Saturday, February 24, 2018

vN (The Machine Dynasty, #1)vN by Madeline Ashby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm gonna have a hard time reviewing this one not because the book was hard or particularly idea-dense, but because my expectations mismatched the resulting tale.

Don't get me wrong, it's still about self-replicating machines and it eventually gets to the meat of good ideas explored relatively well, but for the longest time, I just had the impression that I was reading a YA novel. Not even a very good YA novel. Family issues, growing up too fast, being on the run, hanging out with that flawed boy. It took too much time. I wanted worldbuilding.

Of course, that's my issue, not anyone else's. I suppose I just wanted something spectacular based on that cover. *sigh*

The ideas have potential. A potential herd of babies? Sure. Potential. Subverting "protective" programming to find your own destiny outside of what the humans want? Potential.

Unfortunately, most of what I read skirted the edge of noise. Human drama, mediocre situations for large parts of the novel, and missed opportunities. I'm not saying it's a bad novel, just an average one. Nothing grabbed me. Which is a shame... because I liked the author's Company Town novel.

I'll continue because I already bought the second novel, but I probably wouldn't have, otherwise.

Win some, lose some.

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Friday, February 23, 2018

The Jennifer Morgue (Laundry Files, #2)The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Third read! 2/23/18:

I'll give a more loving review this time. :)

After much much reflection, I have to say that this is probably the funniest of all the Laundry Files books. The Ian Flemming style works perfectly not only for the plot, the geshes, and the snark... but for the fast pacing and the dry, dry humor. :)

Smart cars on the Autobahn? Destiny entanglements? Hero traps? Supervillains controlling the world through their military spec word processors? Delicious. Utterly delicious. :)

And of course, there are a few absolutely gorgeous musical scenes with Mo. But I won't get into that here because that's some of the best parts of the whole story. But Bob absolutely shines. :)

I'm still giggling at all the great scenes and the snark. And please don't mistake me when I refer to snark. The snark is built into every level of the novel, from dialogue right down the scenes, the characters, the themes, and the plot. All of it: SNARK.

Yummy. :) :) :) One of my favorite UF series ever, and it has everything a growing boy could ever want. Tentacular horrors, hacking, Bond action, and utter geekiness. :)

Original review:

This book is my personal favorite of the series so far. Maybe I happen to enjoy Ian Flemming's style, and maybe I just happen to love the freaky humor that turns the whole novel into a very prolonged visual joke. The best reason for loving the novel is the same as the previous stories: the beautiful mixture of ideas.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

The PowerThe Power by Naomi Alderman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I've just stumbled upon one of those "Important Works" I keep saying is so necessary. No UF fluff with magical women or post-apocalypse SF nonsense where it's mostly about shocking us about the brutality of man against woman. (It seems that's mostly what it is, these days.)

Indeed, what we've got here is a careful and complex study of all the gender roles turned on its head, slowly, surely, and irrevocably.

We have women getting the power to shock the living shit out of anyone and teach this power to any other woman. Throw that wrinkle in today's worldwide culture, and suddenly we have a really ugly war of the sexes on a scale that's horrifying. All the abuses of power, of violence, of insanity, is now going to be returned to the sender.

I'll be honest, I loved the grand build-up of this reversal of power, thought the justice of it was delicious as hell. But it's another thing to see the justice turn to insanity. The practice of power for power's sake. To see women roaming the streets looking to abuse a stray man who was just looking for it, to have training camps to make women all stronger, to destroy anything that gets in their way.

It still seems like justice. All those nasty patriarchies and misogynists getting their due was FUN. Until it wasn't. Until women become fully as bad as the men always were. Or as we assume men always were.

The book also brings up the question of archeology in a wonderful way, fast-forwarding 5000 years into a culture where women have all the power and men are treated exactly the way women are treated today. With intellectual dishonesty, prejudice, ignorance, and the assumption that things were always as they were now, that men in armies are a joke or a sexual fantasy that could never have been true, like some of us may say Amazonians are today. That all the ancient statues destroyed depicting men as warriors back then must have been a grand joke or not what it seems. That the author, a man, ought to change his name to a woman's for the publication of the book to lend it credence.

And this last bit happens throughout this novel, lending it an inevitable and horrific outlook on the nature of the real problem.

It's not men. Or women. It's as Adler says. It's a POWER issue. Those with power abuse it. Those with power over others need to have someone to USE it on. This is the root of the disease.

I've often thought and agreed with certain authors who bring up the possibility that women DID have the power in our ancient pasts, 45-55 thousand years ago, the statues being the only evidence I really have. I liked to daydream about what lost societies, full cultures, civilizations in our own deep pasts might have been like before time eroded everything.

There really is no reason not to believe we've been through this exact same cycle many times, always suffering the same hubris and error in thinking. Power causes upheaval. The pendulum swings. The weak inherit the earth, and then the new weak inherit the earth, and then the new weak inherit the earth.

It's humbling, this turning of the wheel.

But back to the novel. It's extremely well written and painful to witness and thought-provoking and even delightful at times. It's also deep. Easily one of the very best novels of it's kind, being obviously gender-centric, sociological, and quite entertaining on the character level. The skein of power is almost secondary to the story. It's all about turning the tables. :)

I totally recommend this book for everyone. Period. It's just that brilliant and should be required reading for anyone in the discussion of what it means to be a woman OR a man. Let's open our eyes! :)

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What can I say? It felt very much like book one of Harry Potter in terms of plot and situation, only milder and set in Nigeria.

It shouldn't have felt milder. Objectively, there were child mutilations and a serial murderer on the loose. And there wasn't some gigantic castle with enchantments up to protect the students. So theoretically, if I were one of these four kids, I'd be creaming my pants.

Brushing that aside, the setting is deeply fascinating to me, with magics very tied to the place and culture, with masks and masquerades and local spirits and demons and angels. The magic system was solid and cool, as were all the magical beasties.

I didn't even mind the mirroring of HP elements popping up like clockwork... like everywhere... I just let myself enjoy the magic, the discovery, and the coming of age.

Sometimes that's all you need to do. :) I think I might like to continue with the series. It's a comfortable, familiar ride, but just off the beaten path.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Food of the Gods (Gods and Monsters: Rupert Wong #1-2)Food of the Gods by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh lordy. When it comes to genre mashing, I'm usually first in line and chortling with glee when it comes to the wild and the wacky. Coming into this one relatively free of any expectations other than knowing it was a group read with some friends, I blanked my mind and began it.

First impressions: Oh! Chinese gods, the underworld, a damned chef and the problem of keeping the ghouls happy with their meals. Oh! Godfather. Oh! This is GORY. Oh! Rupert has one hell of a snark going on and even if I don't particularly like him or what he does, he's funny as hell.

Second impressions, coinciding with the second novella (two of which make up a single novel): I'm really getting into this. Life on the line for the stunt he pulled, he's sent to work for the enemy, I.E., the Greek Gods. As a Chef. And they're all a real nasty piece of work. Survival novel, mystery, and twisty, twisty machinations including new gods, old gods, and a really fun Outsider Cthuhlu god later... CHAOS, BLOOD, and so much gory death. :)

The second one was even better than the first, but I'll put it this way: 3 star, 5 star. This damned chef has really grown on me. Like undead tattoo fairies. Or an immortal youtube cat begging for scraps. :)

So, a word of warning: You must be comfortable with graphic, graphic gore. :) The rest is a very humorous comedy of errors featuring a cannibal chef who keeps getting into trouble with all the wrong gods. It's very reminiscent of some classic mystery/comedies with a huge American Gods twist.


Me, I LOVE bizarro fiction and Khaw's writing skill is tops. No complaints there. Quite funny, great turns of phrase, and always snappy. She just pushes the boundaries as far as she likes with the gore, and I really appreciate that. :)

Now, I need to go take a shower.

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Monday, February 19, 2018

NoumenonNoumenon by Marina J. Lostetter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's always nice to pick up tales about generational starships, a repeatedly cloned crew, and an AI that helps them make the journey.

Sound familiar? I mean, we've had stories like this for many generations aboard this starship and have discussed AIs for as long. We've had a long line and a recent bout of great novels touching upon all these aspects, such as KSR's Aurora and Neal Stephenson's Seveneves, not to mention Tchiachovski's Children of Time, to mention some of the very best among the latest.

Fortunately, this isn't a rehash. It's a serious thought experiment combining new thought in the fields of psychology, sociology, artificial intelligence and even DNA hard data storage techniques. :) I appreciated the subtle explorations and the different directions the author took them, showing me that she knew her SF history like an expert, never running over precisely the same ground.

But it is still all very familiar. And adding that to solid characters with their own personalities, some much more interesting than others, of course, we always have an entertaining and nicely flowing tale. Very few hiccups at all. I especially liked the exploration of Earth after their return. It could have gone so many ways and I'm very pleased with Numenon's final direction.

I can't say this is the best novel of its type but it is written in a nicely flowing modern style with a big focus on characters. It doesn't stint on the science, either, and the big, big focus on the AI is a major bonus in my book. :)

I do recommend this for you fanboys and fangirls. :)

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Only Human (Themis Files, #3)Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The final book in the trilogy!

This one's a hard one to review only because it bucks expectations. Maybe only mine, but still.

Did I want answers and a big robot battle? Yes. Did I get answers and a big robot battle? Absolutely.

The direction of the storytelling will probably take you for a wild loop, however. It did for me. The cliffhanger had all my sights on the alien homeworld (or it's war-staging area) and I'm totally into the epistolary nature of these novels, so now I've got to reconcile myself to the fact that humanity is in WAY OVER ITS HEAD.

Derp. Fast forward another 10 years.

The aliens don't have their crap together. Haven't for a while. Oh, sure, they're technologically advanced and can still vaporize cities and teleport and do these nifty perfect atomic clones, but they're a pretty damn good mirror to our own messed-up selves. You know, US/Them crap about genetics. Purebloods and democracy skewed in favor of said Purebloods. Like I said, very familiar.

And our MCs live in this world for a decade, feeling the weight of the aliens' guilt and embarrassment until it all goes pear-shaped and we spend the rest of the novel back on Earth.

The characters really carry this novel, as they did the previous ones. Our fantastic rock-em-sock-em robot bash and the two battlers turned the scene into some really really tragic, heartwarming and rage-filled. The father/daughter dynamic was pretty brilliant.

I may have shed a few tears. The buildup was intense.

But the end? I really want to talk about the end but that's a spoiler too much. Suffice to say, I'm both conflicted and satisfied at the same time. Some pretty awesome humor and a lot of shame for being a member of this human race.

But then, what should we expect with a title that evokes a shrug? Oh, we're Only Human. Well, no excuses are going to cut this. You go, Rosa. :)

I'm already getting nostalgic. Action and pathos for the win. :)

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