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Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Goblin Horde (Tower of Power #2)The Goblin Horde by Ivan Kal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Strange one, this. The LitRPG stuff is pretty standard and that's what I'm coming here for, so nothing bad. It delivered on some great action and monster destroying and leveling up. The strange bit is Morgan, himself, and his reveal. It felt a bit too real there, plopped right in the middle of all these goings-ons, and either deserved a novel on its own and not just a side-line to some potential side-action through a little truth-spouting.

It was pretty good, but oddly placed, and the rest of the time he's got the sarcasm. Again, normal. Just oddly placed.

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Guild Master (Tower of Power #1)Guild Master by Ivan Kal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

By this point, almost all LitRPG books feel the same, but to me, that's kinda the point. It's not BAD to want a decent leveling-up adventure. And that's what I'm getting. New class, total newb, powerleveling with a bit of judicious strategy, and of course, making friends.

It's comfort food. I like mental comfort food. :)

This one's claim to fame is in starting a brand new guild to show up the power abuses in all the other guilds. And it's early, early days, so lots of room for growth.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Good, the Bad and the History (The Chronicles of St Mary's, #14)The Good, the Bad and the History by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pros: Just about everything. Max and Markham especially.
Cons: Max and Markham.

Well, you know how it is. Cons are usually quite suspicious and these two are DEFINITELY suspicious. And oddly naked at all the WORST moments.

I love this series and I'm happy to say it continues to be fantastic. While we didn't spend a LOT of time in different times, the moments we did get were valuable and funny and only a little contagious.

Fortunately, nobody got pissed on.

And another good bit: there was only a SMIDGE of Clive. No biggie. It's a fine price to pay for taking down a cross-time criminal organization. Not a bad day's work for an ex-historian conwoman.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Dune (Dune, #1)Dune by Frank Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Update 6/27/23

Re-read, number 15.

This time, I read it with my daughter. Sure, it might be a bit too soon for her, but she DID insist because we'll be seeing Dune part 2 later this year. And she happens to know that I'm a rabid uberfan with no mercy or remorse.

PLUS, I was able to read from my gorgeous new hardcover copy gifted to me by my best friend and that really does make all the difference, no?

Update 9/15/21

Re-read. Number 14.

I cannot get over how beautiful this book is. Still my favorite after all these years. It only gets better with every re-read.

Update 8/28/17

Re-read. Number 13. :) I cry when Paul meets Gurney. I shiver when Jessica consoles Chani. I'm awestruck by the peaks and troughs of time, free-will, and the weakness in Paul even as he heroically strives against the evil that is about to be unleashed upon the universe.


Perfection. Easily the number one book I've ever read. :)

I waver, sometimes, but right now, it is my absolute favorite. :)

Original Review:

This is a phenomenal classic of literature.

It's not just science fiction. It transcends science fiction, as a fascinating discussion of free-will versus inevitability. Can the Jihad be denied? Can Paul ever really avoid his own death, despite seeing every time-line play out with him as the butt of every cosmic joke? Can even cruelty or mercy even remain comprehensible after such knowledge?

Yes, I think this work outdoes Nietzsche. It certainly does a great job of making us care about the question.

Is this all? Is this just a work that pays great justice to philosophy of action and inaction?

Or is the novel merely a clever play at turning the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle into the physical embodiment of a man? It is that, of course. The Kwisatz Haderach can be many places at once, and he can be both alive and dead at the same time just like that certain cat.

Is the novel a coming of age tale, first set as a mirror against his father Leto, only then to mirror the whole universe that had just turned against him? Yes, of course. He was, after all, both the product of all his upbringing and his genes, embodying the question of nature versus nurture. He was taught within many schools of martial arts and assassins, as well as training the mind in both the schools of the Mentats with their pure logic and that of the mystics, the Bene Gesserit, that allows complete control over the body down to the cellular level. And if this training wasn't enough, he was deeply schooled in politics, leadership, and the meaning of loyalty. The boy was raised right. Of course, that is nothing without ninety generations of genetic bloodline tampering from the Bene Gesserit, right? To become the fulcrum between cellular memory, tapping the minds and lives of all your genetic ancestors as well as tapping the ability to fold time and space, to become the eye of a storm of time.

What a damn brilliant setup for one tiny character, no? His training links to the unlocking of his genes and to the life-extending and enveloping spice, Melange, to make him not merely aware of time in a theoretical sense, but eventually to be unable to discern what was in the past, the present, or the future. Here's a true Super-Man, well beyond Nietzsche.

And don't believe for one second that this serious discussion about what would make a superior man makes for dull reading. No. We've got PLOT that's probably some of the most exciting and visceral in all of literature, driving us right into the web of intrigue, vengeance, treachery, and galactic politics.

To quote the text, we've got "Plans within Plans," and it hardly stops there. We know the House Atreides is falling into a trap laid by the Emperor and House Harkonnen, and yet free-will and pride prevents any chance to avoid it. The setup is brilliant and extremely political, giving us character sketches of some of the most brilliant and memorable characters of all time.

Duke Leto, the Red Duke, the most honorable and beloved leader.
Duncan Idaho, the emotional and intuitive hero.
Gurney Halleck, archetypal loyalist and troubadour.
Lady Jessica, the woman who ought to have had all honor in life, but was unjustly reviled and set aside for political necessity. (Chani being both her mirror and her eventual glory.)

And of course, my favorite character of all time, Paul Muad'dib Atreides, the one that would prevent the greater evils he foresaw, and went to enormous lengths and sacrifice to achieve, but who eventually failed in his task because even a god cannot overcome destiny. (Or the will of so many minds set as one.)

So damn brilliant.

Frank Herbert spent five years writing this treasure, working and reworking it until he published it at age 25. None of his other works come close to this masterpiece, and there's little wonder. It was birthed, fully-formed, like Athena from Zeus's head, with enormous forethought and care.

The worldbuilding was just as carefully formed, from the ecology of Arrakis and the life-cycles of the sandworms, to the history and the creation of the Fremen from their mild beginnings as Zensunni Wanderers, adherents to the Orange Catholic Bible, to their history of oppression so like those of those who are Jewish, to their settling and hardening of their bodies and souls in the wastes of Arrakis, also just like the Jewish who carved out a place for themselves in Israel. (Current politics aside, this was a very potent idea before 1965 when Herbert wrote this, and indeed, the core is still just as powerful when you turn it back to Muslims.)

The Galactic culture is rich and detailed. The CHOAM economic consortium, with their monopoly on space travel and their need for the Spice to allow them to see a short period into the future to plot a safe course before folding space. The Empire is caught on a knife's edge between a single power and every other House who sit in the possibility of putting aside all their squabbles for the sole purpose of checking the Emperor, if they so desired. (And Duke Atreides was such a possible popular leader among all the Great Houses, which was the primary reason the Emperor wanted him dead.)

And of course, we have our Villains.

The Baron Harkonnen has always been a crowd pleaser. Brilliant in his own right, devious and able to corrupt anyone with just the right sorts of pressure, including a certain absolutely trustworthy doctor we might mention.

"The Tooth! The Tooth!" -- You can't handle the Tooth!

Feyd Rautha Harkonnen is especially interesting for the question of nature versus nurture.

The Bene Gesserit had intended him to mate with Paul, who should have been Leto and Jessica's daughter, and that offspring should have been the cumulation of ninety years of a breeding experiment to recreate the Kwisatz Haderach which had come about almost by accident during the Butlerian Jihad in the deep past, to overthrow the AI overlords.

He was practically Paul's genetic twin, or at least, his potential to be the "One who can be many places at once" was on par with Paul. But instead of fulfilling the kind of destiny that we get with Paul, we see him grow up under the auspices of his Uncle the Baron, becoming as cruel and devious as he was deadly. He was the argument of nurture in the conversation, of course, and having so very little of it eventually cost him his life.

I often wonder about the directions that Dune could have taken, all those little paths in time and circumstance that could have been. What if Feyd had been brought to Arrakis earlier and overwhelmed with Spice the way that Paul had? Sure, he wouldn't have been able to convert the unconscious changes into conscious manipulation, but he might have had enough glimpses of the future, the way that the Fremen did, to have given him the edge he would have needed to kill Paul.

And then there's a relatively minor character, Hasimir Fenring, the Emperor's personal assassin, who was nearly the Kwisatz Haderach, himself. Unable to breed true, he was still potent enough to be completely hidden to Paul's time-sight in the same way that Paul was hidden from the Spacing Guild's weaker time-sight. His training as a skilled killer was also superior to Paul. He was, by all the hints and tricks in the tale, Paul's perfect downfall. It always gives me shivers to think about, and it was only in a single instant of both recognition and pity from Paul that stayed Fenring from killing our hero. It was just a moment of whim.

The setup was gorgeous. Paul's pity, had it been missing at his moment of greatest triumph over the Emperor, would have meant Paul's assured death. I still wonder, to this day, what stayed Frank Herbert's hand from killing his most wonderful darling. We knew the pressure of religion and politics was going to have its way upon all the oppressed peoples of Dune. The return of a monstrous religious Jihad was going to happen one way or another, sweeping across the galaxy and toppling the Empire, regardless of Paul's frantic plans and desires. Paul's own death would only mean a higher level of fanaticism, and Frank Herbert's warning against unreasoning devotion would have been made even clearer with Paul's death.

Perhaps it was pity that stayed his hand. Who are we to say who lives and who dies?

If you really think this review is overlong, then I apologize, but please understand that I could absolutely go on and on much longer than this. It is a symptom of my devotion to this most brilliant of all tales.

And yes, it still holds up very, very well after twelve reads. I am quite shocked and amazed.

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Translation State (Imperial Radch)Translation State by Ann Leckie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been a long-time fan of Leckie. I mean, between AI's trying to understand humans, alien species trying to understand humans, humans trying to understand humans, there's a lot to unpack. This later novel in the series spends most of its time with the Presgr, a race that tantalizingly tastes, translates, even transubstantiates as a part of its knowledge pool, sexual cycle, and space travel.

We get to experience it first hand. It's pretty cool. It also, if you know what the Imperial Radch books are known for, explores alien understanding (or casual uncaring misunderstanding) about sexes or the fluidity of such. We see quite a few books like that, these days, but honestly? Ann Leckie manages to make it fully and interestingly SF, drilling down into some well-thought-out pathways that few others try.

This one is no different. What are the Presgr, anyway, but a species that is, literally, what it eats? The interspecies political balance are at stake, here, and half the fun of the novel is figuring out WHY.

I had a lot of fun.

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Monday, June 26, 2023

The Star FractionThe Star Fraction by Ken MacLeod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's a rather wild political fantasy.

Sure, it has cyberpunk and AI elements, a near-future world (but mostly British) fractured by soooo many political leanings and this chaos keeps most of them down -- but the dialogue is wild. Mind you, you'd have to have a high tolerance and hopefully wide understanding of political theory and hundreds of different flavors, but I dig this stuff.

It's all revolution in the end, man... and it's not exactly roses.

Honestly, I like the idea of this politico-punk novel more than I liked its actual execution. It had great parts -- so many revolutionary-idea cells, uneasy alliances, and jingoistic anthems, and then, at some horrifying instances, mass death.

As a SF, I think it needs to be remembered, appreciated. It's almost too kooky even for my political mind, but it's fascinating for all that.

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Friday, June 23, 2023

Ravensong (Green Creek, #2)Ravensong by T.J. Klune
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So. My hot take on this is pretty simple. I have limited patience for a lot of self-hate and love/hate and non-communication anti-romances.

I CAN handle it for a relatively long time, normally, and can handle it even longer if the novel remains full of other goodies that keep it hopping, but if the majority just a bunch of weak-brooding territory, I start to lose patience. The Omega werewolf storyline was also rather depressing and overall, the whole novel remained depressing until the end. Or rather, it is still depressive at the end and I never shipped the two lovebirds.

To make it worse, the whole novel felt overlong to me. I may not have minded anything at all if it came to a relatively satisfactory end earlier than it had, but it was NOT as heartwarming and satisfactory as the first Green Creek book.

Did it accomplish what it set out to accomplish?

Yes. Probably. But Gordo was definitely a better side-character than a main character. I didn't really connect with this at all despite getting an inside-track to a magician to werewolves. Alas.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Demons of Good and Evil (The Hollows, #17)Demons of Good and Evil by Kim Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Returning to the Hollows is always a pure pleasure for me. Whether we have world-shattering (demon or human) events falling down around us or a cat-and-mouse battle between weres, witches, demons, elves, or pixies, it's always a fun (read wild) ride.

In this particular book, I was very happy to see Rachael needing to defend others from her Sub Rosa role, protector of Cincinnati, and realize just how much of a pain it is. From one fire to another, with some really annoying baddies who just won't take a hint, the stakes were always pretty down-to-earth but the pressure was ALWAYS on.

Reading things like this just make me want to keep on reading -- forever. It's just that good.

And, to be fair, I must say that they're also always an emotional wrench thrown into my machinery. For good or evil, it is what it is. And I love it.

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Monday, June 19, 2023

Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson, #4)Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I took a slight break since book 3 for emotional reasons so I kinda surprised myself by jumping back into the series this month. I'm actually happy I did.

Ghosts and vampire stuff takes the plot forward this time. The vamp stuff is pretty much what I would have expected, honestly. Perceived wrongs, power politics, giving in to a lesser evil to be protected from a worse? Vamp-MC-Were stuff. Honestly, I've seen this kind of three-way thing done way too much, but it wasn't overdone. The people involved with it are perhaps a little too laid back about the situation, maybe.

But all told, it scratches an UF itch and it was entertaining, so no complaints.

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Sunday, June 18, 2023

Aftermath (The Dresden Files, #12.1)Aftermath by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In-between stuff like this novella featuring Karrin hits differently in the light of all that's happened. The grief frankly oozes through the page.

Fortunately, having a good mystery to sink your teeth into is quite welcome... and so is the primordial grunt language so fondly used by men. :)

*grunt* I get you, Murphy. *grunt*

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Changes (The Dresden Files, #12)Changes by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Quite a few people recognize this as one of the best, if not the best novel in the series. I'm one of them. And for good reason.

And it's not merely because the title is one of the most underestimated titles in all of literature.

EVERYTHING changes. But then, like the death card in a tarot deck, it can often be a lot more than what it seems.

This was a non-stop hellfest for Harry. All the chickens came home to roost, and not only are there a few surprises in store, family-wise, but we get the culmination of the entire Vampire War, Red Court.

That's some BIG changes.

And as for everything else... yeah, no, that's not tears in my eyes. I'm fine. Really.

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Saturday, June 17, 2023

Ex-Purgatory (Ex-Heroes, #4)Ex-Purgatory by Peter Clines
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll be honest, this one reads like a pretty damn fun side story in the shape of a full novel rather than a careful-continuity continuation of the first three novels.

That's not to say the first three weren't self-contained, because they were. This one felt, at least for a grand majority of the writing, to be a massive retcon and then an interesting alternate-reality reset.

It was neither, but that's what it felt like. Trying to figure out what was going on was interesting in its own right.

It was good.

But if I had to put all four books in a lineup and be asked to pick the one that doesn't belong, despite having very recognizable MC's, I'd have to call this one out.

Fortunately, it didn't lessen my enjoyment.

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Friday, June 16, 2023

Pirate Sun (Virga, #3)Pirate Sun by Karl Schroeder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chaison gets the stage in this pretty pure Steampunk-like adventure. Yes, yes, it just has all the earmarks OF a Steampunk, but it's still hard-SF.

Between prison breaks, being on the run across many locations, intrigue, and dealing with frenemies, I really have nothing to complain about. It is exactly what it intends to be. Pure adventure.

I enjoyed the wrap up. The series definitely gives me a different vibe from what I normally read. If just for that, it's worth it.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Turn Coat (The Dresden Files, #11)Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I always love a re-read. I'm almost always extremely careful and I know I'll love the books all over again. It kinda comes with the territory.

Same is true for Turn Coat. The funniest parts are very, very funny. I'm looking at you, Morgan. The scary parts are rather nasty. I'm looking at you, Skinwalker. And the nicely complex plot with way too many powers trying to get a piece of Harry is wonderfully chaotic.

Best of all, Butcher has a real talent for drawing all these threads together for one hell of a fantastic climax. Again. Fortunately, the slight re-do of certain elements make very good sense and it's mightily encouraging when it comes to a certain wizard's survivability.

Let's face it. Harry should have died a hundred times over by now.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Mercury Falls (Mercury #1)Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've read a few other novels by Kroese and I thought they were nicely quirky, fun, and funny. And then, for some odd reason, I never revisited the author. That makes me an idiot.

Fast forward a few years and I pick up Mercury Falls, suddenly realize it's a nicely snarky UF with nicely snarky omniscient narration to go with Mercury, and I'm rolling with the multiple skewering (mostly commentary) of apocalypse cultists.

And then I realize Mercury is a lowly and mostly ignored Cherub, one of the lowest of all the angels, and this is a funny UF novel of ultimate bureaucracy, contract breaking, and the antichrist.

So, yeah, I'm surprised and very, very pleased.

And then there was one quote that made me stop reading and chuckle for something like 15 minutes. It killed me. “Look, my personal philosophy is this: if you can make at least one person laugh, you’re still doing better than John Calvin.”

If you know, you know.

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Monday, June 12, 2023

HopelandHopeland by Ian McDonald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I fell hard for this one. I fell deep into this one.

I can totally understand why some may not, but for me, it just worked.

First, the language. I've always been a fan of Ian McDonald, but he really pulled out all the stops, giving me a loving taste of Mysterious London a-la Gaiman or even Alan Moore, keeping it fast paced and quirky and delightful. Add a little magical realism with the Brightborn family - wonderfully musical and cursed by luck, and the Hopeland family, ideologically adopted, totally electrical street performers, and many, many thousands strong across the world.

While it has a little romance and a little tragedy, I don't really see this as a genuine star-crossed lovers kind of romance. Not at all. Their lives are beautiful, whether they are together or apart. This is more of a FAMILY saga, one that keeps developing, adapting, growing stronger even while the world changes so much.

And that's where the real core of this novel comes to play: The world itself, from the early early days of the Hopeland people to where we really follow our MCs in the early 2010's, and how they grow older, change to the ecological disasters and upheavals deep into the 2030's and beyond.

Yes, there is a future history here, too, but it's not the science fiction aspect that I loved most -- it was the amazingly optimistic view of humanity.

I found myself marveling at the idea of Hopeland -- a community that accepts anyone, of any mindset, race, orientation, ANYTHING -- that prides itself on being a Family of choice -- that just does WHATEVER THAT WORKS.

It's the adaptability, the optimism, the insistence that they will be strong and around, helping each other out 10,000 years in the future. Easy to join, impossible to leave, because family is always there for you.

Truly. It's rather beautiful. Especially today, when it feels like everything is falling apart, this kind of sheer optimism rather destroys me.

And it's this, more than anything, that makes me say, "Hey! Ya'll! You should read this! We should make this happen!"

Plus, becoming a ball of lightning for shits and giggles is hella awesome.

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Sunday, June 11, 2023

Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures (Zamonia, #3)Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been enjoying Walter Moers quite a bit, gravitating towards the more literature and intellectual and storytelling mini-instances more than this one in particular.

This one took a great deal of time building up, and that's probably where I slightly lost interest. It felt like a slight rehash of the first Zamonia book in character-building without the wild tall-tales.

That changed by the time we went to school -- or specifically trained to be a warrior, and by that time, I was utterly hooked. The love story and the quest-to-hell was solid and wonderfully mythological. All told, I loved the second half of the novel.

It may not be my favorite Zamonia book, but it was still pretty great.

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Friday, June 9, 2023

Snow CrashSnow Crash by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The last time I read this novel, it was brand new. And the last time I read this, it must have embedded itself a bit too permanently in my head, NLP'ing its way deeper than any kind of sleeper proto-language ever could.

Why do I say that?

Because I've forgotten more about this novel than I have the guts to admit, and what's more, it firmly ensconced my love of studying ancient Sumeria, the gods, mythology, the history, the literature surrounding it -- and that little fact completely escaped me until now, upon this belated re-read.

I feel like such a fool. And what's more, even though I had read Neuromancer before Snow Crash, I have been chasing THIS PARTICULAR HIGH ever since reading THIS PARTICULAR NOVEL.

Yeah, it's that good. Fun all the way through, with fantastic characters, a brilliant hybrid virtual/real adventure in an anarchistic capitalist hellscape in California, where everything is run by thuggish mobs of all flavors (including the remnants of the US government) and where pizza delivery really does go hand-in-hand with a samurai blade.

It's wild. Vibrant. Clever. And it is just a cool as an adventure as it is a philosophical treatise, a NLP dissertation, a Sumerian mytho-history guide, and a cautionary tale of rampant predatory capitalism.

Oh, yeah, and don't forget creating a slave-race of religious followers on a floating city-state or glass-knife villains with nukes.

Does this novel keep up with modern readers? I should say so! It's one of the wildest movies-in-my-mind I've read in absolute ages and if it ever gets made as a tv series, it better get a huge-budget HBO or Showtime treatment so that it gets the treatment it ABSOLUTELY deserves.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval EnglandThe Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It honestly wasn't a bad book but I have to judge it based on my enjoyment and what I come to expect from Brandon Sanderson.

It's basically a what-if novel that gives our fascinatingly un-fleshed-out-until-an-extreme-time-later MC nanobot protections and sends him flying to an alternate reality Medieval England (with caveats) to be a fish-out-of-water wizard. It's meant to be humorous and silly and it is -- in many ways -- but by the end, it didn't hit all the high notes I think it should have.

It reminded me of a number of old-style 50's and 60's Fantasy where an average Joe is whisked away to Feudal land only to teach the wonders of (insert modernity here), and sits fully average on that bookshelf.

Good if that's what you're looking for, but I didn't think it wasn't all that special.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe (The Uplift Saga)Contacting Aliens: An Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe by David Brin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always wanted to get around to reading this guide but I wanted to wait until I did a re-read of the Uplift saga.

This encyclopedia of species is pretty good, but I did want one thing a bit more than the others: full color pictures. Indeed, I'd love full-on illustrations and glossy pages. The information is still great, of course, but I just wanted so much more -- like an actual encyclopedia.

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Sundiver (The Uplift Saga, #1)Sundiver by David Brin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back in the old days, when the Uplift war had just been published, I was just then reading all of Brin for the first time and LOVING it. When I thought to myself, "Hey, how did Sundiver stack up against Startide Rising or Uplift War, I said, 'It was super solid but it just didn't have that same KICK the others had,' and I was right."

The fantastic science of the Sun's Physics, possible real options to send not just a probe, but ourselves into the photosphere, was enough to carry this novel. Throw in a VAST alien cosmography, a brilliant world-building universe of Brin's, an equally vast future-history of Earth, and not just one but three top-class scientific and old-school mysteries and a unique adventure, and this book easily outstrips most modern SF.

So yeah, when I read this back in the day, I poo'd on it because it wasn't AS brilliant as the TRULY BRILLIANT novels that came later, but this should not make a dent in the objective brilliance of THIS novel.

Honestly. It's one of the greats. I loved it -- AGAIN -- on re-read. I wish all SF could be as rich.

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Monday, June 5, 2023

Biomancer 2 (New Era Online: Biomancer #2)Biomancer 2 by Shemer Kuznits
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As much solid fun as the first book in this series. Gotta love those corrupting vibes, taking down all those Druidic elders, destroying life.

The redemption bits were delicious, too, and I love the setup for more. I truly hope we can continue with this tale -- but if not, it's still satisfying.

I read it just because it's fun. And goodness, this LitRPG IS fun.

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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Biomancer (New Era Online: Biomancer #1)Biomancer by Shemer Kuznits
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These LitRPGs are super easy to fall into. Seriously. Total formula, but it’s a formula I love because it cuts through all the boring stuff and gets to the weird and gruesome game mechanics right away and lets us feel the blood spurt as we eviscerate our online enemies.

Me, I just wanna level up with him.

In this case, being Deathless and having so much flesh-crafting skills, from level one to almost twenty, is a real delight. Always looking forward to the next corruption.

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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Fables, Vol. 11: War and PiecesFables, Vol. 11: War and Pieces by Bill Willingham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That SEEMS to be it. The whole build up lead to this: war with the Empire. Invasion forces, modern tactics, the whole works.

That's it.

It was good, but quick. Very, very quick. I don't know how I feel about that, but I guess it doesn't matter. On to newer stories.

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Planet of the ApesPlanet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 6/3/23:

My Buddy reader surprised me by finding and wanting to read this (for free, now) on Audible, and I thought it sounded great. So here I am, enjoying this very excellent skewering of all racism.

Of course, it's veiled behind SPECIES, but it really puts a pin in the kinds of assumptions that keep such bullshit going.

Suffice to say, it's a smarter, more intellectual, and heartfelt novel than most of the movies it has since spawned.

Original Review:

This is a book that deserves to stand the test of time. I think it's as valid now as it was back in the fifties.

Let's ignore the movies for just a moment. They're important in their own right for capturing a cultural zeitgeist and for showing us all how damning cultural bias can be. One can make the argument that the Planet of the Apes movies underscored the 60's, put it all in sharp relief.

But I'm going to talk about the book -- about why the book needs to be read now.

Cultural bias is everywhere. All around us. It's in the very air we breathe. In general, we don't see it.

Our assumptions make us prisoners.

The apes are the epitome of Western Thought. Casually racist in everything they do, they rationalize everyone OTHER than themselves into a kind of slavery. Whether it's about cultural superiority, scientific superiority, military superiority, or ANY reason to make themselves appear more important than the OTHER, they take it.

Because what would happen otherwise?

Rhetoric would fall apart, giving way to a careful observation of the real circumstances.

People are being kept in cages. They're experimented upon. They are left in atrocious conditions and made to fight for scraps to survive. The purpose is to turn them into animals FIRST in order to prove the original assumption that they are animals.

If this isn't classic racism, I don't know what is. Every argument they make must revolve around the basic assumption that THEY are better than US. If the argument doesn't fit, it is thrown out.

Only OVERWHELMING evidence to the contrary can lift a single human out of this bondage, and but the great emancipation only works for this single human.

The pervasive racism persists.

Classic cultural bias.

We are fully immersed in it. We feel the hopelessness underlying their bulwarks of rationalizations. We are made small, helpless, even as we retain our dignity in all the tiniest of ways. And ultimately, we lose.

It takes a whole society to change a whole society.

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Friday, June 2, 2023

Station Eternity (The Midsolar Murders, #1)Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to enjoy this. I got the impression when I first started reading it that I was reading a Chambers-style SF that happened to be a Cozy mystery. That would have been fine, honestly.

It didn't wow me during the first parts but I was enjoying it enough, wondering just how crazy she really was or how it would circle back to the soon-to-be-murders. If I squint hard enough, I could see a Marple-esqe dotty, seemingly sloppy mystery that would straighten itself out by the end.

Instead, I was a bit nonplussed by all the other PoVs. I wasn't lost by them, mind you, but it did, eventually, kill my interest.

Best parts? Characterizations. So-so? The plot. The not so much? The mystery.

All in all, I thought it was OKAY. I thought it was kinda messy but not outright bad.

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Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Days of Solomon GurskyThe Days of Solomon Gursky by Ian McDonald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read this 25 years ago in an anthology I still have to this day. I had read a lot of short fiction by that time, as well as a mountain of SF novels.

I'm happy to say that this random little story from over two decades ago has done a better job of immortalizing itself to me than any other. Few have shone as brightly as this one. Indeed, I might say this one is my absolute favorite short SF of all time.

Sure, some older SF authors might have touched on the same overall theme and some later authors will have done the same, but this one has everything I love most.

Back in '98, nanotech was still shiny, but what never goes out of style is a good tale: all the love, immortality, sheer unrestrained originality, time, and memory.

It's a densely crafted tale that sets up the seven days of Solomon Grundy, only hard-SF -- and it's full of heart. It rejects the idea that immortality kills love. There's a lot more going on in it than is obvious in even two reads.

I'll be honest here: if I had any way to immortalize this story, make sure everyone in the universe reads it, gets it under their skin, then I would be a very happy man. If any story should not be forgotten, if it should have many, many reprints, then it ought to be this one.

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The Sandbox (The Sandbox Series) (Sandbox, 1)The Sandbox (The Sandbox Series) by Brian Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this seemed pretty interesting at Netgalley primarily because I saw "AI" and just slammed my fist down on my keyboard. I'm pretty easily amused.

From the blurb, I expected a modern techno-thriller and I really wasn't disappointed. It has all the same earmarks of all the other techno-thrillers, a combination of military/police procedural marching up to AI-designing corporations and a murder mystery that may or may not be AI related, etc., etc. and I can't really complain. It is exactly what I thought it would be and it does its job.

That being said, I was fairly happy to see that it went the whole City of Golden Shadow route at one point while still sticking to its techno-thriller core.

I won't say it's mightily original, but I thought it was fairly amusing and it did what it set out to do.

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