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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon TichyThe Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy by Stanisław Lem
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lem has always had some seriously good writing and this particular one is no joke. It's funny, loopy with wordplay, and rich in futurology. We follow the perpetually out of place Ijon Tichy who spends almost all of his time trying to figure out what's actually wrong in the future he finds himself.

And believe me, if you've been looking for a good SF that puts a skewer in our own society from many different angles, then you can't really go wrong with Lem. He's just too smart, too concise, wherever he leads us, we bleed.

Lem is a real master.

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Square³Square³ by Mira Grant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every time I read a Mira Grant (the SF Horror alter-ego of Seanan Mcguire,) I remember how much I love her horror and SF stories.

This one goes all Kaiju and altered physical realities in a very much Lovecraftian vein with a hard shot of SK for a punch.

I LOVE the setup. I could totally live in this messed up world for 7-8 books. :) Alas, this is only a novella, tho.

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The Second Realm (Ten Realms, #2)The Second Realm by Michael Chatfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed leaving the first realm and seeing a much more populated world. All the goodies are here, of course. LitRPG is rather predictable. Leveling your skills, making money, learning lessons, getting stronger -- rather beast, even -- fighting, and coming back to show how much you've grown.

It's a classic for a reason.

At this point, and considering how powerful these two buddies are now, I wonder just how beast the upper realms are.

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Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Two Week Curse (Ten Realms, #1)The Two Week Curse by Michael Chatfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a more than solid Skyrim-like entry in LitRPG, moving from army-buddy recuperation time to outright more-than-human mana manipulation and fighting prowess in a new fantasy realm. (No need for further explanation, after all, since all we really want is the gaming experience anyway.)

What follows is a nifty smithing leveling sequence playing sidecart to a full-on healer/monk build, flying us through low to medium level mobs to the solid teens in levels.... eventually mastering the First Realm entirely.

Easy going? Well, missing limbs put a damper on the easy bit, but I'm enjoying all the elements of the novel. It has a little of everything, even dungeon seeds, so let's gooooooo...

Pure popcorn fiction.

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Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid, #3)Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/29/23:

Oddly enough, almost none of my opinions on this book have changed since the first time. I still like Alex more than Verity. lol

Original Review:

Am I a bad man for liking Alex Price better than Verity? I hope not. I just like how nerdy and reptilian he is next to his sister who just happens to have a slight and glancing blow in this novel.

We're off and away from NYC and dab in the heart of Ohio, where the basilisks roam and revenant grandfathers give you dour looks. I think I love Alex's dry commentary and the greater exploration of Sarah and the rest of the Price family more than the previous volumes, too.

Is this a turning point? If so I approve. We're deeper in the heart of the beasties, too, with more and better descriptions and taxonomies. I may be forgiven for mainly wanting to read these for precisely these nerdy features. The story is fine and the characters engaging, but in the heart of hearts, I want a greater knowledge of the more interesting cryptids. And thankfully, I get them here! Woo!

Plus, I get the delightful wish-fulfilment fantasy of a hardcore-geek/monster hunter finding and working to keep, a girl who doesn't run away screaming. Because, after all, isn't that what all geeks dearly dream about? (Insert sweeping repudiations and exceptions, here, and consider me chastised. :)

Seriously, I'm both impressed with Alex under pressure and the rest of the family. If I wasn't hooked with the first two books, I am now.

Great fun!

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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Midnight Blue-Light Special (InCryptid, #2)Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/28/23:

Enjoyed the re-read with more of an eye for the extras that will become much more important later. It's not my favorite of the series, but it is still quite enjoyable. :)

Original Review:

Relationship troubles? No problem, place them in a grander religious nutso plot with a Romeo and Juliet undertone, and still make both of them work hard at working together despite difference of opinions. What a concept!

This book focuses a lot more on family more than anything else, and it's a toss up whether I mean family as the kind you are born with or that which you choose. Sarah, our intrepid cuckoo, gets her own PoV, and I think I really started liking the change. It certainly gave me a more serious and seriously strange counterpoint to the dancing and the chop-chop. :) Higher math and telepathy? Ooohh.. higher math for the satisfaction of doing it yourself despite the telepathy. Nice. :)

There's some interesting plot points going on here, but it's the Romeo and Juliet vibe that got me going. Sometimes getting to know your boyfriend's folks can be a real pain. :)

Fun read and I'm in it for the long haul, not that it's particularly *difficult* to get through. This is an addictive UF. :)

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Friday, January 27, 2023

The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel UniversesThe Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, I really don't have anything bad to say about this re-imagining of Heinlein's The Number of the Beast. I just re-read Number in preparation for this parallel novel about parallel universes just so I could be very aware of the differences, and while the first third of the novel is almost exactly the same in either, there's a lot more emphasis in the *imaginary* universes and no references to Lazarus Long and Co.

This is important. Number spent a lot more time with regular exploration in the possible universes and then took a by-line to the frankly wonderful if sometimes problematic extended universe Heinlein peppered his later novels with.

Pankera, on the other hand, reads as an all-out homage to old SF and Fantasy works, going much farther in the worlds of Barsoom or Oz or Lensmen and deepening those connections.

I actually loved it. Both novels ribbed us about Asimov and Niven and Anderson and I loved how Heinlein kidded us about how Heinlein's works were all trash. This one was simply much more focused on the beautiful fan fiction and crossovers between his own creation and all the others.

Is it problematic at all?

Nope. It's just plain adventure with the original four proud genius nudists having fun trouncing all the plans of old, established SF and Fantasy worlds. It's rather heartwarming.

Let's just hope we don't wind up finding other "manuscripts" of strangely sanitized Heinlein, shall we? The original guy had his own agenda and it is what it is. :)

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Thursday, January 26, 2023

How to Sell a Haunted HouseHow to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm always chomping at the bit to get at Hendrix. Yes, I'm an angry horse being saddled by a horror writer. It's fitting, I think. Maybe not as fitting as being a sock puppet with an author's hand right up my... but I pride myself with maintaining a certain sense of decorum in my reviews.

Hendrix knows his horror tropes and it really shows in every single book he writes. I love it. I love knowledgeable authors that spin wild tales that surprise and delight even old gore-hounds like myself.

Please don't assume you know everything that will happen in this plot-setup. The first two acts are great but its the third that's the real killer. Great characters, wild emotions, and delightfully creepy bad stuff.

Hendrix knows his shit. His sense of timing is great, as is his foreshadowing, false sense of security, and his willingness to dump us in the muck. As a final thought, I'll just say, "What a family!"

This is a LOT of fun, folks.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Number of the BeastThe Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is one of the quirkiest, perfectly complicated, sexually liberated, libertarian multi-multi-universe romps in SF literature.

Few have dared to come even close to this kitchen sink of a novel, but that may be because this later-career novel of Heinlein is a great example of a writer at the height of his career deciding to say, "Ah, fuck it, I'm gonna go wild and give not only a homage to all the SF greats, my own contemporaries, and also, of course, to my own brilliance."

What we have is a novel extremely preoccupied with being horny, sexually liberated, and every woman is absolutely brilliant and stunning and almost always naked around their horny, sexually liberated, naked husbands.

Oh, and we also explore six to the sixth to the sixth universes, both real and imaginary, and break right through to Heinlein's own expanded universe of greatest-hits characters.

In other words, this book is MUCH better read after almost every single one of Heinlein's last third bibliography. Well after Time Enough For Love, Stranger in a Strange Land, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, maybe even Friday. Read AFTER. Otherwise it might be truly nuts. Or, scratch that, it is already nuts. But it IS also fun and quixotic and So Very Later Heinlein.

There's still his devotion to popularizing real science. But he is really known for going on about genetics, programming, quantum physics, firearms, personal autonomy, libertarianism, cheating fools, life-extension, loving the idea of massively extended families, and clones.

And all the while, the wild adventure after new adventure makes this feel like something out of an old serial while being perfectly sexy and willing to throw out all the normal publishing rules. You know, like adding too much. :) The Dean Of SF, one of the great three SF authors from the early days, was by now wearing a crown and no one could touch him.

It's funny, really. This book would NEVER have been published today. On the one hand, it's a perfectly great example of do-or-die libertarianism and grab the world by the balls. On the other hand, there are other parts that are frankly cringeworthy (let's just mention the twins in passing, shall we, or Maureen,) that makes us modern folks wonder if the Dean was a little skeevy. Of course, his focus was all on genetics, so we can forgive him on all that... right? Ah, but he certainly had all the right Right-Wing feel.

Don't get me wrong. I can still enjoy the vast majority without endorsing or even approving of the other bits. I even feel guilty, a little, that I'm not nearly as LIBERATED, lol.

So, warts and all, I still think this was one of those truly fascinating works of the imagination. I was a little creeped-out both times I read it, but if I'm going to be fair, a good 95% of the time had me in awe.

Don't start here. Heinlein has a huge catalogue of perfectly uncomplicated SF that's both charming and fun and full of good science. But if you've gone through his vast catalogue and want JUST A LITTLE MORE LAZARUS LONG, then by all means, grab this book and enjoy. :)

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Sunday, January 22, 2023

AirAir by Geoff Ryman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book constantly surprised me. An insanely good store on the interruption and absolute disruption of new technology on indigenous cultures.

Of course, in this, the indigenous culture definitely felt like a sleepy middle-class small town and we are consistently introduced to bigger and more amazing technologies that the rest of the world takes for granted.

The main one being Air. A portal, like the internet would be for old people, into a wider, interconnected world -- but so much more.

The pitfalls and the cultural crappiness and the denials, the turning away, the sticking of heads in sand, all of this is both predictable and rather disgusting, until we even reach the whole Cassandra stage.

Oddly, I didn't really like this and I thought it was rather too slow at first. It was only after we started getting into an epistolary novel did I start loving it. And after that, I was just fascinated. Mental health, dealing with too much information, being hellishly isolated, finding a balance with others... all of this is represented. It's easy to say it's a metaphor for what we already deal with, but the hardcore SF is definitely here. Air, itself, is really fascinating.

I'm glad I'm picking up another Geoff Ryman book. He's great for a lot of seriously original ideas and a deep dive into the consequences.

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Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Lost Metal (Mistborn, #7)The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All hail our lord and savior, BrandoSando.

It's easy to make fun... but it's hard to dismiss the effects he's had on the genre. Indeed, I've got the bug and every time I pick up our lord and savior, I'm half-tempted to try to nitpick or poke holes in his work, and maybe there ARE holes, but it always tends to be AWESOME anyway.

The Lost Metal finishes an era of Wax and Wayne in a truly explosive way. I thought it would be kinda hard to top the Bands of Mourning, but not only did this one had all the mystery, all the gumshoe work, all the fantastic magic system as the others, it also went out with a really satisfying bang.

And should I mention that Wayne is front and center in this book? That we get his childhood, even more of his fascination with wearing different hats, and we learn a lot more about him than all the others?

No spoilers, but he stole all the limelight. That's true even when we get some great cameos from the original series.

And let's not forget our lord and savior's plans for the Cosmere. There's a lot going on here and I'm rather excited. So excited that I'm about to go all cult-like and maybe even re-read BrandoSando's bibliography again for all the secret prizes in the collective cereal box.

I joke. Or do I?

The Lost Metal is both endearing and pure popcorn fun. And it's also rather emotional for me.

Either way, it's one hell of a ride. Or flight. Or boom. :)

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Friday, January 20, 2023

Are You There God? It's Me, MargaretAre You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No two ways about it, this book is a classic.

I mean, I read it out of curiosity back when I was kid even if it was for girls but the REAL reason I read it was because a whole bunch of Karens under the auspices of the local Parent-Teacher organization loved to ban books and there was nothing that encouraged me to read more than banned books.

It was either reading this or Stephen King. I may have read more SK than Blume. But I did remember this fondly.

So fondly, in fact, that I gave a copy to my 10-year-old daughter and she devoured it in almost a single sitting, expressing a lot of delight.

I call that a win.

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The Star DiariesThe Star Diaries by Stanisław Lem
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been a long-time fan of Stanislaw Lem but I feel ashamed that I never got around to reading these wonderful collections of short stories that are all connected by the intrepid space traveler, Ijon Tichy.

I cannot recommend these enough. They're light-hearted, insanely creative, and each adventure gives us all the great cannons of SF, including time travel, cloning, artificial intelligence, robots, and of course, tons of people being idiots. Indeed, the whole wacky universe is full of great idiocy.

It's not the mess I make it sound. He's just always curious and always willing to get into trouble. Of course, most of the time, trouble always drags him in, but I have to say that this holds up wonderfully.

The spirit of wonder is quite alive. So is the humor. :)

If you've read others of Lem, such as the The Cyberiad, you'll know what you're getting into here.

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Monday, January 16, 2023

Fevered Star (Between Earth and Sky, #2)Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Solid epic fantasy with a pretty vast setup between the ones who follow the Crows and those who follow the Sun. It's the characters that really make the novel, however, and like all middle novels, it is almost all meat, buildup, and reversals.

I'm really enjoying this even if I don't fanboy all over it. All said, I tend to give a lot of credit for big, glorious, and evocative epic fantasies even if it sometimes drags in the middle.

I seriously appreciate the magic, the images it evokes, and the atmosphere. The love bits don't suck, either, but it's the magic and the issues it keeps bringing up that takes the center of the stage.

I can't wait to read the next!

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Sunday, January 15, 2023

Helliconia Spring (Helliconia, #1)Helliconia Spring by Brian W. Aldiss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is ambitious, having a great premise, and Aldiss obviously put a lot of effort into it. I've read his Trillion Year Spree which was basically an master-class overview of SF in general, so I appreciate what he's done here a bit more than I would have coming in cold.

So what is it? This huge, sprawling, many year epic of Helliconia?

Loooong seasons, very much in the same tune as the later-written GRRM books -- even including his contemporary SF with the same concept, Dying of the Light -- but Aldis takes it a bit further. He explores a vast human culture growing on an alien world that is rising out of its long winter slumber.

I want to love everything about it more than I do. Indeed, if I had read it when I was much younger, I probably would have been knocked over by it. The amount of worldbuilding is amazing, the nordic feel engaging, the alien beasties reminding me a lot of Pern without the OTT aspects, and exploration of cultural and intellectual shift really got me going.

So what didn't I love?

Mostly the characters and the somewhat lacking plot. It's great in concept but not nearly as engaging as I would have loved. GRRM really put a pin the characters, for example. Aldis obviously had a lot going for himself and I will definitely give this the props it deserves, but it will never be one of those life-changing books, alas. Still amazing, however, with tons of effort and worldbuilding. I just wish... yes, well, I wish it was more.

I'll be continuing on, however, with the trilogy. This is the rise, after all. I'll want to see the human culture hit its summer... and then return to winter.

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Friday, January 13, 2023

The Witch and the TsarThe Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me first say that I think this was a pretty good novel, a sprawling, adventuresome novel full of death and the death realms, gods, magic, and interesting Russian folktale retellings. As pure fiction on this specific topic of Baba Yaga and the Deathless and Ivan the Terrible, I like this one better than some -- not as much as others -- while still thinking it was a pretty fun ride.

But here's where I start to have a bit of an issue: Baba Yaga is being reimagined as an old but youthful seeming, misunderstood feminist icon trying to learn how to get along in a life that is complicated and strange, butting heads with gods and the Deathless and the earthly powers that be, let alone the encroaching Christianity versus the old gods.

I can easily appreciate the attempt while feeling a little queasy about the implication. This is on the same level as humanizing Disney Villains and trying to make them misunderstood icons twisted through a man's ugly eye. And maybe that does happen. I'm not saying it doesn't. But it also ignores the fact that all people can be crazily good or evil and no amount of wringing of hands or revisionary writing can whitewash it.

What we got was a happy ending with a flawed, but ultimately good feminist icon. If I didn't know anything about Baba Yaga at all, I'd be pointing at this and going, "See? See? Men bad!" while ignoring the necessity for the big bad, the big wishgranter, the complicated, bigger-than-life IDEA of Baba Yaga and what she meant to countless myth-lovers.

There's a reason she endured the way she was. It wasn't because Wise Women who were burned as Witches were all really good people underneath. And so, I miss the full range and scope of what is usually a fascinating character.

As a novel that only vaguely resembles the original legends, I'm quite certain I enjoyed it, but it was still weak Vodka.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6)Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read, 1/13/23:

Finished this with my girl on the wonderfully appropriate Friday the 13th. :)

Lucky, unlucky, death, oppression, and a much better book than the movie.

My girl loved it, of course, even if she was super sad. But on a positive note, she was as pissed about what was left out of the movie as I was. So much action, better reveals, better UNDERSTANDING of what was going on. Alas.

A very good book, growing better with re-reads.

Original Review:

Buddy Re-Read continues!

I read this last almost the day after it originally came out and was amazed at the big reveals... Guess who Dies and guess who the Prince is! ... but more than that, I was pretty blah and then very enthused as we learned more and more and more and more about Mr. Riddle as Harry kept sticking his head under water. It was a hate/love relationship for me. I wanted to know about our big bad. I really did. And then I also wanted to just get over all the cleverly-installed flashbacks and get on with the freaking story.

That was before the movie.

And so the movie came out and I was all like... Where is all the backstory for Voldemort? This is hardly anything! This is just a brief little taste! How are we supposed to feel the deep revulsion AND pity for the man if we can't get more screen time for him??? And so I fell BACK on the bandwagon for all those pretty flashbacks.

Ah, the trials and tribulations of a fanboy.

This is like knowing Frank Herbert's Dune inside and out and then watching the Lynch mindf*** and spending more than 3/4 of the movie filling in all the details that are left unsaid in the film that make the story deeper and more amazing than the acid trip that I was watching.

Okay. Maybe the HP6 film wasn't QUITE that bad and there were a lot of brilliant moments that were visual and direct link-ups to the main plot in the HP7 movies, so continuity was preserved very well. Still, the lack of time with Snape's younger cursecrafting self and the lack of all the mystery subplot with Dumbledore, himself, made the end events kind of rushed and confusing within the movie.

Not so at all within the book.

The book was a real page-turner for me. Again. I love in-depth reasons. A lot. :)

Still a great book! :)

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Thursday, January 12, 2023

Critical MassCritical Mass by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A certain subset of SF -- known generally as Hard SF -- has a long history of interweaving real science (up to the current knowledge of the day) with grand adventures or techno-thrillers or even philosophical treatises.

In the good ones, sometimes you get all three.

But where it gets seriously impressive is when you interweave the ideas of the Sixth Extinction and real Proof-Of-Work crypto-theory put to work on solving real grand-scale economic issues, or the very real and disturbing problems of the rise of fascism and piracy and what it means to build space stations or a near colony, while paying careful heed to great characters. There's a lot more to it, too, but these are what stood out the most to me on this read-through.

Hard SF has had a lot of these kinds of tales, to a greater or a lesser degree, but I'll just say this: it's up there with KSR's Mars trilogy if you want a good comp.

I love how it takes the next several steps forward on the path to settling in space in a highly realistic and technical way. It's also a great influx of the new technology we also have, so in a way, it's superior to most.

Highly, highly recommended.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3)Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have to agree with everyone else's opinion that this is where the Dresden books get pretty awesome. Strong emotions, massively convoluted (but very compelling) plots, with plenty of action, despair, and delightful friendship, all rolled into a "I have no idea what I'm doing but I'll do the right thing" barbaric yawp.

Frankly, I loved so much about it. Michael and his faith really grows on me. Meeting Thomas for the first time is a real treat. Susan wasn't nearly as annoying here as she will become. And Bianca? Wow, well, when it comes to villains, she's right up there with Dresden's fairy godmother (who is also in this book.)

And then there's the nightmare.

All of this together should have been too much. A mess. But it really wasn't. I pulled off a rather neat hat trick. Harry's dad would be proud.

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Lost in the Moment and Found (Wayward Children, #8)Lost in the Moment and Found by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Wayward Children book is very good for what it is. There isn't so much magic and adventure in it, but that's all right because it seems some of the best magic is often the quiet, stable kind.

There's a bit of trauma in here that may hit close to many people's homes. It's not just gaslighting and emotional abuse, but the potential for a whole lot worse.

Getting back into the core of Wayward Children is the need to escape, after all, and I think this does the job admirably.

Sometimes finding oneself is everything.

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Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Early Dresden really does have its moments. Not only is Harry squishy, he really shows his quality.

Oh, and wolfies. Lots of kinds of wolfies running around. That part is especially fun.

I'm not always the biggest fan of weres of any flavor, but this book did it for me.

Popcorn fun! I can't wait for the better stuff to come.

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Sunday, January 8, 2023

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)Storm Front by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I've always binge-read these and for good reason: they're better with the weight of history.

If I merely read this out of context with everything else to come, I'd just dismiss it as a solid Supernatural Private Investigator entry that relies mostly on the gumshoe elements rather than the magical, focusing on popcorn elements than anything deeper.

Of course, it is that, with some really cool conclusion magics and the great popcorn feel, but I am reviewing this from the PoV of an old, old fan, and fanboys are either very forgiving of early, unpolished entries, or they don't give a shit. Maybe I'm either.

I have a great time reading these. I started with others, fell down the rabbit hole with this, and now I'm perpetually hooked on UF.

Fun is fun, and this is fun. :)

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Mickey7 (Mickey7, #1)Mickey7 by Edward Ashton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A solid and fairly amusing tale of mishaps, callousness, and body-uncanting made horrifically, if exquisitely, normal.

I mean, the premise gives it almost entirely away: he's am expendable member of a colony crew, a designated dead man walking that can come back, and come back, and come back, being the canary for everyone else. If that isn't bad enough, or that he chose it as a slightly less bad choice than being broke elsewhere, he's treated like shit by command and his only bright spot is some pretty cool people who stand by him even as he dies, and dies again.

I'm thinking this might be a pretty good series as it continues on. Having extra copies of yourself is pretty fun and all, but only in how it makes everything so damn complicated.

I'll love to see how the tale will take it next time.

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Saturday, January 7, 2023

MetamorphicaMetamorphica by Zachary Mason
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a very pleasant surprise.

Now, I should admit I'm already a big fan of Ovid's Metamorphoses, so when I learned that there was a briefer, even distilled version of them, I got extremely enthusiastic.

The trend toward retellings of old myths has been an overall positive thing. I've read a few that weren't all that special, while some frankly blew me away. This particular one had no axe to grind except to illustrate humanity and the humanity of gods in a universal way.

Even better, this book gave us some expertly-turned evocative prose/poetry with an eye and ear toward the modern audience, neither forgiving or forgetting the faults of the past or ourselves.

In other words, it's a true rendition of the original, only distilled and sharpened.

It was truly effortless to read and what it lacks in depth for all these many personages of Greek mythology, it more than makes up for in crystal-clear windows into their souls.

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Friday, January 6, 2023

Delta-VDelta-V by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Honestly, I'm rather blown away. I've read a ton of great science-driven take me to space books but this one is pretty much perfect across the board. We're given the works, from picking the best people, the training, the politics (updated for today), massive amounts of capitalist chicanery, fraud, references to real people thinly veiled, as well as the full experience of getting out there, mining, running into tons of very realistic trouble, and finally coming back.

Let me just point something out, though:

It has the ambition of Kim Stanley Robinson, the cool characters of Heinlein and/or Andy Weir, the pacing of the tightest thriller, and tons of real surprises. None of it is hokey -- no alien surprises or egregious handwavium. But best of all, I was whooping for joy at the end of this novel. I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat.

For that, I have to announce.... I'm squeeing for joy!

I'm SO happy.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2023

The Golden Mole: and Other Living TreasureThe Golden Mole: and Other Living Treasure by Katherine Rundell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well now, this little gem of a non-fiction is pretty much perfect if you want a short, prettily written rundown of a number of once-common, often talked about, species. It is more poignant because they are almost all, unfortunately, disappearing.

With many references to historical anecdotes, literature, and even poetry, we get a sweet look at everything from elephants to seahorses, wolves to hedgehogs, to so much more.

If I could, I would recommend everyone read this, if only to have a clear-eyed look at the nature we're all losing.

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Discount Armageddon (InCryptid, #1)Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/4/23:

My opinion on this series and this book in particular hasn't really changed all that much from the first time I read it. The world described is fun, delicious, and Verity is fun except when she's SO into clothes and dance. The only time that isn't a bad thing is when Battle IS Dance.

Did I have fun? Of course! Why would I want to re-read this or the whole series?

*rubs hands together*

Original Review:

Knowing what I know of Urban Fantasy, I rarely expect anything more than snark, beasties, first-person hijinks, and plain simple fun. Most of the time, the hero is actually a heroine, of course, and there's usually a number of other tropes we can expect, such as three-way love stories including a vamp and a were.

Fortunately for me, I've learned to really TRUST Seanan McGuire, for whether she's writing as Mira Grant or under Seanan, she has never led me astray or into three-way love stories, and when she does UF, she always remains fun. Popcorn fun? Yup.

For Here There Be Dragons. And dancers. And parthenogenesis.... BUT not without a longing for ANOTHER WAY! And ya, I was laughing about the virgin sacrifice along with Verity. Pretty classic.

This is a supremely easy read and I always look forward to geeking out, whether it's by mythical taxonomy, deep time zones, or a groan-worthy dancing story setup all throughout the novel just for the chance to apply it to a fight scene. I mean, come on. You either hate it or you love it, and I'm just one of those sick and twisted individuals that respect a book-length bar joke in the middle of bad romance and even more bad romance featuring monster's love lives.

I shouldn't have waited so long to read this. I just need to remember that no matter what book of hers I pick up, I'll enjoy. It's a nice feeling. :)

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Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Who?Who? by Algis Budrys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I wanted to like this cold war espionage SF more than I did. The end makes up for a lot of the meandering middle, but unfortunately, there was a lot of normal everyday '50s feel to it with one notable exception: our hero has come back after a blown-up experiment, after having been saved by the Russians, a cyborg.

There is no genetic typing and no one can be entirely certain it is him. On top of that, everyone's weirded the hell out by his expressionless metal face. So on one level, it's just about how to get along when everyone mistrusts you. And then there's also the political level which is just as frustrating.

I am generous with my rating for one reason: the McCarthy Era crapdoodle. It was a load of shit that everyone had to go through. This novel evokes quite a bit of that, and it gets worse by the end.

It's a thought provoking piece that is better mostly on reflection -- rather than the actual reading.

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Black MouthBlack Mouth by Ronald Malfi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know it's billed as an IT clone but really it's a journey of over-the-top alcoholism without SK's AA meetings, self-destructiveness, and the idea that going back home might be a little cathartic but... damn... really, thanks, but NO thanks.

If I grew up in Black Mouth, I'd never ever try to reconcile myself.

That being said, I liked the slow burn if not amazingly over-the-top self-abuse. The true horror elements are a toss up between the animal cruelty and the overall mystery and the intensely intimate nature of the pain.

The novel is good, all told. It's not epic, but it satisfies that need for abuse. :)

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Monday, January 2, 2023

The Infinite (The Outside #3)The Infinite by Ada Hoffmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Infinite is a solid end to the trilogy, but beyond that, it's a pretty excellent example of Lovecraftian huge-space opera with huge scope and particularly fine mind-breaking elements.

Literally. The Broken and the godlike powers, the huge, multidimensional AIs and other gods (even homebrew ones on humanity's side) makes this a really interesting book. I also like the small scale Broken bits a lot. It really takes getting to know yourself to a whole new level. I was expecting a shock of white hair and other madness-cliches, but this was good, too. ;)

War. Interstellar war. With quantum stuff and uploaded consciousness, souls, rebellion, and a huge-ass complication.

So, if I love all these elements so much, why did I only give it a 4 out of 5? Pacing, mostly. There's a lot to love, but some bits were a bit slow and lost the tension. Not a dealbreaker -- but I would have loved it tighter.

It WAS quite satisfying, however, and ended on a very interesting note, so don't let me dissuade you from picking it up!

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