Saturday, May 8, 2021

Deathworld 1 (Deathworld, #1)Deathworld 1 by Harry Harrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I picked up this Harry Harrison, I did so in full knowledge of his general humor, his delightful action, and lighthearted adventure.

In this, we at least get a lighthearted adventure with a fair smattering of action. The characters are merely so/so. Even so, the tale progresses fairly nicely with a visit to an extremely deadly (and heavy) planet with all kinds of creatures so ready to kill you. The hardiness of the human race, survival, and being the biggest bad-ass being the heaviest focus.

Of course, when it comes to an outsider with an outsider's viewpoint, things take on a different kind of feel.

Let's just say this is a pretty feel-good tale that is a sign of its times. Sure, we get a bunch of bang-bang going on, but we also get a fair amount of peace, love, and communication, too. :)

Too bad that wasn't as interesting as I would have hoped. I'm a bit jaded now, I guess. I like more subtlety.

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RabbitsRabbits by Terry Miles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I didn't already have a spirit animal, I'd probably insist that my spirit animal is NOW, ABSOLUTELY, a rabbit. But not those squeezable fluffy creatures. Oh, no. I mean the kind of rabbit that Neo sees in a tattoo in the Matrix, or the one Alice chases, or the kind of toothy monster that fits into that comfortable zone between a Lovecraft story and the monster from Monty Python's Holy Grail.

So, wait, what the hell does this have to do with the novel?

I'm trying to tell you!

This is my spirit animal! A million nearly perfect references to MY outlook, MY worldview, from Donnie Darko to Persona to Dragon's Lair to D&D but twist all these into deeply paranoiac versions that are actually just intense patter recognition systems on speed.

Look for the clues. Hell, this is like Fincher's The Game but impressively MORE funded, MORE involved, and deeper than anyone could have imagined. It's THAT kind of novel. And I LOVE it.

It's a geek paradise. Designed for obsessives, OCD, intensely intellectual gamers who define themselves by a simple tenet of "What is out of place here?"

Only, the gameboard is the whole damn world and your own memory and, eventually, your sanity.

This was satisfying from start to finish. It was MADE for me. Maybe that makes me a bit crazy, but the RIDE was totally worth it. I'm sure Jeff Goldblum would approve.

Follow the Rabbit, people. :)

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Friday, May 7, 2021

Cage of SoulsCage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up fully expecting a wonderful Tchaikovsky. I've never gone wrong with him when it comes to his SF. The fantasy, well, is kinda so-so for me, but the SF is usually bang-on.

This novel, however, started with a fun bang, slowly turned into a slightly interesting prison tale at the far end of time, and then just started reminding me of Senlin Ascends with a bit of Moorcock and even A. Reynolds thrown into the mix, and even some Dostoyevsky.

The END was pretty awesome. All the little random journeys and the almost meaningless plots and experiences of everyday living, the good and all the bad, the other bad, and the worse are entertaining enough on the whole, but I'll admit that it was kinda rough to care when I JUST DIDN'T KNOW WHERE THE HELL THIS WAS GOING.

BUT. When we got to the certain big scenes near the end and the whole reason for this long accounting came clear, let alone the huge surprises, it all comes together in the end, redeeming the book.

Redeeming? Well, there's even a point in the novel when the NARRATOR asks US what the hell the plot is, so it's not like it's a complete surprise. It IS relatively plotless. BUT, it is all pretty funny and cruel and even a bit fantastic when we see it in perspective. Grand perspective. :)

But in retrospect? If the "journey" had been cut down by a third and/or we had a slightly better clue as to what we might have expected by the end, I probably would have raved about this book. :)

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Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Diamond Warriors (The Ea Cycle, #5)The Diamond Warriors by David Zindell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is probably the best (and last) of the series, ending on a very high note, indeed.

It took a long time to build to this point, but now that the two armies are gathering, and have gathered, to clash in a truly epic struggle for the soul of all worlds, I truly have nothing bad to say about the series.

It's bloody and emotional but the end is also very life-affirming. That's not something we see all that much in modern epic fantasy. And it isn't strained, either. It's genuinely good. :)

I should mention that I really don't expect anything other than that from Zindell after reading his Requiem series, but let's be honest here: this series isn't as good as the other. The other is a VERY high bar to set, however, and these books don't suffer in comparison with any other epic fantasy currently floating out there.

Yes, the tropes are well-worn. Yes, the quest, the army-building, the quest again, the army-building again gives us the most basic of fantasy templates. But HOW Zindell does it, what he accomplishes with it, is up there with the original Arthurian legends. As epic, as soul-searching, as fraught with treachery and tragedy.

But UNLIKE the Arthurian legends, this one has an all-out happy Hollywood ending. :)

Zindell sticks to this landing like a champ and I'm quite satisfied. :)

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Black Jade (The Ea Cycle, #4)Black Jade by David Zindell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Getting all the way through the Ea Cycle is a quest all on its own. So much happens, but in actuality, it's just different aspects of a grand, LONG, seemingly endless adventure, in almost the same way that The Grail Quest was, EXCEPT it keeps pretty much the same adventurers for the entire tale.

The previous book stayed pretty close to home with so much seeming success before it all went to hell, leaving the adventurers guilt-ridden and tetherless -- and so that leads us BACK into (you might guess) the Grail Quest again.

Fortunately, none of this is quite that simple and the full quest is lush and we get to see a lot of great places and people, from mystical masters to vast, deadly deserts to a trip into the heart of the Enemy's nation... all to find the shining healer that is the only one who is truly worthy to wield the full might of the Lightstone, the Grail itself.

All of this was great, but I was particularly enthusiastic about the mild crossovers to Zindell's other series, including the Wild, the ascended beings, the world-creators (singers), and the created immortals. There really aren't all that many true crossovers with the Requiem series, but what we have here is still interesting.

This will never be Requiem, unfortunately. It is, however, like the original Grail legends, a moral as well as a physical quest, demanding the heroes to change their ways and purify their hearts, and this is taken seriously, realistically, in these pages. In that respect, this is a classic retelling that goes above and beyond the original style by also giving us the best bits of epic fantasy with all the magic and worldbuilding. :)

I would rank this book up with the first, with the second and third trailing behind. I'm looking forward to the 5th (and apparently last) book. After all, our enemy has merely been defeated, NOT destroyed. :)

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Sunday, May 2, 2021

Lord of Lies (The Ea Cycle, #3)Lord of Lies by David Zindell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very interesting book in the series. It's VERY much a Grail tale like the others, but it picks up with what happens after finding it, with every kind of interesting snag that comes with all the local kings and warriors who covet it or play extended politics.

The first part has a lot of an Ivanhoe feel, knights and tournaments and processions, and a focus on the Lightstone which is just a stand-in for Christ, etc., without BEING that kind of thing at all. Indeed, what it IS, is a kind-of epic SF that includes many, many civilizations and planets, a time span in the tens of thousands of years, and people who have been alive as long as that. And the Lightstone itself is there to bridge the gap between worlds.

While the overt ideas are pretty well-worn, the deeper ramifications are rather gorgeous.

And when we get to the Arthurian-type tragedies, the Ea Cycle doesn't disappoint either. Who is good and just, who is worthy, who is free from sin -- all of this plays right into the core idea of Power, and the idea that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The betrayals and the reasons and even the SUBJECT of betrayal in this book are pretty complicated and carefully explored. Lord of Light? Aye. And Lord of Lies.

But above all, this IS a true epic fantasy, with many battles, many quests (continued here), and it feels rather awesome -- considering that you, as a reader, want an epic Grail quest with new-age concepts, truly excellent worldbuilding, and interesting, complicated characters.

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