Thursday, May 25, 2017

InfluxInflux by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*cackles with glee*

I love me some WILD technology! I love me so much technology I roll about in it like it was a king sized bed full of money, money, money! I love my technostravaganza!

Oh yeah, besides the tech tech tech tech tech tech coolness, this is a pretty decent technothriller, too, fluctuating from awe and surprise... to a bit of tech-explanation... to a bit of tech-horror, dark humor, tech theft, dark humor, action, action, tech-action, more tech-action, and finally, a laugh-out-loud chortle of dark laughter.

From myself, of course.

I love wild rides! And this one is definitely one! My head is buzzing around and I'm lost in admiration and awe for all the great pure SF tech goodies that they all play with. It's almost like golden-age SF except that it's proper modern-dark and sarcastic and cynical and yet, in the end, totally optimistic.

I love Daniel Suarez. Or, more properly, all his writing. I can't believe how much fun I have every single time I pick up one of his novels, or how thrilled I am to see so much science and tech and full explanations for each and very well developed consequences and social side-effects.

For me, it's not even about the techno-thriller. He's quite good with his characters and stories and twists, too, but all the SF goodies are the real stars that shine so bright. :) Maybe that's just me. Maybe not! I just know that there's no way in hell I'm ever going to avoid reading his works. He's got my undying trust.

Fantastic SF, ya'll!

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Stockholm SexyStockholm Sexy by Logan Keys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Death never stepped so lightly or with such fervor.

Like noir? Like dark comedy noir with a bit of sexy time and a lot of violent death? Yup. Me too.

The thing is, I love it when it's light and fun and quick, and this fits the bill. It has all the modern quick dying and moving on, each death a punchline, a question-mark.

But of course, it always goes south, as each death digs her deeper and deeper in trouble, despite an already established career of doing the hit-thing already!

It just goes to show. Don't go freelance!

Totally worth getting into. Pain fun!

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The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm checking it out, yo. I mean, it was supposed to be this big thing and I was kinda meh on the whole concept of dystopias about when this was all over the feeds, so I just didn't do it.


But now is a brand new day.

And today is all about the mass deaths. Let's do it in waves, each one so much more impressive and deadly than the last. Now let's add aliens and make them the perps behind it all.

Now make it a survival novel with a smart and logical and ruthless girl who's set to do whatever is necessary to survive.

Honestly, I thought this was pretty much a 5 star novel well past the mid-point. The style and pacing and the character and the dire feels were pretty awesome. I liked her family and I loved the effect that her brother going away had on her.

So where did I lose interest?

With the boy. Sorry. Also with the possibility that her little bro might be alive and the subsequent plot.

After all, what struck me as fantastic in the first more-than-half novel was the sheer "alien-ness" of the aliens, the disregard for us, their total commitment toward getting rid of us at all costs. I didn't want to ascribe a human-ish motive to anything that could go that far out of its way to destroy us, from flooding to making us bleed out almost universally. Even just letting us take ourselves out was fine. Doppelgangers, too. They wanted our world as a resource, but not us upon it. Got it.

I probably would have been great with The Road ending. I just didn't want to see a real romance situation. Not here. Not like this. There just seemed to be so much potential for learning and discovery, even trusting others again. There was some of that, but it still felt like a waste with the big action scene we did get.

Am I getting picky and personal about this? Possibly. It's just that so many great premises these days just have to go the way of dinosaur plots. And for what? A cheap sex thrill? At the end of the world? Meh. Even Saving Private Sam was pretty predictable. Maybe I just didn't want a happy-ish ending with such much perfect dark setup.

Whatever happened to tragedies, yo? I expected tragedy. Horrors get this right. This could have been a great horror/sf.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Punch EscrowThe Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

And a very special thanks to the author for writing Hard-SF in a really fun and engaging way. This is often much harder than it might seem at a casual glance.

Fortunately, the light tone and the clear explanations of the science prevailed and served only to propel the story forward. And what kind of story is it? It's a fast-paced thriller! And no, before you ask, this isn't a clone of Dark Matter. Far from it. We're dealing with a better version of Star Trek's transporter problem from a quantum entanglement viewpoint, and far from getting bogged down in an introductory reading of such a story, (which has been done a lot), we jump right ahead into the social and technological implications of a society that has come to accept it and the actuarial realities of checksumming your torrented self across great distances. How boring, right? But boring gets people moving, and moving, and moving... aaaand ... I really shouldn't spoil this, but all the cool stuff happens after the poop hits the fan from after this point.

Copy, paste, delete. We know the concept. No problem. Now skip the last step. Hello, me! :)

The author carries two PoV's wonderfully and keeps it light even when really bad things are happening. I loved it, from the marital problems to the chase, the ambulance, the AI, the conspiracy, the nutjobs AND the nutjobs, and of course, arguing with yourself. :) I like to think that I wouldn't have any such problems with myself, but let's be realistic here. A perfect teleportation clone is going to be competing with your resources right off the bat. There's a lot of real conflicts right there.

So, bravo! for keeping it real.

This was a very nice surprise. I asked for this one just on a whim and I am very pleased I did. I totally recommend this for all kinds of clone-fans who love thrillers. This one happens to be a lot better than most and I can say it feels rather more original than most. PLUS! It has the benefit of sticking close to real science to the best of our current understanding!

The same goes for all the multitudes of the great little idea-gems we visit in this future world. The carbon-sucking mosquitos are a delight. So are the self-driving cars that alert each other on emergency channels whenever some monkey is taking the wheel. :) Scary. :)

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The Dream ArchipelagoThe Dream Archipelago by Christopher Priest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This superb collection of short stories by Christopher Priest lives up to its title, being both subtle and subtly off.

Off not as in bad... but off as in we're being carried away by deep waters that are subtly carrying away our sense of the universe.

You see, these stories feel awfully familiar and normal, or if they're evidently and obviously on an alternate Earth, at least everything seems ultimately recognizable... until it isn't. And this, let me tell you, is damn awesome. There's practically no way we can't fall into his trap. He lulls us along and then stops the stories at places that confound and make us ask really deep questions.

At first blush, we keep seeing big themes of incompletion, usually surrounding unsatisfying sexual encounters, synesthesia, all kinds of off-art, and the sense that the war is just WRONG.

But expect no resolutions. These aren't those kinds of stories. They're deeply personal, intimate, and often disturbing, focused almost entirely on the inner or nearby worlds of the main characters, usually involved in what might be characterized as a travelogue of the Dream Archipelagos.

And like the other Dream Islands, the islands are a character in themselves, they're both disturbing and fascinating, and they're set right in-between two warring nations that have been going at it for up to a few thousand years. They're not going to defeat each other. They have too much invested in just keeping the conflict going.

There's undercurrents under the undercurrents, references back to real and fictional novels, themes that are both profound and familiar, and it's always heavily sexual.

These are almost impossible to truly describe. They're just that good. Expertly crafted, confounding, intimate, and interrupted. A few of them are truly wonderful, especially the last novella, but after reading them, it really is as if I've been living a dream... Not wild. Just carried away with the currents.

If you can't tell, I'm kinda at a loss for words. I feel like I'm one of the characters in these stories, all fish out of water and simultaneously horrified and caught in the beauty. :)

Anyway. They're absolutely worth the read. Really amazing, actually. :)

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Monday, May 22, 2017

The Stars Are LegionThe Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Memory, bio-punk, world-building extravaganza, betrayal, adventure, horror.

There's so much to love in this book. It's full to the brim with fantastic living "world/ships" and the special parasites that are living aboard them. (Us, or some kind of alien that's near enough us that makes no odds.)

I originally thought that it was going to be a lot like Starscape with the living ship, but in reality, this is much, much larger. At least the ship is. In fact, aside from a few quick space battles, most of the events take place across vast distances inside the ships. Worlds. :)

Here's another great bit: The women. It's all women. The ships manipulate and bring them back as clones (although it's never really described as such) and their memories come back slowly. This gives us a lot of really awesome plot devices that lead to so many horrible discoveries, but more-so, it gives us a really tangled web of social and interpersonal nightmares. And it's all women.

This is a fairly unique world-building exercise, and while it's not completely original, I've rarely seen it done this well while also being completely immersed in truly strange alien-tech, or being fully realized for huge story and biological reveals later. Suffice to say, I'm loving the hell out of the world-building.

The story is pretty cool, too, full of distrust and dire situations and nearly hopeless striving, neither side ever truly being able to come to grips with one another... or do they? It's truly a nightmare of social tangles when you include memories being lost or the fact that you might have been doing this same quest, futilely, over and over. The despair is palpable.

This is the fourth book I've read of hers and this is the one I probably like the most, all told. She always has fantastic world-building, full of wonderful ideas, explorations, and implications.

What can I say? I wish there was a lot more of this out there. I love this stuff. True playground of the mind. :)

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And this was exactly what I've been looking for.

Gods, dreams, epic fantasy, a richly detailed world, and more importantly, characters I can wholeheartedly love.

But what about originality? Oh, there's plenty here. I'm gonna name drop some titles to let you folk know a tiny bit of what's in store, but don't assume that because this book shares some elements of each, that it is a knock-off, because it isn't.

Think about a love child of City of Stairs and The Dragonbone Chair with a very healthy dose of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and a smidge of all the best modern epic fantasies, and you've got what does NOT feel like a tired YA romance... rather, it feels like a wonderful modern fantasy that tugs at you in all the right places and even lets you feel a bit of Gaiman's Dream magic. :)

But the best part of this is the writing, from the characters to the overarching arc of the story. It's good. Plain and simple. Very, very, good.

I love being blown away by hints and tragedies and enormous somethings in the background and the build-up to make it truly delicious when it all comes home to roost.

But if you're thinking that this is a standalone novel, then think again. Nothing can stand as it is now. Buckle up tight, because it's going to be a really big ride.

And yes, this is officially billed as YA but I don't think it should be limited to that sobriquet. It's perfectly adult. :) Perfectly dark and dire, in other words, and simple? This is not. :)

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, #2)Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Must love jazz.

Well, not really, but I could almost taste the love for jazz throughout this novel. Peter's dad was once a jazz legend, after all, and so it's not so hard to have his son pick up a bit of the love, if not the talent. This aspect of the novel was pretty nigh awesome. :) Flitting around the London Jazz scene, hunting down Jazz vampires... you know, those pesky varmints that nest in the musician's ear and suck out their brains and make them do really stupid things...

Or something like that. Maybe Jazz people are naturally messed up. But that doesn't mean that there aren't Jazz Vampires!

This second book in the series is spot on and very cool in the character department. There's less of the tropes and more of being a damn fine human being. The opening of the novel highlights this. I think I'd give it ten stars all by itself. Less guilt and more being a good friend. Hell yeah. :)

The rest of the novel runs like a jazz song... smooth, reoccurring riffs, and a baseline that, while not always steady, always came back into fine form.

That, and it's a great police procedural.. um... JAZZ POLICE... and magician-in-training novel. :) I continue to be very impressed. This is some of the very best detail-oriented and depth-of-character Urban Fantasies I've ever read, and I admit to having read a TON.

Totally recommend.

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Thin AirThin Air by Michelle Paver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy ghost stories in general, so getting into this modern rendition of a historical mountaineering thriller turned ghost story was pretty fun.

Granted, such stories about climbing mountains in the 30's have a long tradition. And of course, so do ghost stories. But regardless, this mash-up was first and foremost WELL WRITTEN. Modern style, of course.

I had a good time. That's pretty much all. It has brotherly angst, a fight against the elements, tragedy, pettiness, and above all, really great foreshadowing. Most of my enjoyment came from trying to find out what Kind of ghost story it would become, and when I learned, I was mightily pleased. Nuff Said about that.

It was pleasing. Thrilling, full of pathos, and it even included a great dog. What more can we ask for in a popcorn horror?

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Gameshouse (Gameshouse, #1-3)The Gameshouse by Claire North
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had to waffle between 3 and 4 stars, so call this 3.5.

But WHY? It's Claire North! You've never read anything of hers that you've disliked!

Well, I didn't exactly dislike this one. The first of the three novellas was pretty raveworthy, like a Machiavellian back-stabby game of thrones for people in Venice a couple hundred years ago, making and breaking kings in the Great Game they play.

It's smart, it's almost over-the-top, and it's quite delicious for an alternate-history high-stakes secret society story.

The second, by contrast, was good for its cool setting of 30's Thailand with rather deep descriptions... But, it just didn't have the same impact OR importance that developed in the first. For, after all, the winner of THAT game became the head of the order. (The rewards were somewhat unspecified except that it's so much better than kingships, etc.) This one was okay. The rewards for playing the game are getting fantastical, now. A real fantasy story mixed with a huge number of pieces (read human resources) being used up.

I honestly didn't care that much about this one.

The third novella had its ups and downs in a modern setting with an even bigger location. Note, we go from ONLY Venice to ALL of Thailand, and now, the world.

It was *okay* until it neared the end, with resources dwindling and piling up in a truly topsy-turvy game between order and chaos, and THEN I was like.... "Okay, this is pretty damn cool."

In fact, if any of you folks have been following the author's North-Only titles, you'll see a pretty big and awesome trend that includes immortality in one sense or another. This, in my honest opinion, is probably the very best feature of her novels. Identity, immortality, and often enough, a lot of fantastic locations.

This one was in line with the rest. It just didn't have the same punch for me as any of her other novels.

Still, it's decent. Not bad, taken all together. BUT I'd say just read the first novella if I was really recommending this to anyone except the Northian Die-Hards like me. :)

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Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire #2)Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I think it's safe to say that I'm a fanboy of this writer. I was blown away by the flashy greatness of the first novel, the quantum-perception nature of a whole society versus other whole societies, and especially the absolute craziness of having an undead general in your brain to help you fight impossible battles in space.

This one continues in that same vein, but it does so with a heavy dose of mystery and sadness and three other viewpoints while all eyes are focused on the resurrected General who's dead set on taking on absolutely everyone.

Continue the campaign? No problem. Do it over your dead bodies? No problem. Do it even when the people who thought they had him on a leash now just want him dead at all costs except for the one that says he's taking care of their enemies for them so why not let him continue on for just a bit longer? No problem.

Of course, the novel becomes a long exercise in truly scary mind-control loyalty games and the introduction of a long-term strategy to accompany the most brilliant tactician anyone has ever seen.

And perhaps the overthrow of the Calendar. Oohhhhh!!! THE HERESY!

Honestly, this one doesn't require as much effort to learn new things as the first one does. It does, however, suffer a little bit with the middle-book-syndrome. I'm also not quite sure I like the direction the end took, but the middle reveals were freaking fantastic.

And best of all... relieved.

There was a bit of difficult tension I had to go through while reading this, and it's all story and character. It had me almost in tears.

Now how in the world am I going to wait for the third book?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rivers of London (Peter Grant, #1)Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm giving this top marks for an UF for several reasons.

1. Plain enjoyment! (This one should be obvious but it doesn't always work even with a lot of other titles I respect across the board. I may love bits and pieces of them, but then you come across writing that is a breeze to fall into and enjoy throughout, and then you know you've got a real winner on your hands. That's this one.)

2. Geeky, rather a loser London Police Constable with a bit of a new magical talent, a heavy steeping of modern sf/f culture, and an even heavier steeping of police procedural and depth of characterization. It feels real and I just love this guy.

3. It's not light on the Londonite scene! This is great grounding and full of great humor and history, bringing in some of the weirdest tidbits of the past centuries like the proverbial grab-bag and shaking it about a bit and giving us a hell of a weird novel. It's a total blast.

Any one of these reasons should have been enough, but damn... who cares! It's a great read! Some of the best UF created, in fact. I can't wait to delve into the rest!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The New Voices of FantasyThe New Voices of Fantasy by Peter S. Beagle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I really liked, sometimes loved the stories in this volume. A lot of them are reprints, if not all, and I remember a number of them quite fondly from previous reads, such as, and especially, Alyssa Wong and Brooke Bolander.

However, there were a number of newcomers (the definition is flexible) that I really enjoyed or I've already had the pleasure of reading some of their actual novels, such as stories from Hannu Rajaniemi, Sofia Samatar, and Max Gladstone. Hannu is a personal favorite author of mine, and Max is rapidly getting there, too, for me.

Let me tell you... I really loved the one from Max. Dracula in the modern city. It was far from being overdone, rather, it was absolutely delightful. :)

Ben Loory's short of "The Duck" was an awesome surprise, and I'm really beginning to look forward to every Ursula Vernon story I'm running across, too.

All in all, though, I am very impressed and pleased by this collection and if its primary intention is to say, "Hey, look at these authors and revel in their glory!", then I think it did a wonderful job. Most of them have quite a few awards under their wings, too.

I totally recommend this for all modern fantasy lovers. (And btw, there's a TON of great OLD fantasy retellings, usually quite unique and unusual tales in their own right. If you love hard to find legends retold for modern sensibilities wrapped and layered in fantastic characters, this is ALSO your book.)

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Seven Secrets of the Silver Shoes: Principles for Success on and Off the FieldThe Seven Secrets of the Silver Shoes: Principles for Success on and Off the Field by Joe Washington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll be honest, books about sports (or sports in general,) generally can't strike my fancy.

But it is rather cool to hear anecdotes from a football legend that really feels like a genuinely nice guy. The general advice for living isn't heavy-handed or inappropriate. Indeed, I really enjoyed the last section on using your imagination even more than just listening to your coach, giving credit where credit is due, or even accepting the fact that we all have to back up.

It's very light fare, true, but it's also charming and it should be a huge delight for Football fans.

Hell, when I used to live in Oklahoma, I remember hearing all about Joe, too! It's odd how life turns us around and jogs our memories. :)

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

VALIS (VALIS Trilogy, #1)VALIS by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Update 5/13/17:
I had to dive back into VALIS because certain tales continue to resonate with me... and this one is still one of the very most important.

Who knows? Maybe I am just a crazy as PKD because I'm obsessed with the perception of reality, holographic universes, the edict of "As Above, So Below", and the nature of consciousness.

Or maybe I'm just a naturally curious person that happens to be heavily stimulated by PKD's intelligence, his humility, his sincerity, and his travails.

Any way that I look at it, however, I am still in awe of this man's writing. This one more than all his other novels, in fact, for the way he bleeds all over the page with his personal experiences, his deep searching, and his willingness to look practically everywhere for an answer.

So beautiful. Of course, after all these years, I can now see this as the capstone to the great pyramid of his other works and words. From Ubik and the nature of reality, to Galactic Pot-Healer for both the genetic regression and memory, and even to The Man in the High Castle for the alternate dimension mystery... for which all four of his last novels tie so well together.

I disagree with the blurb, of course. It wasn't a trilogy.

There were four, with The Divine Invasion exploring the return of Elijiah and how Sophia and the Logos reworks reality and the Earth, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer for the exploration of immortality in the form of a mystical mushroom and Pike (otherwise the most down-to-earth and charming of the tied-in-books), and Radio Free Albemuth which has the closest ties to VALIS out of the entire bunch since it IS the story of Brady from the movie VALIS and his troubles with president Faris F. Freemont in the police state that was the Black Iron Prison. :)

All of these diverse novels sprang, fully formed, from the brainchild that was VALIS. So rich a novel!


It's easily one of my favorites of all time. :)

Old Review:

This book has everything except plot. I still love the fraking hell out of it. As a mind experiment gone horribly, horribly awry, I felt myself slipping into PKD's mindset and taking every point seriously, as you could just tell that he was. It felt like the ramblings of a man who had gone through something he couldn't explain and did his damned awful best to figure it out, but that includes religious horror, classical Greek authors, a ton of philosophy, and a life that is falling apart.
I've since read his Exegesis, or at least the edited parts of it, but I was personally horrified by his own accounting of the Exegesis that he was currently writing at the time of, and within, this novel. A million words. Ten novel's worth. All densely populated with thought experiments, rationalizations, religious thought, humor, self-deprecation, and so much more.

Knowing what I know now hasn't diminished my respect for this novel, just given it more dimension. At the time I first read it, I honestly thought that PKD had specifically picked this highly intellectual, spooky, crazy method to tell a story in a novel, while using himself as a split personality as a foil. I thought it was Brilliant. I know now that he just took out a lot of his salient points from the exegesis and made a slapped together novel. That being said, it still doesn't deplete the depth and the density of this great novel.

I shook myself after reading it the first time and sat around dazed for a day. If I'm going to rank my favorite novels by the effects they had upon me, by their lasting effects upon my life, then I'm going to slap this one up near the very top. It still gives me shivers, and it made me feel small in a huge world of thought.

I've since read all of the authors that he name-dropped, and have explored the catacombs, and can rebut and argue with PKD now; but first I had to be bitch-slapped by this great man before I could get back up and try again.

It was NOT an easy read, but it was a fairly short novel. It was also a heart-wrenching piece to get through, as well. More than all of this, it was also an extremely rewarding piece of fiction, if you're willing to put the effort into not only it, but into PKD's thoughts and your own growth as a person.

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Absolute ZeroAbsolute Zero by Drew Cordell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second book continues Absolute Knowledge right where it left off, and does it beautifully, knocking the intrigue right out of the park and into action and a very dystopian militaristic world.

From eerie cyberpunk right into androids, mech-suits, and a world that is sliding ever deeper into chaos.

Years pass and we've got old and new MC's just trying to hang on as the absolute AI and the highest caged-prey of humanity lives out their lives in gilded cages.

And yet, through all the hard-scrabble existence and infighting among the last of humanity, big reveals are still coming and the revolution hasn't quite lost all its momentum.

This is a newer age of cyberpunk. Hardcore mil-SF, too. And where the first novel was intrigue, smaller-scale, and rebellion from the inside, this one takes over with action and, ultimately, a very dark turn.

Very enjoyable! Hard-SF for lovers of dystopia, mil-SF, and high-tech, all still based on Earth in the nearish future... so far. :) It comes as a very interesting piece with all the short stories and novellas. The world-building is quite fantastic. :) I recommend those, too.

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The Management Style of the Supreme BeingsThe Management Style of the Supreme Beings by Tom Holt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

This was a very funny surprise. I mean, the title itself is quite droll and I expected a lot of dry sarcasm and satire, but what didn't know could really fill a book. This one, in fact.

I'm so happy I finally got around to reading Tom Holt. I mean, I've seen his name in the bookstores and he's apparently very popular with folks, but I kept skipping right past him, not having a clue.

Well, now I do! Who knew that god and his son and his ne'er-do-well second son were running a business like anyone else, that Old Nick on the flipside is just an employee like anyone else? Or that papa was tired and wanted to sell the business? That the Old Ghost was a doddering old fool messing up our weather?

Delicious. Delightful. So Droll.

And we've got great characters all around. The second son, Kevin, has a good heart, but he never seems to get things right. There's heaven's call center clerks, an Indiana Jones knock-off named Jasper who just hit it big in an ancient tomb that had an 1-800 number, and a ex-walmart employee who picks up the slack in a downsized hell... and this is just the barest beginnings of a setup. Just wait for the story.

(It's a real hoot.)

Suffice to say, a Jolly Old Man plays a very big part in the tale, from scaring the bejesus out of martians to running a private elvish military, and all the while, credit cards are dinging and Hell is now run by Disney.

I'm frankly amazed and amused and I think it's WELL PAST TIME I went ahead and read EVERYTHING by this guy. It's a real pleasure and more than funny... it's even philosophical! :)


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Friday, May 12, 2017

AttachmentsAttachments by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe I'm going crazy, but I like this light romantic comedy stuff. :) I mean, a lot.

It's so light and predictable, but it's the tiny details, the way we fall into the characters that are just like us, with all our failings, the way they stress over all the little moral and ethical quibbles, the way they just feel so nice and the way they just need that one little break to let them get all the happiness that I feel like they deserve...

Yeah, I'm nuts.

It's just the way the author turns potentially very creepy and stalkerish behavior into something so charming and *right* that makes this novel so good. Wierd? Yeah. Perhaps. But you've just got to read it to see how much we can identify with each stalker as they stalk each other. :) It's Total Meet-Cute without the actual MEET-CUTE. It's the anti-meet-cute, where one party knows everything and it's a GUY. *gasp*

I suppose this just tickles all the right kinds of guilty pleasures, too. The dark fantasies on both sides.

Yeah. Romance. It'll drive you crazy.

This one is pretty damn sweet, though. :)

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The Long Cosmos (The Long Earth, #5)The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a quite satisfying conclusion to this epic pioneer hard SF tale of many Earths. :) With a sideline of many many cosmos, too. :)

I'm really glad I got to read all five books, and I didn't even get very misty-eyed by the thought that Mr. Baxter had to finish this without Sir Terry. The manuscripts had been penned long before his death, so the core story and practically everything else is as he'd have wished it.

I can see that, too. All those plot threads and hints get tied up in a very cool way, with some of the more interesting Earths explored deeply, one-on-one with Joshua and his troll friends, all the way to the end where a Contact-like exploration of the galaxy ensues. :) With multi-galaxy benefits, of course.

The whole concept is very intelligence-friendly. This isn't a universe that doesn't reward consciousness and intelligence. Indeed, things are set up quite nicely to help everyone along that path. Imagination has its rewards. :)

More than anything, these are very optimistic books. I've been missing that in my reading diet. :)

So glad this exists. :)

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Long Utopia (The Long Earth #4)The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you've gotten this far in the series, you might have some questions and a desire to see some of the stranger threads come together, like the parentage of our MC's, some of the hints of the stranger alien/Earthlings, the oddest Earths, and, of course, Lobsang.

I can characterize all of these novels as Pioneer Fiction, easily, but they're also heavy SF written in a very engaging and easy way, full of wonderful characters and simple, interesting plots.

Now, I must admit that the last one and this one don't really have quite the same vibrant flavor as the first two, at least with the characters, but the science bits and the sense of scale... almost a billion Earths and Mars, is absolutely gorgeous.

Beetle aliens are tearing up an Earth in a mind-boggling construction effort that acts upon Dyson-level energies and terraforming for a goal that is just as mind-boggling, and everyone else is kinda freaking out.

The kinds of political and war-like efforts are petering out because there's just way too much space and no way to rule over this much of an exodus, a diaspora of people. I mean, just think about it... The Datum Earth we all belonged to has just undergone an extinction-level event and everyone has mostly left it, the governments freaked out because now there's no way to control ANYONE or prevent them from stepping across dozens of empty Earths, let alone hundreds of thousands or MILLIONS of them.

People are free. Free to do whatever they want.

This, more than anything, including the history of the people who could "step" before the diaspora, or any of the "too little, too late" political machinations, hooks me good and solid. It's pretty amazing.

Utopia, indeed.

Too bad about all the other extinction-level events on the way, right? Oh, plot. :)

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Long Mars (The Long Earth, #3)The Long Mars by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Still very, very enjoyable, this series continues on as a grand adventure across worlds and worlds.

I think the final count was somewhere around a quarter of a billion Earths, where all possible worlds and iterations of the formation of the world was explored by a special dirigible. :) Almost steampunk, but more quantumpunk in my estimation.

And during this, another grand adventure takes place on Mars... but not the Mars we think we know. It's the Long Mars, where all possible iterations and special implications tied to the whole concept of a "Long" anything says that there must be intelligent perception and action to guide all these Poindexter iterations of the world. Cool? Oh yeah. Expect Martians and weird ecologies and biologies and psychologies.

This is a wild romp of the imagination AND a major tipping of the hat to both real science and possibility.

And all the while, the social ramifications continue to make a big mark on humanity... and a new species of humanity that is coming right from our own stock is caught right in the crosshairs. We all know these new kids aren't all dummies. Some of them are quite bright. They couldn't be a step forward, could they? Of course not. Homo-non-stupiditus, eh?

Plenty goes on in the development of this future Earth and the exploration of Mars. Don't miss it! :) And don't leave your Awe at home! :)

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The Long War (The Long Earth, #2)The Long War by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The title of this book is kinda misleading, I think. Maybe it was intended to drum up excitement in a way that may not have been needed. The first book of the Long Earth spans across more than a million alternate Earths that we are now able to "step" across, and the implications are explored at least in the early days quite well.

This one takes place 25 years into the colonization phase and we're in a cooperative space with "trolls" humanoids that grew up being able to "step" and have a singing language that is much smarter as a whole for their species than is generally understood by us stupid humans.

Of course, the idiots of our species start killing them off while others work with the others in tandem, and then there's also the OTHER humanoids we jokingly named Elves and Kobolds and First Person Singular (for a singular intelligence that developed to devour whole Earths).

This might be the reference to the title, but if so, it's more about humans fighting human nature and trying to limit the danger of our shortsightedness as bigots on Datum Earth (Or original home) spew vitriol about all the people who left, turning into a religious and economic and political quagmire.

Even so, this book still remains, at its core, an adventure that's part western, part hard-sf, and all a brilliant mesh of Baxter's vision and science and Pratchett's great worldbuilding and characters.

Oh, and the end is a real kicker. I can't wait to get on the rest of these novels. It's damn fun and easy, despite its apparent hard-sf premise of many-worlds. :) MANY worlds. :)

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Long Earth (The Long Earth, #1)The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like others, I'm often a bit skeptical about collaborations between authors, be they both well-known authors or not. In this case, I was very worried because their styles are very different and they take an amazing jump between hard-SF and character-driven world-building fantasy.

HOWEVER, I couldn't be more pleased with the combo. I was thrilled by the characters and felt the wonderful sense of adventure and then suspense as things got dire. And that's just it. We get the best of both worlds, the hard-SF premise that promises to throw us into a very, very large setting because we're traveling through hundreds of thousands of alternate Earths as people "step" through them, getting the implications explored, from economics to law to nationhood and all the way back to what it means to be an individual.

But what's more, it's a rip-roaring fun ride, with the classic iconoclastic loner with a unique ability to travel quickly between worlds and a truly fantastic Coke machine that thinks he's a human, (Really, he's a Buddhist AI airship, but who's counting?)

And through all this, my expectations for a fun story, great characters, heavy science (explained easily or even just glossed over for the sake of speed, while also remaining accurate), and world building and plain imagination is all thrown into the same bag. I loved it.

I'm a Baxter-phile. I'm also a Pratchett-phile. I don't know WHAT the hell I was thinking about avoiding this so long! On to the next and the next, I think. I may not get to anything else as I fly through these fun novels. :)

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Deliverer (Foreigner, #9)Deliverer by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am consistently pleased with this series and this one does not disappoint. It wraps up the third semi-trilogy that follows Bren Cameron, human translator for the Atevi/now Lord of the Heavens, friend and confidant to Atevi Lords and little Atevi children.

The great part of this book is that we finally get a new PoV. Cajeiri, the Son of Tabini, the great-grandson of Ilsisdi, is missing his human friends aboard the spaceship and is semi-successful in fitting in with the rest of the Atevi. He likes tech and is doing all he can to sneak away from his protectors.

What can go wrong?

Truly, even though I've always loved Bren from the start and he's becoming more and more confident in his position in the world, he does make a few mistakes along the way. That's all right. That's Bren. He always thinks his way through problems and he's as loyal a companion as anyone could want.

Cajeiri, however, has a big problem on his hands. He's not growing up with all the proper instincts of an Atevi. For one, he's ignoring his instincts and following a code of "friendship", and he doesn't think it's a code for "salad". Things are gonna get really hairy, now. :)

There's more action and intrigue in this one. Quite fun action and intrigue! But above all, it's the world-building that shines. I live here. I belong here. It's a world that lives and breathes and it's a shining example of SF if there ever was one. It only seems to get better with time. Fantastic!

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Massacre of MankindThe Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I felt trepidation before beginning this because I kept seeing unfavorable reviews, but fortunately, I thought it was pretty awesome after finishing. I might have a bit of an issue with the end, and I think that's where most people are complaining, but it wasn't as bad as all that.

I remembered that the original The War of the Worlds was written as an account, a narrative, and as such, there's generally no good wrap-ups unless forced... and that's true for reality, too.

That's the bad... but Now for the great!

The World-building is very, very neat, as is the sheer amount of research and history and tactics carefully laid out.

There's a comprehensive account of a much longer war that comes in several waves and with much greater numbers, and we get to see the horrible effects of the invasion and colonization of Earth from Martians across continents and over a good deal of time.

In a lot of ways, this reads as a pure and horrific tragedy where we know what's coming but we have no way to stop it. It keeps the blood pumping, that's for sure. The first invasion was just a scouting mission and they fixed the little issue with the pathogens, which is very reasonable considering just how much tech and implied tech these aliens have.

This is also set in an alternate timeline that takes into account exploited tech after the first war, and even though WWI happened again, the outcome was very different with a victorious Kaiser and an occupied England. It's little details like this that keep popping up that made this novel really delicious, but that's not to say the characters weren't fun as well. :)

This novel is a fully-authorized sequel from the Well's estate, and Baxter put a lot of time and research into making this one of the most thoughtful world-building exercises out there.

I'm a Baxter-phile. I remember the fantastic job he'd done on his direct-sequel to The Time Machine back in the nineties. I also remember enjoying his sequel more than the original, too, making things much bigger, broad-scale, and utterly fascinating. He does the same here, with this, turning it truly into a war of worlds, including the entire Earth and it's population, and this is what makes this novel fantastic. Horrifying, but also fantastic.

Goodbye, humanity!

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Carter & LovecraftCarter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a cool surprise!

Modern sensibilities, Cthulhu Mythos, Urban Fantasy, Cthulhu Mythos, and even enough modern references and even math geekiness and Cthulhu Mythos to satisfy the most jaded INVESTIGATOR. :)

Nom nom nom nom...

Oh, wait, this isn't the RPG game! This is a new and theoretically ongoing series! How awesome is that? AND this duo might be gracing the tube, too? Yeah. This sharp tale pulls all the greatest story developments and classic build-ups of the Cthulhu Mythos with its lobster boil, from "normal" mysteries all the way to weird coincidences to unreal possibilities to modern versions of cultists to universe-hopping... while all the while remaining both true and smart to the originals and the ever-evolving sub-genre of Cthulhu.

As an urban fantasy mystery thriller. :)

I'm thrilled! :)

It doesn't lack much but a lot more can be introduced in later grimoires... um, I mean tomes? Oh, wait... I mean novels. yeah. novels. :)

Now, where does this one get categorized if it refers to itself in its own a self-indexing catalog?

Oh stop it, don't divide by zero!

*wild cackles of glee*

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

New York 2140New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a novel of great and towering ideas, indeed!

SF idea novels have a long and fantastic tradition in SF and I'll be honest: I love them all. It's a very specific and niche SF, but thank the heavens, Robinson made it big enough in people's estimations to be able to keep writing the fantastically deep stuff and let the world-building go wild.

Remember 2312? Remember the Mars trilogy? He dives deep into location and gives us a very broad view of a whole world or a whole time, drilling deep into how the society works while simultaneously having TON to say about ours.

Not only that, but in this novel, he manages to pull off something that I kinda feel like he always seems to have a bit of trouble with: the characters. There's even a solid economic plot here, threaded pretty expertly among really fascinating sub-plots all directly tied to this New York City of the future after all the waterlines have risen across the world.

The only time that this DOESN'T feel like a long love-letter to this NYC of the future that's not only breathing but fighting for it's life and culture like a character of its own, is with the extinction of subspecies subplot that takes us all over the place in a dirigible. With nuclear blasts that take out polar bears, floating balloon cities in Canada, or a naked butt over a treeline for an eager online audience. :)

Truly, this may not be a novel for everyone, but it *IS* a novel for all you lovers of the Idea Novel sub-genre, the kind of read that takes you to the heights and depths of an economic mystery and an engineered economic collapse.

Honestly, it actually feels like an updated and rather more comprehensive The Dervish House with the focus being on NYC rather than Hungary. But it it goes full-hog Economics-Punk and I laughed deliriously because I LOVE this kind of thing. It's about as far away as you can get from the regular old SF, treating you not only as someone smart, but someone willing to think for yourself and LIVE in this complicated world of Co-Op skyscrapers, derivatives experts, boat pilots, divers, and champions of law. :)

Above all, it's smart and dense and fascinating across the board.

Don't expect too much in the way of BIG plots other than the one, and settle in for a world-building ride with cool characters and one really, really big character that supercedes them all: NYC.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was of two minds about this novel. I've read enough Russian literature to have a very healthy respect for practically all of it. This one evokes that very real feel, too.

And I love mythology. All flavors. I love to get into deep explorations of just about anything.

However, for some weird reason, I can't put my finger on, I couldn't get into this. The opening fireside story encapsulates the rest of the tale quite nicely, if a little easier than how the novel eventually turns, but even so, I just couldn't get into the characters the way I truly wanted to.

I don't know why. Maybe it was just bad timing for me and maybe a year ago or a year from now, I'd have loved this more.

But here? I remembered and loved Uprooted more than I loved this.

Don't get me wrong. The writing seems to be quite good and the characters are deeply explored and there's plenty of character twists and a slowly growing thread of the supernatural that is developed much later in the telling. I just didn't get into it. *sigh*

I may give the author another shot at another time! I really had high hopes and it felt good even if I didn't click with it.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Color of Magic (Discworld, #1; Rincewind #1)The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I hadn't already read the entire series, and if I was judging this book just by its own merits, I'd still be saying that it harnesses the lightning and even finds a way to make it go side to side rather than up and down.

It's really fantastic as a straight fantasy with tons of humorous elements, with a good deal more worldbuilding than all the later books, more obvious and harsher tongue-in-cheek elements, and a great setup for the Great Wizzard Rincewind.

Honestly? I love Rincewind. I love the shard of the Great magical spell lodged in his brain, Death's endless chase for him, the straight adventure he finds himself in, and the sheer fact that HE SURVIVES.

Twoflower is awesome, too, and the chest is one of the greatest unsung heroes of the age, and there is a very good case to be made that this whole novel (and the one following it) is probably the BEST INSURANCE MAN'S TOURIST GUIDE EVER WRITTEN. :)

'Nuff said.

Am I sad that Sir Terry is no longer with us? Yeah.

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Doctor Who: 12 Doctors, 12 StoriesDoctor Who: 12 Doctors, 12 Stories by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been a lifelong fan of DW, but for some reason, I've just been sticking to the tv shows for the last 5 years. This is, despite my very great delight with the Big Finish Audio Production, kinda embarrassing. There's a fantastic amount of great stories out there!

In this case, it's pretty much a who's Who of big names penning a single story for all twelve doctors and having a great time doing it, too.

As I had a great time reading them. :)

I have to thank Trish for shaming me into it. :)

As for my favorite stories in this bunch? I'll have to go for the first doctor, the fifth, the eighth, the eleventh, and especially number twelve.

That's just personal preference. :) Number twelve was pretty horrific for coffee drinkers and so I was very properly horrified. :)

All of these were pretty high quality, however, and while I've still had the pleasure of even better stories from the Big Finish collection, I am quite satisfied with these.

Doctor Who is more than nostalgia. It's a way of life. :)

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Magic for Nothing (InCryptid, #6)Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I may be incurring the wrath of fanboys and fangirls out there, but I think I like the 6th book better than all the other previous Incryptid books by McGuire. :)

Truly, it's just the right shape and mass of corny plotlines, that are soooo unbelievable, mind you, that still takes off as a yet another character novel with intrigue and spying and CIRCUS! Featuring yet another member of the Price family!

And yes, it's romance and the circus. It's true... so true... the monkey and the roller-derby girl, the guilt for bringing the Enemy to the doorstep of the innocent beasties as well as the bad, dual camp infiltrations, and.... HOT KNIVES ON THE TRAPEZE! WoooT!

And of course, the mice always seem to steal the show. :)

Corny? All of it? Yes. But damn if I didn't have the time of my life. :) I guess I *am* a townie.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Wolf's HourThe Wolf's Hour by Robert McCammon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Straight epic WWII historical adventure filled with heroism and sacrifice... or a sexed-up epic werewolf story from childhood through adulthood.

What do YOU prefer?

Fortunately, YOU don't have to make a choice! It's all here!

And guess what? This is all a huge tome with a very long and very adventuresome escapade revolving WWII from resistance fighters, going deep into enemy German territory, Russia, and back to England. It's a pretty wild ride and a ton happens. If you like your stories long and exciting and sexed up and very, very, wolfy, then you really ought to read this.

This is NOT your average UF fantasy and since it was written in the 80's it goes a long way to strive for realism and the exploration of what it means to be a man or a wolf, really rocking the Metallica theme and the lone-wolf idea that saves the world, too. And to make it even more impressive, it's very immersive as a historical drama, too, from '18 Russia to WWII.

Really, this is a force to be reckoned with.

They just don't write them like they used to. :)

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

This Census-TakerThis Census-Taker by China Miéville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't say that I'm completely satisfied with this novella, but I can say that I'm haunted by it. I'm haunted by all the little details that make up this world so much like our own, the hints of wars and magics and strange chemicals and vials and keys that provide people with purpose and a way out or through the labyrinths of their lives...

Not to mention a very Schrodinger's Cat view of reality, where murderers are and are not, where the murdered is and is not, where, perhaps, everything is rewritten and only census takers can determine the correct average.

Not that I'm truly or even likely getting the grok of this novel. I am just using my intuition. But it's possible.

We've got a murder mystery, first and foremost, and not even the MC, a kid who constantly doubts what he's seen, can really take the measure of it. No one in the town can, but everyone suspects everything.

And then there's the trademark monsters and monstrosities that Meivillé is so good at.

I can honestly say this feels like a more mature work from his earlier stuff, more willing to take the slow path while all the little details encroach upon us from the periphery.

I respect it. It also happens to be nominated for the '17 Hugos, and while I wouldn't put it at the top of my list, I totally agree it should be here. It's very impressive in its way even if I catch myself wanting a lot more than where it ended.

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The Ballad of Black TomThe Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nominated for '17 Hugos, I had to take it on, but like almost all of the stories nominated this year, I'm having a grand ole time.

This is a traditional tale of Cthulhu, only it's a damn sight less racist and the prose is as smooth as gin. It also doesn't fear to go the route of humanizing and demonizing at the very same time. Anti-hero? Oh, yes, please. Tommy is a real treat. I even got around to loving the detective. :)

Harlem in the 20's was a special time, and even a man with no musical talent could still make a living as a trickster with a guitar. :) The fantasy elements sneaks up on you within the lush period, and before we know it, we've gone from Gaimanish right to Lovecraft, and then right back to an introspective horror at what had been wrought. :) Totally delightful, very wicked. :)

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For We Are Many (Bobiverse, #2)For We Are Many by Dennis Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love reading great SF, but sometimes we just stumble across a novel or two that just make us beam with wonder and shared nerdiness and delight... and that basically describes these two Bob novels.

The scale is particularly delightful. You've gotta love a snarky nerd engineer-turned-AI distributed over 30 light years who's wondering what the hell the humans are doing. I mean, he's pretty well-adjusted, copying bits of himself into new iterations and letting them rename themselves as cultural nerd-pieces from the reader's culture.

But what's more, he's a pretty nice guy. He's doing everything in his ability to save stupid people and aliens and terraforming new worlds... while running up against an even bigger threat.

This second book can be seen as more of the same as the first book, but with one huge caveat. It's a character novel or (multi-character AND single-character) series. Confused? Don't be. It's all just Bob.

Of course, it looks like Bob has come up against something much bigger than him. And he's also considering a bit of a branching, I think. If he can't bring his crush along the immortality slide, then there's definitely other options opening up... :) A certain alien, perhaps? Humans are so untrustworthy with immortality... :)

Speculation. Just speculation. :)

Easily a series I'll always be chomping at the bit to get a copy of. :)

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You’ll Surely Drown Here If You StayYou’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To say that Alyssa Wong can write is to say that the desert has dry bones.

What I really mean to say is that she can turn a whole town of the old-west dead into dancing corpses and then make you wonder if it is all in your very imaginative head... or whether you're really one of them, too.

Impossible, you say? Well, Wong has a knack for writing absolutely stunning fantasy that's both flashy (or in this case necromantic) and immense with importance while also writing on an entirely different level at the same time.

I love reading extravagantly fantastic fantasy like this. But wait! It could also easily be a purely psychological tale of grief and psychosis, of anger and coping after a mining accident takes out a whole desert community.


Which do you want? Both are awesome. AND YET WE GET BOTH AT THE SAME TIME! YAY! :)

*mind blown*

Totally cool. :)

Nominated for '17 Hugo for best Novella. You might say I'm tempted to vote this way. :)

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and WildflowersA Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hands-down, totally gorgeous, kick you in the crotch, will not dare to pretend you're a stupid reader, DANGEROUS story.

I love it!

There are way too few stories like this, full of heart and anger and frustration flowing incomprehensibly from either hyperbole or from gigantic world-destroying energies and permutations of time travel and godlike powers. Could be just one. Could be both. Who knows? From one way to read it, it could just be a pair of very volatile sisters that FEEL life so strongly, so loudly, so deeply, that it feels like the world is tearing up beneath their feet in a louder way than going super sayan. OR all these fantasic fantasy elements are perfectly real and they can reset reality after crashing it like a misplaced memory address in a computer.

I mean, WOW.

And it doesn't really end there, either, because the hints in the story and the revealed clarity of tragedy and hate and wild abandon in the face of wrongs done to us gives REALITY to either reading and it even choked me up.

Bravo, bravo, bravo.

This ain't a traditional story by a long shot, but it is a truly fantastic wild ride, like reaping the whirlwind from within the scythe. :)

Barring other reads, this might be my top pick for the short story Hugo noms for '17.

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The City Born GreatThe City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This '17 nom for the Hugos started out in a way that made me worry, just a bit, that it might not have the right SF or F twist to it that I was hoping for, appearing more like a love/hate letter to NYC, but, indeed, I should never worry.

This is Jemisin, after all.

It quickly became something reminiscent of pieces of Railsea with the tagging and the birth-pains of a city as it comes alive, gets consciousness, rises up with soul. What's more, it really does rise up with eldritch horrors and deep confidences, becoming a wild ride of fantasy and pure NYC flair... that is, if you're interested in being one of the hungry in the city and the flare is the spotlight of a cop car's spotlight. :)

I like the wild rides. I always have. And this story fits that fantastic bill. I'll even forgive it for hopping across the continent to give the angels a shot, too. :)

This is a worthy story, I think! :)

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The Art of Space TravelThe Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For a story set in the future with elements that make it sound like it's going to have some decent reveal with the second great Mars expedition, this story remains firmly in the realm of a character study, only.

There are parts of this that I do like, such as the writing and the character development, the stream of consciousness bits, the ruminations about her family and where she might come from, it is only this, however.

After so much build up, I kinda wanted something a little more juicy to sink my teeth into. Maybe I'm a spoiled reader and I don't have so much patience for super quiet stories that ramble on without giving me anything more than distant but very real-feeling hard realities contrasted against a hopeless-feeling optimism.

Did I like this so much? No. Not really. It was good for what it was, but I suppose I don't really like being shown normalcy so starkly against distant dreams. I like my dreams a little closer to the page, dragging me out of the regular and into the truly beautiful.

That being said, this story was nom'd for the '17 Hugos and it does have beauty to it.

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The Tomato ThiefThe Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, a return to the old tales of the Coyote and the Raven, with a special appearance from a couple of dragons, a mule, and an old woman. :)

This is the first story I've ever read by Ms. Vernon, but I'm sure it's not going to be my last. There's a lot of old Soutwestern Tales in her and since I've spent most of my life submerged in that whole world, it kinda felt a bit like I was going home.

Bring on the trains and the mythology, I say, give me a tale of trickery and world-building in the grand old style, and set me back upon my feet to face the world and its constant change.

Nice. :)

And this story is also nominated for the '17 Hugos. Gotta catch up and pick the best of the year!

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Waters of VersaillesWaters of Versailles by Kelly Robson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's really amazing how many chicks you can pick up if you invent a magical toilet system in the 1740's. I mean, they fall ALL OVER YOU if you happen to be smart, Striving, and industrious about manipulating and enslaving poor water creatures. :)

I think this is a perfectly delightful French escapade full of wit, liaisons, and fresh toiletries. (Champagne showers not included.)

Honestly, though, I wanted to be more in the mood for this kind of tale.

I had to want to like highly coiffed and highly sexed misters and matrons, in other words.

Of course, if you ARE in the mood for it, however, then bon appetite! The rest of the story is rather good, too. :)

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That Game We Played During the WarThat Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How we failed to lose. :)

This is a simple yet very warm tale and it comes laden with a ton of emotional baggage that doesn't overwhelm us, the readers... Rather, it leads us to a place where there is understanding and actual hope. It's like an inoculation against greater tragedy.

What? In a simple game of chess?

Well, yeah, made a lot more difficult when it's a metaphor for two whole countries fighting when one is made up of telepaths and the other isn't. :)

Pretty cool. We just have to roll with the premise, but hell, it's short and worthy to be a nom for '17 Hugos. Which, in fact, it is. :)

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Seasons of Glass and IronSeasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading to prepare myself for the '17 Hugo Nominations, this nom is available online.

It's a story of two females locked into rather interesting mythological stories, both of them trapped in both painful and degrading situations and eventually finding solace and freedom in each other.

The mythos, itself is a curious blend of old tales, such as having to wear out seven pairs of metal shoes before being able to break her husband's bear-curse or in the other case, having being forced upon a mountaintop, eating magical apples, while being insulted or having tons of suiters-who-are-sailors demand her hand in marriage.

Overall I was struck by the imagery and the juxtapositions while also feeling something for these women. Even more important than the myths, though, was the feeling of really emotional commentary upon being a woman in today's world, but that's just some serious subtext. I thought it was pretty awesome, actually, delineating the expectations of the sexes with each other and putting it upon magical situations and myths.

Of course, anyone can make the solid case that ALL myths do this to one degree or another, but this one is particularly modern in its take while feeling timeless.

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Touring with the AlienTouring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this online in preparation to know and judge which nominated novella should win the Hugo in 2017, fully prepared for just about anything.

Luckily, I really enjoyed this surprising little tale of alien abduction. Sort-of abduction. :)

Well, either way, the end was surprising and quite amusing and the whole concept of conscious vs unconscious thought processes as a difference between us and an entirely different alien species was really fascinating.

OR, you might as well read this as a roadtrip novella with some rather interesting companions. :)

No, this wasn't Starman. :)

Suffice to say, I LOVED the end. :)

On to the other nominations!

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Kill DecisionKill Decision by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my fourth by Daniel Suarez and I'm constantly surprised at how versatile he is.

This one is a straight Techno-Thriller, right down to the tight and crafty combat cell, nifty science-types, and even a great little section of programmers. But most of all, it's all about the explosions, the close calls, the gunfire, and the smells.

The smells? Oh yes. I won't give away anything plot related because learning and discovery is the name of the game for this novel... but suffice to say: swarming is a big thing. Whether computationally, socially, or otherwise.

Suarez is really great at seeing technology and taking the consequences one or seven steps further, grounding us in our world strongly, and then making us adapt or die. It's a blast.

But if I was to simplify the hell out of this novel, I'd just say, "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! :) It's Drones!"


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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Change AgentChange Agent by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have no problems raving about this book!

It has everything I'd ever want in a rip-roaring Hard-SF Thriller: a huge amount of genetic modifications and therapies gone wild and under the power of gangsters and the law, alike.

Ah! But this isn't just another cat and mouse hunt for wrongdoers. This is Daniel Suarez.

That means a lot of great tech and implications of tech and what's even greater? Great locations to get lost in, from Singapore to Thailand to Burmese jungles and even more.

Biotech has taken off in a really big way. Between automatic cabs made of shrimp shells to a flock of young Scarlett Johansens, Suarez keeps us on our toes and if you're not reading carefully, you'll miss a ton of these brilliant additions scattered throughout the ostensibly Thriller-esque text.

Who are you to completely edit my genetic code into a super-baddie? lol I want my desk job BACK! :)

Honestly, this is a fantastic hard-sf novel, people. It's perfectly engineered to feel like a police procedural turned nearly revenge-esque with a burly man with chameleon tattoos and a dwarf, both traveling through high-tech and squalor through countries much changed from our current ones, feeling a lot like Babylon Babies and The Minority Report the entire time.

Virtual realities that are beamed right into logical light structures for programming? Hell yeah. Laws and implications for such? Hell yeah. That's on top of the main genetic plot.

This is a rich idea novel as well as a fun-as-hell adventure. :)

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Just Add WaterJust Add Water by Hunter Shea
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG this was some hellishly wicked fun horror, like straight out of 1980's B-Movies with kids as protagonists and creepy crawlies ALL OVER SUBURBIA eating EVERYONE.

I mean, seriously, back in the day, I'd have gone NUTS over this if I'd watched this movie. So much blood and guts and sly humor and light commentary, this is pretty much a CLASSIC that brings me back to the goriest of all the cheese of my youth.

Classic, I say. :)

It's short and sweet and I'd go total cult-classic all over this if it had been made into a flick. Seriously. :)

For all you people who wanted something kinda like Stranger Things only turned into a straight alligator in the sewer story that eats practically everyone, STOP LOOKING. It's here! Have fun! :) :)

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

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An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a ScientistAn Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist by Richard Dawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is pretty much entirely an autobiography, giving us all the stray bits of Richard Dawkin's childhood through college and, later, his pet projects and his interest in programming before later publishing The Selfish Gene.

As a writer, he's always good.

He seemed to have a rather interesting childhood in Africa with loving parents, becoming a rather bullied child in school, getting heavily into religion among other things, including a rather unfortunate sexual event. At least it didn't seem to scar him.

He also took a rather indirect path to his studies, too, but I suppose this is also rather normal, being pushed one way or another by faculty and opportunity, but at least he eventually got into the mode, thanks to the theories that naturally dovetailed between programming and biology, to write his most famous book.

Pretty fascinating. I wouldn't say it's extremely so, but it was certainly edifying.

The first half of the book is his life, of course, but the later sections DO give you a pretty concise summary of the thought experiments and science that led up to the book, so be prepared for at least SOME rather intense science, even if most of the rest of the book is more personable.

Funny story: I read this without reading the blurb. And I thought it was just going to be another science book! Not an autobiography! I felt duped! :) lol live and learn, live and learn... :)

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