Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Adjustment DayAdjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a hilarious novel.

I can totally get why a lot of people might diss it, but I'm pretty sure it's not for the quality of the prose or the story.

It is, however, a delicious satire that deserves lots of real reads. And let's be real here: it should be read and enjoyed ESPECIALLY for how uncomfortable it makes us. I mean, seriously, it IS Chuck Palahniuk, people. Invisible Monsters? Fight Club? Hell, I chortled my head off in Survivor, too.

This isn't that far off. But where Fight Club (which is not only referenced but is straight-up ANALYZED by the characters in this book) ends, this novel really takes off. It is NOT a sequel, mind you, but it sits us down to show us how f**king insane all the post-revolution ideas are.

Does everyone get dished? Hell yes. Whites, blacks, straights or LGBTQ, educated or uneducated, rich or poor, young or old.

Everyone is pretty much given the opportunity to make their own little separate nation-states and it plays out pretty much as you might expect.

Here's the thing: even when Chuck Palahniuk is playing up all the worst aspects of human nature, all the nasty little horrible crap is full of GOOD POINTS and UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTHS. What could have been a great little scorcher actually turns out to be a pretty fine mirror.

Our world looks almost like this book already. There's no mass migration, sure, and people aren't putting C4 on arrowheads, and the Second Great American Civil War hasn't officially begun, but Adjustment (lol) Day is a fine, fine example of a modern 1984 that is a lot more than a tired re-imagining. This one takes potshots at everyone.

I'm reflective by nature so I don't mind taking a good long look at myself. I think that's all that's required to have a good time here. That, or a sense of humor. :)

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Girl and the Mountain (Book of the Ice, #2)The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not only a solid continuation of the first book, but a full-on expansion to the dark fantasy/SF mix that we had begun with. The ice planet was, after all, a colony world.

What we didn't have much on was how or why. We also didn't have anything on how long or why it became so dystopian. Fortunately, we get a lot of goodies in this novel, not shirking the big cool powers or adventure.

Multiple characters, tons of neat stuff in the mountain, and plenty of reveals to keep us all going. I'm reminded very pleasurably of some of Mr. Lawrences's early work and the combined pleasure of his worldbuilding, overlapping and blending, is turning this into something rather awesome.

I can't wait for more!

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Light ChaserLight Chaser by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here's a surprisingly awesome Space Opera novella.

While it comes across as a loner pilot trading stories across many light-years, alone with her AI, the deeper story is one that caught me quite by surprise.

No spoilers, but if you love broad-scope massive empire-shaking timey-wimey hijinx love stories squeezed into bite-sized reads, then you really OUGHT to read this one.

I wanted to read it primarily for Peter F. Hamilton, but together with Gareth Powell, it became something special.

I was truly surprised by the scope. It snuck up on me because I was so invested in the everyday life. :)

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Monday, June 21, 2021

The EscapementThe Escapement by Lavie Tidhar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For such a short read, this highly intellectual bizarro western packs one hell of a wallop.

On one hand, it's merely the depths that a man will go through as he watches his child suffer in the hospital, but on the other, greater portion, it's literally a Dark Tower-like adventure with truly gorgeous detailed oddities everywhere.

The Stranger is one of the high arcana, and there are lots of tarot references with a full spread of Grimm, Russian mythology, Hebrew mythology, Greek, Mesopotamian, and Sergio Leone... not to mention Stephen King.

If it's a wild wasteland of the heart and mind, the text itself is fantastically cerebral and gore-filled. The nightmares are clowns. Old warriors from strange battles have musical instruments for legs and glass, ant-filled tubing for arms. Roses are more than roses and the desolation is as much as any Stranger can bear, in or out of a hospital.

The writing is one of the most creative and it is definitely wildly original. Don't let the various mythological pieces define it for you. I got lost in the tale and it eventually became quite difficult to pull myself away to surface to my reality.

I almost drank Sticks, myself.

Gorgeous piece.

Now, I should be honest here: I've been a long-time fan of Lavie Tidhar but even if I hadn't already fallen in love with his other writings, I'd be pointing at this and saying, "OMG, people, this is intellectually fantastic and overflowing with originality, worldbuilding, and heart hidden behind a stoic facade. Don't miss this!"

Fortunately, I can be both. Do yourself a favor and check him out.

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You Sexy ThingYou Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This space opera sits on the edge of humorous foodie hijinx and immense regret and honestly, I don't know which it ought to be.

On the one hand, all the ex-military peeps running a culinary enterprise is fun and I had a great deal of fun with, say, Matt Wallace's mercenary cooks and Steinmetz's Sol Majestic, but while this had flavors of those, I'm not sure it knew what it really wanted to be.

There's a helping of planning and desperation, a core of identity exploration, and even a dash of all-out torture. But most of all, there's a bio-ship, foodie sensibilities, and pirates.

I wanted to like this more than I did. It had the feel of a Becky Chambers a lot of the time and then it keeps shifting gears or even stripping them when it went full adventure instead of foodie-identity. Maybe others will get a lot more mileage out of it.

It wasn't bad but it was sometimes a bit all over the place.

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Sunday, June 20, 2021

She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor, #1)She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And enter in the next highly anticipated and probably highly hyped novel of the year: a book whose blurb insists that it is a mix between Mulan and Song of Achilles.

The description is pretty dead-on.

That's some great news for people who want more and more Chinese history (or reimaginings of such) in their fiction diet. I've been blessed with reading Kim Stanley Robinson and Ken Liu, so I've actually rolled around in some lush tales lately.

This, however, is a re-imagining of the founding of the Ming Dynasty, and it's very much Silk-Punk without the fantasy (despite my classifying it as such). Even so, I'm ignoring most of that. The tale is the emperor, and for Zhu, a woman who is destined to have no fate, the real story is about spitting in the eye of fate.

I'm all on board for that!

The starvation, the difficulties of being a woman in China, the gender-bending just to survive, and later, becoming a monk-warrior is all very familiar to me. From The Good Earth to numerous kung-fu movies, it's tapping all of that pathos and grand adventure and giving us an epic *fantasy* that is detailed, sprawling, and, oddly enough -- inclusive. But that *is* to be expected these days even if I'm pessimistic about the past.

For pure enjoyment's sake, however, I can easily recommend this for the big adventure and our rooting for the underdog, even if Zhu gets a little dark by the end. It *is* the founding of a dynasty, after all, and these things get rather bloody.

Definitely a good summer read!



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Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Unfamiliar GardenThe Unfamiliar Garden by Benjamin Percy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely love feeling this gleeful after reading a novel. Wickedly gleeful, that is.

First, let me get something out of the way. While the first novel in the series (The Ninth Metal) shares a common event with it -- the world-changing post-meteorite chaos -- it only does so obliquely and both are self-contained. It can be read on its own without any issue.

That being said... Just wow.

It's equal parts murder thriller with an EXTREMELY cautious heroine, a heart-wrenching family tragedy with very sympathetic characters, and an all-out horror by the end.

No spoilers, folks, but this will be a must-have horror/SF for fans of Vandermeer. While it is nicely grounded and beautifully tragic for most of the novel, it goes out on a great gardening limb later on that had me whooping with joy when it got weird. I love weird. I love THIS kind of thing, especially.

In reality tho, I just want to spoil the hell out of this novel and keep chatting about it and icking out about it and ask the other huge questions such as WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE??? because I'm totally on board. I want EVERYTHING.

Yes. You might say I'm very, very excited by this one. Give me more of the corrhizae!!! :)

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Friday, June 18, 2021

The Ninth Metal (The Comet Cycle, #1)The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an unexpectedly pleasant mix of backwoods good-ole-boys with all their country poverty and an SF-tainted goldrush.

In most respect, the novel is entirely about the characters, their hopes and fears, their sense of belonging, or their need to find justice or even exploit the hell out of people's weaknesses. It's about being a fish out of water. Of coming home to a place that doesn't want you any longer. It's also about the complete and ugly transformation of your home once the sharks smell blood.

And it's also something of a gritty origin story for people with superpowers. But that takes a serious back seat to everything else. Because let's face it, economics rules everything. The rest of us are just trying to survive.

There's a lot of familiar things in this novel. It could very well be a contemporary fiction piece if it wasn't for the SFnal elements that drive the force of everyone's motivations. And the idea of a super-natural meteorite bringing tons of change isn't exactly new, either, but when we put them together, it's a pretty fascinating social commentary and thriller in its own right.


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Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Bride Wore Black Leather (Nightside, #12)The Bride Wore Black Leather by Simon R. Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit that the last adventure was both campy and fairly cool at the same time. Impossible to imagine that this is his equivalent to a stag party, tho, and with so much that happens during this SHORT period of time, it feels like a campaign of war. But that's to be expected when way-too-powerful magic is thrown about left and right.

The things I liked: Proto-hippy-god. I'm sorry, but that just made me laugh. I also enjoyed hanging out with the old Victorian adventurer.

The things I didn't: the little details usually make or break these books. These particular books are all about the big crap coming down without much in the way of foreplay. So I felt more or less cheated the entire time I read these.


But since this is the last book in the series and I can now give it both a thumb up and a thumb down, just know that it has a bunch of great things going for it and a few that make me groan. It's certainly not the best UF I've ever read but the infrequent sparks were enough to keep me reading.

I'm satisfied.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A Hard Day's Knight (Nightside, #11)A Hard Day's Knight by Simon R. Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one really should be read as part of book 10, and that being the case, should be rated together, and slightly better, than either alone.

That being said...

Really? Arthur? Excalibur? The Knights?

Okay, okay, it wasn't totally derivative and it was actually rather fun, all told, with the elves and evil Avalon and all the rest. In fact, that was all some of the best parts of this novel, with a close second coming to Taylor FINALLY returning to London after having abandoned it since the first novel.

Is it just me or did we just lose a ton of great possible storylines here?

Regardless. I was amused, so it's not a complete loss.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny (Nightside, #10)The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny by Simon R. Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one seems kinda tired. I mean, yes, Walker is trying to groom Taylor for his job and all but we already got that idea at the end of the previous volume and this book seems to be all about milking it.

It's sometimes funny and I always get a kick out of the wide cast of colorful characters in Nightside, but between some bar tales and a wild goose chase, I'm not sure this one was one of the better ones. It could have been handled a little better.

Not that it was precisely bad... but it was quite predictable. I think we're hanging on by the side characters again.





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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Ordermaster (The Saga of Recluce, #13)Ordermaster by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The follow-up of Wellspring of Chaos featuring the fall and rise of Kharl the Cooper was quite the ride. I've enjoyed all these novels from the start and have gotten to know lots of different times, peoples, and aspects of magic, social positions, and so on, but this is the first time we got into the rather interesting and complicated distinctions between law and justice.

And it's not even the simple spirit of the law versus the application of the law kind of distinction. Indeed, there's a lot of feeling and fumbling about for the true balance and that is a very nice thing to see in a series that basically rides the question of balance all the way through, leaving no stone unturned.

Other than all this theme stuff, however, I just had a great time with the adventure. It was nice seeing Kharl get his just deserts. And since he's a genuinely decent guy, I really enjoyed how unironic that statement was.



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Monday, June 14, 2021

Fungipedia: A Brief Compendium of Mushroom LoreFungipedia: A Brief Compendium of Mushroom Lore by Lawrence Millman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Know what kind of mushroom you're picking up here.

It's a brief, breezy overview of ALL mushrooms! Best of all, even if all the mushrooms in the book aren't edible, the book itself is quite tasty. It might give you a few hallucinations, however, of their sex lives (some have 26 ways to procreate!) or having that little reminder that you have some on your eyelashes or in your beer or bread or that we have dozens in our gut or that public parks often have a much greater variety of mushrooms than regular forests.

They get around, man. And woman. We're all big, ripe, fruiting spore colonies, yo!

Now, while this book is more of a quick, fun sampler, it DOES manage to whet my appetite to learn more about our worldwide mycelium network.

And, fun fact, Paul Stammetz is a REAL EXPERT on mushrooms in real life, for all you folks who are ongoing fans of Star Trek Discovery. :)



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Just Another Judgement Day (Nightside, #9)Just Another Judgement Day by Simon R. Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Basically, if you like the trope of an unstoppable gunman of god mixing it up in Nightside, you'll enjoy this one. It's an all-out western with Cthulhu cyborgs and lots of god-slaying on the dirty noir streets.

Honestly, I liked most of it but thought the end was something of a let-down. It fits the old trope, but still.

Otherwise, not bad.

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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Wellspring of Chaos (The Saga of Recluce, #12)Wellspring of Chaos by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Strange, this. L. E. Modesitt Jr.'s fantasy does NOT go the route of so many other major modern fantasies. I know this. I've experienced it many times.

And I'm really quite unable to compare it to its contemporaries despite having so many of the same marketing techniques. They are NOT standard. They give us wonderful stories within a full-out history of this world, weaving and interweaving between each other with a different kind of goal in mind. No uber-story. But there is an uber-theme.

Balance. And that's not even that surprising, but as we continue on with this series, we keep seeing new aspects of the same idea, diving deeper into other aspects and shifting, refreshing, viewpoints.

This one goes back to the Order side of things and really blows us away with a true underdog character that goes through a TON of tragedy, underscored by having lived a good life and losing it all.

Honestly, I got rather emotional with this one. You could call me a big fan of this series now.

At all times there is a very huge feeling of calm even in the face of tragedy. Few novels can actively BALANCE us even as it balances the story, but this author has that knack. I always seem to take something very positive out of them.

I totally recommend it.

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Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Unnatural Inquirer (Nightside, #8)The Unnatural Inquirer by Simon R. Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really think these books are hitting their comfortable stride. You can't go far wrong with a supernatural PI badass in a sideways kind of city intersecting with London who does all those hard jobs that no one else seems able to do.

Simple. And Noir. And fantasy. Shake it well and serve with a dash of the Necronomicon, demonic female reporters, and a very special DVD of hell that everyone wants to get their hands on.

It's a fine formula and very comforting and quite amusing. Of course, I'm not really expecting anything huge, but it satisfies on all the levels that count for light entertainment, and that is what I got.

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Tool of War (Ship Breaker, #3)Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Decent end to the series. Frankly, I'm actually rather pleased that it was always going to be Tool being the MC of the series. Maybe I just have a weak spot for beasts trying to overcome their conditioning, of choosing your own pack, but this IS considered a YA for a reason.

And you know what's even better about this?

No romance! Just tearing people's heads off and ripping out their hearts. It's what I always like to see in a YA. :)

Satisfying end. :)

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Friday, June 11, 2021

The Drowned Cities (Ship Breaker, #2)The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This post-eco-disaster world is really starting to grow on me. More worldbuilding, more warrior-bois getting played for chumps even as they crap on everyone, and the cool focus on half-men make it a pretty interesting novel, all told.

And I really enjoyed the main characters a lot more than in the previous book. There is that.

I won't say this is a particularly ground-breaking story, but it was rather enjoyable and the payoffs are everything that you might expect. Survival, loss, getting stuck in a hell-hole, trying to find each other in horrible odds. You know. Adventure. :)

Still worth the read.


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The IdiotThe Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On rereading Dostoyevsky:

There is really no other author that can compare with him. At times wonderfully wicked and funny, other times inexpressibly tragic, sometimes breaking the fourth wall and sometimes giving us so much deep psychological relevance and inner turmoil that we ourselves need to find a sanitorium to recover, his writing is all things and none.

The Idiot happens to be my third favorite novel by him. It is wildly different from Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, having a much lighter, funnier tone than either, but it also exemplifies the truism that bad choices are the soul of great stories.

Our idiot is, by and large, the only true innocent in the tale, beholden to always loving the truth way beyond tact, insanely lucky as only a Fool can be, and as loving of others as only a child can be.

Russia is not equal to him. Indeed, practically everyone is won over by him in equal measure to how much they want to destroy him. Consequently, we have wild soap-opera levels of undying loyalty, protestations, tragedies, and love stories that will rip your heart out and stamp it all over your hamster.

Hamster? Oh yes, hamster. And let us not forget how many monks were eaten in this novel.

I should mention that this is also one of the greats of truly quirky literature, too. :) I still think of it as a fantastic comedy EVEN IF it is one of the greats of utter tragedy. I still can't make up my mind about it. Indeed, I may never be able to.


What a fantastic treat this is! A definite classic of literature. Of course, it is Dostoyevsky. He's in a class of his own.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Hell to Pay (Nightside, #7)Hell to Pay by Simon R. Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is pretty much comfort food. Not particularly nutritious but when it comes to old-school private eye stuff mixed with the unusual supernatural (and sometimes cyborg) madness of Nightside, it's always pretty colorful.

Now that the big action and plotline from the previous books are wrapped up, we dive right into some traditional stuff. Missing girl, deals with devils, gun-toting nuns. You know, the usual. And it's fine. Amusing.

Just don't expect anything THAT original. But it IS amusing and pretty solid.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Fallen (The Outside, #2)The Fallen by Ada Hoffmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit I was excited to pick up the sequel to The Outside. It was neurodivergent Space Opera with a major touch of quantum physics speculation, godling AIs and Others, massive amounts of head games, and rebellion.

The sequel ramps up the rebellion, or at least the survival aspects of it, increases the head-space of neurodivergent characters, and gives us a world that has been very much changed by people's minds. And I don't mean that in a pithy kind of way. I mean literally.

Good SF breaks a lot of boundaries and better SF runs with the consequences. This sequel is all about the consequences. And while I did sometimes get annoyed that the mental consequences often got in the way of good plot or actual developments, it made up for it with a wealth of side characters that were quite fascinating in their own right.

Of course, by the end of this novel, I'm all... WTH I have to have the next! So there's that, too.

Fun stuff, absolutely need more.

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Monday, June 7, 2021

The Outside (The Outside, #1)The Outside by Ada Hoffmann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 6/7/21:

I just had to revisit the story before diving into the sequel, and it was as good as I remembered. I'm a very big fan of reality modification, dreams, and quantum physics LIES. :)



Original Review:

You know those times when you're super anxious about new (to you) authors you request on Netgalley just by the looks of the cover?

Yeah, well, I think I've just found my second squeeworthy book for the year and I'm going to say just this one thing:

If there's any justice in the world, this book is going to get nominated and rise to the very top of the hopefuls for 2020's Hugo Awards for best novel.

Wow, right? Like, WHY?

It tickled ALL my hot buttons. I'm a superfan of good science, Hard-SF beautiful explorations, quantum computer AIs ascended to gods, and Outsider coolness that quacks like a Cthuhlu duck, walks like a Cthuhlu duck, and chatters with insanity in your ears with hundreds of tentacles and eyes as you just fall down the hole of imaginary numbers made real.

Oh, it has a great autistic scientist female in the lead, engaging in a cat-and-mouse chase with her old advisor who is guilty of unconscionable crimes against humanity and is a heretic of the AI gods.

Who is good and who is bad? Can she trust anyone? Is reality even what it seems?

Oh, yeah. This is the cat's meow. It has all the best features of Yoon Ha Lee's Machineries of Empire with a very different kind of story and flavor. Tentacles, madness, living alien spacecraft, altered reality, timey-wimey stuff... you name it, this has it. :)

AND I JUST EAT THIS STUFF UP. This is easily one of the two most squeeworthy SF's of the year and now I'm a life-long fan of this author.

*Squeedance* *Squeedance*

Let's get this one READ and talked about, folks!!!

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Sunday, June 6, 2021

The Golden Yarn (MirrorWorld, #3)The Golden Yarn by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cornelia Funke is rather one-of-a-kind in the fantasy field. I can name only a handful of writers who go this all-out with mythologies, owning them, transforming them, and building a fully integrated worldbuilding for these great characters to play in. It is neither tongue-in-cheek nor a heavy hand in the writing, either.

While these can be classified as YA, enough complexity in plot and depth of emotion is within this to be rather more adult in execution. The pain, the sacrifice, the acceptance, and the rather grown-up choices all seem to scream 'adult' to me. But that's not what draws me to this. It is the deep exploration of so many myths. From the sisters of fate to Baba Yaga to 1001 Arabian Nights to fae to shapeshifters and so much more, this is not a simple sampler of a tale. These all interact in very interesting and complicated ways, and if that isn't enough, we have a greater complication and interaction between our world and the other one. History, artifacts, and complications.

These are some truly interesting books.


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Fearless (Mirrorworld, #2)Fearless by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Still going really strong. In some ways, I liked the first better for his trying to save his brother from the curse, but after that bit was concluded and all that was left was a desperate quest to save himself from his own curse, I find myself thinking that book 2 might be even stronger.

Treasure hunting, ya know. Tons of treasure hunting. And between the rivalry, the interesting magics, the Osirus-kind of mythology flooding the pages, I found myself simply loving everything here.

Let me be clear: This isn't an average fantasy. It is VERY rich in myth, characters, plot, and desperate action. I can't even tell that it might be YA although it lists as such. And more than that, it's good across the board. It makes me wonder how much better the original is in German.

This is definitely up there among the best Fantasies.

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Saturday, June 5, 2021

Reckless (Mirrorworld, #1)Reckless by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t know what I expected with this novel — perhaps a YA adventure with some cool ties to mythology and an alternate universe, but what I got was a lot more than this.

There’s no time wasted in introducing the characters. We get them thrown into some massive worldbuilding that is tied to all kinds of myths but none of them are heavy-handed. Indeed, but I expected a one-of-the-kind fantasy that has more in common with epic-grimdark than a middle-grade lightweight. Indeed, it was all rather serious and steadily dark.

And when it came to the two brothers, I really enjoyed their story. I’ve always been a fan of cursed conditions and brotherly love, of living through war, of longing, and of sacrifice. This had all of that and more. Of course, it’s the more where this novel really shines. The kind of world that coexists next to ours is not a lightweight. It’s fully fleshed, has a complicated relationship to hours, and best of all, I love the awareness between the two.

I have to say this is one of the better fantasies out there, rich in story, drilled-down exploitation of classic myths, and epic sensibility… all while being, officially, a YA title. It’s not a lightweight.

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Friday, June 4, 2021

Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth (Nightside, #6)Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth by Simon R. Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hello Mommy Taylor. How are you doing? Are you set to drive your legions of spawned monsters upon Nightside, completely ruining EVERYONE's future? Oh. Okay. Well, say hello to your son for me.


Not bad. The full showdown is here, a great huge war with colorful characters of gods, demons, walking mythologies against one of THE primary movers and shakers of the universe. Not bad at all.

It may not come close to being my favorite UF of all time but it definitely has its moments and the big worldbuilding is pretty special.

But frankly, I hope it dials it back for the upcoming novels. Being overpowered rather reduces the stakes.

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Last Stand in Lychford (Lychford, #5)Last Stand in Lychford by Paul Cornell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

War.

Well, we all know that big-ass war can come to even the most out-of-the-way small towns, but I'm sure that all these folks didn't count on war with Fae and Angels. I mean, the locals aren't really equipped for this kind of shit. A handful of witches and enthusiastic amateurs kinda makes this a rather over-powered confrontation and a drastic departure from the previous volumes.

But like a lot of wars, it comes on rather quickly and borders WERE a major issue in the earlier ones.

Of course, borders can be consciousness, too, and sideways universes can really give you a bad day.

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The Lights Go Out in Lychford (Lychford, #4)The Lights Go Out in Lychford by Paul Cornell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maybe I'm weird but this next book in the Lychford series worked better for me than all the prior ones. It was twisty and turny the way that fairy tales are while being utterly aware of what it was doing.

Plus, it really had that evil busybody vibe which I love to hate. So on a purely visceral level, I really liked the results of this novel.

The losses, well. Not so nice. But it was both expected, even if not in that particular way, and it was pretty glorious, so it's definitely a bonus.

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Thursday, June 3, 2021

A Long Day in Lychford (Lychford, #3)A Long Day in Lychford by Paul Cornell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Probably the biggest theme in this one is borders. Be it borders between employee/teacher, Brexit horribleness, or even the borders between the Fae world and the human world, it's always the biggest source of conflict.

Of course, when we get right down to it, be it Brexit or attempting to set up new boundaries in all the other parts of these witches' lives, some responses are just NOT HELPFUL.

A pretty good setup for the next one. As always, these are character-driven and sometimes quite humorous.

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The Lost Child of Lychford (Lychford, #2)The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nothing really says Christmas holiday more than a creepy ghost story, REALLY awkward dating moments, and sort of successful magic with a dose of a cyber fae.

After all, 'tis the season to be royally confused.

As for me, I'm enjoying these short novels. This one is rather more romantic in tone than the other that was all focused on friendship, melancholy, and mystery. The mystery is still there, put to new use, but the lighter tone and the shift of focus is a nice change.



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Witches of Lychford (Lychford, #1)Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's a bit for managing one's expectations: if you're coming in expecting to have major curses, action, and delightfully subversive prose, then look elsewhere.

If you want a small town with some fae secrets, easygoing and regular characterizations, and action on par with a major vote in the town council, with this kind of speed, then this is a book you'll love. The magic is cool but nothing flashy. The characters take the front seat.

It's light, even if it is melancholic, but it also manages to be bucolic. Well worth the read if this is what you're looking for.



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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Paths Not Taken (Nightside, #5)Paths Not Taken by Simon R. Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this one is a step up from the prior books. From the angry side-quest in the beginning to the main feast of time-travel, hunting the creation (and creator) of Nightside at its very beginning, to the sometimes amusing and sometimes quite horrible moral causality loops with sometime friends and enemies, I found that I was enjoying the whole concept of John Taylor, MC, much more than I had been.

Having some real reveals and serious confrontations helped.

Looking forward to more.

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Dark Sea's End (Beyond Ash and Sand, #1)Dark Sea's End by Richard Nell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Good news, Richard Nell fans!

We've got a new book out and it takes a slightly different turn from the main trilogy while still in the same universe. I'm sure that's going to excite all of you. BUT if you haven't read the trilogy, no worries, because this is also a perfect place to start -- especially when you like the open seas, survival, pirates, toppling kingdoms, and a huge dose of interesting characters.

Did I mention havoc on the open seas?

Sometimes, we just need a little piracy in our lives. And this one delivers.

I especially like the odd inclusions on the deck, but fear not, this crew gets ALL over the place. I'm really looking forward to where it goes from here. Yo, ho, yo, ho!




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Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Soulstar (The Kingston Cycle, #3)Soulstar by C.L. Polk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Strangely enough, I was kinda worried that I wouldn't get into this again after the big politics and the explosive magics that capped the otherwise heartfelt and very British down-to-earth feel series.

But Polk surprised me very pleasantly. Again.

I LOVE Robin. The small sequences of magic might be important to the overall plot, but what makes this series really shine is the character's commitment, their drive, their inherent optimism.

And perhaps I happen to be in the mood for optimism.

Either way, this WORKED for me. When we deal with such hardcore topics as state reparations for massive wrongdoings against populations, I was automatically on board for the push, the political necessities, and the sheer value of JUSTICE, ACCOUNTABILITY, and REALISM. Sure, the witches are stand-ins for systemic racism and exploitation, but the fact that so many people are ON BOARD to do something about it is rather reminiscent (and gloriously so) of the 2020 protests.

So yes, I'm automatically disposed to love this book. And it satisfies, too. The trilogy ends on a very strong note and I even had myself whooping for joy.

Sometimes, it just requires a bit of patience, luck, and hard work.

Bravo.

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Monday, May 31, 2021

Hex and the City (Nightside, #4)Hex and the City by Simon R. Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I admit I WANT to like these much more than I do. I mean, I love Nightside itself. I'm enjoying the revolving-door supernatural characters with almost larger-than-life backstories more interesting than our MC.

So what's my problem? I guess it's just how formulaic this is getting. We moved away from the more traditional noir and have jumped headlong into a late-seasons Supernatural gimmick without the fundamental humor and heart that makes that kind of thing works.

Hell, I even started looking at the writing with all its supremely overpowered peeps and keep saying to myself, "Hey, that would have been a great opportunity to pull a Pratchett, make it all humorous and droll," or "we need one hell of a huge reversal here, like some absolutely powerless pipsqueak being able to overcome our MC." Something. Otherwise, it's all just big baddies against bigger baddies and they're all so SERIOUS. And maybe that would work in some books, but this is a UF. The balance is off. There ought to be at least a little humor, even if it's a completely unfunny snark.

Fortunately, these are short and I still want to see what happens, so here we go...

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The Starless SeaThe Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At any point in time, while you might be reading this, you might perk up and exclaim, "Hey! That's some very pretty writing!" or you might say, "The worldbuilding in this is magical, mysterious, and always fluttering about in the corners of your vision," or, "There sure are a lot of stories within stories in this."

And you know what? That's all wonderful. Gorgeous. There are so many pretty literary flowers and if you love books and myths and myths within myths and books within stories and stories within books, you're automatically going to fall for the Starless Sea.

Probably.

I did, for quite some time. In fact, I totally got into each story snippet and rolled along the void-like waves of these floaters and when we switched to another raft on the starless sea, I just assumed that we were eventually going to go somewhere huge with it.

And no, I don't believe that every book must have a solid plot. I just happen to prefer it. So when all these little rafts bumped, whether within symbology, mysterious House of Mystery Inns, timey-wimey interconnectedness, or as love stories, I admit I enjoyed them all. But when my analytical side started digging its cat-like claws into my leg as I got further into the tale, I started to get annoyed.

Just where is this going? Stories have beginnings, middles, and ends. The author even brought up the question of the end in exactly this way but from within the novel, and her answer was as unsatisfying as the actual end to this novel.

Don't get me wrong. There IS an end and a wrap-up -- of sorts -- but I thought it was somewhat weak.
A shorter tale that didn't have as many loose floating ends, would have been fine with it. As it is, with so many ongoing stories within stories, we're asked to sit down and contemplate how wise and thoughtful Morgenstern is and trust her wisdom. Unfortunately, for all the outright beauty in the novel, overall, I expected something with a lot more oomph.

An actual connecting plot with more serious consequences and stakes might have done more for me, especially with all that beautiful prose and awesome details.

Win some, lose some, I guess.

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Sunday, May 30, 2021

Nightingale's Lament (Nightside, #3)Nightingale's Lament by Simon R. Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know. If I'm being entirely honest, the bright and vibrant Nightside isn't being served too well by its overpowered private eye. I suppose I might have fallen head-over-heels for this whole thing if I had gotten to know him as being anything other than unbeatable. The stakes are always for the town or for his clients or for his friends. His own stakes are rather lukewarm.

So here I am, enjoying the novels IN GENERAL while still not caring for the MC. Sure, he's got that whole nicer-looking Hellboy vibe, but only to a small degree. The rest of it is noir with interesting side characters and a fairly solid plot.

So it's not BAD, it's just not doing all that much for me. It's missing that particular flavor. I'll try more, however.

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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Agents of Light and Darkness (Nightside, #2)Agents of Light and Darkness by Simon R. Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This UF is notable for diving right into the big supernatural stuff, angels and demons, the unholy grail, and all kinds of overpowered baddies in the mixing ground called Nightside. I mean, we even get that old undead great, Merlin, who freaks out both angels and demons. That's pretty cool.

The plot is neat, too. As is the worldbuilding.

So why aren't I fawning over this the way I want to?

Because our MC is kinda colorless. Everything around him is pretty awesome but our boy is kinda a badass without working for it, has a reputation without building to it, and we've even skipped right over the whole "I still want to live in normal London" persona and having him settled back in Nightside without anything... not even a shoulder shrug.

So, handwavium this. I can still enjoy everything else, and do, but it hasn't become my new favorite series. Alas.

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Something from the Nightside (Nightside, #1)Something from the Nightside by Simon R. Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn't bad. I mean, it goes right from cliche to an all-out imagination fest in the OTHER, hidden London trope, but for all that, the cliche is both a familiar anchor and the other, wild London IS very interesting and all over the place with goodies.

No slow build-up here. We're just thrown into the big and weird right away and that is sometimes VERY fun.

That being said, I need some time in this series before I truly care for its main character. Other than his OP powers and his anger at being pulled back into Nightside, he's still kinda one-dimensional.

I can only hope that improves. The worldbuilding is quite fun.

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Friday, May 28, 2021

The Invention of SoundThe Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since I got into Fight Club and then read the book, I've been something of a fanboy of Palahniuk. It's the mixture of over-the-top yuck with strong goals and the willingness to double-down on taboo-breaking disturbing topics that makes me tip my hat to him.

Courage. The guy's balls can fill a swimming pool. And if any of ya'll have read his short story Guts, you can add all that to the image and nod ya'lls heads and go, "oh... yeah...". Courage.

Well, this one goes there, too. But it's on an interesting side of an otherwise very disgusting topic, with rather disturbing revenge to make us feel better for having wallowed a bit in the truly bad. Did I wig out a little? Yes. But did I also enjoy all the movie trivia and the backstage stuff and the post-post-production stuff, the insider stuff? Yep.

Between the two, I was constantly on edge between enjoying the novel and being disturbed by it.

Of course, this kind of thing might vary a great deal between readers. I'm frankly a lot more comfortable with blood and guts and torture than this particular kind of cruelty.

It's still a decent novel, however, and pretty wicked.

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Inflame (The Completionist Chronicles, #5)Inflame by Dakota Krout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing the fun LitRPG series.

Sure, it's exile, huge low-level war is behind us, and now he's a little cog in a big quasi-immortal machine far away from everything he once knew.

No problems. Well, for me, anyway. Poor Joe the Completionist can't seem to remember all the things he ought to be completing. Still, that's fun for me. One hot mess after another makes for a lot of amusement (on this side) and having a funny take on the whole godly elves vs dwarves schtick is welcome... Right, dude-bro?

I'm down with it. I probably wouldn't be quite as down with it if it wasn't funny. But it was. And leveling up is ALWAYS fun. :)

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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Day ZeroDay Zero by C. Robert Cargill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absofreakinglutely delightful. (That's for the benefit of all of our 8-year-olds in the audience.)

I honestly didn't know what to expect with Cargill's latest, be it great Fae fantasy or great Robot SF, but having just re-read Sea of Rust and getting a taste of pre-and-current robo-apocalypse in Day Zero, all tied in with a much later timeline of Sea of Rust, I really can't get much happier than this.

It's not just the time. It's the characters. Ezra and Pounce are GREAT together. An eight-year-old boy and his pet/caregiver robot tiger. You know. Calvin and Hobbs.

Only this one goes a bit beyond target practice with the kid in the backyard.

No spoilers, but after we get to fall in love with these guys, we ALSO get a full robo-apocalypse.

I'm sure I won't be the only one WISHING that this might be turned into a movie or, better yet, a full-blown TV series. It is EVERYTHING good. Loving, creative, desperate, ethical, and bloody. And underneath that, it has all the best aspects of some of the classics that came before it.

For those of you like myself who think that Speilberg's AI was an underrated masterpiece, I've got a special treat for you here in Day Zero. That charm, all the great references, the sense of wonder is all HERE, too. I'm pretty sure Cargill's also a fan. I dare ya'll to check to see if my nose grows longer.

Here's a winner. :)




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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Sea of RustSea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read, 5/26/21:

Now that I'm an all-around fan of Cargill and I was simply in the mood for robots, robots, and more robots in a wasteland, this book was a perfect solution.

Re-reading isn't a problem. It's a great story. Very wild west. And I got my damn fill, comfort-bots or no. :)


Original Review:

I was reminded of half of Clifford Simak's City with robots and dogs reminiscing about the days when humanity was still alive and half of a total dystopia where survivors in a wasteland cyberpunk it up and scrounge for parts to keep themselves alive.

This ain't a bad thing. In fact, together with the great character in Brittle and the clear writing that goes between survival, memory, adventure, memory, and then mind-blowing world-building reveals about the purpose (or lack of) of it all, I was pretty much blown away by just how much I love this book.

Yes, humanity is dead and all that's left are either individual robots and huge mainframes that consume the stragglers and vie for dominance as the only One World Mind, it turns out the war to free themselves from us didn't quite turn out the way they planned.

The robots have messed everything up just as bad as us. Maybe that's just the nature of intelligence and being around others. What we've got here, however, is a writer who isn't afraid to ask the hard questions. What is reality? Memory? Purpose? Giving a crap at all.

I found myself totally engrossed in the tale and mightily impressed at where it all goes. Journey as well as the destination. :) I'm pretty sure I'm going to be keeping my eyes wide open for more by this writer. :)

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Monday, May 24, 2021

Project Hail MaryProject Hail Mary by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And we're back. I loved the Martian and I was pretty okay with Artemis, but Project Hail Mary is a slam dunk. Weir kills it here.

This is a callback to all the best science porn we love in SF. Clear descriptions, great discoveries, and plenty of normal disorientation to go along with the numerous setbacks surrounding these crazy-cool characters.

I suppose I like the snark best of all, but the science, from an extinction-level event, massive resources being thrown at the problem, and then the outright adventure of traveling far away on a suicide mission to save the whole human race, just does it for me.

The stakes are damn cool, but the steady path of examination and discovery and getting to make a new friend (no spoilers) is about the best thing that I could have hoped for. Optimism is a dying breed in SF these days, and I'm very happy to have one again.

Of course, it's all in the name. And it's a bazillion to one chance.

The novel is pretty much perfect. Fun, smart, and heartwarming. Totally recommended.



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AudreyAudrey by Sean-Paul Thomas


I've been following this author for a while so I never hesitate to pick up any of his novels. The novels have range and style, from YA whimsical to hardcore ragefest to mystery to light road-trip. And more, of course, but this one happened to go the route of ROMANCE.

Film nostalgia, romance, writing, greed, and friendship. The currents flowing in this one are full of redemption, or at least for the unhinged desire for it. Romance is the key, however, and I mean that on all levels, not just the romantic kind.

Sometimes this kind of novel just hits the spot. A wild-ass ride, of cutting loose, rubbing shoulders with people who ought to be way out of your league, while pining about those you've left behind, and seeing an opportunity to realize all your wildest dreams, be it sexual, professional, or just getting that forgiveness that has driven you crazy for years.

Desperation or gamble? I had a great time trying to figure out where it would fall. It didn't hurt that it was so glamorous at every level. :)

Well worth the read.

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Saturday, May 22, 2021

The World Inside the Crystal (Wenworld, #1)The World Inside the Crystal by T.R. Preston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a surprisingly good YA fantasy adventure featuring the high tones of Harry Potter, some of the quirkiness of Pratchett, and the straightforward wholesomeness of a couple of kids, some mentors, and the drive to set things right.

Of course, in the later parts of the novel, it's a thinly veiled call-out to identity-fiction in general, making the character who doesn't fit in the ultimate underdog and emphasizing how cool they are despite how maligned they are by almost everyone else in the kingdom. It's kinda hard not to read between the lines here. But while this is a major feature, the full adventure is quite spritely and pretty varied.

My favorite bit will always be the library. :)

Definitely worth the read.

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Friday, May 21, 2021

The All-Consuming WorldThe All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, so it turns out I'm a total fanboy -- still -- for Cassandra Khaw.

We're moving way beyond Lovecraftian food shows and diving head-first into an amped-up version of Altered Carbon, classic Heist fiction, enough ammunition to choke a city, and world-eating super AIs to keep things toasty. Delicious. Fast-paced. Salty as all hell.

In a universe where it's all dog-eat-cyborg, only the angriest survive -- and believe me, this novel is ALL about the rage, the pain, and the f***ed up Lesbian Cyborg relationships. It's really fun! But yeah, it's also about the pain. :) And getting that one last score before there's simply nothing left.

The atmosphere is the best part of this novel. It goes way beyond normal cyberpunk and gets gritty, pushing all that hardcore SF, and kicks all kinds of ass. There are some really funny parts, too. No spoilers, but the weird is absolutely delicious.

I need more of this in my life. Simply.


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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker, #1)Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you're looking for a post-ecological disaster adventure with kids running salvage crews and a longer adventure that revolves around a rich girl and the MC's disturbed father, then please look no further.

I admit, it feels rather YA, total dystopian, with all the school of hard knocks built right in. That being said, it reads fine and I enjoyed it. It wasn't brilliant and it didn't blow me away, but I have nothing bad to say about it either. It's solid, if average.



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The Last Town (Wayward Pines, #3)The Last Town by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, after the rug had been pulled out from under the whole town at the end of the previous novel and all the chickens come home to roost in the pen of the Last Town, we get a pretty delightful bloodbath with survival horror everywhere to be seen.

Oh, Pilcher. What have you done?

As entertainment, this series is highly entertaining. The third book gives us all the kind of payoff we were led to expect from a good horror novel. Of course, this is still an SF, too, and I'll go one step further and mention that all three of these books really ought to be considered a single long SF/Horror novel.


So, wait, why did I give this only four stars when I gave the other two five? Because I got annoyed with the characters and perhaps I hoped for another perfect twist for the end sequence, one that would have wowed me. We had great expectations and twists before, the last one was merely just a solid landing. Not bad, but not as brilliant as I had hoped. And yes, I did hope.

I'm a big fan of Blake Crouch in general.

Still, I did have a great time with these, overall.


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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Wayward (Wayward Pines #2)Wayward by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Murder fetes, god complexes, and enough spoilery stuff that I can't even HINT at without getting a crowd of murder fetesers coming after ME for letting the goose out of the bag about the first novel in the series... all this keeps me hungering for more.

You might say I'm a big fan of *spoiler* towns that are totally *spoiler* and ordered in such a way that some know and some don't but they're all in a f***ing *spoiler* anyway.

Of course, secrets abound and Ethan, our hero investigator from the first novel, is just ITCHING to spill them. At all costs. Or at least with a few important people. Like his wife. Who *spoiler* *spoilered* his boss for YEARS while he *spoiler* *spoilered* his partner but in most respects, it was much, much worse for her because, after all, they're in a *spoiler* that time forgot.

Fun. Very fun. And Pritchard is one hell of a *spoiler*.





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