Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Old Man and the PrincessThe Old Man and the Princess by Sean-Paul Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to the author for a copy of this book!

I have to admit that I avoided the blurb on this one, and now that I've read the book I'm kinda glad that I did. I actually preferred going into this one blind and the results were quite satisfying.

The writing is quick and like all the best thrillers it moves along with some really great pace.

So what kind of book is this?

That's the real question, isn't it? I mean, it feels like a thriller, it smells like a thriller, and with all the great Irish and Scottish bits flying around the page, I have to admit I like this Old Man and the street-smart orphan he names the Princess after he "kidnaps" her.

Just what is going on here?

If you like books that mess with our heads as to whether this is a rather traditional SF tale about a Princess from Mars being spirited away before bounty hunters take her first, all the while feeling like we're on a really creepy kidnapping ride with a lot of seriously unanswered questions, (at least at first,) then I'm pretty certain you guys will love this.

I can easily call this a classic of psychological thrillers or a very-well-grounded SF adventure/mystery. Pick and choose. You'll still have your surprise at the end and I'm not gonna spoil it.

Besides, the writing it quite delicious and full of wry humor! :) Pure meat and potatoes for any good tale. :)

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Borderline (The Arcadia Project, #1)Borderline by Mishell Baker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an unexpectedly good Urban Fantasy novel with Fae and a differently-damaged protagonist that sets it apart from most by dealing with mental illness.

What? Mental illness? What kind? BORDERLINE Personality Disorder. :) Just think unstable and you've pretty much got it. It makes for hell on all her personal relationships, her professional relationships, and to make things worse, her suicide attempt took her legs from her.

Woah. She's got problems. It should make for some rather interesting reading in any normal circumstances, I'm sure, but it looks like she's just been selected for an untraditional work-therapy program... with Fae. :) It helps that this UF ties creative abilities with the Fae and we're in LA. I mean, everyone's fairly close to the borderline anyway and I'm sure no one would blink an eyelash when they were told that Hollywood is run by the Unselee Court. (OR some variation.) :)

The rest of the novel picks her up as an investigator which is pretty boilerplate but I didn't care in the slightest because of all the interesting twists and turns. Is it primarily a character-driven novel? Absolutely. Is it fresh? Absolutely. Did it renew my faith in UF? Absolutely. :)

The fact that the author took on a topic that is difficult and disturbing and wasn't afraid to let me actively dislike the main character while simultaneously making me search and find things to love about her is definitely a big bonus. :)


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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Gravity's RainbowGravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I dallied with the idea of writing a very short review, saying pithy things like:

"I'm glad that's over."



OR should I go more eloquent: "I'm going to set this day as an anniversary to commemorate why I'll never read this book again."

But I think I'll just state that I think I just got post-moderned in the ass.

Or I could say some wonderful things about the novel, too, of which there are many, many wonderful things, such a great and funny commentary on WAR, Operant Conditioning, Drug Fiends, Erections, Scatophagy, Porn, Dirty Limericks, Porn, the Physics of rocketry and drug making, Porn, Orgasmo, Porn, and a great scene near the beginning that brought to mind Pink Floyd's The Wall movie with the buttcheeks over London mixed with a sampling of the BLOB and Bananas.

Do you think this was an easy book to read? You might think so with all the Porn. But no. It's a drug-trip with funny scenes that's very smart and it goes way beyond my tolerance level for being smug. Maybe all this 60's and 70's thing about making sure every penis and vagina is getting it on to shock the straights just isn't for me. I'd like a little story with my porn. Fortunately, there's a lot of story hidden right beneath the surface, here. It might be hiding right beneath all the SS or a few more Nazis or just behind that other Nazi, or is it behind this one?

Golly, it's kinda hard to find it. I know it's there. But at least there's yet another erection and girls everywhere are flocking to this inexplicable sex symbol... but wait! Yeah... I have to admit the nasal erection bit was funny as hell.


I've read better bricks. I've even had better bricks slam across my head.

Alas, this one was not a solid gold brick with a slice of lemon wrapped around it, but it *might* be just as crazy. (Thank you, Pan-Galactic Gargle-Blaster. I need you so bad right now.)

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

EverfairEverfair by Nisi Shawl
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unfortunately, this is a book full of flaws, but underlying all of those flaws is also a book I really, really want to appreciate.

Why? Because it's a story of the Belgian Congo under an alternate history banner that strives and reaches for its independence despite atrocity and thanks to technology. No more millions dead in unsung tragedy. Rather, we've got nation building in a rather fresh and ambitious undertaking.

Pretty, no? And the themes and the problems explored is also quite impressive, tackling head-on the issues of both racism and nationalism sometimes together and other times in stark contrast. Again, quite beautiful and quite exhaustively characterized, developed, and world-built. We've got a historian on board as well as someone firmly rooted in speculation in the author.

So what's wrong? Maybe it's just my poor brain, or perhaps it's just that the ambition is greater than the execution. I don't mind that we've got decades'-worth of world-building going on. I don't *theoretically* mind that we've got a literal ARMY of PoV characters.

I do mind when that army of PoV characters don't grab me emotionally, or I should say, some do, some don't.

I do mind when a lot of time passes and motivations change and we as readers are left in the lurch. Such things can happen off-page and can be quite interesting if we're either scholars pouring through the text OR we've been following a very limited cast over a long time, giving us the emotional investment to CARE why they change their minds. Unfortunately, I wasn't given either the investment or the pre-existing knowledge of the Congo's history or possible mitigating factors. It was left out of the book.

Are these deal-breakers? Not at all. The overriding sense of the nation is clear and I love the available kinds of interactions with America and the kinds of cross-cultural exchanges, learning, and even religious meshes that have developed over time.

All-in-all, it's a book worth appreciating... from afar. After the fact. As a purely intellectual exercise. My heart never quite got into it... and that's a shame because I wanted it to.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Monstress, Vol. 1: AwakeningMonstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here's something awesome for you. I'm a TOTAL pushover for great art, great nasty story, and MONSTERS INSIDE US.

I mean, I've read the whole Naruto series twice and that whole story arc of the kid with the nine-tailed demon fox living within him was all kinds of awesome. So why do I love Monstress?

The demon living inside her, of course. SOOOO COOL!

Really, though, the artwork is all kinds of amazing and the story kicks me in my bollocks. It's bloody, it's disturbing, it's setting us up for all kinds of epic, and I'm completely hooked. It's kinda like Claymore and Berserk rolled into one, only the artwork is fully realized and colored on every page and it's just soooo gorgeous. And disturbing. :)

I can't wait to see what kind of friendship they strike up. :)

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Odd and the Frost GiantsOdd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a delightful counterpoint to Norse Mythology!

I mean, yes, it's written for middle-grade and Thor and Loki are cute and Odin is inscrutable as always and the frost giant is funny rather than scary because, after all, EVERYONE is afraid of Freya's tongue... but it's still a real delight!

I don't care what anyone says about Gaiman. The man can write a classy tale no matter where or what he's writing about. This is, after all, only a retelling of an old story, but it's a very particular and beautiful Odd viewpoint.

I'll definitely be reading this to my girl when she gets a little older. :) Heck. It might even be time now. :)

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MicromegasMicromegas by Voltaire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

18th century SF. :) Gotta love it just for that.

Otherwise, my estimation of Voltaire continues to rise! I always loved his stuff before and while this doesn't have quite the social impact that something like Candide had, it certainly puts the rod to the church with its "blow your mind" idea of turning all us ants into something even more insignificant. :)

I see your enormous cathedral and raise you a thousand-league footprint. :)

Short and sweet and so scientific... these giants are giants of erudition and learning! Of course, they laugh at the idea that us little ants mean crap because we only live for mere dozens of years while they live for thousands. I mean, seriously.

Very impressive for its time and message. I know it's not entirely all about SF but it IS still an SF tale and one of the very first.

I'm so glad that Ada Palmer turned me on to it. :)

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