Friday, November 24, 2017

Bloodhype (Pip & Flinx #2)Bloodhype by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first real hiccup when reading the series in chronological order, but fortunately, it's not too bad. We still get huge action and stakes and uneasy alien alliances and a close up of the really big bad we've been teased with for the first eleven books.

But here's the funny bit: Pip and Flinx are minor characters!

It's not bad in absolute terms, just bad if you're wanting a real Flinx adventure where he's center stage.

Enter a really nasty and lethal drug, piece-of-work dealers, super-spies who are aliens, privateers, questionable alliances with nasty reptiles, and a ton of action. On its own, I'd just classify this as a Humanx novel with a short but important cameo. It's very golden-age SF. :) Light, fun, fast.

Sometimes, that's exactly what we need. :)

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

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

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. :)


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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Running from the Deity (Pip & Flinx #11)Running from the Deity by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I expected something light for Flinx's ongoing adventure and kinda expected the big galaxy consuming monstrosity to feature big because of the title, so what I did actually get is rather funny.

Running from the Deity? LOL Who is it? FLINX.

Oh, Flinx, what have you done?

Really, what could have been kinda corny or a flashback to C3PO among the Ewoks was actually rather cool in a Flinx-specific kind of way. He's not a bad kid, after all. He's just kinda stupid sometimes and he never watched Star Trek. Or maybe he did and he took all the wrong lessons from Janeway or something.

What could be the harm? Just heal some locals while I wait for my ship to fix itself. NO BIG DEAL.

Right. Well, the aliens are cool which is kinda a standard thing for ADF and the implications and runaway events are suitably wild and Flinx just can't keep up with the crazy.

Light fun, indeed. I'm quite happy with this series. :)

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Monday, November 20, 2017

SpoonbendersSpoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This should be right up the alley of all you folks who like epic family stories. You know, the whole generational thing with patriarchs (who happen to be expert con-men), children with special (albeit mild) psychical abilities, (read NOT X-MEN), and the difficulties of living in Chicago between the sixties and mid-nineties.

Mind you, we're dealing with mostly realistic stuff here. Tons of it is illusion tricks but this family is special, anyway, between truth-sensing, clairvoyance, and a minor trick of telekinesis. All in all, it's a story of failed romance in a normal family for the truth-sensor. Or being overburdened with foreknowledge when most of this life just sucks. In another case, it's being able to cheat the hell out of a pinball machine. Sometimes it even carries over to roulette. :)

This poor family has issues. Debunked publicly by a skeptic, forced to live normal lives, getting into crap MLM schemes, getting in trouble with the mob... there's a bit of everything going on here.

In reality, though, the focus is on the characters and the family and it plays out very satisfactorily by the end. I love a good heist novel even more than a familial epic, but fortunately, we've got both here. It was fun and requires a bit of patience and natural fascination for the minor psychical stuff as well as family epics, but if you've got that, this is well worth the read.

This happens to be the first novel of Gregory I've read. It's not bad. I'm curious how the others pan out now. :)

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

The End of All Things (Old Man's War, #6)The End of All Things by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The End.

The Old Man's War series was one hell of a ride, from decanting brains out of old people into nice young military types to decanting brains into spaceships against one's will, from never-ending expansion to civil war between Earth and the Colonies to the possible collapse of all human space against the rest of the aliens we didn't try to get along with.

It's pretty epic.

But you know what I like most about this whole thing?

Scalzi's light-hearted humor.

Sure, there's a lot of great competence porn and even better SF ideas and deeper philosophical statements studded throughout a wild space opera adventure full of down-to-earth characters and politics and great funny moments, but it's the voices of the characters that made it shine. They're light and easy reads that always manages to say something important.

This novel is actually four novellas and they all do a bang up job wrapping up the whole shebang. Will humanity survive its follies? We've managed to piss off practically everyone and ourselves, so is there really a hope for us?

No. I guess not. :) But then there's Wilson so I guess we're not that bad. :)

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The Squirrel on the TrainThe Squirrel on the Train by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, gravy.

With a side of meatballs and women with medication. For any of you who've been reading the great Iron Druid UF series, you already know that one of the most delightful characters in the books is Oberon. He's a dog. He's been granted some immortali-TEA and he's always telepathically talking with Atticus and begging for meat.

And this is the second novella that makes him the main star, written from his PoV.

So, wait, this immortal dog solves side-story mysteries set in this universe where gods from all the pantheons are pissed at Atticus for one thing or another?

Yup. And it's delightful, light, goofy fun. With a really sketchy squirrel that defies all physics. Screw the murder mystery that his human is working on with an old pal detective. No one cares that the murdered guy looks like Atticus. The SQUIRREL is so much more important!

:) Fun, fun.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Lies and Legends (The Last City, #3)Lies and Legends by Logan Keys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Third book, people!

And werewolf! lol Yeah, yeah, we have tons of zombies and now a vampire army. But who are the good guys, here? Machines are turning people into body-modded murder machines and/or vampires and the bad guys are on both sides of that normal fence.

This world is in total chaos and the idea of what's normal has been tossed on the garbage heap of history. What I love most about this are the powers. You know what happened to Tommy in the last book.

Well, his powers weren't the only ones being developed. More of these peeps are getting beast and it's really starting to get wild. Dreams! Dreamwalking! Too cool, right?

We've gone from a very bloody apocalyptic YA with beastly kids all the way to REALLY beastly kids learning a ton of nasty details about their condition and the condition of the condition. :) There's a bit of hopping from one medical "problem" to another, but it's the nature of the reveals that makes this book a page-turner. Not to mention the blood. Can't forget the blood. It's the fate of "humanity" that's at stake here.

I think I love the dark turns best. Oh, it's getting dark. And there's a rather interesting surprise at the end. :)

Bon appetite!

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