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Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Hobgoblin Riot (Dominion of Blades, #2)The Hobgoblin Riot by Matt Dinniman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We get other PoV's following the first book, and while I appreciated the bold change as an idea, I may not have quite clicked with it. I preferred the first book's style. That being said, this book had more changes than just that.

This wasn't a normal LitRPG as the other. This was a tower defense, with wave after wave of attackers. It absolutely required a very different style. No casual adventuring. Just siege, a few story reveals and progressions, and more siege.

Maybe my mood was for more of the previous, alas, but this was still pretty decent. Hobgoblins are obviously a HUGE part of this. :)

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Dominion of Blades (Dominion of Blades, #1)Dominion of Blades by Matt Dinniman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a nice, more classic mix of LitRPG with a slightly more unique core reason than most of this type. (Yay for generational starships and new planets.) The actual LitRPG is pretty much a standard world-exploration fantasy world with limited quests.

What makes this one a bit special is the hints that the players have been doing NPC-type things for an AWFULLY long time, so a spattering of random skills appear to be way overpowered despite the character starting out, nearly memory-less, at level one.

I think it's always pretty fun to goof around with that kind of thing, and this randomly thrown-together small party grows together and learns to trust one another as they reveal what the hell has been going on in this place.

Not bad. Entertaining. Somewhat normal for the type, but nonetheless fun.

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Monday, November 27, 2023

The Way of Shadows (Night Angel, #1)The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I remember reading this back when it first came out and I said to myself that THIS was what I was waiting for in epic fantasy. It was so bloody, wickedly magical, dystopian society, and so much quicker than SoIaF to get to the good bits.

I always had a fond spot for this and the full trilogy and tended to rank them up as some of the very finest modern epic fantasy had to offer. Quite a bit better than a lot that I've read since then, including a majority of the biggest names, even. I put this at the same height as the Mistborn trilogy, even.

Sure, later, I got into Weeks' Lightbringer quintology and said the same thing about it, but I slowly started to forget what I loved so much about the Night Angel trilogy.

And then the new book came out. I HAD to revisit the originals. And here we are.

Did it match my memories?

No. It surpassed them. All my original qualms during my first read disappeared with the hindsight of what I knew will be coming. The action was sublime, the magic super interesting, and the tripod of Justice, Vengeance, and Mercy even better than I remembered.

The love was the surprisingly best part. Love is a noose. But sometimes you can't choose not to put it around your neck.

Great stuff. I haven't been this excited on a re-read since WoT.

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Friday, November 24, 2023

Joseph Anton: A MemoirJoseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finally got around to reading Salman Rushdie's memoir of his time hiding from his Fatwa. I got a lot out of it not because I've ever had death threats aimed at me, but because I'm a student of history. And I have to admit it all: Salman Rushdie was something of a hero for me as a writer back when Satanic Verses became a household name, even if it isn't famous for its literary value -- alas, that, since it is a great book.

THIS book, however, is both a free and hard look at his own life from his own words, giving himself a sometimes rough assessment while exploring all the context. I wouldn't have wanted to be him, being used as a football between politicians, having to wrangle for special protection, and facing the reality that there is no such thing as true protection.

More importantly, at least for me, was getting the genesis and details of all his OTHER novels and their publication circumstances, the other writers he had met or befriended, even the celebrities who helped him.

It was a life. Hardly ever easy, but Rushdie stuck by his guns to say what he believed, and I'll just say right now that he got a raw deal -- but it was religion and politics caused all these issues, not truly his own words. Of course, if it was a Christian world and not a Muslim one, back before the Pope allowed anyone to say he wasn't infallible, there probably would have been the same kind of response.

It just goes to show, we all need to be on guard. We should never be tolerant of intolerance. It's up to all of us to put our heel down on those who would take our freedom away. All of us TOGETHER.

So, again, thank you, Mr. Rushdie, for bringing this out into the open in your own way.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2023

BuyMort: Rise of the Windowpuncher: How I Became the Accidental Warlord of Arizona (Shopocalypse Saga #3)BuyMort: Rise of the Windowpuncher: How I Became the Accidental Warlord of Arizona by Damien Hanson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had a good time with this SF LitRPG adventure. The whole "Amazon-clone takes over the multiverse" SFnal post-apoc dystopia vibe was, even with all the slimes, the hobgoblins, the mega-corp exploiters, and huge scorpion herds, extremely close to our own dystopian world. I FELT it.

We're only one step away from selling all the corpses we make. Yay.

I suppose I really enjoyed the hell out of maybe 5/6th of the novel until we got the actual resolution for the main quest plot. I mean, I knew we had to get here eventually, but it felt kinda rushed. I don't know if there will be more, but I'll definitely be here for it if there is. I want to see ALL of BuyMort go down. But either way, I kinda wish we had a more natural build-up toward this particular end, even if it would require 3-4 more novels. Like I said, it was fun.

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Monday, November 20, 2023

The Sky Road (The Fall Revolution, #4)The Sky Road by Ken MacLeod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The 4th book in the Fall Revolution is seated firmly in the future Earth this time. This alt-future follows the totally crazy multi-political SFnal tack to its natural conclusion. And what conclusion could an aging-slowed, politically ultra-conscious populace come to after tech or looming AI and functional immortality has settled in?

Chaos. Always chaos. People who believe generally find a way to keep on believing and getting others to join their power fantasies. Or if it isn't a power fantasy, it's often close enough to being a power fantasy as to make no real difference.

Even so, this particular novel reminds me so much more of the first in this universe. That one was pretty much us undergoing massive advancements and the means to enact our political fantasies. The Sky Road picks up after a great deal of time has passed and it kinda goes backwards. There are the post-physical populations and those who decided to stay behind in smaller communities, using old tech and living lives much like what we've got. And of course, there are the historians.

It's interesting. It's complicated. It's definitely worth reading this series. I rarely see anything like it anymore. This kind of SF should not be forgotten. It reminds me of 70's political SF updated to modern SFnal ideas while almost reaching the level of Singularity.

It may not get a lot right, of course, but we don't read SF for the future predictions. We read it for the possibilities. :)

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Sunday, November 19, 2023

The Good SoldierThe Good Soldier by Nir Yaniv
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit I HAD to read this book based on practically nothing more than the cover. I'm not usually so shallow, but it SCREAMED to me. And then, when I read that Tidhar and he collaborated, it bacame a done deal.

Upon reading, I feel vindicated. It's a very Catch-22 kind of novel, funny, SF space-fleet, and it glorifies all Second Class Idiots everywhere.

First Class Idiots aren't quite official. It's an honorary title.

Clever, subversive, and refreshingly old-school military humor. Everything, at all times, is perfectly functional. Sometimes it's even more functional than the other times when it is perfectly functional, but that's kinda always the point.

Great fun.

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Saturday, November 18, 2023

The Satanic VersesThe Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I think this is an important novel to read, a lot of real-life stuff circles it and perhaps conflates its importance in people's minds rather more than the quality of the text, itself.

That is to say: the fatwa placed on Salman Rushdie since 1988, marking him for death for writing this novel, is more of a head-scratcher to someone like me than some kind of obvious reality.

What? This title isn't obviously about Satan writing poetry and a total insult to Muslim peoples?

That's just it... Aside from some rather satirical passages about an Imam, or rather, we can assume one particular Imam that put a hit out on Rushdie's life, this novel is pretty TAME. Fine, there are a few assumptions about Muhammad and points of interpretation that are hinted at that bring up the fact that -- perhaps -- certain people aren't completely infallible. But this, I think, is MILD.

Especially when there is so much racism out there, this is frankly a lyrical, dense piece of literature that is often a pure pleasure, funny, strange, irreverent, satirical, and almost always enjoyable. It's a clever novel with many concurrent levels, dream sequences, magical realism, transformations, and a great look both Hindu and Muslim Indian life.

Is it an easy text? No, not particularly. Indeed, it's so dense that I had to read it (both times) in short bursts just so I could digest the rich text. Whereas some novels are pure popcorn, this one was a full, balanced meal.

Suffice to say, I got a lot out of it and Rushdie's writing is GOOD. Gabriel and Satan as an Indian Movie star and an Indian ex-patriot was never what I would have expected, but it IS fascinating.

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Friday, November 17, 2023

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

Early Heinlein. One of his best Juveniles. I don't know if it really counts to say there's spoilers here when it's so damn old, but I'm very amused by how it turned out.

Sure, we have a very old but very childlike alien beast that has been passed down for ten generations of this starfaring family. What began as a small, cute beast is now a full fledged dinosaur that like to eat shrubberies and trees in town.

And this is where the trouble begins. We've got busybody jerks who want to put down such an unintelligent beast because it doesn't quite match sapience laws despite being able to talk. After all, it doesn't have HANDS! *gasp* So yeah, this dog scared the locals and we go straight to a courtroom drama, counter-cultural hijinks, saving the beasty by all means, and a nice little surprise that turns the tables on everyone's understanding.

You know, Heinlein. Crusty libertarians, skirting the law when it doesn't make sense, making allies that throw a wrench in everyone's works. Fun stuff. And best of all, it's very much a YA. A great end, too.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Murder Your Employer: The McMasters Guide to HomicideMurder Your Employer: The McMasters Guide to Homicide by Rupert Holmes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an utterly delightful, murderous book. Truly charming. After all, it's couched on true morality, or rather, considered morality, aided by higher education and intelligent design.

I love the writing. It really is charming and reserved and deliciously murderous. I may not have been laughing out loud, but I found myself grinning quite a bit. Bosses, true jerks, rapists, life-destroyers, and deplorables all get their just deserts thanks to these intrepid scholars.

Plot wise, I loved all the complicated setups and preparation for each murder. I thoroughly enjoyed all the characters and their motivations. Very self-aware, wonderfully period-set, and genuinely kind. You know, if you're part of the school. No one else might not get a taste of kindness... but some do. :)

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Monday, November 13, 2023

Under Fortunate StarsUnder Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I honestly didn't know if I was really going to like this book for a good chunk of time. The opening was light SF with rag-tag characters getting lost in a starless-rift, only to find another craft. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't all that interesting. Fortunately, we get some pretty awesome timey-wimey stuff going on and a LOT of great backstory that fills in everything else, making for a very different kind of novel besides a bit of space-opera.

The long war with the aliens is more of a backdrop and agency-pusher. The real star of the show is the long-history and celebration of the diplomacy that put an end to the war -- and how it directly relates to both crews on both of these stranded ships.

It's pretty smart, a lot of time jumping, story-wise, but I rather enjoyed that aspect of it. Who are your heroes, after all? I especially loved seeing their flaws, the inconsistencies, the surprise reveals (not really that surprising as a reader, but enjoyable to see the others be surprised in the tale) and the resolution.

Mystery, communication, trust, adventure -- and especially destiny -- are the things that make this pretty good.

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Saturday, November 11, 2023

Mercury Shrugs: (Mercury #5)Mercury Shrugs: by Robert Kroese
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The continuing adventures/misadventures of Mercury, the angel, leans hard into multiversal time-hijinx and Satan-defeating humor sprinkled with superman-movie references.

Sound odd? It's light humor, goofy, and slightly satirical fun. I didn't mind it for passing entertainment, but it wasn't my favorite of the series.

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Friday, November 10, 2023

BuyMort: Smart Shopper: How I Became the Accidental Warlord of Arizona (Shopocalypse Saga #2)BuyMort: Smart Shopper: How I Became the Accidental Warlord of Arizona by Damien Hanson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back to this very enjoyable SF apocalypse LitRPG adventure. Gotta built that post-apoc settlement on earth, thanks to Galactic Amazon. Um. I mean, BuyMort.

Ever wonder what a true capitalist nightmare is? Try this out. There's even a pretty great market on dead bodies, and instant transportation for any product is fantastic.

Bloody, funny, and I feel like I'm in a sim battle manager. :)

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Thursday, November 9, 2023

VentusVentus by Karl Schroeder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a very cool surprise.

I read Schroeder's Virga series (enclosed hard-SF atmosphere with artificial suns, a steampunk-type storytelling) and was very impressed with the concepts, so I decided to go back to his earlier works. I didn't expect it to be quite AS ambitious as it turned out to be.

Indeed, from its humble fantasy-like start, with strange nano mecha taking part of a whole planet, with strange godlike AI visitors limiting themselves to explore Ventus, the planet, I was fairly hooked from the start. I didn't quite know how immense and epic it would become.

This is fantastic hard SF, ya'll. Rich, detailed worldbuilding, never skimping on history or the SFnal rules or the implications, I'm reminded very fondly of C. S. Friedman's Black Sun Rising, Neverness. Indeed, I had the impression of some Peter Hamilton as if written by Valente in The Habitation of the Blessed, King John's kingdom as told by AIs.

*loving this*

So, let me just point out this little fact: most SF doesn't go all out, getting progressively more creative and conceptually larger as it goes, but when it does, it should be noted. Clearly. And here's your notice. Prepare for some jaw-dropping. :)

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Sunday, November 5, 2023

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8)Night Broken by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was actually rather great. I was getting filler vibes from earlier books here and there. But now? Coyote has a more central role. So does the walking stick. And when Adam's ex comes around to make life complicated, I loved to hate her.

I can't say much more without spoiling a ton, but I truly ENJOYED this one. It's full of meat, and not only the kind that you find after some ravenous god-like beast does a number on women and children.

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Saturday, November 4, 2023

Dead ElevenDead Eleven by Jimmy Juliano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not only is this a solid, good horror, it has such a delightfully wicked premise.

It's been so long since I've seen towns stuck in time stories, be it SF or Horror. And better yet, I've seen nothing like this stuck in the mid 90's. Nostalgia hits hard... again.

So. No spoilers, but we've got a pretty great atmospheric mystery that includes PoV and epistolary elements and a particularly great "oh, shit, this small town stuff is SCARY" vibe. Again, no spoilers, but the journey is all kinds of great.

Modern meets 90's ancient. Yeah, feeling old yet?

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Thursday, November 2, 2023

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, I finally got around to reading RG aka JKR and I'm kinda surprised it took me quite this long to do it.

I simply thought I wouldn't quite appreciate a mystery from a great fantasy writer, especially since there is no supernatural or such oddities in the text.

That isn't to say I don't know the mystery field, however, and I figured it was well past time to see if there's any fuss here.

So, first impressions: It's pretty formula, but it's well-done formula. We've got all the Noir going on that you could wish for, with a heavy reliance on slow-burn character building. I like that. It's solid and never made me lose interest.

And while that IS a good thing, it honestly never goes beyond that. I like Strike and I like Robin even more. But a dark-past PI with some problems isn't anything new. And neither is a seriously competent bombshell working for said PI. It has the strength of comfort going for it.

So, while I couldn't find anything seriously outstanding about the plot -- hell, even the plot seems to be rather cliche -- it was also satisfying the way an infrequent fast food burger is satisfying. You get that craving for that specific feel, the payoff that says all your initial assumptions about the entire genre is always right, every time, because they ARE standardized and will be the same no matter what city you travel to...

Yeah. Not bad, even solid all the way down, but also not original.

Even so, it's early days and it's not like I dislike it, so onward I go!

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Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Black River OrchardBlack River Orchard by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a truly classy, smooth horror, full of the bucolic, a bit of the suburbia, and a lot more of the fresh apple. Ah, yes, the apples. But what could make anything like a huge, sweeping horror novel about apples so SCARY?

Muahahahahahaha well, let's just say that Wendig is a treasure, okay?

I can't believe how much I got into all these characters, how my opinions of them kept changing, growing, or shrinking. Hell, I was actually on the side of those who turned out to be the worst even as they slid.

What a totally wonderful, rich, smooth horror. So sweet, full of fiber, with a lush texture. It's so good, we don't even need to make cider or bake a pie.

And on a personal note, we got some great fresh Cortlands and McIntoshes the other day and I ate about 5 of them as I read this novel. I totally recommend reading this book with some of the GOOD apples. And don't let anyone tell you that apples are all the same. They aren't.

If you do read this and eat some apples, tho, please take note of the color of the skin. It doesn't always mean that an apple the color of a ruby slipper is BAD, per se, but you might want to use your intuition anyway.

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