There must be a magic to California that draws books of this genre. When I first read James Blaylock and then Tim Pratt all those decades ago, their s...moreThere must be a magic to California that draws books of this genre. When I first read James Blaylock and then Tim Pratt all those decades ago, their stories tended to take place somewhere in the golden state, a place where a certain kind of magic still reigned. Sitting somewhere in the borderland between magic realism and urban fantasy, their books blended the ordinary with the extraordinary, hidden magic.
Greg Van Eekhout’s “California Bones” takes a rightful place in this pantheon. Set in a not so alternate world where magic is real and California has seceded from the United States, this is largely the story of Daniel Blackland, son of a powerful magician and orphaned at the age of 12. Fast forward to an alternate LA - one where the streets are watery canals and the movie wizard DIsney and the water wizard Mulholland are among the powerful - we find Daniel all grown up, a thief with special talents.
One of Van Eekhout’s smartest moves in this book was in not trying to tell us too much. This is a heist story, a crew of thieves sent out to lift some merchandise and a magic sword, and for the most part it stays within the confines of that story. Van Eekhout presents a concise story, one that rarely strays from the heist and the after effects of that heist. What little backstory we get is only in supporting our understanding of our focal character, Daniel. Even when we switch POV characters to Gabriel, grandson of the Heirarch of Southern California, we’re still moving towards bringing to conclusion the main story.
Even if you don’t care for heist stories (I’m not the biggest fan), you’ll still find yourself drawn into this well written story. Although the central story arc is around the heist, this story is really about power, both taken and earned. From the first moments when we see just how osteomancy works and how the Heirarch acquires his power, to the climatic end, we recognize the heist itself as just a means to an end.
Many thanks to Tor-Forge for sending me a copy for review - I devoured the book in five days, bones and all.(less)
It is no small feat that this is a novel narrated by a selfless AI who is also the most poignant personality. For me, books have flavors, superficial...moreIt is no small feat that this is a novel narrated by a selfless AI who is also the most poignant personality. For me, books have flavors, superficial resonances that can usually be expressed verbally as “this books reminds me of FOO, but with BAR.”
What Ann Leckie has accomplished in her debut novel is to give us a story that has all of the flavor markers and hallmarks of a classic C. J. Cherryh novel from the 1980’s, with the poignancy of a contemporary story. The novel is first and foremost a top notched space opera. But what has been fascinating for readers is that the language Leckie has chosen to use bring up questions of gender. This is certainly not the first book to talk to gender - even LeGuinn’s Left Hand of Darkness wasn’t the first genre book to go there. Leckie’s fresh approach, though, is in giving us a future society where gender is rendered equal not by neutering it, but by neutralizing it. By removing the bisect of male and female and using only the female gender to reference everything, the society of the Radch blurs the line. By submerging Breq, our AI product of Radch society, into other cultures, we begin to see the how arbitrary some attributes of gender are, and how much they can complicate what should otherwise be a simple worldview.
One of the oldest tales is the tale of vengeance. What is justice, then, but vengeance wrought legal? But what if the system, the ruling mind that defines what is right and legal, is itself what has gone awry? Is the vengeance of ancillary component still justice? I am probably reading too much into this play of words between the title and the straightforward goal of Breq, but these are the kinds of thoughts you have when reading Ancillary Justice. Its really refreshing to find a book that satisfies both my simple interests (Space Opera with boom!) while still being thought provoking.
And there was plenty of explosions and gun play. Just in case you were worried.
Ancillary Justice was a wonderful read, and I look forward to more in this series. (less)
Barnes presents in The Garden of Stones a well developed, fully laid out world. The reader is catapulted into the conflict head first, and although th...moreBarnes presents in The Garden of Stones a well developed, fully laid out world. The reader is catapulted into the conflict head first, and although those first few chapters are confusing, chaotic scenes of fighting between factions in a war we don't understand, it all makes sense soon enough.
At first, the cast of characters seems daunting. Names, species, factions, how will you keep it all straight? While Barnes' world is fully realized, it is a departure from the familiar. New nomenclatures are nothing new to fantasy readers, which is fortunate. But beneath the strange and new, the book really only focuses on three characters and those that orbit them. Indris, the warrior scholar and principal character. Corajidin, his rival in this book and all around mostly bad guy. Mari, daughter of Corajidin, torn between loyalty to her father and burgeoning feelings for Indris and the honor of her career.
All the while, Barnes paints a promise. There will be action, there will be intrigue, there will be cliff hangers that compel us to read further. I believe Barnes delivers on that promise in this book - the Garden of Stones was well worth the read.
Thanks to Amazon and Netgalley for the review copy of this book. It was provided in exchange for an honest review.(less)
If you are reading this book review, then you have me confused with Andy Weir and this text confused with the start of “The Martian.” I realize they a...moreIf you are reading this book review, then you have me confused with Andy Weir and this text confused with the start of “The Martian.” I realize they are similar, as both contain words, but you should really be reading his book, not my review of it.
Not convinced? What if I were to tell you that Jack London did not in fact die in 1916, but became a time traveling nomad who ended up in 2012 where he watched reruns of MacGyver, caught Moon Race fever followed by the whole Mars One craze, then returned to his roots of writing survival fiction under the guise of Andy Weir two years later? If I were to tell you all of that, you’d say I was crazy, and I say you should read “The Martian” and you’d know exactly what I meant.
From our first few moments with the Ares 3, we know exactly what kind of book this is going to be. This is Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Except with more explosions (but not the Michael Bay kind), and no space monkeys (like the 1964 classic). The book is fast paced, the bulk of it in the first person in the guise of journal entries. I know that might turn you off - I thought it would turn me off. It doesn’t. Mark is exactly the kind of smartass you want to read in the first person. The science in the book is as legitimate as Weir could make it, and everything is actually within reach of us today. Weir may take a few liberties, but there are no hidden teleporters or miracle techs, everything is very real and now.
It was fun, exciting, and I haven't felt this happy about a book in so long, I’m all confused inside and am unable to write a worthy review. But there you have it. I would add that I will be surprised if the Martian doesn’t make the list of nominees for a Hugo in 2014.
This book review is based on an ARC that was sent to me by the publicist prior to publication on behalf of the FantasyBookAddict.(less)
High Fantasy often faces the criticism that it is a poor reflection of the works that have gone before it, most notably Tolkien. By employing the same...moreHigh Fantasy often faces the criticism that it is a poor reflection of the works that have gone before it, most notably Tolkien. By employing the same basic mythos with a highly Western European (and generally, British) composition, many chide that too much of fantasy falls into this trap and needs to be refreshed with something edgier, or something more original. The end result is generally a poor facsimile that inevitably fails to shine in comparison.
"A Guile of Dragons" is not some mere copy.
Yes, it employs many of the elements that we might quickly label a High Fantasy trope - dwarves, dragons, ancient terrors, and the name Merlin (or at least his son, Morlock). Its important to remember that it is not what elements a writer uses, but how they use them, that brings distinction. Enge does not treat these elements lightly - the history and culture of the dwarves alone are an integral part of this story, hinting at a depth we never see a bottom to. The shortness of the work (@300 pages) is belied by the depth and fullness of the characters that populate it. These are thick characters, populating the pages not because they fill a need but because it is their story to tell.
Set as a prequel for Enge's character, Ambrosius, aka Morlock syr Theorn, "A Guile of Dragons" introduces us to a small cast of recurring characters, each of whom demonstrates a depth and fullness usually reserved for the titular character. Not having read the other books in this milieu proved to not be a problem - as a prequel, it is a well contained volume, beginning with the birth of Morlock, son of Merlin, and the circumstances that place young Morlock in the care of the dwarves of Thrymhaiam to the north. This is also the story of Morlock's first real adventure (other feats are alluded to, but nothing so grand), following a metre and pace that is reminiscent of a classic saga even when the story telling is modern.
For in the Northold, the dwarves find themselves cut off from the Graith of Guardians as a guile of dragons invades, reigniting the Longest War from before the dawn of history. Morlock, a thaen of the Graith, adopted son of the dwarves, trapped between both worlds, faces the failings of each as he is thrust into battling the dragons themselves.
Enge, who's unsecret real world identity is a classics professor, demonstrates that a writer is influenced by the books and life you lead. "A Guile of Dragons" is a worthy epic for any fantasy reader, containing a surprising depth and fullness that is rarely found in so short a book. I cannot say more about this book without spoiling it, so I will just say that I wholly and heartily recommend that it be read.(less)