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Monday, May 23, 2022

The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons, #1)The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a very pleasant surprise.

I fully expected a modern epic fantasy, but what I hoped for, based on a few recommendations, was something closer to the feel and complexity of, say, WoT or Name of the Wind, with characters I could love on the same level. I'm happy to say that while I'm not AS invested in these characters, I'm pretty close.

So much happens. I think it was wonderful.

There's no good way to describe this because it is rich with characters and worldbuilding, but I can say, with utter pleasure, that there are immortals, gods, dragons, demons, the afterlife, and enough corrupt politics and seedy empire shit to thrill a certain kind of reader.

I mean those readers who love huge, complicated tales that begin at the lowest rung and have enough reveals and twists to keep you spinning like a top only to wind up AT the top, looking down, and freaking out because while it may appear that it seems like a standard plot, the journey is far from it.

So, again, I have to underscore the fact that I think this is pretty damn wonderful. I had a great time and it wasn't just pure popcorn. It had real meat to it. And I really hated some of these people, too. Their deaths were very satisfying.

I can't wait to keep reading on!

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Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Scourge  (Eden's Gate #7)The Scourge by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm still enjoying this endless adventure. We spend a lot of time behind enemy orc lines and getting that good ole leveling progression and I love it all.

Mind you, I don't read this for edification. I read it for pure popcorn pleasure. And since old RPG games are a pleasure, you can count on the fact that I'm eating popcorn.

Boom. Lots of boom. Sneaking around, taking care of orc babies, lots of extra booming, and disrupting the entire Scourage is all what this is about.

I can and have spent countless hours enjoying these LitRPG novels. I thought I'd look down on them, but they do seem to be a guilty pleasure. Some are better than others, of course, but this is solid.


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Friday, May 20, 2022

The Ascent  (Eden's Gate #6)The Ascent by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let's get that path of the mage underway for real, Gunner.

Yes, well, this LitRPG is more of the same. If you've been liking the adventure before, you'll like it now. Slow progressions, bigger stakes, and we even have a save-the-princess trope.

Awwwww.

All joking aside, it's still fun and mindless, too. :)

(That's a good thing when you want a mood-lifter.)

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The Omen (Eden's Gate #5)The Omen by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Add a bunch of fun but standard quest objectives to some spooky death and destruction prophecies, mix it together with LitRPG goodness, and it won't scream original.

But then, all LitRPG stuff is literally riffing off generations of RPG games that literally ripped off fantasies who ripped off myths, so I really can't be bothered to care whether any of this is original. All I care about is whether I'm invested enough in the character that I want to see him level up after many brutal sessions and quests. I also want to see him get strong with his kitty. So that being said, BRING IT ALL ON.

Still having fun. That's what matters. :)

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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Secondhand Souls (Grim Reaper, #2)Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I don't think this was quite as funny as the first book, A Dirty Job, I did still have a lot of fun with it.

Charlie is still around, folks. Kinda around. I mean, when he doesn't have a boner, he's around. Later on, that little problem gets fixed. And in the meantime, he's not doing his REAL job. You know, collecting souls that get sucked up into objects. That little negligence will never come to bite him in the ass... no. Definitely not.

I had a good time. I'm totally down for reading all his works, now.


And for those of you who know what I mean, I definitely think that method of suicide prevention has a lot of promise.





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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Contact Harvest (Halo, #5)Contact Harvest by Joseph Staten
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Honestly, I just didn't get into it. I was bored. I played the games and the one where we're actually ON Harvest was about 40 times more exciting than this book.

Other people might get more mileage out of it, of course. I missed the slow reveals and worldbuilding, the truly fascinating characters. Sadly, this was just pretty much a long, long sequence of jarheads doing jarhead things. It's pretty much all that I hate about MilSF. All Milspeak, go go go, little characterization, less worldbuilding. For those of you who like that kind of thing, I welcome you to it. For uberfans of the series, maybe this ticks your completionist boxes.

Me? I prefer well-rounded fiction with a little (or a lot) of everything.

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A Dirty Job (Grim Reaper, #1)A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This happened to be exactly what I needed. This is a humorous fantasy that combines neato horror elements in all the most absurd ways.

Everyman Charlie, together with his cute-as-a-button baby girl, thinks he's the personification of Death.

Of course, the big, funny, spoilery bit that is the wonderful cover of this book should not be overlooked. That's what's really funny about all this. The poor guy is just not up to the job. And then there are the hellhounds.

The tweaks, the auto-insults, the truly absurd situations, people, and monsters he gets involved with are all topped with some of the best constantly-coming zingers that I've read in years.

I know that humor is a very subjective thing, but this one constantly builds and builds upon itself. It starts out smirkworthy, but as it keeps adding to itself, I was boiled alive in laughter.


Yes, this is my first Christopher Moore. I can't believe I've never tried him before. I'm SO glad I have. These days need a great dose of funny.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

ElektraElektra by Jennifer Saint
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was looking forward to this because I've read the Sophocles and am familiar with the whole Freudian aspect from within Psychology and frankly, it was just nicely MESSED up as a tragedy.

So why didn't I fall in love with this particular book?

It was competent enough, and as I was reading it, at least through the halfway point, I kept thinking it was OKAY, assiduously so, but something was bothering me. The women who are left behind are literally left behind the biggest, most exciting battle of Greek antiquity. Troy. For over a decade. All the action takes place elsewhere, and all we have to go on here is a tragedy before papa goes off to lead the army of the Greeks, the tragedy caused by the same jerk, and we're pretty much stuck in the heads of those who were left behind.

Mind you, this is a messed up tragedy that even gets the furies involved, but most of that is AFTER the war is won.

In this, it's mostly a whimper and daddy worship and mommy hating her husband and taking a lover and then going "Oh, My" when crap hits the fan. And then we have some of the OTHER more memorable female characters from across Greece, on the other side of the war, to give a counterpoint, but it's weird and hardly necessary at all except to bring in the action that has been so missing from the primary tale.

So here I am, wondering what the hell is the point. Except for a sequence that could have been finished in a hundred pages, all the exciting stuff is off-page and I frankly kinda hated every single character in the book.

It's kinda sad, but it's true. Pity can only take me so far. A good tragedy should also make us CARE about the victims. The original play was better.

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Sunday, May 15, 2022

Hidden (Alex Verus, #5)Hidden by Benedict Jacka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 5-15/22:

Still as strong as I remember. Maybe slightly more so, considering what I know will happen later. :)

One piece at a time, right?


Original Review:

This is one of those rare series that only seems to get stronger the further you get. If I'm completely honest with myself, I think it might be a function of my previous investment, but it doesn't feel that way.

So, Verus is still sliding, but the hints of a possibly heroic character change is still on the table, even if he hasn't quite picked it up. I don't think it really counts that he's only being heroic for those that he considers his friends, but at least he's doing it even when said friend is being an asshat.

I like Anne. I didn't really like her back in book 3, but she's really grown on me through this book. It helps to actually know her history, I suppose, and the fact this novel is all really about her and Verus makes it super easy.

These books are a delight to read mainly because they go down as smooth as silk, the magic is fascinating, and the characters equally so. Evil is complicated, as is good, but more than anything, these novels devote a lot of space to asking some rather hard questions about human nature. They're not just forgettable entertainment, anymore.

So who's hidden? Our dark side.

Gotta love it.

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Empress of EternityEmpress of Eternity by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm aiming for a 3.5 for this one, rounded down.

So here's what I like: all the references to the Aesir and the rainbow bridge, as done as a pure SF and not comic-booky. I also liked the idea of three different time periods eventually converging.

But ideas don't make the entire novel, unfortunately. Exploring the 2000-mile-long unbreakable canal on a far-future Earth SHOULD have been a bit more interesting, all told, and it's only as good as the characters who explore them. In this case, I may not have been very interested in any character. And that sucks. I found myself going to lunch and dinner dates in the book and began to wonder if that was what this book was really all about and shook my head.

Okay then. The book was okay and it had a pretty fun end but it could have been better.

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Saturday, May 14, 2022

Lord of Chaos (The Wheel of Time, #6)Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every time I read this book, and this is the fourth time now, I read it with a very careful eye for what will soon come. All the foreshadowing, the testing, the threat of the Aes Sedai, the posturing, I keep DREADING what will come. Hell, all the things that happened in book 5 were making me think of what would happen in book 6.

What am I going on about? Just this: the character progressions. The events that would reshape the world. The sheer f**king arrogance of so many people.

What really destroyed me were all the sweet, awesomely wholesome moments with Min as she pursued a happy but clueless Rand. This kind of thing, along with all the other kinds of arrogant women pursuing him for other reasons, just destroyed me. Because I knew. I knew what was coming next -- and what will come next after this book.

Trust. What a horrible thing to lose.


Oh, all this is about Rand. I have PLENTY to say about all the other characters, too, but mostly I'm just impressed with Egwene, annoyed with Nynaeve, laughing my ass off about everything Matt steps in, and feeling sorry for Perrin in that head-spinning marriage of his. But I'll leave it at that. Egwene had some very satisfying scenes and development, especially as a spoilery status bit I won't mention, but all-in-all, I think this book was mostly about Rand's development.

Did I laugh and cry and whoop and feel very violent at Dumai Wells? Yes. A thousand times yes. It is one of those fantasy battles that still sit higher than almost any that I've ever read. I'm still shaking after the end of it. Yes. A book gave me PTSD. Or close enough.



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Thursday, May 12, 2022

PlaybackPlayback by Raymond Chandler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, the final Chandler novel. Not quite as lyrically abusive as the others, I must say. The others were gorgeous and grotesque.

This one... felt like a goodbye of sorts. And maybe that was for the best, considering that it was his last.

Still, it was a decent mystery and had some good bits. I mean, it was still a Chandler, and I think I'll always be a Chandler fan, now. :)

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

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

Like the first two novels in this trilogy, I wanted to like it more than I did.

I tend to give books like these the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because as long as the idea stage is strong, then at least there's something to hold onto when either the characters or the plot derails a bit.

In this case, it's really a novel about fascists dressed up in capitalist clothing. The corporation wars themselves are really just uploaded minds in robot waldos and AIs fighting over caches of resources. And since the old humans, making it so far into the future, tend to carry a lot of their old, old baggage, it's all kinda messed up.

War ensues, some characters held up okay, others were just nasty to behold, and by the time the action gets going, I didn't really care for anyone in particular except, maybe, the colonized folk-AI. I mean, seriously. Damn capitalistic colonizers are always damn jerks, right?

That being said, the novel is fine. Not brilliant, but okay.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Poodle SpringsPoodle Springs by Robert B. Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This little gem of a posthumous mystery with the classic man who will always be himself, Marlowe, was bittersweet -- maybe a bit more sweet -- Noir novel. At least, it was sweeter than one would expect out of one of these.

Marlowe got married to a rich woman, you know. But that kind of life doesn't sit too well with him even if he loves her. Enter a cast of dames and broads, bigamists and protective daddies, and a bunch of bastard cops that would prefer to bust chops and chins over listening to a guy.

In other words, it's pretty much standard for this kind of novel. There were a couple of good lines but mostly this novel rode off the formula and the kind of love we have for the man.

Not bad but not briliant.

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Insurgence (The Corporation Wars, #2)Insurgence by Ken MacLeod
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So. While I do enjoy a 1k year into the future hop where digital minds are taken out of storage to fight in robot drone bodies amongst a dystopian AI corporation hellscape, I found that I liked the IDEA of this novel more than the actual execution.

Too much padding, perhaps. And when it comes to the actual war, it was kinda fuddled and lacking an extended plot that might have grabbed me. It's similar to an Iain M. Banks or a Neal Asher in the idea bits, but this one just didn't kick as those had.

That being said, it's still a fairly interesting look at a post-singularity (without actually being a singularity) future SF.

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Monday, May 9, 2022

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1)A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What can I say? I loved the first half, was meh about the second?

Here's the deal: the first half spoke to me on a very deep personal level. It was basically written for INFPs like me. I was there, there, there the entire time. As long as the journey a solo one, I was pretty much entirely delighted.

I SHOULD have liked the friendship between the titular monk and robot. It was slow, introspective, and should have given me a tidbit or two of hard-won wisdom or whatnot, but to be honest, I was bored. Hey look what I can teach you, blah, blah, don't we have some unique perspectives, blah, blah and while I SHOULD have been all over that like a fly on shit, I wasn't.

It could have been just me at this point in my life, of course, and maybe the so-called wisdom might actually help someone out there, but it wasn't me. I've read too much. Maybe it was weaksauce. Mileage may vary.



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Ghosts of Onyx (Halo, #4)Ghosts of Onyx by Eric S. Nylund
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was never one to buy into franchise SF writing although I've been known to pick up a book or fourteen here and there. I just always considered original stories by authors to be *better*.

Has this changed after reading Halo book 4? No. But I will admit that I do have a fondness for the shared worldbuilding team effort, and the care that was put into broadening the history, locations, and cast. The writing is fine and the action is VERY much a MilSF dream.

So?

Spartans are doing what Sparta did. Continuing the cycle of abuse for a Grand Cause and now there's a new generation of modded humans in power armor. The broken are thrown out, as usual.

Almost everything else is action, action, action. Pew pew.

If that's what you like, then this is definitely a primo book for you. Me, I like plot objectives to be more than military objectives, but that's just me. It isn't BAD. If you're a fan of the video game or any of the other franchise opportunities, I'm sure you'll like this one.

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Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Arena (Eden's Gate #4)The Arena by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honestly, unlike most of the reviewers for this book, I'm not at all unhappy with this tale.

It ISN'T a tale for the ages.

It is, however, a pretty standard LitRPG fare with tricksy thieves, tricksy nobles, and foolish PCs. The fun part is, as always, in the journey, the leveling up, the stupid decisions, and how we get out of the problem.

The groanworthy part is, of course, the drug addiction bit. My eyes did roll a bit. But sometimes we need stupid characters to do stupid things and since this is a LitRPG with respawning fun built right in, it's not like the consequences are forever. For me, however, I was looking at the costs in both gold and on his psyche and I was like... damn.

I'll just say it again, the rest of the book was fun, an easy devour.



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Saturday, May 7, 2022

The Sands (Eden's Gate #3)The Sands by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's something about LitRPG that just soothes the hell out of me. Light adventure, the joy of leveling, the hijinks of storytelling and reversals, and above all, LOOT. It's just so comforting.

And sitting at about level 15, stretching one's wings, getting enslaved, running around with murderers... well, it's all fun in the game. Right? Right?

Well... yeah. It is. Especially when you can turn around and betray the hell out of them or other PvP types. :)

Solid. Fun.

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Ready Player Two (Ready Player One, #2)Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I come to this sequel with a trepidatious heart because so many people who were big fans of the first book came away hugely disappointed with the second. I even postponed my read because I didn't want a downer in my life.

I think, maybe, I should have just listened to myself. Just judge the book on its own merits.


If I had, I'd probably have been surprised by how much fun I had. Yes, fun. I mean, seriously, the titles are riffs on COMPUTER GAME STUFF. Should we be at all surprised if both books read like computer games within computer games, from the VR rigs to the virtual worlds to the society that is so bummed out that it feels like the only way out is through escapism? Seriously? So, YEAH, I get my full-on LitRPG vibes from one of the first to do LitRPG well and it's a bit more vast than the standard LitRPG fare. Plus, it has all the 80's nostalgia you might expect from RPO even if it's not quite as fun as the first.

So, here's the nitty-gritty. I didn't like the choice of going back to all the John Hughes movies when there are still many other great things in the '80s he COULD have gone back to. It wasn't horrible by a long shot, however. When he went the way of Prince, I was pretty much eeeeeehhhhhh until the final battle and that was freaking awesome so I gave it a pass for sheer goofy weirdness. When we went to the First Age of Arda, for all us Tolkien fans, I was TOTALLY DOWN FOR THIS RIDE and I totally geeked out when we got to play as Beren and Luthien. It's not even all that '80s and I didn't care. It was cool.

As for Wade, the character, he was the same dipshit he was in the first book. Money just makes a jerk MORE of a jerk. I wasn't surprised by anything he did and no one reading this ought to be, either. That's not the point. The point is we get to play games and have huge stakes and it lives up to that hype.

So, was there anything else I had an issue with?

Well, yeah, there was, but it's not like it's a deal-breaker. It just means it was more of the usual. Fans of the genre will know what I mean if I mention .Hack or Sword Art Online. Just add a little H.A.L. or the girl from the Umbrella Corp and a 12 hour or die quest and I've basically summed up the book.

Did I mention it isn't a deal-breaker? Just because it's using an old plot theme that has been done a million times and is absolutely cliche in LitRPG now doesn't mean it isn't fun. It absolutely is. Originality is not the end-game, here.

Nostalgia is.

And it succeeds on this level.

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Friday, May 6, 2022

The Sparrow (Eden's Gate #2)The Sparrow by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

LitRPG goodness. You either know and love it or you don't.

In my case, this is a pretty faithful representation of the Elder Scrolls worldbuilding, letting us enjoy a quite varied and random skillset whenever we like. It's all good.

The second book is interesting because we get to do a little Riften action with the Nightingales. Or rather, Sparrow. :) I loved the storylines there and here.

Not high literature by any stretch, it's still very enjoyable for us little niche creatures. :)

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Thursday, May 5, 2022

The Magic MountainThe Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

*slow blink*

So.

If I were to shower the author with all the proper accolades, I'd moan over the other good literature with the full expectation that this work, as many other reviewers have noted, was also something special.

Indeed, I cracked it open, wanting to turn this into a monumental -- whatever -- that was brimming with ideas and a vast mountainous slowness of a vast cosmic bubble that simultaneously satirized and soothed the pre-WWI European soul.

But I was left cold.

Indeed, not for the whole of it, though. I enjoyed the beginning mostly because of the slow setup and the idea that I, as well as the MC, were about to be put in a cold pot and slowly boiled alive. It was all there. It's a sanitorium for the rich or at least the comfortably independent, suckering all the poor souls into a life-long visit banking on histrionics, genuine illnesses, hypochondriacs, and deep ennui.

But at least it's in the mountains. And it's isolated. And the doctor really cares for you. And it's not like that's the entire novel, either. We have a truly introverted mindset and a kind of wish-fulfillment and a wandering stream of ideas that feed off of all those other insular ideas until they all create a huge ball of low-key insanity that even sane people, in their winking and playing along, eventually fall.


I wanted to like this more. I really did. But at a certain point, it was like I was reading a novel that highlighted all the old people I've ever known who could never talk about anything but their ailments and their tight little bundle of a life that never, ever got pierced by the outside.

Sure, it sounds like pre-WWI Europe and its growing insanity, but it feels very much like the low-grade fever dreams that it described, too, in glorious detail. I was frankly bored by the mediocrity of the people and their little obsessions and even for someone who is really into big worldbuilding sessions in fantasy and SF, I could barely recognize these people's humanity. Yes, the worldbuilding in Magic Mountain was too unbelievable.

Silly me, I know it USED to be, but trying to convince me, in my heart of hearts, is tantamount to believing I can fly if I WISH it hard enough.

So, I call this a failure of my imagination. Now, I better got take my temperature for the fourth time today.





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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Seasonal Fears (Alchemical Journeys, #2)Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really should say that I love this at the same level I loved Middlegame, the previous book. I should say that, but I may be a Summer Child. Seasonal Fears might outdo the other in my heart.

The sharp characterizations, the deeply mythological feel, the worldbuilding (including the children's books by Baker (also McGuire)), and the freakishly delicious tale all wrap me up in a warm, warm blanket of goodness and kept me excited from the first to the last page.

Mel and Harry were SO DELIGHTFUL. Their love story was not only uncomplicated and pure and trusting and heartbreaking -- it was also extremely heartwarming. I don't see many books with two kids who are this pure and courageous and devoted to one another.

Some people might think that would make for a boring book, but McGuire kills it. After all, she really knows how to torture her characters. Fire and Ice, baby. Fire and Ice. And on top of that, I'm a sucker for road trip books. Add the good, easy stuff together, add a little scale that might recall what happened in Middlegame, and know that in this game, everyone dies... and I just lose it. I lost it. I kept tearing up and freaking out and I was invested enough for three books.

So yeah. I may love this book. Never a dull moment and even though it was really rough on me, I loved seeing these wholesome kids do their thing.

*** oh yeah, and we do say hi to a few friends ***



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Monday, May 2, 2022

The Reborn (Eden's Gate #1)The Reborn by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm tolerant of most LitRPG books because they almost always let me roll about in the RPG adventure stuff like a dog rolls in leaves. It smells great, it's fun, and it's super comfortable.

This one is no different. The best parts are the adventuresome parts, leveling up, killing baddies, the loot, and even the far-off hope that this boy will find his girlfriend across a wide, wide electronic realm.

The other bits never sit right with me -- the bits that try to tie these massive virtual realms to the Earth in any significant way. This particular SF tie-in was a bit bad. Not bad as in I can't read this anymore, but as bad as it shouldn't have tried to explain anything at all kind of bad. The handwavium would have been just fine. The whole idea that a senator could have the power to convince the whole world to turn off all these devices, ne, ALL devices across the world, or that the loss of computational power wouldn't have been felt right away in the game is absurd. lol

If I ignore the real-world stuff, however, the book was fun. :) Early days, low-level adventures.

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Sunday, May 1, 2022

The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, #5)The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's really not much to say that isn't a gushing OMG about the whole worldbuilding of the WoT series at this point.

And since I've read some of these books multiple times and love them even more every time I do, it's not hard to guess my reaction to the text, the foreshadowing of the text, or the anticipation of even MORE tragedy to come.

I tear up when thinking about everything now. That's how invested I am. Rand? Yes. Moraine? Yes. Aviendha? Yes. Nynaeve? Yes.

MATT? Yes.

Even the lesser sections with Luca are fun. The dreaming is often hilarious. But when a collar gets involved? PRECIOUS.

But Rand? He's crazy. A wool-herding wetlander thinking he's got a 3000-year-old madman in his head lamenting for all the family he's killed, 24/7, while dancing around with a Weave-destroying time-reversing laser gun not caring who gets killed even while he thinks about everyone who's already been killed? He's NUTS. An enraged baby with a bazooka.

Still, reading this book makes me pause, big time. The expansive story keeps getting bigger and I keep getting more invested in it. It's almost like I'm going a bit mad, myself.

Not as mad as I'll get later, mind you, but Rand is a rather bad influence on me. It's almost like I've got the Machin Shin inside me. *shiver*

LOVING this.

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Friday, April 29, 2022

HamletHamlet by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've probably seen this live 3 times, seen several movie versions including Mel Gibson (oddly enough, the most memorable for me, being the first,) and I've read the play going on what, 5 times now?

The play is not a question of either suicide or futility for me. I'm right there in the heart of it, fighting depression with seeming madness and a fistful of righteous anger and I'm even expressing the utmost futility of language, itself, with the master of the English language, when I scream to the heavens, "Words! Words! Words!"

I freak out with the martial aspect, I cry with the conflict of love and futility and rage, and I laugh at the horribly nasty trick with the traveling troupe.

I admit this is one of my absolute favorite plays.

So here's the weird bit. My 9-year-old wanted to read Shakespeare instead of a more age-appropriate book, and I looked at her like she was MAD. I told her that everyone dies a horrible death. She says, COOL. I say it's all about REVENGE and Suicide/Murder and she says, COOL.

And then I remembered when I was nine and I had to give the hell up. OF COURSE I DID.

And we read it together, or rather, I performed with voices and she did the easy parts and we watched one of the movies to help us along and in general I think we had a great time. I think nothing says bonding better than revenge. At the very least, she got to see her daddy make an utter fool of himself.

Oohh! A palpable hit!



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Eyes of the Void (The Final Architecture, #2)Eyes of the Void by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Big scope space opera written by one of my favorite modern authors -- and he is doing a fantastic job yet again.

The first book laid out a great number of weird and fascinating alien species with humans just being one of many, combined with gigantic Architects that go about plopping into real space to completely transform planets into weird sculptures, much to the mind-blowing terror of the millions of people or intelligent species living there.

We followed the crew of the salvage ship Vulture God and barely scraped by one such horrifying encounter with a reveal that the big bad is not, indeed, the Architects, but something else that drove them.

And then there are the Originators, another huge mystery that wraps up all the intelligent species in yet another conundrum.

Of course, that hardly describes the USUAL and NORMAL problems of opportunistic species taking advantage of the chaos to start interstellar wars and the like, but here we are.


And nothing quite beats the terrified scrambling of so many intelligent species with all the collateral damage that implies. It makes for a truly excellent space opera. I look forward to following all these, my favorite characters from the Vulture God and their quest to survive. :)




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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

A Sh*tload of Crazy Powers (Frost Files #4)A Sh*tload of Crazy Powers by Jackson Ford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great return to the Teagan's snark and a wonderfully wild ride in the China Shop.

Honestly, so much happens in these books, it's not worth it to simply say that she has TK and works in a heavily black-ops organization or that as she continues to level up her mind-moving powers, it sometimes feels like ten steps backward.

Indeed, now that we're 4 books in, I'm frankly amazed at how much has happened. It has a slightly faster feel to it than normal UFs and the plot is so snappy and varied that I feel like I'm living one hell of an interesting life.

Full of abject failures, questionable decisions, long-suffering friends, and crazily unreliable powers.

Though, after the main backslide in this story, I was VERY happy to see the crazy, followed by more crazy, and then when I think it's all reached its zenith, we get a shitload of even more crazy powers. :)

The final climax was fantastic. :) Better than book 3 and that damn flood.
This was well worth the wait. I can't WAIT for the next.

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Monday, April 25, 2022

A Visit from the Goon SquadA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pause. 1.07 seconds.

It's the pauses that make up our lives, even if we're rocking hard.
The kid knows. All the rockers know. It's the breath that propels us onward. :)


So, yeah, I read this book and I kept thinking to myself that I've read better musician-central books that keep on circling back through a life, (or two, in this case,) to really give us an in-depth feel for all the little things. I kept thinking that, but each scene kept building up a more complete picture and I began to fall in love with these people and after a certain point, especially during the pauses, I started feeling something more.

I started rocking.

I mean, it's not like either of their lives were anything close to perfection and most of the time it was just life, good and bad, but the shape of it altogether, including those pauses, twisted up my insides and spilled me into the narrative.

I still don't know if this is my favorite book on musicians, or at least those involved with them, with the lifestyle, but I do know that I came out of reading this with a spring in my step and an abundance of energy. The book definitely gave something TO us.

So, yeah, I dug it. :)



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Sunday, April 24, 2022

Truth of the Divine (Noumena, #2)Truth of the Divine by Lindsay Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's an SF book that I didn't expect to go the direction it did. And then it really committed to it.

I'm actually rather impressed.

So it's still taking place about 15 years ago in an alternate where Bush Jr was ousted and Cheney took over, aliens are walking amongst us, and whereas the previous book really pushed the linguistics and the rather nasty terror aspects of being played by both sides (human and alien) in a strange all or nothing game of rights, this sequel focuses almost entirely on mental illness.

I loved it. I mean, yes, there was politics and the proposals of limited rights for the aliens, some of which ask for asylum, but it's the mental health of our young MC and the somewhat broken alien that has linked itself emotionally to her that takes over most of the page-space.

As the author says in the beginning, this book might trigger anyone who suffers from PSTD, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and even anorexia. I think it's worth noting that it's done very well, gives us all the right amount of anxiety and the horrors of power-differentials in relationships, and let's not forget the despair.

The fact that it mostly happens to our human MC doesn't overshadow the fact that the alien has it, too, and I think the whole thing worked very well. I was invested throughout the novel and the plot was solid with increasing stakes, but in the end, I thought it was mostly all about character development.






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Saturday, April 23, 2022

Amongst Our Weapons (Rivers of London, #9)Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No doubt about it, these Rivers of London books are something special.

Low-key nerdy, competently police procedural, and very magical, it's the modern-day London and deep worldbuilding (and by deep I mean, chock full of tiny details that add up to something great) that makes this a must-read every time a new one comes out.

This one was no different and this particular plot got me all revved up. Angels? Different agencies? A mystery bordered on the fantastic? Yep, it was all there and I was all for it.

No spoilers, but I loved seeing a recurring character and getting more details about all the other magical traditions. Our main plot and main characters were great, of course, but all together, I was thrilled.

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Friday, April 22, 2022

A Catalogue of Catastrophe (The Chronicles of St. Mary's, #13)A Catalogue of Catastrophe by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thirteen books in and tons of short stories later, a spin-off for the time police books, and I'm honestly amazed that I'm not even slightly tired of anything.

It's just plain fun. Those damn historians, now bounty-hunters, time-war veterans, slapstick goofballs, and mysterious security personnel... it's just endless fun. Great characters, so much snark, and now we have a lot of variety in plot and action and I just can't get enough.

Some series just have it. This one does.

If you know, you know, and it's still as strong as ever. :)

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Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Last Legends of Earth (Radix, #4)The Last Legends of Earth by A.A. Attanasio
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So here's the long and short of this book: I couldn't get into it.

I hate that I couldn't get into it, too, because the damn thing was rife with great ideas, with a sprawling galactic battle for the soul of the human race, including enormous stakes, new-agey, straight starship/alien technology/truly WEIRD technology, capped with original concepts and events.

It even has cameos from the other Radix books.

So what's my problem?

I just couldn't get into any single character except obliquely, through the worldbuilding, and it just wasn't enough to hold onto.

Attanasio is good on the originality front. Indeed, he's overflowing and I LOVE that. This book just isn't good enough to hold me on anything else, and even though I was pretty solid on books one and three in Radix, this one feels like it should have had some really gritty threads of characters to do it justice instead of the massive jumps we did get.

This isn't a Stephen Baxter Xeelee take, no matter how it slightly resembles it from my description.

It may be a case of "it's me, not you", too.


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Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Devil's DictionaryThe Devil's Dictionary by Steven Kotler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit I feel quite connected with this book, as with the previous one, because it's rife with all the cool SF nostalgia things that I loved while growing up. Dune references, or specifically the massive empathy drug named Sietch Tabr that got released into the wild, messing up humanity in the previous book, is just one of many cool little references.

Devil's Dictionary, not only the Ambrose Bierce kind, but a nifty embedded story in this novel, in its own right, became a different kind of awesome for me.

Psychology, genetic engineering, hacking, and mystery. All of it is in here in a rather different kind of worldbuilding setup than I usually see in any modern SF. It's similar enough to entice the mainstream but honestly, I love how off the beaten path it gets, or how wild the really wild stuff is.

In this case, it's the habitat. :)

I really enjoyed this and I'll be totally into reading more like this.

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Monday, April 18, 2022

LoreLore by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have several knee-jerk reactions on reading this book and a single solid afterglow.

Meaning: I expected and got a rather middle-of-the-road YA supernatural (or in this case, Greek Mythological) hunger games vibe that repeats this senseless every-seven-years roll-my-eyes ultraviolence that changes immortals to mortals for a bit to allow for a little transfer of power. Yeah. Well. It made me ask quite a few questions like why have huge families at all to breed yourself into this danger in the first place, too, but then we wouldn't have this conflict or the accidental loss of life in big cities every seven years or so. *rolls eyes*

Okay, and this is a slow-to-burn get-to-the-point plot progression that should be quite familiar to other modern YA Female Fantasy Leads.

Getting beyond this, however, and getting to Castor (I like him) and Lore's relationship, was the book's saving grace. From there on, I had a pretty good time with the whole contest feel, revenge feel, and the reluctant-hero-finally-steps-up feel didn't feel too tired. The big surprises were fun rather than meh.

By the end, I was fairly well amused and not tired out -- even if the trope is rather tiring. I call this a qualified win.

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Time Is the Simplest ThingTime Is the Simplest Thing by Clifford D. Simak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Classic '61 SF that's part mystery, part regular adventure, but both are done right.

No spoilers, but Simak does the old style well and unproblematically. Death and dying, alien transmissions, a little human heaven reserve called Fishhook. It's all amusing and the intrigue is tight.

It may not be everyone's thing and it certainly feels like it's 60 years old, but that's not precisely a BAD THING. :) Some things are more innocent.

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Saturday, April 16, 2022

E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core! (The Guardians, #2)E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core! by William Joyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this for the first time with my girl.

We both fell in love with this perhaps a bit more than the first book with Nicholas St. North.

Why?

Well, for me it was the SF elements that bring the Easter Bunny into the tale against the Nightmare King. For my daughter, it was the special powers of the eggs and especially the chocolate. (And the chocolate's power) HULK BUNNY!

Either way, we both had a great time and there's no denying it. These books to top quality.



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Howls from the Dark AgesHowls from the Dark Ages by P.L. McMillan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a nearly perfect collection of Middle Ages supernatural horror.

The anthology, when it doesn't fully satisfy or drive me into a story or two, still fully invests me in the horror, itself.

For the rest, I simply loved the overwhelming religious dread, the atmosphere of hell-on-earth, the truly sordid *everything* and the insistence that hell HAD to be ever-worse because reality really was competing neck-to-neck with these people's imaginations.

Yes. The Black Plague, the endless wars, the famine and superstition, and the deadly dance WERE almost as bad as their conception of Hell. Or maybe it WAS worse.

So, for us, reading this particular brand of horror, it's really a competition, a race to the bottom. :)

I recommend this.

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Friday, April 15, 2022

Arc of the Dream (Radix, #3)Arc of the Dream by A.A. Attanasio
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of those books. It not only has a slow start to it but there's a rocky shoal that crashes our boat and leaves us bereft of anything to anchor ourselves until much later.

I'm not saying this is a bad book. Indeed, later on, once we get to know our four main characters and a multidimensional alien that needs their help to save the earth, it fairly rocks.

BUT first, we need to get through the mind-trippy extradimensional dense worldbuilding that makes me both very happy and bewildered because it requires some close attention to get through it without the initial investment/payoff that we normally achieve long before such a thing crosses our eyes -- if it ever crosses our eyes. Most books don't go off the deep end with fantastical hard-SF quantum physics extrapolations and theories about life forms or how they slip into our universe or get snagged on matter, hurting them so badly that they reach out -- quasi-unsuccessfully -- to humans all over the world for help.

From there, however, it's a pretty neat Theodore Sturgeon-esq More Than Human adventure/romp that gifts all four humans with cool powers. Massive foresight, massive physical abilities, or massive telepathy make this character-driven novel pretty rocking... LATER ON.

I guess I'd say this is a cool-idea novel that suffers from a few writing snags but it is still worth the effort, regardless.

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Thursday, April 14, 2022

In Endless Twilight (Forever Hero, #3)In Endless Twilight by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first part is a continuation of his quest to undermine and play a long game to end the Empire by taking away its means to coerce anyone. That was pretty awesome. But it IS a long game and he kinda loses himself, retiring in effect on Old Earth, where ecological damage slowly repairs, thanks to his long efforts.

All of that was pretty cool.

The later bits are where it becomes both a bit creepy and really neat when seen another way.

And that's where I'm of two minds on this last book in the trilogy.

If I judge it by modern sensibilities it is fine up to a few certain scenes when Gershwin is overwhelmed with the weight of all his many, many centuries of memories and he goes kinda nuts. Even that is ok... except for the rapey bits where he imagines that he's reunited with his early, early love. Then it's tragic. And even though it apparently didn't happen more than that once over millennia, he did get a lot of women wanting him naturally, easily, because he IS, after all, a prime specimen. Much smarter than the norm, effectively immortal, and stronger, faster. And he can pass that on.

Much later, many, many people share his characteristics. Mythology surrounds him, the immortal, and the remnants of the old empire are just a memory. I admit I LOVE this kind of thing. So, we win some, we lose some. Overall I think I liked this novel better than the other two because it went out on a strange limb and did something different.

I deduct a star mainly for the rapey bits. No, it's not fair even if the women attack him first, either by stunning him or trying to outright kill him. Maybe I'm weird to think that it's fairer to just kill your attackers. *shrug*

So this is just one of those things, I guess. It doesn't destroy the novel but it sure makes me uncomfortable in a bad way.

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The Silent Warrior (Forever Hero, #2)The Silent Warrior by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Compared to the more military tone of the previous book, this one has all the feel of political intrigue, assassin-type SF without going all out with either. In other words, it's mild and builds slowly.

We continue the career-life of Gershwin, the man who doesn't seem to age, after the debacle that ended his career in the military. It seems to be mostly concerned with playing a long game that would forever keep the Empire at bay.

Overall, the novel is decent, not flashy, and will never be on my top list of anything, but I wasn't disappointed. It's mild entertainment for the SF-intrigue crowd.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

In Other Worlds (Radix, #2)In Other Worlds by A.A. Attanasio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All right! This was definitely a blast. Carl was definitely a lot more likable than the last MC and it was funny, getting the whole spontaneous-combustion/fish-out-of-water treatment.

I think what I liked most about this was the full SF explanation treatment right after the burn-up, letting us revel in the really wild end of the universe stuck in a bubble of reconstructed space in the heart of a Big-Crunch super black hole with reconstructed energy spores of people from the deep past of memory. :)

As I was reading, I was very "Oh, NEAT" on this. Hard SF right off, after character intro, and then some wild ass worldbuilding with cool alien godlike intelligences, and then WHAM back home for the fun of it but it's not HIS Earth at all.

And through all this, I thought it was a great adventure romp. Very old-school AND hardcore SF at the same time. A very pleasant surprise. :)

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Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Dawn for a Distant Earth (Forever Hero, #1)Dawn for a Distant Earth by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can see the seeds of what would later dominate L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s later fantasy fiction in this early SF novel. Competence is always key, starting out from humble beginnings, strong female love interest, and military endeavors that dominate most of the text.

Yes, this is MilSF with big spaceships and chain of command and the inevitable clash that makes our hero strike off and do what he thinks is the right thing.

And to be fair, I think it is. Helping to clean up an ecological disaster or at least give the victims a chance to survive is a pretty decent thing to do.

Other than that, it's just a solid tale if not particularly groundbreaking. It is, as I've noted with a ton of his other works, rather gentle on the reader's psyche. That IS a benefit that most people generally discount and I think they shouldn't.

Real talk, tho: I like his fantasy more. This isn't bad but it's far from being Recluse.

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Monday, April 11, 2022

Radix (Radix, #1)Radix by A.A. Attanasio
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm tempted to just rate this one based on how I'm impressed I am with the author's intentions, but my mind isn't entirely wired that way. The ATTEMPT is pretty amazing, however, and let me rave about that for a moment before I break down my breakdown.

First of all, it's a great progression novel, like a spiritualist hard-SF that feels like a Buddha journey with tons of new-age goodies following a kind of level-up sequence that has skills building on skills, consciousness-expanding bits leading to godlike AIs and naked singularities.

Written like this, it sounds like something I'm totally down for, and I am, IN THEORY. It's epic, with lots and lots of progressions, reveals, and leveling up without it being like a role-playing game at all. It's a spiritual journey that gets tied in tight with massive astral progressions and AI nuttiness and life force stuff.

As a SF, I wish we had more of this in general, so it kinda makes me want to tear my hair out that I just didn't LIKE the main character much at all. Maybe it was his beginning. (Probably most likely yes.) Ugly through and through, and not just physically. Seeing him wise up and work through his issues is kinda the thing, yes, but it was a tricky balance and it just didn't work for me.

But what about all the goodies, you ask? Well, they're all pretty damn good. It's kinda like watching a brilliantly produced movie with the best special effects and progression but the casting was simply ATROCIOUS.

I came away from this wondering if I just wasted my time with the most expensive, gorgeous train wreck ever written. And then I started thinking to myself: Ooooh this could totally be ripped off and re-used because it was highly original and interesting even so. And then I thought to myself: maybe it already was. Zindell's Neverness was a glorious piece of fiction that did THIS one so much better and I actually LIKED the character. So. There's that.

I'll continue these particular books because while I had some issues, it was still fascinating as hell.

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Sunday, April 10, 2022

Land of Drunken Pharaohs (High Table Hijinks #3)Land of Drunken Pharaohs by Christopher Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While it didn't really hit the high note that I half-expected it to, the third book in the trilogy was still a satisfying read.

I'm not quite sure I appreciated the whole reveal that Marcus was not a plain-Jane human who just happened to get tainted by magic. I liked him better the way he was. Plus, Galaxy being Galaxy, the potential was all there anyway.

Even so, the battles and adventures, even with the OP help of the mantle of the Huntsman, were pretty cool.

I'm still satisfied.

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Saturday, April 9, 2022

Old-Fashioned Huntsman (High Table Hijinks #2)Old-Fashioned Huntsman by Christopher Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very strong followup to Galaxy. Everyone’s leveling up as expected, gods eating gods for powerups, and a nice little romp through many different realms.

And, of course, a quest to be the Huntsman of the Wild Hunt… itself a very neat powerup. :)

Overall, this is all quite nicely balanced. A little love, a little romance between monsters, a little heroism for the sake of jinn, a little rage, and a whole lot of blood. Everything that a growing avatar of an elder god needs.

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Friday, April 8, 2022

Galaxy (High Table Hijinks #1)Galaxy by Christopher Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though the beginning didn't feel all that promising to me, more of a military fubar than the beginning of a LitRPG novel, I was further surprised when it had all the earmarks of an Urban Fantasy.

Moving on with his life after the mystery, he takes up in a bar only to be surrounded by supernatural of all types.

So... wait... is this a military thing, a UF thing?

Turns out, it's both of those things AND it hops right into an ancient power that used his mind to craft a leveling up system for its own powers BASED on his knowledge of RPGs.

And so, now, we've to a full UF/MilSF/LitRPG novel that just runs with all the fun stuff and focuses rather swimmingly on quirky characters in categories of onis, jinn, and fae. The military-like teambuilding is heartwarming and cool.

I had a good time and I feel no hesitation about picking up the next. It's sweet-tooth fiction that cares little for anything but fan service. I'm certainly not complaining... because I'm a fan.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Halo: First StrikeHalo: First Strike by Eric S. Nylund
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Comparing this book to the last is a bit like night and day. Where night is nonstop action across the ringworld Halo (with very little in the way of character development), day is like building up many pathos heroes just to tear them down in glorious varied battles on planets, spaceships (human and alien), enough to satisfy any Duty nut.

In other words, the second book was a bit one-note and the third was a bit more like the first, with plenty of build-up and tons of varied encounters. This shouldn't be all that surprising, of course, since it was written by the same fun author that did book 1.

Quite enjoyable, really.
Near perfect if what you want are hard SF space battles and super-grunt work.



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Little GiddingLittle Gidding by T.S. Eliot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Honestly gorgeous poetry, redolent of introversion during the Blitz, trying to come to terms with the good and bad shackles of history and the distinct possibility of annihilation.

This is one of my favorite T.S. Eliot poems and I just kept getting that "all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well" stuck in my head all day. I HAD to re-read this poem twice since then. I appreciate the points where the Mystery took over the lines but they were not the best parts for me.

The imagery for everything else was just too beautiful and scary.


The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.


***

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


Read HERE

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Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Beyond the Hallowed SkyBeyond the Hallowed Sky by Ken MacLeod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm very happy with this novel. It's not often that we get a near-future ramification novel that explores the discovery and realistic development of FTL, faster than light travel.

Sure, we get novels about trillionaires building FTL yachts or alien invasion impetus stuff, but not a straight cold-war FTL skullduggery and black-site FTL development. This one actually includes politics and proliferation as well as alliances designed to push certain blocs that much further ahead in Solar System colonization before most nations even realize they COULD.

Put this way, the novel is extremely realistic. If you have an advantage, exploit it in a massive way.

Of course, things get weird and hairy when we discover that others ARE out there and they want nothing to do with us.


I had a good time with this. I'm really looking forward to seeing where the latecomers will go with this. I've read a lot of SF and this feels just unusual enough to light a fire in me while feeling perfectly in line with older near-future hard SF.

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