Thursday, August 25, 2016

The January DancerThe January Dancer by Michael Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know about this one. I mean, it feels pretty awesome on so many levels, and yet the characters kinda fell a bit flat for me.

I totally recommend this novel for the wild and weird adventure of the Immovable Force, aka the Dancer as it bends the wills and minds of entire civilizations, the world-building of the Rift, a lawless portion of space and it's civil war and so oddly Irish characters, and the sense that so much is going on that it's really hard to follow the enormity of it. Drunks, scam artists, freedom fighters, and cops. This novel really has it all.

But there was something about the threads of the story that didn't really satisfy, for me, nor the characters. January, the captain, seemed kinda bland to me. The Hound seemed pretty interesting and the Pup, more so, but what can I really say about the Seducer?

It just felt... icky, somehow. Nothing overt. And maybe it was just me.

On the other hand, I really loved the quirkiness of the language that evolved in the galactic society. It was particularly wonderful: so many weird ideas were pulled out of our context and were turned into enormous and odd memes that get passed around like old sawhorses, and I had a great time with all of them.

Plus, there is the Immovable Force, the Dancer, too, that acts like the Spear of Destiny. Whoever holds it shall rule. Pre-human artifact or no, it's fascinating. Maybe I just wanted to see something more interesting happen with it, too.

Decent read and enough to make me continue with the trilogy. :) There's definitely a lot more good going on than blah. :)

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Everyday LifeA Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Everyday Life by Greg Jenner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For what this is, (a witty accounting of technological progress through recorded history,) it's quite excellent.

Of course, you must be naturally curious and willing to put up with a lot of excrement jokes, too, but hey! That's what history is all about! A never-ending avalanche of shit.

Well, maybe I'm mostly talking about the Medievals, but the Renaissance and even the Romans were pretty gross.

Oh my. Don't get me wrong, it's not all about social advancement without soap or where to put your feces. We've also got telephones and clocks, too! Yay! :) You see, it's not *entirely* accurate to boil down our technological advances to clean linen and bums. Just mostly.

Seriously, this should be a must read for anyone interested in history and science, but if you're already pretty conversant, it's still a fun read just for the wit.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Demonists (Demonist, #1)The Demonists by Thomas E. Sniegoski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm rating this purely upon personal enjoyment and the surprise that one feels when a certain book transforms before your eyes from a serviceable attempt at turning a tabloid TV show crew into an exorcist drama into a serious cabal of a supernatural team of demon hunters into a freaking awesome surprise turnaround for Theo that's all about the nasty surprises waiting just below the flesh. :)

Horror? Yes. Urban Fantasy? Yes.

It diverges from the usual UF in that we're never completely locked-in to one PoV. We get pretty complete scenes of backstories for all of the big players, including the most active villain. It reminds me of the more traditional horror storytellings of the 70's and 80's, but with the added twist of the much better pacing and progression of our modern styles.

As well as some nice leveling up. :) I mean, seriously, Theo is OP. :)

And now I'm hooked. I'm going to be awaiting all the additions to this series in pure popcorn abandon.

Fun is a quality no one should underrate. :)

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FreenetFreenet by Steve Stanton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a rather interesting novel in several ways, and it had potential to kick some serious butt, but the last portion of the novel, while interesting in its own right, didn't fit with the grand bulk of the first.

Follow me on this one. What starts out as a pretty cool romance between a girl way out of her element and a low-tech boy on his technologically backward and culturally strange desert world then becomes a pretty cool conspiracy in space and an exciting resolution. It was pretty darn okay and I got into the characters just fine and felt for them.

It's everything that happens afterward, with the media and the corporations that knocked me for a loop.

We've already established that the girl is deeply linked to the entire galactic network, she's lied about what she is, (an Omnidroid, a construct of human flesh and tech,) and that she was sexually abused and so it sets the stage for strained relations. It's a romance, though, so we have high hopes that Zen, who is apparently pretty much perfect, will both save her and her heart.

What only shows up late in the book, however, the the introduction of Doorways through time and space and peoples who upload their consciousnesses, etc., which I don't have any issues with, per se, because these are ideas that are pretty common in SF.

My issue is with how this wishy-washy Reporter-Personality swings so easily, back and forth, between such wild-ass stories about what the Omnidroids are, first stirring negative opinions, then championing their cause, and then, after one stupid conversation with a corporation head (one who had invented the doors through space and time), just goes off and changes his mind again and it ENDS THE NOVEL.

WTF? The whole novel became something else in the last half, and then far from easing us into the big reveal which might have been pretty cool if it had been a major part of the rest of the novel, it just slaps a big band-aid on the tale and says its done.

I was sitting at a 4.5 or maybe even a 5 depending on how strong the ending would be.

Maybe that portion would have been just fine in a different story, or even in a different novel, but here it felt like poorly executed Iain M. Banks perception twist and it just didn't fit the rest of the tale.

I'm not that used to reading books with endings this bad. The particulars are fine, the ideas are fine, the characters are fine, but how the end reveal fits in with everything else? Not good. If we were aiming for a subtle godlike entity in the beginning, it should have ended subtle. Otherwise, match scales.

And the last part had no romance at all. The investment I'd put into the MC's was wasted, too. Sure, they're in the spotlight, but they're pretty much out of the picture.

I don't know which is worse. *sigh*

The worst part of this is pretty easy: It could have been pretty damn good. Where was the editor?



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Monday, August 22, 2016

Inversions (Culture, #6)Inversions by Iain M. Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rather than focus on a grand scale space-opera, I think Banks wanted to dump us into a backwater gravity-well and let us have a sense of what it would be like to tour as a doctor, perhaps Culture trained, among the crude creatures of a Medieval period.

Mind you, I didn't quite pick up any definitive proof of actual Culture interference, mind you, because our PoV is actually from the apprentice to the good doctor who hailed from foreign parts, but I think the guess is a very good one, anyway. :)

So what of the story?

Actually, this one shares in the great reversals of our understanding, just like the other Culture novels. We go along with interesting tales only to have a reveal that shatters our understanding of what we read. That stuff is fantastic, by the way. :)

In this case, meet a doctor who befriends the King and practically ALL of the court and the nobles mistrust and plot against her. If feels like one hell of a romance, honestly. I got into all the characters and loved the banter, rooted for the good guys and hoped all the others would get their just deserts.

It's a simple tale on the surface, yet there's always past horrors to work through and there happens to be a certain Captain of the Guard from where the good doctor came from who is out to bring her back or to justice, traveling all the way across the country. What exactly is going on?

Well that is a great deal of this book's charm, from the opening scene with a torturer to the end where everything gets inverted.

Do you fancy a bit of standing on your head?

I'm very impressed by the tale even if there isn't that much SF or Fantasy to hang your hat on. It reads mostly like a Medieval tale. With some rather interesting outcomes, I might add. :)

It's well worth the read. :)

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

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. :)

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Underground AirlinesUnderground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just imagine for a moment an establishment spook and modern slave wrapped into one, pressed into service to hunt down and reel back in other escaped slaves, and you've got yourself a tracker right out of the bad old days of pre-civil war. A black man forced to do the devil's work.

Now imagine him in our modern world, where the American Civil War had ended in an economic truce and slavery is alive and well and made so very efficient.

Hell, just imagine how easy it'd be to track down every slave with GPS and have a world tweeting happy PR banalities to hide the horrible truth of slums in our brightest cities, labor camps like private prisons, communities openly and proudly racist and happy to thumb their noses at the rest of the world at just how they've managed to fool the IRS, twist the legal establishment, and all the while tell themselves just how humane they are to the downtrodden.

Wait... is this an alternate timeline? An excellent What-If novel? A deeply horrific and oppressive dystopia so very much like the world we've got now?

Yes. Fancy that.

But the point is, we're living it through the devil's eyes, the scared black man in this nightmare world who is forced to do unspeakable things to men and women who should be his brothers, and if you think this is a heavy-handed political tale, then think again. I got sucked right in just fine and loved the story, it's twists and turns. Do you think he finds a way to help his brothers and sisters, and get out of his horrid servitude? Does he infiltrate the Underground Railroad (ahem, sorry, Airline) or does he betray or get betrayed?

Just how complex does this tale get?

Pretty complex. And Very Satisfying. :)

It actually makes me believe that for all the crap we're living through in *this* world, I'm still happy to be *here*.

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