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Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Alien ClayAlien Clay by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was just telling my good buddy reader how much I wanted to see something like Scavenger's Reign on my bookshelf, and here, lo-and-behold, it arrives!

Of course, there are a number of really great books that go the whole bio-punk route, but either way -- I really, really appreciate them whenever they come my way.

Here, we have an alien world, with tons of exploration, science, MYSTERY, more science, and a whole world of political, anti-authoritarian goodness. In my humble opinion, I think we need a whole lot more.

Wherever there is a boot heel on the neck of people, or specifically on scientists, artists, or any portion of the population that would naturally rebel against the CONTROL gets out of control, I do find it rather fascinating just how much the authoritarians go gaga over those rare scientists (or artists) who functionally sell themselves out to the boot.

Those who sell out aren't the majority. Most will reluctantly or angrily work within the system, or not at all, but then there are those who throw in with the boot -- dragging everyone else down to pavement.

Suffice to say, I would rather like to see mother nature (or mother alien nature) give us a potent tool against such CONTROL. It's the main reason I love this novel.

Such fascinating ideas.

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Monday, April 29, 2024

Guards! Guards! (Discworld, #8; City Watch, #1)Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 4/29/24:

Slow and easy into the fantasy trappings, only to realize it becomes -- as I've found out 3 other times before -- a hilarious police procedural that skirts the edge of satire and slams us in the face with sweet idealism.

Welcome to Ankh-Morpork. Watch for dragons.

Original Review:

Dragons and kings and cross-dressing night watch. What can go wrong?

Meet Terry Pratchett, who can turn anything, and I mean, anything, on its head. :)

On this re-read, what I remember to be a less funny book than the Watch novels that came after it suddenly becomes a rich and nostalgic ride including dwarf bread, or in this case, CAKE. Decent, law-abiding folk versus the deeply corrupt populace. And don't just ask Mr. Cut Me Own Throat. He's suspicious.

I love all the tropes and the way Pratchett deals with them. The whole novel is tongue-in-cheek and it's a slight bit more delightful (IMHO) than all the rest of the novels that came before it. Indeed, it's this one that sets the tone for all the rest.

And so the transformation of Ankh-Morpork commences. :)

Upping this by a star.

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Sunday, April 28, 2024

Pyramids (Discworld, #7)Pyramids by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 4/28/24:

I think I said it pretty much straight in my previous review, but I really should mention that the totally un-elected sun will also rise.

And, truly, a kingdom always needs a camel much more than a king.

That being said, I just bumped my star rating up to a full 5 on this one. I guess the third one's the charm. Now, where can I find a GOOD carpet?

Original review:

I think I may have enjoyed this one a bit more the second time around, but not enough to change my rating. :) Indeed, I had a lot more fun with all the quantum irregularities surrounding the Pyramids out in the boonies of Discworld.

There's a lot of great ribbing for conspiracy theorists who go on and on about the dimensions of the real pyramids and the mystical importance, even going so far as to make these monuments (at least here) into time-recyclers. It's very funny and Death isn't pleased. Fortunately for Death, however, what he doesn't know won't kill him.

It was also rather funny seeing a "handmaid" who'd never "serviced" a king and an "assassin" who'd never killed anyone fumble around their conversations with one another.

But really, I think I had the most fun with the camels. They were a very nice touch. I always thought there was something of a math genius in all of them. Quantum accounting aside, I thought this was a very interesting and funny novel, giving us a nice background for the Assassin's guild while not precisely overburdening us (at all) with characters we'll grow to love later.

That being said, I had a good time and probably a bit more than the other one-off Discworld novels that came before it. :)

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I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamI Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now that we have almost reached this stage of AI in our lives, it behooves us to revisit one of THE classics of short science fiction -- Harlan Ellison's sharp perfection of body horror and the glory of AM, the AI that killed almost all of humanity, leaving a bare handful behind to torture, endlessly.

Glorious. It also helps to listen to Harlan Ellison's own narration on youtube. So, soooooo much energy. :)

Right here.

But I should point out that I found a rare hint to AM's real genesis: Right here.

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Saturday, April 27, 2024

Aftermarket Afterlife (InCryptid, #13)Aftermarket Afterlife by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read a number of the Ghost novels so I'm pretty confident when I say this was easily one of the roughest ones on me.

Mary, the ghost babysitter, has the front row to this action, and boy is there a lot of action... and tragedy. The family really goes through the ringer.

Yes. I mean about the dead. I'm still raging about it.

But Mary's role is strong, and she's so protective. So much to sacrifice...


But still, this was a good story.

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Friday, April 26, 2024

Silence Fallen (Mercy Thompson, #10)Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quite enjoyable UF romp. It takes us through Europe, with lying, thieving, and backpacking (or running naked) in a Vampire-heavy road trip novel with werewolves close behind.

I think I liked this one more than the few others that preceded it. There was just something about it that I liked more. Nothing that I could quite put my finger on, but in terms of enjoyment, it was pretty solid.

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Thursday, April 25, 2024

CamouflageCamouflage by Joe Haldeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't say this was an extremely exciting SF thriller if we go by regular SF thriller standards, but it does hit some good notes when it comes to using many, many cross-sections of human behavior across many different periods of time.

This is lent a lot of leeway by the fact that we're following alien shapechangers, chameleons, who learn about and impersonate not just us, but all kinds of life on Earth for a very long time.

My impression is that this is a slightly-veiled look at ourselves, our many failings, sexual hangups, and inhumanity, and I'm right, but there IS a distinct espionage hunter/hunted vibe to it that rounds out the tale.

I've always been a fair fan of Haldeman, and while this isn't nearly as good as some of his more well-known novels, it was still pretty solid.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Only Pirate at the PartyThe Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

To be entirely up front here... I didn't know anything about her, not her youtube performances or anything after... until I was well into this autobiography.

Now, why in the heck would I do this? Well, I was cajoled and heckled into joining a buddy read, so I thought: WHY NOT?

And I have, since I began reading, I BARELY squeezed in a listen or two to some of her work.

It's very performance arty, dance, violin, and costumes, with the focus on being perky and always on, with flashy lights and a Katy Perry ethic. Pretty okay stuff. It's the whole ball of modern performance art. The focus isn't so much on the music, but the whole experience. It has its good points. It's also not exactly my ball of wax.

Even so, this is a pretty okay biography with pretty standard things happening, including some eating issues, mental health issues, and a whole lot of trying to make oneself always look good for her audience.

And as far as that goes, it succeeds. Do I necessarily trust all that is presented here? No. Do I take it all with a grain of salt? Absolutely. It is pretty standard stuff, some joys, some failures, a bit of extras for the fans.

I'm probably 100% sure I would have gotten a lot more out of this if I had already been an uber-fan, but I wasn't. And there wasn't all that much else to hold me, either. Not a bad read, but it never really hooked me, either.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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


Easily one of my most favorite musicians. More than practically any other classical musician, he by far had the most, best, most absolutely memorable works.

I just LIKED them all so much more than the rest, on the whole.

Sure, I liked some other musician's works better, but I liked no other musician's total body of works more than Tchaikovsky.

This lecture gives us all a pretty awesome overlook on WHY that might be the case. I mean, sure, Tchaikovsky's EQ just poured into his music, making it so lyrical and memorable -- not just Nutcracker Suite, but 1812, Swan Lake, all the Dances, the String, the Symphonies -- instantly recognizable and celebrated -- it is utterly amazing.

Those old Russians knew their shit.

But specifically, Tchaikovsky was a special case. Gay, and more afraid of being outed than anything else, drove himself to that peculiar bout of societal madness. And for all of his depression and wild fantasies, he poured it all into his music, into his art. And in this way, it's also SO very Russian.

Suffice to say, I am and will always remain a total fanboy of this guy's work. So expressive, melodic, speaking directly to the EQ of me, there are hardly any other artists who are able to plumb my emotional depths so consistently.

This is also a great lecture, too. :)

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Monday, April 22, 2024

Stormwarden (The Cycle of Fire, #1)Stormwarden by Janny Wurts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A pretty decent epic fantasy that has lots of sea-related settings. I had no complaints except one -- and it isn't fair to the author. I've read a lot of fantasies like this. It's not bad, but it doesn't stand out above all the others just like it. And I include LeGuin in that company, so it doesn't compare poorly.

I did have a pretty good time with the novel. I just wish I had read it earlier on.

Standard fare, fairly interesting characters, conflicts, and good scope.

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Saturday, April 20, 2024

The Life of BirdsThe Life of Birds by David Attenborough
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Must love birds.

That being said, if you DO love birds and don't mind wallowing in nuts, seeds, marrow, and scraps of flesh, or jumping into the mating habits of many different kinds of avians, then stick around, pull up a refuse bin, and watch these excellent adventurers ultra-specialize in their diets far beyond our own average city-dweller slurping a Starbucks.

What? Do you think there's that much difference between us and them?

Bah, suit yourself, but don't blame me if you start preening and attract a mate in almost the same way.

Tweet. Tweet.

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Friday, April 19, 2024

SevenevesSeveneves by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 4/19/24:

I have to say it's even better on a re-read. I think the trick is in my expectations. Stephenson has a weird way in his writings, pulling certain kinds of bait-and-switches that work extremely well for some of us -- especially when we're so tired of boilerplate plotting.

This isn't any kind of standardized novelization, and for that, I love it even more.

I think I got a lot more out of this, this time. I was now looking for parallels between methods of survival from the pre-and-post timeskip, of psychology, reliance on different technologies, and the most commonplace failings of humanity, itself.

There is a richness in the post-timeskip I don't think I truly appreciated the first time around. After all, after 5k years, that's an awful lot of recorded history on top of where we are now. Not so big as to be insanely out of reach, but seriously impressive if you consider technological necessities and advancements (or regressions).

From a purely world-building perspective, the novel is a true delight. In the pre-timeskip, it is an engineer's dream. I still believe it's a great two-for-one bargain. :)

Original Review:

I don't know what all those complainers are going on about. As far as I can see, I just got two novels for the price of one. The first 2/3rds is all hard science fiction, where science matters and the whole thing is tied together with plausibility. The last third is pure unadulterated speculative fiction with damn fine worldbuilding and extrapolation from the first 2/3rds.

Let me back up. I can honestly say that I loved the gigantic erector set that was the first novel, but I will admit that I wasn't head over heels in love with most of the characters, and the few that I really liked were at least two dimensional. This isn't a condemnation. A lot had to be covered to get us from a happyish world, through a blown-up moon, to a mad scramble to survive before the earth gets fireballed by our ex-moon. That means the International Space Station needs one hell of an upgrade. A lot happens, and it's tragic and heroic and beautiful. I've read a lot worse hard sf, and when I say it, it's not a condemnation, either. Hard sf is a lifestyle choice. It's hard to do and successfully pull off a great story with great characters against, say, any other novel that doesn't care about consistency and scrupulous attention to detail.

Mr. Stephenson pulls it off, and I'm not just touting him because I'm a lifelong fan of his writings. I'm saying the novel is solid.

Now on to the second novel. A lot of people have a problem with this one, going, "What the fuck?" Not me. This is where we stop being grounded and we let our imaginations fly. A lot can and will happen in 5000 years from the last hurrah of the plausible and likely end of humanity.

So I see another tradition being followed, one I like even more than the strict master of hard sf. I immediately got sucked into the imagery, the action, the curiosity, the mystery, and the unfolding of a brand new Earth. I don't need to bring up all the greats who have done hopeful and optimistic futures, although I will if anyone asks, but Mr. Stephenson has served up a beauty.

So much is bright and colorful about it, and I'm including the different human races, the flying, the landscape, and the revelations about what the people find down there. No spoilers, but suffice to say there's always a way to bring conflict in, even though the future is hopeful. It was a sheer pleasure to explore, and if the novel was NOT an extension of the first 2/3, I'm pretty sure that most of the haters out there would have thought it was an interesting tale on par with any of the classics. It's all about survival, rebuilding and restoring, genetic engineering, massive scale engineering, and the supremely toned-down idea that love endures.

It was very touching.

All right. I'll mention Brin. It reminds me of the best of Brin.

So that brings me back to the main question: Should these two novels be considered one? There's obviously ties throughout the second one, but I'll be honest with you, they could have been added long after the fact, just so the second novel could see print. That's a very negative way to view it, in my opinion, because I happened to love it for what it was.

Is it a sign of the times that old-style adventure novels set in the deep future can't get published any longer? I hope not. I'd love to see more, assuming the stories still kick ass.

But to answer my own question... Yes and No. The first novel could easily have turned into an ultimate bummer. The second novel could stand on its own. Left to itself, the first novel would have absolutely needed some sort of machinery of god or perhaps the triumphant return of the assholes who had raced to Mars. It would have needed something, anyway, to satisfy the readers. We aren't reading traditional fiction. It wasn't a character study. If the only way to give the reader what s/he wants is to give us a resolution that doubles as a whole second novel, then I say, "Hell yes!"

Because at least this way, I wouldn't have to wait a long time for a sequel when I wasn't satisfied with the first. Can you imagine, or do you remember when Hyperion came out and you got to the end and went, "Huh?" with no Fall of Hyperion to complete it? It's the same deal, although, I'll be honest, Hyperion is still better than this novel. (If you peeps haven't read it, then do so. It's still very high praise to be compared to it, even in a lesser capacity.)

Of course, Neal Stephenson has a whole catalog of some of my absolute favorite reading list, so I'm amazingly biased here.

Was this novel good? You betcha. Did it surprise? Absolutely. Do I recommend? Yes, for fans of the SFF genre with keen eyes and adjustable expectations.

Update 4/27/16

This has been nominated for 2016 Hugo for best novel!

While I think it's pretty awesome in retrospect for the ideas, the science, and the rather epic scope of both saving the race in the first part of the novel and the far-ish future ramifications in the last 2/3rds of the novel, there were also wide swaths of boring info-dumping, too. I might have gone hog-wild all over this novel as the biggest contender for the Hugo, otherwise, but that might also have something to do with how much of a fanboy I am for the author. :)

Unfortunately, this is isn't my first or even second choice for the Hugo winner for this year. Good promise, but the pacing was off.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Titanium Noir (Titanium Noir #1)Titanium Noir by Nick Harkaway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This really hit the spot. I won't say it is the most fantastic Noir I've ever read, or even the best SF Noir, but I had a great time, anyway.

The hook: I kinda thought it was going to be Titanium as in the metal. I was RATHER amused to find out it is more about TITANS. :) Or rather, about the special immortality treatments that make its users progressively larger and larger people every time they use it. The rich, of course.

So mix it all up with a murder mystery, with sex and violence, and it has all the earmarks of the most familiar and the joys of the unusual.

Amusing and fun, in other words.

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Monday, April 15, 2024

Solo Leveling, Vol. 8 (Solo Leveling Novel #8)Solo Leveling, Vol. 8 by Chugong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This light novel truly threw me for a loop. All of the other 7 isekais followed a very comforting LitRPG progression, always throwing greater enemies at a stronger hero, but almost at the beginning of this one, it... finished. :)

The rest of the novel pulled off a great Superman storyline, fully grounded in regular life and became thoroughly nostalgic.

That, and it really speaks to those of us who love a good New Game + :)

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Solo Leveling, Vol. 7 (Solo Leveling Novel #7)Solo Leveling, Vol. 7 by Chugong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delicious continuation. I knew there was going to be a total invasion of the Earth by the Monarchs, and we got a few tastes right away, but the scale just started breaking like a dam and now the Earth is doomed.

This LitRPG/Isekai is really hitting the spot. It's just going to get so bloody, now.

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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Solo Leveling, Vol. 6 (Solo Leveling Novel #6)Solo Leveling, Vol. 6 by Chugong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very fun change in direction for the overall story-arc. We get to know the world-wide top hunters and finally get a showdown with the vengeful hunter that wanted to get some satisfaction for his brother.

But more than that, we're getting a great reveal about the rulers and monarchs and the epic war on our way.

Love the scope.

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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Mammoths at the Gates (The Singing Hills Cycle #4)Mammoths at the Gates by Nghi Vo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While this is named Mammoths at the Gates, it ought to be renamed Memories at the Gates. It's really an honoring of a lost life, a funeral, and yes -- it's more of the signature story-within-story storytelling I've grown to love in the Singing Hills Cycle.

These novellas are very much worth reading -- if only for the altered focus in fantasy.

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Into the Riverlands (The Singing Hills Cycle, #3)Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series is wonderful for its focus on story-within-story storytelling. This one, no less than the others.

Calm, understated, with a wonderful atmosphere and interesting characters, this is a fantasy series I always look forward to. It isn't flashy, but it does have depth.

Of course, that's not to say there isn't something a little wild about this. A piggy can be quite exciting. :)

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Friday, April 12, 2024

Solo Leveling, Vol. 5 (Solo Leveling Novel #5)Solo Leveling, Vol. 5 by Chugong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I great return to where he began, stronger, more capable, and ready to ask the biggest question.

So OP now, but that's fine, because now the baddies are equally badass. :)

Really fun light novel/Isekai/LitRPG.

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Solo leveling - light Novel (Solo leveling Vol 4)Solo leveling - light Novel by Chugong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The slow buildup of real-world danger in the background finally explodes in this light novel.

But after quite THAT much solo-leveling, it's just a delight to see how the real stuff goes.

Of course, now that he's pretty much superman, I have to wonder where the other novels will lead.

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Thursday, April 11, 2024

Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive, #4)Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 4/11/24:

It's always a journey with these. Sometimes you never know why the author is taking us on these side-trips, but once you DO know, it tends to blow your mind.

I particularly enjoyed the mental-health focus of this particular book. Not just for Shallan, but for Kaladin, too. It's almost as if Brandon knew we'd need so much of that during '20. But truly, it's just as welcome now.

That's just a side note, however.

This novel is so much more than that, of course. It's adventure, epic-scope and epic-stakes fantasy, and the characters keep on growing.

Of course, by now, we have learned SO much about how the worldbuilding works -- and more importantly, how the Cosmere works. I'm loving it all.

I cannot WAIT until the next.

Original Review:

After reading this very long novel, there should be some kind of fatigue. I mean. I think it's longer than SK's The Stand. So a reader OUGHT to be drained by the attempt. But no. Not this time.

All these Stormlight Archives rage over me like the world-storms within the novel, recharge my heartstone, and make me utter all four oaths.

Seriously. There should be a warning label on this book. "Careless consumption will lead to fandom."

Okay, to be fair, I was already a huge fan of Sanderson for, like, forever. But ever since reading the last three books of WoT, carefully managed under his hand, I've known that he had all the chops. After reading almost EVERYTHING of his, since, and slobbering all over the place to get my hands on his OWN epic masterpiece since book one, to get the fourth at this point is something of a...

Okay, let me say it.

We're a cult. A completely mind-blown cult. We're all so invested in this story, have drunk ALL the kool-aid, and we're willing to walk off all the cliffs (or chasms, if you will,) to get the next one.

And it totally satisfied. Oh, not only that, but it twisted all our expectations (or at least mine) and tore me to shreds, and made me despair. And then it built me back up again, made me wonder how the hell they were going to get out of this for a long time before subverting all my new expectations yet again.

Let me just say this: Sanderson is a master storyteller. He knows what he's doing every step of the way. He keeps tossing that coin and tells us it's all a trick even while he's pulling yet ANOTHER fast one on us and we not only enjoy it, but we beg for more of this strange covenant.

Or I might just say that we're all addicts and the IDEA of Sanderson in our heads is on par with a huge bank. In our heads, we just know that it can never fail. And if it seems to, our confidence is so huge that we make SURE it doesn't fail, and then, when our heads catch up to what's actually going on, we realize, out of the blue, that it was ALL A RUSE and he played us all yet again.

Or maybe I'm just reading WAY TOO MUCH into this. :)

Suffice to say... WOW, WHAT A BOOK! :)

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Sunday, April 7, 2024

Solo Leveling, Vol. 3 (novel)Solo Leveling, Vol. 3 by Chugong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So solid. This isekai/LitRPG light novel continually surprises and expands into new directions.

S-Rank already, our solo-leveler is rapidly becoming a god even among gods, but better, the story is making it all that much more necessary.

It really helps that the whole setup might be really, really messed up. It's great to read this now, but I'm seriously going to love reading the manga later.

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Solo leveling - light Novel (Solo leveling Vol 2)Solo leveling - light Novel by Chugong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So fun! It's very much LitRPG, but with all the added benefit of being popular as a manga and now an anime.

But for SOME people, like myself, I love to get the whole story right away in the original novel format, or, rather, the light novel format.

Our hero is getting SO powerful, now soloing high ranked dungeons all by himself, all the while hoping to keep his identity and true abilities hidden for as long as he can.

Unfortunately, many people want him. It's pretty great seeing an introverted protagonist. :)

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Saturday, April 6, 2024

The Practice, the Horizon, and the ChainThe Practice, the Horizon, and the Chain by Sofia Samatar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've always been rather impressed by Samatar's wordsmithing. And this new novella showcases a more SF case for lyricism tackling the chains of our society, our own minds, in a futuristic prison-mine that just happens to support a whole society.

The subtext is quite clear. On the backs of the broken is the world built.

I enjoyed this look across the divide. It is as hopeful as it is tragic.

Understanding is always the key.

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Solo leveling - light Novel (Solo leveling Vol 1)Solo leveling - light Novel by Chugong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recently ran through all the animes for this one and was thrilled to hell about it. It's a total Isekai, or rather a full LitRPG story.

And since I just finished THAT, and was utterly bereft that I had no more story, I just had to skip even the manga and go to the light novel directly.

Great decision.

And now, I just figured out the entire first season is right here in this first Vol. *squeee*

Let's solo level and become overpowered! :)

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The TerraformersThe Terraformers by Annalee Newitz
My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I'll just say that I AM a fan of Newitz, generally, and I really DID see a lot of potential for this book. I mean, here we are, far-future, likely all our animal cousins uplifted a-la Brin, and we might have a rollicking adventure with a moose sidekick across another world.

And with that, we DID get something like that.

But then we had to have a book that was more like Becky Chambers's style, with the warm fuzzies and systemic problems solved mostly by sweet-toothing our way through the adventure.

We have horribly invasive Homo Sapiens limiting the communication centers, sometimes the intelligence, of all these other animals. Between the strong-arm tactics, the invasive monitoring, the whole corporate-structure-is-evil feel, we get whole segregated communities exuding enough subtext to choke a moose.

And honestly? Because it's played so straight, without any true nods to just how close it resembles our world and just how closely we can read some of these species as races, it just feels -- icky.

It tries to pull off the feel-good, but instead, I feel like I've been wallowing in creepy animatronics-land. It didn't help with the pole-dancing mole-people.

Anyway, it just didn't work for me. At all. I guess I'm getting tired with write-on-editorial-demand Chambers lookalikes, too. I feel like this could have been pretty great if it was a much harder SF grounded in a harder ecology-fiction mode. Hell, that would have been extremely TOPICAL for today, too.

Instead, it was as soft an SF as you could ever desire.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Water OutlawsThe Water Outlaws by S.L. Huang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one was a pleasant surprise. I expected a Wuxia-type fantasy, complete with some magical weapons, ancient Chinese-type martial arts, and that was what I got. Kung-Fu.

The quality is undeniable, too.

I was pleasantly reminded of Guy Gavriel Kay's fantasies and Ken Liu's Dandelion Dynasty as I read this, but if I am to be entirely honest, it didn't have quite the vastness or depth of worldbuilding of either. It DID, however, have a good, classical story of a scorned loyal warrior forced into exile and the safe arms of bandits, only to have to defend her new home against corrupt officials.

This kind of thing is an old, comfortable story, and this novel did it very, very well.

Fun stuff!

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