name any of them. Star Wars, Star Trek. Some really are good, of course, but expectations rarely live up to execution.

So why do I love this one, then? Is it because of the author or the series or both together?

Actually... neither. Oddly enough. Oh, I love Valente's quirky characters and dialogue. The Elkor doctor constantly quoting Shakespeare? Hell yeah! The Volus interactions were great, too. So snappily thuggish for little tree hugging bears. :) And I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Quarians so that always gets a pass for me.

As a regular SF, this is a locked-room mystery/medical drama on a generation spaceship (genre, not actual, although being en-route for 600 years makes it feel that way). What really got me going, however, was the intense focus on THE REST OF THE RACES in the ME universe. They have a big point, you know. Why do the Humans or the Solarians or the Asari, et al, get the whole manifest destiny thing going on while all the other aliens get left in the dust? Why throw the leftovers into their own Ark?

The whole ME series addresses this question poorly. And, indeed, so do the rest of us. What about all the leftovers? Aren't they worthy of their own stories?

The answer is definitely yes. :) And it doesn't hurt that the worldbuilding is divine, the aliens delightful, and the story solid. Thriller all the way, baby. :)

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Monday, June 24, 2019

Cousin BetteCousin Bette by Honoré de Balzac
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first Balzac.

I had the impression, somewhere, that I would have to sit through some dreary pompous horrorshow, perhaps pulpy purple prose with a plethora of prodigious penuries.

But to be sure, I did get a horrorshow, but not the kind I expected. Indeed, I had a great time once I fell into a certain kind of groove. You know what I mean. The kind that you get into when reading a good Stephen King novel, revving up with a huge cast of dispicable human beings whom you have a great time rooting for their ultimate demises. Hopefully with some supernatural beastie tormenting them to their dooms. Or devils dragging them to suddenly opening graves. Something like that.

To think that this was considered one of the great REALIST novels! By a realist novelist! In all honesty, it reads like the plot of some 1980's daytime soap opera but placed in post-Napoleonic France.

Enter the mass-philandering Baron and his wife who doesn't care! Enter the disgruntled spinster who, just after finding a taste of love, has her younger cousin come in like a bitch to scoop him up, sending the spinster into a whirlwind of Italian rage and vengeance that will last the rest of their lives.

Is this total preoccupation with Sex and Death funny? Yep. As I said, I'm a fan of Stephen King. I rooted for EVERYONE'S ultimate tragedy. :)

If this is realism, then what does that say about me? Hmmmm... oh my.

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Century RainCentury Rain by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This might become one of my favorite Alastair Reynolds novels. Why? Because he manages to turn one hell of a tale out of a kitchen sink worth of ideas. Great characters, from an ex-jazz musician/gumshoe from an alternate-timeline 1959, to a complex archeologist 300 years in the future sifting through the remains of a nanotech-eaten Earth, to wormholes, body-snatching, one hellofacool mystery, with murder, Casablanca vibes, and a nail-biting space battle that reminded me of Iain M. Banks and Neal Asher in a huge way. Or, if I'm being literal to a fault, it reminded me of Alastair Reynolds at his best. :)

There's so much I could say about this book, but let me boil it down to the basics.

This particular Earth is caught in amber. Caught in a pre-nuclear, pre-computer state. And it is being kept that way. Was kept that way for 300 years until the future factions (heavy nanotech or purist humans) unlocked frozen Earth. Roll with this, Reynolds explains it all a lot better than me. :)

Enter in the conflicting factions to this lesser-tech Earth and follow the Noir gumshoe across Paris, murders, awesome alternate Earth worldbuilding, and fantastic characterizations.

Any one of these elements are noteworthy and a cool read, but Reynolds went all-out ambitious and tied EVERYTHING together in a huge way and I loved it. :) Really perfect for mystery lovers AND hardcore missile/laser beam fanatics. Oh, and horror fans, too. Creepy undead children. :) And didn't I mention body-hopping?

lol, I had too much fun with this.

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Meet Me in the Future: StoriesMeet Me in the Future: Stories by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm generally not that big into short stories and by way of Hurley's introduction, I might have expected her to do a so-so job with these... but Hurley lies. The writer's talents are equal across novels and short fiction. Sorry, Hurley, you're good! lol

Indeed, most of these stories are pretty amazing, delving not only into her Nyx fiction and Legion fiction and even Light Brigade, but this collection has a ton of stories that kicked me hard from a different world altogether. The only other series I haven't read is the Worldbreaker Saga and I'm honestly at a loss as to guess whether the other set of related stories revolving people jumping corpses is related to that or whether this is a taste of a brand new series to come.

If it is, I'm TOTALLY DOWN FOR IT.

Hey! Hey! But what about THIS short story collection? Is it GOOD?

Sorry? Didn't I say?

It's totally engrossing. :) Taken on its own without knowing any of the other novels, it completely works and showcases so much fungal growth, corpse making, body-horror, sexual-orientation-swapping, space-opera, disease-ridden, dog-loving joy as anyone could possibly want. And the worldbuilding is always extremely intense. :)

I will get around to her other novels, but in the meantime, I am on auto-read for anything new that Hurley throws at us. Eagerly.

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The World of Winnie-the-Pooh (Winnie-the-Pooh, #1-2)The World of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I may be the only person on the planet not automatically delighted with Pooh. Or rather, I know I'm not the only one, because of my daughter.

She complained about being bored no less than a dozen times and fell asleep sitting up 5 times.

Sigh.

Ah, well, not every book is a winner for every person. Alas.

For me, I personally liked The Tao of Pooh much, much better. :) I guess I get kinda annoyed with Bears of Little Brain. :)

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Project PopeProject Pope by Clifford D. Simak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm of two minds on this one. It's quite strong on showing us some pretty wonderful worldbuilding, a robot Pope with robot Cardinals on a super-remote world in a distant future, spending many thousands of years trying to come to the idea of a perfect religion.

In this respect, it's perfect Simak. A lot of crystalline exploration of the idea of the Holy and what is good and all in all, it's a pretty awesome treatment of AIs (hereforeto referred to as robots) doing right by themselves and all the other races in the universe. If it feels like a nostalgic homage to the humans that created them in the distant past, then you're right. Most of the robots alive today only have vague ideas about humanity.

I think Simak does the subject nice justice, capturing an island of peace and contemplation only available to robots because those pesky humans always seem to f*** it up. :) Of course, the book doesn't end here. The search for Heaven takes a high-math turn and ancient beings who may or may not be a species of angels have been watching over this distant world and with the help of a few humans and a baby (something), the adventure makes a schism in the robot religion.

This is all pretty cool. So why did I knock off a star?

The writing, actually. Sometimes it skims where it could dive deep and the characters and dialogue were kinda lame at parts. *shrug* It annoyed me because the other concepts and turns were pretty damn high quality. :)

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy, #1)Feed by Mira Grant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read

I fell hard for this book the first time I read it and its sisters, confirming in my mind just how much I love Mira Grant -- or rather, Seannan McGuire. But at the time, this was my first taste of the author.

I admit I cried. I thought I just loved it for the light and often funny tone, the great setup for a post-zombie-apocalypse, loving to death the medical basis, the hella great worldbuilding, and especially the main characters. Georgia. Shaun. Buffy. They all snuck in under my skin. Slowly. Surely.

And to ride along a campaign trail for a presidential hopeful? Get embroiled in some really nasty politics along the way, ZOMBIE style?

I was like... bbbbrrrrraaaaaaaaiiiiiinnnnssss? GIMMIE MORE.

Hella smart, hella swift, and hella emotional. After all the OTHER zombie books I had read before, I was perfectly happy to put this near the very top of the list.

Since then, I've read a number of equally great zombie novels, but this hasn't slipped all that much on re-read.

For sheer enjoyment value and emotional shock, it's still at the very top. Sorry, World War Z. :)

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The Man Who JapedThe Man Who Japed by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This 50's PKD is a real keeper. I might really enjoy re-reading it in the next few years, but you know what I really want?

A MOVIE. This novel is a comedic GEM. It's funny as hell. A very McCarthy-era satire mixing post-apocalypse with uber-concerns with public morality in a paranoid state with tiny robots spying on everyone.

The witch-hunts never stopped.

And yet... a man with a sense of humor in the right place at the right time can change the world.

Not to spoil things, but car chases at 30 miles per hour and punting the head of a statue is just icing on the cake.

I can totally see Jon Hamm taking the lead with his totally confident smile as charges of public indecency are leveled against him or when he picks up James Joyce's Ulysses or when the homage to Swift's A Modest Proposal airs on public tv.

My imagination adds a rioting crowd of B-52's and horn-rimmed glasses, and oh! such outrage!

Who will stand with me? One last practical joke to topple society? Let me see a show of hands! :)

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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Summer of Night (Seasons of Horror, #1)Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's really odd, but out of all these old 80's early 90's-era massive horror tomes to come out, few of them really strike me as worthy of a massive nostalgic revival.

But then, just look at Stephen King's IT. The popularity of Stranger Things. Regular coming of age stories like Bradbury was so fond but twisted into dark horrible screaming nightmare shapes. :)

You know what? THIS book really deserves a read or a re-read, ya'll. It's like a cleaned-up version of IT without the parts that make us squirm in a bad way while making us squirm in all the great ways.

I mean, who doesn't love a bunch of 60's-era 11-year-olds shooting guns in rural Illinois? Fighting demons. Or demon-ish. Or ancient gods, ghosts, or demons. I still don't know what it is, but that's the joy of it. We go through this huge process of getting out of school, enjoying summer, living our childhoods again, only to run up against murders, horrible rendition trucks, creepy crawlies, and a lot of interesting history and research about the town. Sound familiar? IT? Who cares. It's awesome. :)

Plus, it's written by one of my favorite authors of horror OR SF. Simmons writes intensely researched s**t, man. And it's always a blast. :)

That nostalgia kick going on? Yeah. This one shouldn't be missed. :)


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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The TestThe Test by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm freaking surprised at how good this novella is. Simple idea, but so much is packed into this short work. And what's more, it's timely.

The immigration process for getting into England has taken some rather HARD turns in The Test, selecting for an insane amount of information and psychological screenings. This high-tech future dystopia takes it so far that they screen for HEROES. :) It's not enough to be smart and a decent human being or being dedicated enough to jump through an amazing number of hoops. They're selecting for born or made heroes because, let's face it, society WANTS HEROES.

Never mind that heroes often come with a TON of baggage and in making them, you open up a real nasty Pandora's box.

Some tests should not be forced. :)

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The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm awfully afraid about reviewing this here book. The pooooolice might be coming up here to give me my what-fors because I done be talking about plot and meaning like as such the author promised me there be none.

Woooooo-weeeee

I ain't never had the authorities after me and don't feel like startin none now.

So, apoligeezies, fair folk, and ooooh! Lookie there! It's a naked man running! Did you ever see such a thing!?

*scrambles out the back side of this review, never to be seen again*

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The WarehouseThe Warehouse by Rob Hart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Do you remember that scene in Idiocracy where you could walk into that small town called Costco and get your law degree and get a special Starbucks?

Yeah, well this novel isn't that. But it is definitely Amazon on steroids, employing pretty much the last of humanity (or 30 million of them) as little drones send disposable products all around the world to disposable people.

Sound intriguing? Make no mistake, this is definitely a dystopia. Your job performance is on a five-star rating system and if you get a single star, you're FIRED. Sound slightly familiar? Just make this a company town with its own credit system, accommodations, and insular paranoid big-brother total tracking nightmare, throw the newbies into the mix, and THEN tell me whether or not YOU ALREADY LIVE THERE. :)

I liked this book. It's nastily familiar and a pleasurable easy read full of twists and turns and espionage and counter-espionage. It does have a big warning as a core message, but I didn't mind how stark it was. After all, we're in COSTCO/AMAZON now, baby! :)

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Hilldiggers (Polity Universe #15)Hilldiggers by Neal Asher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Neal Asher is always a good bet for space opera action, biological (often alien) oddities, and some seriously nasty body-horror elements. Sometimes all at the same time.

In this, we return to the remnants of the old Earth factions so far removed from the Polity and its AI masters that there needed to be a tentative inquiry into rejoining the human race. No, no, this isn't a novel about what is human. All these peeps are so far beyond what we consider human that neither side fits the bill. I mean, between a peep with a dual variant on the Spatterjay virus making him half-monster and half-immortal, extensive biological enhancements/alterations on all the old-time humans to live on this caustic worm-laden world, and all manner of uploading consciousness and vat-grown clones, what we really have here is a hard-SF tale distilled down to essentials...

Like loyalty, conscience, family, and stopping the damn civil war.

Didn't I mention? Yeah, this is a civil war novel. :)

Quite fun. :)

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Monday, June 17, 2019

This Is How You Lose the Time WarThis Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Damn excellent SF novella. I won't have any problems nominating this for next year's Hugo. It's poetical, yo. Not only poetical, but delighfully unforced in its romance... even as the time war rages between heavy tech and heavy biopunk up and down multiple timelines in a game of Go! that stretches to near-infinity.

Wait. Did I say romance? Yep. Hard SF romance, so light and deft in its hardcore science it becomes a whirlwind of ambiance designed only to paint glorious pictures and denude us in playful taste, hunger, and excitement.

The novella is mostly written in epistolary format, which I love, and it evokes so much crazy longing between these two enemies that it is pretty obvious that they have completely fallen for each other by the third exchange. :) Even if they're plotting their opposite's death by strange and subtle threads and means up and down the timelines. :)

Gloriously so, the tastes of history are obscure and rich. The format of the letters, even more so. Written in plants, seeds, only readable through taste or stings. Scorched space battlements and desolate beaches, dinosaurs and playful birds. Did I say this was poetry? Poetry as prose? The hunger is palpable, the romance, desperate.

Sure, they're post-human women, but the shape doesn't matter when they take whatever shapes they like. The feeling is everything.

So how does it turn out? Is it a tragedy? I will not say. But I feel lighter than air after reading this. It deserves a careful read. An engrossing read. A consuming read. :)

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QueenslayerQueenslayer by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By this point, I CANNOT put this series down. It has the light adventure feel with all the darker currents of modern fantasy while being a YA with a lovable trickster with a nasty penchant for destroying everything he grows to love.

*Sigh*

But you know what? It' impossible not to love it. It's like a YA version of Brust's Vlad series with the hardcore coolness of applied magic a-la Sanderson's Law. (Magic must make sense, have rules, be awesome.) :)

Most of all, however, what drives this is the charm. :) Being an outlaw is cool and all, but politics is politics and the machinations of nations can be a very, very dirty business. It's a shame that he has to follow his heart. ; ;

This one was somewhat rough. Not like we couldn't figure that out by the title, of course. But my heart breaks. For several reasons. ; ;



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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Soulbinder (Spellslinger, #4)Soulbinder by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't tell whether I'm totally hooked on the series because of all the cool things that have been discovered and/or learned through the course of them or whether this particular book shone, all on its own, a bit brighter than all but the first.

But enjoy it, I did. A lot. I'm loving the whole jack-of-all-trades vibe taking on masters of single schools of magic. :) Trickster? Yep. Highly observational? Yep.

In the heart of a land of Shadowblack monks hiding from the rest of the world and STILL getting into trouble for all the best of reasons? Yep.

With some really dark moments? That, too.

I'm telling you, fantasy novels like this, ones that are ostensibly YA but really rich in the KINDS of magic and fully developed rules for it, are still reliant on great characters and shining dialogue. Fortunately, this has it in spades. :)

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Charmcaster (Spellslinger #3)Charmcaster by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This third book falls under the *fun* category. Okay at first, episodic, action-filled, with quirky dialogue, but it really picks up later when the stakes get a lot higher.

I really like the magic system in these books and figuring out the meanings of the cards is pretty delightful. Heroes journey and all. It's always good. Especially when you're the most horrible traitor to your own people and all. :) We learn a lot more about his particular kind of magical skills, too, but the focus is mostly on preventing war and saving friends. What else?

Well, the writing is FUN. I really can't stress that enough. :)

I think I liked the first one best and the second was pretty okay, but this one improved things quite a bit. So much so that I broke down and got the fourth book and started it right away. :)

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Land of Ick and Eck: Harlot's EncountersThe Land of Ick and Eck: Harlot's Encounters by Micah Genest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want to say this is a middle-grade YA fantasy, but it does have enough double entendre and some clever digs to make any adult smile. The tales are all relatively mild and pleasantly dark, primed for the sweet spot we remembered in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Our heroine, to give you a taste, is named Harlot. She explores a strange fantasy land that is on the same level as Wonderland but not quite the same quality. Carrol's poetry is better, but this definitely has its charm. And its worldbuilding is definitely unique, thoughtful, and just on this side of being truly odd.

I totally recommend it for lovers of dark fairy-tales for young adventures of any age.

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ThirteenThirteen by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Total testosterone read. Not that this is all bad, of course, because there's plenty going on in the story to try to buck the trend. Like the main character, an uber-alpha-male if there ever was one, thanks to his Thirteen status as an engineered lot designed to do all the things that a pansified world is now unable to do.

Of course, skip ahead a few years and everyone's regretting that decision, setting up all the thirteens for a witch-hunt, and what we have now is a noir fiction treat skipping back and forth between Mars and Earth.

I should mention I read Morgan's Thin Air before this one and it doesn't really matter which you start with. They're both in the same time-frame and setting set up, but different characters and plots (although both are quite noir).

I had a good time with this. It's longer than a usual mystery novel by a big stretch and we've got lots of twisty plots to unsnarl -- usually with a lot of ultraviolence -- and it is what it is. Sharp, snappy, full of overblown Jesusland ignorance, rich people getting away with nutty stuff, and police-ish procedural with a side order of romance. :) You know, NOIR. :)

I'm glad to have read this. It hit the spot. :)

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Friday, June 14, 2019

WanderersWanderers by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's the end of the world and I feel... uuurkkk...

Let me tell you something, my fine folks. I think I had more fun reading this book than I have for ANY apocalypse book. That's including the Stand, Lucifer's Hammer, or The Power. And perhaps a few others that I rank higher than the rest.

But let me be clear. I had the most fun with this. I'm not saying it has MORE to gloam onto than the Stand, but I had myself a few issues with the Stand. The whole moralistic good vs. evil, for example. And I had a bit of a rough time with some of the 70's sexism in Lucifer's Hammer.

Wanderers, however, is leagues above most of the current runs of epic dystopias. No, it's not a zombie apocalypse or a big meteorite spoiling everyone's day or the ultimate reversal of the sexes. It is, however, quite free of rampant female humiliation, gratuitous rape, and violence in general. This book is full of heart even while it DOES have a rather usual trope of religious nutters, white supremacists, and NRA hotheads. They're quite happy to be all opportunistic on humanity's ass.

What sets this above all the rest? Clever fundamental choices and trope inclusions, baby. Very strong science, too. And delightfully complex characters.

But for me? I love the pop culture references. Wendig is like, some kind of master with pop trivia and really sharp, maybe bloody, wit. His Miriam Black novels left me bloody with words. In Wanderers, he tones it down a LOT and he tames it for the sake of this story. So what that means is we'll be seeing some REALLY cool crap popping up subtly in the tiny spaces.

Like Fallout? Check. Like Matrix? Check. Like brilliantly chosen musical references, strange-ass details that HAVE to be memes that haven't happened yet, or setting choices that wind up being fantastic in-jokes for you modern pop-reference junkies? CHECK.

And in the end, I remained excited... exhilarated... throughout this read. Sometimes a book will sap my energy. Other times, rarely, a book will just pour it into me. This is one of those books. :)

Am I super happy to have read this? You betcha. :) :) I feel almost like I was watching the first season of Walking Dead the first time. Before it got all... you know. :)

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Dissidence (The Corporation Wars, #1)Dissidence by Ken MacLeod
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm generally a pretty big fan of transhumanist post-human SF full of uploaded minds and machine intelligences and I've been a fan of Ken MacLeod's short fiction in the past. And in general, this particular novel has all those same elements in spades.

So why did I give it three stars?

Because the story doesn't live up to the well-thought-out premises. I mean, hell, I LOVE the title now that I know that Corporation Wars has nothing to do with Corporations as we know them. It's referring to having corporeal bodies versus living entirely in a simulated reality. :) Hell, I did love all the switches and swaps between layers of simulated realities and the confusion as to what was really real and whether any of it mattered in the end. Living by robot? Why not? Live by simulation? Same difference.

Great ideas, LOTS of great action because this is a war-driven tale, but the confusion and the muddled story became a little too pronounced. And, let's face it, I got a little bored. I hate admitting that since I generally love these setups.

I would definitely recommend The Light Brigade over this.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Fall, or Dodge in HellFall, or Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a very hard book to review, but one thing is absolutely true:

I'm absolutely blown away by this book.

Ameristan! Lol MOAB! lol

This is definitely one of Neal Stephenson's better books. Just for the ideas and the great twisting of several tales in one, I'm already looking forward to a glorious re-read. He does lead us down a few winding paths that eventually turn out to be VERY important to the whole, and I admit to laughing out loud several times when the important bits bit me on the butt. :)

All told, it's the hundreds of wonderful details, ideas, technological problems, and the nature of our world of Lies and Truth in the Miasma (Stephenson's term for the future of the Internet) that make this an extremely memorable book, but it's the depth of the themes that go well beyond the obvious Milton's Paradise Lost that make me grin like an idiot.

My favorite is the whole perception-as-reality by way of Philip K Dick, hitting all the big points AND even throwing the scholars a bone by setting up a fantastic Manichean Heresy (Real God and the Flawed God and the temperance of Sophia.) (And for you PKD fans, look no further than Divine Invasion.

The other obvious theme connecting it to Paradise Lost is actually a subversive red herring. There's a big twist to this that makes it a lot more like PKD, including the paranoia, the corruption, and the faulty memories.

I came into this kinda expecting a single viewpoint adventure like many old SFs that take on uploaded consciousnesses and/or Hell, but you know what? This is so much better. We have many viewpoints, great adventures, and very little actual Hell except in a (you brought this with you sense). Kinda awesome when you think about it. No cheap theatrics, only an in-depth issue revolving People doing what People always do. Character-driven, with a lot of added juice.

Like several ages of mythology run by high-speed processors in the ultimate game of Life (as an afterlife), skirting the edges of a technological singularity, and wrapping it all up with a reality-based hackathon by way of a Gamer's Ultimate Quest.

I think I see the point, here. For all of us future afterlifers, let's MAKE SURE THE GAME DESIGNERS retain control over it. Please? No one wants to live an (after)life CONTROLLED BY THE BEAN COUNTERS. :)

The book has some great mirroring going on, rooting itself in near-future meatspace with tons of corporate intrigue, funny/nasty worldbuilding that put the quality of Truth on trial. The whole SF of tackling perception-as-reality is taken to new heights and multiple threads that keep twining and intertwining in really great ways. And then it takes on HUGE significance in the digital realm. Nasty significance. :)

Lordy! The Moab disaster (in more ways than one) is the very thing that sparks the Heaven 2.0 disaster! I loved that! The whole mad-god theme is great! And perfectly in-line with regular corporate madness, too. :) Why shouldn't we bring all our usual messes into the afterlife? We are, after all, only human, even when some of us become gods, angels, or incarnations of DEATH. :) lol

I had such a fun time with this, I can't even begin... or rather, I have begun, but I could keep going on forever.

Like I said, it's a really hard one to review. :) It has a lot of great depth to it that is rather MORE surprising than I ever gave it credit for, and this is coming from an avowed fanboy of Stephenson. I definitely like it more than Seveneves and Reamde. I'd have to re-read Snow Crash and Diamond Age again to see where it ranks by those. :)

I will always have Anathem as my primary love, tho. :)

BUT I think I will have to nom this one for next year's Hugo. Just for its sheer audacity and richness. :)


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Monday, June 10, 2019

The ChronolithsThe Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a lot of ways, this is an excellent novel full of well-conceived characters driven by a slowly disintegrating society. Add suddenly appearing strange event/objects, the Chronoliths, and watch our near-future implode.

This is not an action-fueled novel. It is family-driven, obliquely and curiously propelled by the inclusion of old colleagues and the slow social collapse of our world. Think Spin, but not with the stars disappearing. Just add big monoliths that suddenly warp space-time, appearing in the middle of jungles or places all over the world, have them commemorate some near-future battle, and see how YOU would do with such knowledge. :)

The most important (read best) part of this novel is the worldbuilding. The social interactions, the sideways decline. And the main characters. They managed to make me care. :) Quite interesting. The details are especially fine. :)


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Sunday, June 9, 2019

EmbassytownEmbassytown by China Miéville
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book very well could be the start of a new epoch. Or at least, I think it should be.

Why? Because it's not just Miéville's grand far-future SF at play here, full of some of the most subtle and freakishly amazing and STRANGE aliens who are very much defined by their language, but because this novel works on several levels perfectly at the same time.

Am I impressed? Hell yes, I'm impressed.

"Before the humans came, we didn't speak so much of certain things. We were grown into Language. After history we made city and machines and gave them names. We didn't speak so much of certain things. Language spoke us. The words that wanted to be city and machines had us speak them so they could be."

Take this literally. These aliens couldn't even conceive of us because their language is the Truth of them. This is the inability to see the ships on the horizon, taken all the way. Lies are impossible, too. Metaphors, doubly so. So when a horrible mistake happens with the new dual/one embassador that manages to actually use the Language to tell a lie, the lie becomes the ultimate drug to the aliens.

Enter the collapse of an entire ultra-advanced alien species, with us as the ultimate satanic villains.

If you think this is cool as shit, just read the book. It becomes a lot more. And worse happens.

The novel works on all levels. Just imagine Cherryh ramped up to Miéville craziness, wickedly subtle and strange peoples and aliens, and let the good times roll in heartbreak, horror, and the terror of having to live with all of your damn stupid mistakes.

Yeah, I'm talking about you, Humanity. Jerk.

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Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Adventures of Tom SawyerThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mark Twain, or rather, Samuel Clemens, was a special man. When he wasn't hating everyone generally but loving them individually, he was writing very observant tales that did much more than scratch the surface of hypocrisy, racism, and the gullibility that resides in us all.

I'm a fan. A big fan. And the man was very witty. "There is no weather in this book." God. I love this shit.

So when I finally get around to re-reading his old stuff like Tom Sawyer, a YA book if I've ever read one, I was certain that I'd be getting a real treat. White-washing was never so fun. Neither was swinging a dead cat over one's head. Or getting involved with MURDER.

Jeeze, I read this and I was thinking of Stephen King's The Body and thinking about The Goonies and thinking about Treasure Island. What do all of these stories have in common with Tom Sawyer?

Everything.

And I guess I think I like bad-boy Tom better now than when I was younger. Sure, all of these kids are pretty stupid pretty much all the time, but then, weren't we all? :)

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A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan, #1)A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was something of a slow starter for me. I enjoyed the empire that ran on poetry aspect quite a bit. The standard book of poetical encryptions, the multilayered pride, and subversions built right into the language.

However, I've read a ton of murder-mysteries built into SF worlds so the core of the tale was something of a no-brainer and followed all the conventions. Welcome a stranger, an ambassador for a tiny space-station ensconced in a huge, huge empire, have her replace her murdered counterpart.

Okay! Really kinda usual, so the joy has to be in the worldbuilding, and for the most part, all the joy is there... until a bit further in. That's when all the really cool bits fly at us, with the Imago memory device, the collapsing politics, the roar of war, and how our little fish out of water ties into a huge conspiracy. That's fine.

In fact, it's more than fine. I really enjoyed the core and the end of this book. Easy consumption and I consumed it easily. Some of the best kind of SF (IMHO) is interesting tech delved deeply, how it affects societies, politics, individual relationships, and an individual's sense of self. This one does all of this quite nicely. I felt the flavors of Yoon Ha Lee and Anne Leckie within it. Maybe a bit of Cherryh, but by this late date, SO MANY writers have tried their hands at Cherryh. :)

I won't say this is on the same level as those, but I will say I had a good time. :)

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Friday, June 7, 2019

The Silmarillion (Middle-Earth Universe)The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is actually my third time reading and I feel kinda bad because I keep picking up big new details I missed the first couple of times I read it.

Well, maybe I don't feel *THAT* bad. I mean, it is DAMN full of names and genealogies and it's probably a bit worse than having to slog through the Iliad for all that.

BUT. And here comes the huge, fire-belching butt of Melkor...

The Silmarillion is likely the best book of mythology I've ever read.
Better than any rendition of the Greeks or the Nordic... or anything.

I get the MOST out of this, get the most thrilled by this, and become an utter, raving fanboy. The more I learn, the more I imagine, and the more I imagine, the better the HUGE FREAKING EPIC BATTLES of the First Age of Arda (Also known as our Earth, with us living during the Fourth Age).

I mean, come on. Gods, all the creation myths, Melkor the corruptor, the jealous, among them. Epic battles that change whole lands, erupting volcanoes, armies full of balrogs and dragons and orcs. The full might of the Valar (gods tied to Arda) arrayed with the first Elves in the height of their craftsmanship, battling, and sometimes being defeated by, the dark god.

Let's not forget the glittering lamps that reach up like space elevators bathing the whole flat earth in light or their destruction. Or the gigantic trees that took their place, or the fruit and leaf of the destroyed trees that later became the sun and the moon, finally out of reach of the great corruptor.

Come on! This is GREAT stuff. :) And we even get to the ending of the First age, the ending of the Second age, getting the full story of Sauron's corrupting the Kings of Men, inflaming their desire to be immortal just like the Elves and ending with the utter destruction of their kingdom, their island, their Atlantis. :)

So much glory. So much tragedy. So much power, magic, and TIME. It's the full history of Earth, after all. And even the LoTR is encapsulated in a very cool cliff-notes version, no more than 30 or so pages out of all the other, even more glorious past. :)


Am I wrong to want such a full history to arrive on the big screen, or even on the little screen? Am I wrong to hope and NOT be disappointed in the new TV series coming up, Middle-Earth? AM I WRONG NOT TO WANT BEREN AND LUTHIEN trick and ensorcell a GOD in his own fortress of Angmar, cutting the jewel that houses the very spirit of Arda's FIRE from his crown? Doing what no other immortal or mortal had been able to do for hundreds upon hundreds of years of strife? Out of love??? :)

*BIG SIGH*

I can only hope and pray and pray and hope to Illuvatar that they do it right.


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Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Kiss and the Duel and Other StoriesThe Kiss and the Duel and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finally see why Anton Chekhov is so revered among the classics.

None of the stories are particularly outrageous or breathtaking in the normal sense of the word, but the writing and the evocations, while being sharp and explosive in implications and color, turn all the characters into living, breathing people.

I have rarely read such stories that are so effortless to imagine in my mind's eye, and I'm a fair hand at mental movie reels. :)

I was right there with the fumble in the closet. I was there when the friend explained why his buddy was so distraught as to insist on the duel. But these are simply the stories that made the title of this collection. What really drives home the joy is how it all ties together in true world-building. Yeah, yeah, my real love is in SF and F, so sue me. I LIKE it when the whole sense of a setting is so VIBRANT and I can tell who these people ARE in their culture, their quirks, and their obsessions.

*takes notes*

Damn... it's like I'm back in school. :)

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Scowl: The Bonaparte InterviewsScowl: The Bonaparte Interviews by Mark Lages
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really didn't know what to expect when I started reading this, but apart from me starting out slightly bemused and enjoying a trip down history's lane, I was simply tempted to start supplying my own knowledge of David Bowie and the Beatles and Elvis and the Beach Boys and maybe a little Pink Floyd and ride the nostalgic music wave.

This is written as a series of interviews revolving a fictitious musician breaking the scene in 1957 and giving us fantastic glimpses of his life until 2001, but apart from that, it's not just about the music. It's about Art. It's about Life. And not to make too fine a point about it, it's about doing the best you can and doing the best you can with it.

It's about making mistakes, owning up to them, being honest, and being good. The Fame is a side issue.

Here's the skinny: I'm kinda surprised how much this book hit me. He kinda started out like an Elvis clone and the character didn't really appeal to me all that much, but the writing was clear and quick and I had no issues. I then started getting the whole Forrest Gump vibe as history started happening and Scowl came alive. Making stupid decisions that nevertheless didn't hurt him any, career-wise.

By the time I was half-way through the novel, I discovered something pretty cool:

The novel is optimistic.

Hopeful. Courageous. Decent. Even wholesome.

Scowl did some really crappy things but this is, at its heart, a lot of different things. A redemption novel, sure, but it's an art lover's novel, a family novel, and a novel about basic human decency.

How often do any of us read things like this? I mean, really? Doesn't all the sick stuff sell? But if I'm going to be perfectly honest, I really like the direction this novel took. It's like a Norman Rockwell painting that recognizes all the ugliness out there and then DECIDES to sit the crap out to then do its own thing.

Am I surprised that I actually teared up a little?

Yeah, I guess I am. I'm used to some really crazy shit. This shouldn't GET to me. But it did. :)

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Terminal WorldTerminal World by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's really quite amazing how much imagination can be crammed into these books.

It begins like a heist novel exploring a tower-of-babel-like city full of the fascinating inventions and unexplained forced-technological restrictions. The topmost layers allow for the most impressive levels of high-tech used by "angels" that can be real bastards all the way down to the lowest levels that only allow for horse-drawn simple tech. Passing through these zones can be very painful and usually life-threatening. Special drugs to help you acclimatize are in high demand. The heist portion begins with a doctor who used to be a full angel but is now on the run from the rest of his kind, but instead of leaving us here in this city, the novel becomes a full-blown steampunk novel with aerial battles, biological/machine constructs, and a full-out terraforming attempt gone very wrong.

This is Reynolds, of course, so expect fully-thought-out worldbuilding, awesome technologies and reasons for these technologies, a bit of tongue-in-cheek, and a lot of great action when it suits the tale. My only complaint is in a few slow bits in the center, but that was very nicely mitigated by a courtroom battle sandwiched between mutiny, murder, and a thousand-year strife in the skies. The later surprises are rather awesome and better still... CONSISTENT. All those reasons for the technological strata come clear. :)

As a regular SF, it still stands out a full head above most, especially when it comes to ... you get it ... IMAGINATION. ;)

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The NeedThe Need by Helen Phillips
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If this is one of those polarizing books people are talking about, I think I may fall into that meh category. I felt the same way about Baby Teeth, too.

Yes, motherhood. Fear for the kids. Maybe not *fearing* the kids, but this is one of those "immerse you in the realities of motherhood" thrillers that then get... strange.

I don't mind strange. I like strange. The stranger, wilder, the better. Give me something new, glorious... oh... well... This is a thing. Motherhood thrillers. Psychopathic tendencies. Split personalities. It's a THING. The new, common, utterly replaceable Thing. I remember Cujo. Do you remember Cujo?

Well, this isn't Cujo. By the mid-point I kept saying to myself... cuckoo... cuckoo... and that's not all that bad, in general, but when I keep reading the same themes over and over a grand majority of the thrillers I do read, I wonder if I'm hitting a rough spot. A spot where they all start running together.

Is the market really demanding this?

Well. I'm sorry to say, I was meh'd.

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The Golden Globe (Eight Worlds #3)The Golden Globe by John Varley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This SF is well-nigh unclassifiable. For glorious reasons.

I mean, sure, you could call it a Heinleinesque romance in the vein of Double Star, or call it a thespian-ish thriller revolving an immensely popular child star turned murderer who has been on the run for 70 years, or you could call it the One Last Great Shakespearian tragedy.

I mean, damn, I'm caught thinking that this is as glorious as (and is) a great mashup of Alfred Bester's best book, The Demolished Man, and The Stainless Steel Rat, full of on-the-run acting, con-jobs, a little madness, and a LOT of Lear. :) And let's not forget to send Valentine across the full Solar System as we do it. :)

This book might rank up there with one of the best SF ever written. It breaks all molds and does its own glorious thing, never apologizing, never doing the expected thing. Flashbacks? Sure! Tons. Flashforwards? Fourth-wall breaking? Third-person, First-person, Second-Person? Yep. :) And you know what? It all works. :)

It has PERSONALITY. :)

Varley is one of the greats, indeed. Now, why the hell is this book relatively unknown? Sheesh. It's a travesty!!!

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Monday, June 3, 2019

CrashCrash by J.G. Ballard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before reading this book, I thought I was worldly, weary, and wise. I thought I had seen all the perversity and sex that modern novels could deliver. I thought I understood fetish.

I understood nothing.

This is a wild poem in novel format drawing out the most sexual visualizations. I could compare it with Anaïs Nin with her absolute poetry of sex, but to do so would ignore the absolute grotesquerie of Ballard's coupling with mangled machinery.

This is a novel of car crash survivors being unable to get off unless they remembered the "real" moment of utter release. Always chasing that high. Spying on car crashes, haunting crash test dummies, getting off in the seats of cars near the sites of your crash... or other's crashes. Of preparing the most lurid fantasies, drawing much more than solace from other victims, of fetishizing and tempting the ONE FINAL RELEASE.

This is death and violence and sex written in a nightmarish orgy of utter fixation... without most of the people actually, you know, taking it in a usual psychopathic thriller mode. This isn't about murdering your victims for that high. This is all about including our cars in on the very act that defines our lives. A third sexual partner.

And you know what? This novel RUINED ME for watching any kind of car-chase movie. If you find yourself wanting to swear off yet another Fast and Furious movie or an endless stream of Dukes of Hazard lookalikes, then look no further. This is your CURE. :) :)

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Sunday, June 2, 2019

The SeparationThe Separation by Christopher Priest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Classic Christopher Priest.

With one caveat: Don't start here if you're new to him!

His Prestige is a great novel on its own, but that popular novel doesn't come all that near to the wide-wide ranging preoccupation with the Other place described in most of his other novels. And to be sure, there's a common theme in this one with those others.

Never-ending war. Lies and propaganda. Twins. Faulty memory. Strange, unexplainable events. Airplanes.

And above all, HISTORY. We *might* be spending some time in that other place. That alternate reality so hauntingly like our own. But in this past around WWII, all the names and people are pretty much the same... however... I think this is where the real separation happens between our history and the Other happens. I'm guessing because Priest never puts us in the shoes of people who ever really KNOW anything. They're just living their lives and surviving as they can. But for us, the Readers, we're locked in a hellishly fascinating struggle with separating OUR history with what THEIR history is doing.

Priest is kinda masterful here. He knows and has researched an AMAZING amount to give us this. But nothing is very obvious. Except for when it is, of course. :) All this is fantastic icing on the cake. At the core of it, we have our estranged twin brothers who devote themselves to living very different lives. One is a pro-war Bomber for England and the other is a Conscientious Objector working for the Red Cross. Their own separation and the similar wounds and circumstances they find themselves in at various points seem custom-made to paste them back together no matter how much they strive to separate themselves.

Their story is rather awesome all by itself, but it only gets better when we tick off all the fantastic mirroring techniques going on across all History, alternate dimensions, and the author's own predilections. :) As with all those other books I mentioned. :) They shine like signposts to us in this novel, giving us all the hints we need...

As long as we don't START here. :)

I'm rather flabbergasted. :) It's always a treat. :) A very, VERY smart treat. :)

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Saturday, June 1, 2019

Age of Legend (The Legends of the First Empire, #4)Age of Legend by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The good:

If you have been enjoying the Legends of the First Empire so far, you're probably going to enjoy this and the newish direction it takes. In a very positive way, it is more of the same with many of the same characters, dealing with the aftermath of the big blow-out of the previous book and learning how to move forward. Brin gets a lot of page-time and I, for the most part, enjoyed these parts more than the rest. Writing about writing is fun.

The bad, or rather, the indifferent:

I just couldn't get into this book much. I found my mind wandering a lot, never connecting or caring much about most of the happenings or the characters. It might just be me or perhaps I'm getting slightly burned out on the series.

It's a shame! I did enjoy quite a few parts of the previous tales, and this one has some pretty interesting, if very late, reveals that rallied my attention. I'm just not sure if I feel like it's worth it, tho. ; ;

Who knows? Maybe the rather mythological new direction will appeal to a lot of ya'll.

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High FidelityHigh Fidelity by Nick Hornby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those feel-good books for people who want to keep their options open and kinda stumble about their lives only to realize they had already made up their minds and are pretty dully okay with it. :)

Does this sound kinda horrible?

Nah... but yeah, kinda, and no, because that means we're all a bit horrible. :)

But that's okay because we all have that music snob in us and we are all horribly geeky about certain things. I happen to love music just as much as Rob in the book and I'm much worse when it comes to my books, but you know what? It's freaking charming. I love it.

Just the way I loved the movie before I knew it was based on this book, I loved it. It was super charming and embarrassing and appropriate and pathetic and downright glorious. All at once.

And I'm a fan. Still am, now that I've read the book. And my only complaint? I need that soundtrack running in the background... OH WAIT! I HAVE SPOTIFY! :) Tee hee!

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Friday, May 31, 2019

Imago (Xenogenesis, #3)Imago by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe I'll be in the minority by preferring the middle book out of the entire series, but the last one definitely puts everything in perspective. We start out from the purely human perspective in the first, the hybrid perspective in the second, and end with an entirely new perspective of a new Ooloi who now threatens the gene-line of the Ooloi, being the most alien out of all the bunch but with a singular interesting gift...

Of humanity. :)

Enough time has passed since the first book that history upon history has filled nearly all the human settlements with a fairly good case of fear and resentment... after all, these aliens have killed our original genome, preventing our having children except with their third sex. Is this, in the end, an alien invasion? Well, we did basically destroy ourselves off in a nuclear winter and they came along to preserve us, so a good case can be made on both sides.

All of this might be moot when the most human of the aliens comes along and fights for the rights of the last of the flawed species. Never mind that the Ooloi made Mars habitable for the remaining people and gave us back our normal reproduction... what is needed is a real push forward along lines that isn't so perversely paradoxical... Thank you, Mr. Heirarchy.

A very interesting tale... and I mean all three books, considered. I like the ambiguity and the deliciously Biopunk SF-ness. :) I heartily recommend reading all three books together.


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Adulthood Rites (Xenogenesis, #2)Adulthood Rites by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Impressive. I definitely liked this second story in the trilogy better than the first. The other was very much a foundation, but while we really don't follow Lillith from the first, we do follow her hybrid son as he makes his way through an early difficult childhood and into his Adulthood Rite.

Akim is a victim as much as he is a bridge between the ignorant and dispirited humans brought down to Earth and the aliens who misunderstand our humanity. We're a paradox of hierarchical madness and intelligence and are doomed to always destroy ourselves, after all, and even tho the aliens give us free access to a good life, fixing any malady, and the opportunity to have children (with two humans and one alien in the mix), most humans resort to stealing half-breed children since we are unable to have normal children now, rape and raid other villages, and murder for the sport of it. Or out of the sheer desperation of resisting something that cannot be resisted.

Humanity is dead.

Akim finds empathy in a way that the aliens cannot.

Back in the late 80's, this might have sold as a grimdark dystopia but comparing it to today's fare, it really never gets THAT dark. Hope is pretty big.

I really appreciate the direction this book took. I kinda expected it to be a little whiny but it never really went there. Just adult situations, strong emotions, and in-depth exploration of the themes. Quite good.

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Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1)Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm half-tempted to hold off on a review until I read the full trilogy. I've come to understand that the full story isn't explored until we've read the whole thing... BUT since this was published as the first book, here I go, anyway. :)

This is quite a bit different from Kindred, focusing instead on the social, emotional, and physical changes associated with being awoken in captivity among some very strange and awesome alien-aliens. This isn't Star Trek. It's more of a Cthuhlu encounter without the overarching dread, modifying the humans through drugs and genetic changes and being told that the rest of the human race has wiped itself out with nukes.

From every indication, these super-alien creatures are super empathic and only want to prepare and release us back on the planet, but more than half of the tale is about earning trust or perhaps falling into Stockholm Syndrome. Awakening other humans for the grand purpose goes about as well as any of us humans might expect.

Badly.

Especially when the aliens let us know that our children are going to be hybrids.

I see a lot of modern SF's roots in this book. Anything more interested in relationships and human nature and working through some serious s**t.

It's not fast-paced. It relies on subtlety and empathy with and about the aliens and her slow change into a person that successfully straddles both worlds without being a part of either. Quite interesting, but it obviously leaves the tale unfinished. On to book two!

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Land: Predators (Chaos Seeds, #7)The Land: Predators by Aleron Kong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh lordy!

I totally fell hard for this book.

Like, I started saying things to myself like, "This was Totally written for me!" and "I don't care one bit about its length, I could keep reading this for several months straight without a single breather." and "NO F***ING WAY! THIS IS EPIC!"

I was already a big fan from the previous 6 books but when I finally got around to reading this 7th, I was a little intimidated by the length. What could have happened here to make it so long?

Muahahahahahahahahaha

Okay, folks, this is the literary equivalent of crack. If you like Skyrim, early Warcraft, any of the turn-based fantasy games OR the MMPRGs, just start shaking it up a bit and throwing all of the best features, including the delightful DING sounds of leveling-up along SO MANY skillsets (Yes, in this book,) getting into leveling jobs, classes, scalable items, dungeon leveling, CRAFTING EVERYTHING, including enchantments on your settlement and the buildings in it.

SO MUCH is focused on this and I didn't care in the slightest because I LOVE THIS STUFF it hardly mattered when the actual epic battles rolled in. :) TONS of epic battles, each using the skills and created enchantments and new spells learned and bonuses from the last battles. :) And we get to see TONS of breathtaking reversals, craziness, OP monsters and LEGENDARY boss battles.

And you know the best part? Very little time is actually lost on character building, except in the, you know... CHARACTER BUILDING. :) lol, I think we must have spent at least ten percent of the whole book time with the skills menu up. :)

But don't think this doesn't come with story. It does. It's an RPG in all the grand styles... and there are even a great deal of fantastic nerdy easter eggs. Just pay close attention to the Chaos skill menu. Or a certain OP magician from Feistland (no relation, indeed) popping up. :)


Seriously, folks, this has addiction level 92 written all over it. And I LOVE it. :)

Can I recommend it for anyone who hasn't played and loved any RPG game in existence?
Maybe. Maybe not. But if you have even a SLIGHT love for them, this series is pure cocaine.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Limited Wish (Impossible Times, #2)Limited Wish by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A perfectly awesome time-travel tale served up on a platter of fun D&D mirroring, future-knowledge angst, time-ghosts, paradox, and mathematical hijinx that does more than skirt the edges of a heist novel.

Again.

But don't worry! While this may have a lot of the same elements of the first book in broad strokes, the story ramps up with some rather awesome snags that aren't just romantic. And even the other kinds of encounter-mirroring is fully explained in the recesses of the paradox. :) Very cool stuff, well thought-out, delightfully fast read.

And it is fully taking advantage of our recent loves of Stranger Things (80's geekdom!) and quick-paced thrillers. Only, this is a math-genius cancer-sufferer going to college a bit early and falling face-first into a ton of critical-failure rolls. :)

Well worth it. I'm absolutely loving the hell out of these.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Fifth Elephant (Discworld, #24; City Watch, #5)The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read.

But you know what? Other than the whole dwarf rock bits, the murders, werewolves, theft, and Detritus's exploding crossbow, I SWEAR this is a book about Brexit.

Of course, it could really be about making the European Union, but really it's about Brexit. Überwald is, of course, England. It's kinda obvious. Backward, reactionary, full of wolves, vampires, and werewolves. And Igors. Of course, Igors.

Isn't that amazing? How did Pratchett predict all these events back in 1999? Hello, dwarves!

Of course... the rest of the EU is actually Ankh-Morpork.

Eerie. So where is EU's Vimes? Come solve the crime! :)



(BTW, I liked this book the second time I read it better than the first. Tastes change and sometimes books improve.) :)

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Monday, May 27, 2019

The PeripheralThe Peripheral by William Gibson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In a genre overloaded with lighter fare and simply garnished SF tropes, a novel like this from the wonderful William Gibson (of Neuromancer fame) comes along and not only displays gorgeous tech and implications overloading the text, but does it with fantastic prose, delicious turns of phrase, and a boatload of subtlety surrounding some very stark SF events.

His earlier period was the one I was most interested in, ushering in the very term we use today, "Cyberpunk", with equal amounts Noir underdog hacker (replacing gumshoes) against multinational corporations and governments, equally handy with a gun and a fist alongside a computer terminal, heavy experimental tech, and even the odd pantheon of AI gods. :)

The middle period is known for technothrillers and fantastically subtle explorations of culture, specific techs and how they change us in every walk of life. I really appreciate his writing skill and scope, here.

But now he has returned to the SF I loved most... but I should mention this is NOT Cyberpunk. Gibson has long left those roots behind, instead forging his own ideas of the future in the same way he brought about the genre's revolution in the mid-80's.

The Peripheral is more of a huge-scope indictment of our modern world and the directions it is taking. What direction? Oh, just the slow decline and multi-front failures on every front, giving us a dark look at what we will become in 30 years, kept focused on a small cast but with tons of subtle cues everywhere for everything else.

But things don't stay there. We also have a kind of invasion from a hundred years in the future where most of humanity has died to leave only the decadent rich behind, using quantum tunneling technologies to reach back into the past, 70 years in the past, to be precise, to play their own games without remorse or much empathy.

Here we cross paths between these two complex timelines when our blue-collar buddies from the nearer future get caught up in the games of the future, including murder... and one particularly decent guy from that farther time tries to do the right thing. The characters are pretty damn cool. The worldbuilding is very detailed, and the tech never lets you take a breath. We as readers are all supposed to take an active role. :)

A disabled military guy with tattoos that used to let him control complex drones? Hell yeah. Gaming systems that are more like souped-up cosplay run through android-like Peripherals? Hell yeah! Now how about using some of those more powerful techs to game the living hell out of the past?

Muahahahahaha... the scope of this novel is MUCH larger than the blurb would let you guess.

I'm reminded, first and foremost, of William Gibson when I think about this novel. Secondarily, I'd place him in the same complex turns as Daniel Suarez and Iain McDonald and Neal Stephenson. This kind of novel is not meant to be popcorn trash. It seriously considers so many huge points and does it with style and panache while never stinting on the blow-you-away tech and implications. :)

Do I recommend? Hell yeah!

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One Word Kill (Impossible Times, #1)One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Fault in Our Stars meets D&D fandom meets TIME TRAVEL.

I don't know why I thought this was an example of LitRPG but it isn't. It just happens to have a group of friends playing D&D in the 80's with our protagonist going through his own kind of hell with Cancer.

There happens to be a real-world adventure, a bit of romance, and a psychopath, but let's not forget a few closed-time-like-loops, memory alterations, and the sweetness of kissing a girl. :)

So what about One Word Kill? The D&D scroll that ignores saving throws once and for all?

Ahhh, this is where the book gets really good. Not only do we have a few D&D in-the-know tropes working their way into theme and plot, but we've got a few great reversals that make this all kinds of awesome.

I love it. It's light, definitely YA, but it was also good in the way that really surprised me. In a deep way. Emotional. The time travel bit was not a gimmick. It worked very well. :)

No spoilers! Enjoy it for yourself! :)

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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World, #2)Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Roanhorse doesn't fail to entertain... again. :)

This Urban Fantasy has quickly become one of my go-to sources for popcorn fiction. It has everything I really love. A much more unique setting than I usually get, reminding me of all my old stomping grounds where I used to grow up.

Well, before the coastlines altered and the earthquakes took down the cities and the plagues wiped out everyone else, anyway... :)

This is exciting, entertaining, full of gods of native persuasion, and some really funky cool happenings. What more could I want in a popcorn fiction? Come on, Coyote, let's throw a wrench at something. :)



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Saturday, May 25, 2019

The GiftThe Gift by Vladimir Nabokov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My goodness-gracious, this book is one hell of a monster.

It is the ultimate Russian nesting doll of and about art, memory, satire, and "Art". If I wasn't already a huge fan of Nabokov, I probably would have thrown this book across the room.

Nabokov wrote this novel as a tribute to his native language and is the last, and undeniably brilliant, of that period. It is a prime example of a supremely self-satisfied intellectual engorgement. Beautiful turns of phrase, rich and belligerent in its knowledge of the Russian Greats, it waves itself under the noses of anyone who might dare to understand it.

Look. I know my fair share of the greats of Russian Literature, but aside from my Dostoyevski, I'm like a babe in the woods against my Pushkin and Gogol. Coming up against The Gift makes me flail like a flensed man hung from a gibbet. Or like the remaining skin of a man. In Siberia. If I wasn't a dedicated fan of the writer and his gorgeous prose, the brilliant structure, the way he nested his prose within prose within prose and went ALL META on me in a way that made my head spin, I probably would have cut off his self-satisfied intellectual engorgement and thrown it out the window of a moving car.

I both loved and hated this book. I wanted to DNF it because I couldn't follow so much of it. I didn't know enough of any of the poets of the period, let alone a sufficient number of the greats, to know whether Nabokov was MAKING THEM UP OUT OF WHOLE CLOTH a-la Possession. I guess I could look it up, but frankly, I'm happy I'm done and I want to move on. :)

It's definitely going to be right up your alley if you A: love Russian literature, B: love to hear about writers crafting their magnum opuses, C: are tolerant of monstrous egotists. :)


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