I picked up this one at the library after I read and liked something else by this author (The Quiet War) late last year.
The basic premise behind 'Cowb...moreI picked up this one at the library after I read and liked something else by this author (The Quiet War) late last year.
The basic premise behind 'Cowboy Angels' is around the existence of what are called Turing Gates, essentially devices that allow people and things to travel into alternate universes. Each universe, usually described as a 'sheaf', has differentiated itself from the one we know in some way - the main place we see, calling itself the Real, is very clearly not the US we're familiar with, though that particular sheaf also plays a significant role in the storyline.
The main characters include Adam Stone, one of the eponymous Cowboy Angels, a group of orphans trained by the CIA-equivalent in the Real to be special operatives in a number of alternate worlds. For years, the policy of the Real had been to try and create a Pan-American alliance between universes, but then the election of Jimmy Carter puts a stop to all that and Stone heads off somewhere quiet till he's called back into action when a former colleague is working his way through sheaves, killing specific individuals in each.
Unfortunately, while I found the novel itself quite gripping, particularly in its depiction of the machinations of the various agencies, the ending kind of happened and didn't really resolve all that much. It hasn't stopped me from wanting to read more by this author - I'm planning to start with his first book next, 400 Billion Stars, the first in a trilogy.(less)
I first came across Cherie Priest's writing when I read one of her earlier books, the first of a series of Southern Gothic stories called Four and Twe...moreI first came across Cherie Priest's writing when I read one of her earlier books, the first of a series of Southern Gothic stories called Four and Twenty Blackbirds and I'd heard all sorts of good things about her steampunk books so was very happy to pick up 'Boneshaker' via my local library.
The basic idea behind the book is that, back in the middle of the 19th century when an alternate US was still fighting its Civil War many years on, there had been something of a gold rush around Seattle. The main characters in the book are, respectively, the wife and son of a man who was responsible for Seattle being devastated, when the device he had been building to mine gold more effectively instead opened up the source of the Blight, a gas that basically creates zombies.
Ezekiel never knew his father and becomes obsessed with the idea there are still things inside their former family home that can be sold, as his mother is currently working herself to death to keep the two of them alive. Seattle is a walled city, to keep in the victims of the Blight, and when Ezekiel goes in then his mother has no alternative but to follow.
I'm not completely sure what I was expecting from 'Boneshaker' as my experience with steampunk books has so far been a bit mixed - the issue often is whether or not the author cares as much about the characters involved as they do about the setting. This isn't an issue with Priest, who is able to manage both with admirable competency. She's written another book in the same universe so far, Dreadnought, which isn't a sequel proper but is already on my want-to-read list... (less)
**spoiler alert** It's never a good sign when the first words I want to put in a review are 'I wanted to like this, really I did...'.
For the purchase...more**spoiler alert** It's never a good sign when the first words I want to put in a review are 'I wanted to like this, really I did...'.
For the purchase of this particular book, I blame Amazon's recommendations system, which kept flagging 'The Gaslight Dogs' as something I might be interested in. I had a few quid spare on a gift certificate, so I went for it, thinking it sounded interesting but was sadly disappointed by the reality of the book itself.
The book is set in a world where a military system is expanding into the unknown and encountering various tribes, one of which is the Aniw. They live in the far north, accustomed to the harshness of the environment there. One of our protagonists, Sjenn, is something of a mystic and shaman with the Aniw and finds herself in conflict with her would-be invaders when she kills a man who breaks into her home.
There's more to 'The Gaslight Dogs' than this, of course, as Sjenn has a secret that her captors are both intrigued by and wish to exploit. Unfortunately, Sjenn seems to spend her time wandering in a fatalistic haze, while the other main character just comes across as petulant and self-absorbed. In all, I got about halfway through before I decided I just didn't care any more about either of them and the denseness of the prose wore me down. I'm afraid Ms Lowachee is not a writer whose further work I'll be considering, given my experience with this book!(less)
This was a bookswap book, by a writer I hadn't previously heard of, taken pretty much on the basis of the blurb.
It's an alternate history tale, where...moreThis was a bookswap book, by a writer I hadn't previously heard of, taken pretty much on the basis of the blurb.
It's an alternate history tale, where Victorian London (and significant parts of the northern hemisphere) are struck by meteors that leave desolation in their wake, forcing a mass emigration south. The Empire still exists, but its heart is in India, not London, and the ruling families have taken Indian culture and religion on board, amalgamating them seamlessly into their former way of life.
Our protagonists are brother and sister: Athelstane King, officer of the eponymous Peshawar Lancers, and Dr Cassandra King, eminent physicist. Attempts are made on both their lives, throwing them into esteemed company as Cassandra finds herself employed as a tutor to the Emperor's daughter, while Athelstane and his sidekick try to track down the source of the threat to themselves and the Empire.
In general, The Peshawar Lancers is an entertaining read, although Stirling does suffer badly from the 'my loads of research, let me show you it!' problem, leading to serious info-dumps at times. It's clear he has done his research, particularly into the culture of his setting, but it does start to get a little tedious at times when the reader is regularly reminded of how thorough the author has been in this regard. I'm not sure I'd actively seek out Stirling's other alternate history books, but I wouldn't hesitate to pick one up if I came across it, so that must say something!(less)
Another bookswapping experience, if I recall correctly, this one the first in a series of four books.
The basic premise of A Princess of Roumania is th...moreAnother bookswapping experience, if I recall correctly, this one the first in a series of four books.
The basic premise of A Princess of Roumania is that beloved by many books for teens - our protagonist Miranda Popescu, herself a teenager, is not what she seems and is instead really royalty from elsewhere. In addition to this, her two closest friends are not really just her friends but loyal subjects sent to protect her.
So far so good, except I found the prose incredibly hard to get into and the character of Miranda so unlikable that frankly I didn't care when she was placed in peril. Which is never a good sign for a standalone book, let alone the first of a series.
If you're so inclined, the series continues in The Tourmaline, but I know I won't be continuing after failing to get through this volume without a strong desire to throw it at the wall about a third of the way in...(less)
I've read standalone novels by Grimwood before but never been able to get hold of this, the first of his Arabesk trilogy of books.
The protagonist in P...moreI've read standalone novels by Grimwood before but never been able to get hold of this, the first of his Arabesk trilogy of books.
The protagonist in Pashazade is Ashraf, recently returned to Alexandria and replete with all the trappings of a rich man's son in a world where the Ottoman empire never fell. The problem is, Ashraf is a phoney, more at home in the American prison he recently left than dealing with the hierarchical society of Egypt and a potential arranged marriage to a girl who's equally unimpressed with the idea.
The alternate history is well thought out, as is the world-building, and though Ashraf is quite ruthless at times, he's also a sympathetic character who is out of his depth and knows it. I'm not really sure where the rest of the trilogy is going to take these characters, but I'm looking forward to it - the next book in the series is Effendi.(less)
This is the sequel to Jackaroo, set in the same universe but two generations after the previous book; On Fortune's Wheel is again the story of a young...moreThis is the sequel to Jackaroo, set in the same universe but two generations after the previous book; On Fortune's Wheel is again the story of a young girl from that family, another Innkeeper's Daughter like the last. Birle has agreed to marry a huntsman, even though she's only just of marriageable age, but is getting cold feet. When she spots a mysterious stranger stealing her father's boat, Birle intervenes and ends up travelling downriver with him.
The mysterious stranger is, of course, much more than he immediately appears and Birle is determined to go along with him, regardless of what he might think. This is a decision that will ultimately lead to much heartbreak for Birle, who is thrown from a structured society she knows and understands into one where slavery is commonplace. Her companion fares even worse than she does, though there's some resolution for both of them in the end.
I have to say, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I did Jackaroo, mostly because I found Birle annoyingly passive. Unlike her grandmother, the protagonist in the previous book, Birle allows herself to be pushed along by events, rarely taking charge of what is going on, while also pining about what and who she has lost - very attractive if you're a teenager, feeling that the world is against you, but damn annoying reading for an adult. The series continues in The Wings of a Falcon, but I'm not sure if I'll read it or not, given my disappointment with On Fortune's Wheel. (less)
For the next book I read, I turned from fantasy to alternate history, in this case a slightly different world where the founding of Israel in post-war...moreFor the next book I read, I turned from fantasy to alternate history, in this case a slightly different world where the founding of Israel in post-war Palestine went horribly wrong, forcing the Jews to seek solace elsewhere.
In this case, we have the creation of Sitka, a Jewish settlement in part of what was formerly Alaska - ceded to its Jewish inhabitants for 60 years, the settlement is now facing up to the realities of Reversion, as control of the land and all that stands on it goes back to the people of Alaska. Not a pleasant concept for the settlement's Jewish police force or many of its inhabitants.
Our protagonist is one of those police, a detective called Meyer Landsman who lives in a rundown hotel. One of his neighbours, a junkie, is killed execution-style and Landsman and his partner, who is also his half-Jewish cousin Shemets, find themselves drawn into the middle of bizarre plots about Messiah and the prophesied return to the promised land.
The book itself is enjoyably noir, written in a very hard-boiled style peppered with plenty of Yiddish expressions, succeeding even despite how desperately unpleasant Landsman is at times. In The Yiddish Policemen's Union, his only redeeming factor seems to be a desperate need to find out the truth, no matter how many toes he treads on, and that's always a good thing for a fictional detective.(less)
**spoiler alert** This is another one of those books I picked up because the blurb sounded interesting, and after all how wrong can you go with pirate...more**spoiler alert** This is another one of those books I picked up because the blurb sounded interesting, and after all how wrong can you go with pirates and zombies?
The protagonist of On Stranger Tides is John Shandy, the son of a puppeteer who is in the Caribbean in search of his uncle and revenge - his uncle swindled John's father out of a fortune, faking papers to make it appear he was already dead when instead he was living in penury. Shandy comes into contact with pirates, just as the pirating trade is starting to come to a close, and puts his plans for vengeance on hold, choosing a piratical life over having his brains blown out.
It's an entertaining enough book, if a bit in need of some editing. And Powers really needs to learn how to write female characters, or indeed make a plot that requires them to be something other than passive and pushed around by circumstance. The obligatory romance sub-plot is dull, with the main interest (for me at least) coming in some of Shandy's friendships with the other pirates which are far more convincing than any scene with his love interest.(less)