Mailing List

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Great Masters: Haydn - His Life and MusicGreat Masters: Haydn - His Life and Music by Robert Greenberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Robert Greenberg's lectures on Haydn was a pure pleasure to experience. His enthusiasm and exploration of Haydn's music and life kept me thoroughly entertained.

It should definitely be a must-read for anyone interested in classical music, if not for his place in the public imagination, his wonderfully good-natured or hard-working personality, then definitely for the pointers on WHAT music I should hunt down and listen to.

Honestly, I'm thoroughly impressed with his life and output. He was one of the only men that Mozart totally respected. And even though I've been a life-long listener of classical music, I never quite connected with this composer.

I guess, at long last, I have reason to. :)

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 1/30/24:

I got my special hardcover out and took my sweet time reading this. It's a favorite, to be sure, and I knew it before I started it now.

I mean, sure, I'm reading it because the Netflix adaptation is coming out rather soon, but MOSTLY, I just want to enjoy the OMG WHAT DID I JUST READ moments all over again.

Hard SF is absolutely my thing. Good or even great Hard SF is just too much for my poor heart. Good thing I know how to dehydrate just before I'm utterly dead. I'll be sure to come back during another Stable Season.

And yes, I'm muahahahahahaing about what I know will come in the full trilogy. No spoilers, but wow.

Original Review:

From the opening, I was struck by how much history I didn't know about China's Cultural Revolution. It might be obvious to anyone growing up in those parts, of course, but I was almost lost in that story long before I saw that there was anything sci-fi about the novel. This is a good thing. It speaks of good writing.

And then things changed. I became a frog in a pot. Small hints accumulate, surrounded by mathematical problems both fundamental and curious.

And then the MC's sanity is questioned. It's an open question that both the reader and the character must answer.

And then I got an idea. I could easily make the argument that all scientists in this novel are actually Main Characters, and indeed, that theory only becomes crystal clear later in the novel. It was a delight.

The novel is full of scientist suicides, damn odd hallucinations, all the way to a fantastic virtual reality game that draws intellectuals from around the world before devolving into a suggestive epic space opera featuring some of the most interesting aliens I've read about in a LONG time.

The worldbuilding is top-knotch-squared.

The clever uses of technology are the true highlights of the novel, and I'm upset. Why? Because the translations and publications for the next two novels are still in the future. Why am I still upset? Because I can hardly find the other works for this great author.

A grandmaster of Chinese sci-fi? I can't deny the fact. And just because I can't compare to other science fiction masters of Chinese literature is a null point. I am already a fanboy. I'll be revelling in every work I can get my hands on.

This is a fantastic example of how great science fiction can be. Truly inspiring.


This novel now a Hugo Nominee for 2015 because of the translation and introduction into the English-speaking market. It is a last minute replacement for Marco Kloos's Lines of Departure that was bravely self-removed due to the Sad Puppy 3 controversy. It wasn't his fault, and he got caught up in some seriously not-cool BS with this year's Hugo. He should be treated like any other Hugo Nominee. With respect and awe for the accomplishment it is, even though he withdrew.

On the other hand, after finding out that Three Body Problem took his place, I have to admit that it couldn't have happened to a better novel. I loved this one. It was really fantastic and it had everything I like to see in seriously good fiction.

This one might truly be my top pick for the year. It might be the one I cast my ballot on. But first, I need to read a few more Nominees. I take this very seriously. We bring our levels of joy and dedication to the ideas we thrive on. Awards are only as good as we make them. I refuse to let the Hugo become a quagmire.

Let the best novel win!

Brad K Horner's Blog

View all my reviews

Sunday, January 28, 2024

The Quantum Rose (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #6)The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I just couldn't get into this one.

Farm wife gets ensnared in power-plays between two powerful men, had to deal with rape in one and space-politics with the other.

I guess I was hoping to have a great deal more of the Skolian empire stuff that was smarter on the SF, full of adventure, spaceships -- with just a taste of romance, instead of tons of slightly icky romance that overwhelmed the majority of the tale.

Win some, lose some.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 26, 2024

Ascendant Sun (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #5)Ascendant Sun by Catherine Asaro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very decent SF as long as you're all about Space Operas, golden Greek/Mayan telepathic cyborg-gods, a lost war, rough survival, and a trip across all known space to get yourself healed.

Truly, this was pretty entertaining.

View all my reviews
Mislaid in Parts Half-Known (Wayward Children, #9)Mislaid in Parts Half-Known by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Coming back to Wayward Children is always a treat. Deep and fantastical stories that always circle back around to profound coming of age tales. The moral lessons are almost always very closely tied to the magical lands.

In this particular novella, we get to revisit some classically horrible lands, or rather, classically horrible people in those lands, and reinforce the fact that we, as children, are not the things that are done to us.

This is important at all times, of course. But the magic makes it a bit more pointy.

View all my reviews

Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Light Fantastic (Discworld, #2; Rincewind, #2)The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/25/24:

It always seems to get better with every read.
It's not only comforting to almost die 28... or wait, 29 times(?) but also a joy to be swallowed by your luggage.

And yet, this is not nearly anything like the complete happiness of reading Pratchett.

What a grand, magical adventure. With babies.

Original Review:

Re-read with buddies!

I'm still very much enjoying these early Pratchett books, especially in mind that I'll be seeing a *lot* more of these folks in the near future. And even if I'll mainly be focused on folks I haven't seen yet, anyway, I'm still enjoying what may as well be an overview primer of the whole Discworld universe.

That being said, I think Rincewind is given a bad rap in the series. I love the hell out of him. He's the ultimate bumbling idiot under the geas of a penultimate Eighth Spell, the casting of which will make or destroy the universe or something, and the making and breaking is ultimately left up only to him.

And he's a wizard with a hat that says "wizzard" on it. You know... to make sure people understand that he's actually one of their kind. :) I particularly loved the bits with the floating rocks and the computers of the universe and the dungeon universes and, of course, Cohen the Barbarian.

It's funny, it's BIG, and we even get to see the tourism industry take off in a really big way, even going so far as to have the very first tourist play a big part in a very special birth. Awwwww... So sweet! :)

Plotwise, I think it's well up to the standards of the rest of the series and while Rincewind falls away in people's favor, *cry* He'll always have a very special place in my heart.

And by the way, that sword is definitely smarter than him. Oh well!

Great fun! Even better the second time!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Radiant Seas (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #4)The Radiant Seas by Catherine Asaro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one stepped up to the plate. A lot happens, thank goodness, and between the space battles, the intrigue, the more fleshing out of the royal Skolian family, including the brothers I've by now read in two other novels as well as the sister, I'm really getting a cool feel for the intrigue.

The tragedies are pretty spot on and entertaining. If anything, I'm rearing to get to the next book in the series.

This is now -- fully -- space opera.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The DownloadedThe Downloaded by Robert J. Sawyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novella by Robert Sawyer has a bunch of rather interesting, even oddball elements that, for the most part, work very well together.

What happens when you incorporate Mennonites, androids, deep space astronauts, deep simulation, and convicts -- shaken, not stirred -- and make them work out some ethical concerns, both personal and on a huge scale?

Indeed, there's some interesting questions to be resolved and even stranger outcomes. And honestly? I can't quite blame any of their conclusions. Decent story.

View all my reviews
The Color of Magic (Discworld, #1; Rincewind, #1)The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/23/24:

I successfully got to read this with my daughter and laughed all the while. It's better shared. And I daresay it gets better with every single re-read.

The sheer imagination here still boggles me, as do all the great references to fantasy classics. Swords and Deviltry by Fritz Leiber obviously inspired Terry in a huge way, but I saw great signs of Moorcock, too. I know the next book was more inspired by the Conan books.

But this is still rather interesting, no? Early Rincewind humorously pokes fun at these classics, while later Pratchett goes on to build something with real hearth and heart. It's just great to see a few different sides in a classic.

Original Review:

If I hadn't already read the entire series, and if I was judging this book just by its own merits, I'd still be saying that it harnesses the lightning and even finds a way to make it go side to side rather than up and down.

It's really fantastic as a straight fantasy with tons of humorous elements, with a good deal more worldbuilding than all the later books, more obvious and harsher tongue-in-cheek elements, and a great setup for the Great Wizzard Rincewind.

Honestly? I love Rincewind. I love the shard of the Great magical spell lodged in his brain, Death's endless chase for him, the straight adventure he finds himself in, and the sheer fact that HE SURVIVES.

Twoflower is awesome, too, and the chest is one of the greatest unsung heroes of the age, and there is a very good case to be made that this whole novel (and the one following it) is probably the BEST INSURANCE MAN'S TOURIST GUIDE EVER WRITTEN. :)

'Nuff said.

Am I sad that Sir Terry is no longer with us? Yeah.

View all my reviews

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Catch the Lightning (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #2)Catch the Lightning by Catherine Asaro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know what to think about this one. While I do like the SFnal ideas, a bit of time travel, the genetic Mayan bloodlines carrying strong telepathy, the cyberspace and Inversion ideas of FTL, the core romance was weird.

We spent more than half the book in 80's gang territory with Starman and the other half back in the future dealing with institutional psychopaths, either of which was okay if it wasn't for romance being tied up in a core apology for inbreeding. It's just weird. They could all be closely related if there's this much time travel going on.

Anyway, it's an okay SF as long as I keep my expectations low-ish at the moment. The first one felt like it was much better. I'm not sold on these two characters.

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 20, 2024

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, #3)The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/20/24:

I may not say this is one of the best stories I've ever read, any more, BUT I do say that there are few far future Hard-SF/Fantasy books that do as good a job as this when it comes to multiple layers of pain, betrayal, attempted renewal, and redemption.

This is true for the personal level, for almost every character, AND the geological level. Just who is broken in this Broken Earth? I'd say we all are.

But, as we learned in the first book -- This is the End.

I still love it.

Original Review:

There's really no easy way to put this, so I'll come right out and say it.

This is one of the very best stories I've ever read.

All together now, all three books in this trilogy, together, make up one hell of a great story.

I am amazed. I cried. I was blown away by the sheer immensity of what was going on, of the implications and the revelations and the final action.

Sure, we knew that one of two things must happen by the end of the second book, but I hadn't quite realized just how invested I'd have gotten by that point. I didn't know how it would happen or what kinds of complications might arise or just how much enemies had turned into allies or who was good or bad... because that was never the point of these books.

We are all people. Every single one of us... whether stone eater, rogga, or still. The fact that the point is far from belabored, rather gorgeous in exploration and execution, makes it more than icing on this cake. I'm simply shaken to my core.

This is one of the best stories I've ever read.

It's more than sheer imagination, storytelling skill, world-building, or fantastically complicated characters or world-shattering events. It's ART.

I am 100% squealing fanboy here.

I actually whooped aloud as I was reading and startled my daughter. :)

THIS is why I read. This is the sheer fascination I always try to hold onto. :)


View all my reviews

Friday, January 19, 2024

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2)The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/19/24:

Now, while I AM still happy about the scope and creative context of this second book in the Broken Earth, absolutely loving everything about the worldbuilding, the history, and the "magic" setup, I have to admit that the slow bits and rather unlikable changes in the characters -- Shaffa becoming understandable, even sympathetic -- is kinda unpalatable. I liked hating him.

But even so, I feel like I get a bit of rounding, a lot more of context, and the bigger feeling of every Earthly faction having a pretty good reason to do what they do.

But, then, in full context, this SF is very much a response to much of ANY of the classic SFs that jump us forward to the far future fate of Earth, itself, and the imagination necessarily must take front seat over characters.

Is it wrong for me to wish for more clear-cut heroism and moral superiority? That's the question.

Even so, I still love the book.

Original Reviews:

Edit 8/11/17

HUGO WINNER for 2017!!!!! That's the second one in a row for the SAME series! :) And since I've already read the third one and squealed all over it, I'm going on a limb and calling it three Hugos in a row.

Don't hate me if I'm right! :)

Original review:

My mind cannot stop dancing with joy after reading this. You might say that I'm dancing with Father Earth, enjoying the reveals as one would enjoy the unearthing of so many gems of storytelling awesomeness.

The world-building is still sharp as ever, and so many questions have answers in this second book. We're given an amazing shape for amazing things to come. I'm not merely or only shaken to my core by the amazing scenes of earth alteration, depth of histories, or revealed enormity of what is really going on, here; actually, I'm left in awe by the scope and the careful planning and execution of the Author's Mad Skillz.

Essun and Nassun are wonderful characters, of course, and there are times when Nassun almost steals the spotlight for me, but here's the real surprise: I can't believe how awesome Hoa's story is turning out to be, or that of all the Stone Eaters. This is what SF designed for. Awe. Shocking audacity. Scope and Vision. Rocking Ideas.

So we're descending further than geological processes, headed straight into the quantum loam. :) I'm laughing my head off with Alabaster's thrown bone when he describes the spaces between atoms, the networking forces, as "Magic". :)

Of course, any sufficiently advanced technology that allows men and women to become effectively immortal and not constrained by matter is Magic, right, Stone Eaters? lol

Essun continues to transform even more than her previous love, Alabaster, and it's a deep process that's nearly continental in it's impact, but that's where most of my love is going. Nassun's transformation into one hell of an anti-hero nearly matches how much appreciation I have for Schaffa's changes. I sympathize for everyone, and no one is disappointing. :)

The final action in this book is dark, that's for certain, but even now I can't stop grinning and being so damn awed by what happened.

This is why I read. This is why I'm a fanboy. This BLOWS ME AWAY. :)

Hell, this stuff is the stuff of LIFE. :) Totally Awesome!

Book 2? It may not be as mind-altering as the first, but together, they're something much greater than their parts. :) Now how in hell will I be able to wait for book 3 to find out what happens to the moon? This is breathtaking in conception. :)

View all my reviews

Thursday, January 18, 2024

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/18/24:

I finally convinced my buddy reader to read this trilogy, and while she's not an uber-fan like I am, I appreciate her willingness to try.

As for me, I'm all for a bit of old anger and seismic activity. Father Earth is angry, after all, and people are shit. I guess things never really change.

I'm enjoying the slow reveals and journeys all over again. I'll move on to book two shortly.

Old Review:

Edit, 10:52 pm, tonight. :) N.K. Jemisin is the WINNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) :) Was there any doubt?

Old Review (from a few hours ago):

Re-Read 8/20/16, the day the Hugo Awards Ceremony is to take place for the novel I voted for. :) Coincidentally, I'll be reading the sequel tomorrow. :)

So was it as good as I remember? Actually, better. But that's mostly because I'm in on the trick and the secret of the MC is is laid bare and the whole novel then becomes a character exploration for me as well as a jaw-dropping mountain-load of quakeworthy World Building and awesome implications.

Since I first read this, I read her trilogy and loved it, but what can I say? I still loved this one even more. It speaks to me right down to the absolutely horrible revelations, the personal impacts, the hopes, the fears, the successes... oh, especially the successes... and of course, the question of WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON. :)

To say this book is full of questions is to say that a Jane Austen book is full of lace. It's kind of obvious. The question is: What the hell is the lace up to?

Jemisin is fantastic for mythology and mythology building, but what is best about this book is the sense of long history and cycles and the deep feeling like it is all headed somewhere huge. And it is. Just let me ask you... What DID happen to the moon? ;)

If you haven't read this yet, then you're a fool. :) It's deeply textured in all ways, and its not just the fact that the gods are chained or that we killed Father Earth's only child. It's pretty obvious that this is a deep time future Earth, too, and everything seems to seriously point toward a mind-blowing explanation beyond recurring extinction events. :) Which happen anyway, so yeah, let's get down to the real reasons, shall we?

WHY. :) Oh so yummy. :)

Looking forward to the awards ceremony tonight. Let's see if my top choice made it! :)

Original Review:

This is my first N. K. Jemisin, and I'm truly ashamed that I hadn't gotten around to her writing before now. I'm just putting that out right away, because this shame is all my own, and it is deep.

Secondly, this feels like an intensely personal novel, to me, and for me, although maybe nobody will ever know why, except me. The way she treats the volcanoes and the earthquakes make me seethe with jealousy and rage, because it is just so damn good.

And thirdly, I'm stuck straddling the line between how much I enjoyed the POV developments and how they eventually revealed something truly great by the end and how much I wish I had known the secret from the very start. It wouldn't have taken much. Just another line following each heading. There would have been no confusion, no mystery. But no, it is as it is, and I'm very likely going to have to reread the novel to pick up any possible failings of my inconsiderate attention span before I dive into the second novel that follows this.

So what am I trying to say, here? That I'm a miserable failure who is taking this novel way too seriously and admits that he may have missed too much on the first read because the novel was too dense for his little brain? Possibly.

But what I'm really saying is that this novel has skyrocketed to one of the topmost favorite novels that I've ever read, that I'm squeeing about it, and that I think I've just found my newest favorite author of all time.

I like to think that I'm fairly well read. I like to think I have a fairly discriminate palate that shows in my reviews, even if they don't always show in something as simple as a star on a bar. I like to think that I can pick out works of deeply fine quality and works that have obviously been borne quite bloodily from an author's head, like Athena, only with much more gore. This is one of those damn fine novels that just REEKS of imagination, forethought, CRAFT, and one hell of a fine setup, a fine conclusion, and finally, a fantastic and sharp new setup.

I remember the moon. I thought of it throughout this novel. Its having been missing throughout all these damn cataclysms caused me as much grief as the idea that the Fifth Seasons are actually huge diebacks on the Earth, recurring endlessly ever since we killed the moon in some mysterious and immense SF past. We have people with amazing powers, almost godlike in scope, having undergone so much social and historical upheavals, themselves, that no one even knows their history any longer, or why they chose to chain themselves.

We have our main character and her shadow, (view spoiler) developing to a final convergence that is a truly wonderful reveal, while leaving us with even greater questions and a truly immense possible conflict. As if supervolcanoes and earthquakes and their control or release weren't enough conflict, right? We've the makings of one of the biggest revenge stories I've ever had the pleasure to read.

It's almost as if I'm reading a quality SF novel that has been allowed the freedom to go Super Sayan on me.

And so my jaw drops.

Am I utterly amazed after reading this? Yes. Hell yes.
Do I have any reservations with the author's writing, timing, storytelling, subject, characters, or reveals? No. Hell no.

I do want so say one thing after reading the afterward, though. Thank you, Ms. Jemisin for not giving up on this amazing novel. All of your blood, sweat, and tears have brought forth something truly great. I am indebted to you, personally, for changing my life and my expectations about what can actually be pulled forth from a great novel. You did something Big. Thank you!

Update 4/27/16

And so now we learn that this novel has been nominated for both the 2016 Hugo and the Nebula!
By my review above, I'm pretty certain I've expressed how much I love this book, and that has not changed one bit. If I was in a position to scream from my soapbox to say to the Nebulas that this is the clear winner, I would. As it *is*, I CAN scream from my soapbox to the Hugos and say it. :)

I mentioned in my review for The Aeronaut's Windlass, another book that also got the Hugo nomination for this year, that there really should be two separate categories for Standalone Novels and another for Novels in a Series, because most series novels have the luxury of taking things extremely slow and build character, setting, and plot in such long sweeping epics that when we look back on them, they fairly overwhelm us if they've done their job right.

Standalone novels can do the same thing, of course, but they have to do so economically and usually with a great deal of panache and brilliance and editing that probably makes it an entirely different kind of beast from the series novels. At this point in the SF/F genres, we have amazing examples of both and we're getting crowded in one single category that more often than not has to artificially balance series novels 3 out of 5 in 2016, crowding out a plethora of brilliant standalone novels.

I'm fairly naturally prejudiced to separate these two forms in my head, because I'm totally invested in the characters and settings in the series, while I'm learning everything new for the first time in the standalone.

When I think of the Hugos, I generally think of standalone novels, but I *know* it isn't true. I've recently finished reading all the Hugo winners and a very significant portion of the nominations all the way back to the start of the award. Still, I feel a bit prejudiced. I want excellent standalone novels to be recognized as such, uncontaminated by preconceptions.

BUT. I also have to make a decision based on just how F***ing Awesome a book is, too, and The Fifth Season, even if it is the first in a new series, is F***ing Awesome.

I'm sure a lot of people felt the same way about Ancillary Justice when it came out, and I can't say that was the wrong choice for that year, either. :) Good is Good is Good is Good.

So regardless of whether the category should be split up or not, out of all the choices we're presented, I think The Fifth Season should shake the whole ceremony up. :)

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

A Local Habitation (October Daye, #2)A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/17/24:

Slightly more enjoyable than the first novel in the Daye series, but even though I thought the mystery was pretty interesting, I'm really just looking forward to the later novels. It does get much better than this. As for now, it's mostly a fairly average UF with an utterly delightful auntie Sea Witch to keep things spicy.

Original Review:

I need to clarify my adding this book to the transhumanism bookshelf. It really ought to have it's own category of transfaeism, but the fae really act so much like humans that I just couldn't find the real difference.

In the end, I decided to let the characters climb their own trees.

The book was solid, if a bit difficult to pull off. The novel had less melodrama and a lot more plot this time, and really felt like a mystery for our intrepid fae private eye. There were a lot of interesting character concepts, and I think that's what makes these books quite good. I mean, really: a seal fae? Oh yes.

On to the next novel!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Rosemary and Rue (October Daye, #1)Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/16/24:

After many, many years of reading and loving Seanan's growing corpus of literature, I've come to be almost giddy with each new release.

Going back THIS far, near the very beginning, makes me wonder at how much better a writer she has become.

Let me just say that the first Daye novel is nowhere near as good as the later ones. It's not bad, but it isn't precisely wonderful -- more just average-for-UF on the re-read.

At this point, I kinda wish my buddy reader and I were ahead a few novels when it does get great, but we're nothing if not persistent.

Original Review:

I had been meaning to read this series for a while, ever since reading Mira Grant's zombie books. I finally got around to it and was very pleased with this urban fairy story. I was happy to get to know Toby and Sylvester and was rather surprised and interested in trying to piece together Toby's personal history through the action. I prefer books that make me work a little for my satisfaction, and while this is no James Joyce, I had a great time reading it.

For an Urban Fantasy series, it has a great leg up on most, in that it isn't a non-stop sexcapade with an extra serving of misogyny. Part of what I enjoy most about UF is the discovery of magic and magical creatures, mythological or otherwise. I was quite satisfied on this count.

I had read reviews before reading this one, so my own is somewhat influenced by them, but with one caveat; I disagree that nothing happens. The main plot is relatively simple, true, but we're dropped into the sub-plots and history with a vengeance and it really stirred up the action in nice ways. I know that I can expect a great deal of great things in the future, and I'll be diving into them right away with joy.

View all my reviews

Monday, January 15, 2024

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1)The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/15/24:

Once a warrior commits to a path, he either falls in battle or he rises to the challenge.

I, on my third read, have come through the storm and I now shine with the light.

This story is only getting better. Every read, better. I'm enthralled and too excited, angry at all the right places and THRILLED with the OATH. Yessssssss.

I can't wait to read the new novel later this year. All these re-reads are so NECESSARY. I love it dearly.

Original Reviews:

This is my second read and it's noticeably better this time. I even knocked it up a full star, remembering my original complaints about how LONG it is and how so much of it could have been excised without any real difficulty only to realize, at long last, that I was and am quite invested in all these characters.

Kaladin, for example, had the classic tragic feel, a man brought so low that he can never find the light of day again, working with super-expendable slaves meant to draw fire as they carry bridges across a vast network of chasms on a fractured plane while armies fight for the chance to get valuable magic stones. The battles are ongoing and seemingly without end, and the bridge crews have a very short lifetime. Kaladin is earmarked right off the bat for great changes and a meteoric rise, and most of the novel is spent with him depressed and suffering and we get more and more reveals for his backstory.

Believe it or not, he's my favorite character and all that buildup has a very satisfying conclusion. Very. It's just getting there, the first time, seemed like such a long slog.

Since then, I've read the second book and getting back into his tale again, this time, is a completely different ride. Far from complaining, I've found myself really enjoying the hell out of the step-by-step rise and slide, rise and slide and finally his explosive level-up. :)

Dalinar Kholin is a Brightlord who has visions and is also rather honorable in comparison to all the other Brightlords and he lets us, as readers, get an expansive overview of the cultures and big army movements and a feel for the whole kingdom. It's good and he's set to make big changes based on the ancient text of The Way of Kings which is meant to help defeat the Void Bringers, impressive monsters from the deep past that no one really understands anymore, plus he's having visions. Even this feels like pretty standard fare except the for the level of detail and the interesting explorations of the visions, the battles, and the politics.

Lastly, we work with Shallan, and out of all three characters, I suppose I was most taken by her. Scholar and liar and murderer, she's out to save her family by getting in good with a notorious heretic to steal her Soulcaster. She's got a very sharp tongue, an even wittier artistic talent, and serious willpower. I admit to falling for her both times I read this. :)

Of course, these stories end with grand reveals and situation reversals and complications because it's the first book in what is planned as an ENORMOUS FANTASY EPIC. :) They level up, but we're not to expect anything close to a full resolution. Just a taste of even bigger and badder to come. :) Fine? Fine. :)

But it's the worldbuilding that really shines in this Sanderson Epic. He's known for this stuff, after all. Magic rules. Interesting applications. Implications. Blowout awesomeness. And he's delivering over and over, too. It's a good enough reason, alone, to read this stuff.

But all together?

Wow. Just wow. Got my heart pumping and imagining such beautiful visuals... :) If I had to compare this to other huge volumes of epic fantasy, I think I would still put it up there with the very best, but it's really the full weight of everything that has happened and will happen, as in expectation, which really puts this on the radar.

I probably wouldn't have ever bothered with Sanderson at all if he hadn't done such a fantastic job finishing the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan after his death. But because he rocked it, I've been a big fanboy and so many books later, I'm still a big fanboy. Mistborn was great. Elantris was great. I've enjoyed everything else, too, but it's this book and this series that's meant to be his magnum opus. 1000+ pages each book, that shouldn't really be a surprise, right?

Patience is required, but the payoff is seriously here, too. :) Even in this first volume. :)

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Shadow's Edge (Night Angel, #2)Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Middle book syndrome kinda hits with this one, but it could be much, much worse. I thought it was fine to have some romantic woes, but the direction it took was a bit too funny for such a big, badass assassin to have to deal with. Of course, all of that setup was necessary for later plot reasons, but it was my least favorite part of an otherwise excellent grimdark epic fantasy.

My favorite part was the focus on the more epic scale and the God King and just how deliciously evil he is. There's something to be said about madness in one's powerful foes.

Otherwise, I love seeing Kylar grow (or slide) in his ways. It will make it all the more sweet, later.

However, I should like to mention that Logan is the real stand-out for me. His adventure in the pit was rather awesome. I think every would-be king should know the true smell of the pit. Gives one a bit of perspective.

View all my reviews

Monday, January 8, 2024

The Glass BoxThe Glass Box by J. Michael Straczynski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Glass Box is a timely dystopian SF look at authoritarianism and its modern abuses. Namely, American political prisoners who get locked away in legal but thoroughly icky mental health hospitals.

In this case, it's the way for certain government agencies to put away dissenters and protesters on the streets, by giving the ones locked up an option to have the "lesser" punishment in a voluntary intake center, but after they're there, as the MC Riley soon learns, just about any kind of abuse can follow.

The darkness of this tale is very much in line with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or the movie Girl, Interrupted. But it's serious to point out that this is a fully modern take on the same subject and it's not hard to see that it could easily be taken this far with us, right now. When certain people need to get rid of protesters, then it all becomes an opportunity to follow N. Korea or China with re-education programs -- be it under other names.

It feels like a surprising twist of a tale to come from J. Michael Straczynski, but upon a little reflection, it's just about perfect.

Great tale, fun and harrowing to read.

View all my reviews
Voidbreaker (The Keepers, #3)Voidbreaker by David Dalglish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a mostly satisfying conclusion to the series. I think I mostly had concerns after the second, for a particular loss's impact on my full enjoyment, how it made me see the rest of the world through another pair of eyes, but for the most part, I think it was a good change.

What am I talking about?

The balance, for the most part. All these different peoples, whether of the dragon or of humanity, needed a serious re-balancing act, and all the pulling and destruction of souls in the act of Keeping was both rather OP in the fantasy as well as some great subtext.

All in all, it elevated or completely broke the established modern sword-and-sorcery vibe that I felt the first two had done pretty well. I can't tell which, however, only that something irrevocably changed.

I still had fun, however, so there is that.

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Primary Inversion (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #1)Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I used to enjoy Catherine Asaro's short fiction back in the 80's, occupying a very short but ravenous SF period for me where I actually had subscribed to SF magazines rather than focusing entirely on novels. That being said, I had successfully MISSED all her novels ever since.

And why? I HAVE NO IDEA. Or rather, the bookshelves in bookstores conveniently didn't stock them. I got all the Lois McMaster Bujold SFs, the Vorkosigans, which are similar to this, but nobody had pushed Catherine Asaro where I lived. It just... fell beneath the cracks. I'm sad. So many great SF authors fell that way during the 90's, and then never got any reprints, and are generally lost to history because there was no electronic versions until a decade later.


Ahem, anyway, my ears perked up THIS MUCH LATER and now I hunted all these down and now I'm finally RIGHTING A MASSIVE WRONG.

Mid-nineties SF is some of the best. It's pretty hardcore science with the fiction with thoroughly balanced characters, romance, intrigue, action, and heart. Basically, it has a lot of everything and doesn't skimp. Sure, it's a light adventure-type SF with princes and princesses, but it is also full of battle-hardened psy-tech-AI warriors, a little trauma, and a lot of pretty great worldbuilding that will probably last a good long time.

In other words, I'm thrilled to find something like this. Onward!

View all my reviews
Ravencaller (The Keepers, #2)Ravencaller by David Dalglish
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This continuation is right on par with the first -- that is to say, an excellent modern fantasy that has all the trappings of old Sword-and-Sorcery, but with a serious devotion to modern writing, expanded details, more conversations, even more sexy-time that isn't all cardboard-cutout women, but fully realized characters.

You know -- something that might be considered an improvement. :)

This sequel pushes the conflict between the children of the dragon and humanity to greater action and tragedy, as could be expected, and I'm crying for both sides at this point.

While I won't call this the best fantasy I've ever read, I WILL say that it is very entertaining and I don't regret reading it at all. I consider this a popcorn read -- and that is not a bad thing at all. Lots and LOTS of popcorn.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Soulkeeper (The Keepers, #1)Soulkeeper by David Dalglish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I'll have to characterize this particular fantasy as a rather feel-good sword-and-sorcery for modern epic fantasy readers. It has all the magic and magical creatures, strange demi-gods, time-magic wielding fae and elementals, corrupting waters, dragons, and goddesses you might wish upon a newly benighted world -- and new heroes just now coming into their soul-mind-elemental magics now that the gates of magic have been re-opened.

Specifically, the feel-good parts are all in the relatively DECENT characters we follow. Good is actually pretty good. Little fae and elemental sidekicks actually appreciate the fundamentally good people in the world, while becoming ever more wary of the normal crap-heads we normally deal with.

The best part of this novel is its simplicity: the straightforward progression of adventure, natural consequences of actions, and greater difficulties of learning how to live in this brave new world. Simple? Yes, but it's also a great deal of fun to read. It isn't tongue-in-cheek like the old style sword-and-sorcery types. It's modern escapism and humanism -- which is great, considering just how much other-types beyond humanity we get to know in these pages.


View all my reviews

Monday, January 1, 2024

The Bezzle (Martin Hench, #1)The Bezzle by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Honestly, if this sparks a whole future explosion of a genre of FORENSIC ACCOUNTANTS, then I could not be happier.

I see this kind of thing much too rarely. It’s usually very niche and hardly ever in the realm of FICTION, but tracking down a good DD is especially delicious, especially when it touches to righteously on the very real graft, cons, and purely evil-spirited world of our own nasty high finance.

This is a case of reality — as explained through fiction — and done so well, so deftly, so smartly, that it should be required reading for ANYONE interested in the world of big money cons.

Cory Doctorow is spitting some awesome words here. This isn’t the first novel I’ve read that follows Martin Hench, forensic accountant, but it is the earliest one in the narrative timeline.

Let’s just put it this way: I am FASCINATED. Endlessly so. I could read this forever. Please, please, let me have more!

View all my reviews
Saga, Volume 11Saga, Volume 11 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After so much heartbreak, I wondered if I would ever get back into this series, but here’s the thing: even time can heal certain wounds. Right, Marko?

Life goes on, even if it is hardscrabble, bittersweet, or just a bit of recovery even while being on the run. But life does go on. People will grow even while pulling the same shit. Others will pull all the old shit while others just feel all the new pain of what has just happened.

What I’m saying is this: life is a REAL MESS and this comic spells ALL of that out in pureblood technocolor.

I’m loving it again. It all boils down to what you expect to get out of the tale. And from the very start, it was always a glorious mess. I should never have forgotten that. We will continue to lose our loved ones. Over and over and over. That’s life.

View all my reviews