Mailing List

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the LawFuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mary Roach has been well-known for giving a zinger-twist on non-fiction topics for years, and this book is no different.

Let's frame a whole bunch of nature events in terms of how it pisses off us, Homo Sapiens, and put a spotlight on how to deal with those troublesome pests.

All told, it was fun, sometimes gruesome (bears), annoying and deadly (monkeys in cities), annoying and annoying (gulls), and all the possible solutions we've come up with to deal with these, and more. Birds, in particular, are a real menace -- and trying to figure out ways to scare them off or relocate them can sometimes be a real nightmare. Some, however, require some nightmares in order to scare them off. A particularly interesting example is strewing corpse effigies in a gruesome tableau where crows gather.

I suppose I'd be slightly off-put if I found someone hung upside-down with their organs hanging out, outside of my residence. Funnily enough, appealing to the head-on-spike method seems to work with a lot of different species. Who'd have thunk? ;)

A lot of valuable information, entertainingly presented. Well worth the read.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 29, 2021

The Personal LibrarianThe Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a historical fiction that centered on Belle de Costa Greene and her time as the personal librarian of the private, later to become public library of JP Morgan. From being a smart negotiator and rather ruthless in securing rare and valuable texts for her employer to the full establishment of the renowned library, with her in charge, I loved every aspect.

What really made this particular novel stand out is the fact that she was not only female, rising to such an esteemed position, but the fact that she was, in fact, black. Light enough in skin color to pass as white, perhaps, but she was forced to hide that fact, changing her name and being very careful due to the time period.

It's several decades since the Reconstruction and the heady period of hope had become one of disgust for the Jim Crow laws, the street justice of casual, brutal racism, and a fairly vast backlash against all black folk. Of course, there were always a few bright communities and a great number of new highly educated and hopeful people, and Belle came from that background thanks to her father.

This was real history with a massive lean-in to what it would have been like to hide in plain sight from some of the worst racism in America.

The only thing I didn't really care for, honestly, was the romance angle. Give me books, give me a spotlight on injustice, but if the romance was ... not all that great, then I just wish the novel had focused only on its strengths. That's my opinion, of course.

Overall, it was pretty good, somewhat heartbreaking, but still a thing of hope... even if it was built entirely on a lie. Ability and intelligence SHOULD have been enough.

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 28, 2021

FirebreakFirebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an honestly fun, if not brilliant, near-future dystopia where corporations have fully consumed one another to the point where every necessity of life, especially expensive water, is now under the company store.

Sound familiar? Well, yes, it does rather resemble our world. And the more of an oligarchy this novel becomes, with the burdens and the problems of maintaining life and sanity, the more it looks like ours.

And the story, after the all-powerful clamp down on even the smallest voices that might expose an injustice -- such as the little issue of sweeping up lost children to turn them into gaming superstars in the equivalent of a never-ending war, pretending that they are mere digital avatars, and controlling all related narratives -- the novel quickly becomes one that graduates from a cyberpunk corporate greed novel to become a full riot of rebellion. In one way or another, the core is also familiar, I'm sure. Many a YA novel has this little quirk.

So what did I think of it, overall?

It started out really well and I was quite invested. The developments later had their moments, but never quite lived up to the overall solid opening. I think I will be interested in seeing where this will go. There were simply a few areas where I lost interest in the second half, but it wasn't bad. I tend to enjoy novels like this. Gamers, cyberpunk, and rebellion.

It's worth the read.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Chasing the BoogeymanChasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not a big reader of True Crime books, but from what I understand, this particular book is something of a perfect storm of pure horror fiction written AS IF it was a highly documented True Crime tell-all, complete with author asides, pictures, proof, and including first-person accounting.

In how it's written and the subject matter that dates back to the '80s, it SHOULD have hit me square in the gut. When I read the blurb to pick this up, I assumed it was also right up my alley for the name-dropping comparisons that were made.

In reality, I thought it was just fine. It was on the same level of my personal enjoyment as when I watched Zodiac a few years ago. You've got that serial murderer vibe, great actors, and intense realism within the investigations. It SHOULD have been a knockout. But all I felt was mild interest and a pretty heavy appreciation for the style and the hybrid nature of the storytelling. Especially the personal reflections.

It was more than okay, but unfortunately, I may not be the best fan for this particular subgenre.

View all my reviews
Termination ShockTermination Shock by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Neal Stephenson writes Cli-Fi! Of course, what this means in layman's terms is that an author with a penchant for a LOT of research and a brave heart just slammed a close-to-home ecological disaster onto our table and has said, read it and weep.

It's very valid to compare this novel to KSR's The Ministry for the Future, too, in that it has not only an interesting and deep cast of characters over a relatively decent amount of time, near-future, but that the science comes out as a character of its own.

Not as bleak as KSR's recent novel, this one still shows the horrors of rising water levels, human displacement, border clashes, and some real technological solutions that are generally dismissed now because mass-scale geoengineering projects are SCARY. Politically, socially, militarily, it's all going to be a massive mess.

But Neal Stephenson pulls a lot of neat tricks here. From making one of the main characters the young Queen of the Netherlands (Dutch Shell Company), we are given a fascinating look at all this from a different viewpoint. The same goes for the Pig Ahab character in Texas, or the Squeegie Ninja who spends a lot of his time on the Indian/China border doing performative (Cherokee head games) maneuvers since no one wants to go so far as to start using bullets.

I really enjoyed these characters. A lot. Interesting, somewhat weird, but utterly essential to the overall plot that is very much Neal's bailiwick. I'm reminded of the things he accomplished in Reamde. The quality, as well.

This is easily one of the better Cli-Fi SF's I've read, and that's not simply because I have immense respect for the author.

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Shards of Earth (The Final Architecture, #1)Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, fanboy here. I've gotta sit down for a moment and tell you something rather important.

This is a freaking awesome space opera, ya'll.

It starts out with an amazing bang-up interstellar battle and ends with one, and every step of the way, in-between, is a gloriously fascinating tale that is parts Becky Chambers-quality characterization, part David Brin Uplift War worldbuilding, and every bit as exciting and vast as Christopher Paolini's To Sleep In a Sea of Stars.

High praise? Indeed. And it comes from an author who consistently writes some of the very best, most original SF in the past decade, without even counting THIS book.

So, is he a superstar? Well, to me, he is. That's why I've sat you down for this little talk to add one little extra bit:

If you haven't read this guy, then WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?

'Nuff said.

Prepare yourself for a massive head-trip across the stars, dealing with massively incomprehensible god-like aliens that are only partially in our 3D space, who like to transform civilized worlds into ART PROJECTS.


View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Last Graduate (The Scholomance, #2)The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really can't overstate this: I love this book. I loved the one preceding it, too, but I REALLY loved this book.


Because it was fun all the way down to the deepest levels, with all the eldritch horrors clawing their way into the school, with only a reasonable expectation of 1 in 4 kids making it out alive.

Because it had all the magical charm of Hogwarts without any of the sappy sweet. It was a fight and die with every last bit of your strength, casting the most deadly, mana-consuming spells non-stop whether you're trying to sleep, go to the restroom, trying to eat monster-infested slop, or trying to read in a library that had books that could eat you -- or consume your soul.

So wait, these books are horror? Action? With so much blood and gore slopping down the gymnasium that you can reasonably expect to go on a date AFTER killing hell-worms, and have a picnic in the fleshy ruins?

Well, yes. But it's also TRAINING. Magic use calls the evil. Puberty is when the magic comes strong and when the highest death count happens among the youth. The school DOES make the survival rate BETTER. Nominally. In a walled-off dimension of its own, surrounded by shivering horrors in the void. :)

Suffice to say, this next book takes the next step and shows us what GRADUATION is all about, with some surprising twists, an absolutely jaw-dropping action sequence, and an end that made me scream and want to throw the book across the room.

Ahem. Am I slightly upset? Maybe. But that doesn't diminish my utter enjoyment.

Easily one of the best fantasies I've read this year.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 22, 2021

Jack FourJack Four by Neal Asher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's a pretty easy bet that whenever I see that there's a new Neal Asher book, I'm going to be all over it like Jain tech and the Spatterjay virus with a side-dose of an ancient galactic war machine.

And you know what? My FANBOY REACTIONS ARE UNKILLABLE. -- Kinda like what happens to us when we get infected with the Spatterjay virus or when we get altered by Jain tech.

So here are the killer bits: All you folks who have been curious about Neal Asher's massively wicked future filled with all these nasties doing their things in wonderfully creative combinations but have been too overwhelmed by the sheer weight of everything that came before to actually TRY IT? Well, I'd point to this book.

It's self-contained, has a lot of REALLY interesting worldbuilding, has a great adventure, and if my reaction is anything to go by, it'll make you shiver with pure imaginative delight. I would also point out that there's a LOT of great body-horror stuff in this Hard SF.

We get a taste of everything. The Graveyard, the Prador King, Spatterjay, the AI Polity, and even Masada. But since this is self-contained and shows the worlds AFTER so much has happened, and he's just as clueless as a new reader would be, it hits that sweet spot.

For old fans, it's just like coming home and getting a gorge full of alien parasites. In other words, FUN. :)

Say hello to my little frieeeeend.

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Comfort Me With ApplesComfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a surprising little read. From the very first few paragraphs, I was already hooked by the most horrific concept of all: GATED COMMUNITIES.

*shudder* *double shudder*

The whole Stepford Wife thing made me shiver with fear, too, but it wasn't until the whole (view spoiler) reveal that I really started to freak out. After that, of course, was delicious. As delicious as a certain apple in a certain garden.

The full scope of this Gated Community Horror is nicely mythic, sitting right on the edge of Fae and the Bible, and I thought it was deliciously evil.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Foundation and Earth (Foundation #5)Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-reading the Foundation series has been an interesting trip, with some really great ups and a few downs. But overall, I have to place the original Foundation trilogy in the brilliant category, with Prelude and Foundation and Earth in the above-average category, with Edge being fine and Forward trailing rather far behind. Alas. And I suppose it would be best to ignore the Second Foundation Trilogy that wasn't even penned by Asimov himself.

Here's the strange bit: Foundation and Earth is something of a rather huge departure from the spirit of the Foundation trilogy in that it recognizes many of its faults and proactively attempts to re-structure the course of Human History (as was seen in Edge).

Did I really fall in line with the whole Gaia argument? Well, sort of. It feels like a Deus Ex Machina and way too powerful without all the subtleties that would truly make up such a social structure, but even so, I do like the idea and have liked it by many other authors.

But apparently, even Asimov has his reservations and turns this novel into a rather happy, fun romp through the galaxy in an archeological adventure, diving down memory (and future history) lane, unraveling his own books all the way back to the Robots, the Spacer worlds, and, as the title suggests, Earth.

Every kind of human type gets a say in this adventure, commenting from their own unique viewpoints, as they unravel time. It was really fun and an easy read and it was extremely enjoyable when it comes to nostalgia.

And, honestly, since I read all these books in chronological order this last time, it actually FEELS like a great place to end the series, too.

The first time I read all these, it was by publication order, and that ended with Brin's sendoff of Hari Seldon. I really feel the similarities between F and E and Foundation's Triumph quite strongly, but between the two, I think F and E is the proper send-off.

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Fairhaven Rising (The Saga of Recluce, #22)Fairhaven Rising by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fascinating! It looks like L.E. Modesitt Jr. is breaking out of his mold. Some of these novels are standalone but the majority are duos. So when we get to Beltur and he gets THREE books for himself and the founding of Fairhaven, I'm pretty impressed.

More than that, we get to this book, with Beltur again, but from the PoV and action of the young mage he trains, now 16 years older, when she's required to help out the greater official ruler of this kingdom.

Suffice to say, her adventure is fraught with betrayal, extremely difficult positions, and a war she wants nothing to do with, let alone be the spear of a freaking invasion.

Quite enjoyable. I like the more traditional feel of chronological development. It's unusual to arrive here after so many books that jumped back and forward through the timeline and across the map.

And, as always, the core balance is delightful.

View all my reviews
Foundation's Edge (Foundation #4)Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All in all, Foundation's Edge, the winner of the '83 Hugo, was a perfect example of an author returning to a beloved series at the time of his highest popularity. Look, folks, it's the return of a FOUNDATION story!

And while that was great and all, I have to step back and judge this more on its own merits.

It's an adventure that feels a lot like Second Foundation, only more drawn-out intrigue hinging on another search-for-the-Second-Foundation-under-the-guise-of-looking-for-Earth.

After all, the Earth, if it was indeed the cradle of humanity and human history and the birth of the mechanism OF psychohistory, it's a great place to start, right? Right.

And to be fair, the novel is entertaining enough, but it didn't really reach the level of the original trilogy. Good, but not absolutely fantastic. Why? Mainly because I was sus about the whole Gaia sequence. I mean, it follows and is followed by the Second Foundation Trilogy which runs with some of these ideas, especially in Foundation's Triumph, as a prequel, but overall I'm stuck looking at it like it might be one of those Deus Ex Machina events. Sure, a lot of time is spent setting it up, but it still feels meh. I love the basic idea, but I keep thinking it could have been so much greater, lush, and fascinating.

I'm imposing my own desires upon the work. I know this. But I still wish for things that didn't happen. Alas.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 15, 2021

The Mage-Fire War (The Saga of Recluce, #21)The Mage-Fire War by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very much like the rest of the fantasy series, this one continues the close-cropped saga of Beltur and his investment in making Haven, soon to be renamed Fairhaven, into a safe and secure place for outcasts like himself.

You know, welcoming.

Of course, it's locked on a road between two nations that think it's their own stomping ground.

Like many of these enjoyable books, this one sings with to some rather fascinating mage-and-warrior battles with detailed tactics and strategy.

There's nothing truly new here, but I frankly don't care. I read these for the sheer enjoyment of them and whatever new stuff I learn goes right into the enormous tapestry of this world's history. It's quite impressive in its way.

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Elder RaceElder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At first, I had the impression that I was reading something from Steven Brust, which, I should mention, is not a bad thing at all.

But this tale was much more about Clarke's First Law and with a cool anthropology twist and an old school sword and sorcery couched firmly, and formally, in a transhumanist long-term space-colony context.

Most of those older fantasies I read usually started on the fantasy side and gradually let in the SF. This one started from the opposite direction. So that's cool.

And another interesting addition is the whole technological correction of depression. :) I'm a big fan of certain kinds of representation, and this one kicks it.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Second Foundation (Foundation #3)Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 11/13/21:

Great mystery, lots of cat and mouse, and subterfuge.

And, of course, there is the grand attempt to put the proto-empire back together after the Mule (Humpty-Dumpty) had shattered it. The Foundation is cocky. So sure of itself. And yet… the math must rule.

So classic.

Original Review:

I'm still amazed at how well this and the other two books in the trilogy holds up. It's easy to let little things go like all the focus on Atomic Reactors when they've still got FTL. We could replace one technology with another and still have the same core story shine.

And it really shines.

Yes, SF has had tons of telepathic SOBs, but I still count the Mule as one of the most savvy and intelligent dictators to ever topple a galactic empire. The first half of this book deals entirely with him and his long quest to hunt down the Second Foundation. It is an obsession with him.

And all the while? Yeah, the Second Foundation remains elusive and scarily effective, eventually trapping and defeating the Mule with wit and brilliant conversations and logical traps that are brilliant. I can't recommend this series more. The core stories are still as sharp as ever, even if we as readers are jaded by 60 years of authors riding on Asimov's coattails. :)

The second portion of this novel was slightly more special to me, oddly enough, and no matter how much I loved the Mule, I really enjoyed the First Foundation hunting for the Second Foundation even more. The characters involved in it were wonderful.

The First Foundation always seems to get things wrong, but this the same as usual. :) Still, the surprise at the end stayed with me after 30 years between readings and still made me smile after my second reading, so that *is* a very good sign, is it not? :)

Yes, this trilogy still remains in my top 10 list of (single books or trilogies) out of all the books I've ever read. :) Great stuff.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 12, 2021

Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2)Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 11/12/21:

It never ceases to amaze me how interesting this tale is. Hi-tech galactic empire meets the History of the Fall of the Roman Empire meets a mutant.


Where's Professor X!?

But the best part is just how brainy it is. Classic for the win.

Original Review:

Split into two stories instead of many like the first book, this one feels a lot more streamlined and the Foundation has met two of its greatest foes.

One of which was expected, and one that wasn't.

The path back to stable galactic civilization is a tortuous one. The foundation always knew that it would one day have to face the Empire, and it did, and that story was very interesting.

But the Mule?

Well, he's just fascinating. And iconic. And perhaps a bit overdone ever since then, because, let's face it, we love mutants with mighty mental powers, don't we? Grasp the date. 1951. This isn't a comic book, either. Yes, sure, there's the Lensman and others, but what we've got here is the grand social tide set against the powers of a single individual. The very thing that Hari Seldon's math couldn't account for. And now, ashes.

What an awesome reversal! One that's both chilling and affirming at the same time, playing to our prejudices that we as individuals matter, while also showing the grand destruction that comes with it.

I'm revising the novel upwards. It was great fun and still a part of the grand trilogy. I don't know why I thought it was anything less than fantastic. :)

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Foundation (Foundation, #1)Foundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 11/11/21:

Comparing this to the prequels, indeed, any of the prequels, only makes THIS book shine like a diamond.

In the last few days, I read the Prelude, Forward, and the Second Foundation trilogy to get my chronological read-through. I thought it might have been fun.

But honestly? None of them hold up nearly as well as this. The economy of style, the broad sweep, the razor-sharp scope all builds a full universe with very few words -- simply outshining the rest.

Props where props are due.

There is a good reason why it's regarded as one of the best SF.

Original Review:

From my first reading of this Foundation Trilogy when I was fourteen to my latest reading today, I still put these in my top ten books of all time. No question.


So many reasons. And even though the characters and the short-story-like presentation of the different times are quite fine and memorable, it isn't these that I point to.

It's the ideas.
It's also how our history is writ large as SF.

It's the social exploration. It's the re-establishment of civilization, one building block at a time. It's the scary devolvement of all civilization, too. All dystopia and the glimmer of optimism. It's a grand slide and a hardscrabble in a far-future galactic civilization that might as well be us in a mirror.

I've since read Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and I've read about the ancient history of India's economic empire around 5 thousand years ago, mainly accomplished peacefully and with great demand, eventually leading to a grand civilization.

Both of these histories played a huge part in Asimov's imagining of his empire, but it's mostly the Roman Empire's history that this book emulates, from the ousting of its malcontents, the fracturing of the provinces, the devolvement of knowledge and learning into dogma and religious pomp.

Asimov curtails the worse parts of the Roman empire by having the Foundation eventually focus upon economics as a last-ditch stopping point before outright violence overwhelms the rest of the galaxy.

It's not a perfect solution, but this is merely the first of three novels that absolutely need to be read together. :)

I'm still absolutely amazed that history is retold so convincingly and grandly as an epic SF with such clear and sharp prose.

Asimov has always been known as a wonderful teacher. Even his most entertaining and important works, such as this, always remain a testament to his own learning and his absolute insistence on making everything perfectly understood to his audience.

The novel is ambitious, wide-sweeping, and terrifying. It's honestly mind-blowing, taken together with the other two, just how much information and development and implications are poured out onto the page. :)

If this is any indication, I think we're all doomed to repeat our History. :)

Of course, with all the things we know now, I'd have loved to see how Asimov would have written this today. :)

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Foundation's Triumph (Second Foundation Trilogy #3)Foundation's Triumph by David Brin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm of two minds on this book as well. If I were to only judge it within the framework of the Foundation series that Asimov wrote, it would probably drive me nuts. But judging it based on the fundamentals that Benford and Bear wrote about in the Second Foundation Trilogy books, with all the simulated minds, the many robots, their factions, and the hint that Chaos really would be a character, itself, then this book is actually rather interesting.

It still doesn't do it for me in Asimov's universe, despite the inclusion of Hari Seldon, Dors, and a very, very old robot. If it had been an original novel written for its own sake, released from the constraints of ALL other works, then I honestly think it would have been pretty great.

A point in its favor: massive galactic empire being overwhelmed by waves of telepathic machines destroying organics. This kind of thing always gives me a thrill. Of course, the theme is fairly common, but the real joy comes from the way it is developed. And Brin has a cool style.

But constrained as this is, this got somewhat hard to get through, hurting my enjoyment of Asimov's originals while making me annoyed because I almost always enjoyed Brin's work.

Hence, conflicted.

Even so, there were a number of cool bits, so it wasn't a complete wash.

Would I recommend Foundation fans to read this secondary trilogy? Nah. Not really. Not unless you REALLY want a dilution of great psychohistorian ideas and Robots.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The Fall of Babel (The Books of Babel, #4)The Fall of Babel by Josiah Bancroft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, now! That ending was something else!

From the very beginning of this series, I was always pretty thrilled that we had something so grounded and fantastical at the same time -- part steampunk, part dystopia fantasy, part swashbuckling, part desperate romance.

So much happened. So many changes to the characters. And by the time we get to book 4, having undergone so many massive reveals as to the nature of Babel, the towering tower of a city, its makers, and the people who supported it, it kinda felt like there was nothing else that could have surprised me.

I was wrong.

No spoilers, but this adventure that gave us more Senlin and a great deal of Adam and others as well, is satisfying in a way that all huge epic fantasies can be. If you've loved the series so far, you will definitely love this as well.

It's big.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Foundation's Fear (Second Foundation Trilogy #1)Foundation's Fear by Gregory Benford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm of two minds on this book. If it had been a regular SF without following the dictates of someone else's worldbuilding, Asimov, or otherwise, it probably would have been a pretty interesting novel.

All on its own, it deftly handles many questions of human consciousness, from alien internets (at the time when we were just spreading our own internet), simulations of consciousness within computer systems, sharing consciousness with our close cousins (apes, through sim-nets), and the problem of consciousness with AIs.

It definitely has an older SF feel and is fun just for the science bits.

The story, however, is all tied up in knots around Hari Seldon, of Asimov's creation, and he is supposed to be creating the Prime Radiant and fulfilling the full promise of what the Foundation stands for -- reducing the dark age of the upcoming fall of the Galactic Empire.

All these disparate hypotheses and mix of real-science constraints that would have made up a tighter Prime Radiant might have been a great addition to the overall Foundation story -- IF it had been written better.

As it is, the novel kind of rambles, spending too much time on relatively unimportant characters or sims, overstays its welcome, and often just gets bogged down in half-formed nonsense that detracted from the actual decent science. It could have been half the size, keeping only the good shit, and I would have been really happy with getting a peek at Hari's middle years and hard work.

As it is here, I'm wondering why I wasted so much of my time when I already HAD a pretty good idea of what Psychohistory already WAS.


View all my reviews
NoorNoor by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy Afrofuturism novels mainly for the grand scope of differences it offers us readers, subverting expectations and combining very different idea-points. In other words, a lot of them give us some great worldbuilding.

Disability, redefining yourself, transhumanism, and becoming a cyborg in a culture, or at least surrounding culture, that goes all superstitious and crappy on you? Check. Being a victim of circumstance but not willing to bow down to your culture's expectations? Check.

Give us some wonderful energy-tech, an adventure, and a light-touch romance between a herder and a cyborg girl, and the novel ran pretty smoothly for me. The subtext is, of course, quite easy to follow. It's not just being wired differently from your people, but having to deal with a mash of conflicting worlds, too. Read into it whatever you like, but it's pretty universal.

I'm glad I got to read this.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 5, 2021

Forward the Foundation (Foundation: Prequel #2)Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I would recommend this one only for completionist reasons, but for the time, most people read this for nostalgia for the author. Asimov had just died, and Foundation was in our blood.

At least it was for me. I lived and breathed all the wonderful ideas from the original trilogy and I had really liked the sequels and then the prequels came along and I was all, Hari Seldon, Hari Seldon. I had the math in my blood. I loved Sociology because of what Asimov taught me. It was sweet.

But honestly, this brief overview of Hari's life and as he aged was more of a fan service thing than a particularly brilliant novel. The whole thug/garden thing was okay. Just okay. The later bits were spent mostly feeling funding woes or departmental setbacks. Good if you just want to focus on Hari, but I was slightly disappointed. I probably would have given it a higher rating when I read it the first time.

Still, if I'm just going to be serious about this, I'd put this firmly in the average category. And that's OKAY. I like how some of the elements are twisted into a fresher, more interesting way in the new TV show.

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Prelude to FoundationPrelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being perfectly thrilled by the re-imagining of the Foundation series on TV, being one that flatters and holds the spirit of the original stories, I was utterly compelled to re-read the entire series, including the Second Foundation trilogy by other authors, in chronological order.

This was, fortunately, an easy decision. I loved the series when I first read them, years ago. Indeed, the original trilogy of Foundation was one of the cornerstones of my love of SF. So jumping in like this just required that one tiny push.

First of all, I should mention that Prelude to Foundation is an easygoing adventure-type novel that is utter candy. It gives us the earliest foundation of Hari Seldon's Psychohistory.

Is it truly important to read in order to enjoy the original trilogy? Nope. Does it help fill in tons of gaps and expand a grand story in a useful and entertaining prequel? Yes. And it also serves as a pretty awesome bridge to Asimov's other novels, from the Robot stories, including the Robot Novels, Empire novels, and various short stories. It is a lynchpin for anyone interested in enjoying the broad, broad future history.

But is it necessary? No. After all, it was the sixth book written in the Foundation universe. If you know the secrets of the Foundation, this will merely broaden your enjoyment. If you have never read the original classics, I don't know if this would be the truly proper place to begin them.

But what do I know? Chronological DOES have its place in the universe. Just check the math.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Outcasts of Order (The Saga of Recluce, #20)Outcasts of Order by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All in all, I read these Recluse novels for one main reason. They're therapeutic. The main characters are good people, balanced, and just trying to do the best they can in difficult situations. It's a wonderful contrast to most of the fantasy I read.

This is no different. It may not be original at this point, having had the same kind of plot for most of these books, but the slowness of the pace and the in-depth everyday travails of survival WITH magic, love, and even a little mystery makes it all worthwhile.

From here, the second novel in a rare trilogy in the series, we spend more and more time in the growing and the journey and less with the usual subplot of war. I enjoyed it. At this point, it's almost always like coming home to your most comfy chair, snuggling up with tea, and listening to the fire.

I never imagined I'd feel this way from when I read the first book. But if I read it again, today, I'd probably feel just as warm and fuzzy. :)

View all my reviews